Geek Heaven On The High Seas: The JoCo Cruise!

Huzzah! A travel video of my trip. Before you start this lovely post, why not give it a watch? I literally made it just for you.

And now, on to the post…

“Sir, it is excellent to meet another brother of The Royal Order of the Holy Mackerel.”

It’s a beautiful 70 degree day, blue skies, white fluffy clouds in the sky. I have a delicious piña colada in my hand and I’ve just walked out of a gathering of fantastic people on my way back to my room, when I am chased down by a man who has to catch me before I left to compliment my fez.

Did I mention I was at a fez party? Well, not just a fez party, I was at the “Poolside Fancy Fez-Tiara-Moustache Formal Happy Hour-stravaganza,” because, yes, that is a thing that exists aboard The JoCo Cruise.

Now, this man was chasing me down because he was a fan of the same fandom that I happened to be a fan of. I was wearing a hat from the show Gravity Falls, a seriously under appreciated cartoon that’s as adorable as it is weird, and he wanted to chat about it.

I was happy to oblige.

Now, I’ll say this: It wasn’t just unknown TV shows I talked about that week with him and others. It was board games and robots and culinary inventions and music and books and TV and so much more.Honestly, it’s hard not to talk about all of these things when you’re on a boat with 2,000 of the nicest, friendliest, most welcoming, most amazing geeks in the entire world for an entire week.

Welcome to JoCo Cruise.

WAIT, WHAT’S A JOCO CRUISE?

As I mentioned in my pre-travel post (and the video above), Jonathan Coulton is a singer from things like NPR and Portal and that fantastic show Braindead that no one seemed to watch but me but dammit, it was wonderful.

He’s also one of the unofficial king of all things geek.

(I imagine he’s much too humble to call himself it, but I feel like I have just enough authority to crown him it, so I’m doing it.)

Mr. Jonathan Coulton and Ms. Aimee Mann!

In 2011, Coulton decided to launch a cruise for his people, and called it JoCo Cruise Crazy (based off one of his songs, Tom Cruise Crazy). About 300+ people took over the ship for a week of nerdom.

Eight years later, he now fills an entire ship and runs the cruise for a week of nerd heaven.

SO WHAT IS FANTASTIC ABOUT IT

God, where to begin?

I want you to picture a space where everyone is happy, and friendly, and outgoing, and they want to chat about things you’re interested in and then talk to you about things they’re so passionate about, you can’t help but be fascinated.

This is the cruise. This is every day on the cruise with the Sea Monkeys.

Yes, even the zombies…

Of course, it’s more than just the people. It’s the food and the sun and the travel and the events and the nightly entertainment which was so incredible and the swimming and the drinking and the games and the randomness and the joy.

Really, it was just all about the joy.

HOLD UP, WHAT’S A SEA MONKEY?

It’s the adorable name people on the cruise call themselves. You take the JoCoCruise, you’re a sea monkey.

SEVEN DAYS ON A BOAT IS A LONG TIME. WAS IT A LONG TIME?

Nope. It flew by.

Honestly, by the time it was done, I was so sad it was ending, I could have stayed for, well, ever.

OK, THEN, HOW WERE YOU ENTERTAINED

Oh my god, so many ways.

Daily, you got a list of scheduled items that were on the ship. Some of it was planned by the cruise, and these could be talks or readings or comedy or music or panels with the amazing famous people on board. Others we’re things arranged by the Sea Monkeys, which was called The Shadow Cruise.

Ooooh… More on The Shadow Cruise later.

Then, of course, there was a giant evening performance each night. This could be anything from a concert with Aimee Mann and Jonathan Coulton, comedy by Maria Bamford, Michael Ian Black or Cameron Esposito, or just randomness cobbled together in a brilliant way.

Of course, there were also a million ways to entertain yourself. Constant food, constant drinks and on this boat, constant gaming too. Also, I really just enjoyed finding a lounge and reading. Ah, reading.

OH YEAH, THOSE GAMES. WHAT WAS THAT WALL OF BOARD GAMES WE SAW ON YOUR INSTAGRAM?

This boat took over the second floor dining room and turned it into the best board game wall I’ve ever seen. Over 700 games for you to try, every single game I’ve ever played or ever wanted to play.

You can either grab them and grab a table and play OR you can do it like a library and check it out and bring it back to your room.

I even got to try a few games still in the test phase, like Girl Genius and Diceborn Heroes, and offer suggestions to the creators on how to make it better.

