Shiprocked 2018 – Port Canaveral to Nassau & Half Moon Cay – January 21-25, 2018
Review and photos by Tara Shea
Day 1 – At Sea
The journey to the greatest vacation on Earth began with both Newbs and Survivors boarding the Carnival Liberty Shiprocker style – arms wide open, ready to embrace the adventure and family for the next 4 days. Fans gathered onboard the ship and the atmosphere soon filled with chatter and laughter. Homemade chapter wristbands were exchanged among encounters as friendships begun, each person making a mark with their homeland.
Carnival Liberty was decked out in space gear and illustrations that really bring the decoration piece to life. Shiprocked’s theme this year was Space Odyssey, and attendees weren’t shy of participating. Host Ralph introduced Seether’s smashing sail away performance in a neon orange astronaut suit, as well as conducting schedule changes and an announcement regarding next year’s voyage due to a small delay in the sail away.
Despite the delay, Seether made a promising performance to kick off the experience. Clint Lowery from Sevendust joined the band as the continued touring guitarist from 2017. The band played a 12 song setlist including hits “Rise Above This,” “Fine Again,” and closing track “Remedy.”
Up next for highly anticipated performances was Nothing More’s theater show. “Every year everyone tells me about must-see bands… This year, three Grammy nominations, first time on Shiprocked, from motherfucking Texas… Nothing More!” said host Ralph Sutton. The explosive performance was one that fans talked about for the entire trip, with a powerful performance of “Go To War,” bass solo, and ending with their traditional “Salem.”
One highlight of the rock’n’roll cruise is the fan-artist connection that isn’t an everyday concert experience. One for me was running into Corey Taylor as he’s walking off an elevator. For others it was playing a game of poker or blackjack with Morgan Rose or Sonny Sandoval, hanging out with Rick DeJesus on the beach of Half Moon Cay, having a drink with Oli Herbert, or rocking out with Mark Vollelunga while watching He Is Legend. Whatever the encounter with your favorite artist, it’s guaranteed to be a special moment, unlike one you can get anywhere else.
Other sets included within the night were an intimate set with DED while In This Moment took the breezy deck stage. Each show was packed like a madhouse. DED had the Victoria Lounge so filled, fans were watching and rocking out in the foyer area outside the room’s glass walls. Out on the ship’s main deck, the crowd roared for In This Moment’s semi-intricate show. “We’re all in the middle of the fucking ocean together… wanting to get fucking wild” stated vocalist Maria. The band was shown all the love with their performance of “Roots,” “Adrenalize,” and “Whore.”
The casino made to be one of the hang-out spots in “after hours” once all performances and activities came to an end for the day. A live band karaoke continued the party, where Shiprockers performed great covers of “Freak On A Leash,” “Hemorrhage,” and more.
Day 2 – Nassau
While some chose to sleep in, others caught the poolside acoustic set from Aranda. I grabbed a plate of breakfast and sat on a lounge chair as the brothers played songs like “We Are The Enemy,” “Don’t Wake Me,” and a soulful “Sweet Home Alabama” cover. Gabe Aranda rattled the tambourine while brother Dameon struck his acoustic guitar.
Before the set could end, I headed to the land of Nassau with my sister for our dolphin excursion. Many excursions were offered through Carnival, or Shiprockers had the opportunity to explore the land for pleasure. We took a bus into the Atlantis area, where we stopped at Dolphin Cay to take a couple of hours to swim with and feed dolphins. The rest of the time off the boat was spent moseying around shops and sightseeing the island of Nassau.
Once we boarded, I made my way to the deck for Black Label Society’s deck performance. Though the wind picked up a bit, the breeze felt nice after the warm day. Rockers had the time of their life during BLS, even people hanging out in the whirlpools headbanging. One fan honed in on the space theme, carrying a blow up alien doll while watching BLS.
The main lobby filled with chatter as a line for Beartooth’s theater show formed. Fans also lined up out the door for Shiprocked merch, snagging shirts, beach towels, etc while also taking a glimpse at the charity auction items. Beartooth gave a raging set that exceeded my expectations of the band.
