Annual Trinidad Carnival Fete Review - The 2017 edition
Trinidad carnival is just under 100 days away and we can’t wait to return to the best party on earth for the 3rd consecutive year. Although the parades on Carnival Monday and Tuesday are the main events, the parties leading up to the parade are indescribably fun. Hopefully you have your costume, flight and lodging booked – if not, stop reading this post and BOOK! Otherwise see below for our totally subjective review of each party we attended in 2017. Get some popcorn and a drink - this is a long one.
**Disclaimer: The locations, prices and listed artists are from 2017. Prices, venues and artists may change in 2018**
Caesar's Army A.M. BEACH
Day : Carnival Thursday, 4:00am - 10:00am
Type: All inclusive breakfast fete
Price: $120 USD
Location : North coast
What to wear: Beachwear/swimwear
Summary: We landed at 11:30pm Wednesday night and were on the road to A.M.BEACH at 4:00am Thursday morning. Upon arrival we received party bracelet and re-usable cups to hold all of our delicious unlimited liquor. A bevy of well-muscled Caesar's army soldiers (aka party staff) were also at the entrance applying temporary tattoos to those who wanted them. Like most breakfast fetes A.M.Beach started slow with folks eating and shaking the sleep out. The food was good and plentiful and the lines were short or non-existent. We may have waited 2 minutes at most of a flute of champagne. As the sun came up the stage was filled with top artists giving high-energy performances.
- Performances: The artists were fresh and at their best at this fete. People were still reeling from the fact that former foes Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin collaborated on the song “Buss Head”, so when they came out to perform the track their energy matched the fervor of the crowd for an unforgettable experience.
- Vibes: It is Caesar’s Army folks. You know what it is. If don’t know, go to one Caesar’s Army fete and you will soon see. The crowd, the music, rhythm section (live steelpan drummers) and even the little gold tattoos make the experience like no other.
- No Beach Access: Although the party is called A.M.BEACH, and you are right beside the beach, there is no access to the water from inside the party gates. However, as you leave or enter the party you are able to acces the water for a quick dip. We opted to cool off on the way out, after hours of sweating in the morning sun.
- Treacherous drive: If you are traveling from the south of the island the road to A.M.Beach is poorly lit and winds up and down a high hill with low visibility. The conditions are best handled by an experienced local.
- Get a driver.
- Take a dip after the fete. You’ll wash off the sweat and don’t get many opportunities to experience the beach during carnival. If you don’t want to swim at the beach close to the party head to Maracas Bay while you are in the area
- Some of the best bake and shark on the island is sold by a man who sets up outside of A.M.Beach. He will have a long line that you will reluctantly join. You will not be disappointed.
Beachhouse Carnival All Inclusive
Day : Carnival Thursday, 2:00pm - 8:00pm
Type: all inclusive ultra premium daytime fete
Price: $210 USD
What to wear: Dress to impress - Summer dresses/skirts/short romper/wedge heels/cute flats
Summary: Beach House is known for being a fancy fete and you get what you pay for. People come to eat well curated gourmet food, wear their flyest gear and wine down delicately. It starts like a cocktail party, complete with seating available and crudités, but as night falls Beach House becomes a soca fete. They improved the set up this year, with shuttles from the parking lot to the front gate. The grounds were less dusty and the ground was flatter, making it easier for those of us in heels.
- Food: The food is top of the line, served by helpers in white. You can get doubles but you could also get a delicious quinoa salad with canapés. There were minimal wait times for liquor and lots of room to fete.
- Liquor selection: You will be surrounded with top shelf everything. There are booths set up around the fete with specialty flavored liquor and champagne. Be sure to get one of the opaque champagne flutes as a souvenir
- Atmosphere: The white table cloths, smart food placement, eating area, party layout and well heeled crowd make for a great experience to ease you into carnival.
- Facilities: Restrooms can bee dicey at these outdoor fetes. Beachhouse kept it clean throughout the party.
- Mirrors: The member of the Beach House team who suggested putting mirrors on random trees on the fete grounds is a genius. Well done. They were perfect for checking for wardrobe malfunctions, wayward channa from the delicious doubles, and taking selfies/usies.
- Expensive: You get what you pay for, but we can see how you might feel otherwise.
