Jackie White has been a big fan of the Backstreet Boys since she was 14.
“I’ve traveled all over the United States to various shows and comic cons but I had never done the cruise,” said the 37-year-old mother of two, who took a four-night cruise along with the 1990’s boy band from Miami to Grand Turk in May. “I wanted to see what it was all about … it was rumored to be the pinnacle fan moment”
White, a fashion stylist from Texas, was among 2,000 devoted fans on the Carnival Sensation ship who dressed up in white one night for the band’s 25th anniversary party. Guests also attended a Backstreet Boys performances and a 90’s costume party where the band dressed up like the Spice Girls but called themselves the “Spice Boys.”
“The guys will stand for hours taking pics with fans,” said White who snagged a photo with band member Nick Carter. “I was lucky enough to find Nick the first day and get my selfie.”
Celebrity-themed cruises, which allow super giddy fans to meet and travel with their heroes, have been making waves in the cruise industry in recent years. The cruises feature bands, sports stars and actors from long-running TV shows and films. And there have been new takes on the genre, such as the inaugural “Ultimate Disco Cruise” departing from Fort Lauderdale in February, and a “Star Trek” trip.
These cruises typically leave from South Florida ports with between 2,500 and 5,500 rabid fans, depending on the ship.
“Music theme cruises are hugely popular, and these days you can find just about every genre at sea,” said Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of cruisecritic.com, an industry website. “In the upcoming year, you can see everyone from Jon Bon Jovi, KISS and Kid Rock to Kesha, Melissa Etheridge and Peter Frampton.”
For fans, the cruises allow them to get up close and schmooze with their idols. For the celebrities, the cruises provide another source of income while also allowing them to take a work vacation on the high seas.
And for the cruise lines, the trips help market their ships to new customers.
“It’s a great way to market to first time cruisers as they are experiencing the Carnival experience for the first time and given cruising’s high satisfaction rating, they will hopefully come back again to sail on their own,” said Vance Gulliksen, a spokesman for Miami-based Carnival Cruise Line, which has also hosted New Kids On The Block trips. He added that many of the cruises are organized by third parties such as Rose Tours, which handles the NKOTB and Backstreet Boys cruises.
“They are, as you can imagine, quite popular as they provide fans an opportunity to see their favorite acts in a unique environment and provide access with Q&As, autograph signings, etc., that you normally don’t get with a land-side venue,” Gulliksen added.
Here’s a look at some recent and upcoming fan cruises out of Florida:
Star Trek: “Star Trek The Cruise III” will go boldly where no other diehard “Star Trek” fan has gone before. The six-day cruise on the Norwegian Jade will travel through the Caribbean from Miami with a boatload of 20 “Star Trek” actors from various shows. We’re talking “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (Jonathan Frakes and Wil Wheaton) to “Star Trek: Voyager” (Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips) alums.
It's official: The 2019 manifest is complete! All cabins for Star Trek: The Cruise III are sold out. Just 9 more days until we embark on this great adventure with all of you! Remember to check back with us on January 5, 2019 when we launch the full 2020 website and crew! pic.twitter.com/WPSEf7Aqp2— Star Trek The Cruise (@startrekcruise) December 26, 2018
And if you dress up in your Starfleet uniform, you’ll be right at home. (Ship employees have also been known to wear Starfleet uniforms.) The elevators are rebranded as “turbo lifts.’’ The next voyage launches Jan. 4-10 with stops to Great Stirrup Cay, Grand Cayman and Jamaica. There is a seven-day cruise also set for March 1-8, 2020 on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas with “Star Trek: Voyager” captain Kate Mulgrew at the helm for that show’s 25th anniversary. Visit startrekthecruise.com or call 844-335-6515.
Disco cruise: You can do a little dance … with Hialeah natives KC and the Sunshine Band when they headline the inaugural “Ultimate Disco Cruise” which is billed as “dance fever at sea.” The five-night cruise goes out of Fort Lauderdale Feb. 14 -18 on the Celebrity Inifinity with stops in Key West and Cozumel, Mexico. There will be 40 live performances by some of the biggest acts of the 1970s.
That includes Kool & The Gang, Gloria Gaynor and The Village People. There will also be trivia contests, question and answer sessions, dance lessons, and karaoke nights. There’s a waiting list for most types of staterooms. For more information, visit ultimatediscocruise.com or call 844-296-3472.
Classic TV Stars Cruise: Here’s a cruise for fans of popular TV shows such as “The Brady Bunch,” “Gilligan’s Island” and “Good Times.” Actors Barry Williams, Dawn Wells, Jimmie Walker and other celebrities will be interacting with their fans on the Celebrity Silhouette when it sails Nov. 8-14 from Fort Lauderdale with stops in Grand Cayman and Mexico’s Costa Maya and Cozumel.
Ship activities include trivia games, a hunt for a cursed tiki idol with Williams, who played Greg Brady, a “three-hour tour” with Wells who played Mary Ann, and actors recreating scenes from their shows such as “Eight Is Enough” and “BJ and The Bear.” Visit classictvstarscruise.com or call 855-879-6932.
Walking Dead Cruise: Get ready to get infected, humans! Yes, the popular AMC cable zombie series “The Walking Dead” has a cruise for, ahem, die-hard fans. The four-night Walker Stalker Cruise on the Norwegian Pearl departs from Tampa with a stop in Nassau Feb. 21-25 in 2019. What to expect? Like the previous two cruises, fans can meet many of the show’s current and former cast members including Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Khary Payton, compete in a zombie makeover and party with fellow wanna-be zombies. For more information, visit walkerstalkercruise.com or call 877-379-9180.
New Kids On The Block: The boy band from Boston has hosted 10 cruises aboard Carnival ships. Two of the cruises were featured on POP TV, which followed passionate fans (known as blockheads) decorating their cabin doors with their teen posters of the fab five and attending their ship concerts and poolside parties.
“I tell everybody it’s a four-day party,” band member Danny Wood told the Sun Sentinel two years ago. “There is a lot of humor. There is a lot of heart. There are all these elements to it, and you get a little insight of what we go through on the boat.”
The latest cruise was in October from Miami with stops in Half Moon Cay and Nassau. A new cruise hasn’t been announced yet. For more information, visit nkotbcruise.com.
Property Brothers: Twins Drew and Jonathan Scott from HGTV’s home and design reality show “Property Brothers” just embarked on a four-night cruise from Miami to Nassau and CocoCay in the Bahamas aboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas in early December. It was their third cruise since 2015.
Passengers could play games, pose for photos with the brothers and take part in home design workshops. For updates on future cruises, visit sailingwiththescotts.com or call 800-554-8433.