Meister's Metal Mayhem

by Rich “The Meister” Dillon


Well folks, the intrepid Meister has once again been traveling to some awesome rock shows. I have recently had the opportunity to experience my first M3 Festival in Maryland, but before we get to that here’s a two part series of my adventures during the third annual Monsters of Rock Cruise.

Having been fortunate enough to participate in the previous two MORC excursions I had a good bar of expectation for 2014’s voyage. The trouble with having set sail on the first two cruises and having some of the absolute best

Rock Rag #26-MORC Wrap Up #1-Half Moon Cayexperiences of my life was that I now had a pretty high bar of expectation for 2014. I was dubious that anything would be able to top last year which vaulted leaps and bounds over the first that had been the most awesome thing at the time, but I’m pleased to say that MORC just keeps on surpassing expectations! I again had one of the best times of my life and certainly can’t imagine them topping it for the already announced 2015, but they’ve never let me down yet!

The cruise is run and presented by Larry Morand and On The Blue, which also holds the successive cruises Cruise to the Edge and Moody Blues Cruise as well. For this third annual excursion we jumped ship so to speak on the MSC Poesia and this year sailed on the larger MSC Divina. Having totally sold out in the first two trips, MORC was able to achieve that feat once again even on this 1000 person capacity larger vessel.

In the past I have heard (and seen via posts on the official MORC Facebook page) fellow cruiser complaints on the food served aboard the MSC Poesia. To me the food is not an attraction to this floating vacation, but something mostly necessary to soak up the massive intake of booze. With the concert schedule so packed, many bands overlapping each other, there was for me hardly any more time than to run through and back out the other side Rock Rag #26-MORC Wrap Up #1-Great Whitewith whatever I could carry as I rushed to the next stage. But I guess there are many who have had previous cruise experience on the “newlywed” and “nearly dead” style of cruise where the food is claimed to be absolutely to die for and a top attraction. While I was not one to complain (I did however absolutely and totally avoid the disgustingly gross pizza at all costs) I noticed a significantly huge improvement in the sustenance fare this time around in quality and selection, a sentiment that was echoed by many. Great job MORC, thanks for listening to cruiser concerns and rectifying the issues that many have had.

While our new home, The MSC Divina, is a high class luxury vessel and fairly new only being in service about six months, I personally much preferred the layout of the Poesia. Divina’s upper pool deck stage seemed much smaller and more convoluted, with many more obstacles (planters and decorative fare) restricting one’s vision. It seems that there were more places to see live performances on the old ship, but that’s not true, just a perception. I miss the Mojito Bar on the pool deck from the Poesia and found nothing that compared on the Divina, maybe that’s just because of the experiences enjoyed there on the past cruises. The theatre venue had more floor space in the past, Rock Rag #26-MORC Wrap Up #1-Loudnessthis time only the center seats had been removed, creating awkward obstacles at both sides of the floor area. While many don’t like the smaller “club” type lounges (Black & White on Divina, Zebra and Pigalle on Poesia), I actually prefer them provided I’m early enough to get up front. The feeling of being that close is something I love and on a larger stage you’re always farther away. With these lounge stages being about a foot, maybe two raised off the floor if you’re not right up front you’re screwed, especially for a shorter statured gentleman like myself! With this new vessel came a new port of departure, moving from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. In general, I also preferred Fort Lauderdale as everything (hotels, bars, shopping, beach, pre-party) were all along the strip of Fort Lauderdale beach, where as Miami seems more “all over the place” at least to me anyway. The venues for the two pre-parties, both at Magic City Casino were larger and less intimate with the second one being a horrible venue, making me feel like I was just at a big stadium concert back home.

This year’s sail-plan took us to Nassau Bahamas, a private cruise island of Half Moon Cay Bahamas and a full day of rockin’ at sea. As I have done with every year, I had pre-purchased a drink package prior to cruising which Rock Rag #26-MORC Wrap Up #1-Slaughteroffers a significant savings over the “cash & carry” (or room key charge) system aboard ship. I highly recommend this for MOR Cruise goers, whether you choose to over imbibe alcohol such as I or a more moderate pace as it’s easier, faster and generally more convenient aboard ship. The packages can be split and shared with other parties if you’re a moderate consumer. Cash is not accepted aboard ship and everything is swiped to your room key which is linked to your credit card at embarkation. The only area that you will need cash for is the merchandise booth as it’s not operated by MSC cruises and only takes cash (debit/credit only while in ports and hard to get even then).

Alongside the overload of rock shows that you will surely partake in, MORC offers many special events aboard ship. Rock Rag #26-MORC Wrap Up #1-John CorabiEvery year I think to myself that I will become more involved with some of these, but every year just can’t seem to make it as I’m busy at the live shows at the time. They all are fun in their own way and I have heard great reports from friends that have done things like the Pretty in Pink Prom Night, Cooking With Rockstars, Tattoo Competition, Luc Carl’s Drunk Diet Workouts, Karaoke, KISS Jam, So you Think You Can Shred, Naughty Nightie Party and more. Maybe next year I’ll get to some of those events!

