The 16 Strangest Theme Cruises of 2020

There was a time when cruises were associated with the elderly, most likely because they were expensive and people could only afford to go on them when they retired. Then the likes of Royal Caribbean, Carnival and NCL made cruising less expensive, more relaxed and transformed it into a middle-class family vacation. So, now they’re associated with kids clubs, unruly brats, their parents and the elderly. And while that image is still evolving (like with the launch of Richard Branson’s super trendy adults-only Virgin Voyages this year), what many people don’t know is that cruise ships have also long been a safe-haven or a temporary retreat for many of society’s misfits and special interest enthusiasts. 

A range of charter and group cruises have been drawing a variety of unusual cruisers for decades, from the most die-hard fans of mainstream pop culture to alternative subculture freaks. 

So, while you may think that cruising is ‘not for you’, I am 100% certain that whatever you’re into, there’s probably a cruise for that! And it’s most likely happening this year. (Unless you’re into Game of Thrones - Because Cruise of Thrones - I kid you not! - is only happening next year.)

In the meantime, here’s a list of some of the most unusual theme cruises of 2020:

A guide to the strangest theme cruises of 2020

1. Knotfest at Sea (A.K.A. The Slipknot Cruise)

10 - 14 August: Norwegian Jade

Yup, the American heavy metal band Slipknot will be taking to the high seas in August, shortly after they remove the crazy masks they are famous for, to get past passport control. The 25-year-old band (yes, they formed in 1995!) will be following in the footsteps of KISS and the Backstreet Boys (Shhh! Don’t tell them) when they do their first cruise. 

Not only will the band give two performances on board, but their fans will also be treated to a live Q&A with the band members, a DJ Set with Sid, a Slipknot Whiskey Tasting with Clown, autograph signings, a drum workshop, a bass clinic, and more experiences.

Personally, I think the name is a bit confusing. It should have been called ‘Shipknot’. 

While we’re on the subject of KISS:

2. KISS Kruise X

30 October - 4 November: Norwegian Pearl 

The Rock Band KISS is back for their 10th instalment right in time for Halloween, this time joined by their friends Ratt, Queensrÿche and Fozzy. Unlike Slipknot, KISS won't have to remove their masks, just their makeup to get past passport control. Considering they’re in their late 60s / early 70s, it’s possible that the band is just cruising because all the cool kids their age are doing it. Bearing in mind that they are scheduled for retirement in July of 2021, this is probably their last cruise. (For work anyway.) 

3. Gothic Cruise

27 September - Harmony of the Seas

Gothic cruise performance

Being Hardcore at sea is not new. While the cruises I’ve mentioned above are devoted to specific bands, goth cruises have been happening for years, dedicated to the entire subculture and featuring different bands (or gothic dance music groups). In fact, these cruises started back in the day when there were still goths! (At the risk of being offensive, I don’t know of any current goths, so I assume these cruises are now for ageing goths who get together to be gothic in a nostalgic way and reminisce on all the good old dark days.)

About a decade ago, I worked on board as a group’s coordinator for a major cruise line and was responsible for all the large groups and charters. My very first assignment was a goth group. I was lucky enough to get a first-hand experience of goth karaoke, goth night at the spa, a gothic masquerade ball and even a fashion show where the signature colour was - you guessed it - black! 
Unlike the cruises mentioned above, this was not a charter cruise but a group cruise or 'partial charter', so there was a large group of 220 goths onboard intermingling with 2000 other normal people (and their kids and their grandparents). It was awesome! 

11 years on, and the goths are still at it!

Goth cruise group photo
The official group photo from my first goth cruise

If you’re a different kind of hardcore there’s also:

4. Chris Jericho’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Rager at Sea

20 - 24 Jan: Norwegian Pearl (Okay, I know it’s already over. Don’t worry, there’s another one planned for 2021!!)

Professional wrestler, musician, author and actor Chris Jericho takes centre stage for this charter cruise. The experience features musical concerts (hopefully by guests), stand-up comedy (hopefully also by guests), celebrity bowling tournaments, podcasts (PODCASTS!!), karaoke, and yes, even wrestling!

If you’re not hardcore at all this next cruise may be more up your alley:

5. Meow Meow Cruise
17 - 25 October: Carnival Horizon

The Meow Meow cruise is for cat lovers who leave their cats at home to appreciate them in the one place they would hate to be the most - the ocean! Activities include: A Meow Meow Meet & Greet, Meow Meow Trivia, Meow Meow Group Dining, a Meow Meow Mixer (with free cocktails), a kitty Scavenger Hunt and, of course, matching group T-shirts (price not included in cruise fare)!

