Hogs on the High Seas

Story by Glenn and Gwen Roberts// Photos by Glenn and Gwen Roberts
March 1 2009

This past October was a bit of an anniversary for Glenn and I—it seems 20-years had slipped away since we first met in a local bar. This ought to be a celebration of sorts and what better way to celebrate than to get away on a cruise; something neither of us had done.

Hogs on the High Seas, the world’s only rally on a cruise ship, seemed to be just the cruise for us; scheduled to leave Sunday November 2 from Port Canaveral, Florida. Our cruise time would be one week, with four major party stops along the way. Average age of passengers–52; average passion– motorcycles. Yes, this cruise seemed a bit out of the ordinary, but after looking extensively through the website, www.hsrally.com, I got the big picture.

The party began two nights before at the host hotel in Cocoa Beach. Since it was Halloween weekend, there were many costumed guests around the pool making for a very entertaining photo shoot if you were so inclined. There is also a big pirate theme throughout the week and your cruise package includes several temporary tattoos to get you in the right frame of mind. ARRR!

This cruise as it turns out, is whatever you want to make it. It’s a major party boat or it can be as relaxing as you would like. Our Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Mariner of the Seas, had 14 floors and numerous dining rooms, a 24-hour bistro to grab a bite whenever you felt like it, numerous pools, hot tubs, bars, pubs, mini-putt, a rock climbing wall, casino, walking/running track, even ice skating and the list goes on, there was just so much to do. Deck five was the main shopping deck and if the boat wasn’t moving with the waves a bit, you would swear you were in a mall with forty-foot ceilings and not on a boat. Very grand.

The main reason for this cruise is to allow dialysis patients a way to escape out of their daily routine and take a much needed holiday, something that normally can’t be done. Hogs on the High Seas is equipped with a dialysis treatment area with nurses and doctors readily available to assist these patients when required. On our cruise there were sixteen dialysis patients who visited this area 3-4 times a week for treatment. Hogs on the High Seas pays for the patients flight, rooms, and provides them with about $500 in spending money. In total, the Hogs on the High Seas Rally put out $80,000 to have the sixteen dialysis patients on-board for the week. A biker who is registered as a guest on the ship can recommend/sponsor a dialysis patient for consideration on the cruise.

Fed up with Sturgis and Daytona

Dean and Debbie Anderson, the originators and organizers of the Hogs on the High Seas Rally began this cruise in 2001. They were bored with the regular rallies like Laughlin, Daytona and Sturgis and wanted to offer bikers a different type of rally to enjoy, something out of the ordinary. They clearly outdid themselves with most people rebooking for the following cruise to ensure they won’t be left on dry dock. While many of the guests on the ship are Harley riders, there are riders of all makes as evident by the number of motorcycle branded shirts we saw and the number of entries in the Metric category of the ‘Photo Bike Show’.

This cruise is a full-blown motorcycle rally, but without the motorcycles. Everyone is there for one reason; to have fun and relax. No bikes, no egos, no attitudes.

Throughout the week, money is raised for dialysis patients and the HOHS Dialysis Fund Charity by way of nightly 50/50 draws, cabin raffles, a poker walk, biker bingo and an auction. In total, the 2008 Caribbean Hogs on the High Seas Rally raised a total of $120,346 USD to support the Dialysis Fund.

The biker guests on our ship consisted of 1556 bikers represented by Germany, Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Russia, USA (riders from every State except Mississippi) and of course Canada, about 330 of us (come on, we can do better than that?).

As well as us ‘bikers’, there were about the same number of ‘regular folks’. The really cool thing is that while the ‘other’ guests get dolled up in tuxedos and evening gowns for dinner, the bikers simply are required to wear leather of some sort. That can mean anything from a leather dress, pants or top, to a simple leather vest that most bikers would own.

Leaving Port

Our cruise started out on Sunday, November 2 from Port Canaveral under cloud cover. Once on board, we walked around and tried to get a grasp of where everything was which was a challenge in itself. I mean this ship was 14 decks huge and able to carry 3,114 passengers. Our room was a Deluxe Balcony Stateroom on the 7th deck. Dining attire that first evening simply stated ‘biker attire’; translation–blue jeans and a t-shirt or whatever you would normally wear. We were seated in a formal dining room and waited on by three young staff that were assigned to our table for the duration of the cruise. Sunday was a day to basically mingle and explore. The first of the regular ‘nightly giveaway shows’ was the place to be from about 10:30 to 12:00 in the evening and our first introduction to Roy Riley (www.royriley.com), the nightly emcee and comedian as he held court telling jokes and drawing 50/50 tickets for cash and prizes. These nightly give-aways continued almost every night and at the same time it was a great way to find out exactly what would happen on the following day and how to make the most of it.

