February 20 had arrived.
My crew had always talked about doing the Monsters of Rock Cruise. Of course, it would be a blast. The closest thing we could compare it to would be our annual trip to M3 Festival in Maryland, but on a boat!
The problem for some was marriage. The spouses don't dig this type of music and wouldn't be interested, so it's a hard sell to tell your wife, "Honey, I'm gonna take a cruise to the Bahamas with the boys" and leave the room without it looking like a John and Lorena Bobbitt reunion.
The problem for another was not having the money.
The problem for Jimmy was getting one of us to agree to go as a cabin mate.
The problem for me was wondering if it was worth it. I would always do the following quick math in my head when debating it:
- Cabin $1500
- Flight $300
- At least 1 night before and after cruise in Florida $300
- Airport Parking $150
- Drink Package on Boat $300
- Merchandise $150
- Food and Miscellaneous expenses while not on boat $200
I did keep telling myself if they booked Junkyard that would be the turning point. Everyone who knows me knows that's the one band I love that I never got to see. They keep promising an East Coast tour, but it sadly never happens...fingers crossed again for this year, but I digress...I was sticking with not worth it.
We all watched the West Coast cruise sell out almost immediately and then saw the somewhat odd line-up for the East Coast cruise. Quite a change from past lineups with an initial emphasis on the less glam/radio friend side of the music. While it was represented, there were technical guitarists like Steve Vai and heavier bands like Helloween, Hellion and Metal Church. An interesting mix.
Over the coming months more and more bands would be added until the final count was just under 45 artists.
Around October on Facebook, the MORC page posted that the cabins were selling fast and almost 60% sold out. While this was presented as "act fast...act now", I couldn't believe they still had 40% of the ship to sell when the cruise was only about 3 or 4 months away. I wouldn't think this is a last minute booking for many people.
At a show one night our gang discussed this and casually said "If it doesn't sell well and they offer some kind of half price discount, maybe we'll give it a shot this year."
Well Merry Christmas, Paul...there is a Metal Claus.
Late on the Sunday night after Christmas, Jimmy gets an email from our friend Kevin (who has gone on almost every cruise, but was sitting out the East coast one) saying a friend of his on the cruise got an email saying they were offering half price cabins to friends with a special code. Kevin got the code and booked a cabin with his (and now my) buddy Jeff and then passed it on to Jimmy.
While Jimmy was on the phone I quickly looked up flights and found $195 round trip from JFK! Hotel for the two nights before the cruise we could now split 4 ways so that would only cost $100 a piece. Interior cabin for two was now $750 each. I knew I could get off work that week, so the bulk of the trip would cost a grand. We decided to book and it was on!
In the end, my budget predictions were pretty dead on. I'd say taking into account every cent I spent, this cruise cost me around $2300 or so (so would have been right at the 3 grand mark if full price).
So now the waiting started (less than two months and according to Tom Petty, it's "the hardest part") and at the end of it all I'd find out if it was worth it.
It all started when February 20th arrived.
We had a scare earlier in the week when New York got hit with it's one big snow storm (so far) this year. This of course is always a worry when booking a winter vacation and while we definitely wanted to partake in the two pre-parties the MORC was throwing at Magic City Casino in Miami, Florida the weekend before set sail, we also knew we should attempt to fly down that Saturday just in case there were delays/cancellations. With two days, one way or another, even if we decided we'd have to drive it, our asses were getting on that boat on Monday the 22nd.
In the end there were no worries weather wise. Our flight on American Airlines was scheduled for 11:20 and would arrive at 2:30 in Miami.
We parked off site, took the shuttle to JFK and got there about 9:30am and there was NO ONE checking in. Literally from getting out of the cab to getting our tickets, dropping off bags, going through security and getting to our gate was 10 minutes!
This was an awesome sign!
So we settled in. The plane we would be taking out arrived and passengers and crew got off. We were about 20 minutes from scheduled boarding when suddenly our flight info just disappeared from the screen at the gate. Jimmy and I both noticed this about the same time. Then I got the email update. The flight was delayed until 12:30...okay not bad, but it seemed like I was the only one who got this info. Still no announcement or update to the screen.
Then a couple of minutes later another email...flight delayed til 3:30. SHIT!
