Written by Maria Ekaterina

Photos by Roger Gupta

At the start of every new year, a large majority of individuals set intentions to retune themselves for a healthier year ahead. Jam Cruise, being a blissful and powerfully transformative peak of life, enables just that for a lucky chosen few die-hard music lovers. There is unexplainable music, roaring laughter, tears of transformation, costumes born from transcendental imaginations and high-class accommodations are among the millions of ways Jam Cruise 18 helped rebirth and reset attendees on board for the year ahead.

Photo by Roger Gupta / Jam Cruise 18

Jam Cruise, being the pinnacle of live music performance composition and collaboration for both musicians and fans, is strategically curated by the highly dedicated staff of Cloud 9 Adventures, to elevate and transform the live music experience into a dream unparalleled in form. Some beautifully unpredictable moments such as late night disco parties with fantastic folks in glass elevators, moe. being rescheduled to play in the Atrium, exploding confetti cannons during Turkuaz in the Pantheon Theater and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe appearing on the Brews at Sea Stage Saturday night were just a few of the serendipitous pieces that made Jam Cruise 18 the best and strongest experience at sea yet. Each person from crew to patron to artists to those met on islands and at ports now have at least one amazing, new, chapter with multidimensional and higher perspectives on life and maybe even themselves.

Jam Cruise 18 faced a hurricane of hurdles from the start with delayed boarding due to enhanced security measures necessary due to international threats & a malfunctioning loading crane added time to an already late departure and raised anticipation for music Tuesday night. Facing delays, schedule changes and high gusts of winds surpassing 80mph at sea, made for some extra remarkable Jam Cruise 18 enthusiasm. Cloud 9 Adventures is professionally trained to handle these circumstances like pros. There was no real hesitation or exasperation among those experiencing and those running Jam Cruise 18.

Photo by Roger Gupta

Singing out the adjustments over the ship’s intercom throughout the weekend was the voice of Annabelle Lukins Stelling, Cloud 9’s Artist Coordinator. She serenely reminded everyone of the celebrated ability to overcome and roll with the adjustments while enjoying every moment of these unforeseen experiences. Making the finest of any condition is what makes a genuine Jam Cruiser an endearing part of the family. Showing the family one true, unapologetically brilliant, fun and colorful self, helps to elevate the cruising experience.

From the point patrons arrived at Port Miami to the time they caught a quick nap, before the sun came up, it’s nonstop for every person on deck. Checking in, finding designated rooms, setting up internet and excursion packages, maybe getting a shower and waiting for baggage to arrive at the door is only the beginning of the voyage. With extra downtime prior to celebrations, most people were found chomping and grabbing something to drink as soon as they dropped off their bags in their stateroom. Within moments of settling in, folks were already glammed up in their most appropriate Jam Cruise attire glowing with shine and sparkle.

Those who discovered themselves at the Black Crab Lounge were satisfyingly welcomed with a fantastic Q&A hosted by non-other than Les Claypool and Sean Lennon. The two legends sat on swanky chairs with microphones in their hands breaking the ice for and with Jam Cruisers as they took questions from those present. First timers aboard felt naturally at ease by being welcomed with humor and earnest interest from artists eager to get to know guests aboard the MSC Divina.

Photo by Roger Gupta / Q&A hosted by non-other than Les Claypool and Sean Lennon.

Jam Cruise 18 proved to be full of opportunities allowing people to enjoy being their greatest selves.  That is the norm on Jam Cruise, to inevitably bring yourself to your best self. Genuine connections and reformat-able thoughts in the light of positivity are small parts which infuse the mind of the Jam Cruise experience. During high wind gusts, which led to shutting down the Pool Deck, magic encapsulated and manifested itself just around corners. Found huddled in a small bend outside MSC Divina’s Spa doors, members of The Sweet Lillies and Love Canon opened up an unanticipated miracle of raw and unrehearsed music. Having been rescheduled from playing on the Brews at Sea stage stationed on the Pool Deck to this unlikely and intimate location in front of the on board Spa, Love Canon and friends delivered one of the best sets of the weekend. Unplugged but in full vibe with a packed gathering that filled hallways on both ends, the gathered crowd played a part in a bonfire feel jam cover of The Human League’s famous, “Don’t you Want Me”. Singing along staff of MSC Divina and Cloud 9 Adventures were noticed swaying and grinning along with delighted patrons. Everyone who boarded the MSC Divina for Jam Cruise 18 now has a fresh perspective, exceptional to self-experience and a new one-of-a-kind chapter to draw insight from for the year ahead. Thousands of unique relationships flourished in connecting deeper through sharing one experience together.

