Those Were the Days My Friend: A Jam Cruise V Review
Part 1: Sanity and why coming my way was not a property it contains
I took a ferry to the highway
Then I drove to a pontoon plane
I took a plane to a taxi
And a taxi to a train
Ive been traveling so long
How am I ever going to know my home
When I see it again
I had one rule this year. As much as I love Jam Cruise, New Years Eve is a special date to me. Not seeing music last year we opted for the fireworks at the Space Needle. Wheeeee1 frustrated me. I vowed that there would be no repeat of that. 2007 would be rung in by seeing some music, no matter what it took.
Unfortunately, Jam Cruise left a few days earlier this year. Leaving the port on January 2, didnt just mean a run up in the price of our flight and hotel room. It also meant that wed really have to work at it to catch a concert.
Winter flights are always tricky as Denver residents who tried to fly out for Christmas can attest and one-way flights are more expensive so this was going to be a challenge. The only realistic options involved us finding something in the southeast and driving to it. Widespread Panic was a possibility but I have a rule that I will not see them south of the Zzyzx Panic Line, defined as a straight line drawn between San Francisco and Baltimore. After spending some time hoping for a repeat of Mike and the Duo in southern Florida, Perpetual Groove announced a show in Charleston. I really like those guys, so that was the plan. I could even have a nostalgic repeat of a long drive down I-95 on New Years Day like my old Phish trips from Boston to Baltimore.
The first part of this trip could be described as the day that everything took far longer than it should have. We were smart enough to carefully plan where we changed planes in order to avoid cold weather climates, so of course Houston was buffeted with hurricane force winds, leading to a run through the airport to get to Miami in time. Once we arrived in Florida, our attempts to rent a car were incredibly delayed due to, well, the fact that we were in Miami.
Sometimes you get lucky and a city immediately lives up to its clichreputation for your amusement. There were about 12 lines at the counter and 7 of them were tied up by a would be (or actual) drug kingpin renting cars for both his boys and his girlfriend/mistress . While the rest of us just sat there, hed slowly move from line to line, make some sort of comment to the person working behind it, and move on to the next. Somehow, none of this work ever seemed to move anyone towards the direction of, yknow, getting a car, but they all seemed excited about what they were doing. I had never seen anything like that before.
Drinkers like to refer to nights like St. Patricks Day and New Years Eve as amateur night. I never really understood the desire to separate the real drinkers from the poseurs until I drove from the bottom of I-95 to South Carolina on the Saturday between Christmas and New Years. It was amateur driving night. The highway was filled with families coming from the beach and Disney, none of whom seemed to know the first thing about driving long distances. Aaaaaaaah! Its raining! Slow down to a halt! Look! Road Construction! What do we do? That truck is driving slowly up the hill  and quicker down it. How do we deal with that incredibly surprising behavior?
Between all of this and the fact that Florida went on for another 80 miles than my ballpark guess it took us 12 hours from the time we got off of the plane and arriving at the hotel. What do you want to do after a red eye cross country flight? Travel for an additional 12 hours of course! Once again, I managed to take a simple idea (see some music on New Years Eve) and turn it into the kind of plan that no one would ever voluntarily subject themselves to.
Fortunately, after all of the work to get there, music was actually seen. Was it worth it? As much as I wish that I could say that Perpetual Groove performed a concert that made a 1300 mile round trip drive after a 3000 mile flight worthwhile, I cant. Its not that the show was bad by any means. It wasnt the best concert I had ever seen them perform, but it definitely had some great moments. It just didnt feel like a New Years show. 
The whole reason I wanted to attend a concert that night is that there is a gaping hole in my life that represents the New Years Eve concert experience. Perhaps it was simply that there was a five day music cruise in my immediate future, but this concert didnt feel like a New Years Eve show; rather it was just a warm-up. This show should feel like a culmination, a way of wrapping up 2006 and pointing towards 2007, not something to get us back into the concert frame of mind.
The best analogy here is that of a widower who lost the best relationship that he ever had. What should he do on his anniversary? Ive tried pretending that it didnt exist and that didnt work, so the next approach was to go out on a date with someone new. All that did was to lead to thoughts about what was different. New Years Eve Phish shows were my one constant. In early January I knew what I would be doing on that date. It might seem trivial, but it was the one true ritual in my life and even now when Im over the Phish thing , the days of the run are still a little sad. Its like someone who loved the lights of Christmas moving to a different country where no one celebrated it; when you find a life affirming ritual, it can be hard to lose it, no matter how minor it looks to an outsider.
