Photo: Gina Black

Living it up on ShipRocked 18:

Imagine yourself visiting a sun-soaked small city that floats to and from scenic destinations inhabited by dozens of amazing rock bands. It’s the kind of place where you get a big bear hug from guitar God Zakk Wylde while grabbing your morning coffee (actually happened), a place you can enjoy a late-night ice cream with Shaman’s Harvest guitarist Josh Hamler (yep, that happened too) or even hanging out with the guitarist of the Grammy nominated band Nothing More, Mark Vollelunga, while he’s in his comfy pajamas (Strangely enough, that happened as well).

This magical place I speak of is the annual ShipRocked Cruise which saw us assemble on board the Carnival Liberty with stops in Nassau and the private island Half Moon Cay. 2018 was the 6th time the Chop Shop was a media partner for The World’s Greatest Vacation, but it was the first time I realized just how individual each experience is among the greater rock & roll collective.

For instance Jennifer Pinckney from Nashville proclaimed that “One of my favorite moments on the boat (was) seeing Aranda play a very beautiful acoustic session in the main lobby.” I saw parts of that set and all of their acoustic morning set by the Zero-G Pool on Deck 9. It was while taking in the morning music it occurred to me that the majority of ShipRockers were still recuperating from the fun of the previous evening. So probably 90% of the Liberty’s temporary citizens missed what for Jennifer was deeply moving.

Stephen Sturges of Brookfield, Connecticut took to social media to declare “The highlight of SR18 was standing in a sea of people, remembering Chester Bennington and singing Crawling and In the End together. That moment was totally symbolic of the ShipRocked experience.” I was present and so were a collection of goosebumps on my arm, yet, shortly after I walked through the casino and none of the people in there, who by the way were equally happy, took in what for Stephen was an eternal memory.

This I decided was the real magic of ShipRocked, endless combinations of choice. With so much to choose from including 46 shows on 5 stages (one of those a pirate ship on the beach), from 23 bands (one of which is an all-star band made up of another dozen bands) it’s no wonder all of us seemed to have had very different experiences while all taking in the same grand adventure.
Perhaps that’s why it never gets old? As every sailing allows endless new combinations to choose from, making it the only event that I’ve encountered that provides a truly once in a lifetime experience every single year.

For additional photos and to listen to Steve's interviews from ShipRocked, and the full 2-Hour Chop Shop Guitar show recorded live on day 4 of the cruise (available the week of 2/5/18) click here:

Interviewing Red Sun Rising on the beach at Half Moon Cay