Trinidad Carnival 2023: The Epic Carnival Experience
For some people, planning a trip to Trinidad for Trini Carnival can be overwhelming. From booking flights to researching which fetes and events to attend, it can be a lot for a newbie. Then there’s finding a reasonably priced hotel or guest house when most carnival goers stay with friends and family or have their lodging locked in a year in advance.

In light of the expected high influx of visitors to address the issue of accommodation and getting tickets to fetes that are known to sell out comes the Epic Carnival Experience hosted by Trinidadian Jonathan Mack.

Inspired by the Welcome To JAMROCK Reggae Cruise, and Mack’s own logistical nightmare for his wedding which was around Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, the Epic Carnival Experience 2023 offered an all-inclusive floatel experience aboard a Cruise Ship for 5 days and 6 nights during Trinidad Carnival.

I had the opportunity to board Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas on the inaugural Epic Carnival Experience for Trinidad Carnival 2023. Here are my thoughts on my experience, how much I paid, and some tips on attending the Epic Carnival Experience for Trinidad Carnival 2025.

Epic Carnival Experience on Rhaspody of the Seas

Epic Carnival Experience Dates

The Epic Carnival Experience cruise dates were from February 16-22. We left from the Bridgetown Harbour Cruise Pier in Barbados and arrived in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago in the early afternoon on Carnival Friday.

The ship stayed in Trinidad until 11 PM on Carnival Tuesday and we returned to Bridgetown just before noon on February 23. Passengers had the following options:

  • Embark and disembark in Barbados
  • Embark and disembark in Trinidad*
  • Embark in Barbados and disembark in Trinidad*
  • Embark in Trinidad and disembark in Barbados

* Passengers embarking in Trinidad had a 2-5 PM window to board the ship and had to disembark by 11 AM Carnival Tuesday.

What’s Included on the Epic Carnival Cruise Experience

  • Accommodations
  • Access to exclusive parties on board the cruise ship
  • Meals
  • Alcohol and Soft Drinks
  • Government taxes and fees

What’s Not Included on the Epic Carnival Cruise Experience

  • Fetes / Carnival Party Packages outside of the cruise package
  • Non-refundable services
  • Fees charged by the cruise line
  • Spa treatments and certain specialty exercise classes
  • Laundry
  • Photographs
  • Casino
  • Ship-to-shore phone, email, Internet, fax
  • Shore excursions
  • Airfare
  • Ground transportation to/from the Port
  • Food and beverages at off-site events

Epic Carnival Experience Registration

The Epic Carnival Experience was announced at the end of July and registration started on August 8th. After signing up for pre-sale access, we were informed that due to high demands, potential guests would be placed in two groups for first priority. I secured a spot in Group 1 which gave me the earliest access to picking a cabin that went live to the general public at 12 PM.

To make the registration process easier, we were advised to create our account, and the day before the launch, I was given a unique link to book our cabin. In the middle of a meeting, I booked our cabin in 10 minutes via my phone for the lowest price which was $1900 before taxes and fees. Talk about multitasking!

A few weeks later we made changes to our reservation to include the Carnival Monday and Tuesday add-on for $850. Since we registered early, we took advantage of the 5-month payment plan offered.

All packages included tickets to fetes like Duckwork, Machel One Show (which replaced the canceled International Soca Monarch), Aqua Soca Festival, and J’ouvert with Cocoa Devils. There was also an “Epic Play” PREMIUM add-on for fetes that included tickets to A.M. BUSH, Soca Brainwash, Shades Breakfast Party, and Imagine (Elements) The J’ouvert Party Experience.

Tip: If you want the full “fete to fete” experience of non-stop action, I highly recommend the premium package as these fetes provided are known to sell out.

After paying our initial $300 cruise deposit, we waited to register with a mas band. In September we received notice that it was Carnival Rogue.

We did not have to play with Rogue but kept the choice because we thought the costume collection would be easier going through the cruise. I also received updates from friends that Rogue was a good band to play with.

A link was emailed to us in October to pick a section based on the selections. We chose the section Roxy and I paid an extra $75.73 for a feathered collar and high-waisted bikini bottom.

Epic Carnival Cruise Experience

Pre-Cruise

A few days before leaving, we registered with Royal Caribbean to expedite our boarding. During the pre-check-in process, we entered our passport information, printed our luggage tags, chose a time to check in at the cruise port, and entered our credit card information which was put on hold for incidentals and potential charges. We also received a preliminary itinerary of all the fetes that were on and off the ship from the Epic Carnival team.

