Triple Tropical Rockin Trifecta

When the prospect of doing three music cruises in a five week period was presented to me, I knew I had to find a way to make this epic adventure happen. I was already booked and on the media team for the 2024 Monsters of Rock Cruise (MORC ) with my friends Ben and Travis. Then I was asked if I could also help on the media team for both the 2024 Cruise to the Edge (CTTE) and the 2024 On The Blue Cruise (OTBC). I jumped at the chance for the two additional cruises.

Now I had to figure out how to make it work with time off at my day job as I am currently fifteen months into the biggest project in my professional career. It is a huge undertaking migrating all of my work’s servers and processes into the corporate data center. We started the planning phase of this back in November 2022 and as I am trying to schedule time off, some of the project milestone dates were square in the middle of the first two cruises. Thankfully, delays of various aspects kept pushing back the completion date and as I write this story, the main milestone date I was worried about preventing me from going has yet to occur.

Before I begin to describe the awesomeness that these adventures were, I want to express thanks and gratitude to the behind the scenes staff who make the events happen. The people the fans do not see (much of at least). The stage production staff, the sound and lighting team, the security group, fellow photographers, and the Monsters staff as a whole. There is tireless dedicated work before, during and after events like this and there is no way it can be successful without the people who make it happen. Being part of the photo experience team(s), I see a tiny bit of the inner workings of the larger picture and I know the effort that goes into making these events run smoothly is substantial.

MoRC Media team 2024 – the talent level of those around me in the pic is off the charts

What made this year considerably harder for the Monster staff to coordinate was that two of the cruises were on back to back days AND on different cruise lines. We stepped foot off of a Royal Caribbean ship on Thursday, March 7th, only to board a Norwegian ship on Friday, March 8th. I express wholehearted appreciation for our media team coordinator (affectionately known as The Spicy Ginger) for all of the effort on her part coordinating everything she does for us.

While it is impossible for me to convey all of the fun I experienced on these cruises, I will hit the highlights and differences between the cruises. Including sail away parties for MORC and CTTE and five days onboard each of the cruises there is no way I can fit seventeen days worth of detail and still keep this to a reasonable reading length.

2024 Monsters of Rock Cruise – March 2-7 – Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas

On Thursday, March 1st Travis and I made the drive to Miami. Mostly to alleviate any potential travel related issues driving that far on the day of embarkation, but also to attend the official sail away concert held at Magic City Casino in Miami. At the sail away show, I had the chance to introduce Travis to our beloved Spicy Ginger as well as many of my friends who I have met in years past onboard. I could see the excitement in Travis’ eyes as the fervor of tomorrow’s sailing was building among the evening’s attendees. Just as in prior years, where I was bringing along a music cruise newbie, I knew Travis had no idea just how much awesomeness was in store over the next five days and nights onboard. After the fact, you can literally feel his excitement in the write up that he did for getting his MORC cherry popped – see here. The MORC sail away party was the first of twelve straight days of concerts for me, a personal record! It was also this evening where I realized that this year’s cruise was more about seeing friends than it was about the bands. Sure, it was a fantastic lineup onboard, but I recall making a comment to Travis how this year “…I will probably know half of the people on the ship…”

360 sail away – Miami in the distance

The day of embarkation arrives and with our media team credentials Travis and I able to breeze by the line to get checked in with cruise line. The line was so long it looked like the back and forth line of a popular amusement park ride.  We get feet onboard and our luggage and gear stowed, then we each grab a camera and head out to find our cabin mate Ben. I met Ben in a photo experience line onboard the 2018 MORC and that meeting alone shows how closely knit the MORC family is, this is at least the third time I have bunked up with Ben. I found out later, being part of the media team, I did not even have to wait in that line back in 2018, but with as great of a friend Ben is, I am so glad we began chatting that day! After finding Ben and making introductions with Travis, we wander around the ship some to help Travis familiarize himself with the quickest ways between the various venues where bands will be playing. With such a stacked lineup and schedule, there are times when multiple bands are playing at the same time so there are decisions that will have to be made!

