By Lisa Dalgaard – Pics by Lisa and CD
How did it start?
Dean and Debbie Anderson, founders of this incredible week of pleasure on the high seas, have perfected the art of showing folks a good time. In 2002, they began the High Seas Rally Cruise in response to the overpriced, undervalued motorcycle rallies of yonder days. Now, just like Sturgis, it’s something every motorcycle enthusiast needs to include on their bucket list.
Dean and Debbie, after some biker profiling by the cruise industry, hijacked their own retirement by starting these annual cruises on the most beautiful ships Royal Caribbean has to offer. 9 years later, it stills runs like a well oiled machine, or at least they make it look that easy. Their goal is to make sure YOU have fun. Debbie and Dean’s other goal is to raise as much as they can for the Kidney Dialysis Foundation – HOHS. This year, they raised $172,989. Their second highest total, raised through games, auction and donations and with 400 less people than 2010.
All Work and All Play
This task is not easily accomplished and the days leading up to departure are full of hard work but when it all culminates on Halloween week with another successful cruise, they take great pride in their success, and they should. If not for HSR, 16 Kidney Dialysis patients who are sponsored to go on the cruise annually wouldn’t have the chance to travel out of the country and leave their trusted dialysis centers, doctor and nurses to risk the uncertainty that they won’t be able to get sufficient treatment out of the country. Debbie and Dean bring on board doctors, nurses and all the dialysis equipment needed to sustain these folks for a week.
Do you bring your bike?
The trip starts for many when they ride their own bikes to Florida from all over the country. They store their bikes in Cape Canaveral while on board the High Seas Rally so they can get a little riding in before and after the week of soaking up sun, taxing their liver and gorging on the endless food. The adventure starts for others at the kick off party the night before the cruise at the Radisson Hotel. The lagoon-like pool and incredible giveaways immediately set the tone for the week full of fun, dress up and prizes galore. Dean and Debbie gave away the first of several cabin raffles for next years’ cruise along the nightly 50/50 on that first night alone. So, you leave your bike behind and board the incredible moving mall and playground of fun where you’ll find an ice skating rink, rock climbing wall, surfing wave pool, basketball courts, outdoor movie theater and more… You can still bring a photo of your bike for the bike show but you’ll be too busy to ride on this trip.
The four beautiful ports of call include 1) Labadee, Haiti, 2) Falmouth, Jamaica, 3) Georgetown, Grand Cayman, 4) Cozumel, Mexico and a few relaxing days at Sea.
With almost 1500 HSR folks on board the Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, we pretty much took over the ship. The lay people got a great nightly show with theme outfits like 60’s, 70’s, 80’s attire, Pirate Night, leather formal nights and of course Halloween where we had our own private costume party with prizes and alcohol included! They got to watch our Belly Smacker Contest and we got to join in their Sexiest Man contest.
Is it a cruise within a cruise?
You’re probably wondering how this all works, being on board the second largest ship in the world and on a biker rally. Well, the organization is what Dean and Debbie work so hard on. HSR TV is always broadcasting on the ships closed circuit channel. That is full of information, schedules, vendor interviews and commercials and more. The vendors they have on board are carefully selected for their interesting products and generous prizes. Every vendor is required to donate at least $5K in prizes and some like Harley-Davidson and Lehman Trikes donate up to $37,000 dollars in prizes. This year’s prizes totaled = $129,205! Other vendors included Von Braun Exhaust owned by Charlie Giordano who makes very cool retro exhausts. Check them out. www.VonBraunUSA.com. My other favorite was Sportsman Eyewear. They make incredible recordable sunglasses. You can find them on www.RiderzRelief.com Other vendors were Condor, Kuryakyn, MotorMarc Art, Steve Soffa jewelry, Nightrider jewelry, Scott Jacobs Art, Performance Machine, WindVest, Nolan Helmets, Medallion gauges and more.
Bring your friends and win!
The other way to win money is to bring your club with you. The group with the largest following is eligible to win cash! Pacific Coast HOG from Westminster Harley-Davidson in CA. read about the High Seas Rally in Quick Throttle Magazine last year. They decided to bring about 20 members with them so that made them eligible to win a ton of cash! We followed them around that week and got them having way too much fun. They agreed that the trip far exceeded their expectations and they want to go again!