Tip: For official Trinidad Carnival updates, including events, history, and more, visit the National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago’s official website or follow on Instagram and Facebook

* Premium Event

THURSDAY, FEB 16TH

Sail Away Fete: INSOMNIA: THE SPIRIT OF CARNIVAL”

FRIDAY, FEB 17TH

Welcome to Trinidad on the Pool Deck

Duck Work

Machel 40th Anniversary: One Show

AM Bush/Pandemonium*

SATURDAY, FEB 18TH

Aqua Soca Festival

Soca Brainwash*

Jonny Mack’s Birthday Bash – Pool Deck

SUNDAY FEB 19TH

Shades Breakfast Party*

Awake Brunch & BBQ on the Pool Deck

Imagine (Elements) The J’ouvert Party Experience*

MONDAY, FEB 20TH

COCOA Devils J’ouvert

Carnival Monday

TUESDAY, FEB 21ST

Carnival Tuesday

Last Lap on the Ship

We arrived in Bridgetown, Barbados a day before departing and stayed at the Blue Horizon Hotel which is about 20 minutes from the airport and cruise port, within walking distance to restaurants, and nightlife, and right across the road from Rockley Beach.

The hotel offered a free continental breakfast with the option to purchase pancakes, eggs, French toast, or Caribbean favorites like bake, saltfish, breadfruit, and plantains.

One of my aunts from London was staying close by, so we met at the hotel and walked over to the Worthing Square Food Court for happy hour at the bar and lamb roti from Ackee Tree.

The drinks were 2 for $5 (which converted to 2 for $2.50 USD) and WELL worth it. Afterward, we walked over to Mojo’s to listen to live reggae music before heading back to the hotel and to bed.

During the Epic Carnival Experience Cruise

Here is a rundown of the Epic events I went to on and off the ship during the Epic Carnival Cruise.

Thursday

We took a taxi to the cruise port in Bridgetown to board the Royal Caribbean Ship: Rhapsody of the Seas. This was my second time on a Caribbean cruise, but my first with Royal Caribbean.

The check-in process went pretty smoothly and we were on board the ship ready for what was ahead. After getting some food and drinks from the Windjammer Restaurant, we mingled with other passengers before the announcement was made that our cabins were ready.

We grabbed our luggage, checked into our room, and went back out to enjoy some sun and see what the ship had to offer.

We booked an interior cabin, so there were no windows, and it included the basics: two beds, a bathroom, a seating area, a vanity, and a closet. Since it was just two of us, the room worked, but it would’ve been too small for 4 people.

After dinner at the Edelweiss Restaurant, we got ready for the Sail Away party Insomnia. To get the crowd to participate, there were prizes available for the best wine, and best all-white outfits for men and women.

Once DJ Puffy got on, the party was PURE VIBES. At around 3 AM, it started to rain and everyone jumped up when Iwer’s “Water” played. After a few more tunes, like Zeek’s “Wet it Up” and “Danger” by Skinny Fabulous & Problem Child, the party moved inside to the atrium where it went on until sunrise.

It was the perfect start for the cruise and had us passengers talking about it the whole time on board.

@msjoannae #myepiccarnival #myepiccarnival2023 #myepiccarnivalcruise #trinicarnival2023 #wetitup #insomnia #allwhiteparty #rhapsodyoftheseas #visittrinidad #booktrinidad #barbadostourism #joannaetravels #carnivaltiktok #feteren #trinicarnival #carbbeantiktok #trinitiktok #traveltiktok #zeek #vincysoca ♬ original sound – JoAnna E | Travel & Style

FRIDAY

We arrived in Port of Spain in the early afternoon and after getting breakfast, we picked up our fete tickets and eventually got ready for our first fete Duck Work in Chaguaramas.

We arrived at Chaquacabana Beach Club at around 2:30/3 PM and spent the next 4-5 hours enjoying the food, drinks, music, and entertainment from the DJs & soca artists.

In addition to KFC, I had some of my favorite Trini foods like corn soup, buss u shut, curry channa and aloo, curry duck, and more. I thoroughly enjoyed Duck Work and hoping for one in NYC this summer.

After Duck Work, we returned to the ship to shower, have dinner and catch a quick nap before Machel One show. Somehow my friend and I ended up on the VIP transport to the stadium and from taking a headcount of persons in the maxi to choosing a meeting point and contact via WhatsApp, it was so organized (shoutout to Jase from Trinidad Carnival Diary).

