Thinking of setting sail on a music cruise? Forget (almost) everything you know about cruising, because these are not your garden-variety tours. I had the pleasure of sailing on Norwegian Pearl for Florida Georgia Line’s This is How We Cruise, a full-out music festival at sea produced by Sixthman. It was jam-packed with incredible performances, quality-time activities with some of the artists — think Q&A sessions, photo and signing ops, intimate acoustic sets, contests hosted by performers — and more.
Read on to learn about about my experience, and what to expect aboard a music cruise.
THE FOOD AND AMENITIES:
While the dining options remain the same as on a “regular” cruise — from nearly ’round-the-clock buffets, to specialty restaurants, main dining rooms and even 24-hour room service — many of the customary amenities are transformed. A section of the outdoor buffet’s dining area is closed off for games such as battle shots and flip cup, and the library becomes the “Merch Store,” featuring all sorts of themed memorabilia. Plus, small stages are set up throughout the ship, just waiting to be filled with live music.
Ever feel like you want to go where everybody knows your name? The vibe in the air during this cruise definitely lends that feeling.
From neon-haired barely-20-year-olds out with their "squads" to the (noticeably fewer) more seasoned couples bringing their families out on an unconventionally spectacular family vacation, there seemed to be a warm, sociable cohesiveness among my fellow cruisers; every elevator ride buzzed with friendly banter. Our cruise director greeted every passenger with an excited high five. This welcoming demeanor flowed throughout the ship as strangers cheered and greeted each other with genuine friendliness.
THE ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT:
Forget the Broadway-style shows, comedy clubs and even piano bars. The music-fest vibe completely takes over the ship, leaving you with more party-centric events — besides the obvious concerts and autograph sessions. We had the opportunity to try our luck at beer pong, battle shots, lip sync battles, belly-flop contests and other similar activities. (just make sure to preregister for these before the cruise).
Aside from a few short breaks, our days were filled with non-stop performances from Frankie Ballard, Jason Derulo, Drew Castle, Eric Paslay, Florida Georgia Line, Raelynn and others. Performances are festival-style, with multiple shows going on simultaneously, so some tough decisions had to be made. And if the show was on the main stage at the pool deck, you definitely had to get there early to snag a good spot. I preferred the unobstructed view from the Freestyle Sundeck, which also kept us away from the crowd below.
It may be controversial to say, but one of our favorite performances was Frankie Ballard’s cover of “Old Time Rock and Roll.” His vocals and spirited guitar skills mixed with such a classic feel-good song had the entire crowd singing along.
During concert downtime, there were photo ops with Florida Georgia Line, autograph sessions with various artists, a Q&A event, and even intimate Songwriters in the Round performances, where artists discussed the inspirations for some of their favorite songs. They also performed acoustic versions of these songs for their captivated audience.
With any encounter, you got the sense that the musicians were just as excited and happy to be there as we were. You’d see the guys of Florida Georgia Line shaking hands with everyone at their photo sessions and friendly bandmates sharing elevator rides with us fans. And while some of the artists were spotted around the ship, cruisers seemed content to let them be, giving them their space and allowing them to enjoy their meals uninterrupted.
WHAT TO PACK:
Formal wear, shmormal wear. On a themed cruise, every night is Theme Night. In the evenings, cruisers changed out of their swimsuits and into something befitting the theme du jour, such as Epic Movie Night, Superheroes & Villains, and Redneck Yacht Club.
Never mind poring over pages upon pages of excursion options. One of the best parts about a themed cruise is that there is usually a corresponding themed excursion that brings the entire experience together. In our case, it was a fun-and-sun-filled day at Playa Mia Grand Beach and Water Park in Cozumel. This private excursion was open exclusively to our cruise and featured perks such as lunch, an open bar, a floating water park complete with 200-foot Twin Twister Waterslides, a private beach, and of course, can’t-miss waterfront performances by Chris Lane, Cole Taylor and Telemitry. Of course, you could decide to take the path less traveled and find your own adventure, but when it comes to themed cruises, if you’re in for the inch, you’re usually in for the mile, so the corresponding excursion is likely the way to go.
So if you love music and you love cruising, blast some songs to get you in the Caribbean cruising spirit and then search for your favorite music cruise, pronto. Then, expect nothing less than rockin’ fun as you sail to and from your own beachy destination.