Full sail on 2015’s KISS Kruise

By Ken Sharp

Not long ago, the idea of a cruise evoked scores of blue-haired senior citizens crammed aboard a giant vessel spending their golden years sailing the high seas, playing games of bridge, bingo and shuffleboard, sipping mai-tais and taking lots of naps. But in recent years, the grand concept behind cruises has changed dramatically. Geared toward baby boomers and beyond, music-themed cruises spanning a myriad of genres from country to prog-rock, EDM to classic rock, southern rock to dance music, have proliferated and become a thriving business raking in millions of dollars each year. And those long naps have turned into all-nighters. Regarding those common misconceptions about the cruising experience, Alaidriale Derway, PR & Communications Manager for Sixthman opines, “I think attitudes about cruising are changing rapidly, but there is definitely still a little of the old ‘cruises are all shuffleboard, bingo, and 5 o’ clock dinners’ stigma. Having been on nearly 50 of our festivals at sea, I can very safely say this could not be further from what you’ll find on a Sixthman event, and specifically the KISS Kruise. What you are going to find is 2,300 people from 28 countries around the world, rocking out to their favorite bands, and all interacting with each other in a way that you simply couldn’t on land —  it’s a vacation, it’s a music festival, it’s a non-stop party — it’s everything the “typical cruise” isn’t.”

Of the cruise event companies, Sixthman have it down to a sweet science. In their 14th year, Sixthman was cited by INC magazine as America’s fastest Growing Travel Company. Boasting themed cruises with a diverse range of artists including Kid Rock, John Mayer and Lynyrd Skynyrd, one of the company’s hottest and most in-demand cruises is the KISS Kruise; its 2015 jaunt was an early sell out. What makes a Sixthman KISS Kruise unmissable? “Well, KISS of course!,” says Alaidriale Derway, PR & Communications Manager for Sixthman. “It seems like a silly answer, but there isn’t anywhere else, land or sea, where you’ll have the kind of experience you get on the Kruise. There are activities with members of KISS, shows in intimate venues — we’re talking less than 1000 people — a Q&A where the question askers are all kids, and a photo with the band, and that’s just the beginning. The KISS Kruise is a totally immersive experience in all things KISS. It’s rock ‘n’ roll all night, and party every day! It’s a one-of–a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime experience — even for the fan who has everything! And each year is new and different theme wise, so it’s always fresh. We’re all about the guest experience — that comes first in every way. Our goal is to break down the barriers between bands and their fans, as well as introduce our guests to emerging artists that often become favorites. We don’t do the whole VIP thing. We feel like everyone should have the same amazing experience and that everyone is entitled to the best. We encourage our artists to interact with the guests as much as possible, from hosting events, to late night DJ sessions, to just walking around the ship and enjoying the event. We set the expectation that guests and artists are one big family and should treat each other as such. We try to shy away from the standard format of autograph signing and meet and greets as much as possible, in favor of more organic and intimate experiences between artists and fans. Another thing that I think really sets Sixthman apart is that our events are built by the community for the community. When our artists have a vision they want brought to life, we will do anything we can to make that happen. We build upon surveys and guest feedback to really shape what our guests are looking for.”

For Greg Hounshell, 45, a realtor from Wytheville, Virginia, the KISS Kruise is a must attend event and one he almost missed out on this year. “Until a few days ago, I didn’t think I was going to make it,” explains Hounshell. “Why? The cruise has gotten so popular it sold out over six months ago and I hadn’t reserved a spot. It keeps growing, drawing people in from all over the world-and this year it drew at least two too many. After going the past three years, I started to feel like I was going to be missing something. I’m not talking about the band or the destinations. The ship could park in the middle of a pond and you’d still want to be there. But, rather, I knew I would miss the friends I have made over the past three years. It’s hard to describe the sense of community that you find on the Norwegian Pearl. Once late September starting rolling around, I was feeling the pinch of time. I hopped on the waiting list but was told I was 60th. It wasn’t looking good. I reached out to friends that were going to let them know if a spot opened up, somehow, someway, to please let me know. Two weeks prior to sailing a good friend of mine rang me up and said there was a cabin available for us. We booked it and are headed out to sea for the third time. That encapsulates the cruise experience for me. You can form such a bond with people you only see once a year that you start looking out for each other. There aren’t many events in life that inspire such loyalty. To experience it is a fun, fun thing. Some of the best people you’ll ever meet attend the cruise. Having KISS there is icing on the cake.”

As for me, having embarked on last year’s KISS Kruise, I’m back aboard this huge vessel for KISS Kruise V ready to “rock ‘n’ roll all night and party” every day with over 2,300 hardcore KISS fanatics ages 1 to 60-plus from over 30 countries around the world joining in on the fun. Not surprisingly, it’s the hardcore baby boomer fan base that accounts for the main demographic in the 40-54 range, skewing slightly heavier male. Male or female, young or old, looking at the beatific smiles on the faces of those climbing aboard, the majority dressed in KISS t-shirts and many elaborately inked with KISS tattoos, this yearly excursion offer passengers a chance to let loose, get wild and crazy, all in celebration of the hottest band in the world.

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