Theme cruises allow passengers to immerse themselves in their passions and interests. Jazz, antiques, baseball -- you name it -- there is a cruise vacation that seemingly deals with the topic. The cruises allow passengers to pursue their common passions with performances, lectures and hands-on activities.
On her favorite smooth jazz cruise, hosted by bassist Wayman Tisdale, Chicago market research consultant Lisa McDonald gets "good entertainment in an intimate setting that I don't have to wait in line and get a ticket to see.
"All I have to do is walk down from the dining room," she says. "It's the only vacation my husband and I can agree on."
This January marked McDonald's third consecutive year on Holland America's Westerdam, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Chaka Khan.
McDonald's group of family and friends enjoyed nightly shows, jam sessions, autograph receptions and an easy camaraderie between performers and passengers. "Wherever you sit, it's easy to get into a conversation. . . . You're comfortable around people you have things in common with."
If finding the right fit seems overwhelming, try Theme Cruise Finder, a specialized website ( www.themecruisefinder.com) that offers a searchable database of 50 categories. Cruise Critic, at www.cruisecritic.com, features updated listings and a member review board.
Perhaps one of the following will strike your fancy. All prices are per person.
15th annual Forbes Investors Cruise: In these challenging economic times, here's a chance to pair a Mediterranean voyage with seminars on building wealth. A luxury sailing June 2 to 14 from Lisbon to Venice, Italy, on the Crystal Serenity runs $10,890 to $23,390; (800) 530-0770, www.investmentcruises.com.
A Great Lakes Antiques Roadshow: PBS takes to the inland waters with antiques appraisers evaluating collectibles on the all-suite yacht Clelia II. Sailing from Duluth, Minn., to Ontario, Canada, Aug. 29 to Sept. 5, with fares from $5,595 to $10,695; (800) 257-5767, www.traveldynamicsinternational.com.
A Mediterranean Ghost Cruise: TV psychic James Van Praagh hosts supernatural travels and "psychic development workshops" in Rome, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Spain, and Naples, Italy, with a visit from "Ghost Whisperer" star Jennifer Love Hewitt. Holland America's Noordam Sept. 16 to 26 cruise ranges from $2,214 to $5,914; (888) 259-9191, www.lifejourneys.net.
Nudists' Cruise: A “ Halloween and FantaSea Fest” clothing-optional journey on the Carnival Miracle, Oct. 27 to Nov. 4 from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Shore excursions to Key West's Fantasy Fest, Cancún's Día de los Muertos, and the Bahamas. What do they do for costumes? Fares from $599 to $3,425; (800) 743-0405, www.bare-necessities.com.
Barge and Bike Europe: In 13 tours from April to August, a river barge is the restaurant and hotel that meets passengers as they bike between ports in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France. $2,895 to $3,095; (800) 437-4771, www.bikebarge.com.
Caribbean Cruising With Baseball Greats: Players and managers such as Bob Feller, Andre Dawson, Vida Blue, Randy Hundley, Earl Weaver and Bill Russell sign autographs and give clinics on several spring cruises aboard MSC ships. The seven- to 11-night cruises range from $549 to $1,949; kids younger than 17 sail free; (800) 666-9333, www.msccruisesusa.com.
Theme cruises go with the flow
Camaraderie and fun can come naturally when everyone's on board with a similar pursuit, whether it's music, sports or even the supernatural.
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