Sitting down to write about Jam Cruise 8, I clicked into my music library to find something with an appropriate groove—for a moment, I was stuck. What is the right audio backdrop for the magnitude of what I’d just been a part of? Then I saw it – Sly and the Family Stone’s Greatest Hits: perfectly funky and harmonious. I’ve chosen to make an attempt at describing Jam Cruise to someone who’s never been. Prior to going, I thought it would be easy. But sitting down to do it, I found out that it’s very hard—like a dream that is so elaborately detailed that it is impossible to explain. I’m not sure that I can adequately do it but I’ll give it a shot.
It was my first time on Jam Cruise—a “Virgin” in Jam Cruise language; I was welcomed warmly into the Jam Cruise community, especially by the “Repeat Offenders.” They have earned this title by having been on Jam Cruise in the past and have come back for more. These oh-so-wise “Repeat Offenders” have been there, done this, and are happy to escort you into the swirling Jam Cruise world. It’s really not a hard decision, thinking about returning for another Jam Cruise— “Gee, should I go back to the scene of a fabulous five day party?” Don’t think about it too long—Jam Cruise sells out every year. I felt like I was being let in on a fantastic secret as we started the boarding process.
The warm, happy vibe of Jam Cruise 8 started as we boarded our cruise ship home-away-from-home. All ages, and all kinds of people were there to board vessel MSC Poesia, replacing cell phones with silly hats and sunglasses, grinning from ear to ear. I wondered what we’d gotten ourselves into, because the air was staring to crackle with glittery party energy and we weren’t even on the boat. Three of the four in the Ice Cream Man group were Jam Cruise “Virgins” and it was fun to experience it all for the first time together. Even before the ship left, the music had started on the pool deck—and I found myself dancing with everyone else, mouth agape, absolutely sure that we were all repeatedly thanking our entities of choice for blessing us with the ability to be there. As the ship pulled away from Ft. Lauderdale, Trombone Shorty seemed to prompt the ship to blow its horn by teasing it with a few low blasts from his own, and as darkness fell, the city lights slowly faded as the colored lights of the stage filled the air… we were on our way. There were over 2,000 people on the pool deck swaying, dancing, smiling—and I already felt like they were all friends. And it was nice to see CraSH relax, as he found his carts and bins filled with Curty Wurty Pops and ice cream had safely made it on board.
All Jam Cruisers are music lovers; they love to dance, and share. The mood is playful, kind, and colorful. A large percentage of Jam Cruisers are immediately in costume. There are two costume theme nights, but should you want to wear something—or maybe many things—festive all day, every day, you are in the right place. Decorating your cabin door is encouraged and there is a prize for the best one. I tried to get around every floor to see all of the doors—and some of you should be very proud. To call what some people did “decorating” would be like calling what went on in the Jam Room “people just playing.”. Many had interactive decorations to be colored or written on. Others had sharing doors: take something, leave something; or with photos or something about themselves. The MSC crew loves Jam Cruise since the human scenery and the music is like nothing else they have on board all year—or maybe ever, since it’s always different. I would love to hear the briefing the ship staff has before the cruise. They would need an accompanying slideshow to make the description believable. The Poesia cabin attendants seemed to be proud of “their” cruisers—I saw a cabin steward replace a fallen door decoration almost lovingly. Thanks, MSC Poesia staff for smiling while you worked and we played. You are very much appreciated.
The Jam Cruise music is plainly astonishing. It doesn’t even matter if you do or don’t know who is playing—you should sample everything, because there is always something that will surprise you. Every artist is top notch and if you aren’t totally digging what you hear, there are usually three or four other stages you can go check out. If you don’t see a band, never fear, most play at least twice. Not convinced? If you have ever attended a music festival and thought “This would be great without the mud, camping, portable toilets, long walk to the car, and 100,000 other people,” Jam Cruise is for you. Or maybe you are a fan of a band or musician and would like to see them in an up-close-and-personal setting? Guess what? You can get close to any stage and will probably be able to meet any of the musicians you’d like to at the autograph signing sessions. Some of the most amazing performances that you can see go on from Midnight to 5:00am or so in the Jam Room, which is a swank, comfortable place where a noted musician hosts a late-night into early-morning jam session. You can’t predict who will stop by and jam but it is always great. The dance floor in front of the stage will be full, but not uncomfortably so, and room will be made for you, don’t worry. There is always room to dance.
