How About a Theme With That Cruise?

February 24, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Posted in Caribbean/Bahamas/Bermuda, cruising, gay/lesbian travel, Mexico | Leave a comment
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by Marcia R. Levin

Sixthman Elvis Presley cruiseEven as more ships turn into floating theme parks these days, savvy cruise line execs continue to look for new and ever more imaginative ways of keeping ’em coming back for more. Hence the ever-growing number of cruises organized around some kind of theme, whether art, health/fitness, history, photography, golf, politics, finances, baseball, comedy, singles, mystery novels, poker, wine, religion, the arts, nudism, paranormal activities, Star Trek, Twilight, and above all music. The single biggest niche of all may be gay and lesbian cruises, with numerous sailings all over the world and quite a few agencies and companies — like Atlantis, RSVP, and Olivia — dedicated solely to this market segment. Of these, the highest-profile is Rosie O’ Donnell’s  R Family Vacations aboard the Norwegian Dawn (subject of an Emmy-nominated HBO documentary in 2009); NCL’s Pride of America will host R Family’s “Hawaii Spring Break Cruise” to four islands March 27-April 3 (from $1,079 each for the first two persons in a cabin, $299 for the third and fourth).

No matter what their orientation or interests, theme cruises are popular with increasing numbers of passengers who find that sailing with people who share their interests really enhances their vacation experience.

Not that such offerings are new. Even back in the 1980s, Norwegian Cruise Line was offering sports-themed cruises with major-league ballplayers and other jocks mingling with passengers. Sports nuts loved hanging out and talking about batting or goal-line stances, golf clubs, or hoops technique.

These days theme cruises are just more numerous and diverse, whether organized by the lines themselves or put together by retail travel agents or special-interest groups with the assistance of travel agents. Sometimes an entire ship is chartered by a sponsoring group, but in most cases the theme-cruisers are part of a subgroup blocking space on a regular sailing. Either way, they’re big business — Howard Moses’  ThemeCruiseFinder.com lists more than 500 a year.

Occasionally they can even be a little controversial (even apart from Royal Caribbean’s September 19 “Tea Party Cruise”). Remember the recent dustup when Carnival hosted a cruise for “cougars” — older women prowling for younger men — and their fresh-faced male admirers? When the line declined to host another, Royal Caribbean International stepped in and said, “here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson,” agreeing to Singles Travel Company‘s “2nd International Cougar Cruise” May 16-23 aboard Mariner of the Seas — from Los Angeles to Los Cabos, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta, starting at $659.

MSC cruise Suzanne Somers, Marcia Levin, Rick SassoI myself recently spent five days with 500 passengers on a women’s health and lifestyle cruise through the Caribbean aboard MSC Poesia where the marquee draw was actress/health guru/entrepreneur Suzanne Somers. Her daily presentations were packed with folks from all over the world, many of them lugging copies of her latest book, Knockout. I thoroughly enjoyed myself — and if there was anybody who didn’t get her picture taken with Suzanne at some point, I never met her (here at right is Suzanne with MSC North America president Rick Sasso and moi).

A quickie sampling of some other theme cruises hitting the high seas this spring:

Music Jazz, classical, polka, opera, rock, hip-hop, country — you name it, it’s afloat. “An Elvis cruise” (pictured at top right), says Andy Levine of Sixthman Cruises, “is always sold out.” Levine first booked a music cruise on Carnival Jubilee in 2001 and discovered that band devotees love hanging out with other fans in the convenient, laid-back environment cruise ships offer. On April 15,  Sixthman’s four-night “VH1 Best Cruise Ever” on Carnival Inspiration will sail from Tampa to Grand Cayman with rates starting at $799, and its “malt shop” cruise is slated for May 11-16 on the same ship out of Tampa, featuring Frankie Avalon, the Drifters, and Leslie Gore (also from $799).

Sports MSC regularly offers cruises with former pro baseball players who participate in trivia games and offer clinics — how about rubbing bats with the likes of Stan Bahnsen, Tony Taylor, Rico Petrocelli and Goran Thomas? MSC Poesia’s next baseball cruise leaves April 3 from Fort Lauderdale, with early-booking rates from $599 per person for seven nights. Others are scheduled for November 14 and December 5.

Health/Fitness How about a “Holistic Holiday at Sea”? Costa‘s Costa Fortuna sets sail March 21 from Fort Lauderdale through the Eastern Caribbean (USVI, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos)  with some two dozen presenters including Marilu Henner, Dr. Neal Barnard, and Christina Pirello.

Antiquing The 11-day March 29 sailing of the Celebrity Equinox serves up “Dr. Lori, art historian and antiques media maven,” providing free appraisals for passengers’ old stuff (Celebrity will provide a list of items guests cannot bring on board). Fares start at $1,049.

Film The Queen Mary 2’s six-day transatlantic crossing beginning April 29 will feature two film documentarians as part of Cunard’s “Insight” program: Dori Berinstein (The Road to Broadway) and Judd Ehrlich (Mayor of the West Side). Fares start at $907 per person.

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