|The Malt Shop Is Ready To Sail
Malt Shop Memories Cruise
Tampa, May 13-17, 2010
by Linda Coffman
"What exactly is a sock hop?" That's what my house/cat
sitter Amy wanted to know when we returned from the Malt Shop
Memories Cruise. While Mel and I were sailing from Tampa aboard
Carnival Inspiration, our college-age sitter was following along on
the daily Cruise Diva Blog. Although she'd had a hula hoop as a girl and
attended her senior prom, she was confused by some of our other
teenage rituals from the 50s
First off, I explained the sock hop—dances
that took place in the high school gym where we couldn't wear street
shoes that might damage the highly polished wood floor. Yes, Amy, we
danced in our socks.
The concept of a "malt shop" was also something
to which Amy had trouble relating. How could over 1900 of us aboard
Carnival Inspiration have all gone to a malt shop if we were from
far-flung areas of the country? C'mon, girl, you're in college.
Think about it. Naturally we didn't all go to the same mythical malt
shop, but we all had teenage hang outs. Mine was the Tastee Freez.
Mel's was the A&W Root Beer Drive-In. Think Sonic, Amy.
After our little chat and my explanation of mid-century popular
culture, it dawned on me that Mel and I had a great time on the
we'd been sharing the experience with an entire ship full of
like-minded people. We were a community who'd make similar lifestyle choices,
had a lot in common (in addition to our ages), and were fun to be
around. That's the beauty of a theme cruise aboard a full-ship
charter. And, of course there is the music.
For the Malt Shop Memories Cruise,
the affinity travel company that develops musically-driven lifestyle
events with an emphasis on themed cruises, and Time Life, which
markets a collection of
"Malt Shop Memories" CDs, put together a
line up of popular artists and cool events to turn back the clock to
a time of simpler, happy days on a sea-going hang out for those of
us who remember spinning 45s on our turntables and dancing in our
|Every prom has to have
To get everyone in the mood, Sixthman arranged a
pre-cruise party at Gaspar’s Grotto in Tampa's historic Ybor City the night before sailing—a
shiny red Studebaker parked out front made it easy to find. With our Sixthman hosts on hand, a couple hundred of our fellow Malt Shop
cruisers had a great time dancing to 50s and 60s music and even
sharpening their hula hoop skills for the contest to be held on
On board Carnival Inspiration with fairly little hassle in Tampa
on embarkation day, our Sixthman hosts “bought the first
round” for everyone and we settled in to wait in the lobby bar area
for cabins to be ready. Once we made our way to M172, we found tote
bags with the Malt Shop Memories Cruise logo waiting on our pillows.
I filled mine with essentials and made good use of it throughout the
When Carnival Inspiration was underway, Frankie Avalon made an
appearance at the Sail Away Beach Party and the memories had
begun to accumulate by the time we passed beneath the Sunshine
Skyway Bridge. Along with Frankie, the line up of artists on board included
some of our favorites, Bobby Rydell, Lesley Gore, Little Anthony &
The Imperials, Lou Christie, Herb Reed & The Platters, and the
Drifters. Other groups entertaining us were the Del Rays, the Devotions, and the
Fireflies. Soon to become a favorite, Elvis Tribute Artist Gino Monopoli drew such large crowds that Sixthman quickly rescheduled
the venue where he was performing to accommodate the growing
Amy was also curious about how ticketing for the shows was handled
on the Malt Shop Memories Cruise and how everyone had the
opportunity to see each artist perform. Every passenger was issued a ticket
for an assigned seat in the Paris Lounge and there were three shows
each night at 6pm, 8pm, and 10pm—the three performers scheduled for
the main stage alternate show times. For instance Frankie Avalon
performed at 6pm one night, 8pm the next, and finally at 10pm on
another. Artists who aren’t appearing on the main stage are also
alternating performances each night—similarly, there are three shows
in the Candlelight Lounge (open seating) at 7:30pm, 9:30pm, and
11:30pm. Plus there was live music on the Promenade, in the
Atrium, and beside the Lido pool.
I was somewhat disappointed that Lesley Gore wasn't scheduled to
perform in the Paris Lounge. One afternoon I was sitting outside the
smaller Candlelight Lounge while she was rehearsing (sound carries
and she sounded great) and I certainly
enjoyed her show there later. However, the room was terribly crowded
despite all the extra chairs that were provided. Due to demand, my
wish to hear her in the main show lounge came true as Sixthman
rescheduled her final performance in the larger venue.
