When you think of a cruise, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Lounging by the pool with a pina colada? Overindulging at the buffet? ... How about Garrison Keillor?
Your answer's probably a "no" on the latter, but maybe that will change. Themed cruises offer alternatives to the traditional sort ("Saw"-movie themed cruise, anyone?), and a new crop leaves us wondering if steampunk and the Caribbean just might be a hot combo.
There's something for every kind of cruiser, as these seven sailings attest:
Guests dance on the deck on the Soul Train cruise.
Courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions
The "hippest trip in America" has become the "Hippest Trip at Sea."
The Soul Train cruise has proven incredibly popular, and is already fully booked for the February 2013 trip. But don't fret because there's another one during fall 2013.
The February sailing leaves from Fort Lauderdale, with stops in Turks and Caicos, San Juan, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. All the while, guests will take part in dancing and musical performances by an impressive list of entertainers: Patti Labelle, Kool & the Gang and Jeffrey Osborne are only a few.
The fall cruise's lineup already includes Gladys Knight and Earth, Wind and Fire.
Entertainment Cruise Productions, around $2,500/person
Have you ever wanted to sail across the Gulf of Mexico with the queen of Southern comfort food enjoying a barbecue dinner next to you?
Now's your shot.
Paula Deen and her husband Michael play "The Newlywed Game" with cruise guests.
Courtesy of Alice Travel
The "Paula Deen and Family 2013 Caribbean Cruise" ships out from Galveston, Texas, on January 27. The seven-day adventure features stops in Cozumel, Honduras and Belize.
While on board, guests will spend time with Paula, her husband Michael and son Bobby, playing live games (last year's "Newlywed Game" with Paula and Michael was a big hit), attending a jazz brunch and kicking it all off with a dessert pajama party on the cruise's first night.
Paula's recipes won't be served on board. According to the trip's organizers, Paula says they don't come out the same, but she will help with cooking demonstrations primarily led by Bobby and Michael.
Rumor has it, additional members of Paula's family including Uncle Bubba and Aunt Peggy will be aboard, too. We don't know who they are, but they sound awesome. Bon voyage, y'all.
Royal Caribbean cruise, starting at $1,477/person
Brave fans of the torture-thriller "Saw" movie franchise can get up close and personal with the films' stars aboard Twisted Pictures' "Saw at Sea" cruise.
The ship sets sail August 11 from New York, and continues along the Canadian coast until August 16, with stops in Saint John and Halifax. (The last six "Saw" movies were all filmed in Canada). The cruise departs soon, but there are still spots available.
Actors Costas Mandylor, Anna Greene, Ned Bellamy, Dan Yeager (who was not in "Saw" but will be in the upcoming "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3-D" movie), Rebecca Marshall and Mark Rolston will join the summer cruise, and offer events like autograph signings, a question-and-answer session and photo ops. Guests can even catch a glimpse of the infamous "Saw" Puppet, which will be lurking about.
Want to "play a game?"
Carnival cruise line. Starting at $779/person
Events like the Steampunk Film Festival might be a great place to break out your punkiest gear.
Courtesy of Whodunit Cruises
The steampunk subculture got rolling in the 1980s, and soon became synonymous not only with science fiction and fantasy literature, but also metal gadgets, new technology and a whole lot of corset-wearing.
Now the genre's enthusiasts can make it maritime, with the first-ever Steampunk Cruise and High Seas Ball sailing March 16-23, 2013.
Guests are invited to dress up for as many events as they wish, but save your steampunk-iest get-up for the Steampunk Duchess Of Nola High Seas Ball.
The seven-day cruise will leave from New Orleans and stop in Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Cozumel. Guests can attend a Steampunk Film Festival and see a number of steampunk entertainers, including writer and puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal, author Jay Lake and cellist Unwoman (Erica Mulkey).
Lace up, ladies.
Royal Caribbean, starting at $889/person
Numerous musical guests perform on the Prairie Home Companion cruise.
Courtesy of Prairie Home Productions
Let's just get this out of the way: the "Prairie Home Companion" cruise does not sail on Lake Wobegon. But for Garrison Keillor fans, the whole experience might just be above-average.
This year's cruise around Europe is sold out, but trip organizers say another is in the works in the next year or so. Keillor fans lucky enough to be sailing this summer leave from Amsterdam on August 18 with stops in Vigo, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Cadiz, Spain; Tangier, Morocco; then, Malaga, Valencia and Barcelona, Spain.
Special guests on the August trip include Keillor, along with fellow cast members from the radio show -- Tim Russell, Sue Scott and Fred Newman -- and numerous musical guests, such as The DiGiallonardo Sisters, Bob Douglas and Richard Dworsky.
There's even a suggested reading list for guests so they can brush up on their destinations before sailing off.
No word on whether Guy Noir will make an appearance.
Holland America Line, starting at $1,400
The cruise touts itself as a trip "with every type of runner and walker in mind." Guests run various distances each day at the ship's stops, and may complete either a full- or half-marathon distance by the week's end.
The ship leaves February 17 from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and will include stops in Saint Thomas, St. Kitts, Curacao and Aruba, ending up back in San Juan on February 24.
The company also does an Alaskan version of the trip, which left July 28, and is planning a European trip on the Danube River for May 2, 2013.
"For the gay community, Halloween is our Christmas," says Al and Chuck's Travel, the company behind the Gay Halloween Cruise.
The three-day cruise leaves from Palm Beach, Florida, and will stop in Port Lucaya and Freeport, Bahamas, from October 26-28.
Festivities will include a Halloween dance party and costume contest. And there's still plenty of time to concoct one.
Celebration cruises, from $119/person