70000 Tons Of Metal Review
70000 Tons Of Metal. 40 bands. 1 cruise ship. 2000 tickets.
I spent weeks of looking at the official website. I spent weeks of researching the 30 bands that were announced prior to me leaving Australia. Once I made the decision to do the cruise, there was weeks of planning my trip from Australia to America with a post cruise side trip to Mexico. There were weeks of envious friends from Australia & New Zealand asking me about the trip and in some cases begging me to take them with me. And no, guys, there was no luck involved.
This was my first 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise and I hope that it will not be the last. My main aim of the trip was to see/hear great music and share it with the world via my Erk FM: Metal Monday podcast. I have covered local Australian gigs, events and festivals. I have seen international bands before however this was the first time that I would only be seeing bands from outside Australia. This was truly an international event and I was on the world stage.
You would think that all of this would be good preparation for the cruise, leaving Miami on Monday 28 January 2013. Rocking up at the port of Miami, there was many black t-shirts, many tattoos and lots of hair, I knew then that I was at the right terminal. I thought I was right at home. I’m sure the security staff thought they were going to be in for a difficult time. As they found out, that would not prove to be correct. Metal fans are well used to security, they are well used to waiting in queues. They are well used to waiting for bands to start their sets.
Out of sight of the boarding passengers, preparations for the cruise were well under way on board Royal Caribbean International’s Majesty Of The Seas, our floating home for the next few days. A massive army of workers was building the outdoor stage on the pool deck. After the previous cruise from The Bahamas arrived earlier in the morning, one of the pools were drained and would become the site of the outdoor stage. By midnight that night, that stage would be rocking hard with the motion of the ocean as well as the reunion show from Metal Church. Before midnight, however, there was much work to be done to clean the ship from the previous cruise and get it ready for 70000 Tons of Metal.
Boarding the ship around noon, access to the staterooms (ship talk for bedrooms) was available from 1pm. Some people were getting an early start on a heavy 4 days & nights of drinking. As an Australian, I was (mock) offended by the heavy drinking of the Australian export beer Fosters by people who are not Australian and think that Fosters is Australian for beer. It isn’t. Just saying….
The Majesty Of The Seas is a massive ship. With a few hours before departure from Miami and the first band starting their set, there was time to try to work out where everything was on the ship. My cabin was on level 4. Helstar would be the first band up in the Spectrum Lounge on level 8. Helstar would be followed by Sabaton in The Chorus Line Theatre, levels 5 & 7. Later on in the night, Metal Church would bring the pool deck stage to life (levels 11 & 12). You could get as close to the stages as you wanted or you could distance yourself from the stage and the crowd but still hear the music. A nice touch was playing metal over the PA system in the main buffet area as well as being able to watch videos from the bands from your stateroom.
An initial perceived problem prior to the first cruise in 2011 was that the band members would need to spend all of their non playing times holed up in their stateroom. As time went on over 70000 Tons history, band members and punters were able to (and do) mingle freely as they choose. When they aren’t playing, the band members are having as much fun as the punters and it is not uncommon to see band members checking out the other bands. The atmosphere onboard was very relaxed and is usually the case at metal gigs, there was very few problems with crowd behaviour. As I said to many people in the lead up to the event, who is going to spend over $1000 on a cruise plus associated travel to cause trouble?
After Sabaton’s appearance on The Chorus Line stage, I found a great vantage point for the next band on that stage, Nile. I found that by entering the room via deck 7 rather than deck 5, I would get a great elevated view of the stage. If I was early enough, I would be able to get a spot with a great side-on view of the stage and the crowds at the front of the stage. I would return to this level several times during the cruise. Likewise on the pool deck, there were several different views to be had on the pool deck levels. If you are a fan of watching drummers in action, you can get an unusual view of the drummers from behind the stage. At many gigs, the area behind the stage is strictly off limits to the average punter. But at 70000 Tons, this area is a great place to watch a drummer in action.
