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What to Expect on a Cruise: Live Music Onboard
B.B. King's Blues Club on Zuiderdam

What to Expect on a Cruise: Live Music Onboard

What to Expect on a Cruise: Live Music Onboard
B.B. King's Blues Club on Zuiderdam
Cruise Critic
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Will there be live music onboard my cruise ship?

Every cruise line -- oceangoing and river -- provides live music as part of its entertainment offerings. From musical theater shows and a resident band playing popular radio standards in the atrium to piano bars, a classical quartet in a lounge or Caribbean music by the pool, many aspects of a cruise experience come with a live soundtrack.

Will the size of my cruise ship affect the types of live music I find on the ship?

Related: MSC Meraviglia vs. Harmony of the Seas

Yes. Larger ships will have a greater variety of live music than smaller ships, meaning you're less likely to have jazz and line dancing and samba and classical music on a small ship. You also are less likely to encounter as much live music on a riverboat, apart from a singer playing the piano nightly and occasional acts that might board your ship as part of local enrichment. It is unlikely that there will be much -- if any -- live music on an expedition vessel, so check with your cruise line if live entertainment is a must.

What kinds of music can I expect to find onboard?

Music varies by cruise line, ship, itinerary, time of year, you name it. Most ships, at minimum, have an onboard band playing nightly, as well as a piano bar usually open from late afternoon on. On sea days, the band might also have daytime sets. Bands and piano players typically host theme nights once or twice a cruise, when they'll play various genres or the hits of a certain era or artist.

Most ships -- especially those covering warm-weather itineraries or departing from Southern U.S. regions like Florida and Texas -- will feature a Latin and/or Caribbean band, typically on the pool deck during the day. Most luxury lines host afternoon tea with a classical quartet as accompaniment.

The easiest way to navigate the gamut of onboard musical offerings is to check your daily cruise program for times and locations of all options. These are typically not available prior to sailing.

Do you have to pay to see live music onboard?

No. Unless there's a special big-name act onboard (which should be announced prior to boarding), all the music -- live bands, piano, poolside music, theater performances -- is included in the price of your fare, as it's part of the onboard experience. If you're sailing on a music-themed cruise, the price of the concert(s) is included in your cruise fare.

Can I attend a concert or a music festival at sea?

Yes, and there are quite a few to choose from. Whether your interest is country, indie rock, jazz, heavy metal, R&B, the oldies or something more modern, there's likely a theme cruise -- or two or three -- to suit your musical tastes.

Sixthman and Star Vista Live are theme cruise companies known for hosting many successful music festivals at sea, including the annual Rock Boat; Soul Train Cruise; Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea; Kiss Cruise; and sailings featuring Train, 311 and even Jon Bon Jovi as headlining acts.

These theme cruises often go beyond just a handful of performances to include meet and greets with the artists, costume parties, musician-led events (like trivia or yoga) and beach days. The goal is near-total immersion in the music and its performers. In some instances, you might even have the opportunity to join your favorites on stage.

Can I perform live music onboard?

If you have visions of belting your heart out on stage in front of impressed (or horrified) fellow cruisers, then you're probably looking for karaoke -- something found on most ships.

Princess Cruises hosts a Princess Pop Choir, which you can join to rehearse with other passengers over the course of your cruise, culminating in a live performance. Or, you can audition for "The Voice of the Ocean," based on TV competition "The Voice," and sing live in the ship's theater if you make the cut. Cunard often assembles a passenger choir on transatlantic crossings and long voyages.

However, If you want to rock out without standing out, look for events with audience participation. Howl at the Moon, onboard Norwegian Cruise Line, is a dueling pianos bar with an interactive atmosphere. The audience requests songs and then sings along to rockin' covers of Billy Joel, Lady Gaga and others. At any cruise ship piano bar, singing along is expected and encouraged.

Personal instruments are banned on some -- but not all -- cruise lines, so check with your line before bringing along your guitar, sax or ukulele. Even if you are allowed to jam onboard, beware of noise complaints; your instrument could be confiscated if there is an issue.

How can I find out more about live music onboard cruise ships?

You might like the following articles:

The What to Expect on a Cruise series, written by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, is a resource guide, where we answer the most common questions about cruise ship life -- including cruise food, cabins, drinks and onboard fun -- as well as money matters before and during your cruise and visiting ports of call on your cruise.

Updated January 08, 2020

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