Emily S. Whitten: Fan2Sea, the Floating Comic-Con! (Part I)
Before this January, I’d been to many comic cons but I’d never been on a cruise. I loved the idea of going on one, though; as well as the concept and aim of the first Fan2Sea comic con cruise: which was to give fans the best experiences of comic cons – good seats at panels, VIP parties, getting to meet the guests, getting sketches from artists, and all of that – but without the crowds and lines and hassle. In essence, the goal was for everyone’s experience to be an extra-special experience; and on top of that, to have it in a super-cool, chill venue with other fun activities in between all the fan goodness, and with opportunities to actually get out and see the sights as well.
Well: Mission. Accomplished. In a way that was even better than I’d imagined… and I have a pretty good imagination.
As I and another longtime comics and con reporter were discussing, at what other comic con could you go from a VIP party chatting with actors from The Walking Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy, or Stranger Things to your room to pick up your bathing suit, and out into the starry night sky for some relaxing nightswimming in the pool deck hot tub, simply by taking the elevator? And at what other con would Day 1 not end with tired arms and feet from carrying a bunch of stuff around and walking miles of unforgiving concrete floors? And at what other con could you always easily find some good food that’s already included in your room cost (so you don’t have to worry about nickel-and-diming yourself if you get a craving for, I don’t know, soft-serve ice cream at odd hours). Or go sit down for a fancy meal with no reservation just by walking up with your party? Or schedule a spa treatment that’s right upstairs? Oh, and at what other con would you also, if you didn’t feel like going to a panel or meeting guests or getting your cosplay makeup professionally done or attending a comics Master Class or vying for geek pub quiz prizes, be able to just go play some pool or basketball or mini-golf or air hockey or arcade games or watch a slew of themed movies in a real cinema by, again, just taking the elevator? What about rock-climbing? Swimming? Gambling, if that is your wont? Or just exploring the vast space and opportunities for fun of the venue itself. In other words, at what other con would your overall vacation experience be this awesome?
I know, I know, I’m over-enthusing. But the answer is: none. No other con. There is no other con like this one, and I’m in love. Because yes, the best part of cons is the con guests and programming; but having all of the other features available, and still giving a con the convenience and intimate feel of a smaller hotel-based type of con without losing the star and program quality, ups the ante in a way I’ve not experienced at a comic-con before. I’m sold, you guys. Totally sold. If this con happens again (and it should, because for a first year con they did pretty much everything right, and every single guest or attendee I asked was having a fantastic time) it will be going in my con calendar as a can’t-miss. And trust me, you’ll want to follow my lead on this one.
But now, on to some more specifics! It was great to be on board (literally! I love that) for the inaugural outing of Fan2Sea. First off, the accommodations were very nice. Sure, the standard rooms aren’t huge – but they definitely comfortably fit at least two people, and wow, do they ever have a ton of storage space tucked away in odd corners. Roomie Adriane Nash (and ComicMix assistant editor) and I quickly unpacked our things into the many cabinets and drawers on the first day and were able to easily store our (giant!) empty suitcases out of the way in the closet for the rest of the trip, which gave us a nice settled feeling. We also really loved our balcony, on which we watched the ocean go by (very soothing!), ate breakfast, chilled, drank wine, and marveled at the amazingly clear stars. And the housekeeping folks were great, and kept our little room tidy and comfy for us (and even made us little origami animals out of clean towels!).
Next, From Day 1 I loved seeing the thought the Fan2Sea team had put into theming the whole ship so that it really felt like the con had the run of the place. From life-sized Batman and Spider-Man decals on the glass elevators to giant “Fan2Sea” floor and flag decor, to a fully Sin City-themed casino and bar list, to even the bar napkins sporting the Fan2Sea logo, it felt like the team behind this con really knew how to welcome the fans and was as excited as we were to be on board.
And that was completely true, from the staff members I met. Every Fan2Sea staff person I talked with was excited, enthused, and accommodating – there to ensure that everyone had the best time possible. My special shout-outs to those who made my personal experience on board top-notch would include Stefan Lawrence (who was literally everywhere making sure nothing went “sproing,” as every good con-runner should be), Michael D’Alessio (who provided a consistent and upbeat voice and mood for daily announcements and hosting of a number of events), Mary McDonnell (whose help from the minute I walked into the port Terminal was awesome, and whose enthusiasm and happy spirits were infectious), Jenny Weinbloom and Kevin Kalbfeld (who were super nice and fun to talk with), and Constance Eza (about whom every artist she worked with for Artist Alley, etc. said good things).
I also appreciated the wisdom of the organizers seeking out beforehand panel moderators who had been to many comic cons before and really knew their stuff. I was super happy to moderate the Deadpool panel (which was awesome!), but also really glad to meet the other moderators at our prep meeting before the schedule got underway. Not only did I make some new friends, but also it’s just nice to have a little time to sit down with others who do what I do (or similar) and chat. Fan2Sea provided us with that opportunity and relaxed setting; and picking outside moderators who knew what they were doing really helped make the panels fun, too!
Of course, new friends are fun but old friends are always awesome, and I was pleased as punch to be in a chill con environment with a number of my con friends. At regular cons, and especially the big, spread-out cons with several hotels, venues, conflicting parties, and the like, if you’re a reporter it can be hard to actually just find time to hang out with others in the industry, or with other con-goers. There’s always a ton of texting and, “Where are you now?” “Is the panel full? Are there seats?” “Is that bar all the way across town??” and “Oh, can I go to that party with you, or is there a list I didn’t know about in time?” type of communications. But the cruise ship venue made it super easy to meet up or run into friends and decide to do something together without it being a big production or hassle. And while the program options certainly weren’t limited, the way the schedule didn’t pit too many big items against each other at a time pretty much guaranteed that if there was a big event going on, at least one of your friends was going to be there.
I could probably go on about all the great general setting and vibe things that made this con amazing, but I think you get the idea. The setting and accomodations were great, the vibe was great (a con that feels relaxing to attend! Who knew it was possible!?), the activities were great, and the people were great. And at the risk of using “great” too much, I had a great time!
But speaking of time, that’s all I have time for this column! So stay tuned for my next recap, which will include the details of my daily adventures with guests, panels, pub quizzes, master classes, Artist Alley, and outings, along with a slew of fun pics! And until then, Servo Lectio!