A common question is: How do the band members cope with the movement of the ship? Overall, I did not see any band members fall over. In some occasions for me, it was hard enough to walk in a straight line in a corridor. While the band members had time to get used to the movement of the ship prior to their sets, how do you really prepare for it unless you do it?
The remaining pool and the 2 spas were very popular. Signposted with a suggested maximum of 4 people at time for up to 15 minutes, cruisers managed to fit around 15 very happy people into a 4 person spa for hours at a time. Regardless of how late at night it was and how cold the night air might have been, the spas were very popular and you do get a reasonable view of the pool deck stage from the spa.
Sabaton provided an early highlight in their performance in the Chorus Line Theatre. Having just come from Helstar’s set and still getting used to the layout of the ship, I was further back from the stage than I would have liked. Many people have been to a show where a band uses a cliché which is a bugbear of mine, even for a local band. To try and add a local feel to the show, a band will say “HELLO *insert name of town here*, how are you doing tonight?” – I hate that! What does a band say when there are people in the crowd from 55 countries around the world and the venue itself is in international waters enroute to the Caribbean?
Sabaton’s vocalist Joakim Brodén had the solution. Instead of saying “HELLO *insert name of town here*” or “HELLO, 70000 Tons of Metal” like many other bands did, Joakim said something which will always be a memory of the cruise for me.
When Joakim said “HELLO BOAT”, we were encouraged to say in reply ….
Fast forwarding slightly to the last night of the cruise. Sabaton provided another highlight on the pool deck. From Sweden, Sabaton is a rare band that has played more than one 70000 Tons cruise. On the previous cruise, Joakim explained that he crowd surfed and was then thrown into the pool. He then said that he wanted it to happen again this year but this time, could we be so kind as to throw him into the deep end of the pool. Ever obliging, he was carried through the crowd, past the packed spas (4 people capacity, really?) and then into the deep end of the pool as requested. Several people then jumped in after him. A fitting end to the set!
Prior to the cruise, I was unfamiliar with all of the bands. I have since learnt that some of the bands would indeed be hitting Australian shores during various stages in 2013. The demographic of the sailors was very interesting. With an age range of babies to elderly people & everyone in between, people from 55 countries descended on Miami. I was somewhat surprised to find that the country most represented was not the country where the cruise started. With a heavy representation on the running order as well, Germany grabbed gold metal status in front of the US and Canada. Somewhat surprisingly due to the distance and expense involved. my home country of Australia ranked number 7 in total number of sailors, I was rather surprised that Australia had more cruisers than the UK. If the figures were given in per capita terms, Australia would have ranked even higher. If distance and expense was not enough, Australian cruisers would be leaving an Australian summer in peak music festival time and there were no Australian bands on the bill. Hopefully that would change in 2014….
When I left Australia 2 weeks before the cruise, 30 bands had been announced. By that time, the cruise must have been very close to being sold out with 2000 tickets being available. The weekend before the cruise, it was confirmed online that the cruise was a sellout. If you are thinking of sailing in 2014, the earlier you can book, the better off you will be. If you book early enough, you can pay the cruise off in instalments and have a wider selection of staterooms. A good thing to do would be to bring a group of friends along – I am hoping to do that in 2014!
Before leaving Australia, there was still 10 bands to be announced and then the running order would be shared. I knew that each band had to play at least once and most (if not all) would play twice. I also knew that a lot of one day would be spent on a Caribbean island. Still, I was stunned when I saw the running order. While I was there to have a good time, I was also on the cruise to share 70000 Tons with the world via my Erk FM Metal Monday podcast. Dedicating the entire month of March to the cruise, there were a lot of bands to see and capture audio from. My plan was to see all of the bands on days 1 & 2. Day 3’s plan was filled with the island visit and time in the pool and spa. Day 4 would be spent during interviews and catching more bands.
