Have you ever wanted to be surrounded by people with the same interests as you on a cruise? Chances are there's a theme cruise out there that fits your special interests. For instance, sailing on the ETA Motorcycle Cruises promotes camaraderie among motorcycle enthusiasts, and passengers on The Rick Springfield and Friends cruise skip the Calypso music on the Lido deck for tunes that are a little more their style. Maybe rubbing shoulders with your favorite (not to mention dreamy) soap stars while lounging on the by the pool is your idea of a great time. Even golf lovers can brush up on their skills of this land-based sport while enjoying a few days at sea, and wine and chocolate lovers can tailor a cruise to include their favorite treats.
As cruises become ever more mainstream vacation options -- and with passenger counts topping out at 4,000 or so -- voyages with themes, ranging from hobbies to lifestyles, are a way to personalize the experience.
In our roundup, which will change throughout the year as new theme trips are added (and others have completed their sailing), we offer suggestions for just about every type of traveler. And while we've selected a wide range, feel free to let us know if we've missed your favorite by sending us an e-mail.
And before we get started, it's important to say this: There are three different types of special interest or "theme" cruises. First, a primer on the differences:
Theme Cruise: In its purest form, a theme cruise is something that the cruise line creates onboard one of its ships -- and all passengers are entitled to participate. This used to be fairly common when shipboard transportation meant long stretches at sea for ocean crossings. Now, though, with 2,000-plus passengers on most ships, and pleasure cruises with several port stops, it isn't always practical to turn an entire cruise ship into a themed cruise. However, annual festivities such as Carnival's NASCAR voyage, Regent Seven Seas' annual Chocolate Cruise and Holland America's jazz festival do appeal to a broad enough audience to warrant cruise line involvement.
Special Interest Cruise: The most common of the so-called "theme cruises," these are trips in which a special interest group arranges to purchase a number of staterooms in different categories, sets up an itinerary, arranges for special guests or notables, and markets the cruise to people who would be interested in that activity. This could range from scrapbooking to baseball. These groups usually have little impact on the other vacationers onboard although some of the public spaces may be taken over by the group.
Full Ship Charter: On this type of cruise, the entire ship is organized around the interest-du-jour -- and so everyone participates, to some extent. Among those organizations that are known for full ship charter cruises are Atlantis Events, which organizes gay and lesbian cruises, and PartyPoker.com's yearly gaming tourney.
Check back often as we'll be updating this roundup throughout the year.
Editor's note: If you're looking for a more Euro-centric take on this story, you can read our U.K. version, U.K. Theme Cruises.