As I am sipping coffee I recognize that I still need to tell you all about the World’s Best Floating Music Festival, The Rock Boat.
Remember when I was worried about what to pack? I made list after list planning for themes, the days before in New Orleans, and fluctuating weather. I was nearly obsessed because I didn’t want to bring “cranky” along on that trip.
Why the Worry?
For the past 18 years, I have budgeted and reserved this special time for me. What started as an opportunity to have a fan girl weekend with my favorite band, Sister Hazel, in 2001 has evolved into this amazing annual week long escape from life, work, and motherhood. It is a full immersion into music where my connection to the regular world gets suspended. I found the perfect recipe with my favorite vacation ingredients: cruising, great music, fun people, and going off the grid.
Where Music Fans Become Family
In this immersive world I have made friends who feel like family. Many of these people I see only during our noat vacation because they live all over the world. And our Family Reunions are Epic! This kinship has allowed me opportunities to visit cities where some my adopted family lives. I have been a guest in Charleston and Austin and have open invitations to a world full of places when time time is right. How amazing is that?
Here I am with some of my Rock Boat Family.
Where Music Is Joy-My Happy Place
In this immersive world I am in my happy place. I see artists I love in a setting like no other: On a cruise. Every year, the hosts, Sister Hazel and the event planning team at Sixthman, work hard to bring us the perfect mix of fan favorites and new artists. And their formula works. I come away every year with a list of new music to add to all of my playlists. I do not fall in love with every artist on the boat. I doubt I ever will. And truthfully if I did I would probably complain that the scheduling conflicts kept me from seeing everyone at least once.
This year, I found so much joy in music while seeing Sister Hazel remembering that they brought me along on this incredible journey year after year. I am that girl that cries when she is happy. And I did.
I was giddy to find that Tony Lucca and JD Eicher returned as Stowaways. And I loved some down time where my friends and I got to chat with Tony. We talked about parenting and why it is more challenging than ever with social media and our ever evolving culture. We talked about our families and life. What you learn whwn you get these moments is that musicians are not so different than we are. They just have different gifts. Nothing beats my vacation because I get incredible moments like this: unplanned, unexpected, and immensely special.
Anyone who knows me, knows I adore Will Hoge. The Rock Boat brought him into my life in the early 2000s and I have loved his music ever since. The best known fact about Will Hoge on TRB is that he NEVER repeats a song. With three full sets, not repeating a song means you get to hear a mix of old and new. This fan girl LOVES this. I see him every time he is in Phoenix. Will on tour is amazing. But Will on the boat is SPECIAL. And…
This year was very special. Will brought his wife on stage to sing a song with him. Seeing him excited for this filled my heart with happy joy. When I see my favorite artists have their own glee moments on vacation adds joy for me in volumes.
There were so many great returning artists like Cowboy Mouth, Barenaked Ladies and NeedtoBreathe. You may know them. If you don’t check them out. You may love them as much as my TRB Family does. See them when they come to your neck of the woods.
What New Music Did I Find?
We were joined by many new artists. I felt instant love for many like The Rocketboys.
And some that seemed to be favorites for many I just didn’t feel a personal connection with like Low Cut Connie.
It doesn’t matter if I loved them because as you can see, their shows drew a crowd. It made my heart happy to see everyone living it up. And for me, I just wandered to the next venue to listen to something different.
The schedule can be maddening if you are trying to see it all. I biewed the schedule like a menu in a buffet. If I didn’t find one show deliciously delightful, there was something somewhere else that I would love more.
I have to confess that I was less than stellar at taking photos. If I am really enjoying myself I am not taking pictures. And often I am standing in a place that makes many photos look bad. I will not apologize for not having more photos. You can search YouTube for videos because my TRB Family loves to share. I encourage you to do that. The fewer pictures I have means the more fun I had. Don’t you agree?
Is it like a regular cruise?
