SHIPROCKED 2017 – Miami to Grand Turk – January 16-20, 2017
Review by Tara Shea || Photos by Tara Shea and Niwy Kovacova
Mid-afternoon, survivors and newbs alike flooded in, boarding the Carnival Victory cruise ship during allotted times. Excitement levels rose as it settled in that the moment we’d all been waiting for had finally arrived. The aura felt like a family reunion, as greetings and introductions were exchanged in conversation, as well as hugs and kisses from friends. Guests ate and explored the ship before gathering on the deck for the long-waited sail away.
Though there was a delay, that didn’t stop this group from starting the week of a lifetime. Hosts Ralph Sutton (SDR Show) and Kayla Riley (Octane) introduced and pumped up the antsy crowd in spurts. Those reuniting with friends across the world caught up, while others began making friendships; drinks and laughter filled the air as the crowd awaited the arrival of Sevendust. The beautiful Miami sunset rolled off into the distance, as they opened their set with “Pieces.” The crowd erupted into a mosh pit during “Ugly,” with beach balls flying in the wind. Frontman Lajon Witherspoon described the energy as “magic; it keeps us alive.” Crowd favorites for Sevendust included “Face to Face,” “Enemy,” and an acoustic rendition of “Denial.” The energy was immense, as the entire band was all smiles – breathing in the music therapy & radiating a “living in the moment” vibe.
Following that performance was Mothership. Though I was only able to catch a glimpse of their performance (ah, the schedule battle of performances), it was one I couldn’t miss. The Texas natives put on one hell of a show, digging up the roots of classic rock and twisting it with their own original punch. The trio had a remarkable crowd, building their fan base since 2013. Mothership had the lounge riled up and hooked with their amazing, right-in-your-face riffs.
As the boat danced among the sea of waves, 12 Stones gave the performance of a lifetime. Though the wind picked up on the deck, nothing stopped these guys as they got the crowd’s blood pumping with “Adrenaline.” Paul McCoy’s goofy personality had me mesmerized as they played “Bulletproof” and “Far Away.” In between chatter revealed that a new album was in progress, giving Shiprockers a sneak peak of a new song (I think?) called “Blessing.” 12 Stones was the life of the party, and it was clear that they were happy to be on the boat.
I was able to catch a glimpse of Alter Bridge in the theatre. The packed house roared during “Blackbird” and “Metalingus.” There’s no doubt these guys brought life to Shiprocked. Meet and greets were held throughout the night for Art of Dying, Them Guns, 12 Stones and Mothership. Fans had the opportunity to talk and take photos with their favorite bands.
Last deck performance of the night went to Papa Roach, finishing the first night strong, opening with “Crooked Teeth.” First crowd favorite for their set was “Getting Away with Murder.” They kept the spirit light, as they genuinely dedicated “Kick in The Teeth” to Sevendust for being an inspiration over the years, and playfully bantered about not wearing red for the night’s “Red is the New Black” theme. Other crowd favorites included “Still Swingin” and “Hollywood Whore.” The air was soon colored with emotion as a breath-taking, acoustic rendition of “Scars” pierced rocker’s hearts. Intensity rose as Jacoby jumped into the crowd for “Gravity.” Surprise guest Sonny Sandoval (P.O.D.) join the band during “Last Resort” for a phenomenal collaboration. Papa Roach finished off the night with “To Be Loved.”
Extracurricular festivities kept on after hours, where Shiprockers had a karaoke opportunity to perform with a live band. The covers ranged in variety from Evanescence, Sublime, Maroon 5, Linkin Park, Metallica, and more. Other activities to finish off the night included the casino, as well as a DJ party held in the Atrium.
Day Two had a refreshing start for some as a yoga class was offered the morning. Others saw the opportunity to sleep in, after all, this is a vacation. I admit, mine started with the latter, but I can’t complain with how my day started. My “morning” began meeting some of our favorite bands. The Papa Roach, Sevendust, and Wilson meet and greet line stood over 5 stories long. Fans anxiously awaiting their turn in the Atlantic Dining Room where the bands were shaking hands, exchanging stories, and taking pictures.
The first performance on my list was Letters From The Fire on the deck. Coasting through the seas, this band brought new levels as we made our journey to Grand Turks. LFTF grabbed the deck’s attention with their synchronized head banging, Alexa’s powerhouse vocals, and the band’s natural “stage presence”. Shiprockers raved as the frontwoman requested concert-goers to call in radio stations and let them know what you want to hear, leading into their new single “Worth The Pain”. They closed their set with debut single “Give In To Me”.
