A combination of throbbing bass and ocean wind collide with my body. The starry night above is barricaded with exhilarating lasers and lights of every colour that dazzle the senses. My limbs surrender to the pounding electronic rhythm and move in time with each tune the DJ drops. With drinks in your hand and nothing but miles of sea ahead, the magnificent MSC Poesia ship takes you through Caribbean waters while the DJ takes you on a musical journey that you’ll never forget.
If you thought music festivals were thrilling, think again. Every year, on the first weekend of January, the MSC Poesia cruise ship transforms into Holy Ship!!, a three day electronic music rave. Setting sail from Fort Lauderdale, the cruise travels to the Bahamas with stops in Nassau and a private island for the infamous Holy Ship!! beach party.
This year marked the second annual Holy Ship!! since its recent conception, the event has captivated the globe. With sold out cabins and a massive wait list, Holy Ship!! drew an international crowd to Fort Lauderdale. Over 2000 partygoers from North America, Australia, Latin American and Europe came together to experience the magic that is Holy Ship!!
If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation, turn around and go home. However, if you’re down to rage, dance, sing, drink and party for a straight 72 hours, then Holy Ship!! is the vacation for you. With five stages to choose from, handfuls of different artists, a variety of music genres and bars that never stop serving, this cruise is not for the faint of heart. Parties erupt at the outdoor main stage on the top deck at 7pm sharp and don’t end until the break of dawn. Be prepared to not sleep.
The opening party on Friday kicked off with Major Lazer. Hyping the crowd up with their distinct electro, reggae and hip hop sound, Holy Ship!! started off with a bang. The rest of the night was followed by a line-up of amazing sets by A-Trak, Boys Noize, Justice, Gasaffelstein and Brodinski. But it was the unveiling of the “surprise DJ” that got the crowd insane. Skrillex, out of nowhere, took over the decks and sent partygoers into a dub-step nirvana, transforming the main stage into a wild mosh pit. The night would continue on with shows from Tommy Trash, Knife Party, Zedd, Kill the Noise, Crookers, The Knocks and many more.
Who says you have to wait til Halloween to dress up? Theme nights brought out the creative and wacky side of Holy Shippers. Friday was “tight and bright”. The ship looked like something out of an 80’s work out video with Holy Shippers clad in neon tights, tanks, headbands and sunglasses. The next evening was “ghost ship” with partygoers going all out in zombie costumes, Ghost Busters attire and pirate gear. Some individuals went above and beyond as I saw the entire Sesame Street crew, Optimus Prime, Indians, Gumby, Spiderman and the list goes on. Personally, I think the best part of a rave is the opportunity to be whoever you want to be and just have fun with it.
Need a break from the music? Holy Ship!! provided a wealth of fun activities to do when you needed to drop the bass for a while. Diplo hosted a scavenger hunt. It was hilarious seeing cruisers rush madly around the boat to find items or to perform funny tasks such as push ups in the buffet line. Zedd held a poker tournament that got super intense at the final table. Dillon Francis oversaw the second annual single malt invitational at the mini golf course and made contestants chug whisky and spin around multiple times before attempting to get the ball into the hole. Ate too much at the buffet? Work it off at Gina Turner’s yoga class.
Although all events were fun and entertaining, it was Professor A-Trak’s DJ lessons down on deck 7 in the Pigalle Lounge that won my heart over. In an intimate setting, A-Trak went over the basic techniques of beat matching, mixing, scratching and provided an overview of DJ equipment and how to become a better DJ. The one hour lesson turned an intensive lecture that was mesmerizing and highly informative. After the lesson, A-Trak took the time to answer all the questions and even opened up the DJ booth for people to try the art of scratching.
Outside the ship were equally exciting adventures to embark on. On Saturday, Holy Ship!! arrived in Nassau. Cruisers had the opportunity to shop, lie on the beach, continue the party at local bars or sign up for excursions. My friend and I decided to recharge our batteries at the famous Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island for the day.
On Sunday, the final day of Holy Ship!!, cruisers arrived in Great Stirrup Cay, a private island in the Bahamas, for an unforgettable beach party. With Destructo opening the day party, Holy Shippers frolicked and danced in the clear blue ocean and sandy beaches. Things heated up fast when Diplo took the stage. Massive yellow balloons adorned the sky and a helicopter flew above while Diplo dropped electro beats that made everyone bust a move. French duo, Justice closed the party with their smooth European house style.
What sets Holy Ship!! apart from all other music festivals is the intimacy factor. The artists lived on the MSC Poesia too and it wasn’t uncommon to bump into them at the bar, at the buffet or in the elevator. I had the opportunity to meet Zedd and A-Trak. It was so refreshing to see how down to earth they were. The artists embraced their fans and made the effort to connect with them. Holy Ship!! is so special because it makes every cruiser feel like an insider with the opportunity to meet and mingle with their favourite artists in a fun and relaxed environment.
So you want to set sail on the next Holy Ship!!? Here is what you need to know. Cabins range from $449 to $1499 with rooms fitting 2, 3 or 4 cruisers. Food is included in the price and Holy Ship!! is equipped with 24 hour buffets. Don’t get your hopes up on the food. It isn’t spectacular but it will keep you fed. Alcohol is extra and on your own. When you board the vessel, you get a cruise card which acts as your credit card. Keep an eye on www.holyship.com for when 2014 bookings open.
If you love electronic music, travelling and sunshine, Holy Ship!! is one to put on your bucket list. January 4-7 passed by in a blur with me thirsting for more at the end. In fact, I’m already planning on going back next year. The wild parties, the intimacy with the artists, the extraordinary energy of Holy Shippers and the exotic locations and the beautiful MSC Poesia were all factors blended together to create some of the most memorable experiences and memories ever.
Photography. Melissa Li