Rock 'n Roll theme cruises are coming to a cruise ship near you; 2011 and 2012.
Do you love music? If so, music theme cruises are one of the most immersive experiences possible. Passengers get easy access to the famous and talented headliners who sail, and they are generally relaxed enough to spend time with you. This makes for the kind of special memories that last a lifetime.
Music theme cruises are far more successful than most people probably imagine. Take the "Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise" for example, aka the LRBC. This company is now preparing its 19th R&B voyage. Every year it organizes at least two theme cruises -- one on the east coast and the other on the west -- with each voyage featuring dozens of talented, professional blues musicians.
The same is true for the annual Smooth Jazz Cruise, just one of several jazz-based cruises offered every year. The Jazz Cruise company features full-ship charters of two one-week cruises booked back to back. These cruises are so popular that the 2012 Smooth Jazz Cruise is already 85 percent sold out, the 2012 (traditional) Jazz Cruise is 75% sold out, and a new theme cruise for 2012, Malt Shop Memories with pop artists of the '50s, is also nearly sold out.
The "music cruise season" tends to start in October and run through February of the following year. So it is now time to make plans.
Why don't you hear more about these cruises? Because they are so successful that they don't need to promote themselves. They sell out by word of mouth alone, with most bookings coming from people who return year after year. Surprisingly, many of the passengers are not necessarily regular cruisers -- they are music fans who have discovered the magic of musical immersion on a cruise, with no distractions from the outside world. Many of these people never take a non-theme cruise and don't even know what they are like.
Another major attraction of music theme cruises is that the sheer number of participating artists on each one is staggering. Most artists now consider these cruises to be vacations, rather than another "gig." So many of them use the opportunity to bring their family and to catch up with other artists for musical collaboration.
With the relaxed environment of a cruise ship, along with the sheer number of artists onboard, these cruises become more like musical summit meetings where extraordinary things happen. They are events, not just concerts on cruise ships.
Take the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruises #17 leaving from San Diego on October 23. At least 17 different bands are listed in the playbill and each one will have between one and a dozen different players. The Smooth Jazz Cruises (two back to back sailings leaving January 15 and January 22 from Fort Lauderdale) have 22 featured artists, some with their own backup musicians and some relying on the talent of artists they know will be onboard. Rock music cruise promoters for the Jam Cruise 10 have enlisted a marquee featuring 36 artists.
Atlanta-based Sixthman Productions is one of the country's top music cruise organizers. The company offers a slate of annual cruises with unique names highlighting different musical genres. This year the Rombello Cruise will feature Slightly Stoopid, Michael Franti and Spearhead, and G. Love & Special Sauce. The company's Cayamo Cruise features songwriting artists Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Loudon Wainwright III and many more. The Rockboat XII cruise will feature a potpourri of pop artists including Sister Hazel, Atomic Tom and Blackberry Smoke.
A new music cruise theme, the "Rock Legends Cruise," is set to debut in December with a slate of extraordinary rock bands performing on a ship for the first time: ZZ Top, George Thorogood and The Destroyers, John Kay and Steppenwolf, The Marshall Tucker Band, Dickey Betts and Great Southern, Foghat, Johnny Winter, Molly Hatchet, The Outlaws, Blackfoot, and Pat Travers. This cruise is a benefit for the Native American Heritage Association, and it is looking to be a very popular event.
The "Shiprocked" cruise will offer more heavy metal than the cruise ship it is sailing on. The lineup includes Sick Puppies, Buckcherry, Queensryche, Hinder, Hellyeah, Sevendust, Living Color, In This Moment, Lynam, Broken Teeth and Rival Sons. (Dates for all of the cruises just listed are included below.)
The success of these annual music cruises has also spurred some well-known musical artists to get into the theme cruise business. Upcoming scheduled cruises will feature the band Kiss, Kid Rock, Brett Michaels (former lead singer of the band Poison), Rick Springfield, and the Backstreet Boys.
Upcoming Music Theme Cruises by Date:
Chris Difford Songwriting Workshop: Cunard's Queen Mary 2 has been sponsoring a songwriting workshop with a popular British songwriter, Chris Difford of "Squeeze," and it even attracted Roger Daltry of the Who to come onboard and perform during the transatlantic crossing. Chris is giving a few more of these workshops, and each participant receives a demo of a song they have written, recorded in the ship's onboard studio. This workshop will be repeated on transatlantic crossings sailing August 25 and September 20 on Queen Mary 2.
Rombello: A new musical theme destined to become an annual event from Sixthman. Artists include Slightly Stoopid, Michael Franti and Spearhead and G. Love & Special Sauce! Special guests include Citizen Cope (solo), Brett Dennen, Gaelic Storm, Jukebox the Ghost, and more to be announced soon. The five-night cruise on Carnival Inspiration sails out of Tampa to Cozumel on September 29, 2011.
The Gothic Cruise: Fans of the darker side of the music scene will see live onboard concerts by God Module, Imperative Reaction and System Syn. Included with your cruise fare is a masquerade ball, three open bar parties and a subscription to Gothic Beauty Magazine. This partial ship charter should make for a pretty interesting mix of passengers. Sailing October 8, 2011 on Norwegian Sun from Port Canaveral, a seven-night cruise to Nassau, San Juan, St. Thomas and the NCL private island.