Of course, you are free to decide what you do on the ship. Apart from all of the bands, there is a lot of things to do on board the ship that would be available on a regular cruise with regular activities available organised by the crew of the ship. If you had the time and the desire, you could also pamper yourself in the day spa with a massage or a beauty treatment, go shopping or eat. There was a lot of great food variety all day and night in a variety of styles.
The schedule was:
- Monday (day 1) – first band starts 5.30pm, last band finishes at 5am
- Tuesday (day 2) – first band starts 10am, last band finishes at 4.45am
- Wednesday (day 3) – Island trip. First band starts at 4.30pm, last band finishes at 4.45am
- Thursday (day 4) – first band starts 10am, last band finishes at 3am
- Friday (day 5) – leave the ship from 8am
It was that moment in my Miami hotel room on the morning of the cruise when I read the running order that I knew that I was not going to get a lot of sleep. As you can imagine, there are no restrictions or noise curfews in the middle of the ocean. The whole ship was dedicated to 70000 Tons so there was no need to worry about waking anybody up.
There were plenty of countries represented that would have been glad to see some sun in January. The start of the cruise in Miami was hot. There are only 2 seasons in Miami – hot and sticky and hot and wet. Sailing through the Caribbean, the days were hot. The pool girls were (to some) a welcome addition and some people really needed the sunscreen the girls were applying. However, the pool girls were not the only ladies on the cruise. Far from being groupies or just there because their boyfriend was, the women who were there on board were there because they wanted to be there to listen to the music. While the stages themselves were somewhat of a sausage fest, the female population of nearly 40% were partying just as hard if not harder than the guys.
There was a lot of showmanship from the bands involved and there were many stellar performances. Clothing on stage ranged from the traditional black t-shirt and jeans, KISS style face paint, costumes and in a few cases, no shirts at all. Indeed many of the bands can now count me as a fan – it will only be when I can listen back to their music from the cruise and on their CDs (I have a lot of CDs from the cruise!) that I will be able to fully appreciate what I heard on board the ship.
With 40 bands playing at least once, this review would be a mini novel if I reviewed each and every band. Competition for slots on the cruise would have been tight and each band deserved to be there. Prior to the cruise, many potential cruisers and other keyboard warriors were debating about the potential line up. With so many people onboard and seemingly so many sub-genres of metal out there, it would always be a difficult task to create a lineup that would please everyone. There were some bands that could be described as hard rock and a lot of melodic metal with a sprinkle of industrial, death metal & a bit of (what I call) screamo. There were some instruments that would add some spice to the usual guitars, bass, drums & occasional keyboards.
There was not a bad band on board, as you would expect at an international music festival. Some people may have went to see a particular band but the majority of sets that I was at were well attended. Mostly there were no clashes between sets on different stages and with few exceptions, timekeeping was pretty good. With 3 different stages, there was time for unhurried changeovers and good sound checks for each band. The sound engineer is a very important person – they can be the difference between a good sounding set & a bad sounding set. Each stage and each band have their own challenges. Each stage has their own acoustics. The pool deck is effectively an outdoor festival venue. The Chorus Line Theatre is (as the name suggests) a theatre type setting whereas the Spectrum Lounge is more like the common bar setting. I am looking forward to listening to my live recordings to re-live the experience. If you want to relax and sit down, you can. After all, it is a long festival!
An added complication was that the sister cruise to 70000 Tons, Barge To Hell, was run in December 2012. Barge did not sell out however 70000 Tons did sell out for the third year running – a great 100% success rate. Some of the bands who may have played at 70000 Tons instead played at Barge which may have affected the line up at both events. Some people went to Barge, some to 70000 Tons, some went to both. Indeed, I had only taken any notice to Barge To Hell after I booked 70000 Tons. It would be interesting to compare the line up on 2012, 2013 & 2014 70000 Tons compared to 2012’s Barge.
Many cruisers had been on all three cruises while there are some that have done all 70000 Tons cruises and Barge To Hell also. Having experienced life on the ship, I can see why. Great music, great people, great scenery – why wouldn’t you enjoy the cruise? There are people on board who would only go on a cruise if it was 70000 Tons while some people might be tempted to join a regular cruise.
