JAMAICA CARNIVAL 2019: FETE REVIEWS

Jamaica Carnival 2019 was a scene. It was nonstop and sleep was almost non-existent. If you missed out, let’s try again in 2020.

This year, I skipped out on Easter weekend and landed in Kingston on Carnival Wednesday ready to pump! What followed was 6 days of reunions, craziness, fun and pace. I tried to change up my party list this year and check out some events I hadn’t before. Here are my reviews.

List of Fetes

  1. I Love Soca

  2. Silent Morning

  3. Black 2 Blue

  4. Sunkissed

  5. A.M. Bush

  6. Sunrise Breakfast Party

  7. Suits

  8. PM Fete

  9. Xaymaca Beach Lyme

I LOVE SOCA

Type: Cooler Fete

Average Price: $45

Location: Sabina Park

Difficulty Level: Easy

The Best Of It: I Love Soca is always a great time. It is the one party you are almost sure to run into old and new friends, carnival family, and chat friends and acquaintances. The music is always great with a steady mix of soca and dancehall and the energy is amazing. The organizers stepped things up this year with the fancy, light-up cups, the decor and Instagrammable signs. I do not remember if there was food available last year, but the jerk chicken stands at the back were a nice touch- much needed after the night we had!

The Worst Of It: There wasn’t much about I Love Soca I did not like, except for a few annoying moments. Getting into the venue was a little frustrating. Perhaps it is because we arrived on the late side. I found it weird that they had two separate entrances on opposite sides, and separated groups of friends. In my group of three, 2 of us had electronic tickets and one had a physical ticket, so we were separated to get in. Luckily we were able to find each other quickly.

Although I enjoyed the performances for the most part, it did interrupt the vibe of the party. SkinnyFabulous, Machel Montano, Ding Dong and Teejay performed. This was a smaller group than last year which was great, but it still felt like an extended performance overall. I was ready for the DJs to take back control.

Lastly, they ran out of cups. Why does this keep happening at parties? I would think they know the allotment to prepare in order to accommodate for all tickets sold.

Will I go back? Yes.

Rating: 4/5

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SILENT MORNING

Type: Cooler Boat Cruise

Average Price: $45

Location: Caribbean Queen

Difficulty Level: Easy

The Best Of It: The boat was rocking! Patrons came ready to party and it was lit. The music was amazing - again, pretty equal soca and dancehall combination. The vibe grew in strength throughout the ride and reached its peak towards the end. I don’t think most people were ready to leave when we docked.

Although getting food was somewhat tedious and the luck of the draw, it was a welcome addition. We were served bake and shark and bake and chickpeas.

The Worst Of It: The organizers were unprepared. The boat left almost two hours late. We waited at the dock, sunburnt and hangry with no explanation regarding the delay. I was ready to hop back in my car and drive back home to sleep, to be honest. It was also only during boarding that the drinks arrived, therefore loading the items onto the boat delayed departure even further. WHY is the liquor arriving at 11:20am when we were supposed to leave at 10am? Needless to say, I was annoyed.

The bar staff on the boat seemed clueless. All I wanted was a chaser and it took speaking to four people to learn it was a token system, to realize they did not have the chaser of my choice and the price of the item. Frustrating.

The boat was ridiculously hot and had terrible air circulation, therefore everyone crowded outside at pretty unsafe levels. Please believe my eyes found the location of life vests.

Will I go back? Maybe. I’m on the fence.

Rating: 3/5

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BLACK 2 BLUE

Type: Breakfast Inclusive, Cooler Fete

Average Price: $40

Location: Hope Gardens

Difficulty Level: Medium

The Best Of It: The party took a little while to fill up, but the positive vibes were there from the moment we arrived. All of the staff were friendly, the music was bumping and the food was amazing. It got even more fun as more patrons arrived, with people engaging with each other, friends and strangers alike. Unfortunately, I had to leave just as everyone was letting loose fully.

The Worst Of It: It took a long time for the party to rev up. The elements were there but people arrived really late, and I am not sure if that’s typically the case with this event. I arrived two hours after the party started and I was probably the 8th or 9th person there. Crazy, I know.

Promoter, can you invest in better cups? We deserve.

Will I go back? Yes. I thought this would be a fly-by party to pass the time, but it has risen to a must-attend.

