Summary by : Maliika Walker
Photos © Anita Posada
Imagine partying to reggae music from sun up to sun down for six days in the middle of the ocean. Those who attended the 2nd Annual Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise did just that. The vibe was set from the moment we boarded the Norwegian Pearl in Miami. The passengers made their way to the 12th deck entertainment area to see Damian Marley welcome everyone to the 2nd Annual Welcome to Jamrock Cruise. Another reggae party with people from all over world.
Last years cruise was an epic odyssey of One Love. The first annual cruise sold out in a matter of weeks of going on sale. People were united to hear the beautiful sounds of reggae music from over 52 countries across the globe. November 30th marked our return to the Norwegian Pearl when we set sail once again.
A big difference from last years’ cruise was the performances started earlier in the evening, 6PM vs. 8PM on the last cruise. Protoje was the first performer on this year’s reggae party on the ocean. He set the stage beautifully for the amazing music that was sure to come. He even had Ky-Mani Marley join him on stage for Rasta Love. Morgan Heritage followed, entering the stage to their hit song Strictly Roots. This year cruise patrons would be treated to a full set from one of the royal families of reggae music. Morgan Heritage’s set was cut short the last cruise, but they were not denied this cruise. The audience was treated to great vibrations from the expansive collections, both old and new tunes. Hit tunes like their classics Don’t Haffi Dread, Down by the River and Tell Me How Come to new classics like Child of Jah. Jemere Morgan, representing the next generation, also joined the party and performed with the group. Maxi Priest then energized the crowd with selections that cover his career through three decades. He performed with such vibrant energy that you couldn’t help but to jump in and sing along with him. His silky voice is still the gift that keeps on giving as he treated us to tunes such as Crazy Love and his all-time classic Close to You. Stephen Marley closed out the first night of the cruise and patrons couldn’t have been happier to see him.
Last year Stephen did not get to perform due to rain. The party had to be brought in doors which set the stage to an epic finale that will always be remembered. This year, Stephen set the stage for the evening by displaying his musical genius. The ten- time Grammy winner performed some of his father’s classic hits as well as some of his own. The audience swayed with him through such tunes as Lively Up Yourself, Buffalo Soldier, as well as No Cigarette Smoking and Rockstone. Veteran DJ Spragga Benz brought fiery electricity to the stage, “Ragga” on stage for Iron Bars, Traffic Jam, and Jah Army. Our captain, Damian Marley, joined Ragga for part of his set, performing The Mission, Tight Ship, and Traffic Jam. Kingston 12 kept the party vibes going in the Atrium until the wee hours of the morning.
Since the next day was a day at sea, cruise patrons took in everything the boat had to offer including the first Meet and Greet, a chance for fans to get up and personal with some of reggae’s biggest stars. Artists such as Tarrus Riley, Morgan Heritage, Protoje, Maxi Priest, Tanya Stephens, and Christopher Ellis greeted and took pictures with fans. In addition, the non-stop party was in full-effect on the 12th and 13th decks from 12 noon. The evening brought another night of electric performances. Ghetto Youth International artist Christopher Ellis, the son of rock-steady pioneer Alton Ellis, got the night started off perfectly by performing selections from his debut EP. Beautiful songs such as Better Than Love and Left Unsaid were met with positive vibes by the audience. The only female artist on the cruise line up, Tanya Stephens followed performing hit tunes from her catalog. Ms. Stephens performed flawlessly, including the crowd favorite It’s a Pity. Ky-Mani Marley entered the stage next performing songs primarily from his new hit album, Maestro, with some of his father’s tunes as well. The audience swayed along to his popular tune All The Way. Ky-Mani returned the favor by bringing Protoje out to perform Rasta Love. Tarrus Riley closed out the second night, performing a soulful set with his band Blak Soil. From the moment we heard that saxophone, we knew the great Dean Fraser was going to make our hearts sing. Tarrus breezed thru his set filled with hit after hit tune including Larger Than Life, Beware, Stay With You, She’s Royal and Gimmie Likkle One Drop. He even treated the audience with a dedication to the great Buju Banton. Stone Love then kept the party going in the Atrium, playing jams until the wee hours of the moment. Yes, another night where many people “broke day” once again.
