The KISS Kruise X1 went out in 2022.

The KISS Kruise X1 went out in 2022. Credit: Will Byington

Raymond MacMorris loves the band Creed. He's such a fan that he shelled out $1,500 for a package that included guitar lessons with current frontman Mark Tremonti, and another $2,500 for a lifetime VIP concert pass to the band’s spinoff group, Alter Bridge. So when MacMorris learned that Creed was headlining a five-day rock cruise called Summer of ’99 in April, he quickly snapped up a two-person cabin for roughly $4,000.

“The thing sold out in like three minutes,” says MacMorris, 58, the owner of a roofing a siding company in Port Jefferson Station. With his daughter grown and his son away at college, he adds, “It’s a little getaway vacation for me and the wife to rock out a little bit.” Two Summer of '99 cruises depart this spring from Florida, the first running April 18-22 departing from Miami and the second running April 27-May 1, out of Port Canaveral. Both cruises are headed to Nassau, Bahamas.  

A music cruise gives off the vibe of a mini festival.  Credit: @WillByington

MacMorris is among the thousands of vacationers who are deciding that music cruises are just their ticket. Not long ago, you may have scoffed at rock cruises as a last gasp for faded legacy acts — the equivalent of Spinal Tap playing at a puppet show, perhaps. These days, chances are good that some of your own favorite artists are performing on a ship, from the pop-punk group Paramore to the rapper Talib Kweli to the emo-prog band Coheed and Cambria.

“I think we are helping squash the stigma of cruising”

- Jeff Cuellar, CEO of Sixthman

What’s behind the music cruise appeal? 

The biggest draw, according to band members who book cruise gigs, and Long Islanders who secure spots on the ships:

  • It’s a mini music festival, paired with a vacation.
  • All-inclusive convenience: One price covers room, board and access.
  • Speaking of access: Expect band meet-and-greets, autograph sessions and contests.
  • Relaxation: “It’s a no brainer; I get to play music and hang out on a ship,” says Nine Days singer John Hampson.

“I think we are helping squash the stigma of cruising,” says Jeff Cuellar, CEO of Sixthman, an Atlanta-based company behind the Summer of '99 cruise that has all but cornered the rock-at-sea market. “I look at it this way: It’s a venue, no different from Madison Square Garden.” 

Since being acquired by Norwegian Cruise Line in 2012, Sixthman has grown steadily: Cuellar says the company offered 19 cruises last year, has another 24 scheduled for this year and is planning 27 for 2025.

Compared to a traditional land-based music festival — say, a Bonnaroo or a Coachella — cruises certainly offer more convenience. For starters, one price includes room and board (and, for a little more, alcohol). The stages are never more than a ship’s-length walk away. And maybe best of all: No portable toilets.

But the biggest selling point may be access to the bands. Cruises tend to come with meet-and-greets, autograph sessions and events like guitar-pick-throwing contests or band-hosted karaoke parties.

Rik Deluca, of Cutchogue, is the drummer for the band Spread...

Rik Deluca, of Cutchogue, is the drummer for the band Spread Eagle. Credit: Shannon Wilk

Rik DeLuca, the Cutchogue-based drummer for the band Spread Eagle, says one of the best parts of playing the recent Monsters of Rock cruise — which left from Miami in March and featured Faster Pussycat, The Darkness, Quiet Riot and others — was interacting with fans and getting to be a star-struck fan himself.

“Just walking down the promenade and hearing people say, ‘Hey, can we take a picture with you?’ It was so enjoyable,” says DeLuca, 56. And conversely: “You just jump in the elevator, and all of sudden you’re standing next to Joe Satriani.”

Another Long Island band hopping on a cruise is Nine Days, famous for their Top Ten hit “Absolutely (Story of a Girl).” Singer John Hampson, now an English teacher at Wantagh High School, says the Summer of ’99 cruises conveniently lined up with his school break, so Nine Days will play both.

“It’s a no-brainer; I get to play music and hang out on a ship,” Hampson says, adding that he’s looking forward to seeing his old friends in Vertical Horizon, one of the other bands on the bill.

“We essentially do one set per day, that’s it,” Hampson says. “It’s a pretty easy few days where you really get to enjoy yourself and hang out.”


According to company lore, Sixthman has its roots in a 2001 effort by Andy Levine, manager of Sister Hazel, to get the band together with 400 devoted fans on a Labor Day cruise called “Rock and Roll at Sea.” That led to booking multiple bands to fill entire ships, and soon Sixthman was attracting marquee names like John Mayer, Kid Rock and KISS.

The Rock Boat XXII set sail last year. Credit: Tammy Vega

Popularity alone does not make an artist cruise-worthy, according to Cuellar. Questions his team might ask: “Who are the artists that have a fan club? In that fan club, how active are they? What does their VIP section look like? Do they have a Reddit group? Are people getting tattoos of the band?”

Cuellar adds: “I wouldn’t want to name names, but we’ve had some very large artists where you’d assume, ‘Oh, that’s a slam dunk. Of course it will sell out.’ And it doesn’t.”

Of course, nostalgia tends to play a large part in many music cruises.

Teresa D’Amelia, 52, of Holbrook, says she’s attending the first Summer of ’99 cruise in April with two siblings, both roughly her age, and looking forward to hearing the soundtrack of her 20s and 30s. “I was living at home, going out with my friends,” she recalls. “Just free-spirited and no responsibilities.”