Meeting KISS on KISS Kruise III.
I’m now home from KISS Kruise III, my first cruise and, of course, my first vacation with KISS. Simply stated, it was an excellent trip that exceeded my expectations. Below is a day-by-day run down of all the crazy fun that took place during my vacation – including a plethora of photos and videos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
KISS Kruise III: The Pre-Party
Meeting Sophie Tweed Simmons at The Pre-Party.
Meeting the exceptionally talented KISS studio musician, Bob Kulick, at The Pre-Party.
I got to Miami on Sunday, October 27, a day before setting sail with KISS to get the festivities going at a pre-party hosted by the KISS Kruise fan group, KISS Kruise Maniacs. It was an awesome all-day affair filled with food, drink, music, and a handful of celebrities, including Gene Simmons’ daughter, Sophie Tweed Simmons – who I got my photo with (see above). While all the musical acts at The Pre-Party were entertaining, as evidenced by the videos below, the best was the KISS tribute band Mr. Speed:
KISS Kruise III: Day One
Photo by Will Byington.
Day one of KISS Kruise III was kicked off with an acoustic, unmasked concert by KISS. As you’ll see in the clips below, KISS sounded awesome and was in great spirits. Below is a photo of the planned set list but the fans were yelling out additional songs, and KISS wasn’t afraid to shake things up, which made for an intimate and unpredictable show.
KISS fans love merchandise, so I headed straight for the store on ship after KISS’ concert. At first, I bought one t-shirt but then I quickly succumbed to the urge to buy two more. I think all three (see below) look great. Aside from t-shirts, there were beach towels, autographed photos, drumsticks, etc. for fans to buy – and buy they did. By the end of the cruise several of the items were sold out.
In addition to KISS, there were multiple concerts happening the first night, including shows by Vintage Trouble, Leogun and a midnight performance by PRISS – the all-female KISS tribute band the fans voted to be included on KISS Kruise III. While I didn’t catch every act on Monday night, I did see these three and I was most impressed by Vintage Trouble, a fantastic new band that’s best described as a fusion of classic rock and R&B. Below are a couple songs from their debut album, The Bomb Shelter Sessions.
KISS Kruise III: Day Two
When I awoke on the second day, the boat was docked at the port in Key West, Florida. Having heard only good things about Key West, I quickly grabbed breakfast and headed for the beach, which, as you can see from the photo above and video below, was gorgeous. In the future, I’d love to come back to Key West so I can spend several days exploring what it has to offer.
Night Ranger’s lead guitarist, Brad Gillis, rocking out on KISS Kruise III.
When I returned to the ship, I cleaned up, got something to eat and headed to the Night Ranger concert. My cabin mate, Carey, loves Night Ranger, so he was pumped for the show. At the time, the only song I knew by the band was Sister Christian, which I thought was overplayed. Nevertheless, I went with an open mind and hoped for the best. I was delightfully surprised by the guitar-heavy performance and lead singer’s (i.e., Jack Blades) excellent stage presence. In addition to the hits, Night Ranger performed a couple songs by Jack Blades’ former supergroup, Damn Yankees. The band also did Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne since Night Ranger’s lead guitarist, Brad Gillis, used to be in Ozzy’s band prior to joining Night Ranger. My favorite song from the set, which I’ve included below, was “When You Close Your Eyes,” a fantastic, upbeat ballad I kept singing hours after the concert ended.
While checking out the ship after the Night Ranger concert, I came across the body paint artist who was busy at work painting hordes of KISS fans so they looked like their idols. As you can see from the photo below, one woman took body paint to another level by having the name of a KISS song, “Strutter,” painted across her chest.
With a KISS fan who decided to show her support for the band through body paint.
KISS performed the first of its two indoor, in-makeup concerts and Carey was headed to the show. My ticket was for the following night, so I, along with the other fans who were seeing the second show, congregated in the Crystal Atrium to watch a simulcast of the concert on a large digital screen.
Fans in the Crystal Atrium watching a simulcast of the first indoor KISS concert.
After the KISS concert, Carey took part in the drum-off qualifier. The winners of the qualifier would go on to compete against one another to get the chance to have a drum-off with KISS drummer Eric Singer the following day. While Carey didn’t make it to the finals, I was very impressed by his skills. Check out the video below to see him beat the skins:
KISS Kruise III: Day Three
Meeting Doc McGhee.
