Rock and Roll on the High Seas

Rock and Roll on the High Seas

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Photo: Sixthman

Even if you haven’t taken a cruise personally, you probably know someone who does so regularly, because it has become so much more popular in recent years. But I took my first cruise as a shipboard stage manager over 30 years ago, when only about 1% of Americans had ever tried one. On my first day I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but I stayed on for seven months straight, traveling from Bora Bora in the South Pacific to the Fjords of Norway, and I loved every minute of it.

Today, I am travel writer and editor, so I already know how most people feel about cruise ships; they either love them or hate them – there is very little middle ground.

So moving beyond that, as a personally dedicated fan of rock music, there is one type of cruise I have to tell you about: music theme cruises.  In my opinion, no experience in the world compares to spending five days fully isolated with some of your favorite musical artists, watching each of them perform in an intimate setting up to three separate times apiece with absolutely no distractions or restrictions. It’s the best music, with great sightlines and acoustics, in close settings for about 16 non-stop hours each day.

Already a Musical Tradition

Any time an entire cruise ship is chartered for a single purpose it’s called a theme-cruise. Music theme cruises have already been selling out for almost two decades. The “Blues Cruise” for example, generally featuring artists like Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Keb’ Mo and Taj Mahal, are in their 17th seasons. Kid Rock is sailing his third cruise soon, KISS has done four, Lynyrd Skynyrd has done eight.

There were music cruises in 2013 that featured Roger Daltrey, the Moody Blues, James Taylor, Paul Rodgers, Steppenwolf, Foreigner, ZZ Top, George Thorogood, Molly Hatchet, The Outlaws, Johnny and Edgar Winter on the same stage. There have also been plenty of cruises with younger bands like Barenaked Ladies, The Gin Blossoms, Weezer, Dinosaur Jr. and many, many more. There have been heavy metal cruises, Goth cruises, and also Beatles cruises, 1960s cruises with Paul Revere and Wayne Fontana, and smooth jazz cruises with Kenny G. There is literally something for everyone.

Many of these cruises are produced by Atlanta-based Sixthman Productions. This company was so successful with its annual lineup of theme cruises (many of which I have not even mentioned) that Norwegian Cruise Line acquired the company in 2013.

Upcoming Music Cruise:   Rock Legends Cruise 3

2013 was a great year, but that doesn’t mean you missed the boat – Most great music cruises tend to sail between November and February, and the 2014/2015 season is proving to be another fantastic year for rockin’ and rollin’ on the high seas.

Coming February 19, 2015, is the Rock Legends 3 Cruise.  I sailed on the first two of these and all I can still say is “wow.”  The first year featured ZZ Top, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, John Kay and Steppenwolf, Molly Hatchet, the Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws, Foghat, Dickie Betts and Great Southern, Johnny Winter, his brother Edgar Winter, Devon Allman (the guitar-playing son of Gregg Allman), Artimus Pyle (former drummer for Lynyrd Skynyrd), Pat Travers and several more bands.  Year two featured Foreigner, Paul Rodgers, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Kansas, Bachman & Turner, 38 Special, Marshall Tucker, Blue Oyster Cult, Foghat and Atlanta Rhythm Section (and more).

The upcoming Rock Legends Cruise 3 will feature The Doobie Brothers, Alice Cooper, Paul Rodgers, 38 Special,  Don Felder,  WAR, Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam, Blue Oyster CultUriah Heep, The Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Rik Emmett,  Edgar Winter,  Ten Years AfterSavoy BrownPat Travers and a dozen more bands. See the full lineup here:

This is a four-night cruise with only one stop. The ship is one of the larger cruisers in the world (Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas) but there will be three stages with each artist performing on each stage. Basically, you can see everybody, or you can see your favorites three times. This cruise is already sold out BUT there is a waiting list that is definitely worth trying.

Upcoming Music Cruise – Joe Bonamassa; Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea

Sixthman Productions just announced the “Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea” cruise a couple months ago – about the time we heard Rock Legends was already 90% sold out. This cruise sails February, 17-21, 2015 with a coterie of guitar heroes like Joe Bonamassa plus (are you ready?) Robben Ford, John Hiatt, Ana Popovic, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Robert Randolph and “dozens of great bands” yet to be announced.

As a matter of fact, I just got wind that they are still seeking five more bands who can audition through Reverbnation. The “winners” of this contest get free cabins and spending money, and all they have to do is play a couple of sets.

Sixthman also presents the annual “Kid Rock’s Chillin’ The Most Cruise,” plus another cruise featuring Train, and a cruise called “Cayamo” which focuses on songwriters. The 2015 edition will showcase Lyle Lovett, John Prine, Brandi Carlile, Lucinda Williams, Buddy Miller and about 20 more songwriters.

Other Music Theme Cruises

Carnival Cruise Line just started a brand new program of special concerts added to its regular cruises. In other words, before you book your regular Carnival cruise you should check the “Carnival Live Concert Series” and see who might be playing. Then you can purchase tickets to see them live in concert sometime during your cruise. Some of the artists doing this include Chicago, Styx; Kansas, REO Speedwagon, .38 Special, Lady Antebellum, Jennifer Hudson, Olivia Newton John, Trace Adkins and Jewel. Find out more here: Carnival Live Concert Series.

All in all – I just can’t emphasize enough how fantastic it is to take a music cruise. You are always within minutes of the next show, no tickets, no parking, no driving home required. The music starts each day about lunch time, and for that matter you just might see your favorite artist eating lunch on board. It’s an extremely open and friendly environment – especially for the musicians who all seem to know one another anyway. There are also picture opportunities, clinics, interviews and even jam sessions. You don’t get many chances for the experience of a lifetime, but this is certainly one of them.

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