Jamaica Carnival 2018: Fete Reviews

The first question you need to ask me is: Girl, did you sleep?

Well, no. No I did not.

I was in Jamaica for a glorious 10 days and made it to 9 out of 11 scheduled parties on my list. Jamaica went hard with the parties/fetes this year and I was not mad at it. I got a little bit of everything and for far cheaper than Trinidad Carnival. There were so many parties in Jamaica this year - think it was 40 at my last count - so start thinking through your list for 2019.

List of Fetes

  1. Rise Up
  2. Bacchanal Beach J'ouvert
  3. Dusk
  4. I Love Soca
  5. Tribe Ignite
  6. Candy Coated Cruise
  7. Soca Brainwash
  8. Soaka
  9. Sunrise Breakfast Party
  10. PM Fete
  11. Big Wall

RISE UP

Type: All-Inclusive

Average Price: $100

We started off the weeklong feteing in Ocho Rios at this Frenchmen breakfast party. The vibes were on point, the beach was beautiful, the food was pretty good and I met Beenie Man. THE END! The drink selection was diverse and the DJs kept the energy way up. We stayed until the end, and even then, we did not want to leave. As you can imagine, it was blazing hot and though the location had several areas to catch some shade, more would have been great. Being able to cool off in the water was priceless.

Will I Go Back? Definitely. If you are in Jamaica during Easter weekend, I highly recommend it.

RATING: 4.75/5 STARS

 

BACCHANAL BEACH J'OUVERT

Type: Drinks-inclusive

Average Price: $65

To be honest, I cannot give a totally fair assessment of this party because we arrived so late. We missed the main event - j'ouvert and Kes. I wouldn't say the party was dead by the time we arrived, but it was more a lime than anything else. I finally got some curry goat (amazing!), danced a little bit and then the party was done. There were probably several factors that contributed to this: I was still in recovery from Rise Up, having attended jut a few hours prior, and the crowd was way too young for me. Everything the kids were doing irritated me HA. 

Will I Go Back?: It was a nice, little distraction and I am glad I got to (somewhat) experience this carnival staple. However, I doubt I will return.

RATING: 2.5/5 STARS

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DUSK

Type: Drinks Inclusive

Average Price: $50

I still maintain that Dusk is the best way to start off your carnival week in Jamaica! It is certainly a DO NOT MISS party, so if you can come in to Jamaica a few days early, do it, if only to attend Dusk. The assortment of DJs was incredible and they all did their thing playing new and old music, in and out of genres from Machel to Drake to Popcaan to Chronixx to Davido. I was living! I don't know if there was food; all I saw was soup at the end of the night. There was a decent drink selection as well. It felt a little packed, certainly way more than it did last year. I am not sure if it was the party configuration or because there were more people this year. The latter would definitely not surprise me given the boost in popularity of Jamaica Carnival. Either way, Dusk may be outgrowing its downtown waterfront space.

Will I Go Back? DUH!

RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

 

I LOVE SOCA

Type: Cooler fete 

Average Price: $30

Listen, when I say vibes, I mean straighttttttt vibes. After a most stressful hump day, I was ready to drink and wine on somebody's son. I was thoroughly entertained by the performances by Kerwin DuBois, Blaxx, Nailah Blackman, Alison Hinds, Sekon Sta, Skinny Fabulous, Beenie Man, Chi Ching Ching, Ding Dong & the Ravers. The venue was packed! I believe for many people in attendance, it may have been their first event of the week so the energy was palpable. The party was still not done by the time we decided to haul out at 3:30am.

Will I Go Back? Yes. I don't typically like cooler parties because of the inconvenience but I Love Soca is definitely an exception. The price tag is also very attractive.

RATING: 4/5 STARS 

 

TRIBE IGNITE JAMAICA

Type: Drinks Inclusive

Average Price: $60

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To be honest, my excitement for this party soured a little bit when I did not get my Xaymaca masquerader discount (/refund), so I was a tad salty going in. Though it was at the same venue as I Love Soca, it was a smaller crowd of people and the disparity was noticeable. What can I say - it was a good event but not terribly memorable.

KES was the draw for me! I was upfront and center during his performance and was fan-girling like a 12 year old. Dreams do come true. If this was my first event of the week, I would have had more fun, but 1) they did not have Johnnie Walker 2) Other than Kes, the rest of the folks who came on stage were the same artists from the previous night at I Love Soca. It was repetitive and I was not excited.