Cloud 9 Adventures puts on this grand escapade and they do a superb job. There are tricky logistics involved with cruise events, especially those involving musicians, their gear, merch, and 2,700 or so adoring fans. It takes a lot of stamina to be event staff—sleep deprivation is inevitable, especially when there is so much fun going on in whatever down time that you have. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “You can sleep when you are dead!” I could have bought beer for everyone on board. Admirably, all of the Cloud 9 teams—merch, production, travel, events—made it look easy. That only comes with great planning, and knowledge of the scope of the event. Cloud 9 Adventures, I applaud you all. Thank you for welcoming Ice Cream Man on Jam Cruise for the third time and I hope to work with all of you rockstars again!
Jam Cruise is committed to environmental stewardship and everyone on board is asked to take part. Don’t worry—the Jam Cruise Greening team does a tremendous job of making social responsibility easy. Through a three-year partnership with ZeroHero, Jam Cruisers can discard paper, cardboard and compostable cups in pop-up recycling centers conveniently located on every deck of the ship. Sustainable products are used wherever possible, and carbon offsetting opportunities are available, making the Jam Cruise goal of carbon neutrality a reality. The Greening team is always looking for volunteers, so keep an eye out for how you can lend a hand on Jam Cruise 9!
Cloud 9 has a Jam Cruise program, called “Leaving a Positive Legacy,” whose goal is to give back to the communities in which Jam Cruise stops; providing a place for passengers, musicians, and locals to interact in ways beyond typical tourism. While docked in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, we spent a delicious day with other Jam Cruise passengers at the Rural Retreat Community Center about 45 minutes from Ocho Rios, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, in Claremont. Jam Cruise was able to provide backpacks filled with school supplies to the children of the school, laptop computers, and a weed whacker to keep the soccer field and grounds clear, instruments to start a marching band, soccer gear, and essentials like tables and chairs. Miami’s LEBO, Post Modern Cartoon Art Impressionist, painted a regal lion mural on the wall of the center, which will doubtlessly inspire strength, creativity, and national pride for years to come. Members of Toubab Krewe and The Motet played for all of us, as did local musicians—and they played together, music connecting everyone. Local cooks provided a delicious meal and a soccer game got started. It didn’t matter that a misty rain was coming down. We were on an emerald hillside, enjoying being a part of giving and sharing. The highlight of the day for the Ice Cream Man crew was providing ice cream to the children of the community, who had shared poetry, dance, and singing with us. I hope that might have been the highlight of their day as well. I will remember the children’s beautiful smiles and fierce spirits for the rest of my life. I left newly inspired to appreciate the things that we take for granted. If you go on Jam Cruise, please take part in a “Leaving a Positive Legacy” activity. What you give you will get back tenfold.
Giving always feels good. That’s what Ice Cream Man is all about—giving a simple something that connects us in happiness. Sometimes that happy spark is all it takes to make work seem less dreadful, to find yourself smiling when you hear James Brown say “Maceo! Blow that horn!” to extend a little extra kindness, or to volunteer. Jam Cruise is a bonfire born of those happy sparks, the fiery connectedness extending through Cloud 9 staff to the MSC crew, we passengers and locals. At the end, we are all Jam Cruisers. Eight was great! We were in the right funky place at the right groovin’ time. Ice Cream Man has the photos to prove it and we hope that you enjoy them!
I sincerely hope that everyone that reads this is influenced to go on Jam Cruise – for the first time or again, (if you haven’t already happily pre-booked). You need to do it – I need to do it again. We met great people from all around the world and I’m proud to say that I was on Jam Cruise 8. Don’t think about it, just GO! Hopefully, Ice Cream Man will see you there – come get some ice cream because ice cream and music are two things that make people smile all around the world. Thanks to Cloud 9 Adventures for making it all happen. And a big thanks to Curty Wurty Pops for providing the great gourmet popsicles. I hope everyone has gotten the rest you deserve!
If those weren’t enough words, then there are more in CraSH’s Reflections.
Check out our previous Jam Cruise reviews: