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Carnival's Bruise Cruise Lets Loose 400 Garage Rock Fans Onto a Cruise Ship

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After dessert, Flo Rida's "Low" cranks up from speakers in the ceiling, and the waiters who had previously taken hushed orders position themselves between the tables. It's hard to tell if anyone enjoys seeing this ethnically diverse group forced to shimmy in their white dress shirts.

Later in the evening, a small, undeniably snookered crew of bruisers takes in a lecture and slide-show performance in an unspectacular conference room likely the spot for countless business seminars. It's led by nattily dressed Ian Svenonius, a muss-haired, wisecracking orator for the weekend and vet of several Washington, D.C., post-punk acts — Chain and the Gang, most recently. Svenonius is one of many anti-establishment types here who until tonight probably wouldn't be caught dead on a cruise. What was billed as a "serious lecture" turns out to be an audience participation piece featuring, among other things, a comic reading of dialogue portions from Metallica's Some Kind of Monster documentary ("You know what, you guys, why don't we just go in and hammer it out, all right, instead of hammering on each other."). While most of the room listens and laughs, a couple of cutups start throwing balls of paper at each other.

At 1:30 a.m., the action returns to Xanadu Lounge for a sweaty set by the stylish New Orleans duo of Quintron & Miss Pussycat, who specializes in a swampy combination of funk and high-concept art. A long day of drinking turns on the crowd-surfing faucet, and bodies fly as the soulful punk via vintage keyboard chugs along.

After that, DJ Jonathan "New York Night Train" Toubin's mix of '60s soul dislodges the mass near the stage and into all corners of the dance floor. Toubin hosts "Soul Clap" parties around the globe, and he pushes the party steadily later and into that realm where the body stops fighting back against the punishment it endures.

Up on the Lido Deck, intoxicated bodies scoot under the outdoor bar's awning for even more refills. Groupings of musicians and bruisers gather in the cool evening air on deck chairs, and some have put on bathing suits for a dip in the nearby pool.

While all this is going on, the Jacuzzi Boys' frontman, Gabriel Alcala, blacks out for a minute. He and his Miami bandmates are taking full advantage of the deck's bar, which rapidly grows crowded in these late hours. Sly social foreplay previously reserved for a smoky bar is now on display under the stars. While Alcala drunkenly tries to recruit every girl he sees for a "lecture to teach them more about themselves by the Jacuzzi," there's talk of a different type of recruitment.

One by one, it dawns on various photographers among more than two dozen media entities covering the cruise that a photograph of the Jacuzzi Boys in a hot tub would be a prized commodity. Alcala repeats to these inquiries, "Let's just let it happen organically."

After passing out the first night at 9, professional surfers Alek Parker and Dylan Graves begin Saturday of the Bruise Cruise at 6 a.m. In zany sunglasses, bathrobes from their cabin, and a never-ending stream of drinks in hollowed-out coconuts, the guys take their venerable Cheech and Chong roles seriously.

They mix with the early risers at the Lido Deck's pool and play chess using the giant chessboard on the nearby stage. Soon, they're shotgunning coffee and iced tea. Around 8:30, grapefruit mimosas. That leads to a bottle of champagne. Given their social nature and costuming, it's unsurprising that Parker is approached by an 80-year-old woman named Amy who wants to teach him how to salsa dance. As they walk through the steps right there on the deck, an 85-year-old named Mildred, who has suffered a stroke that has caused half of her face to not be functional, joins in. Afterward, Parker teaches the salsa steps to four other girls.

"Amy rocked my world, and I paid it forward," Parker says, now lounging in the early afternoon in the Horizon dining area.

So where did the lipstick on his face, chest, and torso come from?

"That's where it came from," Parker says, pointing out the window at a few slinky swimsuit-clad girls.

One floor below, the Jacuzzi Boys shake out the Xanadu's cobwebs from the night before with a mind-melting attack. The set attracts a boast-worthy Iggy Pop T-shirt, intricate bird tattoos, and bruisers with towels — one featuring an exaggerated cartoon phallus — around their waists.

Continuing the South Florida-themed afternoon are the island-flavored vibes of Surfer Blood, the fresh-faced West Palm Beach act that just got in trouble for swiping a keyboard stand from upstairs. "Did anyone see me in the casino winning all the money last night?" singer J.P. Pitts asks the crowd in the middle of the band's rabid set. He's rocking his best pair of cutoffs. Aside from attempting to play "I'm Not Ready" when they literally aren't ready, due to detuned guitars, it turns out to be a mighty mid­afternoon display that many of the bruisers miss because they're exploring the Bahamas onshore for hair-braiding or drugs.

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Reed Fischer
Contact: Reed Fischer

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