The meet and greets continued in the Atlantic Dining Room, where interactions with Breaking Benjamin, Crobot, and Pop Evil were held. Fans took advantage of the photo op and were giddy to meet headliners.
Shiprocked Feud took place in the Adriatic lounge where members of Sevendust and Papa Roach called up members of the audience to play the game mimicking Family Feud. Guests were asked to fill out a survey to the questions used prior to the cruise to gather the data used for the game. The first round’s pressing subject was “Top 5 Best Incoming Bands”, scoring answers like Nothing More and Highly Suspect. Team Papa Roach scored the first and second round, while stealing the third round with a running joke of “grapes”, on the category of “Something That Dries Up When It Gets Older”. Team Sevendust kept good spirits though their opponent dominated the game, earning a trusty medal in their best efforts. The lounge was packed to the rim and filled with laughter.
The Dead Deads danced in the wind with their fun stage presence. Their lively deck performance included “We Are Kings” and “Sympathy Sex”. Meanwhile, Stitched Up Heart gave a solid show in the theater, featuring hits “Catch Me When I Fall” and “Monster”. Fans cheered as Mixi took a leap of faith into the crowd, surfing the floor level of the theater.
One of the special take-aways from the Shiprocked experience is The Stowaways’ performance. This all-star cover band was brought together on the deck for performances of a lifetime. The setlist opened up with “The Boys Are Back In Town” featuring Chad (Wilson), Jorge (Unloco), Stevie (Buckcherry), Jasen (Breaking Benjamin) and John (The Cult). Members were swapped off and on for the continued set. A killer rendition of “Living After Midnight” featured Mixi (Stitched Up Heart) and Bumblefoot (Guns N’ Roses). Lacey Sturm & P.O.D.’s Sonny intensified the stage with a performance of U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky”. The Shiprocked family beamed and rocked out to covers such as Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow” and Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean”, featuring guests such as Gabe (Aranda), Johnny & Kenny (Type O Negative), and Doug & Chris (Hoobastank). The magical musican collection ended the set with an outstanding cover of “Cowboys From Hell”.
The night continued with a meet and greets in the Merch Store, an overloaded theater performance from Breaking Benjamin, a comedy show, piano bar, and more. Shiprockers took fun in “Game of Thrones” theme, dressing up as their favorite characters, and partied the night away with DJ Lippy Rage.
The sun rose to the beautiful island of Grand Turk (the capital island of the Turks and Caicos archipelago) with the sounds of the ocean waves crashing against the docks and shore. The coastline illuminated as the sunshine struck the crystal blue-green waters. Shiprockers grabbed breakfast before heading out to the docks to explore the island. Guests had an opportunity to venture out with excursions, including snorkeling, donkey rides, ATV rides, or the complementary party at Margaritaville.
My group chose the snorkeling expedition, where a group of about 50 people, including Gabe (Aranda) and his wife, hopped on a boat and rode off to the reefs. The instructors were phenomenal, comical, and informative during their safety procedures. Once on the reefs, we dove and explored, encountering many tropical fish and a baby barracuda. About an hour later, we headed to a small, secluded island where stingrays as wide as an adult arm span swished right past guests. One instructor even held a stingray, allowing guests to kiss or receive a massage from the aquatic animal. On the trip back to the main island, the instructors gave us insight on everyday life on Grand Turk, as well as a small history lesson.
When our group dropped off at the beach, Pool Wars was still ongoing at Margaritaville, drawing in a decent sized crowd. Others leisurely enjoyed the shopping areas and explored the island, while other Shiprockers soaked up the sun on the beach. We ate at “A Beached Whale”, an outdoor restaurant and bar, where I tried conch (similar to calamari in flavour and texture) with spicy Cajun mayo to dip. After our meal, we shopped and enjoyed more of the island’s offerings before making our way back onto the Victory.
I shamefully missed most of Pop Evil‘s sail away performance back to the states, but exhaustion from earlier in the day had set in. The deck was full, as the band blew the crowd away with “Monster You’ve Made”, “Footsteps”, and “100 in a 55”, featuring spots from Damien and Gabe (Aranda).
Lacey Sturm gave a remarkable performance on the deck. She dedicated “The Soldier” to those in the military, earning respect of fellow Shiprockers. She spoke about choosing love over fear, how “it’s a choice, not a feeling”, leading into “Cassie” (Flyleaf). Lacey gave insight that the band, consisting of Ben Harlot (bass) on bass, Tom Gasket (drums), and husband Josh (guitar) participated in writing and recording the latest record. Heartfelt “Faith” moved myself and other Shiprockers to tears. Lacey gave a soul-wrenching cover of “Roxanne” and finished off the set with a Flyleaf mashup including “All Around Me” and “I’m So Sick”.
