Shannon and I just returned from our annual cruise on Cayamo, a singer-songwriter cruise that sails on NCL out of Miami, and we wanted to share our experience with you!
Cayamo, now in it's 6th year, is a chartered cruise that features solo artists and bands that fall under the "singer-songwriter" category, with some that could be classified as country, others as blues, some as rock; but we classify all of it as GREAT!
The artists this year included Lyle Lovett, Brandi Carlile, Shawn Mullins, Keb' Mo, Buddy Miller, Richard Thompson, Dawes, Joan Osborne, Edwin McCain and many more, too many to mention all of them, so here's the rest of the list.
For the sake of this article, we are going to leave Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars out of the conversation for now; we'll get to them later. As for the rest of the artists, Shannon's favorites this year included Dawes and Delta Rae, and of course Shawn Mullins; my favorite (it's no surprise) was Edwin McCain, along with Shawn Mullins and Emerson Hart (in no particular order, of course!).
There is no way for me to accurately describe what Cayamo is in just a few paragraphs, mainly because Cayamo is many different things. The easiest way to describe Cayamo is "a music festival at sea"; but even that is just the beginning. At music festivals, most performers are there for one show, maybe two. On this cruise, most of the artists are there for the whole week, allowing for some interesting and awesome collaborations!
Brandi Carlile got on stage with Shawn Mullins; Drew Copeland (of Sister Hazel fame) got on stage with Emerson Hart (of Tonic fame); Shawn Colvin, the Watkins, Keb Mo and many others performed with Lyle Lovett; Edwin McCain, Joe Purdy, Drew Copeland, Ken Block and Emerson Hart were all on stage together (and there was as much laughter as there was music, those people are funny!), and I think that Callaghan sang with everyone! And I don't think that I can even remember who was on stage for the Levon Helm Tribute!
There are usually 3 or 4 shows going on at once, as there are several music venues on the boat: the Stardust Theatre; the pool deck (they covered the main pool and set up a stage on it!); the Atrium; the Spinnaker Lounge; and virtually any other nook and/or cranny that can fit two people with a guitar! Most shows lasted an hour, and the venues staggered their shows by about one half an hour, so you could catch more than one artist in an hour!
The Sixthman team (the company who puts on the cruise) seemed to be relaxed (it's like they turned on a "You-will-have-a-good-time" switch when we left Miami) as the cruise progressed, as they have had 6 years to perfect the experience for us.
The cruise visited Puerto Rico (DO have the Mofongo at the Punta de Vista Restaurant in Old San Juan), Antigua (DO take a taxi to a beach), and Tortola (DO rent a car and visit a few beaches, they are all beautiful, and you will enjoy the freedom that the rental car affords), and spent the other 4 days 'at sea'.
While we were in Puerto Rico, we were sitting on this bluff, overlooking the ocean. We were there for about an hour when I heard someone talking behind us. I turned around and saw this:
Shannon and I have been on Cayamo each year that it has sailed, and it just gets better and better. We met a family from Colorado on the first cruise, and it is great to hang out with them year after year; we even met people on the cruise that are from Lafayette, and have become friends with them as well!
One of my favorite songs is from Edwin McCain, it's called "The Ghost of Jackson Square", and he performed it with Emerson Hart.
Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars played in the Atrium on the day we got on the ship, but Shannon and I missed that performance (because, as we were driving to the boat, she said "I think we need to go right" and I said "No, I think we need to go left". We should have gone right). All that evening I was kicking myself for not listening to Shannon in the first place; everyone on the ship that we ran into was talking about Roddie Romero and their great performance!!
Roddie and the band played again a few times that week, and we were certain to catch the rest of their shows. When they played, people (who were normally well-mannered) lost their minds, jumping and flailing about, moving to the grooves that the band was putting out - Eric lovingly compared them to animals that needed worming. It was great to watch the transformation, which usually came from the people in the back of the crowd. Those up front had heard the band before, and had done some research on how to dance to Cajun music (or, like about a dozen of us, were from Acadiana and knew the moves); the ones in the back had just been introduced to Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars' music, and they were the ones that seemed to lose their collective minds! They rushed the stage and just started jumping around like they had just, right at that very moment, gotten off of their 'medication'. It was incredible!
Okay, I am rambling now, but it was Roddie's performance (and the band, of course) that really made this cruise a party, and I'll have to say that it kind of 'moved' me. While they were playing, I stood up and looked around the pool deck; the whole deck was packed with people, as were both 'balconies' on the next deck, all grooving to OUR music. People from all 50 states, from 40+ countries, ranging in age from 18 - 80. It really was a beautiful sight.
To put a cherry on top of that musical dream, Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars represented Louisiana VERY well.... it is obvious in their performance that they truly have a passion for the Cajun music, culture, and overall way of life, as they tried to spread the "joie de vivre" that we were lucky enough to have had handed down to us from our ancestors. And, on that boat, it spread like the plague!! "Bravo" to Roddie, Eric, Chris, Chad and Jermaine; thank you for representing Acadiana so well!