The crew of The Majesty Of The Seas were excellent and many of them got into the spirit of the occasion. Some of the staff would come to the stages while off-duty and several of the crew I spoke to do enjoy metal. Some crew really look forward to working on 70000 Tons and adjust their schedule so they can be assured of working the cruise. Indeed for some of the crew, working the next cruise (departing the afternoon that 70000 Tons arrived back into Miami) would be very difficult. With the initial 70000 Tons was cruising into uncharted waters as far as the cruise line is concerned. I spoke with the current Captain of The Majesty Of The Seas who was very happy to be in charge of the world’s heaviest metal cruise. Far from being a difficult cruise to be on, 70000 Tons is one of the better cruises to work on according to staff.
A major part of 70000 Tons is the destination. Because there is a large number of returning cruisers, going back to the same island is not an option each year. Finding a destination that is within the range of the ship from Miami is a challenge. The cruise also has to fit within the window set by the cruise line so it leaves for the next cruise on time. The Caribbean Islands area is a natural choice destination zone with 2013’s destination being Turks & Caicos Islands. Located near Cuba, Haiti & the Dominican Republic, the small island is a contradiction. Measuring 7 miles long and 1 & 1/2 miles wide, it is an easy island to tour. It was a great change of pace from the previous 2 long days of music for me and my first trip in the Caribbean. Jamaica? No, I wanted to go! (oops, wrong island!)
I was ready to leave the boat soon after it berthed. Heading down to deck 1, a long concrete pier greeted me. There was no security. There was no queueing. After a long walk down the pier, I was in a new country. There was no stamp on the passport, though. In a way that was a good thing because there was no need to queue up to enter the island. If you wanted to, you could have stayed on board the ship. If you wanted to, you did not have to do a tour and could have explored the island at your own pace. Or indeed, you could have simply sat on the beach. The tours however can be a good way of seeing the island quickly. After all, it we were on the island for a good time, not a long time.
You would imagine that the island could be an outlying island of America. Venturing off the ship, cars could be seen driving on the left hand side of the road, British style. Indeed, the island is a British territory who self govern. However due to the closeness of continental America, all of the vehicles are imported from America. The American dollar is widely accepted and is the official currency of the island. The island depends on tourism and welcomed 70000 Tons with open, friendly arms. First, I went on an island tour. With many people on board the bus used to larger cities, the capital Cockburn Town would have been a culture shock. Luckily for us, we were in good company with our local tour guide, Austin. Locally born and bred, Austin was able to expertly tell us about his island from a local’s point of view pointing out the local points of interest as well as some personal highlights – including the tree where he had his first kiss and his childhood home.
Traffic on the island was light and there is not a single traffic light. Dogs and donkeys roam free as if they own the island. My next tour was a dune buggy experience. Familiar with driving on the left hand side of the road was an advantage for me and by luck, I was trusted to be the last buggy on the cruise. I was able to get a bit of speed up on the buggy on the road and in the sand dunes. With a long line of buggies that lacked turn signals, a long line of black shirted buggy riders snaked their way across the island – I suspect the locals are used to this. I could have used the time to learn some German with many Germans in the tour parties. More than once, I felt like yelling out “Ficken Handzeichen!” to the buggies in front but I was too busy having fun in the buggy – must do this again somewhere closer to home!
I was so glad that I visited the island. The Caribbean was not on my radar before but in conjunction with 70000 Tons, it is now firmly placed there. As nice as 4 full days and nights of metal would be, the island visit would be a highlight for most cruisers. I am not sure that I would go to the Caribbean only as a holiday destination apart from 70000 Tons. Islands like Turks & Caicos rely on the cruises to assist their economy. If the cruises stop, so does their economy. To me at least, the island is an ideal day stop over point but not one that would see me there for multiple days.
