I made it onto the Ubersoca Cruise this year and survived!
A couple of weeks have passed and I am finally getting my bearings. I have caught up on all the sleep I missed, the post-cruise rocking has stopped and I have reviewed all of my pictures and videos. I had to write this soon after before I forgot the details because so much happened on the ship. Here is a review of my entire experience.
Event: Ubersoca Cruise
Dates: November 1 - November 5
Departure Port: Miami, FL
Destination Port: Labadee, Haiti
This year, Ubersoca utilized a token system for registration onto the ship and was split into 3 different phases.
Phase 1: Dat Aint Missing Me (DAMM) members
Phase 2: People who pre-registered
Phase 3: Waitlist (first come, first served)
I registered during phase 3. I had signed up for the waiting list a month prior to registration and eagerly awaited my token.
The booking process was not very organized - it was rife with delays and there were technical issues. In addition, phase 3 was pretty unfair and not truly based on position in line. I consider myself lucky to have made it on the ship because I discovered there were others further ahead of me on the waitlist who did not receive a token for the first ship.
I chose an interior cabin with two friends and paid about $1100 total. This cost includes a spot in the cabin, food (except in specialty restaurants), all gratuities, and of course, all the entertainment on the ship. Alcohol and soda, photos, shore excursions, WiFi and spa services were not included.
DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION
This is where most of my complaints with USC organizers resided. Pertinent information was either not officially communicated or it was late. A lot of information was shared through the grapevine, i.e. someone emailed a question to USC support, they responded back and then that piece of info was shared in a group chat. This led to a lot of confusion, half-truths and overall frustration and trepidation about what to expect. While it was useful to have the private Facebook group to generate excitement, I found it a little strange that there was not much engagement by USC organizers themselves.
Another sticking point for me was the late dissemination of the event schedule. Though a packing list had been sent a few months earlier, some of the items listed turned out to be irrelevant as some theme parties or events were scrapped and/or replaced. Many people spent money unnecessarily in attempts to adhere to the packing list (a list USC organizers insisted was more accurate and useful than a schedule) and it was frustrating to see the changes when the schedule was finally shared a mere three days before sail.
Nonetheless, I was excited for the trip and was counting down the days!
DAY 1 - THURSDAY
It was pure unfiltered vibes as soon as we arrived at Terminal A in Port of Miami. We were welcomed by a gombey performance and checked in pretty seamlessly. After going through security, we went to the waiting area where several DJs were blasting our favorite soca tracks to warm us up for boarding. It was so heartwarming seeing familiar faces - even seeing people you did not realize were going to be on the cruise. It was like a reunion.
After boarding we grabbed lunch and went to our rooms to settle in. I’d heard so much about small cruise ship rooms and while it was pretty small, I did not feel claustrophobic. I even enjoyed my top bunk. However next time, I think I’ll go for an ocean view or balcony room.
Events I Attended
Sail Away Party
Opening Night White Party
The sail away party was lit. The excitement was high and we were excited to finally be on the way. It was great reuniting with friends, connecting with new people and putting names to faces you’ve seen before in the soca & carnival community. After a short nap, we headed to the White Party. With performances by Mr Killa, Fadda Fox and Marzville, we had a good time. We decided to check out the after parties and decided to stay on the Promenade aka “di Ave". I could have passed on that one and instead gone to bed so that I had energy for the following day.
Day 2 - Friday
Events I Attended
Bed and Breakfast Fete
Rum and Water Pool Party
Ubersoca on Ice
Game of Thrones Theater Turn Up
Game of Thrones Night
Small Island Turn Up
Friday was a blurrrrr. These were not all the events taking place and I missed a couple I wanted to go to, but my body was already trying to weather the storm. We did a quick drive by of the Bed & Breakfast fete - it was a good idea but many people were in recovery (read: asleep LOL) so the turn out was small.
After a short nap, we got ready for the party I was most looking forward to - the pool party. I had a BLAST. I don’t remember any performances and the energy was a steady high throughout. I dipped my toes in the water but did not go in (I’m not the biggest fan of public pools with multiple bodies in them).
I stayed right until the end and decided to catch a few minutes of Ubersoca on Ice. I didn’t get a chance to get in the rink because I was rushing to catch a shot or two of rum at the Tasting, but by the time I got there, there was no more English Harbour rum left. Therefore, we decided to take another short nap before getting ready for the Game of Thrones (GOT) Theater Turn Up.
I walked into this event with the lowest expectations and it definitely surprised me. It was a comedy show with a Ghanaian-Canadian comedian called Trixx who was pretty funny. The DJs were spinning old school R&B and Hip Hop from the 90s which was a much-welcomed change of pace. However, the Game of Thrones theme did not push through for me whatsoever.
We took another quick nap and it was time for GOT Night where we got performances from several artists, incuding Lyrikal, Motto, Farmer Nappy and Kerwin DuBois. It was all right but the after party is where it was at! That Small Island Turn Up THOUGH!! That party was amazing, hands down best fete I experienced on the ship. I thought I was tired and DJ Avalanche and International Stephen woke me TF up! I had a fantastic time dancing to soca music from USVI, St Lucia, Bahamas, St Vincent, St. Maarten etc. I left in the 5AM hour even though I didn’t want to! But I had to catch a few zzz’s in order to function for jouvert.
