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A culinary themed cruise hosted by Celebrity Cruise Line (Photo: Celebrity Cruise Line)

Theme Cruises for Australians 2019-2020

Country music cruises, rugby league cruises, food, wine and fitness cruises all provide passengers with the chance to combine their love of cruising with an activity or interest they are passionate about. Whether you enjoy comedy, cocktails or nailing a slipknot in crochet, there will almost certainly be a theme cruise to suit.

In addition to the specialised programming there are usually themed events, lectures and workshops that encourage further participation around a set theme. Most themed cruises also include experts giving speeches or readings, or acts devoted to music that runs the gamut between '50s rock and classical opera.

Adding to the popularity of themed cruises is the fact that you may be able to look over your starboard shoulder at the bar and find one of the hilarious comedians or insightful lecturers mingling with passengers after the evening show. It's also easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger when you know there are many like-minded individuals onboard who share at least one common interest.

While the options are many and varied, this comprehensive guide to theme cruises in Australia and further afield gives details of scheduled sailings with enhanced or specialised programming for travellers with a range of different interests.

Below we list what's on offer for 2019 and beyond.

Music Cruises

Music Cruises

Theme: Country Music Festival at Sea

Departure City: Brisbane

Date: 7 December 2019

The pendulum has swung in favour of country music in recent decades, thanks in part to artists such as Keith Urban and Kasey Chambers, whose pop-heavy songs have helped pull the genre firmly into the mainstream. The fact country music has been given a prime-time slot on P&O Cruises' new 2020 program is testament to the fact more and more Australians are tuning into the magic of twangy guitars and achingly mournful ballads. The three-night cruise onboard Pacific Dawn will celebrate all forms of country music, from rockabilly to folk and bluegrass, and will feature well-known Australian and international country crooners. The cruise is a round trip from Brisbane.


Theme: Cruisin' Country

Departure City: Sydney

Date: 12 October 2019

Country music is becoming a fixture on popular cruise routes as the genre walks a broader line. Now a mainstay on Australian radio stations, country's audience also wants to combine its appreciation of the genre with a cruising holiday onboard Royal Caribbean International's locally based ship Radiance of the Seas. The seven-night cruise will be headlined by Australian crooner Lee Kernaghan, who has sold more than two million albums and won 36 Golden Guitar awards at the annual Country Music Awards in Tamworth -- a record beaten only by the late Slim Dusty. High-profile performers Adam Harvey, Beccy Cole and Gina Jeffreys will also be included in the entertainment line-up, which features 30 country music singers.


Theme: New 1980s Tribute Cruise

Departure City: Brisbane

Date: 1 February 2020

Departure City: Sydney

Date: 3 April 2020

The '80s certainly had its fair share of cringe-worthy moments -- from the mullets to the music and neon mesh singlets that helped define a decade. That's precisely why it will be so much fun to dress up and be transported back there onboard P&O's New 1980s Tribute Cruise. Expect amateur harmonising and some reverb on that air guitar when you hear the chorus of Sweet Child o' Mine, which was the song of the summer circa 1988. Pacific Dawn's entertainment director has curated high-energy tribute acts that have pilfered from the pop pantheon and playlists of '80s power ballads to deliver a dizzying array of songs from artists such as Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Prince and Madonna. The '80s will be inescapable on the cruise so embrace it in a rotating uniform of fluoro tees, tiers of tulle, baggy pants, bandanas, leg warmers, freaky face furniture and blonde rocker wigs. The three-night cruise is a round trip.


Theme: Bravo -- Cruise of the Performing Arts

Departure City: Sydney

Date: 12 November 2019

Welsh bass-baritone opera and concert singer, Sir Bryn Terfel, will perform onboard Radiance of the Seas in a sleek themed production dubbed Bravo -- Cruise of the Performing Arts. The singer, who headlines this celebration of the performing arts, will be joined by a cast of renowned Australian performers such as David Hobson, James Morrison and Lucy Durack. The colourful showcase will feature themed nights and autograph signings with the stars as the ship sails to New Caledonia, the French-flavoured port of Noumea and the Isle of Pines before returning to Sydney. For hard-core culture vultures only.


