How Holy Ship! Creates The Most Welcoming Floating Community On Earth

As a diehard lover of hip-hop, going on a rave cruise was something I never thought I’d agree to. I don’t listen to much electronic music. Also… not a huge fan of being surrounded by water, since I can’t swim. Point being: an EDM cruise has never been on my bucket list, so to speak. Not even close.

Nevertheless, I agreed to board Holy Ship!, an electronic dance music party cruise (say that five times fast) that traveled from Cape Canaveral, Florida to a private island in Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. “New year, new me,” or whatever. It seemed fun and potentially disasterous, which is always a good recipe for travel. Still, I didn’t want to overdo it, so I signed aboard the second, 3-day leg — Holy Ship! 11.0 — which was shorter than the first leg.

As a defense to the onslaught of boots-and-hats-and-boots-and-hats-and-boots-and-hats of electronic music, I brought my best friend, Courtney, along. I figured having a cabin mate would give me someone to blast hip-hop with if the EDM made my eardrums bleed. Plus I might need backup against white people on ecstasy, white people who I would have to restrain myself from punching out every time a song came on that had the n-word in it, or white guys with black girl fetishes who I might have to kick in the junk.

Never have I been more wrong about an event or a group of people.

Joseph Llanes

First, let me say I want to apologize for generalizing TF out of the Holy Ship! crew. These were some of the most diverse people I’ve ever met — coming from all over the world; arriving in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Even better than the surprising diversity we saw as we boarded the ship was how ridiculously nice everyone was. As soon as we got on board, everyone was all smiles, calling us their “Ship Fam,” asking us if this was our first “ship” (they could clearly tell since we were the only ones in boring clothing), and wishing us a “happy ship.”

Alistair, our point of contact, began to tell us a bit about what EDM has done for the “kids” aboard the ship as we were ushered past the crowd to our rooms. He told us how some of them were in places where they felt left out, rejected, or otherwise made to feel uncomfortable for being themselves until they found the EDM community where no one judges anyone else and it’s all about the music and dancing. Since much of the music has no words, it truly is about immersing oneself in the sounds and enjoying the company of a diverse group of people.

While diversity and connection were key, there was also a sense of freedom. Everyone dressed up. Everyone looked weird. No one cared.

Many of the DJs and fans of the early days of EDM wore masks or costumes that encourage anonymity, whether out of shyness or a desire to be someone else for awhile and now, the costumes and masks are common at raves and dance parties. The cruise took this to the next logical place: Theme nights. There was Dynamic Duos (you and a friend either come dressed as a famous duo or just wear identical outfits) and Back to the Future (either futuristic outfits or like characters from the 1980s film).

Not gonna lie, it’s a pretty cool enhancement to a party to walk in a see a bunch of people dressed as robots, movie characters, space creatures, or just as close to naked as they can possibly get, and no one cares what anyone else is wearing except if they want to compliment it (I had to ask a couple people where they got their light-up gear, myself. You know, just in case…).

Hope Carter

When you’re on a trip where the constantly pulsing music is made of sound snippets, tweaked, flipped, and layered, your trip seems to occur in snippets too. One of my favorites was a conversation with Russian bass house duo VOLAC about why they came aboard. The friends both are both trained professionals back home and their philosophy on the cruise seemed to sum up the general attitude.

“For us, music is all about making us happier,” Stanislav, one of VOLAC’s two single-named members said. “My bandmate, Sasha, brought some electronic music over my house one day — we were already big fans — and from then on I had to learn how to produce it. I’m really happy to be a part of this ship and a part of this family. For us, it’s our first time, and it’s big love. I’ve been inspired by a lot of the DJs and producers here and when it met them, they were like, ‘Yo, what’s up?’ It’s like a family.”

Joseph Llanes

Another reveler embraced the phrase “Ship Fam” by bringing his grandparents to Holy Ship! 11.0 for their fifth trip. Anthony Vagenas said it was a special feeling to invite his “oma” and “opa” along.

“I first took them to EDC (Electric Dance Carnival) Las Vegas and we got to join Above & Beyond onstage and it was incredible! Ever since then, it’s been like this big, family journey.”

Oma (Janet Brouwer), seemed to be having the time of her life. She chimed in, saying, “The first year we said ‘no’ but the second year we said ‘okay’ and we loved it — the people, the atmosphere, everyone is friendly…we loved some of the music…you know, we’re older, but we love the whole atmosphere. We’re having a great time!”

Both oma and opa (Henri Brouwer) were decked out in Holy Ship! gear and hung out late for the whole cruise. No one who met them would doubt for a second that they made as much of the trip as the younger kids who were aboard.

Hope Carter

There were shows all day, every day after we embarked. The ship had it’s share of stunt-y events too — such as the “Brew-lympics” with Cut Snake, karaoke with GTA, and a “Bite This Banana Split Relay” with Jauz. It also had all the standard mega-cruise features: Like the arcade, pool decks, and water slides.

We got to get off the ship at Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas for a private beach pool party that included sets by Subset, Cut Snake, AC Slater, and What So Not. That stopover would have been my favorite part of the cruise — seeing as how I ate my body weight in fresh honeydew melon — were it not for the hip-hop set by Graves on the last night. Hearing all of our favorite hip-hop songs from Ice Cube to Kendrick with an electronic spin on them and a bunch of lasers flying through the theater, surrounded by people dressed as aliens and time travelers is an experience not many get to have.

Even as an experienced hip-hop lover, it felt new and exciting to me.

Hope Carter

I said it once and I’ll say it again: I was wrong about Holy Ship!. Over the course of three days, I got an immersive lesson in a culture that I knew nothing about. What I found was a community just as close-knit as the hip-hop heads back home in Houston.

We’re all using music and travel as therapy — whether it means baggy jeans and cool kicks or glow lights and kitty ears.

Joseph Llanes

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