The Stowaways, an all-star band composed of a variety of rock’s musicians, took the deck stage for killer covers. The band included but was not limited to Gabe and Dameon Aranda, Morgan Rose, Lajon Witherspoon, Bumblefoot, Chad Nicefield, Madame Mayhem, Phil Buckman, Scott Davis, Angela Lese, and many more. The Futuristic Prom Set (the night’s main theme) 14-track playlist included “Rock Of Ages,” “Renegade,” “Africa,” “Don’t You Forget About Me,” and closed with sing-a-long “Paradise City.” The Stowaways’ set was raved by many, and just when we thought it couldn’t get any better…
Headliners Stone Sour took the theater for a full house of dresses, tutus, and glow in the dark/neon lights. The band stayed pretty close to their recent tour setlist, bringing out some old tracks as well as most of their latest release Hydrograd. Stone Sour bounced around the stage, bringing life to headbangers “30/30-150,” “Get Inside,” and “Fabuless.”
Day 3 – Half Moon Cay
Shiprockers woke up on the beach to cobalt blue, crystal clear waters. We took a mini charter boat to get to the island of Half Moon Cay (as we were docked in the middle of the ocean.) Though fans had the options to explore the island, most flocked to the beautiful beach and took a dip before the two beach performances from Otherwise and P.O.D.
Everyone had a blast soaking up the sun, watching some killer sets, and just chillin’ without a care in the world. Otherwise gave a strong set, and Adrian got intimate with the audience, roaming the crowd for “Soldiers.” Other tracks included “Die For You,” “I Don’t Apologize,” and “Sleeping Lions.”
Beach wars took place in between the two artists. Personally, I took a dip in the waters, as I get overheated easily. However, I did enjoy Ralph’s commentary for the beach wars (for anyone who doesn’t know, it’s a series of games played among Shiprockers that are divided into groups.) Though an injury took place with a drone, (which don’t worry, he was a trooper and is alright!) the crowd really seemed to enjoy the playful competition.
P.O.D. delivered a passionately driven set with “Soundboy Killa,” Southtown,” and personal favorite “Set It Off.” Frontman Sonny made sure fans were living in the moment, with “Some of us are returning to cold cities and states… Just think back to a few days ago when I was on the beach having a good time.” The crowd swayed and chanted to “Alive,” dancing along with toes in the sand. The band continued to connect with the audience, saying “At the end of the day, we all come from the same place. Some just might have it a little better than you. But some have it a lot worse.” Sonny began reading off states from the wristbands collected from Shiprockers, and said, “I know where you’re from. You’re marked for life” as he pointed to his heart. The set ended with “Satellite,” dedicated to the late Chester Bennington before heading back to the Liberty.
The sail away performance back to homeland made for a special one, as Nothing More gave their all on the deck stage. A few highlights from that set were never before played and emotionally driven “Fade In/Fade Out,” as well as the “Go To War” ending that displayed some new synth magic.
Another wonderful thing about Shiprocked is the artist interactions set out by Ask4. There’s the opportunity to mini-golf with Morgan Rose, as well as a few other interactions, but one that stuck out this year was the Artist Q&A. Corey of Living Colour, Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D., Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society, Chris Howorth of In This Moment, Shaun of Seether, and Dustin of Starset joined the theater for this special experience. Fans asked the artists thoughts weighing on their mind. Corey just got a tattoo prior to the event, in which he joked, “I haven’t paid for it yet… But I got a tattoo of an arrow. I always wanted to have something that keeps me moving.” Shaun and Zakk were the liveliest of the bunch, cracking jokes with fans throughout the Q&A. When asked if stage presence happens naturally or if it’s a thought out process, Shaun rebutted with “it’s influenced by the number of cocktails you have.” Sonny and Corey were the more thought-provoking, leaving fans with insight on each band’s life and feeling inspired. Dustin of Starset announced he’s working on a side project when asked the last thing downloaded, as well as saying he’s into weird electronic music. Zakk replied with “I don’t have WiFi, so I don’t know any new bands.” Chris admitted his love for Nothing More, and Corey said he will type in an emotion or feeling into Spotify to see what pops up for new music. “There’s always something new to discover,” and that I couldn’t agree with more. Sonny ended the Q&A session by giving his thoughts on Spotify… “Find a way to give the money back to the artists” as musicians struggle to find a balance between being home and being on tour.
