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The 12 Best Songs for Cruising You Need on Your Cruise Playlist

Executive Editor, U.S.
Chris Gray Faust
Contributor
Melinda Crow

Last updated
Sep 20, 2023

Read time
4 min read

There are some songs that automatically get you excited for your upcoming cruise. A good cruise playlist gets you in that mood, but also reminds you to have fun on dry land between cruises. Some songs naturally fit into the cruise music genre (yes, we made that up), which we are now dubbing "cruise songs."

We’re hoping you can already hear the steel drum sounds of the Beach Boys “Kokomo” starting up in your head, as you picture yourself jamming to this cruise song on the sun deck. Or maybe Sheryl Crow singing “Soak Up the Sun” suits you better.

To be honest, our list of music that gets us in a cruise kind of mood is endless. We can’t exactly leave out “The Love Boat Theme,” can we? We could also fold the entire reggae genre into our cruise music genre, or every single line dance from the "Electric Slide" to the "Wobble."

While our list of great cruising songs may be endless, here’s our top 12 of classic cruise songs, including a few recent ones that might not be on your list yet.

1. Best Cruise Song: "Come Sail Away" by Styx

Departing Miami aboard Freedom of the Seas (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Departing Miami aboard Freedom of the Seas (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

In our minds, this song has everything: a gentle ballad-style opener, tinkling piano and a crescendo that builds to a bombastic chorus. Styx is the epitome of '70s "prog rock" -- music that's so bad, it's awesome -- and this song gets us in the mood to cruise every time. Keep this one in mind for music trivia night on your next sailing.

2. A Must-Listen Song on Your Cruise: "Hot, Hot, Hot" by Buster Poindexter

Even if you've heard it a hundred times, the ultimate conga line song always gets the crowd going. You'll get up and dance too, even if you groan as you hear it.

3. Cruise Song For Laughing: “I Was on a Boat That Day” by Old Dominion

Punchliner Comedy Club (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)
Punchliner Comedy Club (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)

This may be the happiest break up song of all time. The beat makes you dance, and the lyrics make you laugh like it’s midnight in the onboard comedy club. What more could you ask for in a cruise song?

4. Cruise Song From a Cruise Ship Godfather: "Freedom" by Pitbull

Pitbull performing at Norwegian Cruise Line's CruiseWorld 2018 event (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)
Pitbull performing at Norwegian Cruise Line's CruiseWorld 2018 event (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

Mr. Worldwide has a connection to the cruise world beyond the fact that his catchy songs are sailaway staples: He's the cruise ship godfather of Miami-based Norwegian Escape. This catchy tune with a positive overall message is a must-listen on -- or before -- your next cruise.

5. Cruise Song For a Slower Pace: "Orinoco Flow" by Enya

This '90s New Age staple is more likely to evoke the Zen feelings of the ship spa than the time-to-party vibes on the Lido Deck (that's fine; you have your cruise tradition, and we have ours). When we think about relaxing on our balcony, this is the song we both want and need to hear.

6. Best Cruise Drinking Song: “One Margarita” by Luke Bryan

Drinking songs fit nicely into the cruise music genre and this one is a perfect example -- it even includes a Jimmy Buffet reference. Just be sure to buy a beverage package if this is your cruise ship jam; you’re going to need it.

7. Cruise Music For the Beach: "Knee Deep" by Zac Brown Band

For us, the beach is an essential part of a Caribbean cruise, and this Southern alt-country tune brings us right back to sunny skies and deep blue water: lounge chair required, beer optional. And while you’re enjoying some ZB and company, don’t forget the perfect embarkation day song, “Where the Boat Leaves From.” Whether you’re driving to the port or flying, play this song and the travel stress will melt away.

8. Best Wind-in-Your-Hair Cruise Song: "Southern Cross" by Crosby, Stills & Nash

Another reason we cruise is to explore long-standing bucket list destinations. This '70s classic might be a metaphor for an aging musician's divorce, but for us and other cruisers, it's a call to sail the seven seas and look up into the starry night sky.

9. Best Classic Cruise Song: "(Day-O) The Banana Boat Song" by Harry Belafonte

Calypso music entered American consciousness in the 1950s with this classic song drawing from Jamaican roots. It's bouncy and buoyant, the perfect musical side order to your first onboard daiquiri. On your next cruise stop in Bonaire, you can enjoy the late singer’s work in developing the southern end of the island, including the highway that takes you to the salt pans and the southern lighthouse.

10. Perkiest Cruise Song: "Under the Sea" by Samuel E. Wright

It's catchy, it's cute and it's played in cruise ship kids' clubs everywhere -- and not just on Disney ships. Still, the penultimate "Little Mermaid" song does tap into your inner child -- and will very likely put a smile on your face when you hear it.

11. Cruise Song for Mexico: “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” by Kenny Chesney

This work-day lament by country crooner Kenny Chesney is practically an advertisement for cruising to Mexico. It’s got all the right elements for our cruise music genre: drinking, forgetting your troubles and escaping from wherever, even if only for a bit, just like on a cruise ship.

12. From the King of Cruise Ship Music: Any Song by Jimmy Buffett

Margaritaville Paradise (Photo: Margaritaville/Bahamas Paradise)
Margaritaville Paradise (Photo: Margaritaville/Bahamas Paradise)

It's not just that Margaritaville has its own ship now, or that the chance someone on a ship will hand you a drink and tell you it's "5 o'clock somewhere" is about 80 percent. It's that you really do know the songs by heart, and once you're on vacation, you can belt out the tune without inhibition.

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