"What the hell did I get myself into?"

It’s still dark outside my hotel room high in the Miami Marriot. My bags are packed and 10 floors below me my new(ish) co-workers are gathering in the lobby. It’s embark day, an old hat for them, and 2 miles to the east Norwegian Pearl is ready to load up 2500 passionate music fans — and this very nervous new Marketing Manager — for the sixth sailing of the KISS Kruise. I’m due downstairs in a matter of minutes, and my normally self-assured demeanor is shot. I’m pacing a stripe in the carpet, trying to shove my stomach back down out of my throat and asking myself like a broken record: What the hell did I get myself into?

Understand that I’m the new guy here at Sixthman. So on this morning I’m describing, I’m stoked, just as I have been every day in the 3 months since moving to the exciting world of music festivals at sea leading up to my first boat ride — but I can't shake the nerves. I’m not nervous with apprehension, but rather with curiosity and excitement (or, at least, I got really good at telling myself that). I’ve watched, studied and learned the KISS community — and all of our wonderful communities — from afar, but I need the front lines exposure I was about to get to really make it all click. What would finally get me there? What would make it click? When would I really get it? Now that it’s over, I realize I was foolish to expect one definitive moment. Instead, I got too many to count, as I hope you’ll get the first time you sail on one of our festivals (or, for you veterans, I hope you get each time you come back). Here are just a few of the many times I finally got it:

Coming out of the tunnel and seeing the Pearl for the first time

What a sight. This is definitely what the Apollo astronauts felt like when they approached the shuttle, right? Definitely.

Greeting passengers at the terminal

I come from a music venue and concert promotion background, and my favorite part of that world was always the few moments before doors opened for a show. Translate that to embark day, and I could see the fans lining up for the terminal to open. Same feeling, wildly new setting. Then, of course feeding off your energy as you prepared to board the ship. My hand hurt from high fives.

Walking onto the gangway for the first time

No, THIS is how the astronauts felt. Awesome.

A sail away shot and we’re off!

My first cruise shift was helping pass out trays of Caborita shots to a pool deck full of fans before KISS themselves came out for a toast and a family photo as we sailed from Miami. I had been on board all of 15 minutes, and suddenly I’ve got trays of booze in my hand, standing on the pool deck stage trying not to tip them all over the front row. Remember that “how the hell did I get here” question?

Working my first pool deck show

The moment where the lights go down and a band hits the stage is special in any setting. But this re-defines setting. Put 2500 of the most passionate fans in front of their heroes on the pool deck of a cruise ship? Those pictures I’d seen a million times didn’t do it justice.

That first sunset...and the second...and third...

Someone mentioned it, pretty passively — “make sure you don’t miss your first sunset…” That person is officially in my top 3 favorite people ever (as soon as I can remember who it was).

Being back on land (sea legs are a real thing, by the way), I’ve been asked time and again to describe my experience. I’ll leave it to say that these “firsts” only scrape the surface, and it’ll probably take far longer than the week I’ve had to process my first Sixthman cruise to really answer that question. One thing I know for sure: now that I know what I got myself into, I know I can’t wait for more.

Click here to see photos from The KISS Kruise VI 

Boat Love: It's a Thing.

Boat Love is totally a thing, you guys. If you can name a more “romantic” place to fall in love than a cruise ship, I’ll send you a heart-shaped pizza, breadsticks, and maybe a two-liter of Coke depending on how much I like your answer. But hear me out first. A cruise ship is a veritable breeding ground (perhaps a poor choice of words there) for steamy new romance. And a Sixthman cruise is essentially the adult version of summer camp – but like, boy camp and girl camp have officially merged into one giant make-out barge. And it’s totally legal to drink there.

I mean, really think about it. I’ve provided you with a romance checklist for easy reference:

  • Exotic locations
  • Booze
  • Teeny tiny bathing suits
  • Little to no connection to the outside world
  • Booze
  • Thousands of like-minded music fans
  • Beds (SO many beds)
  • Salt air
  • A tacit agreement to let loose (It IS vacation, after all)
  • Rock stars
  • Regularly scheduled sunset photo ops
  • Dozens of secret spots to hide/make out
  • Unlimited access to chocolate
  • Booze

I think I’ve made my point. Boat Love is virtually unavoidable in such a luxurious setting.