- Stush: If you want to go to the wild, wotless fetes that Trinidad is known for, this not it. If you want a beautiful setting with gorgeous people, top of the line food and a muted wine you can’t get better than this.
- Traffic is always atrocious so be ready to spend some time in the car/bus. Going to the fete early is a good option but we never take that advice. Nobody gets anywhere on time for carnival
Candy Coated Cruise
Day : Carnival Friday, 11:00am - 3:00pm
Type: All inclusive boat cruise **drinks were all inclusive but the food was first come first serve**
Price: $122 USD
Location : Treasure Queen, Pier II, Chaguarmas
What to wear: Beachwear/swimwear/cover-ups
Summary: We love a boat fete more than anything. Something about being out on the water with music and liquor just get to us. That might make us biased but this was ranked second on the list of favorite fetes of Carnival 2017. They also don’t call is the Ben Up boat for no reason. It was vibes from beginning to end.
- On time and organized (relatively): considering that other boat fetes we've been to say they are leaving at 2pm actually leave at 4:30, the timing for CCC was perfect. We arrived at the pier around 11am and boarding started shortly after
- Vibes: If the legendary partier Usain Bolt is on the boat then you know that issa fete. People were dancing and carrying on even before the boat left the dock.
- Photographer: There is nothing like a cute backdrop props to make the best memories. They had an area set up with a backdrop and a photographer to take pics that you could find and ‘gram later. Nice touch.
- Food – The offerings were doubles and one portion of rice with chicken or beef. There may have been vegetables but we didn’t get there in time to grab any. By the middle of the fete the food was basically gone. We definitely stopped by the roti shop on the way back to the hotel
- Get on the boat early to stake out a spot to fete; railing and tables are in short supply.
- Get food early. If you aren’t hungry just lay the food down somewhere close. You will work up an appetite – trust us.
Day : Carnival Saturday, 3:00am - 10:00am
Type: Alternative jouvert
Price: $140 USD
Location : issa secret
What to wear: Wear any clothing that you don’t mind getting utterly destroyed. We usually cut up the t-shirt that they give you in your party package and wear black boy shorts. Cheap canvas shoes work well as footwear.
Summary: This fete is one of the most sought after tickets in all of carnival for good reason. It gives you all the fun of jouvert without having to worry about getting pretty for the road a few hours later. Jouvert in Trinidad happens in the wee hours of Monday morning. You jump in the road alongside trucks with music and liquor with paint and powder flying through the air. It is fun, but it isn’t fun to wash all that crap off so you are ready for the road a few hours later. Caesar’s Army had the brilliant idea of holding a jouvert party days earlier so you can fete til you are falling down then take a couple days to wash off.
- Vibe: We have said it before and we’ll say it again: Caesar’s Army knows how to create the the ultimate party atmosphere. We would call them vibe experts. From the parking lot where you board shuttles to the secret location, to the shots of fireball we had when entering the grounds
- Alternative jouvert: the entire concept is genius. We have to shout it out again
- Package pick up continues to be a struggle. There was a long line up again this year. This time they filtered people into a conference room with chair set up facing a blank wall. They took people into the dispensing room one row at a time. This meant that everyone had to get up and move up a row every few minutes. There MUST be a better way of doing this.
- Food distribution: After the road fete winds down there is a pavilion with food, drink and performances. The lines for the food have always been long and lusty.
- Get to the food early or just go home to eat. Trust us. The pholourie ain’t worth battling the crowds
- This goes for every jouvert: Cover you ENTIRE body in petroleum jelly and baby oil or prepare to be multicolored for multiple days. The powder was particularly potent. We were sweating purple a full 48 hours after the fete.
Soca Brainwash: Heaven
Day : Carnival Saturday, 11:00am - 5:00pm (usually goes until around 9pm)
Type: All inclusive daytime fete
Price: $140+ USD
Location : Fatima College Grounds
What to wear: Variable. In recent years there has been a suggested dresscode based on the theme of the party. In 2017 it was a white party to contribute to the saintly atmosphere. We generally wear something comfortable and cute (i.e. jean shorts and a crop top)
Summary: If you read our review from last year you know that this was Joy's favorite fete. The music is the best of any fete and Private Ryan and his team think of all the little extras to add to the atmosphere. This year it started by having feters walk through a wall of white ribbon to enter the fete, then be adorned with white flower crowns. There was a wall of over-sized painted wings for the perfect ‘grammable picture. Dancers on stilts weaved their way through the crowds. They even released a flock of white dove-shaped balloons midway through the party. Atmosphere made.
