The first Jon Bon Jovi cruise, Runaway to Paradise, took place in 2019 onboard Norwegian Jade. The cruise put one of the biggest rock stars in the world front and center, performing onstage for an intimate crowd of about 2,500 fans -- far smaller than the stadiums the artist typically fills. The four-day sailing was filled with music, wine, sunshine and throwbacks to the '80s. A second cruise with Bon Jovi took place in August 2019, but no future cruises have been announced.
Bon Jovi played two shows. One was an acoustic session that took pauses for questions from the crowd. The other was an electric affair that blended Bon Jovi hits with covers from the likes of Stevie Wonder and the Rolling Stones.
Both concerts took place on the pool deck, and fans literally camped out in front of the stage to make sure they would have front-row spots. These fans slept overnight on the lido deck for a show that started at 7 p.m. the next day.
A concert on a cruise ship? It means you don't even have to leave the hot tub to catch the action. Passengers soaked, sang along and played air guitar while Bon Jovi jammed.
Many of the fans onboard had seen Bon Jovi in concert more times than they could count. The predominantly female fanbase onboard -- 73 percent of cruisers were women -- sang along to old and new hits. The fan on the right, part of a group of 10 women who call themselves the Jovi Queens, marked her 100th Bon Jovi concert onboard Norwegian Jade. One member of the group estimates they have seen Bon Jovi 1,000 times over the years.
Even Norwegian Jade's officers showed up to watch the performances. While they stayed out of the way of paying passengers, you could tell they were fans.
Depending on which package they booked, some fans had the opportunity to have photos taken with Bon Jovi.
Fans who booked the cruise were treated to plenty of music, but Sixthman, the production company that expertly handled every detail of the cruise, made certain there were plenty of activities to keep everyone busy. "Sixthman Jayne," here with Jon's brother Matt Bongiovi, was the hostess with the mostest. She met fans with a high-five as they boarded the ship and served as emcee, problem solver and fun-leader.
Jon's son Jesse Bongiovi hosted wine tastings and happy hours onboard while promoting his wine brand, Hampton Water. The rose was a popular purchase on our sailing, and passengers loved spending time with Jesse.
When Jon Bon Jovi performed, crewmembers made sure passengers stayed "hydrated," handing out cup after cup of Hampton Water.
Matt Bongiovi also was a big hit -- and fan favorite -- on the cruise. He spent time with fans outside of scheduled events and generally served as emcee to welcome everyone aboard, and to introduce his brother Jon.
Jon's brother joined longtime producer Obie O'Brien for a Q&A session with fans. The two shared stories of touring with the band Bon Jovi, Jon's involvement in philanthropy and interacting with fans on the road. Fans laughed along as Matt talked about dragging heavy suitcases across the world and being mobbed in Barcelona on a failed run to McDonald's.
Fans also had a chance to dine at an onboard version of Jon Bon Jovi's Soul Kitchen. On land, the nonprofit community restaurants serve patrons in need, alongside paying customers. People can dine at Soul Kitchen, regardless of whether they can pay; volunteering is considered a solid alternative to cash payments.
At sea, diners enjoyed dishes like roasted pork or shrimp alfredo for a $20 donation. Money donated onboard will go back into the three land restaurants in Bon Jovi's home state of New Jersey.
In addition to Bon Jovi-themed activities, passengers could participate in events like the Shut Up & Dance silent disco. Passengers donned headphones and danced along as a DJ spun hits. Sessions where scheduled late at night and lasted to the wee hours of the morning.
The ship also hosted an '80s night, where passengers sported neon and Spandex, along with big hair and mullets. There was also a White Night, a Norwegian Cruise Line tradition, where passengers dress in all white. Other events onboard included rock trivia, lectures and happy hours galore. A lecture by Jon's longtime photographer, David Bergman, was a hit as much for the Jon Bon Jovi pictures as for the stories from the road Bergman shared.
Bon Jovi wasn't the only musician onboard. Sixthman curates a lineup of bands that will appeal to fans of the headliner. For the Runaway to Paradise Cruise, Tonic (pictured here) and Collective Soul put on multiple performances, drawing large crowds of their own. Slippery When Wet, a Bon Jovi tribute band, was also a big hit. Live music is never in short supply on a music theme cruise.
Fans had the opportunity to take home endless amounts of merchandise, from T-shirts to souvenir cups, branded with the Runaway to Paradise logo. Sixthman left surprise gifts in the cabins each night, including autographed JBJ posters. Passengers also bought merch from the pop-up stores.
After four days onboard, passengers left having made new friends over a shared love of Bon Jovi. Passengers said they loved the entire experience, and they were thrilled to watch their favorite artist perform in such an intimate setting.
While Bon Jovi continues to tour, no future cruises have been announced.
Updated February 13, 2020