Theme cruise? Isn't gluttony the theme on a cruise? Not so fast. There's plenty more to do on a cruise ship besides eat and drink your days away. And for those with more than a passing interest on any number of topics -- eight of them outlined here -- there are cruises that cater to your interests whether it's music, fitness or even vampires.
Theme cruises aren't widely advertised and in fact, not advertised by the cruise lines at all in many instances. Most theme cruises are organized by travel agents, so you're not likely to find information about most theme cruises on the cruise line's web site or in the cruise section of your favorite online travel agency no matter how much digging you do. But not to worry – we've included a link for booking each of the cruises selected as the top eight of 2012.
Saw: The Horror Cruise on the Carnival Glory
If just watching the "Saw" movies isn't cutting it anymore, don't fear: You can mingle with actual "Saw "celebrities and other die-hard fans on board the Carnival Glory this summer. The five-night cruise leaves from New York City on August 11 and calls on two Canada ports – St. John and Halifax – plus two days at sea. Varying levels of "Saw" interaction are available: At the lowest level, a dance party with the "Saw" stars and individual photos are included. At the middle level, dine with a "Saw" celebrity and participate in a mini-golf tournament with them. At the highest level, private VIP cocktails with the stars.
KISS (and other) Music Cruises on the Norwegian Pearl
If you missed the last one and have been kicking yourself since, here's a bit of good news: The second KISS Kruise will depart on October 31 round-trip from Miami on the Norwegian Pearl and call on the line's private island, Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. Organized by music-cruise organizer Sixthman, the price of the cruise includes all the usual cruise stuff, plus a ticketed indoor KISS concert, an acoustic KISS concert on the pool deck, a KISS Q&A, a photo of your cabin mates with the band and more.
The Norwegian Pearl will also host the Blake Shelton Cruise Oct. 14 – Oct 21 and the Simple Man Cruise Oct 27 – Oct 31.
Fitness and Running Cruise on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas
If you think a cruise is nothing more than a mile-long buffet, sugary drinks and lots of people who probably shouldn't be wearing bikinis in public, think again. On Royal Caribbean International's Royal 5K, hosted in conjunction with ESPN International, running -- both onboard and in port -- is the main event. The seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Allure of the Seas departs Dec 1 from Fort Lauderdale and features sunrise and sunset runs; midnight scavenger hunt runs; beach runs, kids runs and the main event: the Royal 5k on St. Maarten. There are also training talks and seminars with athletes onboard, cooking demos and stretching and calisthenics seminars.
Celeb Chef Cruises on various Holland America ships
Holland America Line has scheduled 60 celebrated chefs and wine experts to sail in 2012. Which sailing you choose might depend on whether y our tooth is savory or sweet. Fans of Bravo's "Top Chef" will be excited to see season seven winner Kevin Sbraga, while viewers of the PBS series "Check Please!" can see host Leslie Sbrocco. The Culinary Arts Center Program on Holland America allows guests to attend culinary demonstrations in a full show kitchen, tastings, question-and-answer sessions and hands-on classes. If the kids are coming along, many sailings offer a youth program that teaches kids and teens to cook.
National Review Cruise on Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam
Political junkies -- especially those with a conservative viewpoint -- will delight in the opportunity to dish with the editors of National Review on a seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale Nov 11. There will be seminars, Q&A, cocktail parties, dining with editors and guest speakers and cognac and cigar gatherings. National review guests include Bob Costa, Jonah Goldberg, Mona Charen, James L. Buckley and more.
The New York Times Cruise on Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam
Times Journeys presents an opportunity to sail the Eastern Medditeranean Oct. 5– 17 aboard Holland America's MS Nieuw Amsterdam with popular journalists from The New York Times. Speakers include Joe Nocera, Willima Payne, William C. Rhoden, Dan Schnur, A.O. Scott and Barbara Straunch. Ports of call include Venice, Athens, Isatanbul, Satorini and more. Seminar topics range from The State of the Economy to Gender and Sports to The West Wing Comes to Life and take place on at-sea days.
Mark Twain Tribute Cruise on the Queen of the Mississippi
This week-long Mississippi River cruise round-trip from St. Louis on Sept. 15 is billed as a Mark Twain Tribute cruise, the highlight of the trip for fans being Day 3, spent in Hannibal, Mo., where "you can run your hand along Aunt Polly's fence, explore Injun Joe's Cave and get reacquainted with one of the world's most beloved authors." Shore excursions include a trolley tour that recalls Twain's adventures in Hannibal and a visit to Mark Twain's boyhood home, now a museum.
Vampires at Sea on Holland America's Zuiderdam
If you know what the tag line "Whether You Are Team Glitter or team Goth, We Are All Team Vampire" means, you'll probably fit right in on this Alaska Vampire cruise sailing round-trip from Vancouver, B.C., June 23. Events include Q&A with "guests from the vampire world," a vampire ball, late-night (obviously) disco parties, scavenger hunts and more.