Theme: Tribute to the King

Departure City: Sydney

Date: 17 May 2019

Expect a lot of snarling, lip curling and hip swivelling onboard P&O's inaugural Tribute to the King cruise when it sets sail on a round trip out of Sydney. More than 40 years after the rocker 'left the building', Elvis is still referred to as the King of Rock and Roll. Enjoy performances by some of the world's best Elvis impersonators as they belt out hits such as Blue Suede Shoes, Love Me Tender, Jailhouse Rock and Hound Dog while careening around the stage in white jumpsuits. In addition to screening movie marathons starring Elvis Presley, the 2000-passenger Pacific Explorer will become something of a floating shrine to the King, with the largest collection of memorabilia at sea and informative sessions that trace the story of his poverty-stricken childhood. Rockabillies will get the chance to raise the roof during King-inspired karaoke sessions and eat Elvis-inspired food such as Southern fried chicken and peanut butter and banana sundaes.


Theme: Rock the Boat

Departure City: Sydney

Date: 19 October 2019

Suzi Quatro still looks very much the rock star with her shaggy brown hair and black leather jumpsuit. Expect unrelenting nonconformity from the audience as the wildly idiosyncratic American singer takes to the stage as the headline act at this year's Rock the Boat 2019 Cruise. Those old enough to remember Countdown will appreciate the attendance of special guest Molly Meldrum, who will be joined onboard by artists such as The Angels, The Sweet, John Paul Young, Mi-Sex, Chocolate Starfish and the New Romantics. This year, Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas is hosting one of the biggest line-ups ever assembled at sea.  Pack your best music merch -- think jackets, T-shirts and hats -- for the ninth consecutive Rock the Boat cruise, which will also include themed nights where you can dress as your favourite rock legend or reimagine yourself for the Island & Nautical night. Passengers should also start practising their riffs for the Air Guitar Wars and limber up for the Lip Sync Battle. (Editor's Note: This cruise has sold out.)


Theme: Opera at Sea

Departure City: Rekjavik

Depart: 6 September 2020

French TV host, poet, writer and journalist Alain Dualt will be the special guest onboard the new Opera at Sea itinerary on Ponant's small luxury ship, Le Jacques Cartier. The musical cruise, which is in partnership with the Royal Opera of Wallonia, will cruise from Iceland to Ireland during this exceptional journey. The eight-day circuit, via the Hebrides and the Isle of Skye, is a celebration of cultural riches set to a dramatic soundtrack created by singer Jodie Devoc, pianist Elsa De Lacerda, violinist Marie Hallynch and cellist and trumpeter Michael Tambour. In addition to the convivial atmosphere onboard, the cruise will be a tour of discovery around Northern European islands, from the postcard-perfect setting of Reykjavik, the most northerly capital in the world, to the lesser-known port of Heimaey, the only inhabited island in the Westmann Islands. This is a truly beautiful cruise.


Sports Cruises

Sports Cruises

Theme: Crystal's Iberian Images Cruise with Golf Theme

Departure City: Lisbon

Date: 12 August 2019

Bogies, birdies, backswings, bunkers, cut shots, fliers, flop shots and floaters will all become very familiar terms if you take a cruise with a golf theme onboard Crystal Serenity this year. But this cruise from the Rock of Gibraltar to the French Riviera is about so much more than coming to grips with The Complete Glossary of Golfing Terminology. In between your teeing-off time with a PGA instructor at world-famous courses dotted along the Iberian Peninsula, the Experience of Discovery will allow passengers to clock the wild charms of the coastline. The ports of Ibiza, St Tropez, Barcelona and Monte Carlo will become backdrops for Crystal Serenity, allowing guests to explore world-famous beaches and enjoy fantastic food and wine. A golfing celebrity will also make a cameo appearance on the 11-night cruise to discuss their experiences on the PGA tour. The sublime and rugged landscape is a huge part of this global golfing journey.


