World's Wackiest Theme Cruises
Yes, a Pink Floyd–themed cruise debuts this spring (alas, sans giant pink pig).
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of theme cruises offered around the world annually—Holland America Line ships alone are home to as many as 30 theme cruises per year, and according to a recent survey of Cruise Lines International Association members, an average of 15 percent of business in 2008 was dedicated to theme cruises.
What all theme cruises have in common is a chance to explore your special interest with others who share your passion. While Pink Floyd fans rock out on their way to the Bahamas, leather-clad Harley riders can commune at a Hogs on the High Seas rally while cruising the Mexican Riviera. There are cruises for psychics (but they probably already knew that) and cruises for people who like to vacation naked. There’s a little something for everyone on the open waters—and then some.
We can only imagine what happens when you combine fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with those of Star Trek—actually, we don’t have to imagine it because there’s a theme cruise that does that too.
Some of the cruises are full-ship charters, with everyone onboard sharing an interest, passion, or out-and-out obsession. Others are big groups with private activities (other passengers on the ship aren’t allowed to participate).
Many of the participants on these cruises are first-time cruisers attracted by the theme, like Harley rider Pat Runyan of Eagle River, AK. He went on his first Hogs on the High Seas cruise with wife Patti (they’ve now gone on several).
“Before, my vacations were moose hunting or fishing, but I got on that first cruise and really loved it. When we got back and I went moose hunting, I was like, ‘This ain’t a vacation, this is work!’ The cruise really spoiled me,” says Runyan.
Theme cruises are especially enticing for solo travelers, who automatically become part of a group. Some of the cruises even offer roommate matching for those who want to share a cabin.
Richard Meadows, executive VP of marketing, sales, and guest programs for Holland America Line, says it’s not surprising that the number of theme offerings has expanded.
“There are so many passions people have, and when they have the ability to combine that kind of passion or lifestyle or activity with like-minded people in a great atmosphere, it’s a win,” Meadows says. “It makes the experience more rich and relevant.”
On fan cruises, such as the SOAPnet-sponsored Rock the Soap Cruise, there’s also the advantage of being in a limited space where you can really mingle with the stars and gather autographs and photos.
Of course, a big benefit of pursuing your passion at sea is you also get to participate in all the regular shipboard activities. And your meals, accommodations, and entertainment are included in the cruise fare. Still, there’s something about a boatload of chocolate that makes a sailing all the more tantalizing.
Hogs on the High Seas Western Caribbean
Description: While you can’t bring your own bike onboard this rally at sea, you can check out the latest at the high seas trade show where vendors show their wares and offer giveaways—one lucky cruiser even wins a bike. Cruisers can rent bikes at the ports (but they might miss rowdy parties at places like Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo in Cabo San Lucas).
Why We Love It: With 1,000 participants, HOHS takes over a dining room and adjusts the dress code to biker casual (leather is the suggested dress for the two formal nights). Special biker activities include the Belly Wacker flop and Sexy Senorita contests, and a Topless Hombre competition judged by blindfolded ladies using their hands. Tequila flows.
Details: March 29–April 5, 2009, round-trip from Los Angeles, visiting Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. Fare for two: $2,340 to $6,922. (Two sailings a year.)
Spotlight on Chocolate Caribbean
Description: Yes, chocoholics, this is a cruise for you. Chocolate experts are onboard, and there are a plethora of chocolate-eating activities. Pastry chefs offer cooking demos, and wine experts advise on what to drink with white chocolate as opposed to dark.
Why We Love It: It’s a chocolate lover’s dream. And some of the lectures actually focus on the healthy and restorative qualities of chocolate—no guilt here. You can interact with chocolate experts (including a noted chocolatier, but no names yet) and learn more about the product. Don’t miss the special chocolate tea held one afternoon.
Details: November 30–December 11, 2009, on Seven Seas Navigator, round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, visiting the Bahamas, Grand Turk, Tortola, St. Maarten, St. Bart’s, San Juan, St. Thomas, and Antigua. Fare: $3,795 to $11,495 per person. (Annual cruise.)
Great Gig in the Sea Pink Floyd Themed Cruise, Bahamas
Description: Fans of the legendary British band combine fun in the sun with a concert experience featuring the band Think Floyd USA: The American Pink Floyd Show, a four-year-old cover band. They’ll perform a retrospective of Pink Floyd’s classics accompanied by an elaborate light show and music. The real band’s singer and guitarist, David Gilmour, has even heaped praise on this group.
Why We Love It: You won’t see a giant floating pig (which would be hard to pull off on a ship), but you will hear all the classics and a full performance of Dark Side of the Moon. Pink Floyd trivia contests, Pink Floyd–themed parties, and special guests (names not yet announced) will remind you why you came onboard.
Details: May 1–4, 2009, Carnival Imagination, round-trip from Miami, with a port call in Nassau. Fare: $389 to $889 per person. (First-ever cruise.)