The debut premiere of Stereo Satellite took place on the main deck. Disturbed’s John Moyer, The Stowaway’s Lukas Rossi, and Adrenaline Mob’s Jordan Cannata and Mike Orlando have joined forces for a rock band that is guaranteed to blow any rock fan away. Their set contained original tracks “Eye In The Sky,” “A Beautiful Disaster,” a kickass drum solo, and a beautiful cover of Adele’s “Hello.” Stereo Satellite ended their debut performance with their recently released single “Glass Houses.”
Other notable performances throughout the night were Joyous Wolf’s energetic and funky main lobby set, Like A Storm and Beartooth’s deck stage shows, as well as Adelitas Way’s shortened set in the Victoria Lounge. Las Vegas natives filled in for Badflower, a last-minute cancelation for the cruise. The band sweetly dedicated “Alive” to a couple they’d met on the ship that declared the track as their wedding song.
The night continued with a sea of Teams living it up throughout the ship. Costumes for the “Team Theme” night ranged anywhere from Sesame Street, Disney princesses, Pirates of the Caribbean, the infamous Swedes disguised as minions (which complimented their jerseys) and a flock of unicorns that were spotted taking a group picture with LaJon Witherspoon.
Day 4 – At Sea
Though my muscles pleaded to sleep in after the previous day’s long activities, I’m really glad I caught Doll Skin’s morning acoustic performance at the poolside. The all-female quartet dressed homie and pour their hearts out with tracks “Sweet Pea,” Dead Sara cover “Weatherman,” and a few more.
I’ll admit I missed a good chunk of activities such as the Newlyband Game, DED’s deck stage set, and a few others due to press. I’m definitely not complaining though, and it was fun to watch the meet and greets take place.
Joyous Wolf delivered an intense set after asking security to overwrite the VIP rule, as they wanted fans to be as close as possible. Kaleido interacted with an active crowd in the lounge. “I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but you’ve just adopted us. You’re family now” stated Christina. “Sweet Victory” and a few new tunes were played, as well as Ricky from Red Sun Rising and Chad from Wilson joining for an incredible “Highway to Hell” AC/DC cover. Doll Skin played their second set that day in the lounge as well, demanding the crowd to stand up and rock out to tracks “Shut Up” and “Let’s Be Honest.”
Adelitas Way rocked the deck stage, announcing it was their first time on Shiprocked and how much they were glad to be there. Bubbles floated in the air during the acoustic breakdown for “Somebody Wishes They Were You.” High on crowd interaction, Otherwise’s theater set was one not to miss. The band made sure to connect with every fan in the crowd that they could, and a highlight track well executed was “Suffer” under the soft purple and yellow lights.
Several humans were getting their body painted with black and purple futuristic designs for the “Intergalactic” theme night. I caught a glimpse on my way to the lobby for a quick peek at P.O.D.’s acoustic set. Sonny made a comment about how we all go through the seas of life, and the band gave a never-before-played performance of “Ghetto.” Happy Birthday was sung to a fan in the audience, and the set finished with an emotional performance of “Youth Of The Nation.”
The Stowaways received the highest praise from Shiprockers for the Tribute deck set. All songs were dedicated to lost rockers. The artists rotated between the Tribute set, which included “Master of Puppets,” “Ace of Spades,” “I’m Broken,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Roadhouse Blues,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Whipping Post,” “Zombie,” “Highway to Hell,” and a tearjerking “Crawling/In The End” medley. It definitely left the Shiprocked experience at an all-time high, the all-star band is a true one-of-a-kind experience for the cruise.
A few other sets took place between here and there, and I remember catching a slight glimpse of He Is Legend’s set in the lounge (which was more hardcore than I expected and well delivered.) For whatever reason, no notes were taken, but I do remember being blown away by them.
The finale of the cruise ended with Stone Sour bringing down the house on the deck stage. The setlist stayed the same as far as I could tell from their theater set, however, this show was higher in energy and overall a better experience, in my opinion. There’s nothing like feeling the ocean breeze graze your cheek while watching one of your favorite bands give everything they’ve got and being surrounded by 2,000 other individuals that are all there for the same reason. The set ended with Josh pulling a rockstar move and straight up smashing his guitar, blowing fans away. Stone Sour thanked Shiprocked for their hospitality, and that was the end of all performances. Fans stayed up connecting and living up every last moment of the cruise. Whether it be your first time, fourth time, and ninth Shiprocked, each year is always a unique experience that makes you realize… it’s not just a cruise. It’s a family.
All photos © Tara Shea