Peter Frampton is right outside my cabin, talking about music and his son’s up and coming debut. Steppenwolf is setting up on stage for another rocking set on deck. A few members of the Marshall Tucker Band and America are at the bar chatting with fans or trying to be inconspicuous as they drink Bloody Marys incognito with hats and dark sunglasses. Everyone knows who everyone is though. This is a typical day on the Legends of Rock cruise and this boat is loaded down with rock stars.
You won’t see this cruise advertised on CruiseCon or VacationsToGo. It’s in its fourth year and almost everyone on board is a repeat guest or heard about it “from a friend who heard it from friend”(gratuitous REO reference). It’s a sold-out crowd in spite of the fact that it costs two or three times what you’d normally pay for a four-day cruise with no discounts. And why not? It’s like no other. Book some great bands, fill up the boat with groupies, and you have a winning formula. Toss in a motorcycle giveaway and throw out some guitar picks and you’ve got gold.
The bands and audience on this ship have a much more intimate setting than a typical rock venue. The sets are shorter and the artists are noticeably relaxed. The ship offers them a place to escape should the fans become obnoxious, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue. Most of the passengers I’ve met are not casual fans. They know the B-sides, the band members’ names, and lots of other groupie nerdy stuff. When Peter Frampton walks by, he’s not barraged with sharpies and selfies. He gets appreciative smiles and non-intrusive compliments. The cruise is set up so that you can get up close and personal with each of the stars. Each artist has a window of time allocated for fan pics. I’ve met Ace Frehley, America, Frampton, the Marshall Tucker Band, Foghat and Grand Funk Railroad just to name a few. Every musician seems just as nice as they can be. It’s not likely you’re going to meet a band like this on land in a regular venue. We’re all in the same boat. Literally.
Probably my favorite part of this cruise is the storytelling that several of the artists have connected with their music. Randy Bachman, known primarily for The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive, has a collection of funny stories that cover everything from where his band names originated to the history of every song. Who knew that “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” was Randy making fun of his brother’s stuttering? BTO added the word “Overdrive” to their last names after seeing it written on a menu at a diner. Peter Frampton, meanwhile, recounted a very interesting story about a guitar destroyed in a cargo plane crash in the Caribbean. In 2012, he discovered it had been “saved” from the wreckage by a guy working at the airport. Who knew that Peter was almost recruited by Grand Funk Railroad in 1972 before he released his first solo album? I didn’t! Every musician has a story and these older bands have been doing music for so long that most of them have all played together and are connected like “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”
Most of the people on this ship were in high school when these bands were at the top of the charts. Consequently, the age demographics are unlike most cruises, where age can vary considerably. On this cruise, there’s a noticeable lack of kids and senior citizens. It’s the also first cruise I’ve ever been on where everyone likes the same music. There’s no discotheque or karaoke on this ship. Who needs recorded music when you can walk outside and listen to Greg Allman or Pat Travers?
I wasn’t sure how much I’d like this cruise since it has virtually no itinerary. In the four nights,there’s two days at sea and a short stop in the least dynamic island in the Caribbean, Grand Turk. However, I’m still thoroughly impressed. This is not really a cruise. Its Woodstock on a ship. There’s non-stop music with back-to-back classic rock hits and always something or somebody to see. I’m not usually a vacation repeater, but I’m strongly considering doing this again next year.Recently I’ve seen a proliferation of other niche cruises. There’s a Walking Dead cruise this month featuring stars from the popular AMC show and zombies roaming the ship. There’s 1980s and 1960s and even a Kid Rock cruise. I’m definitely going to check out some of the other theme ship itineraries after seeing how fun this one turned out. In the meantime, I’m going to see who’s in the Alhambra theater in a few minutes. I can hear the guitars tuning up and I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of cowbell.
For more information about this particular cruise, check out rocklegendscruise.com.