If you’ve been in the scene for anytime at all, it’s likely you’ve heard of, seen, and probably met some from the annoyingly cult-like group of people, who call themselves “ShipFam.” A group of people widespread throughout the scene that never miss an opportunity to let you know what they’re about. A group of people I now call my family.
Having never pulled the trigger on Holy Ship, after having the opportunity to go three years in a row, it didn’t seem likely that I was going to make it on the maiden voyage of FriendShip either. I talked about it noncommittally with a few friends, with no expectations to actually go, but come booking day, my deposit was paid, cabin secured, and there was no looking back. I was no stranger to festivals. I knew what to bring, what not to bring, how to pack & how to prepare my mind & body for 72+ hours of debauchery. But there was nothing that could prepare me for how ShipFam would take over my life.
The whole first day, from going through security/the boarding process, to the safety drill, to the sail away set, was a little (lot) bit of a blur. Not only from the copious amounts of champagne consumed, but from the total whirlwind of weird that I was pummeled with. As I donned my favorite gold glitter for the first theme night-Born Again Virgins (gold night)- the boat pulled away from the port as the sun was setting & I sent my last texts before service was lost, letting my LandFam know how much I wouldn’t miss them. From there onward, it was a nonstop dance fest, friend fest, love fest, weird fest.
Having been to three dirtybird campouts along with Desert Hearts fest, where radical self-expression & freedom are practiced and embraced, I didn’t think there was much that could go down on ship that could surprise me, but I was wrong. So very wrong. The things I saw and experienced over my few days on ship, could really only happen there. Magic happens on ship, and while 95% of it cannot be spoken of here, the other 5% is enough to write a book.
Whether it be flinging tiny rubber chickens at unsuspecting partiers from the second floor of the pool deck, or drooling over Dita Von Teese in the theater, not a second went by where I wasn’t having the best time of my life. I was free to do whatever I wanted and be as silly as I wanted. If I wanted to grab a giant bowl of Reece’s pieces from the ice cream station and take them to the dance floor, I could (and I did). If I ran into Rory Phillips on an elevator, and wanted to have a ridiculous conversation about meowing with him, you bet your kitten I was going to. (This happened twice by the way…so, if you’re reading this, thanks for being a good sport.) Friendship is a magical land, where you can eat pizza 24 hours a day, and you can snap 10,000 photos on a mini toy camera that you were gifted the second night, and convince everyone they were real photos & you would be getting them developed as soon as you were back on land. (Shout out Des) A place where Louisahhh will walk up to you in the middle of a Boys Noize set in the atrium and get down. A place where it’s totally okay to walk up to two strangers and convince them to put what is essentially a giant sock over each of their heads. (If you have never heard of the experience tube—look it up.) And the only place where you can wake up every morning to find new random & inappropriate goodies on your balcony. A place where hundreds of rubber cat paws could be thrown out into the theater for Felix Da Housecat’s mind-blowing set. Oh, and let me just say this…Rufus Du Sol on a private island in the Bahamas. Do you get it yet? Like I said—enough to write a book.
In the months leading up to ship, most people I spoke with told me not to get my hopes up for the private island parties in the Bahamas, as the weather almost never permitted. But the weather could not have been more perfect & we unloaded onto the island on the first day, just in time to catch a two-hour set from Rufus on the beach. It was epic enough to mention twice. The second day in the Bahamas started just as the Sunrise Sermon ended, and the beach party included sets from Nora En Pure, 2manydjs, Ame’, and Elax (A Boys Noize project). It was a day made in festival Heaven, and I’m not sure anything will ever top it.
“To the person who was at guest services looking for their gold Rolex—you’ve been down here quite a few times today—I just wanted to let you know (dramatic pause) that the time is now 5:51. Thank you.” Dan, the cruise director, joked over the intercom while we were getting jazzed up for the final night on the ship. The theme was disco, and the costumes were outrageous. The energy was tangible as people were finding their last bits of energy and getting ready for a legendary set from Giorgio Moroder. I felt as if disco night showcased shippers in their final forms. Sequins and afros galore, swag & gifts were handed out left & right, along with extra drink tickets. At some point I had separated from most of my friends and spent the night wandering around the ship solo, but one thing stood out—I never once felt alone.
Upon exiting the ship, going through customs, and responding to 4 days worth of texts, I could feel the post-festival sadness setting in harder than any I had experienced before. I already missed my FriendShip Fam, as I climbed into the Uber to the hotel where we would sleep for the next 14 hours before boarding our flight home. I finally understood what this family was about, and every great thing on ship aside, the folks I met on board are what shine through every time I reflect on it. Meetups have already been scheduled with people I met on board, and planning has already begun for next ship, which was announced on New Year’s Eve, to be taking place January 6-10 2020. Until then, catch me at a local show, blabbering on about my annoyingly cult-like family. <3