You may wonder why this post is appearing in my Horse Magic Blog – and what does it have to do with horses!!! Well, to be honest, probably not much – and I have to confess that I didn’t want to start a different blog site – so here it is – in the category of Inspiring Journeys!!!
Horse people – read if you are interested – music people – you might like to read my ‘Long Road’ blog – about my journey with horses and my road to positive reinforcement training, which includes experiences with cult like leaders – plus life issues of aged care.
I have just returned from a 7 day cruise and I felt inspired to write about it. This cruise was no ordinary cruise. It was called Rock The Boat 2018. These cruises are run by Choose Your Cruise – an Australian company that organises music festivals at sea on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas.
For the past few years I have been going to Bluesfest in Byron Bay, with my sister Sue, her husband Pete – and our friend Glenys. We started these trips after Sue was diagnosed with Myeloma – the same cancer that Jim Keays from Masters Apprentices battled. Sue has been through two stem cell treatments and is doing well on medication. With more research into this cancer, newer drugs are coming onto the market – giving more hope to sufferers.
So – the Bluesfest trips turned out to be a great adventure. Even with the crowds – and the heat – and sometimes rain and mud – we were all so uplifted by the music – young and old joined in together and a fun time was had by all.
I had seen the Rock the Boat cruises advertised previously – and I suggested it to Sue. Before we knew it we were booked – and then counting the months down until we sailed. I didn’t know what to expect, but I imagined it would be like Bluesfest with more comforts – and as I had cruised before I knew about the endless food choices and activities on the ship.
I had previously sailed on the Melbourne Cup cruise with my daughter – and enjoyed a cruise in the Caribbean and one in Alaska on Celebrity. Those two cruises were combined with animal training seminars – and were wonderful. But this cruise was to be different – in a good way!
Before we went we could chat online with other RTB cruisers on their Facebook page. This was a great help – we could all get excited together as we counted down the months, weeks – and then days – until we sailed.
Sue had never been on a cruise – so was doubly excited. A Meet n Greet was organised for the evening before we sailed. It was here that we met our first fellow RTB cruisers – and the vibe was a very friendly one. However, our evening was cut short as we made a dash for our accommodation to avoid a bad thunderstorm. We were at the YHA in The Rocks – and from our window we could see over to the Opera House, where they were getting ready for the opening ceremony for the Invictus Games – attended by of course, Harry and Meghan. So Sydney was very busy!
The next morning, we packed up and headed down to the cruise terminal. Boarding was very easy – and before we knew it we were in the Windjammer Cafe eating lunch! After unpacking, and the obligatory safety talk, it was time to head to the Pool Deck for the sailaway party! Here are some photos!
I had already noticed the age group – I would say mainly Baby Boomers and Gen Y – with the majority in the 40 to 60ish age group – but some younger – and some older! Being Baby Boomers – we fitted right in! It was also uniquely Australian. Most cruises have a mix of nationalities – but this one was very much for an Australian audience.
I love meeting people from all nationalities – and have done so on my travels, but there was something comforting about this Australian group. We shared a similar past history – growing up in Australia in the 60s/70s and 80s – and that meant growing up with rock music ringing in our ears!
For Sue and I, music was always a comfort. With our older sister Ros – who now lives in UK – we were Beatle maniacs from 1963 on! We watched The Beatles arrive in Australia – and lived and breathed them – even though we were kids. In fact, in the feature photo, you will see Sue is wearing a Paul McCartney t shirt as she looks out over the ocean. We saw Paul in concert in Sydney at the end of last year!
In 1967 our family was hit by tragedy when our father died from a heart attack – he was only 43. I was 11 years old – and music was very healing. We had been living in the country – in Tamworth – and by 1969 we were back in Sydney. Our Mum needed to find work – and for me those years back in Sydney were a very dark time. It was music which got me through….. and my love of horses!
We started watching Uptight, then Happening in the early 70s. We had already fallen in love with songs like The Real Thing by Russell Morris – written by Johnny Young and famously produced by Molly Meldrum. It was these shows that introduced me to artists like Ronnie Burns, The Masters Apprentices, Sherbet, The Zoot etc. etc. We would buy our Go Set magazine and read everything about the groups – it was like a shining light in a dark tunnel.
Then of course Countdown started on the ABC in 1974 – and Australia was well and truly introduced to Molly Meldrum. He became part of our family each week – and no one ever wanted to miss an episode of Countdown. As well as overseas acts – there were many more Australian acts we were introduced to.
Molly Meldrum is an Australian household name. We would hang on every word he said. He really was Australia’s biggest rock fan – and we loved him for it. Countdown and Molly became part of the Australian culture – everyone was home on a Sunday night to watch Countdown.
I thought of Molly a lot on this cruise. I so wished he was on it -and I know he will be on the 2019 cruise. It would have been wonderful to thank him in person. He wasn’t just presenting a rock show – he was making my life happier!
So once again I have rambled – but now you can see some of my music history – and the part it has played in my life…… back to the cruise…..
