In honor of recently making my final payment for the 2016 Monsters of Rock Cruise East (yay), below is a response to the many questions I get about the cruise – and the best explanation I can give of why I keep going back.
Imagine a festival concert where you are not trapped in a gated field getting dusty and tired, but on a comfortable floating building with beautiful vistas, your own private room, and dozens of different comfortable bars and restaurants to move about to at your very own whim. You don’t have to drive. Nobody at work expects you to check your email. You are with Your People and having good times and there’s really nothing to worry about except the band schedule.
I went on the inaugural Monsters of Rock Cruise in 2012, and then again in 2014 and 2015. What happened to 2013? I sat in a board meeting wondering what happened to me. I’m trying to make sure that never happens again. I wrote a pretty detailed review of the 2014 cruise right after I returned – it’s below, it’s long – if you’re interested in the typical daily routine of a four day concert.
Every year I have more fun than the year before, if that’s possible. Imagine days of fun in the sun with live music and good friends. This past year (2015) had some amazing moments – I particularly loved the full stage on the island with Black ‘n Blue on the beach. FANTASTIC DAY.
Extreme was a standout, twice, once in the theater and once on the pool stage. I loved seeing Krokus late at night at the pool stage and emoting Screaming in the Night with Darla, our friend from Canada that we met in the check-in line in 2012. I first saw Krokus open for Rush in 1982 – I loved that album and used to listen to it on vinyl all the time.
Queensryche with new singer Todd La Torre was a nice surprise – they have a good energy together – and he can channel the songs perfectly. I became a Derek St. Holmes fan – loved the vocals at that little surprise of a show, Kix on the pool stage, Tom Kiefer and Y&T in the theater, Atomic Punks – all standouts.
As always, we met a lot of cool and fun people. I’m pretty sure that the only reason we survive this many days of fun is because of the laughter – the best medicine.
There’s really not much else to say except that it’s a really good time at a well-organized event. You only live once, and life and health and “somedays” are fragile, so you should make the effort to go if you’ve been considering it. I never met anyone that didn’t thoroughly enjoy this vacation of all vacations.
Below is a daily diary, if you will, of the days leading up to, during, and following the 2014 Monsters of Rock Cruise. I left the original energy I exuded from the memories at the time (which the editor in me would prefer to tone down), and I left the commentary on the days after the cruise so that everyone is aware that recovery time should be built into your cruise plans ;o)
2014 Monsters of Rock Cruise: MOST PROMINENT MEMORIES
Laughing ‘til it hurt. Words cannot describe. I still find myself literally lol at random times. There really is something to be said for just letting it all go and pretending you’re 21 again for five days. Good times, good times. Highlights: Tesla, Dio Disciples, in which Ronnie’s energy was clearly present, Y&T, LA Guns.
I went on the cruise with the same four bffs I went with back in 2012. We hung with several others we all knew from the previous cruises, as well as many, many other newfound pals.
Cruises are a cool way to really escape and either party or relax, whatever your preference, in the warm sunshine surrounded by the open sea, and visit beautiful beaches. When you add live music and good friends – it’s all of my favorite things in one place. It’s a better version of the festival concert. When you are on a cruise you get to see the bands on a breezy pool deck; you get to see them in theaters and intimate bars and atrium settings; you get to go to a restaurant and sit down and eat whenever you want, go to a quiet pool and sit in the sun, or go to your cabin and shower or nap or change or decompress by sitting on your balcony and appreciating the vastness.
THURSDAY NIGHT & FRIDAY IN MIAMI & THE “MUSIC THAT MAKES ME WANT TO CLAW MY EYES OUT” FESTIVAL
Miami happened to be hosting the massive event known as the Ultra Musical Festival, in which over 300,000 (!) 20-30-somethings flock to Miami to listen to the agitating sounds of electronic dance music, or EDM as they call it. The only thing I really know about that scene is that they bounce up and down to repetitive-sounding, often band-less and vocal-less (gasp!) computer-ish beats with high-pitched screeching keyboard noises, all of which combined gives me eye-popping anxiety…and that their drugs of choice are pharmaceuticals (I know, I sound like an old person, which I may be ;o)). I am apparently incapable of feeling it, but I am fascinated by the energy they appear to make together. Hey, it’s all good – it’s an entrenched music subculture not really different than ours in many ways – and whatever makes you happy ;o)
So our hotel had all these EDM people and we had fun partying with them: four guys from Michigan who we asked a zillion questions about their music and scene; six totally loco and very young Mexican boys (who went to the festival dressed as multi-colored torreros and looked like the Mexican Power Rangers). We spent a few hours at the pool watching them drink out of a hotel room ice bucket with a beer/tequila concoction, all the while taking shots from another bottle of tequila. As they somehow managed to stumble away from the pool to get ready for the festival, three nice 20-something boys from Belgium took up the sun-party with us. One was an adorably hot little undertaker dude, and they had delightful accents and we all had a nice lunch conversation about their country. It was a fun and interesting mixing of scenes – we’re all essentially the same when it comes to our music.