Up next on the deck stage were The Stowaways with their Rocking Dead Tribute Show. The all-star band had the crowd up on their feet, performing hits like “Sabotage”, “Holy Diver”, and “Life in the Fast Lane”. The two-hour set was finished off with Pantera’s “Walk”, and concert goers were moved to tears, remembering our beloved musicians who have fallen.
From what I saw, Papa Roach gave an incredible show in the theater. They opened their set with “Face Everything And Rise”, following with “Crooked Teeth”. Their massive energy had the theater in a roar as they interacted with the crowd. Their set also included fan favorites “Getting Away With Murder” and “Lifeline”. A highlight for me was the “Broken Home” performance twisted with an Eminem opening of “Lose Yourself”.
Meanwhile, Avatar gave a highlight performance on the deck. Rockers enjoyed the passion-filled set, which included hits “Ladies and Gentlemen”, “Hail the Apocalypse”, and more. Avatar was one of the most anticipated shows on the ship (for me), and they went above and beyond my expectations. Other performances throughout the night included Sevendust, Another Lost Year, and Man The Mighty. While some Shiprockers danced their way into the wee hours at DJ Lippy Rage’s or karaoke, others got some much needed shut eye for what was to come.
The last day on the ship was spent savoring every moment on the ship. Cane Hill had a killer set in the Adriatic Lounge, marking themselves a “must see” band. Fans new and old gathered to check out this band, a mosh pit breaking out during “Fountain Of Youth”. The Dead Deads gave a solid set on the deck, including “Vending Machine Guns” and “Sympathy Sex”. The band was all smiles as they soaked up the sun during their performance. A highlight during Letters From The Fire‘s lounge set was “At War”, the heartfelt ballad that pierced the brokenhearted. LFTF showed the upmost gratitude for the crowd choosing to spend their time during their set. Shortly after, Lacey Sturm and band gave an incredible set in the theatre, opening with “Impossible”. She’s adorable to watch, bouncing around the stage. Lacey thanked the military for their sacrifices leading into “The Soldier”, and a Flyleaf medley followed, ending their set.
Meanwhile, Stitched Up Heart gave an intimate set in the lounge, inviting littles ones up on stage during “City of Angels”. Fans reciprocated the energy being emitted, raising their horns and jumping along to every song. On the deck took place of the Shippy Awards Show, announcing the best theme night costumers, worst sunburn, and more. During the ceremony, they announced the cruise raised around $75,000 or the charity Cancer Sucks! Shiprockers had the chance to bid on items throughout the week such as signed memorabilia, artwork, and other great items donated for the occasion, and every year the amount raised for the wonderful charity is astonishing. Soon after, Breaking Benjamin finished off the performances with the entire crowd singing along. The deck was filled to the brim as they performed “Polyamorous”, “The Diary of Jane”, and “Ashes of Eden”. Frontman Benjamin pointed out the kiddos in the crowd and how it was “awesome to see the next generation of rockers.”
Shiprockers had a blast dressing up for the Circus theme night. There was a sea of clowns, ring masters, and even a dedicated soul who had her body painted like a tiger from head to toe.
Friday morning was filled not with goodbyes, but ‘see-you-later’s. Many Shiprockers headed to Fort Lauderdale to attend the official afterparty, Nonpoint with the Dead Deads. The journey home began for others. Whatever the celebration or actions of choice after disembarkation, there’s no doubt about the unforgettable experience that’s now embedded into attendee’s brains.
One of the best experiences on Shiprocked is the intimate interaction with rocker’s favorite band members. Where else can you sit by a poolside and chat with Myles (Alter Bridge) for hours, exchange chips with Morgan (Sevendust) at the casino, stumble upon Jonny (Art of Drying) and Lajon (Sevendust) talking in a hallway, snorkel with Gabe (Aranda), be mooned by Johannes (Avatar), get freebies from The Dead Deads & Stitched Up Heart, among other countless interactions. Shiprocked truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that every rocker should give a try.
The presale for Shiprocked 2018 broke records, selling out within the first day. The cruise has grown exponentially over the years as more guests become a part of this extraordinary family. On March 1st, next year’s dates of January 21st-25th were announced. Multiple ports were also announced, visiting Nassau and Half Moon Cay. Stay tuned for more information on the general sale, cabin selection, line-up announcements, as well as much more in regards to next year’s event.