There’s also meet & greets with the bands, but the line-ups are horrendously long for these. There are usually about five bands grouped into one meet & greet session and you are herded through fairly quickly with just enough time for a photo and maybe a hello. I much prefer the impromptu meet & greets that happen throughout the vessel as your rock heroes are circulating the ship and mingling with fans. Then there are the lifelong friends that you will make is another huge attraction and the community aboard is a great feeling. I have met many friends from around the world through my three MOR cruises and the feeling of Rock Rag #26-Morc Wrap Up #1-Charm City Devilsacceptance in these groups is amazing for someone like me who was previously alone with his musical tastes. Thanks to MORC, I have even made several new friends here in Toronto as well and now am no longer alone when going to see great bands as they roll through the Toronto area.

As for this year’s performers, I did not see a bad show. I’ll not get too detailed on most of the bands I saw for fear that this will go on for days if I do, but here’s a basic rundown. The bands each play two sets on the excursion and often there will be two to three shows occurring at the same time, so you have to pick and choose what you’d like to see. Do NOT try to do everything as it’s impossible and you’ll go mental in the attempt. Don’t worry about what you’re missing; just enjoy what you’re experiencing. In no particular order, here are my thoughts on all the bands that I was able to grab at least a partial set from aboard, with my top five performances saved until the end.

Tesla: Is a miracle to see live. Their sound near identical to their recorded material. They even debuted some new songs this year from a soon-to-be released album Tesla handles the Sail Away show as we drift away from Miami and out to sea at the start of our voyage. It was too crowded this year (less room for viewing on the pool stage) and I could not get a good vantage point so only stayed for a couple of songs. Their second set was an acoustic gig, which I skipped.

Great White: This is the Terry Illous fronted version of the band who released a great bluesy sounding record in 2012, but to me Jack’s voice is a huge part of Great White. While they put on a great performance, it was a little too keyboard laden and commercial for my taste, preferring the harder edge of Jack’s Great White. Terry did come out sporting a red Canada shirt for their pool stage set, which prompted me to ask him about it during a chance run in later in the day. The other Great White set was an acoustic on the beaches of Half Moon Cay Island.

Loudness: After announcing the cancellation of their North American tour, rumours were rampant that they would not be in the ship’s registry. Also, rumours of visa issues were running amok, but the Land of the Rising Sun was indeed represented aboard. One of the heavier acts, Loudness played two face melting shows led by guitarist Akira Takasaki’s shredding mastery. Like Tesla, they debuted some new songs from the forthcoming release, certainly encouraging me to purchase it immediately upon issue. “Crazy Nights” by Randy Gill MORC 2014

Dio Disciples: Although I was unable to catch their set aboard this year, having seen them last round as well as in Toronto, I did, however, manage a photo with vocalist Oni Logan when I saw him around the ship.

Slaughter: With them appearing in Toronto a mere three days after the cruise and having also seen them in Toronto last year, I skipped them on board. I was, however, sporting my 1990 “Stick It To Ya” tour shirt around the ship anyway. “Up All Night” by Randy Gill MORC 2014

Dangerous Toys: Catching D’Toys set in the Black & White lounge on the first day aboard was my first full set and brilliant particle of the first day. The stage lights were burning full on during the show, perhaps as this was a new ship the techs were unsure of how to dim them, but guitarist Scott Dallover was sweating so profusely that I was actually afraid that he would short circuit his guitar! At one point he plucked the sunglasses from their perch on top of my head and borrowed them for a song or two so that he could see what he was doing! A show filled with energy and venom. “Teas’n, Pleas’n” by Randy Gill MORC 2014

Rock Rag #26-MORC Wrap Up #1-Dangerous ToysCharm City Devils: A great newer band, I had become familiar with their two album catalogue prior to cruising and took in the Black & White lounge event. Thanks MORC for turning me onto Charm City Devils. “Devil Is a Woman” by Randy Gill MORC 2014

John Corabi: Considered the mayor of the cruise and the very first live performer I saw aboard, John sounded good for the few songs that I caught. His son was sitting behind the kit in their second ever gig together and with the rest of the band they rolled through a set encompassing John’s career even drowning out the “life jacket drill” PA announcements!

Firehouse: I had not given much time to their music previously, knowing only the radio ballady hits, but at the first pre-party where they opened for KIX I realized that there was more there than meets the ear after catching only a small part of their shipboard show. I will be looking into their back catalogue a little more in the coming weeks. “Don’t Treat Me Bad” by Randy Gill MORC Pre-påarty 2014

Many thanks to Brian Ronald for the use of his photography and the friendship we have developed as a result of The Monsters of Rock Cruises. If you’re interested in seeing some of these performances, a quick “You-Tube” search should net more results than you know what to do with. I know that my good friend Randy Gill (posting as “80’smetalrules”) has many videos up as do others. I was also a guest on The Decibel Geek Podcast as the hosts interviewed me about my adventures on the ship, which you can listen to here: (“Decibel Geek Podcast Episode #132-MORC Memories 2014“). Just click the “play” arrow in the graphic at the top to listen and don’t laugh at my voice being all scratchy from screaming on the cruise!

In part two, I complete my rambling of the bands and their shows that I was fortunate enough to witness aboard 2014’s Monsters of Rock Cruise: Escape to Monster Island including my personal “Top Five Shows of the Ship”.


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