Cruising on its own can be an escape from reality; add music to that experience and you may never want to head back to land.
Cruises featuring music groups creates an experience much bigger than either activity alone; with no distractions, you become immersed in every aspect of the music on the cruise. The personalities of the artists emanate from the rooms where you dine and drink and the line between artists and audience virtually disappears.
Music cruises run the gamut of genres, from classical with a full symphony orchestra to smooth jazz, blues cruises, and tribute cruises to Elvis, the Beatles and even Neil Diamond and Jimmy Buffett.The Blues Cruise is now in its 18th year and the Smooth Jazz cruise is now in its 12th year, and is popular that it now spans two, seven-day back-to-back cruises on the same ship, which can be booked together or separately, with more than two dozen bands and artists.
There are also one-time music cruise events, such as the just-announced KISS Kruise featuring the actual KISS band members (including two originals, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, and two newer members who have been with the band since 2002).
The best music cruises are full-ship charters--meaning the music takes over the entire ship. Every concert is by the featured artists while the ship's regular entertainment offerings go on hiatus. In addition to nightly concerts, you can mingle with the artists at daytime Q&A sessions, meet-and-greet photo opportunities and topical discussion groups.
Late-night shows often become impromptu jam sessions, and in case you are too exhausted to stay up, everything is videotaped and will be playing on the closed circuit TV in your stateroom the next day.
Meanwhile, the music cruise still offers the same meals and ports of call as a regular cruise. But since the ship is chartered, the concert producers have a lot of say in what happens onboard. For example, because the Smooth Jazz cruise covers two sailings back to back, the producers opted to change the ship’s ports of call for the second seven-day itinerary so diehard fans who book both cruises can see different islands.
Here is a sampling of the more interesting music cruises coming up:
The Rock Legends Cruise is sailing Dec. 1, 2011 and features some of the best guitar players in America.The four-day full-ship charter of the popular Liberty of the Seas will be headlined by ZZ Top, but the lineup also includes The Marshall Tucker Band, Dickey Betts, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Devon Allman, Foghat, Molly Hatchet, John Kay and Steppenwolf, The Outlaws, Preacher Stone and more.
The best part of this marquee is the familial relationships between these artists -- the Winter brothers, the Allman brothers, and the other southern rockers who have been in bands together over the years.
Sixthman Productions in Atlanta is one of the most successful and diverse music cruise producers. One of its theme cruises, The Rock Boat, is in its eleventh year and sails March 1, 2012. The company teams up with VH1 for the annual VH1 Best Cruise Ever, look for the 2012 version to sail in April.
Sixthman just finished the Kid Rock Cruise April 7, but it will sail again next year. The Cayamo Cruise, which sails Feb. 12, 2012 features prominent songwriters like Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, John Prine, Richard Thompson, Keb' Mo', Buddy Miller, Loudon Wainwright III, Iris Dement and more than a dozen more.
Sixthman is also the sponsor of the KISS Kruise, sailing four nights starting Oct.13 from Miami.
Southern Rock Fans missed Sixthman’s 2011 Simple Man Cruise with Lynyrd Skynard, 38 Special and Little Feat last January, but stay tuned for 2012’s lineup to be announced soon. The company also has six other cruises lined up with various themes. Visit the Web site for more details.
The Legendary Rhythm ‘n Blues Cruise, now in its 18th year, sails from both the East and the West coasts. Sailing Oct. 13 from San Diego, the seven-day cruise includes Bobby “Blue” Bland, Bobby Womack, Elvin Bishop with Mickey Thomas, Big Head Todd, Tommy Castro, Curtis Salgado, Deanna Bogart & Bernard Allison, Charlie Musselwhite and many more.
The Caribbean version sails Jan. 22, 2012 from Fort Lauderdale and features Taj Mahal, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Bettye LaVette, Lowrider Band, Latimore, Tommy Castro, Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers plus about 20 more bands and players.
The 2012 Smooth Jazz Cruises, which will sail Jan. 15, and 22 next year and is already 80% sold out, features David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, Jonathan Butler, Gerald Albright, Candy Dulfer, Eric Darius, Joe Sample and about 20 more jazz artists. I attended this cruise in 2008 and it was first class all the way.
There are other music cruises that happen annually, as well as tribute cruises. Just search for your favorite kind of music with the word cruise – or visit the web sites above.
As always – if you need to know more about cruising we urge you to consult our Cruising101 FAQ.
I started writing about stock market investing for Motley Fool in 1995, but previously I worked aboard cruise ships. I co-founded the CruiseMates.com cruise travel guide on the Internet in New York City in 1999. CruiseMates was acquired by Internet Brands in 2006. Once CEO, I am now the editor of CruiseMates
Paul Motter is the editor of CruiseMates.com, an online cruise guide. Follow him on Twitter @cruisemates.