What’s happening on board of the 70,000 tons of metal? 3000 or so fans, 60 bands and their staff. Every band plays twice. The gigs start at 5 pm on the first day and the last gig ends at 5 in the morning. On day two, a full day at sea, there are gigs from 10 in the morning to 5 the next morning. Landfall in Labadee was at 8 in the morning of day 3. No gigs during landfall, all aboard again at 16:30 and off we go back. Gigs again from 17:30 to 5 in the morning. Another full day at sea with gigs from 10 to 2 in the morning, since arrival back in Fort Lauderdale was at 8 in the morning again = you are busy! Lol.
The boat has four stages, the two main stages being the Alhambra theater and the pool deck, the two minor stages being the ice rink and the so called Pyramid lounge, which is a large bar under normal circumstances. The pool stage is literally built over the largest (for the occasion drained) pool of the ship, and only the hot tubs around the pool are in operation. There is a small pool in operation towards the bow and another water park foot bath, waterfall and hot tubs area towards aft.
The Pyramid lounge was kinda sucky, because of a too low ceiling. The stage could not be elevated and if you were not in the front row you literally saw nothing of the bands. You could only get from the Alhambra to the ice rink via the full fledged on-board casino and you were actually walking several miles a day to get from one stage to the other, lol. The elevators are not the fastest, so if you are fed up with waiting for one, up the stairs you go, not to speak of dancing and headbanging. Despite the good food, I don’t think anyone gained weight, since you find yourself jogging through the ship half the time, lol.
The first full day at sea saw high winds and the pool stage was in trouble, especially Haggard with half an orchestra on stage had great sound trouble in the wind and all in all sound trouble was quite common, also in the Alhambra. Apart from that there was a great atmosphere all over the ship. It’s a five star festival with good food, decent beds, showers and clean toilets, no mud! And of course the band members are on the same ship as you are and can’t go anywhere 😉 you keep running into them, and they’re always up for a photo or so. During breakfast especially you can spot them in the Windjammer cafe but usually the fans leave them alone there and respect their privacy. There is no “stalking” going on and everybody is just enjoying the time on the boat in this special atmosphere. It’s simply awesome. More or less all bands do meet and greet signing sessions. You are allowed to take photos any time anywhere. There are official photographers running around taking pics and you can buy them as prints if you happen to find yourself among the hordes of photos. People are drunk, yes, but there was no brawl, smashing stuff or anything like it. I ran into completely drunk Olaf from Norway who kept babbling to me for a while, but somehow there is still restraint. A sexy girl next to me at one gig, half drunk too, was proudly announcing that she can’t believe nobody’s grabbing her ass! Lol.
There are people from all over the world there, many Europeans, North- and South Americans, but there are also Australians, a few Asians, I met a guy from South Africa. The organizers say that people from 74 countries were on board. It’s one big happy community that treats each other with respect and that has fun together. I didn’t know that on the last day there is a costume thing going on, if I go again, I shall bring something, lol. We had unicorns and nuns and storm troopers on board and what not. Many bands play special sets for the occasion. There is a jamming thing going on which has developed over the years with some forty band members playing old metal hits. Not to forget the belly flop contest on Sunday noon where the least graceful and most water displacement belly flop is honored.
With sixty bands you cannot see everything, but as usual I discovered some new bands, which I had not yet known before. It’s the special treat of festivals like that to discover new bands. Of the bands I had not yet known Pain, Devil Driver and Trollfest were my favorites. Then I finally finally saw Grave Digger, twice of course. Since I’m an Amorphis fan that was a first row must on my list for both gigs and I accomplished the mission. They were crowd surfing like hell during the first Amorphis gig on the pool deck and it’s quite something to have wet, mostly naked, hundred kilo guys who were in the hot tub doing crowd surfing! Lol.
As nice as it was, four days are kinda the limit, lol, everyone is hung over, lacks sleep and is quite finished after four days of festival 😉
If I can make it holiday wise and money wise, you bet I will be on board again. I’ve been to quite a number of festivals – 70,000 tons of metal is the best so far. Cheers!