Travis and I attended the media team meeting and then the music got underway. The rest of the first day was filled with happily greeting friends and already making new ones. Some of the MORC family I only get to see once a year onboard the ship, however, there are several MORCers that I stay in year round contact with. As in years past, the Monsters team hid one hundred little rubber ducks per day (five hundred in total) that include an entry to win a cabin on next year’s cruise so that was a constant hunt literally every minute I was not behind the lens. My head was on a constant swivel between people and planters and various signage and furniture all around the ship, always on the lookout. Each morning Travis, Ben and I would congregate for breakfast, chat about what we each encountered the previous evening if we were not all together and look at the upcoming schedule for the day ahead. The second day onboard also began the band photo experiences and both Travis and I were scheduled as photographers in the second session of the day. After the fact, once the cruise photo experience photo sets were posted online, I know I was underwhelmed with the outcome of my set. I struggled with the lighting in that room and viewing the other sets looking for my photo with the various bands, I was not alone in my struggles. Thankfully, the media team as a whole did not suffer much wrath of cruiser comments, as there are always unhappy people who will bitch about anything. I feel the set I did was not my best effort, and I vowed to do better on the next two cruises.

Ben & Travis

Musically there were so many highlights for me onboard. Kudos again to the Monsters team in having such a kick ass lineup onboard. Below this summary, I have a link to all of the bands that I saw, but I think the overall musical highlight for me was seeing KK’s Priest twice. I had never head a cruise ship theater put out the level of volume of their first show. It was evident of an increase in volume from prior bands that had played in the theater and the band’s performance freaking kicked ass! That was the talk of the ship after this first show. Their second show was in a smaller venue, and while the music was not at that same elevated volume, this second venue had the only photo pit of all of the venues onboard so I wanted to make sure I attended this show. Being less than two feet away from the band and snapping away with my camera, as the Chief Metal Officer (CMO), I was completely in my element and did not want the moment (or the cruise) to end. There were too many other musical moments to mention as each day had its own musical highlight, as detailed in my daily show list. I list out my favorite performance of that day as the ‘headliner’ and then all others are listed in chronological order on the day that I saw them.


I tried to take in as many non-concert events as I could, as I have found the Rock Star Paint Classes fascinating to pop in and out at varying times to see the progression of the template based artwork created. The fact that each person puts their own spin on the final product makes it that much more interesting for me. Also onboard each cruise is a charity auction, where the artists sign various items to be put up for sale, with all of the proceeds on this cruise being donated to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund. It is for a great cause and ever since I was introduced to the awesome person who runs the show, Rob Rutz, I have made every effort to help and get photos of the auction events for Rob to use to promote future auctions. By the time the duck cabin contest entry period concluded, my friends and I had found six ducks. That translates to a very slim one point two percent chance of winning, but it is all about the fun we had while searching. Our two destination stops were in Cozumel, Mexico and Nassau, Bahamas and I took the opportunity to venture off the ship and get some photos of the area in both stops. Having been to both ports before, and events concurrently happening onboard I was not off the ship for very long.

Travis & The Spicy Ginger

As I mentioned previously, this cruise was more about spending time with my friends that I have made over the MORC years. There are too many people to list, and I tried my best to introduce Travis to everyone I knew as we encountered them. As expected, Travis made many new friends onboard as well. It was great to see Allyson (Ms. Rocker) who brought along her new beau who turned out to be the coolest dude imaginable (welcome to the family Patrick!) In years past, Ms. Rocker and I have been inseparable once onboard, and I was glad to be able to spend as much time with her this year as we did. My late night pizza compadres, Arthur and his wife, Andrea, were onboard again and a couple of years ago we formed a friendship after I asked to take a photo of his “Heavy Metal Beer Club” shirt while getting late night pizza and we have stayed in touch since then. It was great to see the Man with the ‘Will to Rock’, who lives far enough away I only get to see on the ship each year. It was also great to see Diana and Brian, who are just the freaking cutest couple and with Will are their own inseparable trio. I did not get to spend near enough time with the CGCM crew, with the exception of Ben, which I plan to rectify for next MORC.  It would not be a party without my friend Sparky. Ever since meeting Sparky (Will) at the Monsters on the Mountain event in 2022, he has been a constant source of laughter and friendship. It was great to see Sparky, Travis, and Ben become such fast friends and just the overall feeling that we are all one big family is heartwarming.