We spent the second day at sea on our way to Labadee. The vendor area was now open on the second deck with a number of top quality companies like Hell’s Foundry, Küryakyn, Klock Werks and Heli Bars to name a few and many of the vendors offered product seminars through- out the week. Each vendor also provided a minimum of $5,000 in merchandise to be given away during the week at the nightly giveaway shows, with many of the vendors pitching in much more as the week went on.

While there are no passenger’s bikes on this ship, there are display bikes in the vendor area one of which was the custom built bike that is the Grand Prize Giveaway. You are automatically entered into this draw with your cruise ticket purchase.

Day Three – Labadee

We arrived at Labadee and had about 8-hours to look around and participate in the Poker Walk and the T-Shirt Swap or just soak up the sun on the white sand and swim in the turquoise blue water. Labadee is located on the western end of Haiti and is actually owned by Royal Caribbean, the cruise line we were travelling with. With lots of sun and various activities to do, Glenn decided to try the world’s longest zip-line over water, while I sampled some of the local rum and people watched.

Later that afternoon on the ship, the Treasured Chest contest took place in one of the lounges where about a dozen female guests dressed in pirate wench costumes of sorts and collected money for dialysis. When the money was counted, it was one of the dialysis patients who was a contestant that actually collected the most for the cause.

Later that evening was a dance party and a Topless Man contest that was obviously a big hit with Andrea from Ottawa, one of the judges.

Day Four – Ochos Rios, Jamaica

By now the experienced guests and cruise virgins (as we were called and identified by different coloured wrist bands) were getting the hang of how things worked and it was about this time that the party really began…welcome to Jamaica, mon. Yes, we arrived at Ochos Rios and had 8 hours to become one with the land. The main party stop was Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and it was definitely a ‘5 O’Clock Somewhere’ atmosphere. This Margaritaville is a two-story bar with a water slide. If you were really thirsty, the slide was the quickest way to the lower level pool bar.

This particular evening was the Hogs on the High Seas Tattoo Contest with a dozen or so competing for the prize money and trophy. The way it works is you get $50 per tattoo that is a past or current Hogs on the High Seas logo with a cap of $250 per person to be won. As it turned out, this contest was so popular they had to cap the amount of money a few times as some were almost cashing in on enough to pay for their next cruise. The final winner receives an extra $500 and is determined by crowd applause and cheering.

Day Five-To Hell and Back

On Thursday we arrived in Georgetown, Grand Cayman with another day to enjoy the scenery, take in some excursions or search for that lost shaker of salt while you waste away in Margaritaville, or if you wished you could stay on the ship and explore the vendor area, relax on the deck around the many pools or try some of the ship’s activities.

While in Grand Cayman we decided to rent scooters and take a trip to Hell and back. Hell as we found out, is just a short scooter ride from the downtown area. Since there is a post office in Hell, it’s officially a town, but there really isn’t much there other than a couple of t-shirt shops which sell post cards that you can conveniently mail at the post office next door, complete with a ‘Hell’ postmark.

With a number of diamond stores in Georgetown, this certainly was a place to give the credit card a workout. Word of caution guys, many of the diamond stores on the islands offer free drinks… so look out!

Later in the afternoon while back on the ship, we were entertained by the Belly Smacker contest, which had been rescheduled from Monday, when they had to close the pools due to Hurricane Paloma passing through the Caribbean. Julie, the only female who entered, won this contest.

That night at the giveaway show, which were always humourous with Roy Riley on the stage, we were advised that although we had partied here and there, as the week goes on the drinks get stronger and the partying gets hardier for those who wish to participate. We were warned that while at Carlos and Charlie’s the following day… if you can’t feel your feet, you’ve probably had too much.

Day Five – Cozumel, Mexico

We arrived in Cozumel, Mexico and after doing a bit of shopping; we then grabbed a taxi to the central party zone. Most of the stops had a Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, that also was a card stop on the Poker Walk, but in the case of Cozumel, Margaritaville wasn’t quite big enough to hold the party so it was held just up the road at Carlos and Charlie’s. The bar was filled with colourful signs in more ways than one and with plenty of free Tequila and Sangria and great music, this was certainly living up to be the place they warned us about.

