Curling up with a good book on a sunny cruise ship pool deck all day.
A quiet, coat-and-tie dinner.
Swaying softly in dim light as a pinky-ringed lounge singer croons a seemingly unending version of "Copacabana."
If this sounds more like purgatory than a vacation, maybe a rock cruise is more your speed. You can still bring a book, but scrap the tux or evening gown and brace for nearly nonstop, sternum-rattling live music along with a fun-loving gang of insatiable rock fans just like you.
Rock cruises complement the customary indulgences of a cruise with a high-energy approach to entertainment. "ShipRocked" is one of the itineraries in the rock cruise waters and is prepping for its fourth annual voyage in late November.
I was aboard the MSC Poesia of MSC Cruises for ShipRocked 2011 in November. It launched from Fort Lauderdale and docked at two Mexican ports while providing 25 concerts, band meet-and-greets and Q&A forums over four and a half days.
As fantastic as the escape of a traditional concert is, it lasts only hours. This unique concert adventure lasted for days with cozy venues, unprecedented artist access, no after-show traffic — and no work in the morning. And, of course, there were the magnificent views, wonderful weather and endless supply of good grub.
Something fun was planned for almost every portion of each day. The concerts started in the early evening and didn't stop until the wee hours. Many fans and artists would then congregate at the pool deck bar to imbibe, kick back and reminisce about the day.
Day 3 was an absolute doozy.
We were embraced by the warm, salty air of Costa Maya at sunrise, a few hours after the high-powered rock band Sevendust threw down in the theater until 3 a.m. Some passengers headed off on excursions, others opted to chill poolside on the ship and recharge for the evening, but many put their feet on land and conquered the Señor Frog's pool bar like swashbuckling rock pirates. Frolicking rock stars and fans were in every direction.
The evening festivities kicked off on the pool deck shortly before we left port.
Declared singer Kevin Martin, "We are Candlebox, and we're about to rock your asses off!"
The music flowed through the crowd and up into a gorgeous sunset, and the ship slowly slipped away from land, reminding us this rockin' good time is a moving experience — literally. Following a VIP Party in the lounge, passengers packed the theater for a hard-hitting Hellyeah concert. But you didn't have to seek out a theater to rock.
Lynam and the Voodoos each played short sets out on the pool deck and at the lounge before Filter capped off the day with a raucous set back in the theater, starting about 1:30 a.m. Singer Richard Patrick joyfully paraded through aisles and rows of fist-pumping fans.
We lived the ShipRocked experience together; fans and bands, day and night. Even under perfect conditions for utter debauchery, civility reigned. No petty "me first" attitudes or anyone overstepping the undefined personal space of artists and their families. It was as if this uncommon environment fostered patience and courtesy. And the bands seemed to relish it all as much as the fans.
"The cruise is very much an experience and not simply a vacation," said Heather Bryant, 41, of Estero, who was aboard last year with her husband. "The venues are so intimate, and every seat has a great view of the stage. Of course, the best part is passing by the artists later and thanking them for the great performance."
While the headlining bands are certainly the draw, don't underestimate the rest of any rock cruise lineup.
"We discovered several bands last year by checking out the lesser-known artists booked. They turned out to be some our favorite performances," Bryant said.
Southwest Florida resident Shannon Larkin, drummer of the hard rock band Godsmack, performed on ShipRocked last year with his side band, Another Animal, and shared his enthusiasm in a Loudwire.com interview: "It was fantastic. It was rock 'n' roll everywhere you looked."
And the fan interaction?
"It's a more mature audience so it's pretty chill. You can walk around the boat, and people will just come up and say, 'Hey, what's up?' It's like we're all part of one big dysfunctional family out there on the boat," he said in the interview.
Godsmack, Korn and Five Finger Death Punch will be at the helm of this year's ShipRocked. Joining them on the decibel-fueled route to Key West and the Bahamas will be P.O.D., Sevendust, Filter, Helmet and 11 other bands. An exclusive voyage like this might not be in the budget for every devoted rock fan. ShipRocked package prices begin at $799.
If you're a rock fan, however, do the math: A rock cruise with a lineup and itinerary to your liking has undeniable value. A considerable travel expense saver for many Florida rockers is their proximity to Miami and Fort Lauderdale ports.
You can even win your way aboard ShipRocked '12: Fort Myers rock station 99X is offering up a cabin; log on to 99xonline.com for details. Bryant said she will be onboard for ShipRocked again this year and offers advice for anyone new to the experience:
"Get plenty of rest before the trip. Though you do get sleep, you feel like you may be missing something and don't want to go to bed. So the nights are late. But, most importantly, be ready to feel like a teenager again."