So let’s sum it up shall we? Why did we enjoy the Uber Soca Cruise so much? Why was it that good? Here are ten reasons why.
1. It was new for us, different, this soca feting on a ship. The idea that you can fete 24/7 for four days straight, no let-up is so appealing. Even if you might not be able to, the option was always there. You open your eyes at whatever time and say ‘Lemmie see what’s happening’ and there WILL be something happening. There will be a fete, a lime, a guy with a boom box. There was never a time when soca music was not playing on that ship. Combine that with there was no need to think about allocating a driver, getting a taxi home or taking vex money with you? It was good. You can fete for as long as you like, as hard as you like. All you have to remember is your sea pass card, cabin number and how to get to your cabin. If you don’t remember these, well… I guess you can crash at someone else’s or on one of the deck chairs pool side until you remember?
2. The cruise is one of the ultimate All Inclusives. There was no buying of tickets for fetes. Once you hand over your money to Uber soca Cruise (UBC), you didn’t have to think about that. The number of artists you got to see perform, the number of fetes you went to, it was worth it. You didn’t have to think about food either. There were some restaurants you could pay for food if you wanted to. But there was a good buffet spread for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
3. The level of organisation and attention to detail was fantastic. I’m not sure whether that is due to the UBC team or the Royal Caribbean staff. Maybe it was a joint effort. But it was impressive. There was an UBC cruise channel on TV which reminded you of what was going on and where. It played soca music videos. There were UBC presenters. The tannoy system also gave important reminders like making sure you got to the Wakanda ball on time.
4. Uber Soca Cruise shone a light on, I’ll use the contentious term ‘small island’ music. The islands which were not usually given much air wave space represented HARD. I mean seriously hard. The Small Island Fete was probably one of the best fetes of the cruise. The music was played all the time. DJs took risks and played the music. I heard soca tunes I had never heard before and saw people going crazy to it. The way the people from US Virgin Islands took over, it was amazing. I didn’t know the Virgin Islands had such big soca and carnival following although Pumpa had told me previously in an interview.
5. The Uber Soca Cruise gave space and time to the artists, DJs, managers, promoters and others in the industry from various countries a time to interact with each other, talk, make links. They have such busy schedules, it is rare for them to all meet in one place. Uber Soca Cruise brought the soca community together.
6. Haiti. That says it all. Haiti. I got to be in Haiti again. Uber Soca Cruise shone a light on Haiti. Got to learn more about Haiti. For that alone, I am happy and grateful.
7. J’ouvert. The best J’ouvert I’ve been to in a while. No, it wasn’t at day break but that didn’t matter. The vibe and music and location and people just made it good.
8. The 3000 attendees came to FETE, enjoy themselves. I think this is the first time in a long time that I have seen so many people at one time just free up you know? There weren’t so many people as usual on their phones taking selfies, staring at their phones, talking to distant people. This crowd oozed a confidence and sense of self, enough so that they can free up and nah care what people thought. New friends were made, old friendships renewed. And despite the different flags waving, there was a sense of solidarity in music that transcended island boundaries.
9. There were profound moments on this cruise for me. The walking tour with the guide Lammy telling us about Haiti. Kees bringing up all the women with Caribbean different flags on stage. The large Caribbean flag at J’ouvert. The large Caribbean flag at the finale fete moving up to the stage with Bunji Garlin singing. The Trini waitress we befriended who cried when we were leaving saying the Uber Soca Cruise brought life to the ship.
10. There were funny moments. The staff dancing away to soca in whatever way they could. There was one particular crew member when he saw us looking, pointed to his skin and said ‘What? I’m white’. The way he said it was hilarious. The Hype Man was just generally entertaining. At one point, a guy brought his boom box to the dinner area.
That being said, the Wi-Fi situation was my one irritant on the cruise. For my work, I need Wi-Fi that works well and fast. Despite buying the highest package, the Wi-Fi on the boat was very slow or practically non-existent at times which made us want to ask for a refund. Uploading videos took hours, everything just took long or didn’t happen. It was irritating. But maybe without Wi-Fi, we were able to focus on the here and now and just enjoy the cruise experience.
People who stood out for me on this cruise? The Hype Man. This guy had so much energy. Asa Bantan. He came through again. Do something crazy? He in dat. Kevin Crown. He killed it so many times in playing his sets. Kees was the proper limer. Saw him all over. Sekon Sta was another serious limer too. Patrice Roberts, Anson Pro, Lil Natty and Wusswayz were so down to earth and approachable. And then of course, there was Bunji. There is something about when Bunji takes the mic. He speaks with such gravitas and authority. When he was done speaking, it almost made me want to shout ‘Bunji for President!’
Looking back, Uber Soca Cruise 2018 will be seen as one of those pivotal events in soca music history. You might not think so now but the waves resulting from it will be far reaching in distance and time. It has already started. Many events were happening (some very salient and others quite minute) at UBC which will change the perceived journey of soca music. Events, positioning will be traced back to interactions, prescence and influence of the Uber Soca Cruise 2018.
And you know what? If the Uber Soca Cruise was a country, it wouldn’t be such a bad place to live. The Uber Soca country was a generally happy place, no fighting, no seeming trouble, and people of all islands joint in one unified purpose, to enjoy soca music. It was not without its troubles. But what country doesn’t have problems? Uber Soca Cruise Country, soca, Bunji for President? Hell, I’d move there.