There are people who like cats and then there are people who like to BE cats …and other animals:

6. Furry Cruise

7 - 14 November: NCL Joy

If you don’t know what a ‘furry’ is, allow me to (try to) explain. The furries are a unique subculture interested in animal characters with human personalities and characteristics (like standing on two legs, talking and booking group cruises). Basically. For some but not all of these people, it is a sexual fetish thing too. They have been getting together to have conventions since the 80s and, since 2005, they go on cruises too!

And yes, in my time on ships I've also encountered some furries:



For other people who like to dress up as things that they are not, there’s a drag queen cruise:

7. Queens Overboard

15 - 22 February: Celebrity Summit

This cruise features entertainment by BenDeLaCreme, of RuPaul's Drag Race fame. 

Then, there are cruises where people prefer not to wear any clothes at all:

8. The Big Nude Boat 

23 February - 1 March: Carnival Legend

Some people go on cruises to expose themselves to new things, and other people go on cruises just to expose themselves. I have seen some things in my time on ships that I cannot unsee, but boy, do I feel sorry for those crew members!   

While we’re on the topic of people taking off their clothes, there’s also:

9. Swingers Cruise

There's actually more than one:

  • The Temptation Cruise

13 - 18 February: Brilliance of the Seas

  • The Bliss Cruise

20 - 25 April: The Celebrity Infinity

The latter claims to offer "the largest full-service playrooms at sea". I’m not entirely sure what they mean by "full-service" but I would prefer not to find out. And I’m so very happy I don’t work on that ship either. Poor house-keeping department! 

The antithesis of the swingers cruise also exists in the form of:  

10. The ‘Love like you mean it’ cruise 

9 - 16 February: Allure of the Seas

This cruise prides itself on being the “ONLY Full Ship Christian Marriage Cruise”. Children are not permitted and heathens and singles need not apply. The only person allowed to cruise solo on this ship is Jesus.  

There are also other cruises for people with strong religious convictions:

11. Flat Earth Cruise

(Date and ship to be determined)

The Flat Earth Movement is a group of people who claim that the Earth is not spherical but a flattened disc surrounded by a wall of ice that is Antarctica, and scientists are trying to trick us for reasons I don’t really understand. (I would judge them for their beliefs but I fully believe in unicorns.) Loads of fake news stories have been created to imply that they intend to sail off the edge of the Earth. While their founder has denied that these claims are true, he has confirmed that a cruise is in the pipelines. 

(I have to admit, I am struggling to find a non-offensive link between the Flat-earthers and this next theme cruise:)

12. Star Trek Cruise IV

1 - 8 March: Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

In March, the Explorer of the Seas will go boldly where three other ships have gone before on the 4th Star Trek cruise. And yes, William Shatner will be on board, as well as a 'galaxy' of other Star Trek stars. They will be featured in a number of unique Star Trek-themed shows, events, activities, screenings, costume parties and immersive experiences. It may not be the USS Enterprise but it will be the closest you will come to it in this universe. 

It’s sadly sold out, as is the next TV show-themed cruise:

13. Golden Fans at Sea 

24 - 29 February: Celebrity Infinity

Unlike the Star Trek cruise, this cruise for fans of The Golden Girls is only a partial charter and none of the original stars have been included (because most of them are deceased). As the last surviving Golden Girl, Betty White, couldn’t make it, the best they can offer is a panel discussion with Melinda McClanahan, sister of Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche Devereaux. 

Some of the cruise’s other highlights include: A caftan sail away party, a musical tribute from the Golden Gays NYC (a drag parody of the show), a discussion with original writer Stan Zimmerman, a Shady Pines Craft Corner, Dorothy’s Bingo and a number of other themed events. 

Sea of pink inflatable poodles
Another day at the office: Me prepping for a gay cruise in 2009

On the subject of hit-TV-show-themed cruises, if you wanted to go on a Walking Dead cruise, you’re too late. The last one was in February last yearHowever, if you’re a fan of another show that blurs the lines between the living and the dead, there’s also this cruise:

14. Theresa Caputo Live at Sea 

 6 - 9 November: Norwegian Sky

At first, I thought Theresa Caputo was a washed-up popstar who I had never heard of, then I realised she’s the lady from the TV show Long Island Medium, famous for delivering healing messages from the dead to the living. I hope the souls of people’s loved ones find them in the middle of the sea. 

