If you have the bubbling urge to rock and roll all night and (of course) party every day, then you would have surely wanted to be aboard KISS Kruise VI -Creatures of the Deep: “a seaworthy exploration of KISS’ iconic 1982 Creatures Tour!”
The Norwegian Pearl sailed across the salty, balmy waters of the Gulf of Mexico, from Port of Miami to Cozumel and Grand Cayman Islands, November 4-9, 2016. A whopping sum of nearly 3,000 enthusiastic KISS fans called the mighty vessel of 14 floors home for what was to be a long, boisterous, and sun-filled five days of bottomless buckets of booze, good weather, and a 24-hour buffet serving ham on the bone, slow cooker butter chicken, seafood paella, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and an assortment of desserts, to name but a few tasty treats served on an hourly basis.
There were many things to see and be a part of on KISS Kruise VI, like Paul Stanley’s Pizza Contest, KISS Q&A, Name That Solo with Tommy Thayer, Are You Smarter Than A Rock God? with Gene Simmons, the Belly Flop Competition with Sophie Simmons, Twisted Bingo with Skid Row, Bacon and Bingo with Enuff Z’Nuff, KISS Trivia, KISS Karaoke, and a Creatures of the Deep Fashion Show.
Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty according to moi!
Normally I am a fearless individual when it comes to taking risks, but as far as I’m concerned (on a personal level) the logic of floating over the depths of shark-laden waters is, to put it simply, a bit frightening. For the sake of music, however, I would gladly overlook the possibility of what could go wrong; and so I did, with Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Singer, and Tommy Thayer!
The hardcore lineup of rock and rollers co-hosting this year’s big-time boat party with KISS consisted of Whitford/St. Holmes, Skid Row, King’s X, The Dead Daisies, Enuff Z’Nuff, Magnetico, Cleveland’s Breakfast Club, Teaze, Sophie Simmons, The Dives, and DJ Noize.
The first night started with the highly anticipated KISS sail-away show where the band played front and center on the pool stage. A nearby crowded tiki bar offered free lime flavored shots. While I spent the majority of the show trying to ignore the curdling, foaming display of white ocean water hitting the side of the ship, I was able to squeak through the tightly knit rows of shouting KISS fanatics during “Goin’ Blind” to stay safe.
OK, so the thing about a good cruise is that it’s all a bit of a blur once everything is said and done. And, yes, I took notes; but like that one memorable scene in Almost Famous when young rock writer William Miller is side stage with Penny Lane taking notes on the show, I threw aside my pen and paper and went along for the ride.
I was privy to a two-hour private guitar and songwriting group lesson with the ever so clever and outrageously whimsical Gene Simmons who referred to the strings by numbers, and who threw in a few lines like, “Do what I say and we’ll get along great,” or who ignited a spark of artistic inspiration by saying, “You don’t have to read or write music to understand it. The best creative thing you have is your mind. You just need to feel it.” I sat in awe at his well-spoken, regal and confident genius as he gave these respectful, star struck fans an afternoon they’ll never forget.
He ended the course, which fans paid thousands to attend (separate from their cruise package), with words of endearing rock and roll wisdom. “I just want you to know you can open your mind to anything,” he said; and pointing to a ten-year-old girl in the front row, who ws holding her guitar with youthful gumption, said, “And when I grow up, I want to be just like you.” In less than 60 seconds he was out the door, escorted by security, and off to sound check for another KISS show that night.
Later that day, I had an unexpected run in with Gene himself. And it certainly got my champagne-induced giggles stirring steadfast and strong.
A sobbing woman had run over to him for a hug from her music hero, and as she walked away in tears of disbelief, Gene motioned with a commanding figure for me to step on over his way. Who, me? I thought. Uh-oh. Better see what he wants. I tiptoed over as he bent down to casually whisper in my ear, “I might be the only one who will tell you this, but… you’ve got something on your arm.”
Alarmed, I looked at my left arm. No, nothing there but a bad tan line. Then, I looked down at my right arm. Oh, my tattoos! I thought. A stupid laugh gurgled from my mouth and I slinked away.
Soon after, I was back at the buffet, filling my belly, before a nap and another long night in the casino where most of the bands met to sign autographs, gamble, and have a drink.
Progressive rock trio King’s X put on one of the most memorable performances on the ship. With soul, funk, and blues inspired sounds and arrangements, they performed once in the atrium, and a second time on the pool stage when frontman Doug Pinnick hit a beauteous piercing note that left the ecstatic crowd “goose-pimpled.”
Chicago-based rock group Enuff Z’Nuff killed it, with three incendiary sets throughout the duration of the cruise. Frontman, founder, and bassist, Chip Z’Nuff was also one of the most accessible and friendly rockers on the boat by signing autographs and taking pictures with any fan that approached him. Comedians Craig Gass and Courtney Cronin-Dold even incorporated him into their sets held on the last night in the Stardust Theater.
While you can’t go wrong with Skid Row, I will say that former-frontman Sebastian Bach’s shoes are clearly a tough one to fill. Each member had brought his wife, and I can tell you that those girls are a solid group of fun fashionistas with some pretty interesting stories. The Dead Daisies also rocked out on the pool stage, though their third performance was rained out and moved into the atrium.
I am also elated to spread the good word of The Dives who performed on three separate nights. Few new bands seem to have what it takes to steal the spotlight and make it their own, but these boys delivered, no questions asked, with tight harmonies and authentic youth cascading the audience with smart chord changes and simple sing-along bits like, “Take an hour take a day, take it all, so long as it’s from me.”
Frontman Evan Stanley is the son of none other than Paul Stanley himself, and what a gentleman Evan is. I couldn’t get over how warm and welcoming his character is. I half expected him to take a bow and tip his hat!
The cruise was rounded off by two KISS meet-and-greets that took place in the Spinnaker Lounge at the bow of the ship. The events took place on two separate days where fans could get a “masked” photo with the band in their iconic stage wear, as well as one without. KISS Kruise VI also offered a number of activities in the casino, like Poker tournaments and champagne raffles, and Atlanta-based award-winning tattoo parlor Liberty Tattoos was on board behind the Blackjack table to ink you up.
As for any last words that I might gush over from KISS Kruise VI, I’d like to say that the wonderful rocking and rolling ship of sweet dreams brought to my soul in abundance, perfect music and lively wonder.
I wanted the best, and I got the best.
Photos: Sixthman/Will Byington/Kate Catalina