The recent ShipRocked 2018 cruise gave hard rock fans an out of this world experience, and not just because of its outer space theme. The music cruise sailed out of Port Canaveral on Sunday and made stops in Nassau, Bahamas, and Half Moon Cay before depositing its exhausted revelers on Thursday. ShipRockers vacationed hard with rock and metal, including Stone Sour, Seether, In This Moment and Black Label Society, who gave them all a week of ringing ears, tan lines (and some serious burns), hoarse voices and a whole lot of fun. There was also booze… lots and lots of booze.
Billboard was along for the ride, and here are some of the highlights from the long, strange voyage:
Pre-party, 8 p.m. For fans who wanted to burn the midnight oil before the cruise began, there was a pre-party at Milliken’s Reef at Cocoa Beach, where strong drinks were served in small beach pails. P.O.D., Adelitas Way and Joyous Wolf dished out late-night acoustic performances.
Day 1 (Jan. 21)
Noon: Thousands of fans boarded the sold-out Carnival Liberty boat, where they were welcomed by fruity pink drinks, an astronaut and an R2-D2 astromech droid who was rolling around the deck.
3:30 p.m. The dreaded, but mandatory, safety drill on this cruise has fans bringing their trusty buckets of beer with them.
5:15 p.m. Fans swarmed the Deck Stage for the sail-away performance featuring South African rockers Seether. Not only did they take the stage an hour later than promised, the grungy group also showed up admittedly more drunk than usual, according to singer Shaun Morgan. They cranked out new songs from their latest album, 2017’s Poison the Parish, and some classics such as “Broken,” “Fine Again” and “Gasoline” that elicited some hearty sing-alongs. Fans in their band shirts and some in swimwear wasted no time getting in the hot tub, enjoying the first set of the cruise on the Deck Stage.
6 p.m. For VIP ShipRockers, there was a bottomless drinks event with acoustic performances by intergalactic band Starset, who delivered a beautiful orchestral set. They were not in their space outfits, but instead took the stage in more casual T-shirt and jeans attire for the stripped-down performance. Notable single “My Demons” got an incredible new twist, thanks to accompaniment by cello and violin players.
8 p.m. One of the best performances of the day was led by Grammy-nominated Nothing More, who christened the Theater Stage with its first show of the cruise. The band is one of the most unique and talented live acts you can see on or off land. Their lyrics “Shake the ship with good intention” from their song “Christ Copyright” took on a more personal meaning as fans sung it while swaying back and forth in the theater while the giant ship bobbed along on the waves.
The percussion-driven set was heightened by the band’s unique musical contraptions, which included a bass strapped down to a custom stand for the band’s signature solo. Another contraption front and center was singer Johnny Hawkins’ drum covered in bicycle chains that doubled as a spot for the athletic frontman to leap off of. An air compressor attached to the drum fueled a set of hydraulics that hoisted the drums into the air while Hawkins stood on the rig. The overall intensity of the set ran from faster-paced songs such as “Mr. MTV” and “The Time Is Now” to more emotional ones like “Jenny,” which had one front-row fan in tears as the set veered into sensory overload.
11 p.m. In This Moment is theatrical and moody and as the clouds thickened and the wind blew voraciously, it set the scene for an entrancing late-night set. The spray of the ocean waves could be felt as singer Maria Brink delivered intense vocals on songs including “River of Fire” and the ferocious “Burn.” As quickly as Brink pulled fans in with her flowy wardrobe and sensual stage presence, she turned around and ripped their hearts out with her guttural yells.
Day 2 (Jan. 22)
10 a.m. Cruisers woke up in sunny Nassau, Bahamas. Some ShipRockers went to Señor Frog’s for food and drinks while others hit the beach for snorkeling, a trip to Atlantis across the bridge and other sunny activities. Hair braiders and shell sellers lined the port. One band member of Red Sun Rising fully committed to hair braiding and spent the rest of the cruise rocking a look reminiscent of Houston rapper Riff Raff. The outside of the port was ringed with everything from jewelry stores and tourist shops to little shacks at Straw Market packed with local vendors. It was clear that the ShipRockers enjoyed themselves on leave in Nassau.
