Here's the proof that cruises aren’t just for OAPs
The trend for "festicruises" – curious mash-ups where floating music festivals take place aboard vast, oceanliners – shows no sign of stopping. More rave than blue-rinse, lineups range from packing in the world’s hottest DJs to musical nostalgia-fests. Here are nine to have on your radar.
Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise
Accordions, drumkits and a plethora of harmonicas – these might not be first things you’d think to pack for a cruise, unless you’re boarding LRBC that is. The first ever festicruise took place nearly 15 years ago cruising from Florida to Grand Cayman, and its voyages are still going strong. Cruisers are encouraged to bring along their own instruments for impromptu jam sessions and masterclasses with top musical brass, with a riot of talent such as the late, great Etta James, Taj Mahal and Joe Bonamassa headlining on previous sails.
21-28 October 2017 (Fort Lauderdale to Bahamas), 4-8 Feb 2018 (Fort Lauderdale to Grand Turk) bluescruise.com
Circle pits and moshing at sea? That’s what to expect aboard ShipRocked, where “rock hard, vacation harder” is the motto. Some 3,000 air guitar devotees come together to headbang to the likes of Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach, with sandy-toed island hopping excursions in the Bahamas on offer too. The next edition sees Stone Sour, South African metal-heads Seether and Black Label Society take to the seas.
21- 25 January 2018 (Florida to Bahamas) shiprocked.com
The NKOTB Cruise
Whatever happened to New Kids on the Block? Well, come October, they’re ocean-bound. Fans of the bubblegum pop sensation, who paved the way for *N SYNC and the Backstreet Boys, can be “trapped at sea” with the band and 3,000 other NKOTB enthusiasts. While it might sound like a terrifying prospect, clearly it has a certain appeal as it's on its ninth edition and is always a sell-out. Departing from New Orleans and heading to Cozumel, off-boat activities include scuba diving and treks through Mayan ruins, as well as NKOTB photo opportunities, talks and performances. The kids, it seems, have still got it.
October 19-23, 2017 (New Orleans to Cozumel) nkotbcruise.com
The brainchild of Gary Richards, aka Destructo, DJ, music producer and former A&R person at Def Jam America, this electronic dance music mecca has a Spring-Break-at-sea-vibe. Sequins, neon and skimpy bikinis are de rigueur uniform for a happy-go-lucky EDM-obsessed millennial crowd. Acts wander the decks between sets; one day you might run into Fatboy Slim in a queue for pizza, or end up customising T-shirts with your favourite DJ who, it turns out, has a secret passion for crafting. With hot tub parties, sunrise sets and party stop-offs on private islands such as Great Stirrup Cay, there might be plush cabins, but don’t expect to get much sleep.
6-10; 10-13 January 2018 (Port Canaveral to Bahamas) holyship.com
Likely the only ship you’ll ever find ukulele melees, debates on comic books and entire rooms dedicated to tabletop gaming in the same place, JoCo is a self-proclaimed celebration of nerdery. Captained by internet-famous podcaster and singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton, geeky tribes flock to performances by him and a rather bonkers mix of talks from his friends – ranging from Star Trek’s Wil Wheaten to musician Aimee Mann.
18-25 February (San Diego to Mexican Riviera) jococruise.com
After a successful launch cruise in Asia in 2016, Shipsomnia hit European shores for the first time this summer. Billed as an immersive arts and music festival, a “Voyage of the Kraken” theme translated to out-there set design, the main stage seemingly bursting from the tentacles of a giant sea monster, and a genre-spanning lineup covering house, techno and hip hop, with drum and bass maestros Pendulum headlining. While this year’s round trip from Barcelona took in hedonistic Ibiza and pretty Sète, destinations for the next edition will be announced later this year.
Dates tbc shipsomnia.com
The Ark Cruise
With stages from the Ministry of Sound, confetti-popping funsters Elrow and Pacha Ibiza, this newcomer packs serious dance music credentials. Its maiden voyage sets off from Barcelona to Marseille, via Ibiza, this autumn. Tapping into the detox-retox trend there will be sunrise yoga sessions on the top deck, plus smart dining options from Nick Bril of the two Michelin-starred The Jane in Antwerp. He’ll prepare dinner one night and take to the turntables the next. When the ship docks in Ibiza, there’s a gastro-circus supper at HEART with food from the Adria brothers, and gravity-defying entertainment by Cirque du Soleil.
31 August-3 September 2017 (Barcelona to Marseille) theark.cruises/en
The folks behind new festicruise MDRNTY have form when it comes to melding electronic music with quirky venues, having put on raves everywhere from the mountains in Gstaad to mini-parties in hot air balloons. Established spinners Jamie Jones and Guy Gerber will hit the decks alongside up-and-coming underground talent as the ship travels from Genoa to Ibiza, stopping off at Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca. DJs will also provide live soundtracks for electro-yoga sessions, while other activities include pop-up wine tastings and documentary screenings.
16-20 September (Genoa to Ibiza) mdrnty-cruise.com
With a lineup that reads like a NOW That’s What I Call Music! cassette tape from the Nineties, including Vanilla Ice, Salt-N-Pepa and Coolio, Ship-Hop makes for a fresh, floating festival with a focus on old-school hip hop and R&B jamz. Gangsta’s Paradise on deck will be matched by palm trees and pastel-fronted bungalows in Key West, and adrenaline rushes on zip-line adventures in Cozumel. Pack the harem pants and hit rewind, it’s Hammer Time.
11-15 January (Miami to Cozumel) shiphop.com