With three shows scheduled each night, dinner was served in each of
the two main restaurants on an open-seating basis, which worked out
quite well. Naturally food was available nearly around the clock in
Carnival Inspiration's casual grill and Brasserie, the lido deck
|Creative Door Decorations
Hallmarks of a Sixthman music-themed
cruise are activities and the opportunity to interact with the
artists. The Malt Shop Memories Cruise was no different and the
level of passenger participation was high.
A walk down any accommodations passageway on Carnival Inspiration
demonstrated that those of us who remember malt shops, 45s, drive-in
movies, and poodle skirts
hadn’t lost our creativity. About a third of the Malt Shop Memories
cruisers participated in a “door decorating” contest and some
of them were quite elaborate. My vote would have gone for the one right
across the hall from my cabin (pictured here). One incentive to take
part was the first prize of a $100 onboard credit, 2nd place got
$50, and third place $25. However, there was also the incentive to
share memories—many door decorations included high school
photos and we even saw a diploma or two on display.
We enjoyed sunny and warm sea days filled with dance lessons, a hula
hoop contest, dance lessons, and a sock hop, as well as “Prom Night” under the
stars. Passengers really got into the theme and poodle skirts were
the fashion statement for the sock hop and many broke out their prom
dresses as well. Sadly, I could only wish that my prom formals from
1960-something still fit.
You didn't have to participate in the scheduled activities to mingle
with the artists, although Lou Christie hosted a wine tasting and
Little Anthony (of Little Anthony and the Imperials) led couples in
a renewal of their vows. One morning Mel found himself on a
treadmill adjacent to Little Anthony and later he enjoyed a chat and
a cigar with Clarence Collins (founder of the Imperials). Bobby
Rydell often relaxed in the Chopin Lounge during the evening and
posed for photos and signed autographs for fans.
An absolute highlight was the Artist Q&A in the Paris Lounge where
Lesley Gore, Bobby Rydell, and Little Anthony answered questions and
reminisced about their careers as teenage stars. For instance,
Lesley Gore revealed that she was 'discovered' by Quincy Jones and
recorded "It's My Party" on a Saturday afternoon. By Monday it hit
the top of the charts and yet she didn't hear it until Friday of
that week when she was listening to the radio.
|Answering fans' questions, Bobby
Rydell, Lesley Gore, and Little Anthony
It’s pretty obvious why Frankie Avalon is still so
popular that he's one of the busiest nightclub performers in the
country. I’ve had the opportunity to see him several times over the
years and he never seems to change, nor is he ever disappointing.
While my husband doesn’t get it, I consider his cameo appearance to
sing “Beauty School Dropout” one of the best scenes in the movie
Mel's musical taste was somewhat different than mine fifty years ago
so he wasn't as familiar with Lou Christie and Bobby Rydell as I am.
We were both impressed with Lou Christie's ability to hit his
signature high notes and we loved Bobby's show and his tribute to
his late friend Bobby Darin, another of my favorites from the 60s. I
was thrilled to hear Lesley Gore sing not only "It's My Party" and
"Judy's Turn to Cry," but also "You Don't Own Me."
When Little Anthony and the Imperials performed for our reserved
show they received a standing ovation just for walking on stage.
They really rocked the boat and had everyone singing along until
they left the stage to another standing ovation. Mel was so blown
away by their performance that we got two of their CDs from the
"Malt Shop" merchandise store.
As graduates of the Malt Shop Memories Class of 2010 we look forward
to going on to the next step in our lives by making new memories
while cherishing the old. What are we listening to on our iPods? The
going-away present we received from Sixthman—from
the Malt Shop Memories collection, a "Dancing in the Streets" CD.
(Yes, Amy, we also danced in the streets, but we wore shoes for
Top Photo © Will Byington, Others ©
Check out Sixthman
for more musical themed cruises and you'll see why nearly two-thirds
of their passengers "repeat" a Sixthman event.
Malt Shop Memories
cruise is an annual event that has been hosted by
Productions since 2011.
If you missed them, links to Cruise Diva's daily blogs: