10 Ways to Make the Most of a Theme Cruise

Ever been curious what goes on during a “theme cruise?” Here's the scoop.

April 21, 2016
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These guests, dressed as members of the new wave group Devo, made everyone do a double take during The ’80s Cruise. Amanda Turner – TuKe Photography

Ever been curious what goes on during a “theme cruise?” It seems every hobby or interest these days has an associated theme cruise. The Country Music Cruise. The NASCAR Cruise. There has even been a Dancing with the Stars Cruise. As a longtime cruiser AND a huge fan of ’80s music and movies, I decided to find out for myself this year by hopping on board the inaugural The ’80s Cruise, a seven-day voyage on the Holland America Eurodam that included 10 bands from the ’80s, three original MTV veejays and 2,000 fellow ’80s fans.

What did I learn? Let me share some tips with you culled from my experience and from tips from fellow ‘80s cruise passengers.

80s Cruise Best Theme Cruises | Huey Lewis '80s Cruise
BOOK EARLY … AND LOOK FOR DISCOUNTS Many theme cruises only have one annual sailing, and they can book up quickly. For example, the 2017 Star Trek Cruise sold out in less than two months. And don’t be dismayed by the price tags on these theme cruises. Yes, they’re more expensive than a regular cruise, but there’s a year’s worth of A-list entertainment for your weeklong voyage. On The ‘80s Cruise, bands included Huey Lewis & The News, Kool & The Gang, Richard Marx, Tiffany and many more. Also, if you look around, you can find discount codes that can save you hundreds off regular rates. (For example, for the 2017 voyage of The ‘80s Cruise, use the promo code STUCK for special rates and invitations to exclusive events hosted by the Stuck in the ‘80s podcast crew.) Amanda Turner – TuKe Photography
Best Theme Cruise Costume Night '80s Cruise
PREPARE FOR THEME NIGHTS Many theme cruises have nights with a theme all of their own, where guests can show off their creativity with amazing costumes. On The ‘80s Cruise, themes included Neon Beach Night, Pa-Jam-a Party, Movie Costume Night and even an ’80s Prom, which featured a performance by Tiffany. While you initial reaction to a theme night might be “Oh, no. That’s not me. I’ll just sit and watch,” trust me: You will regret not participating. Give yourself several months to come up with the right idea and shop for supplies. (Remember “warm” costumes will be extra-warm on Caribbean sailings.) And yes, you’ll probably need an extra suitcase for a theme cruise to carry your extra wardrobe. Amanda Turner – TuKe Photography
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MAKE A NAMETAG Nametags! Why? We all hate them, right? Yeah, and yet on a theme cruise people, people bond quickly and a creative nametag will be something everyone remembers. And be sure to look for “meet and greet” groups on social media ahead of the cruise. For The ‘80s Cruise, nearly 500 members formed a Facebook group and exchanged photos, stories and bucket list wishes for the cruise in the months before the Eurodam sailed. The group members then all wore pink beads to stand out among fellow cruisers. Steve Spears
Best Theme Cruise | Insider Cruise Tips 80s Cruise
DECORATE YOUR DOOR What are we, back in college now? Well, many of us were in college in the ‘80s, so sure, decorating our cabins doors made perfect sense. What better way to get in the spirit of a theme cruise than to show off your creativity with a poster of Duran Duran and maybe a few other symbols of our beloved decade. Remember, this is YOUR cruise. Cut loose and enjoy it. Photo courtesy of Beth Mitchell-Gencel
Best Theme Cruise | Tiffany '80s Cruise
DON’T BE SHY And always have your camera ready … because Tiffany might be standing right next to you. On The ’80s Cruise, I found myself often on the elevator with members of Wang Chung, Huey Lewis & The News and our celebrity DJ Biz Markie. The members of Modern English hoisted a pint next to me at the casino bar. And Mickey Thomas from Starship stood next to me at the lifeboat drill. (Probably best not to shoot pics during the lifeboat drill though!) Amanda Turner – TuKe Photography
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Members of the English band Modern English sign autographs for fans during The ’80s Cruise. Amanda Turner – TuKe Photography


And a Sharpie. Celebrities and musicians alike are usually happen to sign album covers, photos, books or whatever else you’ve collected over the years. And while some artists did bring merchandise you could purchase (and then get signed), it’s always more fun to have them sign your original album from 1984, isn’t it?

The '80s Cruise
Guests on The ’80s Cruise gather for a sailaway party as the Holland America Eurodam sails out of Fort Lauderdale. Amanda Turner – TuKe Photography
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Cruise director Dane Butcher (from left) interviewed original MTV veejays Alan Hunter, Mark Goodman and Nina Blackwood before crazed ’80s fans on the Holland America Eurodam. Amanda Turner – TuKe Photography


You can’t do everything on a theme cruise. Each hour of the day might have two or three different event or concerts. On The ‘80s Cruise, guests sometimes had to choose from an wine tasting with an MTV veejay or an ‘80s trivia contest or a session of Giant Twister on the pool deck. Most bands on the cruise played twice, so if you missed their pre-dinner concert in the show lounge, you could catch them another day during a midnight performance. Enjoy the moment you’re in.

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RETHINK THOSE EARLY EXCURSIONS The parties run late on theme cruises, with some people not giving up the dancing until the sun rises. So that 9 a.m. dolphin encounter that sounded so enticing two months ago may feel like more of a chore on the actual morning. One good thing to keep in mind: During many theme cruises, the party on board does stop while the ships are in port. So you’re not missing anything – except sleep – when you go ashore. Amanda Turner – TuKe Photography
best theme cruise tips 80s cruise
BE PLAYFUL Don’t worry. It’s not real paint. But the ’80s-related “graffiti” in public rooms and around the ship’s elevators was one of the unexpected touches that really made guests feel like they had hopped aboard a time machine back to their favorite decade. On The ‘80s Cruise, organizers Entertainment Cruise Productions provided giant Rubik Cubes and a huge portable stereo on deck as photo props. And each night in the dining room, guests could choose a “TV dinner” replica as their meal. Amanda Turner – TuKe Photography
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Ferris? We thought you were sick! Be ready for 7 days and nights of twistin’ and shoutin’ when you go on a theme cruise. But rest? That’s why Ferris really took a day off. Amanda Turner – TuKe Photography


A theme cruise is an adventure more than a vacation. Seven nights of concerts, late night dance parties, early morning aerobics dressed like Jane Fonda and excursions with your idols can leave a guest weary. Take an extra day off from work and use that time to go through your hundreds of photos, do a ton of laundry and to start planning next year’s theme cruise.


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