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11 Theme Cruises You’ll Love

  • Food, Music, Dancing, Sports and More

    En español | Party like (and with) a rock star at sea … sip vintages poured by a winemaker … learn from a historian. Theme cruises, which invite you to immerse yourself in a hobby, a sport or some other area of special interest on the high seas (or low rivers), are riding a wave of popularity. We highlight 11 enticing options here. (To learn additional details, visit themecruisefinder.com.)

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  • Will Byington Photography

    Music Cruises

    The sixth Kiss cruise drew 2,300 cruisers when it departed Miami for Cozumel and Grand Cayman in fall 2016. But maybe heavy metal doesn’t float your boat? The Soul Train Cruise departs every spring, with onboard acts such as the Commodores. Or mark the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s passing on a Royal Caribbean sailing. If all that sounds too raucous, get your classical-music fix on Tauck River Cruises’ Musical Magic Along the Blue Danube.

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  • Gary Yeowell/Getty Images

    Foodie Fests at Sea

    Oceania is one of many lines whipping up culinary outings. Its sailings hosted by chef Jacques Pépin or his daughter, Claudine, feature special menus, demonstrations and lectures. Tauck River Cruises hosts A Taste of France trips: These start in Paris with a chocolate class and a pastry demo, then float down the Rhône with stops to sample Beaujolais or take a cooking class. Avalon Waterways, too, offers gastronomic outings in France. Or board Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas in Fort Lauderdale for a Country Cooking cruise; it features chefs and cookbook authors.

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  • David Sacks/Getty Images

    Of Wine and Waves

    Lovers of the grape lap up wine-themed cruises. The American Wine Society ferries passengers to Tuscan vineyards on a cruise from Rome to Barcelona. (Activities aboard include a winemaker’s dinner and wine education classes.) Sonoma-Napa Wine Cruises likewise sponsors a Bordeaux journey, on which members of the family that runs California’s Wilson Creek Winery lead tastings and trips to famed French vineyards. To wander farther afield, Wine Club Cruises uncorks more than a dozen sailings with winemakers in 2017, bound for destinations from Portugal to Tahiti.

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    Sailings for Sports Fans

    Armchair quarterbacks, unite! The World’s Largest Super Bowl Party at Sea, with daily wagering and a game-day jackpot, kicks off Feb. 4. Or join Pro Football Hall of Famers Dan Hampton, James Lofton and Randall McDaniel on a sailing to Cozumel, Mexico. Auto racing fans can find berths, too: The first NASCAR cruise, hosted by Kyle Petty, revs up on Jan. 29. Drivers expected to mingle with fans on the Caribbean sailing include Richard Petty (Kyle’s father), Bobby Allison, Dale Inman and Michael Waltrip. And Formula One fans get reserved seats at Monaco’s famed Grand Prix on a five-day Riviera cruise, departing in the spring.

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    Sea Time Is Tee Time?

    A golf cruise lets you play in various ports — and sometimes use a simulator or take a clinic while aboard. GolfAhoy hosts outings on 193(!) ships. Participants in the company’s British Open Cruise play six rounds on challenging courses in Ireland and Scotland, then attend the final day of the British Open at Royal Birkdale, near Liverpool. Sailings to South Africa, the Caribbean and Hawaii are also on the roster. PerryGolf leads tours that let you play such fabled courses as St. Andrews’ Old Course, near Dundee, Scotland. Other cruisable links lie as far away as the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand.

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  • David Epperson/Backroads

    Bike ’n’ Boat

    A new twist on two-wheeled trips is the river-cruise bike tour. Backroads, a big name in packaged cycling vacations, offers cyclist-only sailings down the Rhine, the Danube and the Seine. Its eight-day cruise from Prague to Budapest, for example, lets you take daylong spins out of such historic port cities as Vienna and Bratislava, Slovakia. (For a more exotic route, pedal the banks of the Mekong River through Cambodia and Vietnam on a Heritage Line ship in November or December.) Another cycling powerhouse, VBT, hosts more than half a dozen Bike and Barge tours in Belgium, France, Germany, Holland and Luxembourg.

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  • Jon Hicks/Getty Images

    Christmas Market Cruises

    What better way than by boat to scope out Europe’s famous Christmas markets? You can snap up nutcrackers and handmade stockings, or sip mulled cider under twinkling lights. Smithsonian Journeys organizes several outings that do not charge the hated “single supplement” for solo travelers. On certain Amadeus river vessels that ply the Rhine and the Danube, a shipboard historian furnishes useful context. And the holiday sailings run by Viking River Cruises hit markets all along the Danube and the Rhine; after lugging your purchases aboard, you can bake gingerbread cookies or help decorate the ship’s Christmas tree.

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    Cultural Cruises

    How do you persuade serious-minded, cruise-resistant travelers to set foot on board for the first time? Clue them in to the pleasures of visiting famous museums in the company of an expert or attending shipboard lectures. The Smithsonian Institution, for one, sponsors outings on a number of cruise lines. You can learn about artist Winslow Homer off the coast of Maine on a ship that holds just 100 passengers or glide down the Amazon with a specialist from the National Zoo. National Geographic Expeditions likewise staffs its trips (to the Galápagos Islands and other exotic locales) with naturalists eager to share what they know.

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    Poker Sailings

    Texas Hold’em could be the game that launched a thousand ships. Card Player Cruises lists hundreds of poker cruises hosted by travel agencies and other groups. A weeklong Western Caribbean sailing, for instance, features cash games every night in a nonsmoking poker room, as well as daytime tournaments. Or ante up for the sixth World Poker Tour cruise in the fall: You’ll sail the Caribbean with bona fide cardsharps, play in daily games (including a ladies-only tourney) and get the chance to watch a final-table showdown. A springtime cruise to Barcelona, put on by Ante Up magazine, deals out two weeks of lessons and cash games.

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    Hoof It on the High Seas

    You’ve always wanted to learn salsa dancing (or cha-cha or swing), so why not find your sea legs on a dance cruise? On sailings such as its Yucatan Discovery (Jan. 3), Dancers at Sea teaches singles and couples the latest ballroom moves. Latin, swing and ballroom are featured on the midsummer, 12-night Sundancer Cruises excursion from Amsterdam to the British Isles and Ireland; dance pros aboard give pointers and exhibitions. Would you rather step out to an accordion? You’ll have a barrel of fun on a Polka Dreams @ Sea voyage, cruising the Caribbean in early spring.

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    Love Boats

    The singles cruise is the granddaddy (or hip uncle) of all theme cruises, but don’t expect to steam out of port surrounded by alluring prospects. You’ll typically be in a small group moderated by a host adept at facilitating mix-and-mingle sessions, speed dating and dances. Women usually outnumber men, and unless the cruise specifically advertises an older focus, those 50 and up may be in the minority. Best Single Travel organizes some trips for those 40 and older, including a Galápagos adventure in the spring, with stops to scope the wildlife on various islands. 

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