Field Report: JoCo Cruise

For the first time in a long time I took a whole week off from both work and family, and I just got home from something totally different. One recent trend in big-ship cruising has been to organize a cruise around a particular theme in order to draw a clientele that might not normally choose to spend a week at sea with a couple of thousand strangers. Take me, for example: I’ve been on a lot of boats, but never before have I desired to go on one of these modern colossal cruisers with four restaurants, five bars, a spa, a disco, etc; I usually prefer boats that actually feel like you’re on a boat.

But I was intrigued by the concept of this cruise. Imagine something like a floating Comic-Con but with a greater focus on games, filk-like music (Jonathan Coulton, Paul & Storm, etc.), and general nerdy fun. I was there not as a guest but as part of the “Shadow Cruise,” which is to say I was a regular passenger but with a guitar, a ukulele, a lot of geeky songs, and a solo show in one of the onboard theaters. I figured it would be a good chance to unwind a little and maybe connect with some potential collaborators.

Mostly I was doing the usual stuff for a float down the Baja peninsula: I ate, rested, exercised, drank fruity drinks, and so on. The food and other services were exceptional, but what made the week really special was the people: at any meal or other gathering, I found I could sit down next to strangers and become friends, or at least friendly, within a few minutes; having hobbies in common helps, and everyone on this cruise enjoys one or several flavors of nerd culture. I found that a great way to meet new people would be to just sit down at a meal and say something provocative such as, “Hi I’m Tim and I think Banshee is the greatest X-Man.”

A typical day on the Joco cruise (for me, anyway) means waking up early, walking a mile around the Promenade deck (that’s about ten laps), lingering over a fabulous breakfast, then meeting a couple of dozen new friends on the Lido deck for an hour or two of jamming on ukulele. Then a proper workout in the gym (of course there is an excellent gym on the boat), and maybe a swim in one of the two pools if I don’t have a massage scheduled at the spa. Yes, I spoil myself. Please don’t be angry.

Note that other people’s morning might look very different: the JoCo cruise brings along a huge library of games to be checked out, many of them contributed by sponsoring game companies, so breakfast might happen over a tournament of some new game that keeps running right through lunch if you don’t get pulled way for shuffleboard or a cosplay workshop.

By now the taco bar is open, so I have lunch by the pool before siesta in my spacious cabin. A little practice on guitar, maybe some writing or attending one of the many panel discussions going on, possibly hearing a reading from Will Wheaton or John Scalzi, and then it’s time for dinner and an evening show. If you are familiar with the work of Jonathan Coulton or Paul & Storm, you know what to expect here. If not, I urge you to check them out; note that some of their work is NSFK so I am not posting links here.

Which brings me to one of the few things I noticed missing on the cruise: kids. I saw a few, but not many and I saw little programming in the schedule aimed at them. This is not necessarily a complaint; as a guy who has made a career out of working with children, I do not think we have to make EVERY thing we do kid-friendly; but I mention this so fellow parents can take it into consideration.

The bottom line is, if you have been to any of the big geeky conventions (WorldCon, DragonCon, Comic-Con, PAX, etc.) and if you had a good time, the JoCo cruise may worth checking out if your schedule and budget will allow it. I probably won’t make it back in 2019 due to schedule conflicts, but I do hope to return in 2020. Maybe I’ll see you there!