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Malt Shop Memories Cruise
Making Memories on Eurodam
Oct 28-Nov 3, 2012


by Linda Coffman

It's good to be a Baby Boomer. That's something those of us now known as Seniors have known all our lives—we grew up at a time of prosperity and great promise and we were raised by The Greatest Generation. Wonderful things happened as we grew up… men walked on the moon and innovation, including computers and the Internet changed the way we worked and communicated. Movies (Rebel Without A Cause, American Graffiti) and television shows (Bandstand, Happy Days) were dedicated to us in our teen years.

And, of course, there was our music, which exploded on the national scene when Dick Clark began hosting American Bandstand on August 5, 1957. "It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it" became a teenager’s mantra. It’s still the clarion call for Baby Boomers to take the floor to dance to the Oldies, But Goodies by Elvis, The Platters, The Coasters, Dion and the Belmonts, Buddy Holly, Chubby Checker, and more. The list goes on and on.

Our music was amazing—in fact, it still is. Along with that good beat that you could dance to, you could understand the words and many of us remember them fifty-plus years later as we sing along.

What would it be like to turn back time, go to another sock hop, and enjoy another Prom? Just ask any of the passengers who sailed on Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2012 aboard Holland America Line’s Eurodam. Not only were we able to do those things, we attended concerts every night starring some of the best-loved artists of our day—The Chiffons, The Platters, Dion, The Tymes, The Drifters, the incomparable Chubby Checker, Darlene Love, and Kenny Vance, and an icon of our era, Frankie Avalon.

We have to give a special shout out to Chubby Checker and Dion, whose shows on the main stage were simply amazing. Chubby still has all the moves and Dion is a fantastic musician, singer, and very funny guy. Sadly, due to medical issues, Bobby Rydell was unable to sail with us. However, in a meaningful gesture he flew to San Juan to meet the ship and come aboard to greet fans and supporters until he had to leave that same evening. He even made an appearance at the early show to explain that he had undergone a double organ transplant only four months previously and then he sang a single song, “Mack the Knife,” in tribute to the late Bobby Darin.

For the Malt Shop Memories Cruise, Entertainment Cruise Productions, the the world's leader in full ship charter music cruises and Time Life, which markets a collection of Malt Shop Memories CDs, put together a sea-going hang out for those of us who remember spinning 45s on our turntables and dancing in our socks.

Pre-Cruise/Embarkation/Scheduling
When our pre-cruise package arrived in the mail we found everything inside we’d need to get ready—luggage tags, information sheets, and tee-shirts that we were invited to “decorate” to compete in a contest during the first deck event—the T-Shirt Party where the music was hot and the drinks were free. There was also an invitation to join our shipmates at a pre-cruise party at the Westin in Fort Lauderdale on Friday night.

At the pre-cruise party we learned our ship was diverted to Jacksonville due to Hurricane Sandy. As a result, instead of boarding Eurodam at Port Everglades, we boarded coaches to Jacksonville where we finally embarked hours later than planned. No problem… for those of us on board early enough, a full evening of musical events were on tap, including the opening of the “Jungle Room” and the introduction of Elvis Tribute Artists hosted by Gino Monopoli (one of my personal favorite “Elvi”) and Dwight Icenhower. While the show on the main stage had to be cancelled that night, it was rescheduled for later in the week. As a courtesy for the inconvenience, Holland America hosted open bars and all drinks were on them for the night. That popular gesture got everyone warmed up for the T-Shirt Party the next day and the partying that would continue all week long.

Activities
Hallmarks of every Entertainment Cruise Productions music-themed cruise are activities and the opportunity to interact with the artists. The Malt Shop Memories Cruise was no exception and the level of passenger participation was high. A walk down any accommodations passageway on Eurodam demonstrated that those of us who remember malt shops, 45s, drive-in movies, and poodle skirts hadn’t lost our creativity. However, when the creative gene was being distributed, my mom must have been asleep and I didn’t get one. I gave it a try with a “Beach Music” theme, but fellow Malt Shop Memories cruisers have really showed me up. One of them won a much-deserved prize for the most inventive door decorations.