If you do decide to go onto future 70000 Tons cruises, give yourself a brief moment before the island visit to organise tours from the ship. That way, you don’t have to worry about having money in the local currency to pay for the tours on the island. This is especially true if the island’s currency is not the American dollar. Food is covered in the cruise package. Soda is an additional $16 for the length of the cruise. Any purchases made on board including alcohol, tours, merchandise & more are charged to your key card and you settle the account via credit card at the end of the cruise. Don’t rely on internet connection – there is satellite based wi-fi available at a cost of 65 cents a minute. I am (obviously) a massive user of the internet but even I was able to avoid using the internet at 65 cents a minute as did many others on board the ship. Because most of the cruise is spent at sea in international waters, US based mobile phones will have no service for most of the cruise.
After lunch, I joined many of my fellow cruisers on the beach. While we all knew that the ship was large after walking around it, it was only while it was berthed at the concrete pier that we could see how large the ship actually is. The Majesty Of The Seas had steamed further than ever in 70000 Tons history to reach the island at the same time that it had reached other islands in previous years. As a result, the speed of the ship was higher than in previous years which would explain added movement that some veteran 70000 Tons cruisers had experienced in 2013 compared to other years.
In 2014, 70000 Tons cruisers will have the option of voting for the destination location. presumably from Miami. While there could be other origin ports considered other than Miami, the city is a good fit. It prepares you well for the weather you can expect on the cruise. Next year, I would spend more than one night in Miami before the cruise to prepare & acclimatise myself for the weather. Miami also has good links to international destinations with many airlines flying into the city. This is very important due to the number of international visitors coming to and from the ship. It is also a good travel destination even without the cruise.
Back on board the ship after shore leave (now I know how the ship crew & Navy sailors feel now!), it was time to point the boat back in the direction of Miami. However, there was still a full day & a half of metal still to come. By this time, all of the bands had performed once and with one exception were able to play on a different stage. Many bands ensured that their 2 sets were different to each other. With some of the bands having extensive back catalogues, that would be easier for some than for others. According to several band members I spoke to, there is a different feeling playing indoors at the smaller Spectrum Lounge, the large The Chorus Line Lounge and the pool deck stage. There is also a different feeling watching the bands on each stage. While some people were quite happy staying at the one stage for the whole time (especially those in the spas), I often changed stages, especially on the first two days. Towards the end of the cruise, though, I was more than happy to stay at the pool deck stage. While most of the photos from 70000 Tons you will see are from the pool deck, there is more to the cruise apart from that stage.
If I was not covering the event as media, I would be tempted to simply remain on the pool deck and watch the bands who play there exclusively. I dare say there are people that did exactly that. The weather was nice and warm during the day throughout the cruise and cool during the night. There was the occasional spot of rain (mainly at night) with some wind.
If you weren’t in the spa, you may need a light jacket if you feel the cold. If you want to stand out from the crowd, wear a shirt that isn’t black or a bikini. Unlike many cruises, there is no expectation of a dress code with the exception of the dining areas where “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” applied. If you ran out of black shirts, there was plenty of black shirts to purchase onboard from the merchandise store. Because I was in the middle of an extended US holiday in conjunction with the cruise, I was more prepared clothing wise than other people traveling merely for the cruise.
There are lots of things to do apart from the music on the 3 stages. Normally, the on board casino is a hive of activity on the ship. On 70000 Tons, it is a quiet place for the casino staff. A busier place on the ship was the dining room and the buffet. There was so much to eat at any time of day or night in between bands. It was also a great place to chat in a quieter area to your fellow cruisers.
A very busy place on board was the merchandise store. Opening on Tuesday at the start of day 2, people spent up to 3 hours in line waiting to buy a range of band and event merchandise. From day 2, 70000 Tons 2013 Survivor clothing started to be seen amongst various band shirts, other 70000 Tons shirts from previous years, other festivals and more, all of them in a huge range of black. As many bands know already, merchandise sales are a great way to make money and there was a lot of money to be spent on the cruise. If you are in a band and you have merchandise & CDs, make sure you have plenty of stock! Merchandise was available for sale throughout days 2, 3 & 4.
