The MSC Orchestra hosted Oh Ship and what a party it was. Phumlani S Langa headed to Durban last week to experience a party on the waves that left an indelible mark on his memory.
Oh Ship, a cruise party propelled by DJs Fresh and Euphonik, returns emphatically. Party goers who’ve been booked and preparing for this occasion since February, pack their best bikinis, oversized sun hats and the odd pair of board shorts that gives new meaning to the concept of this garment.
The ship’s intended course is the Portuguese Island off the coast of Mozambique and so a quick check through customs is required. On board the ship, a gentleman dressed in all-white naval attire and deck shoes confidently responds to a woman who inquires if this vessel is larger than the all too famous Titanic. The rather official looking gentleman chuckles: “Much, much bigger Ma’am.”
He isn’t lying. The ships interior stretches upwards with a blue water feature and a vast lounge area on one deck. It has a slightly ’80s Love Boat feel but not as uncomfortable to look at. It feels like it takes forever to reach the dining area of the ship, but what a treat it is once you do. There’s a buffet spread of food ranging from ocean delicacies to the simple comfort foods that combat the plague that is passing out at a party.
The cabins are prepared and once everyone boards, an object that almost defies physics pulls away from the dock, blows its horn three times and we’re off, heading to the islands. Over the onboard airwaves Fresh and his partner in the business of partying state that what happens on Oh Ship, stays on Oh Ship.
The boat that rocked … house music
The partying got under way almost instantly and continued for 72 hours. It is quite something to step back from the dance floor and take in the setting - an open-air deck flanked by pools, bars and Jacuzzi zones that are being put to rather good use by those who had the wherewithal to get to these early. The ship of course is in open waters, nothing but a nautical expanse as far as the eye can see as the ship sails and gracefully clocks knots. A truly haunting sight, particularly in the early evening. Though this would be ruined by a rogue wave, but such thoughts are best supressed.
The line-up involves a lot of house music, with acts like Da Capo, Lulo Café, Naves and Mo Flava - and a headline act, or at least it felt like the main event - Msaki and Prince Kaybee, who played the home stretch of the cruise. Thando Thabete was also posted in her finest beachwear along with her “buddy” Lunga Shabalala.
The crowd is a mixture of young professionals and a slightly older demographic, but once the beat drops, none of that matters. One party passenger in a flowing red beach dress tells City Press that she has been looking forward to hanging out with her girls at this lavish gathering on the waters for quite some time.
Monica, she says her name is, can barely contain herself when she first lays eyes on the dance floor deck area.
“You see, I knew it would be like this, just chilled vibes and people letting go just for a little while”, she says smiling broadly. One of her friends, Buhle, joins her and the two jump up and down while clutching each other and screaming: “We made it friend!”
It was tough for hip-hop heads though. The deck was split into two party areas with two DJ booths. It was evident that the one side of the deck was the main stage and the other a lowly looking spot and as far as break beats, very few of those were enjoyed as the order of the day was house and local flavours. This was a bother; we aren’t short on hip-hop DJs and not all of us can quite so easily lose ourselves to house grooves.
Although this genre was formed with the idea of catering for a moment and not necessarily to withstand the test of time, the lyrics, “Whisper to me baby and hold me tight tonight” - as heard on the United People of Zion’s 2007 club banger, Pure Surprise - were sung along to multiple times over the cruise as the song received an abundance of airplay and the crowd lapped it up every time - and it sounded as crisp as it did the day it came out.
‘As I woke up one morning’
This ship is in essence a floating hotel, with turndown service included and friendly staff. You will need to be well-prepared to undergo this experience because purchases on board are all in US dollars. We got to really explore the ship especially after the cancellation of the second day’s Island Party due to bad weather and nobody could disembark.
It hardly mattered, because there was a party going on in the cabin next door from the sounds of it. The gentleman tending to everyone’s cabins greets me warmly. I inquire if he is ‘shap’ today, a word widely used by MSC staff.
He chuckles as he stacks his laundry trolley. “No not shap today, my friend. Too busy.”
As early as breakfast, people are at it, making the most of their time on board. The last day brings with it the final themed party of the cruise. We enjoy a masquerade party on the opening night that remains a blur of club lights and face masks, and a sexy pyjama party the next. The all-white party took on a religious theme to cap the trip off, as the Jaziel Brothers and Jub Jub ring out with shirtless dudes raising bottles of Hennessey to the heavens, slain by spirits. Beyond being a bucket-list experience, the party is truly a celebration of the local sonic palate and accompanying culture of dance in our country.
The relentless romp was brought back to the shores of Durban with the sounds of Price Kaybee's Fetch Your Life still playing in mind as we disembark on a cold morning and head back to reality.
Oh Ship is worth another visit and despite the mandatory safety drill and insufficient dose of hip hop, this is one party with a novelty to unique to refute.
I would recommend the MSC getting to grips with the annunciation of black passengers names as it was confusing to hear the voice over the intercom used to hail everyone’s attention as well as find passengers, chuckling after failing dismally at announcing the names of people needed at certain parts of the ship.
Cute or offensive, I’m still undecided. We’ll see how she handles things next year.