Fortunately, I would have plenty of time to dwell on what this meant. I swear that I-95 across the south is the most tedious long drive of any in the country. There arent hills or changes of scenery or even many cities to break things up. Its an endless expanse of flat swampland until you finally break into the land of palm trees. The grey skies overhead helped set the mood which probably is a large reason why the above paragraph is so depressing over such a trivial matter.
In order to prevent a $100 cab fare, we dropped the car off in Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami. Somehow, it worked out that I got to the rental return almost exactly seven years from the exact same moment that I was last returning a car there, the ill fated flight home from Big Cypress. Theres a huge difference between getting to the airport, panicked because you just missed your flight, and getting there days before your return flight, just using the facilities to hail a cab at some point in order to get to your hotel. This day was a little less dramatic but it did have the advantage of being a lot less stressful.
We grabbed a cab from the airport and headed to our hotel. The phase of our trip where we were in control of the travel was over. From here on in, it was up to others to get us there.
Interlude: Prelude to a Ship
We had some time to kill before wanting to sleep that night, so we took a long walk on the beach. Being a little bit hungry, we walked across the street in a commercial area and grabbed a slice of pizza. We went by a bar where a singer was performing outside. While he sang an upbeat Cuban arrangement of Those Were The Days , a few Alaskan hippies were dancing excitedly around. They had gotten a little head start on their drinking and were having a blast. Their excitement was contagious. No more road trips and stress. Its time!
- Part 2: All Aboard!*
Day 1: Fort Lauderdale
One advantage this years Jam Cruise had over last years is that we were using the same cruise line. That made things a lot easier. We knew exactly what to expect in terms of food, the layout of the ship the MSC Opera had the same deck plan as the Lirica; I even chose the exact same room I had last year in order to make navigation even more instinctive – and the boarding process. We planned carefully, making sure that we had whatever we needed for the first night with us in case our baggage was delayed. We got in line early, got on board quickly, and got excited immediately.
That was a theme of this years Jam Cruise. It was a lot like last years only with the problems removed. The boarding process was a lot smoother than the previous years, which was smoother than the year before. Our bags were ready for us after only a slight delay. The pizza, while not exactly up to the quality that Im used to back home , started out pretty edible and improved over the course of the cruise to be pretty good. There would be no Skerik rants this year.
During the year between last years cruise and this one, the Jam Cruise staff spent a lot of time working with MSC. Among other things, they helped teach them how to make a pizza that would be closer to American tastes. Its odd that it might be the experience of hosting Jam Cruise that teaches MSC how to break into the American market, but it just might be the case.
Pulling off an operation as complicated as transforming the boat into a concert venue is a difficult task. Everything has to go according to plan or delays will mount up. Unfortunately, there was a complication this year. We ran into a rainstorm.
Its easy to handle showers when were at sea. Were on a moving ship after all. We can steer between the clouds. Unfortunately though, theres absolutely nothing we can do when were docked. The storm had to be waited out which delayed loading the boat for a while. The net result is that most stages started an hour and fifteen minutes late.
Normally, this would be fine. Whats another 75 minutes when youre on Jam Cruise time? The only problem is that it caused a serious conflict. My original plan was to see Perpetual Groove a set that turned out to be an early nominee for my best set of 2007; admittedly, its pretty easy to get that on January 2 – followed by an hour of the Greyboy All Stars on the pool stage, and then go down below to see Tea Leaf Green. Unfortunately, TLGs stage was not delayed. Missing an entire show of the All Stars was painful, but I would have been more annoyed if I found out that I wasnt present for the only Garden III  of the boat, so it still was the right call. GBA dont have any songs that would hurt for me to miss.
_ Most Memorable Moment of the Day_
Any cruise has to start with a life jacket drill, so the cruise line can say that at least they tried to tell us what to do if the boat sank and its our fault for ignoring them. This years drill had two great moments in addition to the usual overplaying of the whistles. Walking down to the muster stations we were H for Hot Mustard I overheard a complaint that summed up the Jam Cruise experience in one sentence, These life jackets need a cup holder!
One of the fancier features of the jackets is that they have a little light on them. I never have figured out how to turn them on but someone else had managed. I asked how they did it and they told me to spit on the end. Sure enough, the liquid caused the light to turn on. Theres nothing like starting a cruise by telling complete strangers to do something stupid, having them do it, and having it have a cool effect. It builds up a layer of trust that you can abuse for the entire rest of the trip.