There are also a range of other stores on the ship if duty free shopping is your thing or you need some camera supplies or even a new camera. There are many bars around the ship which saw a lot of alcohol purchased and consumed. On the very first sailing of 70000 Tons, the amount of alcohol consumed was greatly underestimated. At the port of call in Mexico, an emergency shipment of beer was waiting for the ship. On average, the amount of alcohol consumed on a regular 4 – 5 day cruise is consumed the first day of 70000 Tons. As a result, around 30% extra bar staff are hired for this cruise. A lot of extra security to supplement the ship’s own security are also added just in case. As several metal virgin security guards have told me in the past, they expect a lot of trouble at a metal gig. By the end of their day, they have (mostly) enjoyed the music and can not wait for their next metal assignment. I presume this is the same for 70000 Tons. The security on board 70000 Tons was professionally handled without being heavy handed. An added benefit of the cruise for the on board staff is that all passengers are screened by security upon boarding and are processed by US Customs & Border Protection at the end of the cruise.
Thursday was a very interesting day for me. Covering the event for Erk FM: Metal Monday, I had media access on board the cruise. There were media days on Tuesday and Thursday for members of the media to interview band members as well as press conferences on both days. I wanted to see all of the bands on days 1 & 2 which would assist me in interviews on day 4. I was 1 of 2 Australian media outlets on board with media from all over the world. Some of the media outlets had several people as a part of their team, I was flying solo.
My interviews were all conducted in a stateroom near the production office while other outlets were interviewing on other parts of the ship. While I concentrated on audio for the podcast, I did shoot some video and also took some photos. As is common at other gigs, there was a range of photographers, some people concentrating on video, others concentrating on the written form.
For the majority of my interviews, I can approach the musicians directly or online to arrange the interviews. With the amount of bands involved as well as the amount of media present, there was a media team present to co-ordinate the various media personnel and their various requests. I went from interview to interview when band members were available. In some cases, the entire band was available (for instance, Flotsam & Jetsam) which was a different experience compared to interviewing a front person of the band (Doro) or an individual band member (Turisas). All my interviews will feature on Erk FM: Metal Monday on Monday 18 March 2013.
Like many interviews at gigs or festivals, there are time limitations involved. While I did not get to meet all of the bands personally, I was happy with the interviews that I did do. As always, I enjoy interviewing musicians and with bands from many different countries on the same cruise, there are different things to focus on for each artist. Some of the bands were incorporating 70000 Tons as part of a North American tour while others were using it as a reunion (Metal Church) while Anacrusis were using it as a farewell. As an aside, I also saw Turisas perform in New York & Doro in San Francisco.
At the Thursday press conference, the Captain of The Majesty Of The Seas joined the media to give his positive impressions of the cruise. He was joined by the Skipper of 70000 Tons, Andy. Having seen cruise ships from his window in Vancouver, Andy wondered if it was possible to have a metal festival on board a cruise ship. Not waiting to have complications with sharing a ship with regular passengers, the thing to do was to charter a ship.
Many people have a bad perception of metal and initially, the cruise line was no different. The virgin voyage of 70000 Tons in 2011 would have been a massive gamble but it paid off with a fully booked ship. Further 70000 Tons cruises in 2012 & 2013 have also been sold out. The cruise line now fully embrace 70000 Tons and this relationship between the event crew, the cruise line and the ship’s crew helps to improve the cruise every year. A major addition to the logistics of the cruise this year was the use of a 10 ton crane in port at Miami to assist in moving the pieces of the pool deck stage on and off the ship. The relationship has got so good that during the press conference, Andy kept on saying “the cruise line” in front of the assembled media. At least once, he checked himself and remembered that he is now allowed to mention the cruise line by name, Royal Caribbean International in front of the media.
