In Part One and Part Two of Bruise Cruise 2012, I survived (and totally loved) two sweaty, manic garage punk nights of pre-cruise Kickoff Party Shows at The Stage in Miami. But at last...it's time to GET ON THE BOAT! Cabinmates and new pals Rob and Stacy and I packed up our bags on Friday, February 10th for the Port of Miami and the massive Carnival Imagination cruise ship, which would hold 500 of us Bruisers, 1500 regular Cruisers, and 920 crew members on a long weekend roundtrip to Nassau, Bahamas. Holy ship!

It's kind of impossible to take in the size and scope of one of these ships until you are right up next to one.  At 855 feet long, 103 feet tall, and 70,367 gross tons, it's just ridiculously huge and overwhelmingly imposing. With our new passports in hand, the boarding process went smoothly, and we found ourselves on the gangway to the ship peering up into the ship's windows for a first glance inside. None of us had ever been on a cruise ship before.

"Oh, look," I remarked to Stacy, "Neon." You want neon? The Carnival Imagination HAS IT!

Imagine the Vegas Strip circa 1990 and you've got the idea. We wobbled around the visual and aural cacophony looking for the Riviera Deck, where our cabin was located. Right turn at the vaguely-Egyptian gilded elevators to the cabin corridor, which shall be known now as the Devil's Colon: fantastical in length and psychedelic swooshing colors, no apparent end nor beginning, with the distinct possibility of entering and never again finding your way out.

Upon finding our very tiny room, with a sunny greeting from our Filipino steward, Elvis, we started laughing about, well, everything, including my bed, which you can see behind me folded up against the wall.

Would the bed work? Would the toilet flush? Would we drink the complimentary bottle of wine and never make it out of the room? We'd have to find out later because it was time to make our way over to the Xanadu Lounge for the Mandatory Safety Briefing and then the first onboard show, courtesy Detroit's dirty soul punks, the Dirtbombs. The Bruisers were beginning to appear, one by one, then more and more until the room began to fill up. I recognized many of the faces (and tats) from the Miami shows. Stacy pulled me away from the stage for a moment to step out on the rain-soaked deck, where a rainbow was seeing us off. That had to be a good sign, right?

After a short soundcheck and intro from Bruise Cruise Director, Fucked Up's Damian Abraham, the Dirtbombs began their set, playing to a very happy crowd already bustin' to dance at 4PM in the afternoon. Lead singer and guitarist Mick Collins also fronts the Gories, whose Seattle show was one of my favorites of FOREVER. The Dirtbombs did not disappoint! At the end of the set, one of the drummers with help from the crowd, set up his kit in the middle of the floor, which is awesome. I couldn't see it because I am short, but now we all can thanks to a helpful YouTube fan!

The Dirtbombs, Bruise Cruise 2/10/12

(The Dirtbombs Flickr set)

It was at this point I noticed something: I was moving, but I WASN'T MOVING! Dang, it's the boat rocking and swaying! It was never so much as to be sickening, but it sure was...weird. I made a mental note to myself to avoid wearing heels and not drink too much, considering. There's really nothing very rock n' roll about a middle-aged woman with a bunch of camera gear falling down on a cruise ship.

No rest for the wicked...up next, Thee Oh Sees! Another surface-of-the-sun-hot show from them, including an onstage visit from a celebrating young lady. We benefit from more YouTubes.

Thee Oh Sees, "I Was Denied," Bruise Cruise 2/10/1

(Thee Oh Sees Bruise Cruise Flickr set)

We weave our way back to our cabin to wipe off the sweat and get ready for our 8:15PM FANSAY EATIN' in the Spirit Dining Room. It seemed like all the Bruisers and band members were in this one massive space, at our respective assigned tables. Stacy and Rob and I sat with the Security Team for Bruise Cruise, which is not a bad bunch of guys to schmooze with, knowwhatImean? A fake pirate went around having his Official Pirate Picture Taken With YOU as the appetizers and entrees and desserts were delivered in precision timing. I definitely admit seeing our motley bunch seated at the big round tables with white linens and pink and blue china was way amusing.

After dinner, it was off to see a packed lecture by activist and former Dead Kennedys frontman, Jello Biafra. My first view of him earlier in the day at the Xanadu Lounge was not exactly what I expected; more Cruiser than Bruiser!

Yet, this is not one guy I'd mess with, especially hearing him testily complain about his lecture room being located next to a very loud disco, that the chairs were facing the wrong way, and other minutia that were frustrating him. His lecture, given from single sheets of paper haphazardly arranged on a small table, was hit-and-miss; often funny, but sometimes oddly dated. He seemed to be at his best when opining on the Occupy movement, telling the mostly-20-ish crowd that "doing something -- even if just stopping by an Occupy camp for a few hours -- is better than doing nothing."

(Jello Biafra Bruise Cruise Flickr set)

After the lecture, Jello chatted with fans and media outside the room, King Khan went on at length to another group of fans about a personal odyssey, and Suzi Pratt and I spotted this guy, in full-on pimp costume, including a fragrant brandy snifter and wads of cash:

He was just fine with having his picture taken, and we chatted for a moment. He told me his name was "Cinnabon," which was just one of many highlights of the trip for me. I hugged him in thanks, and he swaggered away towards the disco.

There was no way I was going to miss the Bruise Cruise edition of "The Dating Game," so back to the Xanadu Lounge we went to stake out a camera spot. Single Bruisers were asked to apply for the game weeks before we sailed, and there was a most interesting selection of Bachelors and Bachelorettes. Damian Abraham was a magnificent and enthusiastic host, and the sight of him in a conservative blue suit after seeing a up-close-and-personal view of his bare butt the night before filled me with wonder. I'm not sure that any lasting romances were made here, but it was a lot of fun seeing people win "Dick Towels," iPod-assisted vibrators, and copious amounts of condoms. (In the YouTube below, you can see me shooting at the bottom right with the gray and black shirt on, FYI.)

Damian Abraham introducing "The Dating Game" on Bruise Cruise, 2/10/12

Now into the wee hours of the night, I begged off to get some sleep in my strange fold-out cabin crib, impeccably made for me by Elvis. To everyone's shock, it was really comfortable and I slept like a rock.

Next time...NASSAU! Until then, do check out coverage from Suzi and me on KEXP and my KEXP Flickr set, too!