_ Day 2 Day at Sea_
Jam Cruise has discovered something very effective. Start the first full day with a bluegrass set up on the pool deck. Last year it was the Lee Boys, this year we had Hot Buttered Rum String Band. Theres no better way of starting a morning than to sit in a hot tub overlooking a stage while traditional bluegrass is played. This years set had a twist though. Twice the power went out during the set. Did they panic or freak out? No. The band simply huddled together and played with no amplification. They even moved off the stage and onto the end of the covered pool to make sure that we could hear them better. It worked so well that I half suspected that they planned it.
The Complete List of my Problems with Jam Cruise
Jam Cruise isnt perfect. No festival can be. Its amazing how close this came though. Before the final day , this was my complete list of complaints all two of them.
One of the activities they added this year was a Jam Cruise Presidential election. The idea was to raise voter awareness and help create a community. In theory, that might have been possible. However, the actual event wasnt completely thought out.
What went wrong is that the winner of this election got prizes, free tickets to other events. Sure, the cynical among us could say that elections are a meaningless process where candidates advertise and bribe the electorate in order so they could get spoils, but Im not convinced that was the message that Headcount was trying to send. The unfortunate result was to create cliques.
I think Headcount is used to dealing with people who dont ever think about elections or the voting process. Jam Cruise is filled with people who vote in off year primaries. Instead of not voting in the mock election because we hate politics, we didnt vote because we care a lot about the issues and didnt understand why Jam Cruise needed a president in the first place.
On the other hand, a write in candidate did come up with the slogan, One more set! That was a really useful chant throughout the trip. I guess we can call this a draw.
While the election was a first (and probably last) occurrence complaining about the food on the boat is an annual event. Speaking as a vegetarian, I thought the food wasnt bad at all this year. No, the food isnt up there with normal cruise standards; if you add an incredible music lineup to the boat and expand the dining options to all hours of the night (not to mention having a much higher percentage of vegetarians and vegans) without costing that much more than an average cruise, something has to give. Still though, its better than what I eat at most festivals and its sure nice to have it sitting there when you need it.
My problem wasnt with the food itself, but rather with the labeling. It was hard to be sure what was safe to eat and what wasnt. Either the staff needs to be able to answer the question, Is this vegetarian? or there needs to be signs put up saying what has meat in it and what doesnt. Its a minor deal but it would make dining such a better experience.
Oh and have more pineapple please. When they put it out, it was incredible.
Day 3 – Turks and Caicos Islands
Before I left, there were two categories where I thought that Jam Cruise 5 was going to be a step down from the previous year. Pushing it up closer to New Years meant more expensive flights and hotels and my birthday would not be on the boat this year. After the incredible adventures of seeing Mayan ruins and exploring Jamaica, I was worried about the shore excursions being a tad on the dull side. Fortunately, Melissa has a thing about lighthouses. She loves taking photos of them. Some Internet research found a historic lighthouse on the north end of Grand Turk Island. We had a plan.
While the lighthouse itself was just a lighthouse, the trip there taught me a lot about what it would be like to live on this island. On the cab ride over, I learned that unlike most of the rest of the British Empire, the Grand Turk Island is still governed by an appointee from Great Britain  and that their main industry until recently was exporting salt, both of which felt very 19th century. More interesting was our tour guide at the lighthouse who ended up on Grand Turk Island due to a drinking game.
Born in England, she was about to move to New York when the couple that she was going to live with split up. She didnt want to deal with their relationship drama, so she ended up living with friends of friends. In the process of getting to know them, they started to drink at a bar that had a map of the Caribbean on the wall. Blindfolded, she put a dart in the map, while her newfound friends had her credit card ready to buy a plane ticket to wherever it landed. Despite not exactly being the biggest landmass on the map, she somehow pinned the Grand Turk Island. She flew there and ended up never returning from her vacation. And I thought I was a free spirit.
What is there to do on a seven-mile long island with a population of 6000? While we never asked the question directly, the answer became apparent when she was suggesting restaurants to us. She knew the shift of every waiter on the island, If you go to that place, youll be waited on by Fred oh wait, todays Thursday. That means its Jill. As beautiful as the place is, she proved that most people would go stir crazy living there after a few weeks.
The lighthouse has a nature trail affiliated with it. There we got to learn the true meaning of desert island. To be honest, I always thought it was short for deserted. I was completely wrong in that assumption. It turns out that there are places where prickly pear cacti coexist with the ocean. Water water everywhere, but not a drop to give to the plants.