The third day marked the ship docking in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Some of the artists that performed the first two days left the ship and a new slew of artists got on to join the party. Most of the artists from day three would include artists who had no US visa, meaning they could not perform in the US. Dancehall or No Visa night was a highlight for many fans last year because this would be their opportunity to lay eyes on Jah Cure, Bounty Killer, and others. This year would be the same as Busy Signal, Jah Cure, and Bounty Killer returned to perform. They were joined by Popcaan, Elephant Man, and Super Cat. The night got started with an interesting twist, Busy Signal had to perform before the ship could leave the port in Montego Bay. He literally had to perform and get off the boat. Busy treated the audience to nothing but up full vibes despite his dilemma of having to depart the boat. Elephant Man soon followed with a performance that saw him jumping off stage to vibe with the crowd and also jumping on speakers. Nothing less could be expected from the Energy God. I saw grandmothers and granddaughters dancing right along with him. The Don Dada, Super Cat, hit the stage next and performed a set filled with nothing but boom tune after boom tune including Dem Don’t Worry We. Super Cat kept his hat tipped to the side his entire performance, showing he still possesses that sense of cool. Jah Cure, who was recently nominated for his first Grammy, was the next performer to hit the stage. An artist who released an album in the U.S. and it went number one on the Billboard Reggae charts, even though he was not able to promote the album in the country. The crowd greeted Jah Cure with a fire of the belly. He performed such hit songs from his catalog as Never Find, Life We Love, and Love Is. Audiences were also treated to songs from his recent Grammy nominated release, The Cure. Bounty Killer closed out the third night with a show that brought the dancehall legend sharing his thoughts about many things affecting the people. The poor people’s Governor talked about many things including the government as he also performed hit after hit for the crowd. By the time he exited the stage the audience danced themselves to a frenzy but there was no time to rest because King Jammys was ready to hit the main stage and keep them moving.
On Day four we arrived in Ocho Rios. This was also the day that Damian Marley was set to hit the stage. Reggae legends, Third World, got the evening off to a rocking start with their classic Reggae Ambassadors. They went on to perform such classics as Sense of Purpose, and 96 Degrees. Of course their performance would not be complete without Cat Coore performing Bob Marley’s Redemption Song on cello and Tony Ruption’s African Drum Solo. The audience gave a roaring ovation to both. The group capped off their strong performance with with smash hits Try Jah Love and Now That We Found Love. Cham attacked the stage next with a vengeance. Cham danced across the stage to the joy of thousands of fans. We could not help but to jump and party along with him and the band. Fans were treated to his performance of such hits as Stronger and Ghetto Story. Cham lit the fire on stage last year and did the same thing this year. He left the stage sizzling hot, ready for the legendary grammy nominee Barrington Levy. The dancehall legend kept the crowd going by breezing thru several of his classics. The crowd roared with applause as he performed hit after hit. Next to the stage was the captain of our voyage, Damian Marley. Our captain performed some of his classic hits like Searching, Love and Inity, Me Name Jr. Gong, and Move. Damian’s band and back-up singers performed to perfection, much to the delight of the audience. A Marley performance would be remiss without some material by the the great patriarch of the family, Bob Marley. Damian performed Could You Be Loved, Trenchtown Rock and Get Up Stand Up. Cham joined Damian on stage for a performance of their hit, Fighter. Damian ended his superb performance with Welcome to Jamrock, the perfect song that defined our voyage. This cruise marked the first time many on the boat had been to Jamaica.
Day five was the 2nd day at sea and marked the last day we were to be on board. Neville Garrick took some time to speak to those interested in some of the historic visual work he did with Bob Marley and the stories behind the works. Neville Garrick captured vivid images of Bob interacting with people which seemed to be his natural state. Neville also shared stories behind the album covers he designed included Survival and Exodus. A second meet & greet was scheduled for that afternoon, and this time Damian Marley would make an appearance. The line to get into the meet and greet wrapped the floor and spread out to the deck. Cruise patrons had the opportunity to take pictures with Damian & Julian Marley, Cham, Capleton, TOK, and Third World.
The skies appeared cloudy and I began to wonder if rain was going to interrupt our show that was to take place that evening. TOK, Julian Marley, and Capleton were all set to close out the cruise. Audiences were looking forward to seeing TOK in particular. The band recently announced that they will be breaking up and are now only fulfilling prior commitments. Just when people began to think this year would not be a repeat of last year, when the last night was rained out, it began to rain on TOK’s set. The show was forced inside the boat once again. The crowd packed the Atrium area to capacity as the DJ’s kept the crowd entertained. Unfortunately, TOK did not get a chance to finish their performance, and Julian Marley did not perform at all, but Capleton hit the stage with a DJ for two hours. The elements may have not have allowed Capleton to perform with a band but that didn’t stop the Fire Man from performing for the crowd. The crowd roared, jumped and danced his entire performance. Damian Marley joined him on stage briefly to close out the cruise.
This year’s cruise allowed fans of reggae music to once again party in the the middle of the sea. The Welcome To Jamrock Cruise is the ulitimate cruise Reggae Festival. Damian Marley and team managed for the second year to put on an epic event that will forever be remembered by all who attended. Next year’s cruise will mark a change in cruise lines. Royal Caribbean will greet cruise patrons in 2016. So far some of the acts confirmed, in addition to Damian and Stephen Marley, include Mavado, Sean Paul, Steel Pulse, Half Pint, J Boog, and Kabaka Pyramid.
We are already eagerly anticipating the 2016 cruise to join the ultimate reggae party on the ocean.