Ms. Rocker, Travis & Patrick

It was also great meeting new friends, one who stands out is Christina and her gang of “Hype Girls” from New York. They were another group whose first ever music cruise it was and I love the see the sparkle in the eyes of people who are experiencing this awesomeness as we chatted about how much fun they were having onboard. And after the fact, how much the Hype Girls want to go again next year. A shout out to my new Chicago area friends who, being friends with Ben, Ben introduced us to his friends and it turned out that Travis grew up in the same Chicago suburb neighborhood and those friendship bonds were instantly formed and my circle of friends onboard grew that much more. It is impossible not to make new friends onboard. We are all there for the same reason and I am living proof that a simple “…hey, that is a cool shirt!” comment can spark a friendship.

The Hype Girls!

While I knew I had two more cruises still to go, this year’s MORC seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. Six days of great music and friends was over in a flash and before I knew it farewell hugs were being had, contact information was shared, the calendar turned to disembarkation day and Travis dropping me off at the hotel to await Brian’s arrival to get the CTTE party started.

2024 MORC daily photo highlights:
MORC day 1
MORC day 2
MORC day 3
MORC day 4
MORC day 5

Bands I saw on 2024 MORC (and the sail away party):
See lines 359-364

2024 Cruise to the Edge – March 8-13 – Norwegian Pearl

Brian arrived at the hotel just as I was finishing laundry from my MORC adventure. This was my first time ever in life doing laundry at a hotel and I was not alone as I was joined in the laundry room by several of the cruise crew who also had laundry to do as there were dozens of us (if not triple digits) who were doing the back-to-back cruises. After that chore was completed, I spent a little bit of time relaxing in the hot tub and catching Brian up on the past week’s adventures. Soon after that, dinner was in the crosshairs then it was time to head back to Magic City Casino for the CTTE sail away concert. It did not take long to run into people we had met on the 2022 CTTE and once again, there was an air of excitement given that we were sailing away the next day.

Rob & Super Prog Girl displaying auction items

As evident last night at the sail away concert, the crowd onboard is an increase in both the age and male demographic than those that were on MORC. While the vibe is more relaxed, to my shock and surprise, within the first five minutes onboard the ship I run into Alex Skolnick (of thrash metal titans Testament). Thinking to myself, did I get on the wrong ship, is this not a progressive rock cruise….? Alex and I chatted for a few (he remembered me from chatting in almost the exact same spot on this same ship onboard the Headbangers Boat last October) and he mentioned that he was the ‘surprise guest’ playing with Jane Getter and I vowed right then to be at both of those performances (praying he would kick over an amp and start just absolutely thrashing)!

Alex Skolnick

There was a mistake with the cabin allotted for Brian and me in that we were given a balcony cabin instead of an interior cabin. We tried our hardest to get the Spicy Ginger to swap with us as we are hardly ever in the room for more than a few minutes during the waking hours and she does so much for us, we wanted her to have the great view. While she greatly appreciated the gesture, she declined and Brian and I felt spoiled and expressed appreciation every time we set foot inside the cabin. We did however rearrange the furniture three times over the first two days onboard before we found the layout that gave us the most usable space. We joked how the cabin steward must have been like “…what the heck did these guys do this time…?” every time he set foot inside our cabin. We made sure to put the room back the way that we found it, but it seems with all of the additional space we gained there is a clear need for a cabin furniture re-arranger person onboard and both Brian and I already have the necessary experience.

Just like with MORC, day two onboard began the photo experiences and Brian and I each had five sessions scheduled in three days. After the fact I can say I feel like I nailed all of my sessions and I can say how enjoyable it is to be able to have the time to spend with the artists that being on the media team provides. While the cruise itself is an immersive experience for people to be able to mingle with the artists, being on the working crew allows those extra, almost intimate, moments to chat if there is any downtime during the session. These sessions are also a great way to see and interact with all of the cruisers who come through the line and more often than not, Brian and I are recognized around the ship as being the photo experience photographer guys.

