Updated: May 26, 2022
Everything You Need to Know about playing mas (Jumping Carnival) in the Caribbean.
Carnival is one of those experiences that you have to try at least once in your life time. It is one of those enviable bucket list experiences that you can brag about for years. Chose Your Destination As a Carnival Chaser, I've been to Trinidad Carnival, Crop Over (Barbados), Jamaica Carnival, Miami Carnival (GenX) and LA Carnival. Trinidad Carnival is the Mecca of all carnivals and isn't for the weak. It literally is 4 weeks of non stop partying ending with 2 glorious days on the road. Outside of St. Lucia Carnival, all the other carnivals have one road march day. Personal Ranking:
Trinidad Carnival - February
Jamaica Carnival & Miami Carnival - April & October
Crop Over / St/ Lucia - August /July
LA Carnival - June
Plan, Plan, Plan Now Firstly, if you don't book early, you won't be able to experience anything. Party tickets and costumes will be sold out. This isn't one of those times where you can make your mind up last minute. Carnival is an intentional premeditated commitment. Book your flights and hotel rooms early. The savings will be in the US$1000's. If its your first time, I would recommend a Carnival concierge service. This takes out the logistical hassle. No Sleep Mas - They handle it all: Fetes, accommodation, transportation Carnival GLAM Hub - Everything Glam: Makeup, Hair, Photoshoot
Join the Gym
lol. The fact that I could hear you asking "Why?"
Firstly, Carnival is non stop partying, drinking and repeat. Most days begin with a breakfast party that starts at 4:00am, followed by a Mid Day boat party somewhere 12:00pm , followed by a evening fete 4:00pm. These are just the lead up events to Playing Mas (Road March). Mas starts from 8:00am and entails dancing and marching along the road until 8:00pm. Think about it, 1-2 Weeks of none stop partying followed by 1-2 days and straight dancing and marching in the streets of a Caribbean destination. Logistics This is where the concierge companies I recommended make a huge difference. Try to book a hotel or airbnb close to the parade route. Trust me, it makes all the difference! Carnival means road closures and huge traffic jams. If the Carnival passes your hotel, then its equivalent to winning the lotto. In Jamaica, I'd recommend booking The Jamaica Pegasus, The Courtleigh Hotel, AC Marriot, or AC Hotel. In Trinidad, It would be the Hilton Hotel and Conference Centre, or any Airbnb that is in walking distance of the Savannah. Even if you've rented a car, and are outside the parade zone, you won't be able to find free (or safe) parking. Early Bird Party Tickets Firstly, it should be understood, that Carnival attracts thousands of party goers. If you're not a local, this is where the concierge companies can really help. Venues have limited capacity and when tickets are sold out, that's it. This goes back to planning and watching for early ticket releases. This also saves money or you will be spending US$100's more by ticket scalpers. Carry Your Own Sunblock Carnival is about Sun, Rum, and little to no clothes. Bring your sunblock. PACE - What does it mean? 🎵Time to show meh yuh waves!Time to get outta line!Yuh born and ready for PACE!Come and wine in the roadway!All in front ah the gate way!All in front ah the people Business Place!This is the Kingdom! - Machel Montano- Soca Kingdom
Pace yourself. Carnival means non stop partying, drinking, and little to no sleep. Don't try to do everything, If you're there for a week, choose a rest day, go to the beach and relax, especially before you Play Mas (Road March). Drink lots of water, travel in groups and be aware of your surroundings. Manage your alcohol and note that at some point of the other, you may need to find the bush because bathrooms are few and scarce (and gross 🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮). When you have 1000's of people in one space... you know its gonna be gross. Security A Nuh Joke Ting There is strength in numbers. Don't go wondering down a lonely street as a short cut. Grandma always said Short Cut draw blood! This is Caribbean. Most Carnivals often have a part of the route that is sketchy, that traverses through a depressed community. Yes the bands have security, but be careful. Avoid wearing your real bling, use the costume jewellery that comes with your kits. Don't travel with a lot of money, all the bands are all inclusive and come with lunch.