"What the hell did I get myself into?"

It’s still dark outside my hotel room high in the Miami Marriot. My bags are packed and 10 floors below me my new(ish) co-workers are gathering in the lobby. It’s embark day, an old hat for them, and 2 miles to the east Norwegian Pearl is ready to load up 2500 passionate music fans — and this very nervous new Marketing Manager — for the sixth sailing of the KISS Kruise. I’m due downstairs in a matter of minutes, and my normally self-assured demeanor is shot. I’m pacing a stripe in the carpet, trying to shove my stomach back down out of my throat and asking myself like a broken record: What the hell did I get myself into?

Understand that I’m the new guy here at Sixthman. So on this morning I’m describing, I’m stoked, just as I have been every day in the 3 months since moving to the exciting world of music festivals at sea leading up to my first boat ride — but I can't shake the nerves. I’m not nervous with apprehension, but rather with curiosity and excitement (or, at least, I got really good at telling myself that). I’ve watched, studied and learned the KISS community — and all of our wonderful communities — from afar, but I need the front lines exposure I was about to get to really make it all click. What would finally get me there? What would make it click? When would I really get it? Now that it’s over, I realize I was foolish to expect one definitive moment. Instead, I got too many to count, as I hope you’ll get the first time you sail on one of our festivals (or, for you veterans, I hope you get each time you come back). Here are just a few of the many times I finally got it:

Coming out of the tunnel and seeing the Pearl for the first time

What a sight. This is definitely what the Apollo astronauts felt like when they approached the shuttle, right? Definitely.

Greeting passengers at the terminal

I come from a music venue and concert promotion background, and my favorite part of that world was always the few moments before doors opened for a show. Translate that to embark day, and I could see the fans lining up for the terminal to open. Same feeling, wildly new setting. Then, of course feeding off your energy as you prepared to board the ship. My hand hurt from high fives.

Walking onto the gangway for the first time

No, THIS is how the astronauts felt. Awesome.

A sail away shot and we’re off!

My first cruise shift was helping pass out trays of Caborita shots to a pool deck full of fans before KISS themselves came out for a toast and a family photo as we sailed from Miami. I had been on board all of 15 minutes, and suddenly I’ve got trays of booze in my hand, standing on the pool deck stage trying not to tip them all over the front row. Remember that “how the hell did I get here” question?

Working my first pool deck show

The moment where the lights go down and a band hits the stage is special in any setting. But this re-defines setting. Put 2500 of the most passionate fans in front of their heroes on the pool deck of a cruise ship? Those pictures I’d seen a million times didn’t do it justice.

That first sunset...and the second...and third...

Someone mentioned it, pretty passively — “make sure you don’t miss your first sunset…” That person is officially in my top 3 favorite people ever (as soon as I can remember who it was).

Being back on land (sea legs are a real thing, by the way), I’ve been asked time and again to describe my experience. I’ll leave it to say that these “firsts” only scrape the surface, and it’ll probably take far longer than the week I’ve had to process my first Sixthman cruise to really answer that question. One thing I know for sure: now that I know what I got myself into, I know I can’t wait for more.

Click here to see photos from The KISS Kruise VI