Each year, 70000 Tons Of Metal continues to improve. The expectations of the punters continue to increase as there is a lot of competition between land-based metal festivals and tours. There has also been more competition on the ship-based metal cruise market with other people using the 70000 Tons concept apart from the sister cruise Barge To Hell. Rather than being concerned about the other metal cruises, Andy knows that he has the concept & it is well executed. He is also confident about the loyalty that returning cruisers show each and every year. After all, 70000 Tons has sold out for 3 years in a row. I have no doubt that the 2014 voyage will also sell out regardless of the bands on the bill or the location of the island stop over. The 70000 Tons band is now an established one.
In addition, a sister cruise (Barge To Hell) was run in late 2012. However with the benefit of hindsight, even Andy realised and admitted that Barge 2012 was too close to 2013’s 70000 Tons in terms of time and it was not a good time for American cruisers especially. There will not be a Barge in 2013 but it may return in 2014. It will be, however, full steam ahead for 70000 Tons with 2014 cruisers being able to help select the island destination. There may also be some special recognition for people who have been on other 70000 Tons cruises, especially those who have been on every cruise.
Preparations for 70000 Tons in 2014 have already started. 70000 Tons is a logistical challenge but the ship’s crew and the event crew worked very well together. There are a lot of things to co-ordinate for the cruise and a lot of planning and preparation is done in advance. With 40 bands and a total ship population of around 3500 people, there is a lot to plan for. Space is limited on board and there is a tight schedule while the ship is in port in Miami at either end of the cruise. Bands were reminded that they were on a cruise ship so there is no dressing rooms (apart from their staterooms) as some of the bands may be used to.
With 40 bands on board, you can imagine the amount of gear involved even with a supplied backline. There was a small army of workers who ensured that things ran smoothly on each stage. Obviously this the largest music event that I have been to as I am not a festival type of person. While there can be a lot of places to store things at a land-based festival, there are even weight restrictions on 70000 Tons of Metal and storage space is at a premium.
All good things must come to an end & 70000 Tons was no exception. Even though the cruise officially ended on Friday morning around breakfast time, the music itself stopped in the early hours of Friday morning. Since my time in the spa on Wednesday, there were rumours that Dragon Force guitarist Herman Li was going to play his guitar in the spa during the band’s pool deck set on Thursday night. During Wednesday night, newcomers to the spa were sometimes greeted with the greeting “Hey, aren’t you that guy from Dragon Force?”
In between interviews on Thursday afternoon, I bumped into Herman and he confirmed that those rumours were indeed true. Armed with the good oil from the man himself, I hovered around the spa for Dragon Force’s set. Other photographers and media had also heard the rumours & the good oil and were also waiting. During the set, the spa that I spent most of Wednesday night had around 15 people sitting in the spa. So how could Herman and his guitar fit in there?
At the end of the set, Herman left the stage and headed to the spa, followed by a swarm of people. I managed to get a prime spot in front of the spa with my video recorder in one hand & my digital camera in the other. With punters, media and photographers pushing for position, my couple of photos were very shaky but the photo was chaotic. The people in the spa had heard the rumours also and made room for Herman, still playing his guitar. Initially sitting on the edge of the spa and his feet in the water, he soon plopped himself down in the centre of the spa. Covering the lower half of his body and the guitar in the spa water, he was still playing and the crowd were loving it. Many had heard the rumours but could not believe that he had done it. I could imagine “For Sale: One guitar. Slightly used on 70000 Tons of Metal. Slightly waterlogged. Along with Sabaton’s end of set dunking for their vocalist, Herman’s trip to the spa was another highlight of the cruise.
After Sabaton took the pool deck for the final time, there was a time for The Skipper to address the crowd before the pool deck stage closed for the final time. After this, the same army of workers started the long job to dismantle the large stage. They were aiming to have most of the stage dismantled by the time the ship berthed in Miami around breakfast time on Friday. The stage needed to be removed and the pool needed to be refilled before the next cruise on Friday afternoon. All of the gear needed to be removed and all of the passengers needed to leave the ship from around 8am.
