KRUISE ROCKS THE WATERS
October 24, 2011
By Jon Waterhouse

For nearly 40 years fans of warpaint-wearing rock band Kiss have arguably remained the most geektastic in the world. Many eagerly snatch up the endless array of Kiss merchandise, from comics to toys, and chalk up as many concerts as humanly possible.

On October 13 the Kiss Army --the name for its dedicated legion of fans-- became the Kiss Navy as almost 2,000 fans set sail on The Kiss Kruise. This floating Kiss fan fest traveled from Miami, Fla. to a private island and Nassau, Bahamas. It all wrapped on October 17 as the Carnival cruise ship Destiny returned to Miami, with a boatload of cruisers and their head-banging hangovers.

Kiss itself joined the throngs of followers on board. The band kicked off the excursion with a rare acoustic sail-away show sans make-up. A sea of pumping fists filled the ship’s Lido deck as Kiss rambled through a roster of stripped-down versions of both popular cuts and rarely-heard nuggets. “Christine Sixteen,” “Do You Love Me?” and “Black Diamond” helped pack the one-hour performance.

Later in the show founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, and newer recruits Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, became a virtual human jukebox as fans shouted requests. Kiss dug deep into its catalog treating the audience to snippets of obscure songs while fans sang along. Simmons’ biggest fan, his long-time mate and newlywed bride Shannon Tweed, kept a watchful eye from the side of the stage.

Other live performances throughout the cruise included costumed Kiss concerts featuring deep cuts; sets by Skid Row and other hard rockers; and stand-up comedy by Craig Gass. That latter is perhaps best known among Kiss fans for his spot-on impersonations of Simmons and Stanley.

On-board activities ranged from mini golf with Kiss axman Thayer to a casino tourney with drummer Singer. Fans donned their best Kiss costumes at a special Halloween bash. Yet perhaps the most treasured amenity was the fact each guest got his or her photo taken with the band in full regalia.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet other fans from all around the world,” said Johan Carlen, who traveled nearly 30 hours from Sweden to attend the cruise.

Carlen and a band of fellow Swedes created their own custom Kiss Kruise T-shirts to wear on the voyage. According to Sixthman, the producer of the cruise, more than 26 countries were represented, proving the common language of Kiss loudly shatters geographical borders.

“It’s like one big family,” said Tammie Castleberry of Wichita, Kansas. For Castleberry the Kiss Kruise was indeed a family affair as she and husband Scott celebrated 7-year-old son Coby’s birthday on board.

Stoking the fires of fandom is something Kiss has not only perfected but practically pioneered in rock music. For Simmons and company, the Kiss Kruise is yet another notch on the band’s studded leather belt.

“It’s really an opportunity for the band and the fans to spend time together without the big beefy security guards,” Simmons said over the phone as the band prepared for the cruise. “It’s much more personal, and it’s important to connect and keep that relationship going. ...The mindset is to have a great time, to enjoy life and have a party if you can. Remember, rock and roll all night and party every day. And the Kiss Kruise is no exception.”

See more photos from this story at MTV.com!