Name of Cruise: Melbourne Cup 

Departure City: Sydney

Departure Date: 3 November 2019

About: Giddy up! Carnival Spirit will again set sail for the Lexus Melbourne Cup in 2019 with the Melbourne Cup Cruise now an annual event on the Australian cruise calendar. Departing from Sydney, the once-a-year cruise offers a range of racing themed activities that will see passengers jockeying for position at the Melbourne Cup edition of the Mad Hatters High Tea, taking a punt at a betting masterclass and indulging in an exclusive Melbourne Cup degustation dinner. A highlight of the itinerary for hungover racegoers is the famous Bloody Mary Recovery Brunch. The cruise will include an impressive line-up of racing royalty such as Melbourne Cup winning jockey Jim 'Pumper' Cassidy and champion horse trainer Robert Hickmott. Deborah Hutton will also be onboard to judge the Fashions of the Spirit following a hands-on fascinator workshop. The cruise includes general admission entry into Flemington on Lexus Melbourne Cup Day plus general admission entry into Kennedy Oaks Day. Transport to and from the racecourse is also included.


Wine, Whiskey & Food

Beer, Wine and Whiskey Cruises

Name of cruise: Tasmania Local Connections

Departure City: Sydney

Date: 2 November 2019

Ruby Princess has its sights set on everyone from retirees to millennials for its Local Connections cruise to Hobart. Cruising isn't necessarily the main draw as passengers disembark in the state capital for an Art Meets Whisky class. The so-called MONA effect, named after the Museum of Old and New Art, has brought excitement and energy to the island state. Raise a glass to MONA mastermind David Walsh at the Art Meets Whisky class, which has been curated by local experts to provide a 'culturally enriching' experience. Local tour guides will steer passengers through the historic Henry Jones Art Hotel, which showcases the works of emerging and established Tassie artists, before diving down into the history of Australian whisky on an Old Kempton Distillery tour and tasting. Passengers will meet pioneers of Tasmania's reborn distilling scene and learn all about milling, mashing and the art of distilling. Chef Rodney Dunn is co-founder of The Agrarian Kitchen and hopes to satisfy the tastebuds of visiting foodies with a hands-on cooking class. The classes, which are conducted in a 19th-century farmhouse, explore the region's culture through its cuisine. This cruise is on sale now.


Theme: Queensland Local Connections

Departure City: Sydney

Date: 23 October 2019

Local Connections are also at the heart of this cruise to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast onboard Majestic Princess.  One of the attractions is a nature walk with John Pene Fonmosa, who shares his insights into Aboriginal culture. Passengers will be taught how to identify native plants during a bush food and medicine walk, plus examine indigenous artefacts and learn how they were made. Wine Tasting and Wine Making at Mt Nathan Winery is another shore excursion aimed at oenophiles and foodies who want to indulge in an informative and educational wine tasting. All this is punctuated by walks around the property to feed the sheep and alpacas and learn about the use of honey from its beehives in the winemaking process. Sunshine Coast Stories completes the trifecta of tours on the Queensland Local Connections Cruise. Make your own salad at an organic microgreens and edible-flower farm and stop and smell the roses at an organic rose farm where you can drink in the heady perfume of the rose petal–infused products.


Theme: Oenology

Departure City: Lisbon

Date: 11 April 2020

Gourmands should put the Gastronomy, Vineyards and Grands Crus cruise with Ponant on the top of their 'yes please' list for 2020. This Northern European cruise -- from Lisbon to Lorient -- has been created in partnership with Ducasse Conseil and Chateau Latour. The nine-day cruise onboard L'Austral will weave in gala dinners designed by Alain Ducasse's team while charting a course for Bilbao and the world-class La Rioja region. The prestigious Ponant tour will make its way up the Gironde Estuary, cruising to cellar doors in the Saint-Estephe, Margaux and Pauillac appellations. Spending two days in Bordeaux, the wine capital of the world, is another highlight of the cruise as passengers learn all about the region's rich wine-making traditions. The onboard presence of sommelier Eric Beaumard and cheesemaker Bernard Antony will take your wine and cheese pairings to the next level.


