Trinidad Carnival 2020 was bittersweet for me. While there were some amazing moments, there were challenges that blemished my overall experience. I partnered with D Travel Plug, to assist with showcasing Trinidad Carnival in a different light to carnival virgins and veterans and there were several bumps along the road; let’s get into this recap
Before I Got There
If you’re familiar with the Trinidad Carnival landscape then you know preparations start from April of the previous year. Flights were secured, housing sought out, research on the MUA options and deposits paid. Planning for Trinidad’s Carnival experience takes a good 7-8 months.
Costume bands launched in July/early August 2019 and from then I decided which band I would play mas with and ultimately, my section. I decided to play mas with YUMA Vibe for 2020 and with the help of D Travel Plug, I was able to organize my fete tickets and secure transportation while on the ground.
Party tickets dropped later than usual (to me) but by November most fetes were chosen and fete tickets organized, it was time to start buying outfits. While hunting down my outfit options, Monday Wear, bags and carnival shoes, it was time to learn 2020 soca and get my body toned in the gym.
While I was there
For the first time I took Caribbean Airlines into Trinidad, a much shorter flight since I didn’t have to connect plus there is something comforting (but also frustrating) about being among your own. The familiarity of accents was comforting and even the dinner option (saltfish with plantain and a bake, with a side of fruit) but lawd the aircraft itself was so outdated and uncomfortable my body still hurts.
I landed at 9AM in POS and headed straight to my hotel, Chacquabana. Despite taking a red eye flight AND a melatonin gummy, I could not fall asleep (I think because the aircraft did not dim the lights) so I needed to rejuvenate my body. Starting off your Trinidad carnival fete week exhausted is NOT the way to go.
My hotel accommodations for Trinidad were booked via D Travel Plug, the aforementioned concierge company. En route to the hotel, I was made aware that check-in would begin at 2pm. Upon arriving at Chacquabana, I was advised that they could not find my reservation in the system, which in itself was conflicting messaging from the front desk. After spending 5 hours in the hotel lobby, I was told that I would have to make alternate arrangements because they gave my intended room away (insert come again face??). If you are familiar with the Trinidad Carnival market, then you are aware that finding last-minute housing is stressful, so imagine having to find a place to stay the same day.
I would be lying if I said my chest wasn’t tight with anxiety, but I had to be solution-focused. Though this mishap occurred, I was not deterred. I intended to sleep off this terrible afternoon at an AirBnB accommodated by D Travel Plug before checking into Cascadia Hotel, where I eventually found a room for the duration of my trip. [But yes, I had to drop a large sum of money at the last minute so kids, always have vex money for these types of situations] The plan now was to head to Caesar’s Army AMBeach with my luggage in tow so that I could transfer hotels with ease.
Where I Partied
While I was focused on getting my housing situation together, It hadn’t dawned on me yet that I did not have access to any fete tickets [remember DTP secured these for me]. I would later find out about the issues regarding party tickets for myself and other clients, but that morning, one DTP member was able to get tickets for me.
I got cute, re-packed my suitcase and headed to Caesar’s Army AMBeach in Tyrico Bay.
Located on the picturesque North Coast, AMBeach had several staged areas with speciality cocktails, wine, breakfast and even fruit-infused water, alongside a variety of eats. I was ready to enjoy myself. Soca artists like Kes, Patrice Roberts and Lyrikal performed their popular hit soca songs, pleasing the crowd as they danced the morning away in the sun.
It was time to leave the event, as my friends and I were chipping happily to exit the venue, we could not find our driver’s vehicle. We searched a bit, to be told that the car had been towed. Towed, with my luggage, passport and valuables. At this point I am beginning to believe someone put a hex on my Carnival experience.
Remembering where I was and also being calmed down by friends, we were able to locate the vehicle, retrieve my items and thankfully nothing was missing. We made a quick stop for some bake and shark at Maracas and then headed back to Port of Spain.
By the time we arrived at Cascadia, after having dealt with traffic and temporarily losing my belongings, I opted to take a nap and try again on Friday morning. I was determined to have a good time at Rise and Jam, the sexiest breakfast boat-ride.
It was now time to prepare for House of Siete x Medz’ Rise and Jam. This boat ride was scheduled to leave at 11am in Chaguaramas. I put on my yellow crochet swimsuit, packed my cooler and headed out with my friends. We boarded the Pelican at Anchorage beach. You can tell sometimes prior to when a party will be lit based on the energy of the party patrons. Many of us were ready to let loose. The event curators served breakfast, which was bake and shark and by 12pm the boat ride was jumping. DJ Jel was on board, giving the people what they wanted to hear; Skinny Fabulous also performed. The timing of this event was perfect. We had just enough fun to be satisfied but still left wanting more because the event went off without a hitch.
I had every intention on attending Soca Monarch Finals then YUMA Erupt but the pace that is Trinidad Carnival, in addition to my logistical issues at the time, didn’t allow for that to happen. So I went to sleep, with every intention on enjoying Caesar’s Army AMBush the following morning.
It is now Saturday morning. AMBush Morning. I had forgotten to pack my J’Ouvert boots but would you let that prevent you from going? Maybe but I didn’t – so I put on some slippers, took my event goodie bag provided by DTP and headed to the bush.
Caesar’s Army begins at 2AM, early enough where the air is cool and you’re left wondering why you are not in the comfort of your bed. But then you see neon-lighted moko jumbies, taste shots on entry and hear soca blasting behind the music trucks… with drinks flowing and the energy around you pulsating and encouraging your desire to have a good time. The event lasted well into the morning, concluding with water slides and foam. Drinks were abundant, there were no issues and party patrons seemed to be having the time of their life. After Caesar’s Army, it was time to go home and take a nap before the staple Trinidad Carnival event, Soca Brainwash.