The first day is a bit of a blur – but we did watch The Voices – A Celebration of Australian Music – they were amazing!!! And the group Flashbacks to Woodstock – or as they are known Machine Head . We were off to a great start – great music – but we needed to sleep after such a long first day!
On Day 2 we slept in! We had planned to attend the Rock N Roll class – and after buying our official t shirts we were hoping to get to the group photo opportunity – but missed out. Still – we had our t shirts! Next stop was Harrisongs – A Tribute to George Harrison. I loved this! There were songs I hadn’t heard in years. It was a great lineup with Kevin Bennett on vocals. There were also guest singers such as Ross Wilson.
After this, we headed out to the Pool Deck where the joint really got jumping! Dirty Deeds – an AC/DC tribute band were playing. I was blown away by their performance and the lead singer looked like a reincarnation of Bon Scott! I referred to him as ‘Bon’ on the cruise – but have learnt from their Bio that his name is Chad. Then there is Mick – dressed as Angus Young! You really think you are watching the original ACDC!
After all that dancing I was ready for a lie down!!! And maybe I did lie down because I have no idea what I did after that!
All I know is that night we watched Chocolate Starfish perform. I knew of them, but I didn’t know much about them. In the early 90s when they were first popular, I was knee deep in babies and toddlers – so I think I missed the whole music scene at that time! Their concert was one of the standouts for me of the whole cruise. Not only the band’s expertise – but the lead singer’s energy and charisma! His Meatloaf performances were better than Meatloaf himself!!!
I came away shaking my head – Mr Chocolate – the lead singer – sure left an impression on me! I was fortunate to be able to catch up with him on the cruise and have a photo taken!
Most nights on the ship were themed dress up nights. We had no idea whether most people dressed up – but we packed something for every night. We couldn’t believe the trouble people went to. There were such great costumes. Our first night was a 60s night. My contribution was a Beatles t shirt and a peace sign. Sue had a better outfit – and included some earrings!
We had started to settle into a pattern of late nights – and late starts in the morning. That was okay. We also needed an afternoon nap on many days – and we aren’t drinkers!!! We did spend each evening having a pre dinner drink on our balcony and caught some nice sunsets!
Speaking of drinks – most people had opted for the drinks package – and the great thing on this trip was that I didn’t see any bad incidents at all – only happy people.
On Day 3 – the Tuesday – we once again caught the end of Harrisongs, plus the Eurogliders later that night – both were great!
On the Wednesday – Day 4 – it was our first stop – the Isle of Pines. Unfortunately it was pouring as we headed to the jetty on the tender boat. Some people decided to stay on the boat – but we soldiered on through the pouring rain – after all we were going snorkelling – so we were going to get wet! I loved the Isle of Pines. The rain eased – and we had an enjoyable few hours. Many of our fellow passengers were snorkelling as well and it was great how excited everyone was to share the best fish viewing spots. We saw bright blue fish, rainbow fish, spotted fish, stripey fish…. and many others.
I think we really needed that time on land. I was missing my animals and was delighted to have these fish nibbling at me! Here are some photos.
We took a short walk as well and could finally get our bearings of where the ship was. When we had arrived visibility was almost zero!
It was 80s night that night. We wore leg warmers and headbands – but some of the costumes were amazing! There were plenty of Madonnas, mullet hairdos, and some dressed as the early games such as Super Mario. There was Doc from ‘Back to the Future’, The Blues Brothers, Ghostbuster outfits, Boy George lookalikes, The Grim Reaper – and even a group dressed as ‘Where’s Wally!
I think this night was the most fun. We first met up with some new found friends for dinner – all dressed in our 80s gear! Then it was off to see Ross Wilson perform hits from Daddy Cool days – and Mondo Rock. It was all very appropriate for 80s night!
After the concert we danced on the pool deck to The 80s Experience – also known as the New Romantics – what a great performance – the lead singer has so much energy!! It was great to hear songs from the 80s that I had almost forgotten about – and we danced the night away!
The next day – Thursday – Day 5 – we arrived in Noumea. Unlike the day before, it was hot and sunny. We headed off for a wander around the markets – but as we were both so tired we didn’t stop long and went back to the ship for a very long afternoon nap!
Lucky we had a big sleep because that night we were in for a real treat! – Foreigner! This was one of my favourite groups in the late 70s and early 80s – in fact Foreigner are in my old record collection! This is a reformed Foreigner with the original founder Mick Jones
It sounded exactly like the original Foreigner – the vocals and playing were superb – such a professional act.. I was on a real high – and after that we wandered around to other bands playing – but I really didn’t need to see anything else. I just wanted to savour that moment. It had been ‘Hawaiian Night’ – Sue and I wore Hawaiian shirts – not very creative – but at least we got in the swing of it!
Day 6 – Friday – we were now having two days at sea – heading back to Sydney. I felt like we had really relaxed into things. I think early on the brain is processing the new environment – we had finally learnt our way to the Windjammer Cafe and down to the theatre. It was time to do a bit more exploring of the ship.
