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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will join the
"Progressive Voices" cruise.

Theme Cruising

The name says it all. Theme cruises are for like-minded people to sail together, attend conferences, share ideas, talk to each other, meet live and in person in groups large and small,in an idyllic and tranquil setting with very few interruptions. Theme cruises are betther than the best of both worlds - they are the perfect setting for uninterrupted immersion in whatever topic you happen have interest. There are many kinds of theme cruises.

The one thing that defines a theme cruise is the common element, also known as the "affinity," that the attendees share. Regular topics include antiques, art, astronomy (a total solar eclipse just occurred in the South Pacific last June 11, which many people viewed from a theme cruise), famous authors, business, card games (bridge and poker being the two most popular ones), dancing, finance, fitness, food and wine, golf, history, music, photography, religion, sports and more.

The most popular category is music. Last year I went on a "Smooth Jazz Cruise" that featured about 40 different artists playing in the span of seven days. There were seven nights of concerts by three or four different artists each night, plus daytime jam sessions, personal interviews and clinics (where a host asks a particular artist to discuss his individual technique and discuss his lifestyle, etc). The gamut of music cruises ranges from "heavy metal head bangers" to "Doo Wop" and even classical. These jazz cruises, which have been sailing yearly for almost twelve years now, tend to sell out two years in advance.

Save up to $1,500 per couple on 2011 River and Small-Ship Cruises*
Avalon Waterways is introducing fleet-wide enhancements, from L’Occitane bath essentials, to the Comfort Collection by Avalon in every stateroom – enticing the senses like never before. View 2011 cruise offers.
Avalon Waterways 866.397.6594

The sponsor of that smooth jazz cruise, JazzCruisesLLC, is solely in the jazz cruise business, doing nothing else. They always charter an entire ship, almost always from Holland America, and they take it over completely with jazz on all of the stages and even on the in-cabin television 24 hours a day (they still keep the news channels, but they add replays of the previous night's concerts to other channels).

On the cruise I was on, the following cruise was also another smooth jazz cruise, and many people were staying onboard for the full 14 days. In addition, the following year also had back-to-back cruises on sale during our cruise, and those cruises were fully booked by the end of our cruise.

If you have never been on a theme cruise, let me tell you that there is something special about them. The combination of cruising and the immersion in your interest goes beyond either activity alone. It is almost like one plus one equals three. People who go on theme cruises are often "spoiled" and find it hard to go back to regular cruising. And by the way, yes a theme cruise does generally cost more than a regular cruise.

There is one more affinity I did not mention: politics - an especially popular topic right now with mid-term elections coming soon. It doesn't matter whether you are conservative or liberal - there is a theme cruise for you, although there are more conservative than liberal cruises on tap right now.

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But here is what really surprised me about these political theme cruises, just one agency, The Cruise Authority in Atlanta, Georgia, seems to sponsor the vast majority of them, both liberal and conservative.

I called the agency and spoke to Howard Moses. Howard tends to host mostly conservative cruises while his business partner, David Bittner, tends to host more liberal cruises although that is not a hard and fast rule. Since the conservative cruises outnumber the liberal cruises by about four to one Bittner is a host on some conservative cruises as well.

I said to Howard, "Your office must be a very lively place! Is there a lot of talk about politics there?" Howard told me, "No, in fact, our internal rule is that we never discuss politics or religion, and we don't drink on our cruises." I assume that implies drinking leads to talking about politics and religion. "We get asked all the time, and we always just say we are neutral." Since they sponsor cruises for both sides of the aisle, this is really the only approach that makes sense.

Whatever the reason, their approach has been successful for them. The Cruise Authority hosted their first political cruise thirteen years ago for the magazine "The Nation," self-described as "The flagship of the left." Within a matter of months they were approached by conservative magazine "The National Review," founded by William F. Buckley, to host a cruise for their editorial staff and readers. Howard says he cruised with Buckley several times and knew him on a first-name basis.

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"Our role is as facilitators to the people onboard. I have met several self-made men worth millions of dollars who were too intimidated by William F. Buckley to introduce themselves. They considered him their personal hero, but they were too shy to talk to him. Most of the time when I heard that I would take them "by the hand" and introduce them at the very moment. William was gracious enough that he would often give them 20 minutes instead of just a few."

"That is the beauty of a cruise," continues Howard. "If you go to a banquet these speakers squeeze out the back door the minute it is over. But on a cruise not only is there plenty of time. The speakers even dine with the guests every night. We even change the seating around nightly so they are even more available."

Two upcoming politically-themed cruises: The National Review "Post-Election Cruise" sails November 14 on Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam. Guest speakers include Karl Rove, Bernie Goldberg, Phyllis Schlafly, Greg Gutfeld, Cal Thomas, Toney Blankley, Scott Rasmussen and a dozen more names and faces watchers of FoxNews will recognize.

For frequent watchers of MSNBC: The "Progressive Voices" cruise sails February 5, 2011 on the Holland America Eurodam. It features Robert F Kennedy, Jr., Mike Farrell (from the television show MASH), Mike Malloy, Liz Winstead (a co-creator and former head writer for The Daily Show).

To see all of the theme cruises listed, go to

For a detailed discussion on this topic go to this forum: Theme Cruises.

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Chef Matt Sigel's Cruise with CruiseMates
Join Chef Matt Sigel's on Norwegian Epic, Halloween Cruise, Oct 30, 2010 Travel from Miami to Costa Maya, Roatan Honduras and Cozumel - 7-days

Let's Get Lei'd 5.0
We're doing yet again - for the fifth time (because these cruises do so well) - We are going to Hawaii on a Princess ship, this time the mega-Sapphire Princess. We sail from Los Angeles and return to the same. Eight days at sea and five beautiful ports of call - four of them in Hawaii, plus Ensenada. February 26, 2011.

Allure of the Seas
Join your CruiseMates on the newest world's biggest cruise ship on October 2nd, 2011, on the sister ship to Oasis of the Seas slated to debut in early December of 2010. We have great prices and plenty of onboard fun in store for you!