By Diana Olmstead
In previous years the Publisher of the California Edition of Quick Throttle Magazine has covered the High Seas Rally, but this year they asked my husband Derek and I if we would like to attend. Of course my answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!” I’d never been on a cruise before and I’d heard from several friends who have previously attended that I (and everyone else attending the rally) would have an amazing time while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a very worthwhile cause – Debbie’s Dialysis Fund.
11 years ago Dean and his wife Debbie Anderson created this awesome rally on the sea because they were burned out on seeing and attending biker rallies which all shared the same basic event concept. They wanted to create an event that no one else had done before and they wanted bikers to experience something new and fun.
All of the proceeds raised during the 7 day rally go to the Debbie’s Dialysis Fund (formerly the HOHS Dialysis Fund). The fund enables motorcycle enthusiasts or their friends on dialysis to attend the High Seas Rally. All of the dialysis patients (and their spouse, partner or caregiver) airfare and cruise expenses are paid by the Debbie’s Dialysis Fund. They also receive $1000 spending money to insure that they go home with some great souvenirs from their travels. Debbie’s Dialysis Fund provides a top notch medical team and dialysis machines so that all of the patients receive treatment on board the ship.
The cause is very personal to Dean, his siblings and mother were all on dialysis. Thankfully due to a very strict diet for the past 11 years Dean has managed to avoid the same fate. Dean’s wife Debbie witnessed firsthand the impact of hereditary kidney disease on her husband’s side of the family. She saw how difficult it was for anyone on dialysis to travel so she decided to create a charity event that would bring some joy and adventure into the lives of those on dialysis and educate those who knew little about the subject.
Sadly, Debbie passed away last year from cancer. While I never had the opportunity to meet this dynamic woman, the legacy she left behind is beautiful. I spoke to her family and friends, along with hundreds of High Seas Rally attendees who spoke fondly and lovingly about her. They adored Debbie and everything she stood for and they knew that she would want her dialysis charity work to continue and grow in her honor.
Arriving in Florida
We arrived in Florida Saturday afternoon and immediately caught a shuttle to the Radisson Resort at the Port in Cape Canaveral. The skies were a tad overcast but it was warm! A great change from the cold weather I left behind in the Pacific Northwest. The Radisson was hosting a High Seas Rally Bon Voyage Party the night before the cruise. When we arrived we were greeted to a sea of bikers partying, drinking and mingling in the gorgeous outdoor pool and tiki bar area. We dropped off our suitcases in our room and joined the party! We met riders from all over the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. For some this was their first time attending the High Seas Rally while for many others this was their 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th time and I met a few who said it was their 10th or 11th year.
Everyone was very excited that this year’s High Seas Rally was along the Eastern Caribbean. This was something new as in past years they traveled to the Western Caribbean. After mingling with several hundred biker t-shirt wearing party goers we walked next door and had dinner at nice little place, Kelsey’s Pizzeria, which as you can imagine was packed to capacity. After dinner we went for a walk enjoying the warmth of the evening, and then we called it a night, knowing that tomorrow we’d be boarding the fabulous Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas cruise ship. I was so excited, that despite the jet lag it was hard to fall asleep.
We awoke at 8am and grabbed a bite to eat at the breakfast buffet the hotel had set up. Not long after that we boarded a shuttle bus to Port Canaveral where our ship was docked. We made our way through customs and ticketing and then all attendees stopped by the High Seas Rally booths to pick up their impressive High Seas Rally Welcome Packet which included: a High Seas Rally backpack, leather passport holder, patch, pin, personalized magnetic door plaques, lanyard to hold your room key/sea pass holder, wristband, and a schedule of the HSR events. In addition to those items a 1 hour High Seas Rally DVD would be mailed to us upon our return home.
As I stepped onto this magnificent cruise ship I let out a squeal sounding a bit like a little girl rather than a grown woman but I was so elated that I couldn’t hold it in! We snapped a few pictures of the view of the Port and then headed to our cabin. When I opened the door I was awestruck; the room was gorgeous and there was a bottle of champagne sitting on the table to greet us. Our cabin had a lovely deck with 2 chairs and small table. I flung open the door and stepped outside to take in the view, realizing that I was about to take off on my first cruise ever. It seemed a bit surreal.
At 8 pm we made our way to the main dining room where we would meet up with the people that we would share a table and dine with for the remainder of the cruise. We sat with one of the vendors, Elaina (and her family) who is the designer and originator of “On the Fringe Leather” which designs cool, cutting edge leather clothing and accessories.
At 10pm it was time for the 1st HSR Giveaway Show which takes place in a huge theatre. It was quite a sight to see it packed with 1700 rambunctious bikers! Comedian Roy Riley emceed the Show, and he was hilarious and quick witted!
During the nightly Giveaway Shows they do a 50/50 raffle and the winner takes home half of the pot which ranges from $4000 to $12,000 depending on how many raffle tickets were sold! They also draw the names of a few lucky winners who will win a free cabin for next years rally! In addition to all of that they giveaway thousands of dollars’ worth of vendor merchandise to several lucky winners!
Today’s itinerary called for a stop in CoCoCay; unfortunately due to very rough seas the Captain determined that we would have to bypass our stop and continue on to our next stop. While everyone was a little disappointed, it was only the 2nd day and there was plenty to do and check out on the ship.
