It’s one in the afternoon and the line to get into the cruise terminal stretches around the block. It’s not the warmest day Miami has ever seen and most of us haven’t packed for the weather. The bottle of wine passed down the queue (after an attendee found a corkscrew lodged in the side pocket of a bag) does wonders for morale. In my first attempt at being social, i poll the crowd on their previous ship attendance, and the response is overwhelmingly in favour of the enthusiastic newbie. It occurs to me that this is my junior year, and I have just one more sailing until I ‘graduate’.
Not that graduation really means much on Holy Ship. The majority of the fourth-years from January seem to be intent on doing a victory lap, and then some. Their blue robes stand out like a badge of pride on deck, and I’m pretty jealous of how cozy they look; it’s windy as hell and seriously, thank god I brought about five sweaters. I’m certainly warmer than the dude two feet away from me in a metallic scrap of cloth he explained to me as being a ‘superhero suit’.
‘Okay’, I reply, shuffling away to give him some space to do his thing.
‘Doing Your Thing’ is pretty much the point of Holy Ship, and its shenanigans have become more legend than actual fact in its fourth iteration. The January trip was full of returning faces, it’s true, but it’s fun to see a whole new crew of shippers getting the torch passed to them in February, learning tried-and-true customs for the very first time.
Is this what being a responsible adult feels like? Then again, if we’re here, I’m not sure any of us know what that means. The crowd’s energy is infectious, and as the 7 pm sail away show kicks off with Fatboy Slim, their enthusiasm only grows tenfold.
A small interlude for a Q & A:
Q: Which sailing was the best: January or February?
A: Both of them. Both of them were the best Ship.
Q: Is (Captain) Destructo a de facto dance cult leader?
A: Dog bless Gary Richards, patron saint of #ShipFam.
Q: Can I make a metric fuckton of money running a charter flight from Australia to Miami for the sailings?
A: Quit stealing my ideas.
Q: Are people nice to each other at least?
A: You’re stuck for three days on a boat with 4000 other people, which really isn’t as many as you’d think. You can’t afford to be a dick.
Q: Are the costumes cool?
A: The coolest. Also: the weirdest. Holy Ship is half music festival, half fashion show. Check out this sweet Majora’s Mask costume.
A: Also, you get things like this.
Q: Seriously: January or February.
Holy Ship is a lesson in timeline flexibility. Half the joy of it is ending up at a stage you never planned to be at just because it’s where you happened to get lost at the time. Sure, the main stage had to be abandoned due to high winds on Wednesday night; that just meant that more people checked out some early sets by great artists they may not have considered seeing before. Friday afternoon island party shut down because it’s really, really cold? Whatever, we’ll just have an all-day food-and-fun bonanza on the pool deck with J Phlip and Basement Jaxx.
My favourite of the weekend was the Black and White lounge, located near the back of the Divinia where things can get more than a little wavy (‘IT’S DANCE OR DIE!’, a masked girl yells on Mardi Gras night. As if to prove her point, a particularly strong wave rocks the boat; a guy at the bar falls over). It’s the place where artists tend to congregate and pull off the craziest of back-to-backs. At the Ed Banger Love Ball on Wednesday Night, Busy P and Breakbot had a contest of who could deal out the Funkiest Jams to 30 people at four in the morning.
On Thursday, the Dirtybird Players showcase featured both amazing performances, and Justin Martin expressing his amazing ability to hug just about everybody and mean it. It was the natural choice to hold the extremely-after-hours final set of Friday night, a back-to-back performance of Kaskade and Skrillex to a packed room with very, very low ceilings.
The infusion of new blood to Holy Ship is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for HARD. It’s a logical conclusion for the cruise festival empire they’ve built on, well, sun and sand. A great deal of HS allure rides (sails?) not only on its stellar, diverse lineups, but on its exclusivity via scarcity. It isn’t the most expensive festival in the world, but it sure is hard to get on board. And boy, is it ever lovely once you do.
The addition of a second Caribbean voyage and the soon-to-be-realized Mediterranean edition of Holy Ship makes the boat more accessible then ever, and who’s to say that’s anything but a good thing? A whole new crew is learning to participate in Good Vibes Only. Holy Ship is a world unto itself, and to many it’s less of a favourite festival and more of a favourite life experience.
In short: Thank you, MSC Divinia, for hosting our merry crew of quasi-pirates. Welcome, freshmen, and good luck on your somophore bookings; it’s going to be a crazy ride. Until next year!