Day three was a big day. I met and had my photo taken with KISS and got to see the band perform. I also met the band’s manager, Doc McGhee, an icon in the music industry who’s managed everyone from James Brown to Mötley Crüe. In addition to meeting Doc, I had the chance to ask him a question during his Q&A session on the pool stage (see the video below).
I also decided to attend the Gene Simmons Pick Throwing Contest. Here’s how it worked: Fans with superior guitar pick throwing skills competed against one another to determine who would go up against the guitar-pick-throwing God of Thunder, Gene Simmons. Staff was holding buckets of varying sizes throughout the crowd and each one was worth a certain amount of points. The person with the most points won. Well, when Gene Simmons came on stage something interesting happened. Check out the video below to see what I mean:
Meeting KISS was very cool but, as expected, it was a rushed affair. With thousands of people on the boat that need to get their photo with KISS, the staff needed to keep things moving swiftly. I got a photo with the band 10 years ago when I met them at a meet-and-great for the release of the KISS Symphony: Alive IV album, so I knew what to expect. That said, I think the organizers of the cruise should extend the amount of time people have with the band to make it a more personalized experience. I’m sure many fans would forgo other activities to make this happen. Being fully prepared for a brief encounter with the band, I made sure my hair was perfect and thought long and hard about where to stand when I got to the front. Since I’m tall, I decided not to stand in the middle, where I would, more than likely, block the drummer’s face. Instead, I headed straight for my favorite band member, Paul Stanley, put my arm around him, and gave the cameraman a big smile. Thankfully, the end result was a great photo that I’ll treasure for years to come.
The set list from the indoor, in-makeup KISS concert I attended.
After meeting the band, I headed straight to the Stardust Theater for their concert. The set list was almost identical to the previous night’s concert, no doubt because KISS wanted to treat all the fans to the same great show. While KISS performed some of its mainstays like “Shout It Out Loud” and “Lick It Up,” the band also played several obscure songs fans normally never hear but love, including “Almost Human” and “The Oath.” As always, the hour-and-a-half concert was closed out with a rousing rendition of “Rock and Roll All Nite.”
KISS Kruise III: Day Four
On the last full day of the trip, I woke up in the Bahamas – Great Stirrup Cay to be exact. Despite it being an island owned by the cruise line, it was a beautiful destination with white sand and gorgeous water. Even better, a stage was set up on the beach so everyone could enjoy live music while basking in the sun or floating in the ocean. Both bands, Radiolucent and Big Rock Show – a classic rock cover band – kept the day lively and enjoyable. This may have been the most relaxing part of the entire trip – I loved it.
After getting back on the ship, Carey and I grabbed dinner and headed to the KISS Q&A on the pool deck. Since we got there early, we were very close to the stage, and I was able to record several of the questions asked by fans. Check them out below:
Meeting the hilarious Craig Gass.
After the KISS Q&A, Carey and I quickly headed to Craig Gass’ stand-up comedy show, which was hilarious. It being KISS Kruise III, Craig, who performed on the first KISS Kruise, spent the majority of his routine focused on KISS-related jokes, including impersonations of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. For a taste of his excellent sense of humor, check out his roast of Gene Simmons below:
We closed out the night with two concerts: Vintage Trouble and Night Ranger. This time around, Carey and I were against the stage for Vintage Trouble, and they were amazing. As an added surprise, Evan Stanley, the son of KISS lead singer Paul Stanley, joined the band on guitar for a cover of a classic Ike and Tina Turner song; thankfully, I filmed this moment and you can check it out below, along with another great Vintage Trouble song, “Gracefully.”
Night Ranger capped off the trip with a blistering performance, and KISS’ lead guitarist, Tommy Thayer, joined the band for its final number, “(You Can Still) Rock In America.” And since it was Halloween, many of the fans in the crowd were dressed up in a variety of outfits – everything from Smurfs to Freddy Krueger.
Night Ranger performing on the last night of KISS Kruise III.
KISS Kruise III was an excellent vacation that’s best described as an annual music festival on a ship. In addition to celebrating the impressive body of work that KISS has created over the past 40 years, KISS Kruise celebrates the bands of tomorrow. It’s not about nostalgia, it’s about the power and evolution of music, and its ability to unite fans from 33 countries for a week of pure bliss.