We flew into Miami from Tampa on Thursday and went to the Rockerz Pool Party to see Burning Rain and Trixter that night – interesting and fun event. Friday night was the Monsters of Rock Cruise Pre-Party with Kix at a dive-y dog track called the Magic City Casino (which has since been nicely remodeled). Kix was awesome, as usual…and the salsa-dancing crowd inside after the show was amusing. We met up with other cruise friends here so it was a preview of the good times to come.
SATURDAY TO THE PORT OF MIAMI
Saturday we took a hotel shuttle to the Port of Miami to board the MSC Divina. We were again among Our People, where even the check-in line is fun. Great people-watching and people-meeting. It was there we first spotted the man in flowing white robe-ish clothing whom we designated the Dalai Lama-Baby Jesus Dude. Turned out it was Ritchie Kotzen of The Winery Dogs, a band we were all looking forward to seeing.
Once onboard with our drink package tickets in hand we went to find our cabin and ended up in an elevator with Steve Whiteman of Kix, who promptly yelled “I farted!” as soon as the doors closed. One of my favorite front men – off the charts energy.
We had two adjoining balcony cabins between the five of us – three in one and two in the other; the door between the two cabins was a nice roomy touch. As anyone who has been on a cruise before knows, these spaces are small – but who goes for the cabin? As long as you have the balcony you won’t get claustrophobic.
SATURDAY NIGHT – AWESOME TESLA SHOW & RAINBOW DANCING WITH DJ WILL
Up first was the sail-away show at the pool stage with Tesla, and it was probably the most memorable of all MOR Cruise shows. Fantastic! Amazing! The energy! Everyfreakingbody felt it. When they played The Way It Is a ball of energy was bouncing through the ship and up into the people and here there and everywhere. A muscleman biker-looking dude turned around to show us his goose bumps and tear in his eye, shaking his head in wonder, and the entire evening’s discussions always went back to how great it was. One of those magical concert experiences – you don’t get one at every show, but they are why you go.
Then the night got better, even though it started to rain. The Vixen pool show was cancelled (the only rain we caught on the whole trip – they were rescheduled elsewhere) so we went to the inside pool area where DJ Will from KNAC and the Rainbow played our dance music – Motley, Kix, Faster, GnR, etc. etc. We pestered DJ Will for the same songs we always do and everyone danced the night away Rainbow style…fun times, fun times. I remember a few funny details: the little Argentinian dude who danced some form of squatting choo-choo dance for most of the evening – his thighs must have been killing him the rest of the week. It was just a very fun evening and great way to start the cruise off. And the rain was lovely for some reason – a pleasant sea shower.
SUNDAY AND THE DIO DISCIPLES SURPRISE
We started Sunday slow with breakfast and then basking in the sun at the pool. The pool stage had an event going on called Cooking with Rockstars. I didn’t really watch but somewhat listened. Later we watched Loudness on the pool stage.
Next up was the Golden Lounge, which is a more intimate acoustic bar, to see Killer Dwarfs. I loooooove their song Doesn’t Matter. I had been looking forward to seeing them as I don’t think I ever had. What’s funny is the week before the cruise I went and studied the final band list and I had NO IDEA they dug up Killer Dwarfs for this cruise and I was a happy camper.
Then we went over to the Black & White Lounge, which is another slightly intimate bar atmosphere but with a full band sound, to see Tuff – then back to the pool stage to see Doro. The last time I saw her was at an old metal convention they used to have in L.A. called Concrete Foundations Forum in the early ’90s, and she was amazing then and still sounds and looks great now. Later we saw a bit of Corabi & Hannon in the Atrium, which is an open lobby area that is viewable from three floors of a grand staircase – a nice set-up. Then on to a bit of Femme Fatale, and then back to the pool stage to see Dio Disciples.
Dio Disciples was a standout show. The band had started as I walked to the upper pool deck to watch, and I stopped as I immediately felt the vibe, and then I heard the AMAZING vocals. From where I was standing I could see both the stage and the giant screen at the back of the pool area (I LOVED THAT SCREEN – it’s great for nearsighted people like me to REALLY see the band – I was VERY SAD they didn’t have it in 2015). That’s when I saw Oni Logan singing. I love when that man sings. There was another guy singing as well and he was great also. This was yet another magical mystical musical experience, but this time the energy felt like Ronnie’s – you could feel the love and respect and the music flow. Two spiritual experiences in two days! How lucky am I!
From there we floated over to Charm City Devils before calling it a night – another band that makes me want to go and check out some more of their music.
MONDAY AND THE BEACH – YAY FOR THE BEACH!
Monday was Monster Island day – a ferry pulled up next to the ship and ferried us over to Coco Cay for the day, where The London Quireboys and Great White played on the beach. We went over early – FABULOUS day! Gorgeous beach! Yummy frothy cocktails and sunshine and clear aqua waters and a band playing! Ahhhhh. There was a lunch area with picnic shelters and several bars set up so you could grab food and drinks. Must be like heaven.