Photo by Roger Gupta / Love Canon and Sweet Lillies set

Sailing away requires a toast to the journey ahead and to the journey that brought us on Jamcruise 18. Providing nice and refreshing brews were Bell’s Brewing and Breckenridge Brewery as Annabelle our host from Cloud 9 Adventures and the Captain of the MSC Divina both raised a glass to celebrate the official sailing into the high seas’ music adventure ahead. The MSC Divina then sailed into international waters, lit by the soon to be full moon and the bodacious sounds of Lettuce shredding their set Tuesday night. In this moment of departure, fiery heart pounding sentiments are a small part of the transformations oneself takes to ignite the journey.

Turkuaz dropped their well-known energetic rainbow attire and went for black and white with nude color hues, as their surprisingly new wardrobe of selection for their Tuesday night set. The music is why fans adore Turkuaz and they have only advanced with their strong stage presence and highly noteworthy overall sound throughout the year with original classics like “On the Run” and “Nightswimming”. Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers brought on some of the best sets that any ear ever heard on Jam Cruise 18. Their high energy and cool yet colorful stage presence was perfectly balanced by the smooth and jazzy notes in songs like “Evening Coffee” and “Old Love”. This band is bound to cover distance in 2020 and it’s clear why they are a perfect fit for Jam Cruise 18.

Photo by Roger Gupta / Circles Around the Sun

Pantheon theater was one of the greatest places to be on Jamcruise 18 due to its wide spectrum of watching opportunities from dance floor central to a high balcony overview. Dumpstaphunk opened their show in the Pantheon with just what we came to hear – a whole lot of bass slapping and vocally inspiring interlays of funk. Les Claypool’s Bastard Jazz was one of dirtiest sets of the weekend, only in the best way possible. Architecturally designed to please the visionary eye, every part of the MSC Divina transcended the imagination to a new era in time and space. Gazing at glittering chandeliers in the casino one moment to walking through an Italian vineyard inspired bar and lounge and to the Swarovski staircase in the Atrium made any trip a whole new adventure.

Photo by Roger Gupta / Day 2 Ocean Cay, Bahamas

Upon reaching the MSC Cruises’ exclusive private island of Ocean Cay Marine Reserve; slowly balconies doors opened to welcome the humid air and hot sunshine. Packs of jet skis sailed into the distance from the clear blue waters of the islands edge. Colorful beach chairs and numerous, comfortable sandbag chairs along the beaches quickly filled up with booties in bikinis. The warm smell of  sunscreen whispering in pockets of tropical air welcomed a full state of relaxation. The quickest way to the island is down the nearest elevator, past the checkpoint and into the warm tropics of the Bahamas where beach games, smiling faces and ice-cold drinks with tiny umbrellas ruled the white sandy beaches. It was obvious to see that Island renovations have and will continue to be in full swing in the upcoming years. MSC Cruises commits to protecting, restoring and conserving Ocean Cay with future plans inclusive of a Conservation Center and a thriving coral nursery on the island to lead in coral education and research. These monumental efforts help to open eyes as to why we need special sanctuaries like these in the first place. The water was a bit cold but refreshing after a few hours of soaking in the hot Bahamian sun rays. Jamcruisers’ were among the very first visitors to this newly developing island cay. Some found their opportunity to snorkel while others simply basked in the reality of not having any responsibilities or worries while digging their toes deeper into the warm white sand. The day presented itself to be picture perfect with clear blue skies but due to shifts in tides, departure from Ocean Cay was required a few hours earlier than scheduled. Those few hours didn’t damper a second of the splendid sets by Brock Butler and Ryan Montbleau next to the lighthouse on Ocean Cay.

Photo by Roger Gupta / Ryan Montbleau at Ocean Cay

Keller Williams having to reschedule his set from Ocean Cay to the MSC Divina Pool Deck worked out as a best-case scenario for everyone involved. Another reschedule from day four to day three allowed folks to not miss a second of being on the marvelous beach by partaking in Vinnie’s Italian Cooking Class in the early afternoon. Vinnie Amico from moe. cooked up a delicious pot of pasta for anyone interested in trying it.