- Some of the best soca DJs in the world all in one place. BOOM.
- Food: Y’all. Soca Brainwash had the best selection of food of any party we have attended. Yes. Better than premium fete Beach House. There was a cuisine for everyone and the flavors were intact. There was everything from bake and shark to pasta to noodle bowls and mini cupcakes to cap it all off. As vegans we had more than enough choice AND were happy with the selections
- Vibe: The extra details make a huge impact. They released balloon DOVES! Sheer brilliance.
- Access: Soca Brainwash is one of the only big fetes where there is no committee choosing who can attend. If you are online on time and can afford a ticket you are in. That makes sure that a variety of countries and cultures are represented.
- The biggest complaint this year was the suggested white dresscode. Given that the party is held outdoors in a field your white clothing does not stay white for long. Add that to the fact that many feters had been to AM BUSH a mere few hours earlier, and you understand why nobody’s bright whites stayed white for long. Personally we didn’t mind the dresscode. If you are feting correctly your clothing won’t look perfect when it is time to go home.
- Come hungry. The food is amazing and you’ll want to try everything. You aren’t likely to get this spread at many other fetes
- The extras: Take advantage of them! Take a picture close to the wings, play the giant game of twister and whatever other fun things Private Ryan and his team have cooked up. This year’s theme is “Wonderland” so we can only imagine what fun they have planned
- Tickets are out on Sunday. Get out your laptop and your phone and be ready to purchase.
Sunnyside Up Breakfast Fete
Day : Carnival Sunday 4am – 11:00am
Type: All inclusive breakfast fete
Price: $150 (single early bird), $184 (premium), $250 (couples ticket) all USD
Location : Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard, Diamond Vale, Diego Martin
What to wear: Dress to fete. That means shorts and a crops top for us.
Usually we have our fete list arranged and tickets purchased several months in advance, but Sunnyside Up (SSU) was a last minute purchase. Basically we came home from Soca Brainwash, napped then realized we didn't have a party planned until the next evening. For some reason that sounded unreasonable so we grabbed Sunnyside Up tickets online, coordinated outfits and were at the party a few hours later.
In 2016 we got the coveted tickets to Vale (see our review from last year for our thoughts on that fete), one of the many breakfast parties that happen the Sunday morning before carnival. SSU happens at the same time, but we were told it was a younger crowd with more vibes (if that's even possible!).
The age of the crowd seemed to be the same for both fetes, but the crowd was definitely more relaxed at SSU. It can best be described as an authentic old school soca fete without the bells and whistles - just vibes.
- Food: the food wasn't fancy but they had a great variety for breakfast. We liked it the best because it was the only fete that offered soy chunks as a vegetarian option. If you are vegan you know how hard it can be to get tasty vegan protein at carnival parties when you travel so soy chunks were a huge bonus.
- Foam: You won't usually find us at a foam party but somehow we found ourselves wining in the foam with reckless abandon. It was fun novelty not found at any of the other parties on our fete list.
- Venue: The party is held at what looks like the large courtyard of a junior high school. The largely concrete enclosed space had us longing for the wide open spaces that are common at other fetes. This was a MAJOR minus for us.
- Honestly, we struggle to explain why this wasn't our favorite fete. People were having a good time, but we just didn't feel the vibe at this venue. Take this review with a grain of salt, because it is possible that after A.M. Bush and Soca Brainwash we simply had fete fatigue.
- get the soy chunks if you are vegan. You will be hard pressed to find them at any other fete
- Dress to fete. This means flats, Jean shorts and flags. People don't come here to hold up the wall.
Beach house Cooler Fete
Date/Time : Carnival Sunday, 2:00pm - 8:00pm
Type: Daytime cooler fete
Price: $50 USD
Location : Chagaramus
What to wear: Dress to fete. For us this it means shorts and crop top.
Summary: This was a late addition to our roster. If you want the Beach house experience without the price tag this may be the fete for you. It is held at the same venue with much of the same set up, minus the premium food and drink.
- Vibes. It rained for the first half of the fete but that didn’t stop the feterans from having fun. Folks braved the torrential downpour to wine down to the beat. Impressive.
