Ship Fam! A Guide to the Holy Ship EDM Cruise's Fan Cult



Courtesy of Stephanie and Robert Bunting

If you've ever climbed aboard Holy Ship, you're a part of Ship Fam, whether you wholeheartedly embrace it or not.

But what exactly is Ship Fam anyway? It means you've joined a tight-knit network of fellow Shippers and their extended families that spans the country and the world, and these people have got your back. These people will help you out with a place to party, a ride from the airport, even a place to sleep, if you should need it.

But some newbies get it twisted, and that's no bueno. So we spoke with Ship Fam mom and dad, Stephanie and Robert Bunting, to get the true story behind the EDM cruise scene's craziest fan cult.

Courtesy of Stephanie and Robert Bunting

The Maiden Voyage: Ship Fam Is Formed Way back in 2011, before the inaugural Holy Ship! set sail, an official Facebook page was launched in order for soon-to-be passengers to gather and e-meet one another.

"Nobody knew each other the first year," remembers Stephanie. "We just had no idea what we were going to experience."

When Holy Ship! finally headed out to sea, the 2,500-something Shippers found themselves caught up in a life-changing whirlwind. Most of the cruise attendess were 20-somethings. But even the Buntings, a collective 104 years old, were changed forever.

Over the course of a few amazing days and nights, there was a private-island set from Fatboy Slim, a DJ lesson from A-Trak, an erotic production by Dita Von Teese -- and then the boat docked in Fort Lauderdale, and there was nothing.

Was it really time to say goodbye?

Courtesy of Stephanie and Robert Bunting

Post Port-um Depression "After three magical days, we went through what we now call post-portum depression," Stephanie says.

How were shippers supposed to return to normal life after that?! So to keep the vibes rolling, the Buntings and some of their friends created an unofficial Facebook page for Holy Ship!! 2012. It helped shippers stay in touch with their new pals, whom they affectionately called "shiptards." Eventually, "shiptards" turned into the gentler "Ship Fam." And Ship Fam members learned they could rely on one another for certain friendly favors.

"It's a network, and we don't let anybody down," Stephanie insists. "We do everything we possibly can for each other, as the need is expressed."

Soon, the group began planning the next year's adventure: who would bring what, how many and for whom. When newbies bought tickets to Holy Ship!!, they were added to the and introduced to Ship Fam. It was all quickly becoming some kind of PLUR mob madness.

Courtesy of Stephanie and Robert Bunting

Holy Ship!!: The Family Grows The Buntings made the decision to arrive early in Fort Lauderdale for Holy Ship!! 2012. So they rented a hotel room and invited members of Ship Fam to join them in a friendly gathering the night before embarkation. It seemed like a great way to put faces to names while enjoying a glass of champagne.

They only expected a handful of homies to show up. But "next thing we know," Stephanie laughs, "security came in, shutting it down."

That was the moment when the Buntings, and many others, realized just how big and strong the Ship Fam circle was becoming. Newbies and and OGs alike were forming new bonds, and when Holy Ship!! docked in Fort Lauderdale three days later, they knew the love wouldn't fade with the booming basslines.

Courtesy of Stephanie and Robert Bunting

Holy Ship!!!: The Pre-Party Heard 'Round the World First-timer and veteran Shippers all anxiously counted the days to Holy Ship!!! 2014, and the Buntings soon found themselves planning another Ship Fam unofficial pre-party. But while the tradition had started as a small gathering of 75 or so in 2013, the guest list exploded into the hundreds this year. And the Ship Fam parents realized they'd need a bigger space than a Marriot hotel room.

So they booked downtown Miami's Avenue D, lined up fifteen Shipper DJs, ordered 100 pizzas and threw "a tear-up-the-floor, killer rager for fourteen flippin' hours." Some partiers who attended the official pre-party at Story actually left the luxurious club to return to the Bunting's Ship Fam reunion, preferring the free and friendly vibe.

Already, Avenue D's management has extended an invitation to host again in 2015, and the Buntings are dedicated to reprise the party every year if they can.

"We did this out of our own pockets and our own hearts, because we really love our Ship Fam," Stephanie gushes. "We live in an abundant universe. So what the hell? it will come back to us."

Photo Courtesy: Stephanie and Robert Bunting
The Buntings pose with a collection of triple-OG Ship Fam members. Everyone pictured has sailed aboard every edition of Holy Ship to date.

Ship Fam of the Future Aboard Holy Ship!!! 2014, the Ship Fam movement was bigger than ever before, but the PLUR-y feels took a bit of a hit.

"Some of the newbs, they can't stand the idea of the originals calling themselves the OGs It's almost like contention," Stephanie says, arguing that these new kids miss the point. "We're not trying to be some exclusive group. It bothers me when kids say that, because now, you're part of the magic, too! You're OG."

As Ship Fam and the rest of the world continue to sail through 2014, the Buntings and their growing network of Shipper pals will continue to obsess over the next big weekend. They'll continue to plot and plan the adventure of a lifetime, despite what the haters have to say. They'll never stop extending a hand in friendship to the next group of lucky passengers, and they'll keep on helping buddies far and wide in any way they can. And when you ask the Buntings how long they plan on making the trip?

"Until I'm dead," Stephanie replies.

"That's going to be a long time," Robert adds.

"We both plan on living until at least 120."

Good luck getting them cabins, newbs. Long live #ShipFam.


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