The phenomenal collaborative music, disco jamming glass elevator parties with members of Too Many Zooz, dancing in a cabin full of new friends dressed in onesiess or catching a sunrise pop up set provides great opportunities to generate a once in a lifetime chapter in a person’s life. The choice being made from moment to moment of how to properly treat those around us with respect and to honor their self-expression is a large part of what Jam Cruise opens the mind and the heart to. Transformation happens slowly through stumbling out of one of the glass elevators to a party with Tank and the Bangas. Easily and with plenty of color, they lit up the Pantheon Theater stage with their sexy, fun and New Orleans style jazz show just after sunset. Their colorful vibrations of enticing sounds and funky fresh presentation makes it easy to hear, see and vibe to the reason they’ve been nominated for Grammy Awards for Best New Artist in 2019.

Photo by Roger Gupta / Sunset on Pool Deck

moe. drenched the crowd with a high energy set featuring favorites like “Cajun Moon,” “Jazz Cigarette” and “Skitchin’ Buffalo” which did not disappoint. Their ability to rock the crowd crazy, while rolling with the tides showcased a new side of these talented musically diverse players. Later in the trip, due to high winds and unexpected weather circumstances, moe. had their Pool Deck set rescheduled to the sparkling Atrium. Who could have guessed the best set of the Cruise was going to be conceived of rather unforeseen and redirecting circumstance? Anything and everything is conceivable onboard Jamcruise. While keeping busy, it’s essential and easy to check in with oneself with Wellness at Sea. From morning stretches with Lisa to spirit animal meditation with Maggie, letting go with the flow hoop workshop, Gong Meditation, Power Fitness class with Hash, nutrition workshop, aromatherapy, guided meditation, Reiki 101, Ba Duan Jun with Karl Denson and so much more offered throughout the trip, it’s easy to keep oneself in a complete state of relaxation among shredding sets.

Photo by Roger Gupta / moe. playing rescheduled set from the Pool Deck to this amazing Atrium

Getting to dress up on Jam Cruise is a whole other ball game. With showers and comfortable beds accessible for a quick freshen up, there is no reason not to partake in the awesome theme days. With impressive coordination and planning, it was heard that 124 dalmations were seen on board Jam Cruise 18. Linda and Bob Belcher were seen vacationing on board alongside Bratz Dollz Tweevils. Each morning the MSC Divina staff alongside Cloud 9 Adventures redecorated elevator doors on every floor with the correlating theme for the day. While theme days help people plan the best costume prior to boarding, it’s a time of judgement free zones aboard the MSC Divina when it comes to expressing any side of the spectrum.

Jam Cruise provides plenty of opportunities for fans to connect with their favorite artists with a SweetWater in hand and in a laid back atmosphere. Meeting Samantha Fish, Ghost Light, Karina Rykman, Maddy O’ Neal, Dumpstaphunk one day and Galactic, Kitchen Dwellers, Too Many Zooz, Alfreda Gerald, Nicki Bluhm, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Mihali and so many more the next, is easy to do at the autograph signing. What’s more is getting to be up-close and personal during jam talks with George Porter Jr. or “Wait Wait Don’t Jam Me” with Tank, Cory Wong & Scotty B or finding the land of fantasy and love during a Jam Cruise wedding with Cut Chemist. Hearing these legends rock out night after night is prodigious, so when a pedal party with Karina Rykman, Tom Hamilton, Roosevelt Collier and Casey Benjamin rolled in, bringing the artists closer to their fans, it was a great way to dive deeper into the logistics of how it all works.

Photo by Roger Gupta / Turkuaz at Autograph Signing

A multitude of options were available each day for fans to connect with artists and their skills. The Acoustic Coffee with Keller Williams, Brock Butler & Ryan Montbleau brought a nice mix of cozy and clever tunes with a comfortable setting of orange 60’s lights. Whether enjoying the great music or being interested in learning from masters of jam and rock and roll, there is a place and time to do it all. Masters Camp at Sea in the Black and White Lounge masterfully bridged the gap between artists and fans by giving them a personal and intimate experience of connecting through questions and interactive masterful interactions of hands on jamming. With those interested in Texas hold ‘em tournament, Ivan Neville brought back another firing round of poker benefiting Positive Legacy.