Horns Raised

With both of our destinations in Cozumel, Mexico (the original itinerary being changed due to the 2024 ShipRocked Cruise hitting and damaging the pier in Jamaica). I, several of the media team, and guests that I talked to were under the impression that we would be docking in two different locations in Cozumel and seeing as how I was just in Cozumel the week prior on MORC, I thought it would be great to explore a new location and since I had already visited there six times prior. Our first day in Cozumel, Brian and I ventured off the ship and went searching for t-shirts for his family. Not having any luck finding shirts he liked, we agreed to search again when we got off of the ship the next day. The next day arrives and while we were clearly docked in a different location, as Brian and I ventured around the area, we were amazed how it seemed that both ports were built identical with shops in the same orientation and layout and we figured it was for consistency among visitors. It was only after we passed a street vendor who said “Hey amigos…you’re back…” that we realized we were in the EXACT same location as the previous day’s docking and we only entered the ‘local area’ from a different side. That vendor has recognized us from the previous day. We had to laugh once we figured out that we were in the exact same place but sensed those who paid for CTTE would not be so happy having the same destination two days in a row. Honestly, we did not hear any grumblings among those onboard, but we had a good laugh with a few people who had ventured off the ship, but not out of the tourist area that we were in fact in view of the pier we docked at yesterday.

Todd La Torre of Queensrÿche with Jeff’s phone

Not being as familiar with the lineup on this cruise, musically the highlight for me was that Queensrÿche had also done the back to back and was onboard. I knew that due to the photo experience schedule I would miss the second Queensrÿche show so their first show was the can not miss show of the cruise for me. Not only was their pool stage set the musical highlight of the cruise for me, it was also the people highlight for me. At one point during their set, Queensrÿche lead singer Todd La Torre grabbed my friend Jeff’s cell phone and brought it up on stage to continue the video recording Jeff was recording. I got some fantastic photos of Todd capturing his fellow bandmates and the crowd before returning the phone to Jeff. Jeff thought that was the coolest thing ever and was beyond appreciative when I shared my photos of the sequence of Todd with his phone. 

While I was not as familiar with the musical lineup as the cruise last week, I do appreciate talent and seeing bands I am not familiar with. Sadly Mr. Skolnick did not kick over any amps and thrash, but I was highly impressed and entertained by the bands that I did have a chance to see. I also took in the paint classes and the charity auction, this time the auction benefiting the To Cure a Rose Foundation. I know I said this after the last cruise, but twelve days went by in the blink of an eye. The reality of returning back to regular life and my day job hit like a ton of bricks as dumb ass me, trying to save vacation days, was due back to work the next day after we returned when I really needed a day of recovery. I knew I only had to survive a few short weeks and we would get the crew and gang back together and do it all over again!

Our lunch view in Cozumel did not suck

2024 CTTE daily photo highlights:
CTTE day 1
CTTE day 2
CTTE day 3
CTTE day 4
CTTE day 5

Bands I saw on 2024 CTTE (and the sail away party):
See lines 365-370


2024 On the Blue Cruise – April 5-10 – Norwegian Pearl

I was still going through MORC and CTTE photos when it was time to get packed and head back south for OTBC, the third and final cruise of this incredible journey. Once again, travel south was done the day prior to sailing even with no sail away party. It just helps to mitigate any potential travel related delays, as the one thing that you do not want to do is miss the boat! The lineup for this cruise was more familiar to me and can be described as ‘Yacht Rock’. It is a lot of the music I grew up with that my older siblings listened to and are the roots of a lot of the metal I gravitate towards now. Once again, Brian and I were on the media team and we each only had three photo experience sessions scheduled, which I had hoped allowed more CMO downtime to spend with some special guests that joined us on this cruise.

Car boats or boat cars?

As our ship was departing the port, I thought my eyes deceived me as I saw two cars in the water chasing after one another. As we drew closer and had a better view, I could see they were boats with car body shaped hulls and they attracted quite a crowd of us to watch before making the turn out to open water. Once again, I can say the age demographic was even higher on this cruise and it is by far the most laid back of the three. Our Spicy Ginger had a funny comment about how this was her favorite of the three cruises, how everyone is …”either high or on mushrooms so of course it is laid back”. It was also her birthday during this cruise and several of the crew threw her a party after our last photo experience session.

