70,000 Tons of Metal Review
Written by Raevyn Monday, 07 February 2011 21:42
70,000 Tons of Metal – Review and Our Story There has already been so much said and posted since this cruise about how amazing and epic it was. It doesn't need to be repeated again...OK, I'm lying. I don't think it could be said enough how amazing and epic this journey was. However, rather than rave about how pretty much every band brought something to the table for someone, or how it was the most unbelievable event I've ever attended, I want to put some life into it for those of you who didn't get to join us. Everyone who was there already knows that no one had a better experience than the one they had, so this is our Metal Tome story.
The Start of the Journey
We traveled from California on a red-eye flight to arrive in the Port of Miami at around 10:00 in the morning. On the plane we met a few folks who knew by the sight of our Iron Maiden shirts that we were headed to the same destination. We gave them the horns and headed down to claim our bags. The further we waded through the airport and down toward where the cruise line bus was to take us on the first leg of our journey, the more evidence we saw that the Metal had come to Miami.
The bus came to pick us up along with about 6 other metal heads. Normally, you get on a bus and people are spread apart, each in their own world and carefully trying to avoid the eyes of the other passengers. Not our bus. Everyone sat right in the middle and began chatting in excitement about the cruise, their travels, and discussing whether or not we could hook our MP3 player up to the bus stereo and show Miami what real music was. Since we had to go through traffic to get to the port, (unfortunately a memorial service for two policeman killed in the line of duty was being held), we settled in and someone turned their music up loud enough for everyone else to enjoy.
We arrived at the port and were greeted by a sea of black shirts, and long hair. We formed up in a line to head through all of the security scanners. There was not the usual stiff silence of the security terminal. The crowd was buzzing and everyone who wasn't exhausted from traveling all night was chatting with the folks next to them.
It was quite a wait, and after a while one of the security guards shouted over our heads, "It might help speed up the process if you remove as much metal as you can before you get to the scanners!" Several people around us laughed. "There is no WAY to take the metal out of us," someone said. The crowd cheered. Still, it was comical to see the security guards sigh and then wave through the heavily pierced bodies after every belt and buckle had been removed. The bands had to go through the same security lines, no special treatment.
After dropping our luggage off in the cabin and seeing that the first show wasn't until 7:00pm, I went to get some food and check out the ship. Looking for the buffet I ran into fellow Maiden shirt wearer, he introduced himself and took me to where the food was. I'll just say it right here - EVERYONE on the cruise that I met was fucking cool. Even if we didn't necessarily agree with some of their decisions (I saw a man's scrotum etched with SCOOTER9), we still could clap them on the back and call them a brother or sister of metal. The atmosphere of friendliness and camaraderie was unmatched. I spoke with a few crew members during the course of the cruise and they told me that they had never seen so much interaction between passengers before. The crew ended up having an amazing time, and I even snagged some pictures of a few of them completely rocking out at the shows. Several of them told me that they would LOVE to be crew on the next 70,000 Tons event.
At 4:00 pm there was a mandatory "Muster Drill", or fire drill, for us non-seafaring folk. Everyone had to assemble in designated areas. By this time, we had picked up some drinks from the bar and during the drill carried them out onto the deck with us. Several others had the same idea. If we were gonna stand around outside while crews checked the ship, we were going to be happy doing it. Someone from the cruise line shouted, "No drinking during the Muster Drill!" To which we all raised our beers and respective glasses and cheered. Sure, maybe we were a lil' unruly, but it was funny at the time.
I don't know if everyone else feels like I do, but we made a special bond with the folks that were in our Muster group, and every time we saw them again on the ship – we gave 'em horns and a hearty cheer for MUSTER 4!!
We met a couple from Brazil there who we ended up running into at almost every show, and they introduced us to all of their friends from Brazil as well.
Arsis and Exodus opened on Day 1 at 7:00, but for some reason I have noearthly recollection where I was. Pretty sure I was drinking something, somewhere. We ended up on the pool deck at 8:00 PM for Nevermore's first show. Everyone I talked to had a different favorite venue. For me, it was Poolside. I thought that the open air was going to give way to poor sound quality, but it just wasn't that way. For some reason, the shows on the pool deck seemed to radiate energy for every band. The crowd in the pit was always moving and screaming, but you could also relax on the upper deck (Not that we EVER relaxed during this trip..) with a beverage in hand and still hear and see the whole show.