The Freedom of the Seas is one of the largest in the fleet; it holds an estimated 3,000 vacationers and 1,360 crew members. Many people headed to the 5th Floor, the ships promenade, designed to look like a quaint, classy, small town main street consisting of several great places to shop , dine or drink in. Everyone else checked out a variety of other ship amenities including winning a few bucks in the casino, trying the FlowRider surf and body boarding simulator, climbing a rock wall, skating on the ships ice rink, playing a drunken round of mini golf, or swimming or soaking in any one of the 10 pools and whirlpools.
In addition to everything that the ship had to offer the High Seas Rally vendors were all set up in the convention center on the 2nd floor. The choice of vendors was fantastic, there was something of interest for anyone attending – Lee Parks Design, Performance Machine Inc, Eagle Rider, Ultimate Seats, Nolan helmets, Jagg, Bikers RX, Flash 2 Pass, Scott Jacobs Studio, Medallion Instrumentation Systems, OHLINS advanced suspension, Windvest, Condor T-Ramp, On the Fringe Leather and Ultimate Cycle Lifts. The HSR staff was manning their 50/50 ticket booth and cabin raffle ticket booth and the lines to purchase those tickets remained steady throughout the entire day! Derek and I were busy signing people up for the bike show that Quick Throttle Magazine sponsored. How do you have a bike show with no bike on a cruise ship? You bring a 5×7 photos of your scoot and fill out the entry form which asks for the specifics of the bike and any custom work that may have been done to it. Quick Throttle judges the bikes entered into the 10 bike show categories and rally attendees will cast their vote for People’s Choice after viewing the bike entry photos in the ships photo gallery throughout the week. The winners will be announced on the last night of the rally.
After dinner it was time to head to the theatre for the 2nd HSR Giveaway Show! The energy level is through the roof! Roy, the comedian gets the crowd all pumped up prior to the raffle drawings. HSR has one requirement at the Shows; they ask that if your ticket number or name is called you respond with the loudest pirate “Aaaaargh!” you can muster! This inevitably leads to a ton of laughter and jokes!
Derek and I enjoyed breakfast, courtesy of room service, which we enjoyed while watching the wave’s crash for as far as our eyes could see. We then joined with the other vendors and continued to sign up people for the bike show. Every vendor was busy talking with riders about their merchandise or business throughout the entire day.
At 2:30 it was time for the Treasured Chest Contest taking place in Pharaoh’s Palace on Deck 5. The ladies dress up in their favorite pirate wench costumes, with an emphasis on the chest area, hence the name Treasured Chest Contest”, the lady that can collect the most donations from the audience is deemed the winner! This event is very entertaining and the ladies are quite competitive but it’s all for a great cause, the Debbie’s Dialysis Fund.
Tonight’s HSR Giveaway Show was held at 6pm. As it had been on the previous nights the theatre was jam packed and we laughed ourselves silly listening to Roy share stories about various “dumbass” rally attendees who he often called out by name. What made them a “dumbass”? Anything from walking into someone else’s cabin, losing their sea pass/room key, buying raffle tickets and putting both the ticket and their ticket stub into the ticket barrel, to a few things that I’m not about to mention in print!
Tonight’s dinner attire was either biker apparel or dressing in 50’s, 60’s or 70’s clothing. Most opted to dress up as hippies which made sense since later in the evening HSR was throwing Debbie’s Hippie Party on the Solarium around the pool. That was quite a groovy sight, hippies of all ages, in all kinds of wild outfits, dancing and drinking together! In the midst of the party a rain squall rolled through sending some to run for cover while others partied harder, in true hippie fashion! Exhausted and wet we made our way to our cabin to get ready for tomorrow – our stop in St Thomas.
Derek and I woke early to capture our ship pulling into port at St Thomas. The view was unbelievable and we and everyone else on board were extremely excited to check out the island! Everyone boarded shuttles that that took us on a short drive into town to do a little shopping from the quaint little shops and dozens of vendors selling their wares at a street market. Of course just about everyone made their way to one of the two St Thomas H-D shops. We packed the shop that we stopped by. We were literally elbow to elbow inside the shop and the line went all of the way out the door. The employees at St Thomas H-D were great and they said they did more business that day than they had in the past 5 months! With our HSR backpacks full of souvenirs we caught a shuttle back to port.
Just a few hundred feet from where the ship was docked was a very cool bar, Senor Frogs, the location of our on shore HSR party! The open air bar was filled to capacity with everyone sipping on cold beers or cocktails. Senor Frogs also has a nice sized swimming pool with plenty of seating surrounding the pool. This was also the perfect spot to hold the Best Beard Contest! This event also includes mustaches and goatees. About a dozen guys sporting facial hair lined up to take part. By applause the crowd narrowed it down to 6 contestants. That’s when the real fun began! 6 ladies approached each of the contestants and began the touchy-feely judging process – stroking the beard, checking to see how soft it was and smelling the beard. This was a blast to watch! It’s hard to say who enjoyed it more, the contestants or the judges!
Before we knew it the time had come to board the ship and say goodbye to the beautiful island of St Thomas. We headed to our cabin to stow away our souvenirs and to get ready for another wildly fun HSR Giveaway Show! The HRS rally goers went nuts when they won cool raffle prizes worth hundreds or thousands dollars, free cabins for next year’s rally and the huge 50/50 jackpot!
After the HSR Show Derek and I enjoyed a nice dinner in one of the ships restaurants, the Windjammer. We stuffed ourselves trying just about everything from their huge buffet. I especially enjoyed the extensive variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s pretty amazing to dine while taking in the breathtaking view of the Caribbean ocean.