After exploring the trail, it was time for lunch. There might be better places to eat than The Waters Edge somewhere in the world, but its really hard to top the view. The food wasnt bad either.
After a day of exploring an island that otherwise would have remained unknown to me, it was time to pay tribute to my first love. Steve Kimock has apparently decided that the best use of his enormous talent is to pay tribute to the legacy of Jerry Garcia. Zero now has Legion of Mary members Melvin Seals and Martin Fierro, not to mention Donna Jean Godchaux-Makay. Zero was opening up for the defined Grateful Dead tribute set, but they might have done a better job with the honoring.
Halfway through their set, Ermaline segued into a fiery jam, reminiscent of the bridge between China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider. When it finally died down, it was only a brief lull before Donna came out to sing Goin Down the Road Feelin Bad. That was pretty incredible, but then Kimock led the band into a moving instrumental version Stella Blue. Deadheads were satisfied before the two hour set could start.
The Sounds of San Francisco set didnt get off to a flying start. The Jack Straw opener was marred by the obvious fact that Tea Leaf Greens guitarist Josh Clark didnt know how it went. He tried to sing it, but he couldnt get the timing right. It was kind of awkward, but, then again, would it really be a valid tribute to the Dead without some sloppiness?
It was during the Crazy Fingers where things switched. Kimock might not have been in the announced lineup, but there was no way that he was not going to be involved. He was the main instigator in getting the post song jam to soar and that momentum would lead into the next song, a 39 minute  Help->Slip->Franklins that was everything this project promised. It wasnt the close your eyes and pretend moment of a Dark Star Orchestra but rather was talented musicians having fun with the material. It was the spirit of the Jam Room with the material of the Grateful Dead. What more could I want from an evening? Best Artist Interactions on Jam Cruise 5
You cant go on the boat without having some interactions with the musicians. Here are the favorite ones I had:
5: Helping a member of Yo Mamas Big Fat Booty Band deal with his seasickness. Good thing we brought extra Dramamine.
4: Being introduced to Tea Leaf Greens Josh Clark. While we ended up having a long conversation, what made this great was that I was able to start it with, So, how did it feel knowing that everyone knew how Jack Straw goes except for you? Hey, if you cant mock someone who has given you incredible musical epiphanies, who can you mock?
3. Being stalked by Melvin Seals. All throughout the Grand Turk Island, wherever we went, Melvin followed about an hour later. He even demanded that he take a picture with us.
What? Oh ok. We requested the photo. Still though, if you ever get a chance to talk to Melvin, do so. Hes one of the nicest men you are ever likely to meet.
2. Meeting Donna. I think Donna was a tad confused by the Jam Cruise experience. Whenever she got on stage, people went nuts. Sure she was a member of the Grateful Dead, but during that time, she wasnt the most beloved member. Perhaps it was the years of being out of the public eye, but now everyone loves her. I mean, its Donna. Whats not to love.
Thanks Jam Cruise for adding her to the boat. It might just have been a passing moment, but I met Donna! That would have made most months by itself.
1. Watching but not participating in Rock and Roll Karaoke. When I first heard about this event, I thought it was a silly idea, but figured that it would be worth checking out for a few minutes. The appeal only became evident when people started singing. Some were good, some were well less so, but everyone seemed to love having an all-star backing band. Theyd point to someone to get them to solo or move their fingers around in a circle to signify that they wanted to sing the chorus again. It was the interaction that made this work.
Besides, how often do you get a chance to see Umphreys McGees Jake Cinninger and the Disco Biscuits Aron Magner teach each other Dont Stop Believing on the fly? Jake even remembered to play the little guitar lick halfway through. I captured a little video of the event12, but Id love to see more if anyone has some.
_ Day 4 Cayo Levantado_
Jam Cruise tried something different with this stop. Instead of the usual shore stops where everyone does their own thing (or nothing) until its time to leave port, they threw a beach party for us with a set of Hot Buttered Rum String Band. I thought that there was no better way of seeing music than sitting on a deck chair by the pool in the middle of the ocean, but lying on one of the best beaches in the world might have topped it.
Getting in the water off of Cayo Levantado isnt like swimming in the ocean anywhere else. The waves caress you and gently support you as you float. If it werent for the fact that Perpetual Groove and Tea Leaf Green were playing that night, I dont know if I would have ever been able to leave the island. If anyone wants to build me a house there, Im willing to move in tomorrow. Ill let you crash on the couch when you visit.
