Being the fun-loving couple that we are, when my boyfriend and I started brainstorming ideas for our second anniversary we just couldn’t resist the challenge of finding the most outrageously fun experience that neither of us had tried before.
Cinema, bowling, dinner, health spas, sports/workout challenges and virtual reality gaming – as much fun as they are, once you’ve done them a few times the excitement of it being new isn’t there anymore, we needed something different for our very special occasion; therefore it made perfect sense to be locked up in Alcotraz as inmates before becoming fully fledged pirates plotting to steal from the Government of course! Who says romance is dead!
We actually attended two immersive cocktail events on the same day of our anniversary, because let’s face it, it’s always 5:30pm somewhere in the world! Booking our prison experience online we saw that pirates and cowboy experiences were also available from the same company so tossed a coin to become inmates during the day and pirates by night. Yarrr!
Starting out at Alcotraz – see what they did there, alcohol, alco(traz) – we arrived to a bustling queue of keen cocktail drinkers, much like waiting outside a popular nightclub… only during the day! Giggling, chatty, cheerful and upbeat groups of friends all stood clutching bottles of alcohol in shopping bags and purses like naughty teenagers attending a school dance with contraband!
The whole purpose of this experience was to smuggle alcohol into your prison cell in order to mix up cocktails and get legless with your loved ones without the scary warden realising what’s going on in his maximum-security prison.
With locations across Shoreditch, Covent Garden and Brighton, the moment the shutters to the venue rolled up the entire giggling crowd silenced like obedient puppies as we were greeted by the first member of staff who enrolled us into the system. Flawlessly in character throughout the entire experience, the prison guards, staff and warden are some of the wittiest, fast-thinking, comical and hilarious people we’ve ever met – true professionals that bring the stage to you.
Much like attending a comedy night with hecklers and fast-paced sketches, the experience is perfectly planned to the very last detail to first of all make you feel like an actual inmate, but secondly maintain a swarm of butterflies in your stomach throughout as you think “oh no, please don’t pick me, what are they going to say/do next?” Hilariously entertaining and excitingly surprising as friends, family and loved ones pull out camera phone to take selfies and catch inmates being addressed, searched and relieved of their sins through song and other questionable means throughout – it really is an experience not to be missed!
Being one of only two couples at the prison, it seemed a very popular event for groups of 4-6 sharing a cell as laughter fills the dark baron cells between the strictness and demands of the warden whom everybody approached with caution. With a small metal bed and blanket, a stool and holy bible, we were sent to our new dwelling for the day after being handed a set of bright orange overalls and read our rights to never answer back, conduct ourselves without violence, do our time respectfully and not get caught with any contraband or we’d be tasered!
Various members of staff then take your fingerprints, hand you enrolment forms to complete, take your mugshot as they process you and keep you in check before longer-serving inmates approach from behind the bars to see what contraband you have for them.
Stashed inside holy bibles in the cell, as mischievous inmates we kept watch for prison guards taking it in turns to hand over bottles of gin, vodka, tequila and brandy – or whatever your alcohol of choice is that you’ve brought with you – so that more seasoned prison inmates can concoct delicious cocktails and sneak them back to the cells.
Each cocktail was unique from fresh and fruity to nutty and sweet, zingy, uplifting and certainly made prison life all the more enjoyable! In the dimly lit cells the contraband soon kicked in transforming the quiet and obedient cellmates who had been led in like puppies to heckling, laughing and keen performers, eagerly joining in with hilarious acts along with the guards. The measures of alcohol were certainly generous!
The effervescent giggles and cocktail-fuelled hilarity were broken by screams of surprise and the bellowing chastising of the warden correcting inmates for their behaviour. Banging on the cell bars, barking orders and demanding inmates stand up and come to the front to be made an example of, inmates marched back and forth, performed exercise routines, repenting sins and sang songs; it was like having your favourite teacher at school be playful with you to entice you to learn but when you step out of line the threat of a detention is very real. The staff found the perfect mix of playfulness and severity to make the experience believable yet wonderfully enjoyable at the very same time.
There was a lovely moment where inmates celebrating a special occasion were removed from their cells, lined up at the front and sung happy birthday/anniversary to, of which my boyfriend and I were a part of before being served a celebratory tin mug of fizz. Oh, and I may have also been locked in solitary confinement and lost as arm – but what happens in the hole stays in the hole!
Grinning from ear to ear as our time at Alcotraz came to an end, it seemed a bit of a shame to have to leave but time flies when you’re having fun. It only made us all the more excited to attend our second event of the day over at The Hidden Spirit by London Bridge.
A quick pitt stop for food and a coffee or two to sober up along the way and we were ready to board a magnificents black pirate ship parked up on the River Thames at the St Mary Overie Dock. From the same creators as Alcotraz, this time we needn’t smuggle in any alcohol – as three cocktails each are already included – because our quest was to steal $2million in long lost riches from the US Government which had been hidden at sea!
Merrily aboard the ship, we were each given a pirate hat and decorative jacket to become a part of the crew as Captain Jack Cassidy welcomed us aboard and shared with us her twisted plot of corruption! To prove our loyalty to the captain, and to help her get her hands on the long lost riches, we were all sworn in by drinking a glass bottle of shimmer – a golden sparkly sweet alcohol which she’d used to poison and murder the previous crew who refused to comply with her plot!
Ducking beneath the beams of the ship, down a creeky staircase and into the hull we were led to our benches around wooden barrels and welcomed by the sound of piratey music, glasses clinking and rum-fuelled cheers. Ahoy!
The captain charismatically got us on-side to agree to assist her in her plot to take home the riches, promising us a fortune each in return to buy our very own pirate ship with as much gold as we could carry. But the governor could never find out that the entire crew of his ship were planning to steal, not retrieve, the treasure or heads will roll!
Hilariously heart-warming, mischievous and thigh-slappingly fantastic we giggled our way through another fabulous fully immersive cocktail experience which saw my boyfriend crying actual tears of laughter when confronted by the governor amidst rumours of deceitful crew right before he was caught stealing and made to dance his last dance to stomping boots and clashing swords before walking the plank!
The crew throughout made the entire experience so memorable, staying impeccably in character throughout despite our curve balls of heckling and alcohol-fuelled puns about being made to scrub the captains enormous ‘deck’. Without wanting to give the storyline away, there were some fantastically orchestrated events and a shocking twist which left us literally telling everyone we’ve met since what an amazing experience it was and how they should definitely try it too!
Also perfect for Christmas parties, team building days and literally any reason you can possibly think of to have fun, everybody needs to embark on a life of piracy at least once in their life! Aside from low beams to watch your head on and hiccups from one too many cocktails, you’ll be sure to leave with a full on face ache from smiling as well as shed a few tears of laughter and joy – we’ll be signing up next for the Moonshine Saloon!