What do you do when you're desperate to watch the same DJs play the same records to the same crowds but you're tired of clubs and warehouses and country parks and repurposed dockland spaces? The answer, apparently, is obvious: you board a cruise ship and spend a few days on the high seas abandoning any hint of responsibility and respectability in favour of a cocktail of sea air, salt water, and very competitive deck quoits. The cruise festival is a real thing, and I for the life of me can't quite work out why that is.
I have always been slightly baffled by the prospect of cruises in general. Why, I've wondered in the past, would anyone want to spend a vast sum of money to feel a bit queasy in the middle of the Indian ocean with nothing but a prawn cocktail dinner and a screening of Romancing the Stone to look forward to. What, I've pondered, drives a couple—and cruise ships are usually dominated by deeply-tanned couples enjoying their evergreen afternoons under azure blue skies—to blow a hefty proportion of that year's pension packet on the possibility of dinner at the captain's table after a solid six hours of bridge?
It's hard enough getting my head around that. So pondering the possibility that young people—actually young people aged under 30—are voluntarily going on cruises is another level of conundrum. Have I been missing the conversations between maritime-mad party-goers in the smoking area of clubs up and down the country, chuffing cigarettes while jabber away excitedly about anti-rolling tanks and Azimuth compases? Is there an app for it? Have I somehow been totally oblivious to the dancefloor semaphore that's definitely going on? The answer, sadly, is a bit more obvious than that.
Before the answer, a bit of history. We can trace the proliferation of the clubbing cruise festival back to the heady days of 2012. It feels like an eternity ago, doesn't it? How can five years have passed since a boat containing Fatboy Slim, Boys Noize, Laidback Luke, Rusko, Diplo, A-Trak, Steve Aoki, Skrillex, Tommy Lee & DJ Aero, Brodinski, Buraka Som Sistema, Gesaffelstein, Justin Martin, Zedd, DJ Craze, Dillon Francis, Strip Steve, Djedjotronic, Destructo, Danny Brown, Egyptrixx, Rory Phillips, Club Cheval, Jason Bentley, Posso, Doorly, Oliver, Gina Turner, Nick Catchdubs, Arthur Baker, Contra, Mike Deuce, Blu Jemz, Lloydski and a few thousand lifejacket-clad bros set sail from Miami? Well, quite easily actually as time marches forever forward, stopping for no man—or no ocean-based multi-day rave experience, either. More's the pity.
Holy Ship's first expedition would turn out to be oddly revolutionary. In the years that have followed, promoters have realised that in order to squeeze cash out of a generation of people who want to get fucked up even more than they've been fucked over, they've got to pull out all the stops. It's no longer enough to erect a few stages in a park outside of Coventry and hope that a sizable audience will pay through the nose to drink warm beer out of plastic cups. These days you've got to commandeer zero gravity planes in Las Vegas, deck out alpine slopes with sound-systems, or buy entire Croatian islands to keep the obligatory Instagram hashtag well stocked and your coffers overflowing. Somehow, there really are hordes of people out there willing to pay actual money for these things. This is the state of the industry in 2017: the experiential has become elemental.
And it is that clamour for experience— any kind of experience, literally anything at all that we can drone on about in the pub or the office or in the digital conversational wilds of WhatsApp—which explains why punters this summer can take their rubber ring aboard Shipsomnia: The Tale Of The Kraken or World Club Cruise or The Ark or one of the countless other boats that'll be cruising around the world's seas, blasting monotonous, faceless, rancid house and techno into the unblinking, unthinking waves.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with craving shareable experiences, with wanting to make a holiday out of a night out, but I'm still completely unsure why a cruise ship is increasingly becoming the place to do it.
Secondly, imagine actually being around the kind of person who voluntarily spunks that much cash on being able to drink cocktails at an all-hands-on-deck Patrick Topping limbo contest. Then multiply that by hundreds, if not thousands. Imagine their collective voice, booming the word "MATE" over and over again, an Essex-inflected foghorn that drips with unreconstructed macho awfulness. The air would hang heavy with the stench of creatine and sexual expectation, and by the end of the trip you'd probably have witnessed at least six blokes shagging seagulls. The other worry on this front is that you'd get stuck with the kind of person who earnestly describes themselves as "a bit of a party animal to be totally honest with you mate," wears a wide-open Hawaiian shirt, and has given a name to the inflatable crocodile he carries around with him everywhere.
Thirdly, we all know that the weather can change at the drop of a hat. Do you really want to be stuck on some sodden cruise liner, surrounded by disintegrating paper cups, the entire ship becoming one massive sludgy slip-hazard, a bubbling and burbling layer of fermented sugar slopping underfoot? No. No you don't.
Call me a dullard, accuse me of hating fun, and yes, maybe I am being a bit of a Victor Meldrew but honestly a weekend on the high seas surrounded by junior systems analysts drowning themselves in sickly sweet cocktails sounds about as much fun as, well, exactly what I just described.