What Is It: A three-day immersive hip-hop experience at sea, the adults-only Caribbean Days of Summer Cruise in partnership with CÎROC Summer Watermelon was hosted by DJ Khaled with headliners Cardi B and Post Malone among many others
Who Tried It: Janine Rubenstein, Senior Editor
Level of Difficulty: Depends on your love of hip-hop, but for me 4/10
There are two types of people: Those who, when presented with the opportunity to go on a cruise to the Caribbean hosted by DJ Khaled with Cardi B and Post Malone as headliners, say ‘Wow, yea…No thank you!’ And those who, like myself, immediately start planning their attire. Arriving at the Port of Miami on Friday, it was instantly clear that most others attending the cruise took great care in curating their ensembles as well, and in the long winding line for check-in there seemed to be no color or top designer label left unworn. All those in queue were eager to have a great time, enjoy some great music and look great doing it.
My husband and I have cruised many times before, just never with 2,500 people who are as enthusiastic about rap and hip-hop music as we are (if not much more so). We’d even been on the Carnival Victory ship before, with its campy Vegas-style decor and fun amenities including a waterslide, casino, sports bar and themed restaurants. But to hear artists like 2 Chainz, Da Baby, City Girls, and of course Cardi B, coming through the speakers at every turn—that was very new.
After settling into our balcony state room, I had a star-studded first day, nearly bumping into “Old Town Road” sensation Lil Nas X on the Lido Deck before chatting with DJ Khaled about son Asahd’s potty-training milestone. That afternoon, Khaled warmed up the crowd by playing his hits that he’d preface with his signature refrain “Anotha’ one!” At night, as the ship headed out to sea, it was high-time for Cardi, who was performing for the first time since appearing in court on assault charges.
A portion of the Lido Deck transformed into a multi-level stage that the star and her twerking, neon-clad backup dancers worked every inch of. “Let’s get it poppin’,” she told the crowd, and they obliged. As the wind off the sea picked up, the ever-candid star kicked took off her thigh-high boots and borrowed a hair tie from a fan in between belting out lyrics to hits like “Press” and “Money”. So amped was the crowd after the performance that many poured into the lower level casino and clubs to party into the wee hours. While my husband tried his luck (and won!) at the casino’s Wheel of Fortune slot machine, I turned in early with a Bardi bounce in my step.
Aside from hip hop performances, the cruise offered everything from Madden and Dominoes tournaments to a CÎROC Ultra-Premium Vodka mixology class and hip-hop workouts. Saturday morning I took advantage of the latter, a spin class with a muscular instructor named Eddie from Atlanta’s Gits Dis Work fitness. For an hour I grooved, laughed and sweated profusely. It was a great way to burn off calories from the 24-hour pizza station cuisine I’d taken advantage of, in lieu of the crowded buffet. From there it was time to shower and hit the beach of Nassau, our first Port of Call.
Seeing the capital city of the Bahamas was fun (and the fresh fried snapper was delicious), but the time on land felt far too brief. That said, shortly after returning to the ship, Post Malone‘s energetic afternoon set all but made up for the rush. The heavily tattooed star was all smiles as he haphazardly bounced across the stage singing hits like “Better Now” and “Congratulations” to the surprised crowd (he was originally scheduled to perform late that night, so most fans weren’t expecting him while others would learn they’d missed him). In the evening Dej Loaf served as a somewhat subdued headliner, following after rapper Trick Daddy who happily transported the crowd back to the ’90s and early 2000s with songs like “Nann” and “I’m a Thug”. Though a late night Glow in the Dark party was circled on our itinerary, I decided instead to call it a night.
By morning on Sunday we’d arrived just off of Carnival’s private island Half Moon Cay. After grabbing breakfast at the buffet, we hopped aboard the ferry boat transporting people to the island. Once there, it was all about sun, sand and an inordinate amount of selfies. With the many verified and aspiring social media influencers taking part in the cruise, nearly every inch of the powdery sanded beach was being used for mini photo shoots. The scene was funny, but infectious, as I too found myself asking my husband to get my best angle for that perfect shot. The hundreds of colorful, barely-there bikinis seemed to complement the schools of glittering fish swimming in the crystal blue water. And as Afrobeats music blared from the island’s main bar, I quickly eased into the vacation vibe.
Again, sadly that vibe was short-lived and before I knew it it was time to return to the ship. Back aboard, the energy was heightened, with attendees eager to make the most of their last night. But no one was more hype than a woman named Priscilla, or “Avatar” as the deejays and hype men affectionately dubbed her. With bright red cornrows, a big smile and non-stop energy, she’d indeed made a name for herself over the weekend, seizing every opportunity to hit the stage and show off her dance moves and encyclopedic knowledge of rap lyrics. She actually seemed to headline the last night after rapper Waka Flocka Flame proved a no-show due to a flight cancellation. We slipped away and into one of the fine-dining restaurants for a quiet and tasty dinner of conch fritters, Mahi-mahi and butter pecan ice cream. But back up to the Lido deck the party persisted. Between a Nipsey Hussle tribute and a fun set by pregnant rapper Yung Miami of City Girls, the cruise somehow managed to end as crunk as it began.
We disembarked early Monday morning and I found myself exhausted, but thoroughly entertained. Sure the non-stop live music by some of the biggest names in hip hop was great, but the folks we met throughout the weekend were nearly just as exciting. Nowhere else on the high seas will you hear a group of women debating whether Cardi B and Nicki Minaj‘s beef equates to that of Biggie and 2Pac, or watch a twerk contest devolve into a full on acrobatic performance. It turned out to be exactly what I thought I’d signed up for, if not so much more.
With room rates from $1000 to $3500 a person, the annual cruise is not the cheapest weekend getaway, but if you add up all the concert tickets you’d have to buy to see these acts, it’s definitely worth it. The schedule was hectic and the beach time was fleeting, but overall it was a fun time with a lot of wildly fun people. During my interview with DJ Khaled, the star put it best: “When I got invited to be on this boat, I said absolutely. Just catching a vibe, that’s what it’s all about. I can’t consider this work!” When I think about it, I guess neither can I.
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