Joe Bonamassa's Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea: Mediterranean Cruise

As the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Pearl pulled out of Barcelona, Spain, headed for Monte Carlo, Monaco and Valletta, Malta, the sea was calm and would remain so throughout the voyage. But man was the ship rockin' anyway! The Pearl was the venue for Joe Bonamassa's first Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea cruise to take place in Europe and Bonamassa made sure that fans would have a memorable experience by bringing along pals like Peter Frampton, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Vintage Trouble, Eric Gales and many others, including Joanne Shaw Taylor who got the honor of getting the festival started as the Pearl pulled out of Barcelona.

Blues Alive at Sea
Joanne Shaw Taylor

The Mediterranean edition of Joe's Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea series of cruises took place Aug. 16-21, 2019 and it was such a phenomenal good time that 2020's cruise is already in the works. Performances took place all over the ship; on stages set up in some of the Pearl's bars, in the two-level Stardust Theater and at the main stage which was set up on the ship's pool deck. And it was at the pool deck stage that Taylor played a blistering set of blues rock including songs like "The Best Thing" and "I've Been Lovin' You Too Long" from her Restless Heart album along with a bunch of older favorites like "No Reason to Stay." The Pearl's engines were working just fine at the time but if they had of quit, Taylor's powerful guitar playing might just have been enough to push the ship out to sea!

Blues Alive at Sea
Kenny Wayne Shepherd

The pool deck stage was where Bonamassa and Frampton played, performing two stellar sets each over the course of the cruise. Frampton played all of his hits and favorites along with spotlighting his new blues album, and of course he broke out the "talk box" that he so famously used on Frampton Comes Alive.

Blues Alive at Sea
Peter Frampton

Bonamassa showed why he is one of the most beloved players on the scene today, scorching his fretboard as he and his band romped through songs like Muddy Waters' "Tiger in Your Tank," Kenny Neal's "If Heartaches Were Nickels" and even Led Zeppelin's "Tea For One." Joe's generous set, which in a nod to the ancient Roman ruins found throughout the Mediterranean, began with the guitarist wearing a toga.

Blues Alive at Sea
Joe Bonamassa

Just about every performer played two or more times during the cruise which meant that fans had a chance to see all of the acts if they put a bit of effort into studying the performance schedule. So if fans missed Eric Bibb's show on his birthday on sail away day, there were a couple of other chances. The same applied to others like former Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden, Georgia's slide guitar-loving sisters Larkin Poe and rising stars like Jade MacRae, Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin Stones and Australian band Little Billie. Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton, Robert Jon & the Wreck, Jonathan Long, John Nemeth, King King, Ryan McGarvey, Curtis Harding, Philip Sayce and Toronzo Cannon rounded out the floating festival's impressive line-up.

Blues Alive at Sea
Rebecca Lovell of Larkin Poe

Blues Alive at Sea
Bernie Marsden

Besides all of the fun that you can find aboard the Pearl on any given cruise (casino, spa, bars and restaurants including a fabulous buffet) Bonamassa's crew had put together lots of exciting activities like autograph sessions with most of the players, a taping of Bonamassa's radio show, a whiskey tasting, a Q&A with Frampton where he answered questions submitted by fans, and screenings of classic music films like The Band's "The Last Waltz." And the excitement level was through the roof when fans disembarked to explore ritzy Monte Carlo and historic Malta. On the two days that the Pearl made shore calls shows aboard ship did not start until later in the day so that fans could take their time on land without fear of missing anything.

The next Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea: Mediterranean cruise will take place Aug. 14-19, 2020 aboard the Norwegian Jade sailing to Cannes, France and Genoa, Italy. A few of the acts that'll be on board with Bonamassa will be Walter Trout, Ana Popovic and the James Hunter Six. Further details will be announced here.

The Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea cruises are produced by Sixthman, who also produce the KISS Kruise, The Rock Boat, The Outlaw Country Cruise, The Melissa Etheridge Cruise and many others. Information is here.

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