We headed up to the outdoor activity area – mini golf, a water slide – and a rock climbing wall! There really is plenty to do!
As we headed into the buffet for lunch (as if we really needed anything to eat) we saw two of our new friends, Wendy and Jamie. We had talked before about Russell Morris – they knew him – and he had just walked into the buffet. Jamie took us over to meet him and we had our photo taken. What a thrill! It was so generous of him to take the time.
It meant a lot to me. I think what affected me so much was that someone like Russell carried so many memories for me – from those very dark days in the late 60s and early 70s. He was one of the stars who helped me through that time. I was realising that this cruise was about way more than the music – but it was the music that was the bridge to all these emotions.
Here is the photo! And thanks Wendy and Jamie!
It was a lovely afternoon/evening. I could feel a new sense of relaxation – in everyone! All I saw around me was happiness and laughter. We had now spent 6 days in this atmosphere. All our worries had dissolved for the time – and the only concerns were our food choices and how many bands we could fit in!! We could sit and gaze at beautiful sunsets like this one!
That evening was Halloween Night – and once again there were some great costumes – I only wish I took more photos!!
We had planned to try and sneak in to the Foreigner show again. Each night there were two sessions – early and late – and depending on the colour of our cruise card we were assigned a particular time. We were assigned to the late shows – so on this night we were going to see if we could get in to see a repeat of some of the performance.
Unfortunately the door was well guarded – but we were allowed to enter for the last song. Well that was better than nothing! We then wandered back to Centrum – the central area on the ship where various bands performed each day. I can’t remember who was playing at that time – but we listened to the music and looked at all the great costumes!!!
As we wandered back to our room, we ran straight into two of the musicians from Foreigner – Jeff Pilson and Michael Bluestein – heading back to their rooms after their show. We were brave enough to ask for a photo. They were so nice – even as they would have rather been heading for the shower! As well as the photo – they talked excitedly to us – and said not to miss out on the talk by Phil Carson – their manager and former Vice President of Atlantic Records. It was the first I knew about it – and I’m so thankful they mentioned it!
The night just got better! We headed off to see The Romantics – what a blast from the past! I’d forgotten how many great songs they had. I found myself down at the front dancing – complete with Halloween headband!
We danced our way out of the show and headed off to see UK Blitz – and afterwards – Stylus. As it turned out we missed most of the UK Blitz show. I was distracted by another musician from Foreigner – Bruce Watson!!!
I had also chatted to the guitarist from Stylus – Ron – several times during the cruise. I hadn’t managed to see them perform and I was determined to stay up to catch their final show. So glad I did. What an incredible group! I noticed something I hadn’t seen in all of the groups – they were a very ‘tight’ band. They had a professionalism that is not found in all bands. And the music! I think they should be in the Bluesfest lineup!
Here are some photos – a selfie with Bruce Watson and Stylus playing.
What a night! I was so content! So happy with what I had experienced, anything else would be a bonus!
Onwards to Day 7 – Saturday – our final full day… after a busy morning packing our bags for the early disembark the following morning, we headed to the talk by Phil Carson. I could have listened to him for hours! So many stories! From the early days of Led Zepplin to his current projects – which include Foreigner. I felt very fortunate to be able to listen to one of the giants of the music industry.
The final main show was Russell Morris. I had never seen him perform live. The show was one of the standouts for me. Of course we all wanted to hear the oldies – like The Real Thing – but his recent music is outstanding! I loved every minute of it.
Before this show, Dirty Deeds – the ACDC tribute band – were playing again on the pool deck. They played – and we danced for an hour and a half. The happiness and enthusiasm was plain to see – on both the band’s and audience’s faces. But it was something ‘Bon Scott’ said that got me thinking. He said ‘Let’s just keep on cruising – keep on rocking forever!!!’ The crowd cheered in agreement.
What was it that we really wanted? I think it was that feeling of being in a group of like minds – feeling a connection – a sense of belonging. We were in a very happy place – we were all equals – barriers were broken down. That’s what it was really about. The music was the catalyst for that.
We met new friends, we talked to people in the lifts, on the stairs, at the buffet – everywhere. Everyone was approachable!
So there it is! I would thoroughly recommend this trip. Hopefully we will get to go again. As well as thanking Choose Your Cruise and my fellow passengers and all the artists, I’d like to thank all the hardworking staff on Royal Caribbean – especially our wonderful room attendant Darwin!! He looked after us so well!
There was something Russell Morris said during his interview – he told the story of his grandparents remarking how quickly the years go from 50 up. I’m also reminded of the two part series I recently watched – Tick F***ing Tock – about the Doug Anthony All Stars. In the second part, Tim Ferguson, who has multiple sclerosis, refers to time marching on – and about getting on and doing the things you want to do.
This cruise is an example of making an effort to get out of your comfort zone and enjoy the experience. It was like I was 15 again and I was on a week long Countdown trip. Someone waved a magic wand – we were all teenagers again without a care in the world…
So do yourselves a favour and check out the next cruise!!