This past Sunday I wrapped up one whirlwind of a vacation. In a mere 10 days, my boyfriend and I spent 2 days in Miami, cruised to the Bahamas via the Salty Dog Cruise and took part in a Las Vegas wedding. PHEW! I am absolutely spent right now. But it was an absolutely incredible week and a half. It is impossible to truly lay out the highlight of the trip, as every aspect of it was insane in its own way. As far as firsts go however, I can absolutely say that I have never experienced anything quite like Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise. And I insist on sharing my experience with you.
First off, I must admit that I have never cruised before in my life nor have I had any desire to partake in an all-inclusive anything. Furthermore, punk music was not something that I ever really got into. I mean, I like Flogging Molly, and I know that one song by Dropkick Murphys, but that’s really about the extent of my punk knowledge. Hopping on this cruise was completely outside of my travel and musical norm. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous. However, my poor boyfriend has been drug to every other music festival that I adore in the past few years, so he deserved his moment to shine. This cruise was just that. Besides, Frank Turner was one of the headliners so I guess I could make it work 😉
Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise was an event put on by, you guessed it, Flogging Molly. To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the band chartered a cruise ship, the Norwegian Sky courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Lines, and arranged to have a few punk bands, hop on board to play a few gigs. More or less, this was an Irish punk music festival on a cruise ship going to the Bahamas. We were gone from March 13 to 16 and made two stops; one in Nassau, and one on Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay. The band lineup featured the likes of Frank Turner, Gogol Bordello, The Real McKenzies and of course, Flogging Molly.
We had an absolute blast on this cruise. Within 15 minutes of being on the ship, we nearly bumped into Beans on Toast, one of the artists who I was extremely excited to see, as he was searching for his room. 20 minutes later, we found ourselves seated poolside with a bucket of Corona and the glorious, hot sun beating down on us. Yes, this was truly heaven and we hadn’t even left port yet.
The festival was set up much like a typical music festival. Each evening, we found the next day’s lineup, set times and venues waiting for us in our stateroom and promptly started planning. With the exception of our final day on Great Stirrup Cay, all performances were saved for the evenings when we were en route to our next destination. This was an absolute blessing as it gave us the freedom to explore our port city of the day without missing any music! What set this festival apart from the many others I have been to however, was the intimacy between the artists and their fans. My boyfriend spent a large portion of the weekend nudging me, discretely pointing and telling me who we were currently having a close encounter with. We very nearly met most of Flogging Molly, Gogol Bordello and Frank Turner’s band.
Beyond this, many of the bands seemed to be having a blast with one another and spontaneously collaborating all over the place. By the end of the weekend, it appeared that Frank Turner and Beans on Toast were BFFs. We did not see Beans perform without having Frank jump on stage, guitar in hand, at some point.
I cannot deny that I did not spend most of the weekend with a nice buzz going at the very least. During his last performance, Frank Turner informed us that before leaving Miami, the ship had consumed more alcohol than a typical two week cruise would in its entirety. As you can probably imagine, my poor liver is still recovering from this adventure.
Our last day of the cruise on Great Stirrup Cay was absolutely phenomenal. When we arrived at port we found that only one other ship was also at the island, which left it quite empty away from the main beach. A short stroll found us a mostly deserted patch of sand where we set up camp for the day. The complete isolation from the world and beautiful, clear blue water made for a magical and relaxing afternoon. Flogging Molly also arranged to have a stage set up on the island for their last performance of the weekend and closed the day off with a phenomenal set. I fear that I may be a bit spoiled now as I now feel that the only way to concert-go is to do so on a beach with your feet in the sand.
The cruising experiences as a whole was excellent. All of the staff on board were attentive and the service was phenomenal. While they appeared to be overwhelmed with this particular group of passengers at first (why yes, all of the permanent seating in the theatre and bar were most certainly plastic wrapped), it did not take very long for them to relax and start having fun. I caught several of the waitresses dancing around and having an absolute blast during Gogol Bordello and Flogging Molly between drink runs.
It was extremely hard to get off the ship once we finally arrived back in Miami. Our weekend on the ship was so much fun that it nearly broke my heart to have to go back to “reality”. Being very much a not-punk girl, I think this speaks volumes about the cruise and the experience as a whole. Flogging Molly has already announced that they are going forward with the same event next year, and several bands have already self-confirmed their attendance. If you have a hankering for a good time with some excellent music, I strongly advise that you take the Salty Dog Cruise into consideration when making next year’s vacation plans. I know that I will most definitely be onboard.