Rating: 4.5/5

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SUNKISSED

Type: Premium All Inclusive Catamaran Cruise

Average Price: $145

Location: Port Royal/Maiden Cay

Difficulty Level: Hard

The Best Of It: This exclusive-feeling party was an idyllic way to spend a Friday afternoon - sipping mixed drinks on a large catamaran, eating and dancing and swimming on a lonely beach. There were two (maybe 3?) boats and though most of my friends were on the other boat, I still had a fantastic time. The ride back from Maiden Cay was way more fun than the ride to Maiden Cay, mostly because the waters were calmer. When we docked, it was a full blown turn up in the water and when the sun went down, well… I will leave it to your imagination.

The Sunkissed swag was everything! We got a small duffel bag (choice of red or blue) with a Sunkissed towel and metal cup. I loved these.

The pre-event group chat was also a lovely touch. It made the energy on the boat better seeing the familiar faces of the people you had communicated with over several weeks and months.

The Worst Of It: The check-in process when getting our wristbands and signing the release forms was quite disorganized. Another party was also taking place in the same location, which was confusing. When I walked in, I had to ask a couple of people if I was in the right place.

We departed late, which shortened the amount of time we spent on the beach. Getting drinks at the bar on the boat was disorganized. Unfortunately, they did not have all the premium alcohol advertised. If it ran out, it must have been extremely early. Some food options were also finished very early on - I did not get patties or shrimp. That was disappointing.

Will I go back? Maybe. I enjoyed myself but I expected more for the amount of money I spent. Great experience though.

Rating: 3.75/5

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CAESAR’S ARMY A.M.BUSH JA

Type: All inclusive J’ouvert

Average Price: $100

Location: Caymanas Estate

Difficulty Level: Hard

The Best Of It: Lots of paint! Skinny Fabulous. And that’s it.

The Worst Of It: A.M. Bush was total shambles this year. My ‘spidey senses’ were tingling during package pickup when they told us we would get our cups at the venue. That was not the norm. When we arrived at the venue on Saturday morning, the entrance area was a mess. There were hundreds of people trying to squeeze into a single, small entrance with no organized line. Once we stampeded through the entrance, we ventured inside a little way to get our cups. We received our cups before they ran out.

Getting drinks was awful. Not only were the trucks too high for even the tall males in my group (so, imagine me at 5’3”), the bartenders were extremely rude and slow. They were only serving drinks on one side of the truck, therefore it took forever to get served. There were only two drink trucks and the other one was towards the front. Getting there was really not an option due to the huge crowd.

We quickly realized only one music truck was working, and like everyone else with this bright idea, tried our best to get closer. It was packed, uncomfortably so. One couldn’t move, much less dance. We were chipping the entire time, and during the times we felt brave, attempted to go around the crowd on the sides to find space at the front of the crowd.

We made it towards the front part and the scene was even sadder. There were people standing on the sidelines bored out of their minds or in the field chilling and having conversations - all in the middle of j’ouvert. Unheard of!

There were moments of terror. The narrow road which was barely wide enough for the crowd, was also being used as a two lane road for the trucks going up on one side and going down on the other. Where were humans supposed to fit? While watching Skinny Fabulous perform, I had to watch out for the incoming drinks and bathrooms trucks coming towards me. Not only was it unsafe, it created a siphon that slowed down everyone. Seriously, who was part of the logistics team?!

Though the second half was better, I was also RET TA GO. I was not in the mood, and I had already marked this a dub. In the daylight I did find some friends so that was fun. But, I was hustling my way to the front to get the heck out of there for my next party. I didn’t even stay for the food. Was it good?

Will I go back? At this point, no.

Rating: 1/5

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SUNRISE BREAKFAST PARTY

Type: Premium All Inclusive

Average Price: $120

Location: Constant Spring Golf Club

Difficulty Level: Easy

The Best Of It: Everything. If Sunnation shot one more time. This is the second time this year I have raved about this event, and now they are top of mind when I think of my favorite party experiences. I would recommend Sunrise to anyone.

This staple party at Constant Spring Golf Club is the go-to event on Carnival Saturday and everyone and their cousin is there.

As always, the sun was unrelenting and blazing down on us throughout the afternoon. The decor was beautiful - from the Sunrise sign we have grown familiar with, to the cute swings, to the trellis walkway. There were bars spread out throughout the venue, although the wait was long. The food was amazing!! I had Jamaican food and a couple boxes of KFC chicken they gave out. The music was great and the energy of the crowd was UP UP. Such a fun time.

There were also performances I enjoyed - Machel Montano, Preedy and a brief appearance by Munga. Voice may have been there as well, but I don’t remember. I am also not sure who the hype man was (Patrick?) but his engagement of the crowd was fantastic.