Don’t have anyone to play with? No worries, they had these adorable fez signs that showed willingness for you to sit down with strangers and start gaming. People even took these signs down to the restaurant below so you could join them there at dinner as well.

Yay, friendliness!

DID YOU MEET ANY FAMOUS PEOPLE?

Did I meet any famous people. *Scoff*

Wait, yes. I did. Sorry. That was rude.

However, the boat’s not really about meeting famous people. Really, it’s not, even though they are there and they’re everywhere.

See, all of these amazing incredible individuals, who are some of the most talented people in their fields in the world, are also on the cruise. This isn’t a convention where you get something signed or maybe a pic and walk away. This is our home for a week, so they’ll be there, next to you at the buffet, riding elevators with you, grabbing a seat next to you at a show.

And so, here’s some of the very cool things I did with some of the most talented people in the world:

  • Had a random elevator conversation with Wil Wheaton as he went to go watch his wife, Anne, do a reading of her new self-published children’s book.
  • Stand in the buffet line with Aimee Mann.
  • Listen to a midnight conversation in the near-pitch dark with Patrick Rothfuss and the next day tell him personally how much his book floored me.
  • Watch Maria Bamford (of Netflix’s Lady Dynamite) test out comedy in a room of 20 people at eight in the goddam morning.
  • Tell John Hodgman that every show is made just a little better if he is on it, even for an episode, which is true.
  • Listen to The McElroys do live taping of their fantastic podcast: Shammners.
  • Do crafting with Bonnie Burton.
  • Get amazing writing advice from John Scalzi.

I’m sure I’m missing things, but those were big enough things.

Honestly, it all becomes sort of normal after a while. On day one, you freak out when Wil Wheaton says he likes your shirt. On day five, you’re just like, “Yeah, it’s cool, that’s John Hodgman sitting at the table next to me. What’s the big deal?”

They tell you to not be that guy and freak out over famous people, but honestly, the longer you’re on the boat, the easier it is just to see them all as normal people, also getting late night tacos at the late night all you can eat taco bar.

In the end, my friends, we all love tacos.

DID YOU LEARN ABOUT ANY NEW AMAZING FAMOUS PEOPLE?

Why, yes, I did, thank you for asking.

Two people stood out as particularly awesome talents that I had never heard of before.

Jean Grae is a performer, filmmaker, rapper and humanity who did a show called The Church of Infinite You that was so incredibly moving that I sat there stunned. She’s amazing. Look her up.

Open Mike Eagle is a rapper who I’d never heard of but instantly became a fan when I watched him perform. His lyrics are meaningful, his flow is beautiful and he even brought his little kid up to rap with him during one of the performances, which was a highlight of the entire trip.

OK SO, WAIT, 2,000+ GEEKS ON A BOAT? WERE THEY… YOU KNOW.

Nerdy? Yes. Geeky? Yes. Awkward? Yes, but not in a real awkward kind of way. Really, we we’re all socially awkward on the boat together and it’s wonderful.

More than all of that, this is what they were: Friendly, energetic, welcoming, lovely, happy, excited, chatty and amazing. I learned so much from them. I was inspired by them. Everyone wanted to help each other out and talk and teach and just be awesome.

They all followed the famous Wheaton’s Law, which in case you don’t know it, happens to be: “Don’t be a dick.”

When I got off the boat and people didn’t smile or want to talk about pop-culture anymore, it was a shock. I literally felt let down by humanity. Why can’t everyday, and everyone, be as amazing as they were when we’re all literally stuck together on a boat.? But that is a question for another time.

Plus, they all ran the Shadow Cruise, and that was an experience all on it’s own.

WHAT THE HELL IS A SHADOW CRUISE?

The Shadow Cruise is the mysterious dark side of the cruise, where anything and everything goes down…

Or, in other non-creepy words, it’s the events planned by normal guests who want to show off a skill or a talent or just entertain in some way. It was awesome. Here’s some of the shadow cruise events I did or learned about:

  • Black Holes and Space
  • Lock Picking
  • Live Royal Chess
  • Black Holes and Space
  • Funny Songs
  • Photography
  • Karaoke (so much karaoke)
  • And more!
The people on this ship is brilliant and it was brilliant to watch them share their brilliance.

ALSO, WHAT WAS THAT FANCY PANTS THING?

The Fancy Pants Parade is based off a song that Jonathan Coulton sings called Mr. Fancy Pants. It’s about having the fanciest of pants in a contest of fancy pants. And so, they hold the Fancy Pants Parade each year to crown the person who is “best in terms of pants.”

