Having written a column about theme cruises for Porthole Cruise Magazine for five years, I’ve covered everything from Goth cruises to ghost-hunting cruises, murder mystery cruises to psychic cruises, baseball legends cruises to pirate cruises (see my previous post on the latter) and many more.
For those unfamiliar with theme cruises, they involve like-minded groups of people going for a cruise together to spend usually a week or more pursuing a particular subject, including the topics above or others such as motorcycles, blues music, ukulele playing, ballroom dancing or soap operas. The may attend classes, talks, and practice sessions, take specialized shore excursions, and play trivia games and share meals with their fellow devotees. In some cases, they go scuba diving, play soccer at sea, or even run marathons.
The thing that’s struck me most about the people who go on theme cruises is their passion for the theme at hand. But none have surprised me more than the passion of knitting cruisers.
I hesitated at first to write about knitting cruises because I thought the subject matter would be, well, boring. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The knitters I interviewed for my story were as passionate about knitting as the Scrabble cruisers were about Scrabble or the vampire cruisers were about vampires, and that’s saying a lot.
While there are a number of agencies and small companies offering knitting cruises, one of the savviest — and most prolific — is Craft Cruises. Headquartered in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Craft Cruises is the brainchild of Melissa Gower-Pence, who — as a travel agent in Seattle and a knitting novice — put together her first knitting cruise in 1999.
She now runs 10-12 Craft Cruises annually, most revolving around knitting, with groups averaging between 20 and 60 passengers per voyage, mostly on Holland America ships. Most are of baby boomer age.
Her timing was impeccable. Knitting was seen as a dying art back in the mid-1990s, but, post-September 11, 2001, it has seen a huge revival, as people try to cope with economic and social stresses. Estimates of the number of knitters in the U.S. alone now top 50 million.
“People wanted to be part of a community and lead simpler lives,” one knitting cruiser told me. Knitting is non-competitive, relaxing, and practical as well — supplies are easy to carry, you can knit just about anywhere, and eventually you have a pair of socks or a sweater to show for it.
Knitters as a whole tend to be more affluent than average, and are willing to spend money to pursue their passion around the world — knitting cruisers are usually avid shoppers for special yarns and wool in ports from Scotland to Japan and Hawaii.
Craft Cruises is another example of how an entrepreneurial vision — combined with solid organizational skills — has launched a successful niche in the already crowded field of cruising.
What other passionate groups are out there waiting to be tapped for their own theme cruises? It’s worth some thought.
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