Now I won't fully get into American Airlines absolute CRAP customer service, but in a short mini-rant nutshell, they never made an announcement and just let everyone wait. I showed some people my email and I assume others got it and that's how word spread. No supervisor EVER showed up. They moved us to another gate. Then they told us it would be a different type of plane (smaller - and the flight was sold out and already had a list of those on stand by) and now everyone had to get on line to get seats re-assigned (You could not do it via web and could not go to any other gate without a line). I stood on that line for probably two and a half hours. When I finally got to the front, it took them 2 minutes to re-assign my seats because I didn't have a connection, everyone who did was taking an average of 20 minutes. Why they didn't have one line for those with connections and one without is beyond me because there were two lines. And again - no supervisor ever came over and even the two people working the desk were yelling at people on the phone to get a supervisor out there. The only I guess "good" thing they did was they did bring out drinks, chips and sandwiches for everyone. But oh well...this sucked, would change our plans a little, but eventually the flight did take off at about 3:30pm and we arrived in Miami about 6:15pm
Original plan was our buddy Kevin, who lives about 4 hours from Miami, would pick up Jeff (Canadian) at the airport by him and then they would drive down and pick us up at about 3:00 a the airport. The hotel was in my name. So we called the hotel, switched it to Kev's name, they checked in. Kev dropped Jeff off at a Bryan Adams concert in town. Jeff said he needed to support his fellow Canadian, but when pointed out Killer Dwarfs were also from the Great White North, no acceptable answer was given for this faux pas.
So Kevin picked us up right about 6:45 and the first night pre-party was to open with Kickin Valentina right around that time (I think doors were 6:30). I have to say I've only heard of this band and this would have been my introduction, but as a group we decided food (and drink) was more important as we didn't know what the situation would be at the Casino, so being a fan of supporting hard working local cuisine...we of course decided on Hooters!
I'm not sure what it is about Hooters that makes the beer and wings taste so good...some secret ingredient I can't put my finger on (well, I could, but I would surely get arrested and that's a helluva way to start a vacation).
Now that we were fortified, we headed over to Magic City Casino and got there about 8:00pm right after Kickin Valentina had ended, but we hadn't missed Killer Dwarfs.
The vibe immediately was awesome. Everyone is in a great mood and the beer was cheap (and by the end of the second night they would sell out of Bud, Bud Light and Heiniken...cruisers like to drink and I felt it only right to join in).
We checked out some of the shirts, Kevin introduced us to some other cruisers he's become friends with over the years and we moved up next to the side of the stage for Killer Dwarfs who came on at 8:30 and would play an hour long set which consisted of:
- Dirty Weapons
- Comin' Through
- Hard Luck Town
- Last Laugh
- Driftin' Back
- Start @ One
- Doesn't Matter
- Nothin' Gets Nothin'
- Stand Tall
- Keep The Spirit Alive
As stated the Dwarfs played until right about 9:30. After their set, (or maybe it was during it) the Bryan Adams show had ended and we met up with Jeff for the rest of the night.
More beers flowed and at about 10pm George Lynch came out to tweak his gear and played a short little solo for those up front. At about 10:15 Lynch Mob hit the stage for their hour long set.
For those that haven't been on the cruise before, it's a pretty democratic process in regards to set times. Almost everyone gets an hour for every set..some a little shorter and some a little longer, but in general that's the deal.
Lynch Mob were fantastic! They're a band I've somehow missed over the years, but I was blown away at how good they were, I definitely will catch them any time they come through the area from now on.
The front end of their set was all their own tunes, then they did a four song Dokken covers set including George's "Mr. Scary" solo. Vocalist Oni Logan does a great job on the Dokken tunes (as he does when he covers Dio when playing with Dio Disciples...the guy is just an amazing vocalist) and they played some of my faves. I got video of a few of them and the links are below as are some of the photos I took.
Here's the setlist:
- She's Evil But She's Mine
- River of Love
- All I Want
- Hell Child
- Believers of the Day
- Automatic Fix
- Into the Fire (Dokken cover. Video below)
- The Hunter (Dokken cover. Video below)
- Mr. Scary (Dokken)
- Tooth and Nail (Dokken cover. Video below)
- Wicked Sensation
After the set, the lights came on and we walked into the Casino to the bar right inside for another beer or two, but damn it was a long day and we decided to head back to the hotel to rest up for the next day and what adventures were to come.
Was it worth it? I was still undecided, but a great way to start the week.
Click here to continue with Day 2
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