Then we came back to watch Kix and the sail-away from Monster Island show on the pool stage. Such a fun band to see – always great. Then later to the pool stage to see Firehouse, and then to the B&W Lounge to see LA Guns.
Sometimes it got a little hectic trying to see everyone – running, running while stopping to eat here and chat and meet people there. It was at this point that we stopped at our cabin to grab something on our way back to the pool stage to see Dangerous Toys and Sandy tripped over a suitcase and landed face down on the cabin floor. Oddly enough I wasn’t intoxicated but think I had a perpetual happy-to-be-me buzz at that point. But I felt like new the next morning! Just added a few dumb war wounds to the proud ones. So a warning: watch out for war wounds – we have all ended up with them! One of us managed to fall UP the stairs and limped for two days ;o)
TUESDAY – THE LAST DAY AND THE LAST GREAT POOL SHOW: Y&T
Tuesday was a busy day that started early. What can be better than grabbing a coffee and watching Gabbie Rae play acoustic in the Atrium early in the morning? I had seen her a few days earlier in the Golden Lounge (I forget where so it got skipped over) and she does refreshing, acoustic vocal versions of classic rock tunes. Someone told me she’s only 15 –talented girl – and so lucky to have the support she has to be doing what she does so well. There was a guy making beautiful guitar music and doing some backup vocals with her. I would love to see her singing in front of a full band.
We watched Great White at the pool stage at noon, then headed over to Eddie Trunk’s Stump the Trunk book signing. That was cool – Eddie answering questions and jabbering away with interesting band tidbits like only he can.
We saw the Moby Dicks at the B&W Lounge and then to the pool stage to see The Winery Dogs. That’s when we realized that the guy we were calling the Dalai Lama/Baby Jesus Dude was Ritchie Kotzen. It was a good show and I vowed to listen to my Winery Dogs CD more often (I believe the problem there is that I had just discovered Rival Sons, who has occupied the majority of my listening time lately). Next we watched Quiet Riot at the pool stage, and then went back to the B&W Lounge to see Killer Dwarfs – I loved Doesn’t Matter even more this time around and really enjoyed that show.
Later it was back to the pool stage to see Y&T. I have to say that I was sooooo impressed with the vocals. He sounds fantastic! The band was tight and I enjoyed the whole show despite only knowing the hits. Another band I need to get into more.
After that it was back to the B&W Lounge to be blown away by Jake E. Lee and his band Red Dragon Cartel. Holy great songs and guitar playing, Batman. They did a bunch of badass Badlands and it was fantastic. Admitting ignorance here – I didn’t know Jake E. Lee was in Badlands and that RDC did Badlands songs. I am sorry I missed this band a few weeks ago at a local venue – but I won’t miss them again.
It was the last night and last opportunity to use up drink tickets and most of us flocked to the pool areas to sit near the sea and recap and enjoy each other’s company one more time. I had an oh-so-laughter-filled evening. To go to bed laughing and wake up laughing is an amazing thing.
WEDNESDAY AND WHAT I MISSED AND GOING HOME
What did I miss? I didn’t go to any of the Q&A sessions, which they had for almost every band; I didn’t go to any of the meet-n-greets where you could get autographs and have your picture taken with the band. I didn’t see Cinderella – as far as I could tell they only played in the theater and that was my least favorite place to see a band. I did see Vixen there at some point, which I think I failed to mention above. Most of the main bands did one show on the pool stage, one in the theater and/or one in the Black & White Lounge or Golden Lounge, so you had more than one opportunity to see bands.
I also missed Dangerous Toys, Tyketto, Autograph, Winger (gosh I didn’t even know they were there until just now looking at the schedules again). I didn’t see Slaughter or The Iron Maidens. Wow – but I saw soooo many bands – so I just surprised myself with this list.
We made it off the ship pleasantly sleep-deprived and slightly woozy from it all, and lunched together at the Miami airport before heading back to reality to our homes in Tampa, Redondo Beach, Boston and Saskatchewan.
THURSDAY AND THANK ALL GODS & GODDESSES THAT I TOOK THE DAYS OFF
Slept. Unpacked. Slept. Slept more.
FRIDAY’S STATE OF WELL-BEING: HOT MESS & HAPPY
I will start by saying I am in fabulous spirits and really don’t feel all that bad given the party-like-a-rockstar lifestyle of the past week. After all, this is the 49-year old woman who is usually in bed by ten and needs to plan to go out on weekends and will only go out on work nights for a very select few bands. That being said, as of yesterday’s self-health scan, I had various bruises, some of which were mysterious, stiffness in my neck and shoulder on the left side, a bump on my forehead, a mild pain in what I think is my intestines, and a need to take many naps. As of today I also have a scratchy voice, runny nose and an overall general need for more sleep. But I swear I’m fine! I can do it! I can do it again next year!
Prologue: I did it again in 2015, and I’m going to do it again in 2016. Rock on ;o)