How to find the right theme cruise
Years ago, I’d fantasize — usually after sailing aboard a cruise ship with a particularly awful DJ — of a cruise that would feature all of my favorite classic rock bands performing concert after concert of my most loved songs. The ship would be filled with other rock fans, and we would bond through our shared love of the music, dancing, singing, and stopping only long enough to explore exotic ports along the way.
Last month, that fantasy came true, and I didn’t even have to win the lottery, charter a ship, or organize it myself. The Moody Blues Cruise on MSC Poesia was a five-day, concert-packed party with my favorite bands, including the Moody Blues, The Zombies, and Joe Williams of Toto. Instead of bingo and poolside games, the itinerary included concerts, question-and-answer sessions, broadcasts of Moody Blues films, and even Moody Blues karaoke. It was as though the Moody Blues Cruise was created especially for me.
The good news: Chances are excellent that somewhere, a theme cruise celebrating your passion is being organized. Cruises are themed about everything from antiques to art, cycling, crafts, knitting, history, literature, film, wellness, and wine. Here’s how you can find your own fantasy theme cruise:
Some of the most popular theme sailings are those that feature celebrities, and music is at the forefront with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Matchbox Twenty, Rick Springfield, Kenny G, Three Dog Night, and Alabama among recent seagoing artists. The trend seems to show no sign of stopping — in fact, Norwegian Cruise Line announced plans for a fall 2014 Grammy Awards-themed sailing, featuring Grammy Award-winning artists.
Almost as popular as music-themed cruises are those celebrating TV shows and personalities. Celebrity Constellation offers a “Top Chef” cruise, hosted by Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons, that includes many chefs from past seasons’ competitions.
Holland America has begun a fleetwide series of “Dancing with the Stars” themed cruises featuring some of the show’s professional dancers. Even “The Waltons” has its own themed cruise, setting sail from New York aboard Norwegian Gem and featuring six of the show’s cast members.
Do the research.
Sometimes the most difficult part is finding the theme cruise for you. Many lines list their upcoming theme cruises under the “Theme” or “Enrichment” sections of their websites, but don’t stop there.
Many theme cruises are planned by outside organizations and administered by travel agencies or agency groups. Try an Internet search for your passion plus “theme cruise,” along with the year you’d like to sail.
Review the itinerary carefully.
Over the years, I have learned that not all theme cruises are created equal. Aboard a fashion and style sailing several years ago, I could barely identify any activities related to the theme, but on an expertly run Beatles-themed sailing and an even better “Concerts at Sea” cruise featuring Paul Revere & the Raiders, I couldn’t miss them.
Determine the theme's extent.
To see how deeply a ship will be immersed in a theme, ask if the sailing is a full or partial charter, as either status is an excellent sign that many special events related to the theme will be planned. In that case, a good number of like-minded guests will be attracted to the cruise.
Don't forget about riverboats.
River cruises offer similar options, and their themes often lend themselves to the destinations they cover. For example, the American Queen Steamboat Company offers bourbon and jazz sailings on the Mississippi River.
In December, riverboat companies like Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, and Uniworld offer their annual Christmas Markets sailings along the Danube. From horse-drawn carriages and chocolate shops in quaint German and Austrian towns to mugs of Gluewein and Christmas carol singalongs, the theme is extravagantly and unapologetically Christmas.