One of the most popular events was “Remembering Dick Clark.” Moderated by his friend and radio personality Jerry Blavat, the discussion panel included Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, Dion, and Darlene Love (pictured here, left to right), all who appeared on Clark’s iconic television shows. Their stories and remembrances ranged from hilarious to touching. It was a real inside look into how those stars’ lives were touched by Dick Clark—and even his wife, who gave Chubby Checker his name!

We enjoyed ports of call and warm and sunny sea days filled with dance lessons, discussions hosted by various artists, an Elvis Gospel Hour featuring Elvis Tribute Artists, a cooking demonstration with Frankie Avalon, Twisting on Deck, a Hula Hoop Competition, Adult Malts and cocktail hours hosted by the artists, a Connie Francis tribute show and Celebrity Bingo with Sheri Winkleman as Marilyn Monroe, trivia contests, a renewal of vows ceremony for couples, comedy hours with David Brenner, the Buddy Holly Show with George Trullinger, and Elvis-themed karaoke. There was even a Halloween Monster Mash deck party on October 31st with a costume contest. Nightly concerts were the highlights, along with a poolside Back to the Beach BBQ and the sock hop, as well as “Prom Night” under the stars. Passengers really got into the theme—poodle skirts and ponytails were the fashion statements 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.

Count me among the major Elvis Presley fans onboard—my trio of tabby cats are Elvis, Priscilla, and Lisa Marie. To celebrate the music of the 50s and 60s—the Malt Shop Era—and the King of Rock ‘n Roll, one of the most highly competitive groups of Elvis Tribute Artists were aboard the Malt Shop Memories cruise. Some were invited to participate to compete in the richest Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in the World, with a $5,000 grand prize, but the contest was open to any passenger on board who wished to enter.

To get into the mood, we’ve enjoyed Gino Monopoli’s show in the Jungle Room (pictured here) and especially his recreation if the televised ’68 Elvis Comeback Special. Dwight Icenhower, winner of the 2011 Malt Shop Memories Elvis Tribute Artist Contest has also taken the stage. So far, we’ve also seen a number of Elvis artists mingling on board. Yes, they are easy to spot and they are generous with their time, posing for photos and chatting. Just like the real King would be if he were on board.

A signature of every sailing hosted by Entertainment Cruise Productions are pillow gifts and every night we found such tokens of appreciation as terrific souvenir books, lanyards, caps, backpacks, mugs, photo frames, and CD collections alongside the cute towel animals fashioned by our Eurodam stewards. It was like having a birthday every day!

While our time aboard was enjoyable, it was also informative. Dion hosted a presentation of “The Winter Dance Party,” a documentary film made for the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame Archives, and shared his remembrances of “The Day The Music Died” when Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Richie Valens were killed. After that horrible plane crash in February 1959, stories have varied over the years about what really happened that fateful night. Dion revealed that he won the coin toss and was to have been on the plane, but gave up his seat to Richie Valens who was unaccustomed to the frigid Midwestern winter weather and fell ill on the bus that had no heat. In Dion’s words, it was the “The Day The Music Exploded” and, thankfully, the music lives on.

George Trullinger as Buddy Holly and Cruise Diva swap glasses for a fun photo

Mel and I had a great time on the cruise because 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 was the music and the opportunity to enjoy the artists we all love.

This wasn’t our first Malt Shop Memories and it won’t be our last—we are looking forward to the Malt Shop Memories Cruise in 2013.

Photos CruiseDiva.com

Check out Entertainment Cruise Productions for more musical themed cruises and you'll see why so many of their passengers repeat an ECP event. Then head over to the Malt Shop Memories site for hundreds of photos and to book your cabin.

If you missed them, links to Cruise Diva's daily blogs:

Getting to the Malt Shop/Hurricane Sandy Cruise
At Home Aboard Eurodam
Malt Shop Memories Cruise, The Hurricane Edition
Malt Shop Memories Cruise, At Sea
Malt Shop Memories Cruise, Elvis Tribute
Malt Shop Memories Cruise, The Difference
Malt Shop Memories Cruise, The Activities
Until Next Year, The Malt Shop Memories Cruise


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