Held at St.Mary’s College Grounds, the decor and layout of Soca Brainwash’s 2020 Theme “Treasures of the Orient” was immaculate. There were Japanese gardens built out with lovely lush red lanterns, a giant lotus flower, a moving Chinese dragon, a Buddha statue and a media wall where we could write our well wishes and signatures. In short, it was breathtaking.
The food options ranged from local Trinidad and Tobago eats to sushi and fresh coconut water to an abundance of wine. Even the restrooms – though outdoors -were clean and set up on both sides of the grounds to keep lines down. Now the vibe of 2020 Soca Brainwash is what set this event apart. It was as good as SBW F.U.N. in 2016 or “Heaven” in 2017. Just AMAZING! DJs played their hearts out, the crowd threw powder and water though they were dressed in their Sunday best. It was a sight to see – especially when American rap star Ludacris made a surprise appearance! Well worth the $160usd price point. You could truly see where your money went.
Now while I’d been partying and napping [I did way more napping than usual because I was frustrated] up until Saturday night, I still had no idea what the status was on my costume. Through my partnership with D Travel Plug, there were to coordinate my costume pickup.
Sunday morning came and went and I was in full out panic mode because it was the night before Carnival and I still hadn’t received my costume. I had gotten word from a DTP affiliate that it was ready but of course, mascamp was supposed to be closed on Sunday so what was I supposed to do?
Though communication was lacking for most of the day, I kept trying to get through to someone and waited diligently on updates. It took awhile but eventually DTP team members let me know that YUMA had prepared my costume and I could head to mascamp [It was 8PM on Sunday now] to retrieve my costume.
I know other masqueraders experienced extraneous wait times and production issues. I believe it’s because I ended up at the mascamp so late and they knew I was on my way because I had been waiting so long, my package was already put together. It took no more than 20 minutes for YUMA team members to get me in and out of the mascamp. [I heard about the 3 – 4 hour wait times for others].
It is now Carnival Monday. With all the hiccups that occured days before, my favorite day had arrived and I was determined to have a great time. I woke up for my 5AM makeup appointment and fought against jouvert traffic to ensure my face would be beat to the gawds to combat the Port of Spain sun.
After getting dressed and coming down for a mini photo-shoot, I had put my carnival pouch aside. Once my pictures were taken and I stepped aside, I could not locate my bag. Within 10 minutes, someone stole my carnival pouch. The most valuable thing in said pouch was my YUMA wristbands. If you’re a masquerader, you know that your wristbands are more important than your actual costume. You could have on whatever costume you want, no wristband, no party, no carnival. NO EXCEPTIONS.
To say I was on the brink of tears and frustrated BEYOND my wildest imagination would be an understatement. I had never felt so discouraged and not in the mood to play mas, I LOVE CARNIVAL but it was as if the Universe had alternate plans about me enjoying my Trinidad Carnival experience.
Despite my wristband issues, carnival Monday came and went. Of course, my friends had to access drinks and food for me since I could not and made sure I was happy. Security wasn’t too hard on me so I am grateful for that. The highlight of my Carnival Monday was crossing the stage at night. I was a part of the historical moment where masqueraders were yelling “We Want Iwer” and “George for the Road” in an effort to get the DJs to play “Stage Gone Bad by Kes and Iwer”. The crowd’s demands were met when we heard the song booming through the music trucks concluding our splendid day. It was then time to rest up for Carnival Tuesday.
Carnival Tuesday is for pretty mas. My costume was well made and held up well. Rawle Permanand was the designer of my section, Cloud 10 and did an exceptional job. We were able to cross the stage around 12:20PM. I happily gave this little angel my costume backpack at the Socadrome so she could enjoy carnival as well.
- MUA: Khadeisha Stewart
- Hair: Amazing Installs
- Monday Wear: J’Fab Body
The rest of the afternoon was mostly a blur. My one regret was not being able to make it to SOUL OASIS – an exclusive signature rest stop experience hosted by Party and Event Co. Ltd and Moët et Chandon Trinidad (I will always be a champagne girl). However, I visited my friends in ROGUE and TRIBE after lunch time and I must say everyone was enjoying their 2020 Carnival. It will definitely be remembered as one for the books.
Many people had setbacks to their 2020 Carnival experience, in connection to DTP that I needed to find out what exactly happened that could cause this domino effect of blemished experiences. There were several people whose transportation was impacted, accommodations cancelled, costumes not picked up or didn’t get fete tickets all together, this includes even me.
I am happy the Director decided to sit with me and discuss some of the issues that occured. While it does not excuse what happened, it clarified some things for me, and I hope it does the same for other clients as well. Realizing this was a domino effect, each day that passed without communication or transparency, rippled and possibly made the situation worse because we lacked insight into what was happening.
What I appreciate here is the accountability and that refunds will be issued. More brands who had issues during the Trinidad Carnival season should take this approach with their clients. Sometimes you will fall, that is the ultimate price of doing business but you need to acknowledge it and find a way through it rather than avoid it — no disabling comments or ignoring DMs but handling your customers delicately and respectfully. It is important to remember that without the support of masqueraders and party patrons, your event or mas band will suffer. As with life, we live and learn and in the words of Ultimate Rejects, WE JAMMING STILL
Though my patience was tested, life happens and we have to take the good with the bad. I intend to make up for the low points in Jamaica this year as I will be on the road with Bacchanal Jamaica so stay tuned for that.
Yours in Mas,