Nevermore was great, and so we headed to Gamma Ray in the Chorus Line theater. What an amazing, shredding, totally pumped up show. Kai and company still rocking it after all these years.Shows played all night long until 4:00am, and we were fast discovering that we were going to need to pace ourselves if we were going to last for the entire cruise. We had slipped to our cabin to grab sweatshirts and saw that the Day 2 schedule gave no room for respite. Bands started playing again at 10:00am. We spent all of Day 2 wandering the ship, running into friends and band members, seeing every show that we could and trying not to drink so much that we couldn't enjoy the music.
I scored a drum stick at Agent Steel's show in the Spectrum only to lose it at Saxon's show on the pool deck. Uli Jon Roth was there with 'em too.
All of those guys were awesome to hang out with. Gracious, funny, and just plain cool.
The hard part was that there were shows simultaneously sometimes and there was almost NO way of finding out what time it was since cell phones didn't really work well at sea. In the end, we just let the waves take us around the ship and enjoyed the people we met on the way.
I've got to thank ALL of the bands that made this event as amazing as it was. Not only did every band put on amazing performances, but off stage they partied harder than most of us, gave photo opportunities, autographs, and talked with pretty much anyone who would walk up to them. From what I observed, most of the fans were polite and didn't hound them, and the general attitude of the ship was that of "We're all just people hanging out, listening to great music, and sharing something we love". The bands were no exception. They were just as excited about seeing each other and meeting up with old band-mates as we were.
Testament gave shout outs to old friends on board during their show, Uli Jon Roth and Saxon, asking everyone to be sure and check them out. Old crews stuck together – Jon Schaffer went on stage at the last Blind Guardian show a few times to show his support. Unfortunately there were no Demons & Wizards encore performances, but he did sing Barbara Ann with Blind Guardian. Kai Hansen from Gamma Ray also joined them onstage for a few songs, Valhalla being one of them. The crowd was overjoyed. Check out our video section for these special clips!
Day 3 of the cruise brought us to land and Cozumel. Unfortunately it was a bit overcast and I've got to say I'm a little bummed that I couldn't drag my ass out of bed earlier like a lot of folks did, because I did end up missing out on exploring the inner parts of the island. Be that as it may, we got off the ship around noon and it was hilarious to watch as waves of metal crashed against the unsuspecting tourist trap of a port. There were two other ships that docked after us, and I think their passengers were just as shocked at the sea of black insanity that greeted them.
We took up most of the coastal watering holes, and of course one of our kin managed to win us some free booze in a beer drinking contest. That man from Alabama sure didn't suspect this lovely lady to drink beer faster than he could!
We ended up booking passage on a snorkeling boat along with Burt Bell and Byron Stroud of Fear Factory , a paint salesman, and three soft spoken Japanese girls from another cruise ship. It was great to share beers and stories, but it was even more amazing to explore the waters next to the island. We stopped at three different places along the coast and got to swim around for about an hour and a half. The waves got choppy and we ended up having dock somewhere else and share a cab with the band back to our ship. We all were pretty exhausted and had to rush to make it in time to board. There was a huge line of folks doing the same thing, so it was all good.
We ended up in line behind André Olbrich from Blind Guardian. It turns out he loves playing MMO's and was wearing a sweet World of Warcraft murloc shirt. I had to get a pic since I was addicted to that game for years. ANDRE!! We should talk more :) Nerds ftw!
The Final Day
Like everyone on board, we didn't want this journey to end. We had met so many great people, seen amazing shows, and shared an experience that likely will go down in history for most of us. It wasn't until that final night we discovered the wonders of late night Karaoke. We realized that we had been missing some of the BEST times on the ship. I don't know how, but almost every band had enough energy to make it down there and pelt out anything they could, from Lady Gaga to Frank Sinatra. It was in the Boleros Karaoke Lounge (plenty of drinking going on) that most folks remained until the wee hours of the morning. We didn't head back to our room until around 5:00 AM, and the party was still going. Since we had to be off the boat by 7:30 AM, we thought we should try to squeeze in an hour of sleep.
The alarm blasted through the darkness and I realized that I really should have packed everything BEFORE I lay down to snooze. Frantically we threw our entire room into our suitcases as quickly as we could. Somehow we managed to get out of there in time. We were groggily walking off the ship as Matt Camacho from Forbidden, who was just partying with us the night before smiled at us. "Hey guys, wasn't I just with you?" He laughed. We waved at him as he just passed quickly by to catch his flight. Apparently he is far more well accustomed to late night revelry than we are.
Stomach turning, we boarded the bus in a much more subdued manner than when arriving in Miami.