Photo by Roger Gupta / Everyone Orchestra

The Positive Legacy Celebration with Everyone Orchestra brought out the high spirited motivation of helping the world while celebrating all that was accomplished during Jam Cruise 18. Matt Buttler organized and led a rocking lineup of musicians in creating impromptu renditions never to be created again music with the audience and artists aboard. Complimentary beer provided by Breckenridge Brewery and Bell’s Brewery upon entry to the Pantheon Theater was a convenient way to go into a full on party with almost everyone on board. The Positive Legacy Charity Auction assisted with raising proceeds supporting Positive Legacy’s humanitarian and environmental projects by bringing out some amazing prizes to have taken home. Tickets to shows of the winners choice, one of a kind memorabilia and autographed blankets and clothes were up for auction for the many worthy causes this great charity undertakes.

With hands-on activities and ideas for combating climate change, there were plenty of ways to become aware of the current environmental health of the planet. Climate Change panel discussions with Roaxane Boonstra from the Coral Restoration Foundation featured special guests, Nicki Bluhm and Ryan Montbleau discussing human’s environmental impact and the pressing significance of being part of environmental healing. The Port of Costa Maya’s day of service and celebration worked with local non profit organization, Menos Plasatico es Fantastico, collecting an amount exceeding 1,700 pounds of plastic and trash along turtle nesting sites on the beaches. With hard work came highly rewarding performances by Kitchen Dwellers, Nicki Bluhm, Al Schnier , Vinnie Amico and Matt Butler and Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers.

Photo by Roger Gupta

Jam Cruise is a high of its own with thousands of realities mingling on board. Being on a boat in the tropics in the cold of January partying with some of the best people this world, listening to unwritten and rarely heard music, finding inner confidence and losing technology for a week to the brilliant once in a lifetime experience only felt and seen on board has manifested on Jam Cruise 18. There is no pressure to be anything other than the best self you love to be. Feeling a true feeling of respect and acceptance aboard Jam Cruise brings us out of our shells and into a highly celebratory, fabulous reality that we dreamed of all year.

With so much excitement on and off the boat, recharging with a delicious snack was effortlessly available 24 hours a day. Thanks to Chefs at Sea: Chef Bobby Antonetti from Wheatley Hills Golf Club, Chef Dano Holcomb with Root Down Food Truck, Chef Bramwell Trip from Loro, Chef Merlin Verrier from Street Feud and Chef Elliot Checinski who each curated and thoughtfully presented their delicious spread of late-night munchies for thousands of people each night. With the ease of breezing through the buffet line any time of day, finding something fresh to try or to expand the pallate with, there is certainly no shortage of food or flavor. Along with a conveniently full spread of cuisine from all over the world, there were a couple restaurant options open for those looking for a sit down dinner experience with a little extra time to enjoy.

Photo by Roger Gupta

There are many indelible moments that happen on Jam Cruise year after year and those are the reasons it’s been successful for eighteen years straight. With questions swimming in heads of some who have never been: “am I the right age?” or “what kind of music is there?” prior to booking a ticket to go, inevitably dissolve once they step foot aboard Jam Cruise. The cruise will bring you to say “That’s insane! What did I just experience?” and “I didn’t know you could have this much fun! “ to “My friends won’t believe me when I tell them about…”, that’s what Jam Cruise is all about. The inevitable great time and mind blowing moments that change lives and bring friends closer together through music with no judgement and pure blissful collaborative experience on international waters. Spontaneity in creation and enjoyment of music, beauty in genuinely accepting and celebrating each other aboard, mindfully improving oneself and the world around, being comfortable to be free, late night walks looking at the full moon’s reflection in Caribbean waters, drinking coffee at 3 am to get to the next set, being present in the moment while saying “I do” and getting married on the Pool Deck and taking a elevator ride filled with favorite artists like Karl Denson, Samantha Fish, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Cory Wong is just a sliver of the splendor this adventure on the high-seas has to offer. The best and most exciting stories live in the hearts of those who made Jam Cruise 18 pure magic.

Special thanks to Cloud 9 Adventures and MSC Divina crew who made this the best way to start 2020.

Photo by Roger Gupta