CRUISE BLOG: Cruising never sounded so good

Diane Tierney has sailed on 55 cruises to 43 countries and written more than 500 travel articles for the Toronto Star, Metronews and other publications since 1981. With this post, FYI introduces her as our chief cruising correspondent.

Happy Cruise Year! I’m excited to be named chief cruising correspondent for FYI so that I can share with you all that’s new in cruising – from the hottest ships to the coolest itineraries – plus tips and tricks on how you can see the world in comfort and style.

Let me start the cruising year off with news from Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line with 23 ships. They just announced their lineup of music artists for their new Carnival Live concert series featuring major rock, country and R&B bands.

On Carnival’s newest ship, the 3,690-passenger Breeze, I met with the members of the classic rock band Styx, whose songs such as Come Sail Away, Fooling Yourself, Lady and Babe continue to draw crowds.

You may remember Canadian Lawrence Gowan from his own eighties hits A Criminal Mind and Strange Animal, among others. He’s been singing lead vocals and playing the piano for Styx off and on since 1999. Gowan told me prior to the show, “Performing on a cruise ship is a new venue for us. We’re enjoying this more intimate performance and opportunity to personally meet with passengers. Being a Canadian, I make sure that if there are Canadians on board that we perform better than ever – and I choose their favourite songs.”

Singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw says, “The audience of cruisers is in a vacation state-of-mind, so combined with the ship's spectacular theatre, this creates an incredible energy that's fun for everyone, including the band.”

Other Carnival Live artists include Journey, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Smokey Robinson, Lady Antebellum, Trace Adkins, Jewel and Daughtry.

Other cruise lines have got into the act of offering star performers as well. Cunard's Queen Mary 2 has previously hosted shows by Rod Stewart, James Taylor, Lenny Kravitz and Dave Brubeck. (SEE FYI TV'S video of James Taylor on board HERE.) The Great American Steamboat Company showcases such performers as The Platters, B.J. Thomas, Bill Haley's Comets and The Lovin' Spoonful. Visit Cruise Critic to get the flavour of shows on offer.

Guests of the Carnival Breeze attend shows in the ship's main theatres – which range in seating capacity from 900 to 1,300 – for an onboard performance where there is never a bad seat in the house.

Carnival Live voyages originate in Miami, Port Canaveral, Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida, as well as Charleston, S.C. and Galveston, Texas. Artists perform on the ships when docked in Cozumel, Nassau and St. Thomas ports-of-call and disembark after the show. Here are some acts to watch for in upcoming months:

• Journey kicks off the 2015 roster with two performances on March 18 and 19 in St. Thomas.

• The award-winning Little Big Town brings their hitmaking sound to Nassau for three appearances on March 30, 31 and April 1.

• Smokey Robinson sings timeless classics from his 50-year music career April 21, 22 and 23 in Cozumel.

• In May, country trio Rascal Flatts, one of the top-selling live artists in any genre, will perform a series of three shows for guests in Cozumel on May 5, 6 and 7.

• Styx concerts will be performed in Nassau on June 16, 17, 18 and 20.

Concert tickets range from $35 to $60 for general admission, which is significantly less than land-based concerts. VIP tickets are available for $125 to $250 for seats in the first four rows, an artist meet and greet, souvenir photo with the band and a commemorative concert pass.

For information on Carnival programs go HERE or call 1-800-CARNIVAL. For information on Cunard, visit HERE.

For photos and videos of her voyages follow Diane Tierney HERE.