Clasping our luggage and wearing the sunglasses we overpaid for in Cozumel, (neither of us quite grasped the concept of haggling), we were greeted by an overly friendly bus driver. He had a voice like a hammer. Looking around the bus, I could tell that everyone else felt the same way – Each of us were devising in our minds how we could slaughter that man as savagely as possible.
Completely unaware that every one of his passengers was suffering from massive hangover/metal overload, he decided to cheerily announce the name and history of every building we passed from the Port of Miami back to the airport. Near the end of the journey, he reminded us that the bus drivers for Royal Caribbean work for tips. I felt bad for the guy, because I really don't think he realized that between the cruise, Cozumel, and the drinking, everyone at that bus was tapped. Either way, it was heavenly to get away from his piercing narrative and back into the silence of society.
If I could do it all over again...
Looking back, I didn't do anything that I wish I hadn't done. Well, almost.
On the next voyage, I actually plan to drink less so that I can enjoy more. I will completely overdose on vitamins before the cruise and make sure that I get plenty of sleep in the days leading up to it. I'll make sure that I bring cough drops or some sort of soothing remedy for my throat because I thought I could scream for 4 days straight, and I realized I'm old or untrained or both. It's hard to say whether I want to see more shows or less shows. I spent a lot of time at shows, while other folks spent time around the ship just hanging out, swimming, playing in the casino, or doing a myriad of other activities. It's hard to say whether I missed out or they did. Maybe I could get some feedback from others on that one.
I'm going to make sure that I wear a watch, or have some other kind of timepiece on me. Another thing that I wish that I would have done more of is document with video and photos. It's a regret, but it's also something that I forgive myself for. In the end, the only reason I wasn't filming or snapping shots was because I was so busy taking in what has now become one of the most incredible things I've been a part of.
Lastly, I'm going to get to know the community before hand. A lot of the folks I met on board and in the aftermath who had already met on the forums – which I kick myself for not knowing about. What kind of web developer am I, not knowing about forums? And the pre-party?? I missed that too! What the heck man? So yeah, definitely not going to make that mistake again.
Feedback for the Event Planners
It's hard not to fall over yourself with praise over this incredible event. While you're there, you can't believe it's happening, and when it's over you're unbelievably sad. Since it's been a few weeks, I feel like I can look back on the event with a little less bias. I know that a LOT of people are going to disagree with me on what I say below, or have something different to say – but keep in mind this is just my personal view, and is mostly based on what I missed out on when talking to my shipmates.
More Days, Or Fewer Bands
Did I just say that? I didn't mean it. Well, I sort of did. It would have been nice if the cruise had an extra day or two so that we didn't need to go to bed at 5:00 AM and wake up at 10:00 AM to catch more shows. The scheduling was done pretty well so that the bigger bands got the proper attention, but it would have been nice if we had some more time to enjoy each other as well as the performances. Having bands play at the same time was always rough, but I have to commend the scheduling folks because they did do it so that you could see any band you wanted at LEAST once without too much conflict.
Along the same lines as above, I think the majority of folks didn't get to do much at port. We just weren't there for long enough, and we had to be up too early in the morning to get to do any island exploring. It would have been nice if we were in port for 2 days somewhere, and just had shows in the evenings on those days. It would have been cool to metal up some tourist city for a little while.
This isn't really the event planners fault, but it was actually really hard to keep track of time on the ship. Maybe it was just me, but I would walk into the middle of a show that I thought was just starting. I know that some shows started late, and it threw other shows off, but it seemed like time was just wonky on board that ship in general. Some sort of display system (maybe some screens around the boat) showing who was playing where at that moment would have been cool. The posted schedules were helpful, but when you have no idea what time it is, you can only say "Well, Iced Earth just played, so I'm pretty sure that Death Angel is playing now...". Having the schedules the day before was helpful, I will say that.
Overall, my feedback is all based on time. Everything felt really rushed. Each time we took a moment to speak to the folks next to us at the bar, or at a show, or on Cozumel, we met amazing people that we are still keeping in touch with. I could list names upon names, but we are STILL meeting more people during the massive reminiscing happening online. "OH yeah!! I remember you, you were the guy/chick who...". It's pretty great reliving the cruise all over again with everyone.
Aside from those few things, I can't really say that I could make any improvements. It was so much fun, and you really did get to chill with the bands. It was pretty sweet to sit down at lunch and have my friends from Amon Amarth at the table next to me eating Jell-o.
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