It’s 80 degrees, you’ve got your feet in a swimming pool, sipping a cold one, listening to your favorite band play an awesome live set. Fifteen minutes later, the same band shows up and jumps in the pool with you. Then you all go play a game of beach volleyball on a private island in the Caribbean.
This is not a dream: multi-day “floating music festivals” are filling cruise ships with regularity, partnering with major lines like Norwegian and Celebrity. Not all of these cruise-ship festivals are a success — it’s not easy to pull off a multi-day concert, sell out a full-ship charter, and create a just-right vibe while keeping things smooth on the high seas. But the ones on this list have figured out the magic formula. Book one, and it’ll be the live concert highlight AND the cruise vacation of your dreams.
(Photo: Rabbits Black/Flickr)
Fans of Groove Cruise, a pioneer in EDM (electronic dance music), are so faithful that many of them book their next sailing while still partying on the current one. Groove Cruise is unique because its original founders have not sold out to big corporations, and because they create a 24-7 “This is the best moment of your life” vibe regardless of whether the DJs onstage are world-renowned or just up-and-coming. The crowd is 20s to mid-30s and the dress code is bikinis, body paint, and Burning Man wear. Travel Channel dubbed this the “Number One Place in the World to Get Your Groove On.”
Next sailings: L.A. to Mexico with Princess, October 2-5; Miami to the Bahamas on the Norwegian Pearl, January 28-February 1, 2015.
Grammy Festival at Sea
A partnership between the Recording Academy and Sixthman — the “festivals at sea” industry leader known for its devoted fan base — the Grammy Festival at Sea is the place to take all the women in your life. Go with your sisters, mom, daughters, best friend from high school — and if the men don’t want to join, don’t force ‘em. This is your chance to sing along unashamedly with the songs that defined you, and possibly tell the artists in person, “OMG you are my hero/girl crush/karaoke go-to.” Headliners include Heart, Emmylou Harris, Skylar Grey, Indigo Girls, Estelle, and Shawn Colvin.
Next sailing: Bahamas on the Norwegian Pearl, November 4-8.
Ronnie Baker Brooks performing. (Photo: Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise)
Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise
The granddaddy of cruises on this list, Blues Cruise was founded in 2002, and sells out both of its twice annual sailings well in advance. In fact, its upcoming sailings are already wait-listing people. Why is this such a hot ticket? In part due to the jam sessions and artist workshops that make it much more interactive than the typical concert setting. A lot of blues fans are also amateur musicians — and the opportunity for them to pick up an instrument and jam alongside their idols makes this the highlight of a lifetime.
Next sailings: Mexican Riviera with Norwegian, October 4-11 (sold out); Western Caribbean with Holland America, January 18-25, 2015 (sold out; waitlist only); New Orleans/Cozumel, with Holland America, October 24-31, 2015 (pre-booking starts June 24).
(Photo: Florida Georgia Line Cruise)
Florida Cruise Line - This is How We Cruise
Although country wasn’t among the first genres to catch onto the “concerts at sea” concept, fans and artists alike have enthusiastically jumped onboard in the past few years — with the result being a few country cruises that are packed with A-listers. Edging out the competition only because its headliner/hosts just won Vocal Duo of the Year at the 2014 CMTs, is the inaugural This is How We Cruise. Pack your cowboy hat, leave the boots at home, and prepare to play Flip-Cup with Tyler Farr, Colt Ford, and maybe even Nelly!
Next sailing: Miami to Bahamas on the Norwegian Pearl, November 8-12.
(Photo: Music on Board)
Music on Board
Heads up, EDM fans and Brazil-ophiles: The best “floating party” to come out of Brazil — and according to fans, the best in all of South America — will have its maiden voyage from a U.S.-based port this November. It’s formally known as Music on Board, but we like its moniker MOB Festival because you best believe the Brazilian party mob will be in full effect, joined by the cream of the Miami international club crowd. This is a partnership between WHET Travel, MOB, Club Space and Opium Group (Mansion, SET, Cameo). Expect headliners like Afrojack, Cedric Gervais, and Thomas Gold.
Next Sailing: Ft. Lauderdale to Bahamas on Celebrity Constellation, November 21-24.
Lena Katz is a writer, sometime book author and development producer for unscripted TV. She goes cuckoo for big characters and stories that seem too wild to be true. She’s never where you think she is.