Everyone enjoys music, and every cruise ship offers some kind of music for its passengers, be it a pianist in a cozy bar, a combo in a night club or a full orchestra for a theater show or ballroom dancing.
Beyond that, however, many lines host a growing number of music-themed cruises, with special artists and musical groups brought aboard to perform for, and interact with, select passengers. Usually the music is of a particular genre, such as jazz, rock, country, soul or bluegrass, and performers may include tribute bands.
“These are very different from regular cruises,” said Alaidriale Derway of Sixthman Cruises, which organizes music-themed cruises aboard Norwegian Cruise Line ships. “We will have 15 to 45 bands aboard. It’s nonstop music, all day and evening.”
For music fans, that’s paradise. “It was the best weekend of my life,’’ said Cherine Akbari, a Margate resident whose cruise on a Carnival ship featured two of her favorite bands, Matchbox Twenty and Goo Goo Dolls. “We got to meet and greet band members, and we got to hear songs that are album cuts, not made as singles.’’
Another happy music cruiser is Toni K. Napolitano of Fort Lauderdale. “Last year I went on a country music seven-day cruise [on the Norwegian Pearl out of Miami] and had the time of my life. The whole ship was chartered and they had stages all around the ship. There must have been at least 100 artists on board.’’ Among them were such top country performers as Winona Ryder and Trace Adkins.
Concerts are not the only events staged on music cruises. “We also have photo opportunities, Q&A sessions, parties and other interactive events,’’ said Sean Mscisz, event coordinator for Rose Tours.
Depending on the number of bands on board, he said, music events may go on all day and evening. On days when a ship makes a port call, music events on board may not start until late afternoon. Sometimes, though, a band may perform ashore during a port call, as on a cruise line’s private island.
People who book music cruises vary, too, with the genre of music offered. “Our New Kids on the Block cruise, for example, is 97 percent female,’’ Mscisz said. Other music cruises may attract a different mix, he said — male or female, older or younger.
Many music cruises are chartered by entertainment companies that hire the musicians and market the cruises, and the cruise line itself does not book passengers. Fares are higher than the same cruise without the special music package. But only those passengers who book the music package have access to the performances and other special activities.
Prices for music cruises vary widely, depending on the number and renown of the performers.
For example, the fare for The Smooth Jazz Cruise Jan. 10 on Holland America’s Eurodam out of Fort Lauderdale listed prices on www.smoothjazzcruise.com last month starting at $2,175 per person for an interior stateroom for seven nights. Holland America’s website does not list that cruise as available, but Expedia and cruise.com were quoting a starting price of $699 — without the music package.
A more modest spread is offered on the 10-night JazzFest at Sea cruise out of Miami Nov. 11 on MSC Cruises’ MSC Divina. At www.jazzfestatsea.com, fares start at $1,399, including the music package. Cruise.com lists the same cruise starting at $899 without the music.
Not all music cruise operators, however, allow sales to non-music passengers on full-charter sailings. Some entertainment companies do not charter the whole ship, but simply contract for a block of staterooms and arrange for exclusive use of some ship venues.
On such cruises, of course, only those who pay the music package rate get access to the special events. For instance, on its Decades of Rock and Roll cruises, said Penny Greene of 4U Promotions, “we have between 200 and 450 passengers, and to get into our events they must show an access pass.’’
Even on full-charters, though, entertainment companies may let travel agents offer passage at the normal lower rate, but without access to the special performances or get-togethers.
Eric Moss found that out by accident. “While I was recuperating from ankle surgery I booked a cruise for a four-night getaway. My usual sales rep gave me an irresistible price. When I started checking out message boards, I found out this was a chartered ship, a ‘Women of Rock’ themed cruise. I had no idea and my sales rep said nothing about it when I booked,” Moss said.
Though he did not have access to the performance venues or musician get-togethers, Moss says he still could hear several of the performances simply by being near the venue. “And it was impossible NOT to have some contact with the headliners. I spent a lot of time rehabbing my ankle and had some excellent conversations with various band members I met in the thermal pool.’’
Most music cruises take place from fall to spring, said Rose Tours’ Mscisz, when fares are lower than in high-season summers. Some music-cruise cabin categories sell out well ahead of the sailing date, but waiting lists are usually available.
This story includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with the Miami Herald and WLRN. Become a source at MiamiHerald.com/insight.
Below is a sampling of music cruises departing from Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Some may be sold out.
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE
All sailings are from Miami; information: www.sixthman.net.
Country Cruising, Oct. 23-30, Norwegian Sky.
Kiss Kruise V, Oct. 30-Nov. 3, Norwegian Pearl.
Florida-Georgia Line Cruise, Nov. 7-11, Norwegian Pearl.
Mad Decent Boat Party, Nov. 11-15, Norwegian Pearl.
Cruise to the Edge, Nov. 15-19, Norwegian Pearl (http://cruisetotheedge.com).
The Rock Boat XVI, Jan. 26-31, Norwegian Pearl.
Cayamo, Jan. 31-Feb.7, Norwegian Pearl.
Outlaw Country Cruise, Feb. 7-11, Norwegian Pearl.
Sail Across the Sun, Feb. 11-15, Norwegian Pearl.
Keeping the Blue Alive at Sea, Feb. 15-19, Norwegian Pearl.
Parahoy!, March 5-9, Norwegian Pearl.
All sailings are from Miami.
Jazzfest at Sea, Nov. 11-21, MSC Divina, www.jazzfestatsea.com.
2016 K Love Cruise, Jan. 25-30, MSC Divina, www.KLovecruise.com.
Holy Ship!, Jan. 3-6 and Feb. 10-13, MSC Divina, www.holyship.com.
Jam Cruise 14, Jan. 6-11, MSC Divina, www.jamcruise.com/divina.
All sailings are from Fort Lauderdale.
Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, Oct. 24-31, Westerdam, www.bluescruise.com.
Smooth Jazz Cruise, Jan. 10-17, and Feb. 21-28, Eurodam, www.thesmoothjazzcruise.com.
The Jazz Cruise, Jan. 17-24, Eurodam, www.thejazzcruise.com.
The ’80s Cruise, Feb. 26-March 6, Eurodam, www.soulatsea.com.
CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE
New Kids on the Block, Oct. 8-12, Carnival Victory, from Miami, http://nkotb.com/cruise.
Where the Action Is! Rock & Roll Cruise, Jan. 23-30, Emerald Princess from Fort Lauderdale, www.concertsatsea.com.
Rock Legends IV Cruise, Jan. 21-15, Independence of the Seas, from Fort Lauderdale, www.rocklegendscruise.com.
Decades of Rock & Roll Oldies Cruise, Feb. 28-March 5, Navigator of the Seas, from Fort Lauderdale, www.decadesofrockandroll.com.