Friday night/Saturday morning, we arrived at Halsey Crawford Stadium at about midnight and saw performances by Viking Ding Ding, Wiz Kid, Ayra Starr, and of course, Machel Montano who incorporated elements of carnival and its connection to the African continent.

After seeing Machel perform three times last year (at BRT Weekend Atlantic City, Barclays Center, and Tipsy Miami), this was my least favorite show. It could’ve been the vibes, but we left around 3:30 AM and the show wasn’t even halfway done (he came on stage around 1). One of my cousins had tickets in General Admission and said the show didn’t really get any better.

@msjoannae #carnivalfriday #macheloneshow #wizkid #rema #trinicarnival #trinidadcarnival2023 #carnivaltiktok #carnivalinfluencer #duckwork #myepiccarnival #myepiccarnival2023 #epiccarnivalcruiseexperience #tiktoktravel #caribbeantiktok ♬ Never Again – Machel Montano

SATURDAY

Saturday was a pretty late start, but after grabbing some food we got ready for Soca Brainwash. There was some confusion with transportation when we left the cruise port, but after a few minutes of sorting things out, we were on our way.

This was the only fete we paid for outside of the cruise and from the décor to the food, drinks, and vibes, Soca Brainwash was the BEST fete I went to during carnival. The Theme was Happy Birthday and feters could wear an outfit from any theme. I chose Africa, wearing a short set from Cider, necklace from Reshma Closet, and repurposed my headpiece from Trinidad Carnival 2013.

Ryan Sayeed alongside DJ Puffy with Private Ryan and Kevin Crown had me jamming in the shaded corner next to the main stage the whole afternoon into the evening. I only wish I knew of the Soca Baby stage playing old favorites with the Soca Prince Dr. Jay.

Soca Brainwash 2023 Trinidad Carnival

After Brainwash, we hopped into the maxi back to the cruise port where our driver kept the vibes going, playing Bunji’s Hard Fete from pickup to drop-off.

We had dinner at the Edelweiss Restaurant again before taking a quick nap before Jonny Mack’s Birthday Bash on the pool deck. Here we saw performances by Rupee, Tanya Stephens, JW, Tarrus Riley, Destra Garcia, and more.

@msjoannae #socabrainwash #socabrainwash2023 #trinidadcarnival #trinicarnival2023 #trinitiktok #carnivalinfluencer #caribbeantiktok #myepiccarnival #epiccarnivalexperience #epiccarnivalcruiseexperience #trinidadcarnival2023 #myepiccarnival2023 ♬ Engine Room – Olatunji

Sunday

Sunday was a free day for us and I chose to visit my aunts in Barataria after having Sunday Lunch on the pool deck and picking up our items for J’ouvert.

Our J’ouvert goodie bag was a stringed backpack that included our shirts, wristbands, sunglasses, a devil headband, phone holder, tea, coffee, green seasoning, a drink cup, toiletries, snacks, and hand sanitizer.

Since we didn’t have a pair of scissors, we brought our shirts to my aunt’s house so we can get them cut up.

@msjoannae #jouvertbag #jouvert2023 #trinidadjouvert #trinicarnival2023 #cocoadevils #cocoadevilsjouvert #trinitiktok #carnivaltiktok #carnivalinfluencer #caribbeantiktok #myepiccarnival #epiccarnivalcruiseexperience ♬ Powder Puff Part 2 (Party Alliance) (feat. Blazer) – Machel Montano & Various Artists

On her way to perform at the Dimanche Gras, my cousin dropped us back at the cruise port where we FINALLY got our costumes and passes for Tuesday with Carnival Rogue.

The pickup wasn’t as long as my Miami Carnival experience, but we had to go back and forth with the workers several times due to missing headpieces and the wrong collars being given to us.

After we made sure we had everything, we went back on board for our last dinner at Edelweiss Restaurant and prepped for J’ouvert with Cocoa Devils.

J’ouvert Morning with Cocoa Devils

J’ouvert morning, the ship woke up with an announcement from Jonny Mack at around 2 AM. After catching our transportation, we met the band at Victoria Square for food, and drinks, and met up with our mini crew.

People normally associate J’ouvert with oil, paint, powder, and sometimes even mud, but Cocoa Devils uses chocolate. When telling friends and family I was playing with Cocoa Devils, they skinned up their faces, but I had a great time. After Brainwash, j’ouvert was my second favorite event this carnival season.

J'ouvert with Cocoa Devils Trinidad Carnival 2023

We were with the band until about 9 AM when we went back to the cruise port for a hose down and some doubles. After taking a much-needed scrub down, we took a nap before going back on the road for Carnival Monday.