Day 3 - Saturday
Shore Excursions/Events I Attended
A Paradise Escape & Haitian Village Experience
Dragon’s Fire Zipline
Let me tell you something. Labadee is beautiful. If this is what is considered the Haitian countryside, sign me up because it is totally serene. We were one of the first people to step off the ship because we had a 9AM appointment to get to for our excursion and it was truly peaceful and quiet. I went on a couple of excursions - the first was a boat ride to a private, GORGEOUS beach called Paradise Cove where we relaxed, drank rum and spent time at a village learning about zinc roofs, hibiscus, cassava bread and peanut butter.
The zipline was next - the longest zipline over water in the world - and I was so nervous. I did the “superman” style, spread eagle one and I was truly scared for my life until the first 10 seconds in flight. I prayed and just listened intently to the instructions and safety tips. I was unable to get a decent video of the experience - enjoy this gif I captured - but it was definitely an exhilarating 2 minutes.
After I ziplined, I rushed to the ship to change into my j’ouvert attire and make it back to shore. I am still pissed I missed Asa Bantan, Lil Rick and Lavaman, but j’ouvert was funnnnnnn. I got there in time to see Lil Natty & Thunda and Kes the Band. Though there was some rum punch available, it was pretty well hidden and most people did not know it was available (ahem...communication issues). I arrived too late and did not receive a Royal Caribbean cup either.
J’ouvert didn’t get lit for me until the jab jab & dennery soca and the water hoses came out later in the afternoon. If you were up at the front, that was where the party was at. I stayed right until the very end which was a blessing and curse because while I got my life at j’ouvert, getting back on the ship on time was stressful.
I barely had time for a nap before it was time to get ready for midnight mas. I wore my YUMA 2018 costume. I had a decent time but I could tell the energy over the place was subdued. The Haiti sun really did a number on us.
After that we checked out the Funky Business after party, which was good enough but I was exhausted. I left “early” and missed the lituation that was Cabin Fever 😡
Day 4 - Sunday
Events I Attended
Pop Up Foam Fete
50 Shades of Rosé Brunch
Liming on di Ave
Breaking Soca/Nocturnal Vibes
The last day came so quickly and the DJs, hosts and artists wouldn’t stop reminding us of it 😩 I had every intention of staying in my bed until 10AM but Kevin Crown announced the pop up foam fete on the basketball court. Me, miss a foam party? LOL. I got there as quickly as possible, and I had a great time. It was somewhat-lime, somewhat-fete, and just good vibes.
After about 45 minutes or so, I headed back to get ready for 50 Shades of Rosé Brunch. I keep seeing all the epic videos of that party and two weeks later, I am STILL upset I was not there when the party turned into pure madness. Why, you may ask? Because I wanted to use my brain and be involved in some intellectual conversation haha. I went to Talking Soca and while it had interesting moments, I could have missed it.
We spent time on the Promenade, oh, just getting on bad with Skinny Fabulous.
Then it was time to get ready for the Bacchanal Ball. The theme this year was “Wakanda” so everyone came decked in ankara or their interpretation of African attire. I wore asoebi from my friend’s wedding.
Alert: it’s not a ball in the traditional sense. However, it was a nice opportunity to dress up and have a sit-down dinner. We were serenaded by Mapy, a musician who plays soca and afrobeats beautifully on the violin.
After a quick change, it was time for the Uber Finale party. Finally, we got Bunji Garlin on the stage and he injected the electricity we needed on the last day. I tried to savor the last night but honestly, I was exhausted. I went to Breaking Soca for a bit to get my dancehall fix and eventually ended up on the Promenade for the duration of the night. We had breakfast and watched the sunrise as the boat docked in Miami and took a nap before disembarking. It was over and I had instant tabanca. *criesss*
suggestions of improvement
1) Longer Cruise. Maybe it’s because it was so much fun but it was over before I knew it. A longer cruise would allow for the events to be less condensed and more spread out. I felt sad missing out on certain events and parties but everything was on top of each other, back to back, and some of the choices between events was tough. A second port of call would also be amazing.
2) Discontinue multiple ships. I feel it dilutes the overall experience for patrons on either ship. However, if the organizers insist on multiple Ubersoca Cruises, perhaps do them at two different points in the year.
3) Simplify registration. Make the process of cabin registration easier. Provide an option for online DAMM registration - perhaps up to a week after disembarkation.
4) Offer drink options. Although most people were able to sneak wine and liquor onto the ship, it would be great if USC organizers provided liquor packages. Another alternative would be drink specials for certain events or even at certain bars/locations on the ship.
will I go back?
YES! I will definitely go back. I registered for DAMM membership and hoping the dates for 2019 work for my schedule. Now I understand when people say the destination of the ship does not matter because the epicness is right on the ship. However, because I am an adventurer who likes to sample a little bit of local culture wherever I go, I’d love a destination I have never been to before.
Did you go on the Ubersoca Cruise this year? Ship 1 or 2? Sound off on your experience below!