The phenomenon of specific music-themed cruises started in 2004 with the Jam Cruise. Still running today, this annual floating five-day music festival departs Miami, Florida, and features funk, rock and jazz bands – plus musical workshops and other entertaining distractions.
Music cruises fall into two categories: single-themed ‘headliner’ cruises that showcase a well-known band or musician accompanied by one or more support acts; and gigantic music festival-style cruises with dozens of acts, often from across different genres playing on multiple stages, floating platforms, poolside and anywhere else a set of speakers can be plugged in.
There is, quite literally, no musical genre that goes unrepresented, either. Rhythm and blues cruises, world music cruises, reggae, ska, bluegrass, pop, classical – whatever you are into, cruise companies will put a boat under it and push it out to sea. You can also set sail on a trip back in time on a ’60s Flower Power cruise, a ’70s Rock and Romance cruise, an ’80s cruise guest hosted by Rick Springfield and endless others.
Theatre productions have also gotten in on the act, with Broadway Cruises becoming more popular, too. Exotic destinations include Cozumel, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. You could find yourself on board with the stars from Wicked, Beauty and the Beast, Les Misérables, Rent and more. Then there’s the Elvis tribute cruise, a genre unto itself, packed from port to starboard with hip-swivelling impersonators and featuring Elvis and Priscilla lookalike contests, Elvis trivia nights and even Elvis cooking shows.
Big names on big boats
If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen Status Quo, Def Leppard or Kenny Rogers doing the rounds of the music festivals lately, it’s likely they’re playing to fans on the high seas. Even mega-stars such as KISS have realised the potential of the cruising market, and have been appearing on sold-out KISS Kruises for the past seven years.
Taking it a little slower
If your tastes lean towards more refined ocean-going, you might consider a European river cruise, plying the waters of the Rhine and the Danube. Some operators ferry passengers to and from the regions’ classical music festivals, while others hold classical concerts aplenty on board, with the Saxon Organ Academy delighting passengers along the Rhine from Amsterdam to Strasbourg, and the London Festival Opera offering the same service along the Danube from Budapest to Vienna – the cradle of European classical music.
What to pack
For an Elvis Cruise, pack your blue suede shoes. For all others, you’ll just need a sense of fun and a strong singing voice. Or, for the types of cruise where more energetic participation is called for – such as the flamenco, boot-scooting or ballroom dancing cruises – you’d be wise to pack sturdy flamenco shoes, boots and ballroom attire, respectively.
Don’t forget to stow a few items you might want autographed, too. Cruise guests have been known to come aboard with old guitars, artists’ headshots and more in the hopes of snagging a celebrity signature. Now that’s a music cruise memento that will have you sailing back for more.