Words by Jesse Serwer/Photos by Martei Korley
For five days and five nights late last month, the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship turned into the first-ever floating reggae festival. Setting sail from Miami and docking in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Jamaica, the inaugural Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise featured a nightly slate of performances with some of reggae and dancehall’s biggest names. Though hardly the first genre-specific, seaborne event of its size and scope, it was embedded with a sense of history and purpose that will make it tough to replicate. That’s largely because of who was responsible for put it together: Damian Marley.
Jr. Gong was everywhere during the cruise’s five days and nights: deejaying on Stone Love and King Jammy’s sessions in the early morning hours; hopping on stage to perform during performances by Cham and Sean Paul; and roaming between the ship’s various venues with a deep entourage. He even found time to host a formal birthday dinner for his mother, Cindy Breakespeare, aboard the ship amongst a massive Marley contingent that included brothers Stephen, Julian and Rohan. The result of his efforts was an authentic family vibe that felt more like being on a “bizarro version” of a Jamaican festival like Reggae Sunsplash than being on a tourist-trap of a cruise ship.
We’ve broken down 10 key moments—plus a few more, in the usual LargeUp fashion—to show you just how BIG this SHIP was. Ahoy!