@msjoannae Replying to @bklynactivemama J’ouvert is my FAVORITE! #jouvertmorning #trinidadjouvert #jouvert2023 #trinicarnival2023 #trinicarnival #cocoadevils #cocoadevilsjouvert #carnivaltiktok #carnivalinfluencer #caribbeantiktok #myepiccarnival #myepiccarnivalcruise #epiccarnivalcruiseexperience ♬ DAP (Drink and Party) – Viking Ding Dong

Carnival Monday

Trinidad has a two-day carnival and Carnival Monday is where masqueraders can opt to wear part of their costume, an old costume from another carnival, swimwear-like attire, purchase from a designer, or make their own.

I decided to customize my own Monday wear with a wire bra frame purchased from Shop Dana Leigh and included gems from previous carnivals in Trinidad and Caribana, added trimming to a swim bottom, and Niles Collection customized a captain hat purchased from Amazon.

Epic Carnival Experience Carnival Monday Wear
Carnival Monday Trinidad Carnival 2023

After a taxi driver tried charging us entirely too much to meet the band, we made it on the road at around 2 PM. Compared to our J’ouvert experience, the drinks were hard to get and we didn’t get food at all. I was a little bit hungover, but the vibes were just okay for me on Monday. Due to the extreme heat and lack of receiving food and drinks, we left early to eat on the ship.

Carnival Tuesday

Carnival Tuesday was a lot better than the day before. The only complaint that I had was our costume falling apart. This was even after I glued other pieces the night before. We walked from the cruise port to Memorial Park where we met the truck RIGHT before crossing the Savannah Stage.

Unfortunately, we just missed the drinks truck, but we were able to purchase water from street vendors. There were also Rogue Runners handing out drinks in the crowd if needed.

The vibes on Tuesday were a lot better. I stayed close to Kevin Crown and Mad Russian’s trucks as they played tunes before we all crossed the stage to Bunji’s Hard Fete. Due to the heat, I mostly drank coconut water, but drinks were easily accessible after crossing the stage.

Just like Monday, we did not get any food and there was no time to go to the rest stop. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy my time with Rogue. A few days after, Rogue posted a public apology on social media in response to costume quality and overall performance.

Due to our 7 PM “curfew” with Epic, we left the band earlier than we normally would and enjoyed Las Lap on the cruise ship after showering and having dinner.

Post Epic Cruise 

After getting a light breakfast, we disembarked in Barbados shortly after noon on Ash Wednesday. It was bittersweet, but I was happy to cool down at our hotel and the beach in Barbados before heading home on Thursday.

Rockley Beach Barbados

Epic Carnival Experience Final Thoughts

With the exception of playing mas with Rogue and the 7 PM curfew on Carnival Tuesday, I really enjoyed my time. I loved being hands-off when it came to planning and the Epic team was very professional.

We were always notified of updates via the Whatsapp group and the staff listened when we shared our pain points and concerns. We were even given bottles of rum and a free photo before leaving the ship.

An added bonus was that the Epic Carnival Experience brought over 2500 visitors to Trinidad and Tobago, some of who have never visited the country or played mas before. I only hope it will be bigger and better in the years to come. To learn more about the Epic Carnival Experience Cruise, sign up for their mailing list on their official site.

Trinidad Carnival 2023 Total Cost

Below is a total breakdown of how much I spent on Trinidad Carnival after deciding to book the Epic Carnival Experience in August.

Flight (NYC to BGI): 578.77

Epic Carnival Experience Cruise Package: $2050

Carnival Rogue Costume, collar, and extra bottom: $925.73

Soca Brainwash: $210

Hotel in Barbados: $170/ per person

Transportation: $123 (Epic round trip Transport) $80 (Barbados Airport + Cruise port transport)

Food and Drinks in Barbados: $45.66

Total: $4183.16

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4 Comments

  1. Hi JoAnna,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful feedback of your experience on the Epic Carnival Experience. I signed up and is now waiting for response. I am interested to attend Carnival 2025. I see that you mentioned that they are cancelled for 2024, is there a phone number or direct email to reach them since there is 30 people in my group that is planning on going 2025, we wouldn’t to wait for them if they are not doing the cruise. Please send me any information you have for them I would really appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

    1. Thanks for reading. Yes, it is canceled for 2024. I’m hoping they come back, but really don’t know if they will. You should be able to contact the Epic Team directly from their website or via social media. There is also something similar called the Utopia Cruise happening for St Thomas Carnival in April/May.

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