It's The Ship 2019 review: I went to Asia's largest music festival at sea and here's what happened
Rock the boat
For those unfamiliar with It's The Ship, it's Asia's largest festival at sea. In essence, it's a music festival (primarily EDM) that happens on one of Genting Dream's cruise ships. This year, it trimmed down its sixth edition, from a four-day, three-night experience in 2018, to a three-day, two-night affair.
Taking you higher
An elevator was transformed into a mini pop-up bar.
Everything is turnt up on It's The Ship, even elevators. When I first entered the ship, I stumbled upon this mini pop-up bar that was manned by a bubbly, head-shaven female bartender who served up some mean Jim Bean-Pepsi cocktails. It was only 10 minutes in and I already had a cocktail in my hands. Spirits were high from the get-go.
Living it up
The Balcony Deluxe room that I checked into was comfortably decked-out. It almost had the appeal of a chain-branded hotel room, but without any of that esteem. Somehow, it was the narrow balcony that sealed the deal. I spent countless hours reclining on one of the lounge chairs with a cigarette between my fingers, taking in the blue waters of the Strait of Malacca. That innocuous fantasy was unfortunately interrupted with the discovery of a rather questionable unwashed kettle with a suspiciously sticky handle and murky water.
Eat your heart out
The Lido served over 4,000 hungry festival-goers over the course of three days.
I'd heard raving reviews of the all-you-can-eat, 24-hour buffet and the spread at The Lido certainly lived up to the word on the street. From full-on mains to kuehs and desert, there was pretty much everything a weathered partyer could possibly want to stuff their face with: Halal dishes for the select few Muslims on board, Western delights for Europeans and international DJs with a tame palate, and Chinese tuckshop varieties for the mainland Chinese. It was the ripe richness of the Indian spread that breathed new life into my sea-weary legs. I'm talking about real AF savoury gravies such as palak paneer and chicken tikka masala, paired with scorched pillow-soft naans. No kidding, it might have been quite possibly one of the best North Indian food that I've sampled in a long time.
Sight for sore eyes
Who you hang out with at It's The Ship is crucial, because you've got everybody there: clean-cut Caucasian bros in their tank tops and flip-flops, ripped and hairless Asian jocks in mini swim shorts, Insta-famous Malaysian girls in string bikinis, mature men who drink their feelings and splash their cash, chain-smoking brooding types who barely move to the music, and promiscuous, pill-popping twenty-something-year-olds who've thrown both caution and condoms to the wind. Don't get me wrong; the crowd at It's The Ship was good-looking. It certainly seemed as if they had plucked, waxed, shaved, and worked out for a couple months prior just to take a million pictures for their 'gram.
Drinking like a fish
2 — that's how many alcoholic drinks I had onboard It's The Ship. Full disclosure, I was offered 19 drink coupons upon arrival, but looking around at the drunken hot mess, I'll probably have to stay away from alcohol until Christmas. This wasn't drinking for pleasure; it was full-on intoxicated power-chugging. Short lines at bars on almost every floor meant that service was quick, omnipresent, and painless. Bottles were unspeakably affordable too, starting from $100. I couldn't help but notice the high volume of service staff who were readily available to help lost party-goers, carry drunken dead weights, clean up puke or jump into action to resolve any other inconveniences.
Face the music
Electronic dance music (EDM) isn't exactly my kind of jam on a Thursday afternoon or any other day for that matter, even if I'm peddled with alcohol on a cruise ship in the middle of nowhere. However, few would disagree with the fact that the first night was a let-down. British star Ben Nicky was the festival's top billing, but his set felt like an opening act to Australian DJ duo Nervo's hard-hitting slot at 2am. Coupled with larger-than-life projections, their high energy performance kicked the entire pool deck into a frenzied disco.
Hip-hop musician Fariz Jabba hyped up the crowd with some impressive rhymes and rhythms.
The entire afternoon of the second day was pretty much ruined by rain, but the party continued indoors nevertheless. Singaporean rappers Yung Raja and Fariz Jabba offered some respite from the piercing EDM beats with their viral hits including "Kunci Gang", "Poori Gang", "Ape Sia", "Mustafa", and "Mad Blessings". Yung Raja even hinted at new music with a catchy performance of a never-heard-before track, "Mami".
Despite gloomy weather, DJ Sivanesh managed to get the party started on the second day of It's The Ship.
It might have lasted just 45 minutes because of passing showers, but CÉ LA VI Singapore's full-time resident, DJ Sivanesh's wet and wild daytime gig might arguably be the best themed party of the festival. Accompanied by the tribal heat of live bongo drums, his hybrid house and techno sounds got everyone crawling out of their rooms and into the open-air theatre of Zouk Beach Club. Let's not forget, the frothy foam machine-gun, which was simply the icing on the cake. I managed to get a few minutes with him in between the madness. Here's what he had to say.
How's your experience on It's The Ship so far?
It's my first time! It's really great. I'm actually very impressed with the professionalism of all the staff. They're really polite, friendly, and knowledgeable. I respect the amount of effort that's put into the whole production.
How did you get into DJ-ing?
I was always into music. I used to play in bands. When I was about 20, I went to a club and saw the DJ controlling the vibe of the entire party. That sparked my interest in DJ-ing.
What's your greatest fear while playing a gig?
People walking out. Previously, it was pressing the wrong button because that's happened before. I shut off the wrong CDJ and the music went off, but I played it cool.
What's the biggest misconception about DJs?
That we're jukeboxes. Everybody thinks that if they request for a particular track, it's possible to play it; it's not. If your request makes sense with what I'm playing and what the party is about, I'm fine with playing it. If I'm playing house music and you ask me for "Single Ladies", it doesn't make sense.
You've played at many awesome parties. Could you recount the greatest night of your life so far?
The most recent one was on my birthday when I played at Kilo Lounge. All my friends were there. Whatever I played, everyone was jumping. I could feel the energy.
Where can we catch you next?
I'm playing at Wonderfruit later this year.
It's The Ship isn't for everyone; it's for well-oiled rave machines who get down to repetitive EDM, all day and night. It's also clearly for young and beautiful social media influencers who are hungry for content that'll show off their chiselled bodies and thrilling lifestyles. On a more serious note, the shorter duration of the festival this time around meant the party was pretty much over in a blink of an eye, according to a few hungover party-goers who I spoke to on the final day. If the festival is looking to grow its audience and sustain its run, it'll need to expand its music beyond EDM to include hip-hop or even indie rock. One thing's for sure, though, I'm not going back.