We Rocked the Boat

| 12.08.11

The Rock Legends Cruise proved that cruise ships offer a perfect set of venues and facilities to mount extensive theme events.

The Rock Legends Cruise Now in the history books.

We Rocked the Boat
I just returned from the Rock Legends Cruise - a full ship charter of Liberty of the Seas for a four night cruise with 20 different rock bands. The headliners were ZZ Top, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, John Kay and Steppenwolf, Foghat and Molly Hatchet.

There were other bands, too, and if you are a rock fan like me you will appreciate that the bill also included the legendary Dickie Betts (from the Allman Brothers Band), Johnny Winter, his brother Edgar Winter and lots of other well-known rock bands and players like the Outlaws, Pat Travers and "young" Devon Allman, the son of Gregg Allman.

The music was incredible on this cruise, but what is also interesting for all cruisers is picturing "your" cruise ship being invaded by people wearing blue jeans and baseball caps in the dining rooms, dancing in their seats in the Platinum Theater and Studio B and sleeping in until 2:00 in the afternoon because the previous night's show started at 2:45 a.m. and did not end until 5:00 in the morning.

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Now, with a lineup of bands like this you'd probably expect someone like Simon Cowell, producer of the "X Factor" television show and former judge on American Idol, to be the instigator of this motley crew. But in fact the people behind this cruise were the Native American Heritage Association (NAHA) - a non-profit organization to benefit the Native Americans living in South Dakota. How did this small and humble group of benevolent people get caught up in the glamorous world of cruise ships and show biz?

It all started with an idea by Pam Myers, vice president and treasurer of NAHA, who had a vision for a benefit concert for her 4-star rated charity organization. She found 20 famous bands willing to play for her cause (the bands were compensated for their participation), but she had no idea how to organize a concert of that scope. The days of renting a farm in Woodstock, New York, and telling the owners you plan to sell a few thousand tickets are over. Today you need permits, sanitary facilities, emergency contingencies, parking, evacuation plans...

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Someone suggested doing it on a cruise and luckily Pam found Landry and Kling, a company that specializes in helping people plan special events on cruise ships. Pam says, "Landry & Kling provided us with invaluable guidance. While others told us our vision was too big, Landry & Kling helped us through each challenge to launch this outrageous fundraiser festival -- at sea."

Actually, "outrageous" is not an exaggeration. This was a huge project. How many contemporary rock concerts feature 20 bands playing in multiple venues over a span of four days? It only points out a concept we cruisers have known for years, but many others still don't see; that cruise ships are unique entities where people can travel together for a common purpose with sleeping accommodations, stages, dining facilities and the staff to run everything already conveniently built into a comfortable and convenient environment.

This event in any other location would have required coordinating stage facilities, sound systems, dressing rooms, ticketing, seating and security just for the shows. Then you would also need hotel rooms and dining facilities, including the food, kitchen, waiters, tables and chairs for 4000 people. Basically, a nearly impossible task.

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But a cruise ship already provides all of these things in one place. You not only have a stage, you have three or four. You have the sleeping accommodations, dining facilities and all the people to run them all conveniently placed where you don't have to worry about transportation issues. No need to rent or coordinate shuttle busses or port-a-potties.

Once again - Landry and Kling, who mapped Pam's vision to the facilities on Liberty of the Seas, deserve kudos for their ability to see how cruise ships are perfectly suited for such events. True, most cruises sail with people onboard for different reasons, and the ships strive to provide a variety of entertainment and activities so there is something for everyone and people don't feel crowded. But Landry and Kling see cruise ships in a different light. They see the advantage of having thousands of people united for a single purpose in close proximity with all of the necessary facilities at the ready.

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There are even advantages that had not occurred to me before. If there is a last minute schedule change they can immediately announce it to everyone over the P.A. system. Any change of venue is just a deck away, not in another building requiring massive last minute planning and coordination. That is the difference between using a cruise ship vs. a convention facility in a downtown area with several hotels, for example.

As far as I am concerned, the Rock Legends Cruise was the cruise community's Woodstock, when thousands of people came together for four days of peace, love and music. Like Woodstock, people were united for a common purpose, enjoying non-stop music with no bad incidents. And the fact that a cruise ship made it all possible escaped no one. Even Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top jokingly suggested a "mutiny on the bridge" to keep the cruise going for a few more days.

In a way - it is a surprise that there are not more events at sea like the Rock Legends Cruise. But for the record there are many other successful theme cruises that happen all the time. Many of them are music cruises that have become so successful they are now annual events that sell out a year in advance. They all started like the Rock Legends Cruise, and although this is still up in the air, this is one event I would like to see happen again next year.

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