Sail­ing with your fa­vorite celebrity

S. Florida cruises rock the boat for su­per fans, stars

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Travel & Life - By Johnny Diaz

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.

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.

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.

JACKIE WHITE

Jackie White of Texas was one of thou­sands of die-hard fans aboard the Back­street Boys cruise last May on the Carnival Sen­sa­tion. On the first day, she snapped a selfie with band mem­ber Nick Carter.

JOE AMON/SUN SEN­TINEL

KC and The Sun­shine Band will per­form dur­ing the “Ul­ti­mate Disco Cruise” Feb. 14-18.

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