- It rained...A LOT: This was totally beyond the control of the Beachhouse team, but given the limited covered space it meant for a soggy day
- Food was frightfully limited. The offerings were little more than bake and shark, burgers, fries and possibly chips.
- Turnout: There just were not as many people in the large space. This salted the vibe for us.
- If you went to beach house this can be a letdown.
- The food area and the feting area are relatively far away from each other, with very little to do in between. Grab all the food you need when you get to the fete and post up somewhere
- Bring a disposable cooler or take advantage of the styrofoam coolers available onsite for purchase. You can drink down everything in there and won’t have to carry anything home. Ice and mixer are available at the venue
Prism Jouvert (Icebox Entertainment)
Date/Time : Carnival Monday, 4:00am - 9:00am
Price: $85 (female t-shirt), $100 (female tank), $100 (male) all USD
Location : The streets of Port of Spain
What to wear: As with any jouvert, wear whatever you don’t mind getting destroyed by paint and powder. We cut the shirts that we got in our jouvert packages into cute halter tops.
Summary: This was the first year that Icebox had a jouvert. They are better known for their popular boat fete- “Suits”. This band met a little later than most bands and had a few premium extras that made it an attractive option.
- Monokini – Most jouvert bands give you a shirt with their logo on it to wear. This band had high cut monokinis that were very flattering. Well done.
- Food: Before we got on the road the band had doubles and corn soup available. Both were surprisingly fresh and tasty. It might be hard to think of eating hot soup and a chickpea flatbread in the morning but trust us – by this time of the week it will be normal
- Limited music – There was only one music truck and one drink truck. It was a small band so there wasn’t too much of a wait, but it meant that you had to party within a pretty small area
- Small band – The small size of the band is a gift and a curse. It means that getting food, drink and using the washrooms involve less waiting. However, you forget how much a large crowd creates a vibe. Even with all of us feting our hardest it didn’t match the energy of one of the larger bands like Dirty Dozen. We are sure it will get bigger and better every year. Icebox Entertainment doesn’t generally disappoint.
- This goes for any jouvert but bears repeating: COAT YOURSELF IN BABY OIL AND/OR VASELINE. You’ll thank us for yelling that later.
- Get there early to avoid lines for food.
- Tickets for 2018 are out now! Click here
Candy Coated Wine Down Tobago
Date/Time : Ash Wednesday (the Wednesday after carnival) , 1:00pm - 6:00pm
Type: All inclusive daytime fete
Price: $130 USD
Location : Canoe Bay Resort, Tobago
What to wear: Swimwear/beachwear. This is the only fete that we attended where the party was in the water and on the shore. Dress to fete and get wet!
Summary: The hype around Candy Coated’s wine down fete is legendary – and for good reason. This party is held at Canoe Bay Beach right on the water. The flyer said to bring floats so we got a couple inflatable donuts and put on our remaining swimwear. We bought our flights to Tobago before we even knew what this fete was going to be. Wine down fete won carnival for both of us. It was utterly the best party experience we had all week (besides being out on the road).
- Beach access: Finally! The stage at this fete had two openings so the artists could perform facing the raised dance floor or to the party goers who were floating in the water. Just perfection
- Photobooth: This was one of the only fetes with a photography set up with a backdrop and props. Grab your friends and get cute for this one
- Vibes: Non-stop. Everyone was there to wring the last bit of partying out of their bodies before heading back to their regular lives. The water was perfect and the performers were hype. One of our friends literally missed her flight back to Port of Spain because the party was too good to leave.
- Red bull was not available at the all inclusive bar. It is a small thing but given that that was my drink all carnival we were disappointed.
- Food: Food was available, but not as extensive as at other comparable fetes. It was cool with us. We came to party – not eat.
- Book your flight to Tobago immediately. In fact we hope you already booked your flight because they might be sold out. Caribbean Airlines sometimes releases more flights closer to carnival so keep an eye on it. The flight is short and cheap. The ferry is not as smooth of a ride
- You might be tempted to buy a cute fancy inflatable to the party. Resist that urge. With all the drinks, and partying the likelihood that you’ll lose the float is high. We got $4 inflatable doughnuts at Target. That means we didn’t mind when they floated away 45 minutes into the fete.