One of their members brought her parents and this is what they said about their experience:
“Manuel and I had the best time of our lives. The giveaway shows were great! Manuel won the watches from Steve Soffa valued at $4400. The story of the dialysis patients went to our hearts, and has made me drink more water. The food, all that food was soooo good. It was fun watching the different costumes and ideas everyone had for Halloween. The excursions were fantastic, tiring but fantastic. We especially enjoyed Dunn’s River Falls, the Turtle Farm and Tulum. Dean and Debbie are great people to do this type of fund raising for Dialysis and at the same time having lots of fun. Our high point was meeting all of Yvette and Jr’s Harley Family. We would like to do another High Seas Rally in the near future with all of you. Thank you again for having us and making us a part of your group. Arrrrrr…. Manuel and Cha-cha (Maria) Escamilla – Pacific Coast HOG- Westminster, CA
They had an incredible time and some won but the big group winners were the Hillbilly Mountain Cruisers. The won $10,000 and donated a portion back to the charity! In fact, most winners did donate a portion back. Daniel Weidner, Charles Bova, Linda Hutton, Patrick Fitzgerald, Charles Finemore, Dawn Handley, all winners. Mike Kane who won Best Hand in the Poker walk was recovering from the heart surgery he had a week ago! He wasn’t about to miss this cruise for a bad heart and look how it turned out.
There is, of course, a Tattoo Contest for the best High Seas Rally tattoo. The winner is usually the same guy, Dave Henry, who now has 80% of his body covered in HSR tattoos. He won again with his 25th tat. There are many winners though. If you have an HSR tat, you still get $50. Ladies, you wo n’t want to miss the Topless Man contest and gentlemen the Treasured Chest Contest. Debbie even joined in the fun on that one and raised a few bucks for charity!
What really sticks out in my mind on this cruise is the attention to detail. Yo u feel so special starting with the gorgeous leather wallet, pins, patches and champagne in your room. Then the custom name plaques on each door. Even down to the meal seating chart. If you’ve ever planned a big wedding, you know that guest seating is just as important as the food and entertainment. Aunt Mary doesn’t speak to Uncle Joe so don’t sit them together. Well, Dean and Debbie realize that your dinner table mates can make or break your vacation so they spend 150 hours seating people! No, they don’t know everyone that comes on the cruise personally but they take factors into account like what they do for a living, where they come from and personalities if they do know them. Really, who cares that much?! That explains why, just like at your family wedding, there is a receiving line on the last night of the cruise where Dean and Debbie personally say farewell to every person there. These are the things that makes this cruise amazing!
Giving is just as rewarding as receiving
Sure you can win a ton of great prizes and money on this cruise but some go just to give.
Maggie and Tim Murray from Dalby, Queensland Australia were in a bidding war for a collectable HSR banner. They finally paid $10,000 for the HSR Cayman Island banner but later told me they were planning on donating that amount regardless of the prize.
Another couple were in a bidding war for one of the other banners. She was so excited about the auction process that she took off her top and ended up buying a $4,000 banner in the process. Big money was raised by 1980’s race car driver Dick Trickle. Days of Thunder with To m Cruise was modeled after his life. That banner, signed by all NASCAR drivers went for $5750.
It’s these type of people, mixed in with your every day Joe who is living hand to mouth and finally scrapes up enough money to take a much needed vacation, that make up the attendees of the High Seas Rally. The beauty of that is you never know who has money in the biker community because everyone dresses the same. Black t-shirt, jeans and boots. In the case of the Caribbean attire, tank, shorts and flip flops……. we are all the same. Folks that have the love of motorcycles in common, looking to have a good time and not go overboard (Hee Hee, pun intended).
Don Farnsworth was pretty happy. He’s the guy from Denver, CO. who won the grand prize, the totally customized H-D Fat Boy Low. He was so excited he cried. When you see that kind of joy, you immediately stop feeling bad for losing and start feeling happiness for someone who really deserves it. The gold Leahman Trike was won by Paul Ridgeway of Webster Springs, WV. Believe it or not, that is Dean and Debbie’s hometown and they didn’t even know Paul.
Oh the prizes!
Total collected for the HOHS Dialysis Fund through games, auction and donations $172,989.00. CASH – Games, 50/50, poker walk, biker Bingo, cabin raffle resulted in $150,494.00 cash giveaways. Dean & Debbie giveaways $25,000 Fatboy L o w, $37,000 Street Glide Trike and $2,698.00 Early bird cabin drawing Total $64,698.00 Grand Total Cash and prizes $344,398.48 There were 428 prize and cash winners for the week. Now, I started this article with Rock Star or Captain right? Well, who needs Captain Jack Sparrow when you have Captain TOR. Our wonderful Nordic Captain who now lives in Kentucky not only kept us safe on our journey, came to our nightly meetings to say hello just to us Bikers, but also entertained us with his ROCK BAND!
I know you want to go next year, but before the 2011 rally cruise had even set sail they had already SOLD OUT for next year’s 2012 10th anniversary rally cruise, with 2100 passengers registered. Just over 1 year in advance. Registration for 2013 is scheduled to open April 1, 2012. We predict it will be even bigger than 2012 with an even quicker sell out than the 2012 rally cruise. Even though they are sold out for 2012, keep an eye on their website because things do happen and there COULD be cancellations. www.highseasrally.com