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The ultimate welcome to Jamrock

GOING OUT WITH A BANG: Final night of the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae cruise

THE FIRST ever Welcome to Jamrock Reggae cruise broke new ground when it set sail from Miami to Jamaica last month.

With over 2000 passengers from 42 countries, including me and my mother ‘repping’ the UK, we were ready to experience five full days of pure reggae music.

Presented by Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley the newly annual event, which sold out in less than a month of it being announced in 2013, promised performances from a stellar line-up of reggae artists and sound systems.

As the state-of-the-art Norwegian Pearl cruise ship blew it’s horn to mark the start of our journey, no song was more appropriate than Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock – which quickly became the week’s official anthem.

With a giant sound system erected out on the main deck, DJ Norie took care of business for our Sail Away party.

Headlining the first night was host Damian Marley, who’d earlier graced the stage to humbly welcome and thank us for taking this journey with him.

With the starry night above and the Caribbean Sea beneath us he returned to blast out a medley of hits including Make it Bun Them, Wisdom, Land of Promise. His older brother, Stephen, also joined him on stage, where they delivered duets Jah Army and The Mission, taking it deeper than the seas.

Preceding the epic display of natural chemistry was their brother, Julian ‘JuJu Royal’ Marley who evoked memories of his father. Black-Am-I - one of the newest artists signed to the Ghetto Youths Crew label, and who has quickly distinguished himself as one of Jamaica’s next generation powerhouses – also performed.

After the live sets, legendary sound system Stone Love took control of the decks and entertained passengers through to the early hours.

Elsewhere onboard, in the other bars and lounges, revelers took their pick between the UK’s very own David Rodigan, Japan’s Mighty Crown and Kingston 12 Sound.

Day two was spent at sea in the scorching sun with a jerk chicken barbecue and daytime vibes from an array of DJ’s.

Ready for a spot of sunbathing mum and I took our spot on the upper deck taking in the spectacular views.

With plenty of other activities to participate in, such as football games, a Jamaican themed cinema, a giant chess set and casino there was something for everyone.

ALL ABOARD: The Norwegian Pearl cruise ship

That night with everyone dressed in white, The Wailing Souls, Tarrus Riley and birthday boy Shaggy each took their place on the stage.

It was certainly amazing just how up close and personal cruisers could get to the artists.

Mingling without annoyance and always respectful, it was heartwarming to see such peace, love and unity being shared by so many people all wearing the same uninterrupted smile on their faces.

After bearing witness to a beautiful sunrise at 06:28 the Wednesday morning I managed to squeeze in an hour of sleep before we docked in Montego Bay. With an abundance of excursions to choose from we opted for a beach party in Negril where freshly caught seafood, rum punch and horse rides in the crystal clear water was the order of the day.

Back on board we were joined by Bounty Killer, Jah Cure and Busy Signal for the night due to visa issues stateside. Etana, also known as ‘The Strong One’ also performed as the cruise’s only female performer.

Each took their turn to rise to the occasion supplying a hearty performance and it truly was the perfect setting to see them come together.

Again, another sunrise was witnessed and another hour of sleep was had. Docking in Ocho Rios on the Thursday, we spent the morning climbing Dunn River Falls and the afternoon enjoying the sounds of DJ Westafa on the port’s local beach.

With every day proving better than the last, we were in for a treat that night. Wayne Marshall, Cham and Sean Paul gave us extended shows and each was joined by Damian Marley for duets showcasing the power and strength of reggae at its best.

At this point it was evident that this was something bigger than your typical reggae fest – it was the vacation of a lifetime.

Saving the best ‘till last, the final night onboard was mind-blowing. Despite earlier performances from Christopher Ellis, Jo Mersa, Morgan Heritage and Stephen Marley being interrupted by bad weather, nothing could kill the vibe.

As we moved inside to the Atrium, it quickly turned into an all-stars party with a two-hour free styling session with all the musicians still onboard.

The Marley’s were joined onstage by Cham, Sean Paul, Gramps and Peter Morgan, Wayne Marshall and MC Supernatural, each taking it in turns to fire rapid doses of lyrical genius.

At the bitter end of it, they all chimed in on Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, followed by a speech from ‘Captain’ Damian Marley who smiled from ear to ear as it dawned on him the level of what he’d accomplished.

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