Yay, fancy pants!

I WENT ON A CRUISE, THE FOOD WAS TERRIBLE. IS THE FOOD TERRIBLE?

Honest to god, no. I was shocked on how much I enjoyed the food, from the quality buffets daily (with a buffet itself of custom made items) to a really wonderful dinner each night.

Plus, one night they made a cheesecake in the shape of Tide Pods, so you know, that’s everything.

Plus, for more more little bite of fun, I got this soup that looks like a little parsley man is karate kicking the strawberry. And I thought I would share…

HOW ABOUT THE STOPS? WHERE DID YOU GO?

We did Cabo, La Paz and Loreto.

Truth be told, I really disliked Cabo. It felt super touristy and overwhelming and just stopping off the boat, you’re barraged with people trying to sell you things or sign you up for tours or anything like that. We did go on a nice food tour though while in the city, so that was nice.

However, I loved La Paz and Loreto. Much more my scene, very chill, beautiful cities, great food and a lot of fun. Plus, in Loreto, there was a local food festival and the cruise arranged a giant concert that night and it was damn fantastic!

Note: Some people never even got off the boat, because they were having too much fun playing games and eating all the things. I almost considered it truthfully, it was hard to leave all that.

ANY SURPRISES?

The whole thing was a surprise, but I’ll mention two things that I loved.

First of all, someone (or a few someones) had printed what must have been a thousand tiny 3D Printed Pokemon and then hid them all over the ship. So you literally we’re on a Pokemon hunt during the cruise at all times.

Look at these adorable ones I found!

Also, I participated in a thing called SeaMonkey Mail, which was this fantastic gift giving exchange. Basically, you take a bag and hang it outside of your room. I bought fun gifts for seven people, and then went to their rooms and filled their bags with said gifts. I would then come home and find amusing, random and adorable things in my bag, including candy and crafts and even my own handcrafted Howler from Harry Potter.

Yay, random surprises!

DID YOU HAVE ADORABLE TOWEL ANIMALS?

But of course we did!

OK, BUT WHAT’S THE DOWNSIDE?

Ok, so everything has something you don’t like, and the cruise is no exception (although I will say that the good seriously outweighs the bad.)

As I mentioned, I didn’t like Cabo but the other cities made up for it.

There wasn’t a ton of boat-rocking but on the last day, you could feel it for sure and it made me a little seasick.

Also, you really get hit on a drinks package, as the drinks are not all included and it can get costly (they even charge seriously for soda. That’s not cool.)

Honestly though, all the things I might have been worried about: Is the food bad? Are the people mean? Will I want to run screaming from the boat after one day? None of them happened. Quite the opposite, it was awesome.

DID YOU MEET PEOPLE BEFORE THE BOAT SAILED

I did! In addition to the cruise, I checked out out the Sea Monkey Sendoff. It was an event the night before the ship sails for people on the cruise, and people who like the idea of the cruise, to come together, eat tacos, drink beer and nerd out as a wonderful inclusive group, all for a good cause.Here’s what the site has to say about it:

The 1st Annual ‘Sea Monkey Send-Off’ is a one-of-a-kind exclusive festival in the famed San Diego Comic Art Gallery featuring hand-selected local craft beverages (beer, cider, mead, even alcoholic kombucha), authentic Mexican street tacos, live music and large format video games. Best of all, proceeds for the event benefit Traveling Stories, a San Diego non-profit that provides books and reading experiences for children in need.

It was an excellent night and I ate and drank like a champion and played video games and just had a blast. If they do it again next year, for the cruise or not, check it out for sure. And support Traveling Stories, they’re worth it as well!

WAS THERE COSPLAY ON THIS CRUISE?

So much Cosplay and every day had a different theme! Whatever you wanted to do, you could do.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO ADD?

If you felt like ANY of this sounded like your scene, or just something you’d want to try, do it. I can’t stress this enough. I met people there who had gone every year for all eight years and we’re planning on going again next year. There’s a reason for this. It was awesome and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Also next year they’ve already announced the first special guests will be They Might Be Giants, so that’s got to be worth something.

I’m hoping to be on the boat again next year and I hope to see you there!

ONE LAST THING, DIDN’T YOU MENTION A FEZ PARTY AT THE START OF THIS POST?

Yes I did. In fact, that’s a nice way to end this piece, with photos from the Poolside Fancy Fez-Tiara-Moustache Formal Happy Hour-stravaganza:

See you on the boat in 2019!

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