Seeing your dream band perform live at a local venue is certainly an experience to remember, but we’ve got a better way to do it – on a ship. Music themed cruises don’t just bring you West End-worthy musicals and orchestral bands, but top name performers and DJs that not only take to the stage for intimate crowds, but dine at the same buffet as the rest of us. These voyages are the ultimate holidays for music lovers.
With this handy guide, we bring you the best lines, the best musical cruises and the top destinations for music lovers worldwide. If you weren’t hearing the music before, you’re certain to now.
Musical cruise lines
While just about every cruise line features musical entertainment of some variety, a general rule of thumb is, the bigger the ship, the bigger the roster. Think about it this way – the more room you have for multiple stages, the more acts you’re going to be able to accommodate.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line might just offer the best musical cruises around – and certainly the most varied. The line’s very own Playlist Productions puts on high quality shows highlighting everything from eighties pop to the swinging sixties, equipped with special effects and LED screens. There’s also live music and karaoke on the bill, and that’s just from the run-of-the-mill voyages. Carnival Cruise Line also runs special journeys under the Carnival LIVE flag, which brings world famous bands and comedians to its stages.
At Royal Caribbean, the West End can be just a few floors down from the pool with full-blown musicals on the bill. Onboard ships like Oasis of the Seas®, Allure of the Seas®, Liberty of the Seas® and Anthem of the Seas®, you’ll have access to shows like Grease, Cats, Mamma Mia! And Saturday Night Fever, all of which come with some pretty great soundtracks, if we do say so ourselves.
Cunard is known for its classy edge, so you can expect musical entertainment here that has an upscale twist. Live music constantly permeates the air onboard Queen Mary 2, with jazz bands, harpists and string quartets scattered around her decks. She’s also privy to a theatre and the largest dance floor on any cruise ship, so in addition to live performances, you can expect balls and dance classes galore.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line offers a true music fan’s cruise, as these mega ships feature everything from ballroom dancing shows to all-out musicals like Rock of Ages. There’s also live jazz music and the longest-running tribute show in the world of entertainment. Norwegian Epic has even recreated the famous Cavern Club where the Beatles got their start – it’s here you can catch Beatles cover bands and other rock and roll hits.
Just like foodie voyages and ships themed around your favourite television shows, music theme cruises are a staple in the industry. Because these particular journeys are so incredibly popular, just about every cruise line offers some sort of musical cruise variety.
From 80s cruises featuring your favourite big-haired pop stars – Tommy Tutone, Rick Springfield and KISS, to name a few – to pop princes like the Backstreet Boys, there’s really no limit to who you might find on a cruise. Country stars, psychedelic rockers, X Factor winners and soul stars have all been known to take to the high seas. There are even special dance music cruises where the decks are essentially non-stop parties.
Because you’re all more or less confined to the same ship, you’re likely to see the headlining stars milling around your ship’s restaurants or partying alongside you late into the evening. And in between sets, you’re still hitting popular ports – we’re talking Mexico, Key West and the Caribbean. These cruises tend to sell out fast, so if you spot one you’re dying to hop on, you’d be wise to snap up the chance ASAP.
Top destinations for music fans
You don’t have to be onboard a themed cruise to hear all the best hits. Docking in these ports will be music to your ears.
Vienna takes its music very seriously – not surprising, as it’s known for hosting the likes of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Liszt at various points in their musical careers. Classical music lovers and opera fanatics flock to these city streets from near and far for the iconic Burgtheater, the Theater an der Wien and a number of smaller, more intimate venues.
Miami is known for its huge Latin American and Caribbean population, so it should come as no surprise that samba, reggae, conga and rumba music are huge here. There are loads of clubs – from big time outdoor spots to teeny little coffee shops – boasting live music, in addition to the crazy array of mega nightclubs speckling the city streets.
Miami is a huge push-off point for Caribbean cruises, so if you want to hit this port, you’ll want to arrive a day or two before your cruise leaves so you can get the full picture. Almost all the major cruise lines offer voyages from Miami, including Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.
To give you a window into Sydney’s music scene, just take a second to think about what it’s most iconic building is. That’s right, the Sydney Opera House, tucked right up on the harbour. You’ve got all your bases covered in this major city – classical music, big time arenas hosting major pop stars and outdoor amphitheatres for some concert fun underneath Sydney’s sunshine.
There are a huge array of cruises to Sydney to choose from, most of which hit other Australian hotspots, New Zealand and/or Pacific islands as well. Princess Cruises offers a month-long cruise that goes all the way to Hawaii, while Holland America Line goes one step further up to Canada.
Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae music, bringing Bob Marley and the Wailers to the rest of the world. That’s along with a number of other musicians from this red, yellow and green movement. Jamaica is synonymous with reggae, so as you can imagine, there are a number of places around the island to experience this genre straight from the source.
Jamaica is a massively popular cruise destination, so you’d be hard pressed to find a major cruise line that doesn’t dock here. Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises®, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Thomson Cruises all head to this patch of the Caribbean.
Music lovers won’t disagree – seeing your favourite performers live onstage while touring some of the world’s best destinations is an experience like no other. All you’ve got to do is hop onboard and get ready to dance.
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