I was booked on a same day international flight to Mexico City just after lunch. It is advisable not to book a flight any earlier than lunch time because it does take some time to disembark nearly 3000 people from a cruise ship. Another pro-tip for future cruises – if you do want to leave the ship earlier than most, be prepared to carry your own bag. Instead of having some guy carry my bags at 10.30am near the end of the disembarkation queue, I was able to leave the ship around 8.30am by carrying my own bags.
Clearing US Customs & Border Security was similar to entering the US at an airport. I was disappointed not to get a passport stamp from Turks & Caicos Islands or to re-enter the US. It was easy to get a taxi from the airport from the cruise terminal at a fixed fare of $24. The port of Miami is very familiar with the loading and unloading of passengers as it is a large cruise port. There is a wide range of accommodation in Miami if you decide to stay in Miami either side of the cruise – something I think I will do differently in 2014.
So what were my take home impressions of 70000 Tons? I really enjoyed the cruise and the music. There were so many highlights, some of them I have touched on here. Others fit in the category of “What happens on the boat stays on the boat”. It was an awesome event to be a part of. I’m not usually a festival sort of guy (Soundwave? Really?) however for 70000 Tons, I’ll make an exception. It was great to see so many bands in the one place from all other the world. Australia is a place where many bands do not get to so it was great to see all of the bands – all of them were international to me. The atmosphere was awesome and there was a lot of people there just for the one purpose – to watch and listen to great metal. The tourism part of the cruise was great as well. It was my first multi day cruise and my first time to the Caribbean.
2014? Will I be back? I certainly plan to return for my second 70000 Tons voyage and with what I learnt this year, I am already thinking about next year’s cruise and the Erk FM: Metal Monday coverage. There are things that I have learnt and now that I am familiar with how the cruise runs, I will be better for the experience. I am looking forward to helping to improve Australia’s ranking on the 70000 Tons sailor scoreboard & it would be so good if there were bands from my part of the world on board next year.
2014? Should you be there? If you are reading this article – of course you should be there! Start saving your money!
70000 Tons Of Metal Episodes:
- Erk FM: Metal Monday episode 75 (Monday 04 March 2013)
- Erk FM: Metal Monday episode 76 (Monday 11 March 2013)
- Erk FM: Metal Monday episode 77 (Monday 18 March 2013)
- Erk FM: Metal Monday episode 78 (Monday 25 March 2013)
Band list in alphabetical order:
- 3 Inches Of Blood (Canada)
- Annal Nathrakh (UK)
- Anacrusis (USA)
- Angra (Brazil)
- Arkona (Russia)
- Cryptopsy (Canada)
- Delain (The Netherlands)
- Die Apolkalyptischen Reiter (Germany)
- Doro (Germany)
- Dragon Force (UK)
- Ektomorf (Germany)
- Ensiferum (Finland)
- ETECC (Germany)
- Evergrey (Sweden)
- Fatal Smile (Sweden)
- Flotsam & Jetsam (USA)
- Gotthard (Switzerland)
- Heidevolk (The Netherlands)
- Helloween (Germany)
- Helstar (USA)
- Holy Grail (USA)
- Immolation (USA)
- In Flames (Sweden)
- Inquisition (Colombia/US)
- Kreator (Germany)
- Lacuna Coil (Italy)
- Lizzy Borden (USA)
- Metal Church (USA)
- Nightmare (France)
- Nile (USA)
- Onslaught (UK)
- Rage (Germany)
- Sabaton (Sweden)
- Sinister (The Netherlands)
- Steel Engraved (Germany)
- Subway To Sally (Germany)
- Threat Signal (Canada)
- Tiamat (Sweden)
- Turisas (Finland)
- Tyr (Faroe Islands)
- Unexpect (Canada)
People attending 70000 Tons of Metal were from 55 different countries around the world. The countries were:
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Faroe Islands
- Puerto Rico
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- The Netherlands
- Trinidad And Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom