A cheeky tribute to Fyre Festival, a 4.30am blowout and lifelong friendships await

Find a state-of-the-art cruise ship packed with fun features like a bowling alley and rock climbing wall (in this case, the Genting Dream), put thousands of festival-goers on it, hold themed parties of every sort—from pool and foam ones to OTT Fifty Shades- and Fyre Festival-inspired revelries—for two nights straight, and what you get is It’s The Ship 2019.

It’s like many pop-up clubs opening and closing on the same two nights all in one place. And aren’t clubs just the best on their first and last nights?

If you’ve ever been on one of It’s The Ship’s past five editions, you kinda know what to expect (even so, the 2019 sailing is shaping up to be unlike any of their previous ones). If not, read on. We’ve managed to tease a preview out of their Creative Director Darren Waide, the inventive brain behind the massive festival. It’s the biggest one in Asia taking place on the open seas, and to pull it all together is no mean feat.

Here, we find out what’s in store onboard It’s The Ship 2019, asked him to tell us how to make the most of the festival, and got him to divulge what to expect at the reenactment of the greatest (and most controversial) party that never happened.

It’s The Ship 2019 will be the sixth edition. What’s it like being part of Asia’s largest festival at sea for so many years now?

There is nothing quite like taking a crazy idea and transforming it into something legendary. It’s The Ship started out as a crazy idea and we certainly did not expect it to have the astounding reception that it has now. After six short years, the festival has fostered an international community of 117,000 Shipmates from over 88 countries—and this is continuously growing.

As Creative Director, what do you do exactly?

As the name implies, I make everything creative. Together with our team, we ensure that every element across set design, staging and production is imaginative and on brand for It’s The Ship. On a day-to-day basis, my time is split between brainstorming meets with the team, analysing creatives and reviewing suggestions to ensure that all aspects of our events are up to our standards.

I’m constantly deliberating on how to ensure our vision and creative ideas are channeled into our deliverables, ensuring that everything has a consistent, creative edge whether in set design, TV production or event set up. I want to be able to elevate our production each year, creating bigger and better experiences for our Shipmates. But being creative is one thing, and executing the vision is a whole other ballgame. This is where I’m always so grateful to have a team who shares the same vision as I do.

Having fun is probably the number one objective for festival goers. What do you do to ensure that that happens?

We gather feedback to find out what our community wants to see every year and the team assesses the reception of every activity or party we produce. Once we understand the needs and wants of our community, the next year we prepare what they want to see and cut or tweak the things that don’t work.

And of course, to make sure our Shipmates focus on having fun, we take care of the rest—ensuring smooth sailing of all artists’ sets and activities, while also ensuring safety is taken care of across the board.

What’s the most difficult part about pulling this festival together every year?

The most difficult part is probably actually pulling it all together! Coming up with creative concepts for lighting, staging and designs is easy thanks to our amazing and talented team. But as I said, the execution is a whole other ballgame.

On paper, we have ideas for the festival experience—whizzing lights and lasers, mix of scenic elements, staging and LED screens. But in reality, we have the ship to ourselves for only six hours before every sailing. This means that we have to set up our elaborate vision within that time, with a lot of ship restrictions and a limited number of ways to execute our ideas, while on a moving ship!

Besides the stellar DJ lineup, I notice new programmes for this year’s sailing, like the Fyre Fan Club. Tell me more about this nod towards the greatest festival that never happened.

It’s about to be the best reenactment of the greatest party that never happened. This epic hip hop party is going to be quite an immersive experience for our Shipmates as we prep for them “luxury yurts” and the iconic sandwiches that stunned the world. The acts headlining this particular party are Singapore’s and Malaysia’s favourite rap and hip hop stars. Performing at Fyre Fan Club will be Singapore’s own viral rap sensations Fariz Jabba and Yung Raja, alongside Malaysia’s rap icon Joe Flizzow and DJs Jhin and Nahsyk.

What other things can people expect that are new to this year’s edition?

For the first time in Asia, we are bringing the Heartfeldt Pool Party onboard It’s The Ship. It’s quite a legendary party in Miami, and is hosted by none other than Dutch house hitmaker Sam Feldt. Also headlined by The Him and Zonderling, it’ll be a pool party like no other. We’re also giving Shipmates a reason to wake up early with Communion Sunrise. Yup, it starts at 4.30am. It’s inspired by Kanye West’s secretive and soulful Sunday Service, and Malaysia DJ bigwigs like EJ Missy, Azel Groove and Azran will get you dancing with the sunrise.

Personally, what are some of your favourite parts of the festival?

For me, one of my favourite parts about the festival is definitely hanging out with Shipmates from all walks of life and finding out more about where they come from and what they enjoy and want to see more of. I spend a lot of my time around the stages, so it’s incredibly satisfying watching our Shipmates have a good time. There’s also the occasional game I play in my head—how many people can I fit in a Jacuzzi?

A favourite memory of mine was on our 2016 sailing, where I had to move our captain, David Hasselhoff from his cabin to the stage, all while trying to avoid getting mobbed.

Do you get many repeat festival goers? If yes, why do you think they keep coming back?

We have a dedicated number of returning Shipmates—35 percent and they come from all over the world. I think that the main reason that they keep coming back is for the community. The beautiful thing about It’s The Ship is that it is and always will be an opportunity for like-minded people from all over the world to come together and have fun.

The second reason people come back is for the amazing array of entertainment and lifestyle experiences beyond our music lineup. It’s The Ship is legendary for its secret “closed door” events and themed parties. Some are so popular that they have become our signature events that people rave about and keep coming back for every year. Even when we add new parties like our Fyre Fan Club and Heartfeldt Pool Party, Shipmates will want to join in because they know that our events never disappoint.

If someone’s on the fence about buying a ticket to It’s The Ship 2019, what will you say to him/her to get them to sign up?

A ticket to It’s The Ship is no ticket to an ordinary music festival. It’s a ticket to an adventure, lifelong friendships, and unmatchable experiences. Music festivals normally just showcase acts and maybe some fringe activities. But onboard It’s The Ship, the excitement and fun does not stop when the headliners leave the stage. It’s a round-the-clock non-stop Shipcation with parties all over the ship and at all hours. You get activities like waterslides and rock climbing, and friends are just waiting to be made. It’s a new adventure around every corner—you can’t put a price on that.

Festival survival tips to help someone have fun for three days straight?

Firstly, stay hydrated. Secondly, dress to the theme. We have a host of themed parties like our Onesie party, the Mardi-Gras themed FOAMO party, and the Fifty Shades-inspired Sleepless Society. There’s no such thing as going overboard onboard It’s The Ship.

But also still wear comfortable shoes. You need to be prepared for everything—whether you’re playing mini-golf, paddling about the pool, or dancing to the beats. Lastly, say yes. Always say yes to new experiences and new friendships onboard It’s The Ship. This festival may only be three days and two nights, but the memories you make here will last a lifetime.

It’s The Ship 2019 sets sail Nov 13-15 from Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore.