Have Luxury Music Cruises Jumped The Shark?

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James Steidl / iStock

James Steidl / iStock

Ravers go wild to Major Lazer and Justice on the Holy Ship!!. ‘90s alt-rock survivors fist-pump to Smash Mouth and the Gin Blossoms on the Mark McGrath & Friends Cruise of the Bahamas. Well-heeled indie enthusiasts shimmy to Pulp and learn about wine from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy aboard the S.S. Coachella.

With huge, multi-act music festivals established as the American rite of passage for diehard music fans, a new wave of far more intimate music-themed luxury cruises has emerged as the next bucket list experience for the sonically adventurous.

“Everyone developed this incredible camaraderie that you don’t just get at a typical show,” said photographer Chelsea Lauren about Shiprocked 2012, a music cruise to the Bahamas that featured bands like Godsmack, Korn, Five Finger Death Punch and Sevendust. “There’s something really cool about randomly running into members of Korn on the beach in the Bahamas. One morning I woke up to the sound of what sounded like a flute or something. I looked out from cabin window and saw that it was one of the guys from P.O.D. randomly playing the recorder on his balcony.”

While revelers who’ve set sail on any of the growing number of music-themed luxury cruises will admit that that price point is enough to give even the most financially flush a case of sticker shock (pricing for the S.S. Coachella and Holy Ship!! both started at around $500 per head. The Mark McGrath & Friends Cruise starts around $650), the VIP experience is more than worth the budget-busting price of admission.

“It was the most intimate Coachella experience possible,” explained Adrian Garcia, Events Director at influential Los Angeles rock radio station KROQ-FM, who cited DJ Z-Trip and Girl Talk among his favorite performers on the S.S. Coachella. “You can just kick back and have a drink or hop onstage and dance with the DJ. There’s music going until 6 am. The party never ends, and sleep is not an option. It was like summer camp for adults.”

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(Photo courtesy: S.S. Coachella)

Along with that heightened level of intimacy, the “all-in” nature of music cruises makes for a fun-filled time that’s brimming with conveniences, as opposed to the often boot camp-like nature of that can plague some more traditional music festivals.

“It was such a treat to have every bar, club, show, etc. on the boat and just a short walk away from the room,” said journalist Katie Bain, who covered Holy Ship!! for L.A. Weekly. “No worries about transportation, parking, drinking and driving – it was all easy breezy.

“Granted, the party never ends,” Bain continued. “At any given moment, you can run into Skrillex on the elevator, or hear people in the next cabin having sex when you’re trying to sleep.”

While seeing high-profile headliners up close and personal are the obvious draw, music-themed cruises often come with extravagant amenities that can’t be found anywhere else. The  S.S. Coachella featured a songwriting lecture from Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, as well as the aforementioned wine-tasting hosted by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. Not to be outdone, Holy Ship!! boasted yoga classes led by DJ Gina Turner, Diplo-led scavenger hunt and a poker tournament hosted by Zedd among their extracurricular activities.

As this newer wave of music-themed cruises joins the ranks of more established outings from Kid Rock, KISS, Dave Matthews Band and even New Kids on the Block, music fans who might potentially “outgrow” traditional festivals can aspire to the much more intimate and user-friendly world found on deck in the high seas.

-Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local

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