The Biggest Regrets of Jam Cruise
Much like Jazz Fest, Jam Cruise can be defined as much by what you missed as by what you saw. Sure the stages are so close to each other that its easy to drift from venue to venue, but that doesnt mean that youll hear about the right show. Heres what I missed:
Greyboy All Stars, 1/2. Not my fault really. I had to choose between them and TLG, but it sounds like I missed the better of the two Greyboy shows.
Galactic, 1/3. I kept wandering by the Jam Room wondering why nothing interesting was happening there. The reason for that was that everyone was busy guest starring with Galactic.
Trevor Garrod, multiple spontaneous shows throughout the boat. Tea Leaf Greens keyboardist played a few extra shows throughout the cruise, both solo and with other musicians. Unfortunately, I didnt wander by the piano lounge or the back deck on floor 8 at the right moments to catch these.
Jam Room 1/6. I was exhausted on the last night of the boat. I wandered up to get a slice of pizza and ended up engaged in a fascinating conversation with members of the Perpetual Groove community. I really enjoyed that, but while I was talking, Brock and Trevor were jamming down below with Steve Kimock. Fortunately, the chat gave me enough energy that I went to the Jam Room instead of bed and caught the last half hour of this, but I wish I had been able to see the whole thing.
Day 5 Day at Sea
Theres always something depressing about the final day of Jam Cruise, but the schedule for Saturday made it hard to get too upset. The sun was shining, I snagged some good seats for the day, and Railroad Earth was playing on the pool stage.
In a week where little went wrong, this was another near perfect day; not only did I have a day of great music by the pool, but it was topped by an incredibly exciting playoff win for the Seahawks. Two years ago, I saw the Hawks lose a close game on Jam Cruise due to a dropped pass in the end zone. This year, Tony Romo made up for it. Sure, some people might not have spent time on the last day of a festival sitting in their room watching ESPN Deportes, but I was exhausted enough that this made sense. Fortunately, the excitement of the win gave me a second wind that I used to see some more music.
Finally though, 3 AM rolled by and they shut down the Jam Room. One last chant of, One more set! was made. A passenger tried to intrigue people by playing Journey in the piano lounge. People searched aimlessly for music, but the sad truth was there. Jam Cruise, the best Jam Cruise that I had experienced, was now over. It was time to go back home and return to Seattles worst winter in decades.
The Top Five Musical Peaks on the Boat
5. Tea Leaf Green, Planet of Green Love outro jam 1/5
No, I havent changed my mind. I still think rapping an ode on the joys of smoking an intoxicant is a tad juvenile. Still though, the jam at the end made up for the song section. Not only was it high energy, but it combined two songs that probably were never played together before Row, Row, Row Your Boat, and Meatstick. They work surprisingly well together.
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Time for the meatstick
Bury the meatstick
Life is but a dream.
Sing it and youll see that it works. Who says that Jam Cruise isnt educational?
4. Sounds of San Francisco Help->Slip->Franklins 1/4
If this had happened on any other Jam Cruise, it probably would clearly have been the best moment of the trip. This year just had way too much good music.
3. Railroad Earth Peace on Earth 1/6
Every Jam Cruise has a moment where I find myself inspired by the music to run around the room like a little kid. Jam Cruise 3 gave me Aquarium Rescue Units cover of Down by the Riverside, last year had a moment with Honeytonk Homeslice, and this year, well this year had quite a few such moments. Perpetual Groove had me doing laps around the Caruso Lounge on the 5th. The Disco Biscuits got me to run up and down the stairs for a few minutes.
Railroad Earths contribution was a bit more fun though. When you find yourself running through the kiddie pool, kicking up water, you know youre listening to something good.
2. Perpetual Groove Out Here 1/2
In any other venue, this probably would not have been the Perpetual Groove highlight. The Three Weeks and So Much as Goodbye from the other show were extremely hot and it was a blast seeing the bartender dance around to All Night Long. However, this wasnt any other venue.
Theres something magical about hearing, And Ill know by then if I reach the other end of the ocean/Out here I see things so differently, when you are, in fact, out in the middle of the ocean. Indeed, things do look quite different when youre in the middle of Jam Cruise than they do when youre muddling through the grind of work.
Whenever I hear this song, I will be transported back to jumping up and down on the pool stage. There are far worse associations a song could have.
1. Zero Ermaline Jam through Stella Blue 1/4
This really had everything energy, emotional playing, and some great songs. I wasnt expecting that much out of Zero, but they got the top spot this year.
