Festival On A Ship In International Waters Is The Ultimate Party
Seafaring and swilling drinks have long been life partners. Alcoholism was a bonafide occupational hazard for pirates, the Dutch navy plied their British allies with liquid ‘courage’ while preparing to pelt the Spanish, and, in 2017, electronic music fans are commandeering monolithic cruise liners for a new form of tipsy wedlock.
The combination does make some sense. Especially when you’re standing in someone else’s cabin at God knows what time in the morning, basking in Mediterranean sunshine, contemplating what to do next after hours of giddy refreshment. Continue on deck, where the music never stops, or channel Black Beard and go marauding?
This year has seen a tidal wave of similar events hit the high seas, although there can be no arguments that my chosen voyage, the MDRNTY Cruise, offers the most bang for your buck. An itinerary involving Barcelona, Majorca, and Ibiza, a pretty origin port of Genoa, round the clock tunes from some seasoned players – Ben Klock, Sven Vath, Shaun Reeves, Ryan Crosson, tINI and Magda to name a few – all-inclusive food and booze, and a loose vibe halfway between mania and relaxation make for a pretty good combination.
Arriving 24-hours late to the party means jumping aboard in Barcelona, a city currently making headlines thanks to ‘the Catalan situation’. Nevertheless, time is of the essence, with the good ship MSC Magnifica scheduled to sail so soon a rapid walk-cum-run down La Ramblas is required. Even at this pace, though, it’s impossible not to appreciate the street’s infectious ambience, pick pockets aside, and feel blessed to be here on a Sunday rather than anywhere in the dreary UK I left behind.
At the embarkation point, the reality of what’s happening becomes apparent. I’m surrounded by an international contingent of party goers, all bearing down on an overwhelmed security guard who has the unenviable task of checking boarding cards. Not that you need to question whether they’re heading for the right boat. Ridiculous hats, comedy jewellery, and sunglasses in every direction, if this lot aren’t made for a vessel that has been seized for the sole purpose of a session then nothing makes sense.
Once aboard I’m shown to a generously proportioned balcony cabin by more-than friendly staff, armed with a map to navigate the enormous floating venue, it takes minutes to find the first kick drums. The Ametista Stage boasts a pleasingly low ceiling, and enough room for 500 or so crazies to stomp feet and punch air.
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From bangers to beef, I quickly locate a restaurant that, over the course of our cruise, will bare witness to several surreal mealtimes. Soundtrack aside, one of the key selling points of the event itself is non-stop food, predominantly served in a dining area that’s usually home to silver service.
In terms of culinary options those expecting Michelin menus will be disappointed, but after spending two weeks on one of these nautical hotels before standards aren’t hugely dissimilar. A combination of kitchens from across the world affords ample opportunity for some creative combinations on the plate, the abundant roast meats being a particularly high point, and more than welcome to soak up some of the sauce.
The next few hours are busily spent getting involved. I’m in cabins with strangers for an earful of their MiniRig, and the rest, marauding through a casino packed with starry-eyed night owls who may or may not be winning money – few seem that concerned – and losing my way in and around countless public areas. A theatre hosts a performance of freaks, Cabaret Bizarre, which is enough to spin anyone out. Later I’ll be dancing by the Indoor Pool Stage – the loudest and most riotous – with an even weirder set who aren’t being paid for their efforts.
An encounter with a French contingency sprawled out on comfy seats in a smoking area provides little conversation – language barriers, or my thick northern English accent, proves problematic. But two minutes of hugs and handshakes is more than enough to win all parties over, confirming one thing. This is what happens on Day Two of going big on international waters.
After a strong night sunrise over the waves is stunning, and ushers in a daytime bill with some of the best musical moments. FUSE, the London party, has a full morning-to-evening showcase of tough tech from Rossko, Seb Zito, Guti, Archie Hamilton, and Enzo Siragusa on the cards. The problem being it clashes with time in port on Majorca, and those hours fly by in a haze at the Outdoor Pool, now the busiest dancefloor I see for the duration.
Ibiza, on the other hand, is a different affair. 24 hours on, the details of which will forever stay on the boat, we dock as the light fades, with instructions to be back on deck in the very early hours. A stroke of genius – or incredible display of trust on the part of the organisers – punters get their run of Europe’s summertime hedonistic capital, which on Monday night could involve institutions like DC10 and Cocoon.
With the grand voyage’s last hours upon us, and final destination of Genoa almost on the horizon – an Italian city offering a picturesque port scene of terracotta and pastel coloured buildings – a sense of urgency is in the air. Romanian minimalist Barac holds it down at the Indoor Pool, heavyweights Paul Ritch and Mathew Jonson prepare for a closing slice of Berlin hero Ben Klock elsewhere.
Mayhem seems to be the only course of action for most who are still awake. Sadly, though, it’s not all good news. Mike Shannon & Dewalta are in the Disco 32 room, which is too far removed from the rest to pull a crowd, turning an expected highlight into something far less vital, but nonetheless musically enjoyable.
Then again, any dance fan – or anyone with a penchant for debauchery of any kind – would find it pretty hard not to enjoy jumping on a massive boat, filled with people intent on cracking on, for a four day, 24-7 soiree. Especially when the alternative would involve none of that. Although not without some gripes – a greater variety of tunes is needed, and perhaps a few more options for other ways to lose your mind would improve the vibe – the crux of what’s here works, suggesting there’s something in this relatively recent sail-sesh concept.
Point made, within 24 hours I’ll be trapped on a suburban train in Munich throwing up into a tiny bin surrounded by commuters after a night spent at a Holiday Inn Express that doubled up as my temporary tomb, following two flight delays, two missed connections back to Britain, and the onset of a gastric nightmare. Needless to say, I’ll wish I was back on board, much as finally getting free of the party was necessary escape for physical and mental health.
But that’s a whole other story…