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Specialist Cruises

Photography Cruises

Theme: Dark Mofo Cruise

Departure City: Sydney

Date: 18 June 2019

There goes the sun! Cruise to Hobart's Dark Mofo festival to celebrate the winter solstice -- the shortest day and longest night of the year -- with food, film, music, art, light and dark delights as the sun arcs lower in the sky. This major annual event draws crowds of up to 450,000 and includes international music acts, major exhibitions at MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) and lots of gazing at the dot-to-dot painting that is the night sky. The Dark Mofo cruise is scheduled to coincide with the hugely popular Dark Mofo festival and City of Hobart Winter Feast, a contemporary take on the medieval midwinter banquet by MONA mastermind David Walsh. The cruise fare includes admission and return ferry ride to Mona and a priority pass to the Winter Feast.


Theme: The Big Laugh Comedy Festival

Departure City: Sydney

Date: 8 June 2019

About: What do you call that slight bump you feel when the ship finally pulls into the port? Pier pressure. That groaning sound you can hear onboard Pacific Explorer is not emanating from the engine room: it's from the audience attending The Big Laugh Comedy Festival onboard P&O's Pacific Dawn. If you enjoy laughing till your face hurts, then this is the cruise for you. A diverse line-up of comedians will be in the spotlight during the diverse schedule of 30 shows that cover off comedic styles veering from clownish buffoonery to amusing interactions with the audience. The communal enjoyment of comedy is at the heart of this comedy cruise, as the showmanship plays second fiddle to the social interactions and friendships forged over a good belly laugh.


Theme: Photography cruise with Canon Master Richard l'Anson

Departure City: San Jose, Costa Rica

Date: 25 April 2020

Learn how to appreciate Costa Rica while capturing lasting memories during this Photography Cruise with Canon master and expert photography guide, Richard I'Anson.   L'Anson will be joined by special guest Greg Mortimer, Aurora co-founder and renowned explorer, who will offer perspective and context while the ship cruises along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. See Costa Rica close up as the ship named Greg Mortimer cruises past remote national parks and biological reserves and traverses the historic Panama Canal.  In addition to learning how to wield your camera like a pro, there will be opportunities to hike, kayak, paddleboard, dive and snorkel. Keep your eyes peeled for scarlet macaws, toucans, squirrel monkeys and sloths.  


Theme: Crochet

Departure City: Sydney

Date: 27 October 2019

Celebrity Solstice is keeping the art of crocheting alive one chain stitch at a time as cruise and crochet lovers relax and unwind onboard the Crochet Cruise. And it's not all baby booties and nanna cardigans. The Crochet Cruise package includes premium yarn, patterns, skill kits, books, tools and workshops designed to inspire cruisers to complete contemporary patterns that range from easy to complex. Expect a bit of yarn bombing and some embellished outfits on theme nights onboard the cruise, which weaves its way from Sydney to Tasmania to New Zealand this October. The 12-night crochet cruise includes experienced crochet teachers who will guide beginner, intermediate and advanced crocheters. The cruise, available through Cruise Express, will coincide with FibreFest, an annual event in Auckland dedicated to spinning yarns and all things wool and fibre. Forget flea market chic; contemporary crochet has undergone a hipster-led renaissance. Get onboard.


Theme: Indigenous Art

Departure City: Darwin

Date: 4 October 2019

Indigenous Australian art is the focus of Coral Discoverer's 12-day cruise from Cairns through the Torres Strait and the Tiwi Islands. Cruising around the Gulf of Carpentaria is a romantic journey as you trace the route of the Macassan traders and early explorers of the Arnhem Land coast. The itinerary includes visits to the community-controlled Maningrida Art Centre on the Liverpool River and the galleries of Elcho Island as well as Endean Aboriginal rock art that depicts the first sailing ships to visit Queensland's shores. A visit to Tiwi Designs is a must: the centre reveals the rich artistic heritage of the Tiwi Islanders in carvings, paintings and fabric prints. The Coral Discoverer cruise also offers art classes designed to connect visitors with the creative legacies of the northern Australian communities.

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