The Kiss Kruise: This cruise features Kiss, still with two original members -- Gene Simmons and Ace Freehley. Additional bands are to be announced. There are two Kiss shows for each guest, the first a sailaway party on deck, the second in the intimate 1,200- seat theater. This cruise is targeted at the Kiss Army (fan club), but all are welcome. The four-day cruise on Carnival Destiny sails October 13, 2011.
Rick Springfield and Friends: Fans know Rick not only as a talented singer, but also as an actor from The Young and the Restless. Rick will be joined on this four-day cruise by other soap stars, inluding Doug Davidson and Jack Wagner. This five-day cruise on Carnival Destiny sails November 5, 2011.
Brett Michaels Super Cruise: The former lead singer from hard rock band Poison is hosting his own party cruise. It will be going head to head with the heavy metal cruise below, but real music fans would probably tell you it's a completely different crowd. Brett's cruise will be more party-oriented, with photo ops and a dance competition. It sails November 10, 2011 on Carnival Destiny from Miami to Cozumel.
Shiprocked: The third annual heavy metal cruise lineup includes Buckcherry, Queensryche, Hinder, Hellyeah, Sevendust, Living Color, In This Moment, Lynam, Broken Teeth and Rival Sons. Later bookings include Sick Puppies, Candlebox and Filter. There is a battle of the bands to select another guest band - details are on the web site. It sails November 14, 2011 on the MSC Poesia.Rock Legends Cruise: This one I am personally taking, as it is the most dynamic rock billing I have seen yet on a cruise ship. The huge lineup of bands includes ZZ Top, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, John Kay and Steppenwolf, The Marshall Tucker Band, Dickey Betts and Great Southern, Foghat, Johnny Winter, Molly Hatchet, The Outlaws, Blackfoot, Pat Travers and SwampDaWamp. The cruise is a benefit for Native Americans. A full-ship charter on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas, it sails December 1, 2011 from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau and Coco Cay. See the article I wrote about it here. This is a huge undertaking for a company that has never sponsored a music cruise before, but so far the interest seems spectacular. There are already many fans on the web site forums.
BackStreet Boys: When the BSBs did their first cruise in 2010, they were almost apologetic for asking their fans to take a cruise. Now they are bragging about the wonders of cruising. This full-ship charter will have a beach party, singing contest, dance parties and presumably a concert by the boys, although the web site doesn't mention exactly how much they will perform. It sails December 2, 2011 on a four-night cruise on Carnival Imagination from Miami to Nassau (overnight).
Holy Ship! Fans of electronic music are invited on this three-day cruise featuring a lineup of DJs including Fatboy Slim, Boys Noize, Laidback Luke, Steve Aoki, Gina Turner and more. Okay, I don't know anything about this style of music appreciation, but if you want more information go to the web site. It sails January 6, 2012 on MSC Poesia from Fort Lauderdale.
Jam Cruise 10: The very next week, MSC Poesia welcomes one of the more well-known music cruises, Jam Cruise, now in its tenth year. Along with a marquee of great talent, this cruise also features a jam room where guests are invited to sit in and play. There is also a talent show and a costume contest. Producers Cloud Nine have been doing this cruise for ten years now, and their loyal followers are referred to as "repeat offenders." Scheduled artists include Umphrey's McGee, Galactic, Keller & the Keels, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers, Toots & the Maytals and 36 additional bands or artists. The five-night cruise sails January 9, 2012 from Fort Lauderdale to Labadee, Haiti and Falmouth, Jamaica.
Beatles Tribute Cruise - Beatle fans are everywhere, and this partial charter of Oasis of the Seas will feature seven days of Beatles fun and memorabilia. The featured artist is Beatles tribute band "Revolution," whose John Lennon depicter, Tim Piper, has also created a one-man show dedicated to the wit and wisdom of John called "Just Imagine." His show will be specially re-adapted just for this cruise and is sure to be a highlight. Other guests include Mark Hudson (yes, one of the Hudson brothers), who is also a producer and personal friend of Ringo Starr. One of the original Beatles brotherhood members, Tony Bramwell, who knew the boys before they were famous and stayed close with them for years, will also be onboard with personal recollections. Emcee will be Joe Johnson, host of nationally syndicated radio show Beatles Brunch. The seven night cruise sails from Fort Lauderdale on February 4, 2012.
Bluescruise: I mentioned the Legendary Rhythm and Blues cruises above. Number 17 sails from San Diego on November 23, 2011, but it is sold out. Number 8 sails from Fort Lauderdale on January 22, 212, but it also sold out. The next open Bluescruise is #19, currently in the planning stages but with artists scheduled to be announced in early August. These cruises regularly feature top touring blues artists such as Bobby "Blue" Bland, Bobby Womack, Elvin Bishop, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Tommy Castro, Curtis Salgado, Deanna Bogart, Bernard Allison, Charlie Musselwhite, Taj Mahal, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and literally dozens more. Go to the web site for more information.
What You Need to Know
Obviously, I only scratched the surface with this list. I want to give a shout out to themecruisefinder.com, which lists all kinds of theme cruises. There are also classical music cruises, plenty of jazz cruises, opera, songwriter workshops and more.
I have to mention this as well: U.S. Customs agents have targeted these music cruises with random searches for drugs. Anyone going on a music cruise needs to be very careful to avoid drugs and the people who may have drugs. While the officials zero in on suppliers, it is easy to imagine a scenario where an innocent person could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of these cruise lines have a "zero tolerance" policy towards drugs, and at the very least you could be put off the ship with no recourse.