New Theme Cruises Crop Up to Woo Cruisers

June 5, 2009
Paula Dean's Everything is Better with Butter Cruise Golf, music and wine cruises -- move over. Theme cruises are popping up everywhere and the dizzying range of topics is far from the ordinary. Recently, resurrected 80's pop group New Kids on the Block sailed with fans from years past on a Carnival ship to the Bahamas; the sailing was such a success that bookings crashed the cruise line's servers!

The fact that theme cruises suddenly seem to more plentiful and popular is no coincidence. Cherie Weinstein, vice president of group business development for Carnival Cruise Lines, which hosts a variety of theme cruises each year, tells us that upwards of 60 percent of passengers on theme cruises are first-timers -- a passenger base many lines are courting in this tough economy. Think of it this way: Someone who knew every dance move to "Step by Step" is introduced to cruising -- and now discovers they love it as much as they love the band.

Of course, the New Kids cruise is just one of the funkier, less traditional options we've seen of late. Here are a few more examples:

Fabulous fang fiction. If you're a fan of "Twilight," the new vampire series that's generated tons of buzz among teens, there's a cruise for you that revolves completely around the make-believe story. In August 2010, fans will set sail for a weeklong cruise to Alaska on Holland America's Oosterdam to visit the famed locations in the film. Supporting cast members Ashley Greene and Kellen Lutz are joining Twilight devotees onboard, and activities include a fun costume ball, parties, autograph sessions and movie viewings, all in the chilly surroundings of icy Alaska.

Everything's better with butter. Paula Deen is bringing her good ol' home cookin' and sweet Southern hospitality to Celebrity Solstice for a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean in January 2010. She'll be joined by her husband and two sons for this seven-night cruise. Highlights include a poolside barbecue hosted by Paula, shore excursions hosted by members of the Deen family, a cooking demo by Solstice's executive chef (critiqued by Paula!) and free gifts to commemorate the week onboard -- including cookbooks and photos. The cruise sails roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale and visits San Juan, St. Kitts and St. Maarten.

A little British magic. Do you love magic and illusions? U.K. illusionist Derren Brown -- who was once dubbed the scariest man in Britain for his tricks -- will be performing his mind-reading show onboard P&O Cruises' Aurora this September. The three-night mini-cruise from Southampton to Brugge and Le Havre will depart on September 23. Derren Brown will perform two interactive 45-minute shows in the ship's Curzon theatre. This special cruise goes on sale next Friday, June 12.

One caveat: By adding celebrities, unique events or prizes to a cruise, you've also essentially added value and a price mark up. But as New Kids fans proved, people who are gung-ho about a particular theme or celebrity group are willing to pay higher fares to cruise with others who share their interests.

So what's your idea of the perfect theme cruise? The three mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg -- there are cruises for chess addicts, Elvis fanatics, antique aficionados and Mac computer maniacs. Browse our compilation of the compelling theme cruises that have come across our desks -- both in the U.S. and the U.K.

--by Kim Kazell, Assistant Editor