Think of a hobby you enjoy, celebrity you'd love to meet or an exciting activity you've always wanted to try. Now imagine getting to do those things on a cruise. With popular options like CrossFit, craft beer and popular TV shows and movies (such as "Star Trek" and Turner Classic Movies), theme cruises are a great option for first-time cruisers or those looking to combine an interest with a relaxing vacation.
Some theme cruises offer up chances to hobnob with famous musicians, authors or athletes, or attend lectures, concerts and Q&As in intimate settings. Others allow cruisers plenty of downtime to indulge in their passions. For example, a golf cruise allows duffers to brush up on their skills with a cruise itinerary dotted with world-renowned courses, while a dancing cruise can be versatile enough for both seasoned foxtrotters and beginners.
Food and wine cruises offer a range of culinary pursuits, from regional wine tastings led by a sommelier and local brewery tours to cooking lessons from a celebrity chef and reality show-style competitions at sea. Music cruises, on the other hand, are less of a learning experience; they're a chance for fans of a particular artist or genre to attend concerts, Q&As with musicians and celebrity meet-and-greets.
Theme cruises can be broken down into three categories:
Full-Ship Theme Cruise: Choose your theme wisely because it will set the tone for your sailing. Everyone onboard can participate in the themed activities and entertainment, and every onboard venue is in use, from the pool-deck for concerts to the dining room, where special menus might be featured.
Full-ship theme cruises are typically chartered by an independent company, though they can be offered by the cruise line itself. For example, Sixthman, a travel company focusing on theme cruises, offers fully chartered musical festivals, such as The Rock Boat and Cayamo. Throughout each cruise, passengers can enjoy concerts, themed activities, competitions and opportunities to mingle with performers.
Partial-Ship Theme Cruise: Not all theme cruises engulf the entire ship. Special interest groups can purchase a number of cabins in different categories and market to people who would be interested in the activity, which can 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.
Gay and lesbian cruises can be full-ship charters or groups booked on regular sailings. You can find out more about these themed sailings here.
Theme-Inspired Cruise: Cruise lines commonly advertise themed sailings, but these tend to be regular sailings with some extra special-interest activities or guest speakers added to the usual programming. On these sailings, you might have a regionally inspired wine tasting or guest musical performer onboard.
Cruise line organized cruises include Crystal's Food and Wine Festivals and Big Band and Ballroom Dance cruises, or American Cruise Line's music or Lobster Bake and Crab Fest cruises. Other lines, like Cunard, regularly offer theme cruises as part of longer or transoceanic crossings. Onboard Queen Mary 2, folks can take part in the Literature Festival at Sea; a crossing with Anthony Inglis and the National Symphony Orchestra; or participate in the ever-popular Fashion Week at Sea.
All passengers onboard are welcomed to participate, but the theme won't dominate the experience the way a full-ship charter would.
In our roundup, we offer suggestions for just about every type of traveler, divided by category. Check back often, as we'll be updating them throughout the year.