Theme cruises: agony or ecstasy?

For some it doesn’t get better than this: a whole week totally immersed with their keen interest or obsession. For others who just happen to book on that same cruise it can be a totally different experience.

Theme cruises appeal to groups of people varying from very broad interests like “motorcycles” and “rock music” in general to smaller, more specific interests like Harley-Davidson motorcycles or the Beatles.

Promoters commit to the cruise lines for anything from a block of rooms to a partial or full ship charter, depending on the size of their group. On these sailings anywhere from a small additional fee to fees equal to or greater than the normal price of the cruise will be added. Still, loyal fans are happy to pay as specific on-board programming can add great value for them.

Fans of the the classic TV show The Brady Bunch have a chance to Dance With The Stars At Sea as Florence Henderson and assorted Brady characters are featured on an upcoming theme cruise. On that one, sailing next January, special events are included ranging from private performances, dance exhibitions, group dance lessons, and stand-up comedy. Hosted jointly by and Crown Cruise Vacations, prices start at $1154 per person, double occupancy.

Pricing on theme cruises can be difficult to pin down when calculating value though. On this sailing the category 11 inside cabin they quote at $1154 per person (+taxes and pre-paid gratuities) is selling for $779 today. So right at $375 per person was added on to cover the events, performers and group functions.

If you happen to be part of the group, you joined because it is worth the premium price to completely indulge yourself. If you are not one of those groups and happen to stumble in to one, it can have a major impact on your cruise experience.

I got a call the other day from a friend who started the conversation with “Did you know I was gay?” I’ve known this guy for years and never really thought about it, not that I would care but it’s just something that never came up. As I was thinking of what to say, why he was telling me this, etc he continued with “We had a great time with the Gay Bears Club, they were a bunch of great guys but I was sure surprised.” adding “At first I thought there was a pro-wrestler convention on the ship but then figured it out.”

That was a partial charter group and other stories of people unknowingly booking into a sailing with a large number of theme-cruise passengers have not turned out as well.

A recent Jam Fest cruise was supposed to be rock and roll and fun and games on MSC Cruises Poesia to the Western Caribbean. Instead they got a full dose of US Customs and Border Protection medicine when the ship was raided and passengers busted for illegal drugs and contraband while docked at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Sometimes, cruise lines themselves sponsor theme cruises. John Heald, the popular senior cruise director/blogger from Carnival Cruise Lines has a John Heald’s Bloggers Cruise that includes onboard events and activities. Here too, just booking on one of those sailings does not make you part of the group. For that you’ll pay a higher fare.

Theme cruises are one good reason to book using a travel expert/agent who can usually find out if there are special interest groups on your cruise. The booking will have to be done through the event promoter for those that want to go.

Photo: Carnival Cruise Lines