BLACK ENTERPRISE Talks To Jodi Lewis, Head Of Marketing And Operations For UBERSoca
By Dean Watkins
In this informative Q&A, we will dive into the origins and growth of the UberSoca Cruise and learn about the challenges and triumphs faced by its organizers.
We will explore how this floating festival has brought together leading soca artists, DJs, and fans from across the globe, providing an unparalleled experience that marries music, culture, and camaraderie amid breathtaking Caribbean backdrops.
BE: What is the history and background of UberSoca Cruise, and how did you all decide to start the company?
Jodi Lewis: UberSoca Cruise was born out of a desire to create a unique and unforgettable experience that combined Caribbean culture, music, and entertainment. In 2000, Nathaniel Turner, its founder and CEO, was on a family cruise and had a few choice words to describe the experience or lack thereof. The cruise lacked any cultural elements and was bland and monotonous. Recognizing the absence of a Caribbean music festival at sea, he decided to change that by launching the first-ever Ubersoca Cruise. Since then, the company has become the largest music festival at sea, with thousands of passengers worldwide attending each year.
In 2015, after securing the cruise ship, Nathaniel connected with Bermudian promoter Daniel Reece and Bermudian marketing professional Jodi Lewis. The team remembers having one of its initial meetings and Lewis asking, “What if the ship doesn’t sell?” Turner looked at Lewis and Reece and replied, “The ship sails no matter what, whether it’s full or if it only has the three of us on it.” To date, UberSoca Cruise has completed seven successful sailings. It has taken out over 20,000 people (many first-time cruisers) to Jamaica, Mexico, Turks & Caicos, Haiti, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, and St. Thomas.
What types of events and experiences does UberSoca Cruise offer, and how are they different than your average cruise?
UberSoca Cruise offers a range of events and experiences that go beyond the typical cruise offerings. In addition to world-class soca music performances from top Caribbean artists, UberSoca Cruise features live concerts, themed parties, pool parties, comedy shows, sports tournaments, cultural experiences, and workshops. Guests can expect to participate in everything from carnival parades, J’ouvert, fitness classes, and mixology workshops to beach parties and masquerade balls. Unlike traditional cruises, UberSoca Cruise also provides an opportunity to connect with like-minded people who share a passion for Caribbean culture and music.
What has changed the most about the company regarding how you put together experiences now compared to when you started in 2016?
As UberSoca Cruise has grown, we have become more intentional about creating experiences that truly embody the spirit of the Caribbean. We work closely with our partners and vendors to ensure that every aspect of the cruise, from the food to the activities, reflects the culture and energy of the Caribbean. Additionally, we have invested in new technologies and production equipment to enhance the overall guest experience and provide the highest quality entertainment.
If you could change anything about the first cruise you launched, what would it be?
Our 2016 sailing was, by far, the most difficult and challenging. With that said, I wouldn’t change a thing. The vibe, connections, and amazing experience we created were second to none, and many of the passengers that took the chance and sailed with us still sail with us today.
What are some of the biggest obstacles in growing your company?
One of the biggest obstacles in growing our company has been managing the logistics of hosting a large-scale event at sea. We work closely with our partners and vendors to ensure that every aspect of the cruise runs smoothly, from coordinating the music performances to arranging shore excursions. Additionally, we have had to navigate the complexities of operating within the cruise industry, navigating the pandemic, and complying with regulations unique to our business.
How does UberSoca Cruise coordinate with Caribbean governments to ensure local communities and cultural initiatives are part of the cruises’ programming?
At UberSoca Cruise, we believe in supporting the communities we visit and highlighting the rich cultural heritage of the Caribbean. We work closely with local governments and organizations to ensure our programming includes authentic cultural experiences and initiatives that benefit the local communities. For example, we have partnered with US Virgin Islands and other islands to further their cultural initiatives and objectives and support social causes.
Soca is often considered a musical genre that primarily appeals to the Caribbean demographic. Are you currently planning on expanding the themes to reach a broader audience? Also, will there be any cruises outside the Caribbean region?
While soca music is at the heart of UberSoca Cruise, we are always looking for ways to expand our brand and reach a broader audience. We have introduced new themes in recent years, such as the UberAfro Cruise, which will be the World’s First Afrobeats, and Amapiano Festival at Sea, which promises to be an Experience Beyond the Continent. As for future cruises, we are always exploring new destinations and experiences that will appeal to our guests, so stay tuned!
How have leadership’s prior professional and life experiences contributed to Ubersoca’s success?
The leadership team at UberSoca Cruise brings a wealth of professional and life experiences. Although nothing completely prepares you for UberSoca Cruise, our leadership team has backgrounds in law, accounting, risk management, event promotion & planning, and business management. Our collective expertise has been instrumental in shaping the vision and growth of UberSoca Cruise. Additionally, our team is made up of individuals who are deeply connected to Caribbean culture and have a passion for sharing that culture with the world.
If there was one word or phrase to describe the UberSoca experience, what would it be?
If there were one word or phrase to describe the UberSoca experience, it would be “An Experience Beyond the Music.” While soca music is a big part of what we do, UberSoca Cruise is about much more than just music. It’s about connecting with like-minded people, immersing yourself in Caribbean culture, and creating memories that will last a lifetime.
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