If you’re more into live shows than TV, you’re in luck:

15. The Broadway Cruise

10 - 14 October: Norwegian Pearl

Tony Award-Winning headliners, Alan Cumming and Laura Benanti, among other notable Broadway stars, will be performing on this cruise. Highlights include nightly themed theatrical concerts, meet and greets, dance classes with Tony Award nominee Kelly Devine and immersive broadway experiences including broadway karaoke with a live orchestra. Yes, I said "broadway karaoke with a live orchestra!" 

There’s also a British version featuring their own Tony Award winner Lea Salonga:

  • Stages: The Musical Theatre Festival at Sea

27 September - 1 October: Anthem of the Seas

And, for a musical cruise experience that falls somewhere between Slipknot and Broadway, let's not forget:

16. Kesha’s Weird & Wonderful Rainbow Ride 2

16 - 20 October: Norwegian Pearl

This cruise features two unique shows by Kesha as well as a number of performances by some of her favourite musical acts. The lineup also features a discussion about her songwriting process and a game show called ‘BFF VS. Biggest Fan Challenge with Kesha’, where five of her fans will challenge her best friend to see who knows her best. 

In the place of the Broadway cruise’s ‘Broadway karaoke with a live orchestra’,  the Kesha version will have a ’Lip Sync For Your Lifeboat’ competition. I’m not actually sure which would be the most entertaining to watch due to the participants’ talent or lack thereof, but either way, it sounds like fun. 


While I have mentioned a few of the most noteworthy music-themed cruises of 2020, there’s plenty more where that came from.

Cruise ship party

Other music cruises happening in 2020 include:

24 January - 1 February: Norwegian Pearl
Featuring Sister Hazel, Needtobreathe, Switchfoot (the 2003 Sharon would have killed to see them) and a whole lot of other bands I have never heard of.

26 - 30 October: Norwegian Pearl
With the Progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria, among many others.

8 - 13 February: Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas
This one features a whole lot of bands with hardcore names like ‘Tesla’.

1 - 6 February: Carnival Valor
This one features bands like Alterbridge, Halestorm, Black Stone Cherry and Of Mice + Men, as well as other people who have abandoned their bands to go on a cruise, like Todd Morse of the Offspring and Will Hunt of Evanescence. One of the bands is called the Stowaways = Unlimited potential for bad ship-related jokes!

Speaking of The Offspring there’s also: 

5 - 9 November: Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas.
I experienced this cruise in 2018 when Flogging Molly was accompanied by The Offspring.

You can read all about my experience here:



14 - 18 February: Norwegian Pearl  
If you didn’t catch that the title is a lyric from one of their songs, this one is headed by the band Train. It also features comedian George Lopez and a whole host of other musicians from musical acts that people used to listen to but don’t anymore. 

29 January - 3 February: Norwegian Pearl  
Sorry if you’re a country fan, you already missed it.

3 - 10 February: Norwegian Pearl 

18 - 22 February: Norwegian Pearl  

20 - 26 October: Norwegian Pearl 

And, finally:

22 - 29 February: The MS Oosterdam
If the title is confusing this is a full-charter Irish music cruise that travels to Mexico. (A ship of famous Irish Mexican’s would be harder to fill.)


Heavy Metal, Rock, Wrestling, Cats, Furries, queens, nudity, swinging, Christianity, conspiracies, Trekkies, retro TV hits, show tunes, popstars and mediums, what more could you ask for?
Well, here’s some more:

Honourable mentions:

10 - 14 February: Norwegian Pearl
Featuring the cast of the cringe comedy TV show.

31 July - 7 Aug: Celebrity Millennium 
Where, according to the site: “Hooking the high seas is so much fun!”

  • Strictly come dancing cruise

20 June - 27 June: P&O Ventura
Featuring pros from the (Australian version?) of the reality TV dance show.

There are also theme cruises for:

Poker, fitness, Zumba, Latin dance, 70s music, 80s music, 90s music, Elvis impersonators, singles, the medical profession, science, engineering, psychology, astronomy, wine, craft beer, knitting and bird-watching, among others. 

Have you ever experienced a theme cruise? Tell us about the theme and your experience below? Alternatively, if you can think of a theme cruise that’s somehow not on this list, mention that too. 

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  1. I thought only Disney themed cruises existed! This opened up a world of possibilities :P Some of these are hilarious, thanks for sharing!

  2. Omg right when you thought you have heard it all!! hahahha I love how creative people can get! It should be so fun to be in a themed cruise, I never had the chance to, so far, but I would love to!

  3. I had no idea about all those themed cruises! I've heard of some musical ones, but this is a completely different level! That's so great to meet likeminded people!


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