Clothing-Optional Homecoming Cruise, Caribbean
Description: Sunbathe naked at the pool. Hit the slots sans clothes in the casino. Let it all hang out at the disco. Leading clothing-optional vacation firm Bare Necessities hosts this clothing-optional cruise (one of several the firm offers throughout the year).
Why We Love It: You have to wear clothes in port but once the ship hits international waters, all areas are nude except the main dining rooms and fancy steak house. Plus there’s a full schedule of workshops such as Sensual Awakening, the women’s-only Release the Goddess, and Draw the Nude art sessions. Couples can book a massage for the reduced rate of $90. Don’t forget to bring lots of sunscreen.
Details: February 8–15, 2009, on Carnival Legend, round-trip from Tampa, visiting Key West, Montego Bay, and Cozumel. Some fares sold out; remaining fares from $2,099 to $2,259 (regular fare from $899) per person. (Three cruises scheduled for 2009.)
Fashion & Style Cruise, Asia
Description: Yes fashionistas, pack your Prada and Manolo Blahniks. Experts will be onboard this China/Japan cruise offering a history of Asian fashion and providing shopping tips. Hear from Hong Kong–based shopping specialist Carole Klein, among others.
Why We Love It: Onboard activities include lectures, fashion-themed dinners, and even a showing of movies that feature fashion. And there’s a jewelry trunk show of creations by London-based jeweler Gerry Summers, who draws influences from ancient cultures. Onshore, you can explore the markets and fancy shopping malls guided by professional shoppers. Style is a focus, too—in Hong Kong, cruisers learn about such things as purchasing home furnishings made from traditional silk jacquards and velvets.
Evolution Emanation Cruise, Panama Canal
Description: Calling all geeks: don’t turn off your brains for this cruise. You’ll have access to 20 seminars on topics such as The History of Life on Earth, The Evolution of the Genetic Code, and The Mathematics of the Mind: Exploring the Formal Foundations of Human Thought. The cruise is cosponsored by Scientific American magazine.
Why We Love It: Classes are offered on four days while the ship is at sea, providing free time for shore excursions. You could be lounging in the sun, but why do that when you can hear from Ph.D.s on things like the amino acid “alphabet?”
Details: February 27–March 9, 2009, on Holland America’s Zuiderdam, round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, visiting the Bahamas, Aruba, Curaçao, and Costa Rica, and cruising the Panama Canal. Conference fee is $1,275 plus the regular cruise fare of $1,529 to $5,219 per person. (First-ever cruise on this topic, but Scientific American regularly hosts other themed cruises.)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek Cruise, Western Caribbean
Description: Prepare to be slain. Or boldly go where no cruise has gone before. Or both. This cruise offers side-by-side Slayer Cruise and SeaTrek fan conventions—a week of immersion including stars from the cult TV shows.
Why We Love It: You get not only signed photos of all the celebrity guests but also a group photo of you and the stars. Your badge gets you into both conventions. Don’t miss the star-studded karaoke night and hysterical improv session. Book early and you may even dine with a cast member—Robert Picardo (The Doctor) and Ethan Phillips (Neelix) from Star Trek: Voyager and Amber Benson (Tara) from Buffy have appeared on past cruises.
Psychic Medium Cruise, Caribbean
Description: We’re getting a reading. It must be, yes, we’re seeing your future and it involves a cruise. The Psychic Medium Cruise is hosted by two internationally recognized psychic mediums—Joanne Gerber and Rita Berkowitz. Gerber is a medium and spiritual teacher based in Boston. Berkowitz, a spiritual artist and clairvoyant, is based in Hanover, MA.
Why We Love It: The cruise features two shows with the psychics, lectures, and group readings. Private readings are available for an additional fee. Activities include a Mingle with the Mediums cocktail party. This is a chance to join other believers.
Details: June 28–July 5, 2009, on Carnival Valor, round-trip from Miami, visiting Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, and Roatan (Honduras). Fares: $999 to $1,299 per person. (First cruise for these seers, but there are several psychic sailings every year.)
SpyCruise 2009, Black Sea
Description: Real-life James Bonds share true stories and secrets on this cruise. Get your daily fix at lectures by intelligence experts on subjects including clandestine equipment—gosh, we hope they display shoe phones.
Why We Love It: Lecturers and social hours feature former spies from the CIA, KGB, and RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) Security Service. And shore excursions carry on the theme: in Istanbul, visit the home and office of Kim Philby, the British Secret Intelligence Service officer and local station commander during WWII who was also a double agent. We’d tell you more, but then we’d have to kill you.
Details: July 8–18, 2009, on Oceania Nautica, Black Sea itinerary from Istanbul to Athens, includes port calls in Russia and Ukraine. Fare: $4,780 to $7,580 per person, including international airfare. (One-off cruise.)