Flying home after a trip like this is rough, but I had plenty of time to reflect on matters at Fort Lauderdale International. Its true that New Years Eve probably wont mean what it used to, at least for the immediate future, but thats not as bad as it seemed at first. I no longer have automatic plans for that date, but instead I have them for sometime early in January.
For thirteen years Phish on New Years Eve was my home but now Ive moved. Jam Cruise has become the focus of the year, the one event that I know that I will be doing even as Im returning from the last one. Tropical weather, great music, a wonderful crowd of great people, interesting places to see whats the argument against going if you can afford it ?
Can they top this year? It doesnt seem likely, but I didnt think there was any way of getting better than last years either. Even if they dont, the quality of the average Jam Cruise is so high, that it makes sense to make this event the anchor of the year. Keep giving me reasons to go on the boat and Ill keep doing it.
One more cruise! One more cruise! One more cruise!
 No really, this was amazing. Best time ever. I am so glad that that was our plan. Much much better than seeing Phish again.
 That assumption was based on how demanding she was over what kind of car she was receiving. This was clearly someone who he was trying to impress, not someone who he had already impressed.
 A hill on this stretch of I-95 would be called a gentle incline anywhere else. It sure freaked people out there though.
 Later conversations on the boat put forth the theory that this was an atypical New Years show for P Groove; if they had been able to play in Athens, it might have been more celebratory. That may have been true, but Phish really did own this night and are a very rough act to follow.
It probably didnt help either that Ive grown used to all clubs and bars being smoke free. South Carolina hasnt passed that law yet making for a much more difficult environment for a show.
 Over enough that Id turn down a tour? No. But I no longer think about it that much. I have moved on to other things to do with my vacation time until such a time as that option returns. Then wed see.
 Not the theme from All in the Family. Those were the days my friend/We thought theyd never end/Wed sing and dance You know, that song.
 Some east coast transplants like to talk about how theres no good pizza in Seattle. Thats largely because they cling to an incredible restrictive definition of what makes a good pizza. Its weird to be the one saying this, but open your minds people.
 If I have one continuing problem with Jam Cruise, its that Im a morning person and these late nights kill me. The lounge has such comfortable chairs, and the hour was so late, that I found myself slowly drifting off to sleep during TLGs first set. I wasnt as bad as the completely passed out people, but apparently some quite embarrassing pictures were still managed to be taken. So there I am, fading in and out, when the opening chords of GIII were played. Immediately, I jumped in the air and started dancing around. Behold the power of a favorite song.
 On the final day itself, there was an issue with Direct To Disc. Their estimates for when CDs would be available didnt match any sort of reality. As a result, you had a crowd of exhausted people told to just write down their information on the back of their tickets giving away the proof that you ordered the discs – and trust the company to mail the discs to us. That was the one time that I saw actual angry people.
It could have been a disaster, but the company was in fact true to its word. I received my extra discs on the Friday after I got home. Its still better to under promise and over deliver, but at least this was just a minor delay and an annoyance, not some sort of rip-off. Other than a glitch during Tea Leafs cover of Corinna Corinna, the sound quality made it worth the effort.
 I just kept imagining this conversation, Ok, here are your options. You can either work on the Grand Turk Island or Wales. Which would you prefer?
 Other peoples timing. There were only two bands that Ive ever timed and neither of them exist anymore.
 While Jam Cruise looks (well and is) expensive, its actually not that much worse than going to a festival if you want to stay in a hotel. As I get older, my interest in camping in loud, dusty, hot fields is fading. I stayed in hotels for Wakarusa and Vegoose. Between renting a car, the hotel costs, the ticket fees, and buying food, Wakarusa came to about half of Jam Cruise did and Vegoose was close to 2/3 the price.
In exchange, you get much better logistics (Even when I was seeing shows in the Orleans, it still was a good 15 minute walk from my room to venue, and that assumes there was no line to get into the show. On the boat, it was never more than a minute or two to get from any venue to my cabin.), the ability to hang out with the artists, better weather, the Jam Room, and a complete lack of police looking to harass you for having the nerve to pump money into their local economy, not to mention the fact that you get to occasionally see Mayan ruins or explore an incredible beach or go snorkeling. Theres a reason why this column is filled with over the top praise for the event. Jam Cruise really is that good.
David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live music at the Capitol Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at http://www.ihoz.com/PhishStats.html
He is the stats section editor for The Phish Companion and is on the board of directors for the Netspace Foundation. You can read more of his thoughts at http://www.livejournal.com/users/thezzyzx.