The photo experiences again began on our second day onboard and the lines for photos are much shorter compared to the other two cruises. Not sure why this is but the trend has been the same for the times prior when I did all three of these cruises. MORC has overflowing lines that sadly sometimes do not complete before we have to end, CTTE usually takes almost the entire scheduled session and OTBC we always close early. These shorter lines allow us that much more time to interact with the musicians and I have to share that during my second session, we crew were serenaded by the legendary Glenn Hughes in between those that came in for a photo. Once again, during the Nelson brother’s session I was asked if I was the third sibling (the same thing happened when I did their session at Monsters on the Mountain in 2022) and those two brothers, Matthew and Gunnar, have so much fun interacting with all of the cruisers who come through the line. This cruise was the first time I had actual ship crew members come through the lines in their ship uniform getting photos with the bands.

Happy Birthday dear Spicy Ginger

Our two stops for this adventure were in Taino Bay, Dominican Republic and Nassau, Bahamas. In Taino Bay, we walked around the tourist port area and had an unsuccessful attempt at helping Jake, one of the videographers, launch his drone for some footage of the ship. Due to regulations, he had to go outside of the port area and the area immediately outside of the tourist area gates got shady in the sense that we all felt unsafe so the attempt was scrubbed at that point. For our time off the ship in Nassau, I had made mention to Jake of a restaurant/bar not too far away with an adult themed play on words for the name, and the next thing you know almost the entire media team headed there for t-shirts. Docked in the cruise ship area was a spectacular yacht that a couple of people in our group guessed $3 and $5 million as the price tag. I got a photo of the name of the ship and looked it up and it turned out to have a price tag of $150 million!

I again made it to all of the various paint classes and helped photo the charity auction, which again benefited the To Cure a Rose Foundation. This ship has a viewing window into the bridge and I finally remembered to go there during the day when the window shade was open. Here you see a ton of navigational screens and instrumentation. I tried my best to get the crew in there to give me a group shot, but I was able to get one of the crew to throw me the horns.

Randy Hansen’s masterpiece

The musical highlight for me was seeing Randy Hansen emulate Jimi Hendrix in just about every conceivable way. One of my favorite photos I took onboard was of Randy playing with what I thought were his teeth, but upon closer inspection, the angle I took the photo behind him, it was clear to see he was playing with his tongue! Some of these bands and tunes took me back to my childhood, remembering my older sisters and their friends gathering to hang out and listen to music. Another musical highlight was hearing Glenn Hughes roar through his vocal and octave range in such an amazing manner. I also highly enjoyed both sets by Starship, featuring Mickey Thomas with their timeless classics.

Overall, it was an excellent cruise and this time as we returned to Miami the reality of having to go back to regular life did not have another adventure just a few days away. It was sad parting ways with those on the media team, but alas, we will all regroup in a few months in Gatlinburg for The Mountain USA Music Festival.

Nelson brothers photo experience

2024 OTBC daily photo highlights:
OTBC day 1
OTBC day 2
OTBC day 3
OTBC day 4
OTBC day 5

Bands I saw on 2024 OTBC:
See lines 374-378

To see my photo experience sessions from all three cruises go here.

To say that this three cruise, five week adventure was epic is an understatement. I got the opportunity to hang out with some great friends and make new ones. I was able to add in seventeen concerts and one hundred twenty five sets to my concert history, which I meticulously keep track. I had the pleasure of working alongside some of the best photographers in the live music entertainment industry. I tip my hat to Joel, Joe, Iron Mike, Neil, Jovan, Drew and Jake. Seeing you guys do your thing is a learning experience and including me (Travis and Brian too) in the group late night snacks and discussion meet ups is an absolute fulfilling feeling and one day I strive to be as good at this craft as you all are!  

The combined centuries of rock and roll history that I witnessed onboard the three cruises is staggering to say the least. I met many people who were on their first ever cruise and several said they could not imagine how a regular cruise could ever compare to the fun that a music cruise is. OTBC was my twenty third overall cruise and the last eleven cruises I have been on have all been music cruises if that tells you my love of these floating extravaganzas. I again express my appreciation to the Spicy Ginger for the opportunities afforded me to be a part of the various media teams. As I look back on the memories created on the high seas trilogy I am especially appreciative of the time I spent with friends and making new friends.

This barely hits the highlights and looking back as I wrote this in the weeks after returning from OTBC, I yearn to be back among my cruise brethren and I eagerly await the time we can start booking for the 2025 MORC.