Party on the high seas

Party on the high seas
The Costa Victoria cruise liner (above), which will be holding Shipsomnia.

Setting sail on-board music festival cruise It's The Ship last year was a milestone event for Mr Selvaraja Rajagopal.

During the five days the cruise liner took festivalgoers from Singapore to the island of Langkawi and back, he and his friends rubbed shoulders with celebrity DJs and partied to some of the best dance music acts in the world, including Dash Berlin, Alex Metric and Chvrches.

Not only that, he also got engaged to his girlfriend of 10 years, Ms Malini Kathaperumal, 29, on Langkawi beach, with help from Felix Buxton, one half of British electronic duo Basement Jaxx.

Mr Selvaraja, 30, an operations manager in the shipping industry, tells Life!: "Felix called her up on stage and told her she had won a prize. The crowd went crazy when I got down on one knee at the beach. When we got back on the ship, I felt like I was a rock star, they even had fireworks and none of it was planned in advance. I couldn't believe it."

Demand for the festival cruise experience has led to more of such events coming up in Asia, each promising an adventure at sea filled with fun day-time activities and partying through the night with DJs.

Festivalgoers tell Life! no music festivals on land allows them to mingle with the celebrity stars paid to perform. Being out at sea with limited connectivity to the world also allows partygoers to immerse themselves in the music, they say.

Those who attended It's The Ship last year say there was a ton of activities on-board the ship, from rock climbing to mini-golf to cooking classes.

The best part? Being able to do these activities alongside celebrity DJs.

Brand manager Kenzie Kee, 29, who attended It's The Ship event last year and will be buying tickets to this year's instalment, says: "The highlight of the whole trip was being seated next to superstar DJs and musicians at a buffet breakfast, eating the same meal and breathing the same air.

"Since everyone is on the ship for four days, a bond is created with one another. After two days, everyone is a friend."

Next month, new festival cruise Beatship, organised by Genting Hong Kong, Sigma Production and Star Cruises, sets sail from Hong Kong's Harbour City for the South China Sea and back.

In March next year, Australia will have its first electronic music festival at sea, with a 2,000-capacity cruise liner boasting seven stages. Called Sea 'N Beats, the festival will take partygoers from Brisbane to a mystery island off the Queensland coast, before returning to harbour.

In Singapore, It's The Ship returns in November, with organisers expecting a turnout of 3,800. Last year's event drew 2,500 partygoers.

Another themed dance music festival vacation cruise, Shipsomnia, will also debut here in January next year. The five-day cruise festival will set sail from here to Phuket and Langkawi, before making its way back. Shipsomnia's organisers are hoping for a turnout of 2,400.

Ms Alessandra Maderni, chief executive of Mad Fresh Events, the company behind Shipsomnia, says: "People are always looking for new experiences and it was only a matter of time for cruise festivals to explode in the region".

But she says Asia is still at a stage where the market is being educated on what cruise ship festivals are about, so "this year will be a good test of demand and acceptance for everyone as it is the first year with multiple festivals launching".

Festival cruises have been around for the past few years in the United States, with events such as Groove Cruise and Holy Ship! among popular floating festivals that consistently sell out.

In Asia, tickets to secure festivalgoers a cabin on board the ship can cost anywhere from $3,200 for a four-person cabin to $6,800 for a posh suite for four days. This excludes additional fees such as taxes and port fees.

Mr Jason Kong, 30, regional group head of marketing, public relations and strategic planning of The Livescape Group, which is organising It's The Ship, says the unique experience of festival cruises is a top draw factor, as "music fans in Asia are getting more affluent and exposed to live music events".

Noting a boom in the number of music festivals in South-east Asia over the past three years, he adds: "I think most festivals over the next three to five years will start focusing on the experience rather than the line-up."

It's The Ship sold more than 30 per cent of its cabins in the first month, before organisers had even announced the line-up.

And with big-name artists such as American house DJ Kaskade, Dutch trance DJ Ferry Corsten and Bristol-based tech-house DJ duo My Nu Leng, ticket sales have been moving fast, with most of the ship's luxury suites already snapped up.

For ships that set sail from Singapore, there may be some concerns regarding drugs use and safety onboard the ship, given the fact that such events do not require an entertainment licence issued by the authorities.

But organisers of Shipsomnia and It's The Ship give the reassurance that all festivalgoers are subjected to stringent customs checks before boarding and disembarking.

Mr Kong says the security procedures involved is similar to boarding a plane at the airport.

He adds that the event also has a team of security personnel onboard the ship and there are "extensive state-of-the-art CCTV cameras" installed on the ship to monitor activities.

"The security procedures of getting on a cruise is much more extensive than entering a festival on land," he says.

Mr Selvaraja and his fiancee will be attending this year's It's The Ship as a pre-wedding celebration before they tie the knot on Dec 6.

He says: "It was a non-decision to go for this year's event. I've managed to convince my closest friends, the people who will be there for a hen's night and a stag night. It'll be a combined party.

"I tell myself, 'Every year, if I had to party once a year, this would be it. It's like a carnival. Where else can you replicate that experience, unless you live in Las Vegas?'"

This article was first published on June 4, 2015.
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