By Simon & Susan Veness
Fashion week. Baseball. Science fiction. Legends of wrestling. 1970s rock music. What do all of these things have in common? You can find each and every one of them on a themed cruise.
It used to be the case that a ‘themed’ cruise meant one of only a handful of things, like ballroom dancing, bridge, jazz or golf. Not any longer. In the modern idiom, cruising with a theme can be just about anything from ‘wellness’ to ‘clothing optional’ (and there are actually companies that specialise in the latter, just in case you feel the need to go au naturel at sea).
There are usually two types of themed cruise. The first – and most prevalent – is one where the ‘theme’ is largely an adjunct to the voyage itself, an extra amenity or sideline on the daily entertainment programme. This has been happening for the past 20 years or so, with cruise lines keen to lure passengers with the possibility of meeting sports stars, learning how to fine-tune their golf game, enjoy Big Band musical style or something similar.
It was always something that was added to the normal run of events on board so that devotees could enjoy their favourite hobby or passion without it impinging directly on the rest of the ship. If you wanted to learn about photography or computer programmes, there would be lectures and workshops alongside the other daily activities for people to enjoy, or not, as the mood dictated.
The second, and much newer, example of a themed voyage is one where the whole ship is devoted to the activity in question, either a full-ship charter by excited fans or a company-arranged excursion that is run entirely to the requirements of the organiser. This way, no-one suddenly finds they are unwittingly surrounded by 1980s pop music fans or rabid poker players on their seven-day Caribbean wanderings.
Rock and pop music sailings have become an increasingly big business and, in 2018, you could have sailed with a collection of any of the following – Kiss, Billy Ocean, Dave Benoit, the Backstreet Boys, Michael McDonald, Mike and the Mechanics, and the Grand Ole Opry. Next year also promises to be a music lover’s delight, with several dozen cruises devoted purely to the likes of rock, jazz, country and even dance music.
So, with an eye to some of the most eye-catching voyages of 2019, we have highlighted Six Cool Cruises with a Theme. They cover the spectrum from music and sport to fashion, food and celebrity appearances, but they are only a small selection of what is on offer these days so be sure to consult your essential cruise agent (hint, hint!) if there’s a type of cruise you’re interested in.
Crystal Cruises – All That Jazz, February 19
Stylish cruising and smooth jazz go hand in hand with the Crystal Symphony, and Crystal’s 16-day Pacific Ocean voyage will be the picture-perfect setting for their ‘Jazz Days and Cabaret Nights’ theme, which sees some of the best performers in the jazz genre add a significant extra element to the entertainment programme, along with enrichment lectures, talks and other performances. Crystal has become a keen proponent of jazz in all its forms, and 2019 should see another memorable experience for fans of singers like Jane Monheit and Courtney Fortune, plus musicians of the calibre of Justin Ray and Nick Vayenas. View this cruise
Silversea – A Night at the Opera, April and October
While pop and rock may now garner the lion’s share of musical themes on ships around the world, traditional opera still has its champions, and Silversea is among them, including for two special Opera Voyages in conjunction with the renowned Accademia Teatro Alla Scala music and dance school from Milan. On April 25, Silver Spirit will set sail on a seven-day cruise from Barcelona to Rome with the full Accademia style, including performers, lectures and Q&A sessions, while Silver Shadow will offer something similar on an 11-day round-trip from Athens on September 22. View 25th April cruise | View 22nd September cruise
Azamara Club Cruises – Grand Prix & Film Festival, May 18
Several cruises lines (notably Crystal, Silversea and Windstar) feature the annual Formula 1 fiesta that is the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo with special visits to the principality each May, but Azamara is going a step further with no fewer than two voyage highlights in 2019, stopping first at Cannes for the International Film Festival on May 22 and then continuing to the high-octane race for May 25-26. Sailing from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Barcelona, the cruise will feature a variety of ways to enjoy the two highlights, as well as onboard events and lectures. View this cruise
Cunard – Fashion Week Cruise, July 28
Having made a big impression with their fashionista transatlantic special last September, Cunard will be back for more of the same designer-label delectation on their seven-night New York to Southampton voyage next summer, with an impressive array of onboard features, shows and lectures from some of the top names in the industry. British milliner Stephen Jones and American model and author Pat Cleveland will be two of the designers featured, and there will be plenty to entertain passengers in the upmarket world of Jimmy Choo products and other high-end celebrity apparel. View this cruise
Aqua Expeditions – Thai Food Extravaganza, August and September
As if sailing the Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia isn’t exotic and food-orientated enough, Aqua Expeditions has a highly attractive additional feature for two four-night sailings on their stylish Aqua Mekong river-cruiser, departing August 16 and September 13 next year. Top chef David Thompson will be aboard both times to highlight his penchant for Asian cuisine, featuring customised market tours, cooking classes and Q&A sessions along the way, all of which will underline why his restaurants earn their Michelin stars every year for their culinary creativity.
Royal Caribbean – Dr Who (and Co), December 13
Okay, so this isn’t strictly all about everyone’s favourite Doctor, but Royal Caribbean has actually been running a Sci-Fi Cruise for 21 years, and the 2019 version will be completely Tardis-themed, with original doctors Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy among the special guests, as well as actors such as Terry Molloy (who played arch-enemy Davros in the 1980s) and Ian McNeice (‘Churchill’ from the 2010-11 series) on a nine-night Caribbean jaunt sailing round-trip from Miami, including calls at Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Wannabe Time Lords, embark! Look up more at www.scificruise.com.
Have you tried a themed cruise? What did you think and would you try another? Give us your thoughts in the Comments section below.