It is in the sense that we are setting a course for adventure and every year our itinerary includes stops in ports. We have great dining options included in the price with some specialty dining options for a fee. There is a buffet nearly 24 hours a day for folks like me where eating is a secondary focus. I eat for the energy on this vacation so the buffet is a stop mid action to refuel. On other cruises, my foodie comes out. But on The Rock Boat, I only marginally care about food. Sometimes eating conflicts with music and fun. I will opt for the later choices nine times out of ten.
With an unlimited drink package, I did my best to get my money’s worth each day. Now, I don’t want to alarm anyone. I drink to enjoy not to pass out and forget. This year I drank so many mudslides I think they became a meal replacement. I just wasn’t hungry with all of that ice cream. And I laugh remembering the day that I drank so many I realized my only meal was breakfast. Thanks, Steve, one of my cabinmates who gave me my first and many that day. It seemed he always came back from the bar with two and lovingly shared.
Progreso, Mexico was one of our stops. I explored with friends. I really enjoyed walking past the duty free and seeing some of the every day life in the port. Progresso is a fishing town. Smaller boats like these were found along the coast.
And that margarita in Progreso was probably one of the best I have ever had. They squeezed the limes at the bar as they made the drink. No mix. Not too sweet. Not too sour. Perfect!
Like any cruise you can shop duty free on board. You can schedule pampering time in the spa and salon. You can lounge in the sun. You can find quiet places to read or chat. However, you will likely find that more difficult because my TRB Family loves to be loud and party. And I love that!
What did I miss?
Who knows!?!? I am sure I missed a lot. Everyone in the family walks away with their own stories and memories. I know I didn’t play bingo this year. I know I slept in and didn’t get off the ship in Cozumel. What I missed is seeing Sarah Potenza. I think I shouldn’t have. I saw her on a cover set with other artists and loved her. I didn’t get a chance to see her performing her originals. Her image and her bluesy voice caught me. Luckily, she is coming back in 2019.
No regrets. I can’t do everything. But whatever I did was filled with joy. I have friends who take pictures of me. Thankfully, my friend Chris took this one. I share it, not to show off my layers to keep warm. Not to show my attempt to fly. Simply this is a moment where I am singing and dancing like no one is watching. I am letting out my inner child and immersed fully into the moment.
Photo Credit: Christopher D. White, 2018
Some of my highlights
My Rock Boat family likes to party so often some will host cabin parties. Invitations come by way of swag with cabin numbers, date, and time written on them. Here I am at the Duck Fart party. How many people do you think we squeezed into less than 400 square feet? That is a real show of love when you squeeze in for a photo opportunity in a small space. It probably didn’t hurt that we all had at least a shot or two….
Sixthman makes sure we bring home memories. From photos to swag. My foam finger hasn’t found a home yet. In fact, I keep playing with it now and then when I am listening to music at home. The blanket is on my favorite chair in my bedroom ready to provide warmth when I am reading and sipping coffee.
Theme nights? Yes. Every night has a theme and we love our themes. We sailed from New Orleans in the midst of Carnival season and we had local favorite, Cowboy Mouth on board. Mardi Gras had to be one this year.
And we partied late into the early hours of the next morning…here we are in Silent Disco. Ever been to one? What fun! I especially love when The Rocketboys and The Georgia Flood were mixing the songs. I have to believe the artists had fun too. This night members of Sister Hazel and their wives and friends were there too. You never know who you will be dancing with.
Let me sum it up
This is probably my favorite week of the year. I have stories and memories that couldn’t happen anywhere else.
Here is a link to the lineup at this year’s festival. I hope you will check out their music. Music brings people together. One thing I can admit, my TRB Family comes from all walks of life. We all have different beliefs. We likely all differ in politics. What we all have in common is love. Love for music. Love for each other. I wish this one week spilled out all around us every week of ever year. I personally carry memories that pop into my mind that lighten a mood and bring smiles to my days. For that I am grateful.
And because of that I cannot wait until February 1, 2019. I get to do it again. Yay!
Have you ever been on a chartered cruise? Ever been to a music festival? Tell me about it.