The Worst Of It: I cannot emphasize how hot it was. Not their fault. However, there were not enough shady areas or seats for the weak and tired. I like the space and convenient location of this event, but the promoters should invest in more shady sections knowing it is unbearably hot most of the time.

Another thing that annoyed me was that upon entry, there were no Sunrise cups. How?This is a consistent problem with promoters, and by now, thy know we value these souvenirs. At least I got a commemorative champagne flute.

Will I go back? Hell Yes!

Rating: 4.75/5

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SUITS

Type: Cooler Fete

Average Price: $45

Location: Kingston Waterfront

Difficulty Level: Medium

The Best Of It: I did not expect this party to be SO GOOD! I wanted to experience a Suits in Jamaica after the awesome reviews I received last year. When I initially learned the party was not going to be on a boat, I was highly disappointed. However, even with that constraint and it being on land, the fete lived up to its infamy.

The idea was to conserve my strength until PM fete later that night and for the road the day after. But alas. We walked in at the perfect time when the crowd was just right and the sun had gone down. I found friends, chased my rum with champagne and ran wid it while seated on a pair of strong shoulders. I had a blast!

The DJs played a variety of genres, from soca and dancehall of course to afrobeats, pop and a little rap. Some people probably hated it; I enjoyed all of it. It was a great break from the same 20 songs we’d heard on repeat throughout the week. The soup they sold at the back was a great addition, and it was wonderful feeling the breeze from the Sea.

The Worst Of It: Nothing I can think of. I honestly didn’t want to leave.

Will I go back? Yessssss.

Rating: 4.75/5

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PM FETE

Type: Premium Drinks Inclusive

Average Price: $60

Location: Hope Gardens

Difficulty Level: Easy

The Best Of It: We arrived late, probably around 12am. The decor was fantastic and definitely captured the Red Light District theme very well, with the neon signs and shadowy lighting. I was surprised there were still fete cups left at this time. I appreciated the open bar where I had my fill of water. I didn’t need any hangovers on the road the following morning. I ran into some friends and enjoyed the short time I was there. From what I could tell, the front of the stage was where the party was at.

The Worst Of It: I really wasn’t there long enough, but like me, the rest of the crowd looked exhausted and ready to call it a night. I also found the music repetitive and average.

Will I go back? Maybe. This was the fourth party of the day, so I was on zombie mode. I’ll take it easy/easier next time.

Rating: 3/5

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XAYMACA BEACH LYME

Type: Cooler Fete

Average Price: $35

Location: Fort Clarence Beach

Difficulty Level: Easy

The Best Of It: I cannot believe it has taken me three years to attend this party! It was amazing…AH-MAY-ZEENG! Everyone looked refreshed and was in a great mood. We arrived at dusk at the perfect time, nestled into our spot close to the stage and kicked off a night of wonderful memories.

The DJs went above and beyond at this party and kept the energy level high throughout most of the event. Even the performances did not deter the vibes - Voice, Sekon Sta, Ding Dong, Lyrikal, Teddyson John, Skinny Fabulous and…guess what, BOUNTY KILLER! The Xaymaca International team really did a great job with this surprise…I did not expect Bounty Killer AT ALLLLL. Bae and I literally rushed from the bar to the stage LOL. The fireworks during his performance just added to the intensity of this moment - soca and dancehall truly coming together.

I’ve gotta say the party turned up whenever the dancehall songs played, and they played the hits from the 90s all the way to present day. And then it got dark, and all sorts of slackness was revealed. I loved that everyone was dancing their souls away and not trying to look cool. People cared not; it was the final night before most of the international revellers left Jamaica.

There was food for sale available on the beach. I got some much needed fried fish and festival and I was glad to see that they were serving until the party ended at midnight.

The Worst Of It: The venue was a little packed; I think we needed a little more beach space for the main dancefloor portion.

There were too many damn people on the stage, crowding the artists as they performed. It was distracting.

We were unable to go into the water because of the heavy (and I mean heavy) seaweed on the beach.I wish it had been cleaned.

Will I go back? Not missing me!

Rating: 4.5/5

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I must be getting old because it took me a good five days to recover from my trip to Jamaica. Or maybe it’s just an indication of how much fun I had. The nonstop pace was tiring but an amazing time regardless. It was lovely meeting and reconnecting with some of my carnival buddies. Some of them shared their own reviews about fetes and mas, and some of the opinions are very interesting. READ THEM HERE!

I hope this helps to inform your next Jamaica Carnival experience. Until the next carnival!

P.S. My review of Mas with Xodus Carnival is coming VERY soon!