6 p.m. Back onboard, it was all about the music. Guitar guru and longtime Ozzy Osbourne axman Zakk Wylde performed with his Black Label Society. Wylde and his bearded crew battered ear drums with their sail away show as the Carnival Liberty drifted to its next destination. The Viking guitarist known for his long hair, flowing beard and wicked humor unleashed “Funeral Bell,” “Suicide Messiah” and “Bleed for Me.” Wylde’s dizzying solos were limitless as they echoed throughout the boat.
8:30 p.m. The Stowaways is a supergroup of rock and metal artists that includes Living Colour singer Corey Glover, who performed his band’s signature hit “Cult of Personality” alongside former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, who shredded away to GN’R’s “Paradise City.” It was fitting since the theme of the night was ’80s prom.
Day 3 (Jan. 23)
9 a.m. The sun was beating down on Half Moon Cay island as ShipRockers swapped their band shirts for bathing suits. Fans took a 10-minute tender boat to the sandy beach for a dip, and when they arrived they were able to meet lower-billed bands like Shaman’s Harvest, Ded, Kaleido and Red Sun Rising. While the fans got to know the potential future stars and walked around the beach, they were joined by some other colorful sights: big, speedy roosters running about in the sand.
1 p.m. Beach Wars commenced, with teams battling it out in an old-school tug of war and other amusing activities involving guzzling beer as fast as possible between feats of strength. Fans were split into two teams for the competitions and the victor won… more beer, of course.
2 p.m. On the base of a tall pirate ship equipped with a bar, things only got hotter as P.O.D. hit the stage. Their robust set included hits like “Boom,” ”Southtown” and “Alive,” which even had the workers on the island checking out the group’s signature West Coast swagger. P.O.D. is a band that transcends rock, pulling reggae and soul influences into their heavy rapid-fire attack. While some fans were rocking out on the beach, others were in waist-deep water grooving to P.O.D. as they rode the waves.
6 p.m. “We don’t give a shit. Our stage presence depends on how many cocktails we’ve had,” Seether frontman Shaun Morgan humorously revealed in an artist Q&A. The panel also included Wylde, Living Colour singer Corey Glover, P.O.D. vocalist Sonny Sandoval, In This Moment guitarist Chris Howorth and Starset singer Dustin Bates. Held in the theater, it allowed fans to ask these musicians any of their burning questions, though it mostly turned into a humorous free-for-all. Wylde shared a story about Ozzy not being aware of who occult leader and writer Aleister Crowley was or what he looked like despite writing and singing about the legendary magician and poet in his 1980 Blizzard of Ozz album track “Mr. Crowley.”
8 p.m. The youngsters in Joyous Wolf proved to be the new hot buzz band to check out. Their old-school mix of rock and soul was gritty and uplifting, with singer Nick Reese’s feet blazing across the stage like a young James Brown.
Day 4 (Jan. 24)
11 a.m. Hundreds of fans line up for artist meet and greets and photos… R2-D2, however, cut the line.
1:30 p.m. Arizona nu-metal band Ded brought the house down with a dynamic performance on the Deck Stage as they ripped tracks from their debut album Mis•an•thrope. The music was punchy and hooky, especially on the standout songs “Disassociate” and “Anti-Everything.”
7 p.m. The Stowaways returned for a very special in memoriam show. One of the most heartbreaking and poignant performances of the set had the crowd singing The Cranberries’ “Zombie” in honor of the Irish band’s singer Dolores O’Riordan, who died earlier in the week. Other tributes included a cover of Prince’s “Darling Nikki,” Audioslave’s “Like a Stone” (dedicated to Chris Cornell) and a “Crawling/In the End” mashup in memory of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington.
11 p.m. Slipknot’s Corey Taylor performed with his other band Stone Sour for the last set of the cruise. Taylor swapped his Slipknot mask for an all-white sailor outfit as he belted out “Made of Scars” and “Fabuless.” It was bittersweet for fans, but ShipRockers went out with a bang — a headbang that is. Taylor is a stellar frontman onstage, his voice managing to roll together grit and melody at the same time. He got the crowd off their feet and can, of course, bang his head with the best of them. It was an all-out party under the stars as ShipRockers put their necks and vocal cords to the test one last time.
The 10th anniversary of ShipRocked will set sail from Galveston, Texas, for the first time, on Jan. 26-31, 2019.