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Wave Your Flag, Buss A Wine & Sleep When You’re Dead

All I wanna do is jab, jab, jab.....and sleep. That was the dilemma. Eyes burning and waistline sore, my body begged for sleep, but there was always another song, another party, another concert, and another big jam that kept calling me back. There are no words that can adequately describe the atmosphere. Thick with an energy that stuck to you, heavy base pumping through the floors, and heart-pounding hit, after soca hit, blasting – in a word, The Uber Soca Cruise was a vibe.

The Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas was packed with over 3,300 born, bred, and ga dead Caribbean men and women and their Caribbean adjacent bredren, as well as over 40 of soca’s top artists and DJs. My friends and I got wet at every wet fete and jumped from one party to the next, with soca being the only thing giving us the power to stay awake. Feet rubbed soar and legs brunt as the sun left us partying on the concert deck, and the dust let us be, as we continued to pelt our waistlines.

There were warnings of the level of run-out ahead of us as we boarded the ship. Flags and a peacock plume of feathers were on display from the cruise's check-in, and full Carnival costumes, props, headpieces, and full African garb for the cruise’s Wakanda Ball, were all carried in by hand.

Soca blasting from every speaker and sound system soon amplified the ruckus chorus of blended accents hailing from the Bahamas down to Tobago. "Mind ya funky business" was clearly a crowd favorite, leading to booming and joyous chants of the lyrics. It would quickly become the unofficial soundtrack to USC 2018, and a very apt choice it was.

Soca lovers traveled into Miami for the cruise, which ran from November 1-5, with the sole intention of partying, and there was no time to people watch or to be self-conscious. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood - happy – energetic – friendly - without a care about what anyone else thought and confortable in whatever skin they came in.

For five days, on a ship floating in the middle of the ocean, many nations were suddenly one, united in feting. There were the good, home trained pleasantries most of us grew up with in the mornings, and lighthearted banter on elevator rides. There was also daily commentary on the ship's attempts to replicate "Caribbean food" and the overall feeling of gratitude for their efforts - as unsuccessful as it might have been. The cruise's itinerary was hectic and big jam-packed. Faces and flags filled the hallways from pillar to post, and everyone was behaving the worst, in the best way possible.

The Bahamian delegation was small but strong, and black, gold and aquamarine flags waved with pride as "Ghost Move" blasted during a late night fete - our very own Avvy basking in the moment. The energy never dipped, even when little known songs played from small Caribbean nations, and revelers got introduced to new favorite artists.

But, as the days blurred together, something emerged bigger than any wine, or wuk, or chune. The vibe and unity of the crowd, stitched together like the impromptu giant patchwork of flags that carried across the jouvert crowd on Labadee beach, was infectious. Strange faces soon turned to familiar bredren. The names may have been lost amidst the pound of deep soca riddims, but new friends were greeted with hugs, and smiles, and waves, and wines.

Kes, Patrice Roberts, Skinny Fabulous, Kerwin Dubois, Lyrikal, Shal Marshall, Alison Hinds, Voice and so many more major soca artists performed during the cruise, but between their sets they were just a part of the crowd, living for the music and repping their countries, like everyone else. Yes, the music and parties carried on every single hour of the day, but there was also more to the Uber Soca Cruise. Nestled between foam parties, and wet fetes, and brunch fetes, and workout fetes, and one big, bad jouvert, were breakout sessions ranging from discussions about the state of the soca music industry to fun and thoughtful discussions about natural hair throughout the Caribbean. The Uber Soca Cruise was an experience, far beyond dancing and carryin' on bad. It was about unity and the voices of Caribbean artists - big and small. Amidst the fog of tiredness, and rum soaked bellies, the thousands strong crowd proved to have an otherworldly energy, punctuated by pride.

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