To give you an idea of the ensuing party at Carlos and Charlie’s, one can buy single drinks as normal or the alternative is buying hourly drink tickets. Tickets can be bought for one-hour, two-hour or five-hour segments, meaning if you buy a two-hour drink ticket, you drink what you want, or can, for those two-hours. One of our new friends, Alabama Lea decided the 5-hour drink ticket would be in her best interest. This was a very entertaining afternoon for many and even more so than we realized when we viewed our pictures the next day. One of the customs at this bar is for the waiters to walk up behind you, throw a large piece of craft paper over your head to protect your clothes, and when you’re ready, pour Sangria down your throat. You simply raise your hand to acknowledge when you’ve had enough. Or you can join the conga line and have your butt whacked and a shot of free tequila as you pass by the staff. Yes, this was the crazy party zone. We were encouraged to dance on our chairs and have a huge time. It’s also at this bar that a couple of Harleys are driven through the crowd. When you hear the motors roaring, you just stand up on your chair and make way for the bikes to pass by.

There was no need to be worried about missing the ship, Dean and Debbie made it a point of walking around to everyone from the ship and let them know to start heading back. This was also the day with the most humourous line of partiers heading back to the ship. The best idea is to get back just a bit ahead of the crowd and watch as everyone tries to make their way safely up the dock to the ship, which in some cases was impossible without a bit of help. An image of drunken sailors from centuries past comes to mind. Ah yes, this was the party of all parties for sure.

The nightly giveaway show didn’t happen this night as Pirate Bingo and the One-eyed Starin’ Contest took centre stage. Watering eyes were the norm as the One-eyed Starin’ Contest involved freshly cut onions being placed under the chins of the contestants.

With Friday being the most exhausting for most of the guests, Saturday seemed a bit quieter as we stayed on the ship for another full day at sea heading back to Port Canaveral. We were just behind Hurricane Paloma, the sea was a bit rough and it was raining so the Best Beard Contest was held inside. This was also the last day for the vendor area and tech seminars.

Saturday night was the last nightly give-away and what a night it was. The dialysis patients came on stage and every one of them had many words of gratitude to the bikers. The Poker Walk winners were announced and once again the 50/50 draws and cabin draws for next year were held, followed by an auction. Of course the grand prize that everyone was waiting for would be the finale of the night.

Nightmare Custom Cycles built the 2008 6th Annual Hogs on the High Seas Rally give-away bike. With your cruise purchase you are automatically entered in multiple prize draws throughout the week as well as the grand prize draw on the last night, and you do have to be present to win the prizes. I had heard that on one of the cruises, the first and second person drawn for the bike were actually sleeping at the time, so the third name drawn was the final winner. It was kind of cool that we had actually met the bike winners, Steve and Christine, a couple of times throughout the week.

After the bike draw we met up with some of the people we hung out with the most; Artie, Scott, Laurie, Alaska Bob, Alabama Lea and Brandon. We closed a few of the ship’s pubs and said our goodbyes. Sunday was basically a time to just exit the ship, and make our way home again. It was a bit sad saying goodbye to the friends we made, but we have still kept in touch with some of them through email and a few phone calls in the wee hours of the morning (thanks Brandon). We were happy to have also run into some of the Canadian’s we met on the cruise at the various bike shows this past couple of months.

Our dining table every evening had a great group, this was where we met Alaska Bob, the Hell’s Foundry crew; Ami, Derik, Skippy and Doug. Also at our table were Joyce and Iceman, both US military who had returned from their tour overseas and were on the cruise to wind down. Many fine dinner conversations and bottles of wine were shared.

Would I go again… you bet, it was so organized, so much fun, so out-of-the-ordinary, there was so many give-aways each evening and Roy, the nightly host, kept us in stitches. Like I said, it can be whatever you want it to be, with the average age being 52 and mostly couples, it was a great party. On the flip side, it could have also been just a great relaxing vacation if we so chose, but we are always up for a challenge. While the evening give-aways were far from mandatory, the only thing I might have enjoyed is a bit more freedom in the evenings to just do nothing and walk around the ship, meet some more people and dip my feet in the water.

Considering the $120,346 USD raised for the dialysis fund is an outstanding number, there was almost $100,000 in prizes at the nightly give-aways in the form of cash and products making for the total money raised at over $216,000. (The total cash won was over $55,000 from 50/50 draws, biker bingo and the poker walk.) Motorcyclists have the biggest hearts!

Dean and Debbie have these cruises so organized there simply is ‘no worries, mon’.

Check out www.hsrally.com for cruise particulars and book now before it’s too late. ARRR! If we can get a group of Mojo Readers together that would be a blast!

We chose the Caribbean Cruise in November but there is also an annual Mexican Riviera cruise that leaves Los Angeles at the end of March. That one is also an amazingly fun time I am told.

Check out our website, www.motorcyclemojo.com, and go to Mojo TV for the bike presentation – the Captain of the ship is the person seated on the bike as it is raised up out of the floor of the theatre…that’s just before the big burnout on stage by the builder.

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