JoCo Cruise 2017: Shadow Cruise Spotlight

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If you’ve been following along with my coverage of this year’s JoCo Cruise coverage (highlights here and here, a spotlight on the guests here), you might’ve assumed that I’ve already talked about everything worth talking about.

You’d be wrong.

In addition to the official programming with the cruise’s invited celebrity guests, the week also features a full slate of “alternative” programming known as the Shadow Cruise. Many of these events are organized by fans on board and are intended to provide a wider range of geeky events, activities, and offerings. (Bookings for the 2018 sailing from February 18-25 are open now. If you’re interested, go check out their rates and availability!)

In this post, I’ll take a look at the Shadow Cruise events that made it onto the master schedule as well as some of the more…”unofficial” ways to spend your time while aboard the JoCo Cruise.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely say it again: JoCo Cruise is Nerd Paradise. It really doesn’t matter what your passions are or where your interests lay. Whether you’re into crafting, art, music, gaming, writing, cosplay, magic, or drinking, you’ll find like-minded kindred spirits on the ship.

And I really can’t stress this enough: everyone on board is so welcoming and friendly, you’ll think you’ve entered another dimension. Let’s face it, if you’ve been to a major convention, you very likely have run into some, shall we say… unsavory characters. Gatekeepers, eBay resellers… you know the type. Cons are great fun, but not everyone is there for the same reason. And some clashes are inevitable.

The Sea Monkeys on board the JoCo Cruise are, to a person, some of the nicest, friendliest, most accepting, and most welcoming people I’ve ever met. It’s a strong community, and it’s one that draws people back to the cruise year after year. I can now see why.

So, without rambling on for thousands of words, let me give you a quick rundown of some of the Shadow Cruise events happening in tandem with the official events:

  • swing dancing lessons
  • speed meeting
  • morning meditation
  • life drawing
  • “how-to” sessions for various board games
  • juggling lessons
  • karaoke
  • werewolf
  • open-mic events
  • scavenger hunts
  • various meetups (for cosplayers, scuba divers, LGBTQ+ guests, and more)
  • retro video gaming
  • hackathons
  • pick-up basketball and soccer games
  • a Hamilton singalong
  • a Dr. Horrible singalong
  • and so much more…

Between the official events, the Shadow Cruise, all of the other resources available (see below), and just plain ol’ relaxing by the pool, it’s obvious that the seven days you spend on board are entirely what you want to make them. They can be as busy or as relaxed, as planned or as spontaneous, or as social or as private as you want.

As is (apparently) tradition on most cruises, there is a “formal night,” but on the JoCo Cruise, the definition of formal is up to each person. I saw everything from tuxedos and evening gowns to Renaissance Fair outfits to Hogwarts robes to full Scottish regalia (with kilts) to “work casual.” There’s absolutely zero pressure to conform to any standard definitions.

Cosplay Day and Pajama Party also took over the whole ship for two days of the week. I saw some incredible costumes, and I genuinely wonder how much luggage some people had to pack for the week! Likewise, pajama day saw a large portion of the ship wandering around all day in PJs and robes. Again, there was no judgment to NOT participate in any of these events. Join in or do your own thing–it’s all cool.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the Craft Room, which was packed at all hours of the day–often so much so that they had to turn people away. Veteran crafter with years of experience to share? Interested newbie looking to try something new? The craft room had a place for you. It was one of the first places my kids asked to go, and they spent a lot of time there–making Frankenstein stuffed animals, molding clay, and learning how to sew. It was such an awesome surprise.

Finally, the games library. It probably won’t come as a surprise, but tabletop gaming is HUGELY popular on the JoCo Cruise. There are organized “how-to” sessions for various games, but most people simply swing by the games library, check out a game (they’ve instituted a check-out system just like your public library), and find a good spot to set up and play.

The library is organized and color-coded by time commitment, which makes it a bit easier to try new games, depending on how much time you have available. I saw people playing everything from Fluxx to Imperial Assault. Truly, it was tabletop Nirvana… on the sea.

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