But BEWARE, my friends – Boat Love is almost always fleeting. Once the ship returns to the mainland, your contact high wears off, and you have a chance to do some serious Facebook research about your vacation soul mate, things typically start to fall apart. And, hey – that’s ok. You’ll always have Cozumel/Tortola/Key West/Bliss Lounge/Great Outdoors/an elevator/that one lounge chair on deck 14 where you think we can’t see you (but we totally can), et al. Chin up! You are the 99%!

Every once in awhile – when the breeze blows just right, and the dance party goes until just late enough – lightning strikes, and Boat Love blossoms into True Romance. We hear about these rare miracles from our guests all the time. “I met my future husband on The Rock Boat!” Or “We made a boat baby on the 311 Cruise and we’re naming her Pearl.” Or “She said ‘yes’ in front of a stage full of Gronkowskis!” It’s a beautiful thing. BUT IT’S JUST SUPER RARE AND YOU SHOULD BE THANKFUL AND NEVER FORGET HOW RARE IT IS AND WE GET IT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, OK, GAHHH. ‘Scuse me. Here are some shining examples of Boat Love turned True Romance from our very own staff. SPOILER ALERT: Lots of "Awwwww!" headed your way in 3...2...1...


Current Relationship Status: Going steady since Kid Rock Cruise 2013

Him: Salty production assistant and onboard host extraordinaire

Her: Sixthman Director of Partner Relations and Business Development

How They Found Boat Love: Darby was a new hire sailing on her first Sixthman cruise. Rumors had been spreading for weeks about how “Darby is basically the girl version of Terry. Just wait ‘til those two meet.” Spoiler Alert: the rumors turned out to be true.

How we know it’s True Romance: Just watch them perform karaoke together. You’ll understand. Also, they live together and have two cats named Patinkin and Wink. Cats are forever.


Current Relationship Status: Together since March 2013 and recently engaged

Him: A 311 cruiser with excellent taste in women

Her: Project Manager, Partner Relations, and Senior Warrior

How they found Boat Love: Andy developed a crush on Sixthman Alex on the 2011 311 Cruise. In November of 2012, Alex visited friends in Andy’s hometown of Chicago. They planned to meet up at a Grouplove concert. When the show got cancelled, they made their way to Double Door and saw two random bands instead. Andy made Alex a mix CD titled “Let’s Be Friends”. Clearly, he meant “Let’s Be BF/GF”.

How we know it’s True Romance: Alex eventually moved to Chicago to be closer to her beau. They still sail on the 311 Cruise together, and Andy put a ring on it earlier this year.


Current Relationship Status: Married for 10 years

Him: Rock Boat guest turned Sixthman Director of IT, Launch, and Guest Services

Her: Rock Boat guest turned Sixthman Creative Leader, Partner Relations, and Senior Warrior

How they found Boat Love: Matt and Jen met on a Sister Hazel message board (remember when message boards were a thing?!) prior to The Rock Boat IV. The stars aligned when Matt moved to Jen’s hometown of Orlando to work with his brother. By the time The Rock Boat set sail in 2004, they were a couple. Cue “All for You”.

How we know it’s True Romance: They work together, sail together, live together, travel the world together, and still manage to have a long-lasting, healthy marriage. Also, they only take photos together in exotic locations while wearing hats. Couple uniform, FTW!


Current Relationship Status: Married 6 years this December

Him: A production guru

Her: A Carnival corporate employee turned valuable member of the Sixthman accounting team

How they found Boat Love: Technically, it’s Port of Tampa Love. But they met on the very first Rock Boat in 2001. That makes them the OG Sixthman love story.

How we know it’s True Romance: They win the Sixthman Boat Love award for longest relationship! Also, their names are Jack and Jill, so…


Current Relationship Status: Married since Mountain Song at Sea 2014

Him: Stardust Manager and Yogi

Her: Host Assist and go-to massage therapist

How they found Boat Love: These two lovebirds actually met in high school.

How we know it’s True Romance: Fredrika staged a surprise wedding for Dave on board Norwegian Sky in 2014. They’ve sailed together on almost every Sixthman cruise since.

Ahhh, yes. There you have it, friends. Love is a many splendored thing. (We should know. We’ve been proving it since 2001.) So let’s raise a glass to Boat Love. Whether it’s a clandestine affair on a 4-day sailing, or it’s True Romance with your forever human, it is most definitely A THING.


Sixthman Jayne