Will I Go Back? Perhaps. It would likely be a last minute "I need something to do on Thursday night and nothing else works in my schedule" resort.

RATING: 3/5 STARS

 

CANDY COATED CRUISE

Type: All-Inclusive

Average Price: $100

This was my first Candy Coated event and I definitely understand why they get such rave reviews! I am not the biggest fan of boat parties in general, but Candy Coated sold me. When is the next one?! The morning started off stressful because I was sure we missed sail. However, I have never been so happy about CPT until that morning when we arrived right in the nick of time. As soon as we arrived, I felt the luxury - from the cups, to the bar selection, to the AMAZING food, to the beautiful people. The weather was gorgeous and perfect for a day at sea. The music was on point, the riddim section was wonderful and as the drinks settled in, there was less and less behavior. I wobbled off that boat at 3:30pm ready for the next fete!  

Will I Go Back? For sure!

RATING: 4/5 STARS

 

SOCA BRAINWASH

Type: All-Inclusive

Average Price: $100

After Candy Coated, I went directly to Soca Brainwash so I could get a few hours of party in. Soca Brainwash Jamrock really stepped up its game this year! I got my ticket begrudgingly because I was not sure if I would get my money's worth. $100 for drinks ONLY in Jamaica?? Nah. But I did have a good time last year, so I decided to take another chance again. Soca Brainwash came out propah! Music, Drinks, Food, Venue, Novelty cups, Decor. All of it. I was sipping on Irish cream and coconut water all evening, trying to pace myself for the next fete, but I had a blast! I am interested to see how DJ Private Ryan is going to up the ante even more next year.

Will I Go Back?: It's a must-try fete, but because I have been to it a couple of times, I may try something else next time. 

RATING: 4/5 STARS

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SOAKA

Type: Cooler J'ouvert 

Average Price: $45

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We jumped right into the madness as soon as we arrived - paint flying, bumpas wining, water spraying. My type of party! The venue never filled up for the duration we were there, but the people who were there were LIT and that's all that matters. It was a cooler fete but we brought no drinks because after Soca Brainwash, I was determined to be sober at the fete. I failed - Appleton always pulls me in somehow. There was free food! Healthy portions of jerk pork, pan chicken and fish cakes were exactly what I needed at 5AM after a night of drinking. The sugar cane I got was the icing on the cake. The last time I ate a fresh sugar cane stem was when I was a kid living in Cameroon.

Will I Go Back? Maybe.

RATING: 3.5/5 STARS

 

SUNRISE BREAKFAST PARTY

Type: All-Inclusive

Average Price: $100

Am I getting old? I can't hang like I used to! Maybe it was the heat, but the exhaustion hit me like a ton of bricks at Sunrise. Everyone knows Sunrise is more of a "be seen" sort of party, than a stush-free, get-on-bad atmosphere. Of course, there are some that will buss a wine under the right circumstances. I was not one of them. I was TIRED. I just wanted to sip some coffee - I settled for Baileys - stuff my face, and sit under the shade.

We arrived late and missed many of the small perks like the makeup touch up squad and the Johnnie Walker coconuts. The bar had run out of Hennessy too. We did not miss the performances but I only made an effort for the artists I hadn't seen yet: Lyrikal,  Machel Montano, Voice and Aidonia. Aidonia lifted my energy like only the Genna can and I was ready to turn up, but the heat was beating on me and dehydration is no joke. I was sweating like a pig, pissed I didn't get a souvenir parasol to combat the sun and every step felt like the walk of death. The times I DID get out of my zombie moments, I enjoyed myself.

Will I Go Back? Sunrise is a Jamaica Carnival staple and I'd like to give it a 3rd chance, but I have to reconsider for next year. I think I'd have to skip j'ouvert to truly maximize the experience. Maybe alternate jouvert and sunrise in future years 🤔

RATING: 3/5 STARS

Sunrise was the last party I attended for the Jamaica Carnival season. I was exhausted and was desperate to catch up on sleep, so I did not make it to the PM "Pre-Mas" Fete. My friends told me it was fun, but I am glad I skipped it. Otherwise, my road experience with Xaymaca would have been a hard fail. I did not attend Big Wall either. After the road, the idea was to go back to the apartment to freshen up and then head to Big Wall. We did not make it.

I hope my reviews have been helpful as you assess what events to attend next year. If you have been to Jamaica Carnival, which parties do you recommend? 

Until next time!