2024 Danny Stewart Bluegrass Cruise report

Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers on Danny Stewart’s Bluegrass Cruise – photo by Gary Hatley

Bluegrass promoters Danny and Christa Stewart have been conducting bluegrass cruises since 2012. They have mixed up the perfect combination: great bluegrass entertainment, cruise line pampering, and tropical paradise. This past week they sailed to the Bahamas (Nassau and CocoCay) with over 600 fans aboard the massive Royal Caribbean Cruise Liner, the Allure of the Seas.

In addition to attendees from the east to the west coast, “We had people come from as far as the Netherlands,” Danny said.

The high-energy concerts began on Monday afternoon as soon as the ship launched from Port Canaveral, FL, and continued through Thursday evening, concluding with a meet and greet with the artists before docking on Friday morning. Bands performing included Little Roy & Lizzy Show, Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers, Sideline, Fast Track, Seth Mulder & Midnight Run, and Special Consensus. 

In addition to the daily concerts and all the amenities offered by the cruise line, there were workshops with artists, nightly jam sessions that included attendees and many of the performers, a gospel sing along, and an open mic session. With music jams going until the wee hours of the morning in multiple conference rooms reserved for the private event, attendees felt the same energy, camaraderie, and excitement one feels at IBMA’s World of Bluegrass, SPBGMA, and other gatherings of bluegrass music enthusiasts.

Jason Barie, fiddler with Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers, reflected…

“As a touring musician, we have multiple tour dates strung together over a weekend and we typically have minimal down time in between sets at the show. We then have to get on the road after the last set is played in order to make it to the next gig. So it can sometimes times be difficult to get out to enjoy a festival, hang out with the fans, or even get to jam. Jamming is something we all did and still like to do when possible. That’s one of the benefits of performing on the cruise is that we have an opportunity to enjoy the festival, and that chance to jam and just hang out with the fans. We are all at different levels in our abilities, but we can all come together and just enjoy playing and learning from each other.”

Promoted as “going on vacation with your favorite bands,” the Stewarts also arranged for fans and band members to be seated together nightly in the ship’s main dining room. Danny, Christa, and their team of hard-working volunteers made it all magically happen. Danny booked the bands and Christa managed the administrative duties and social media. Danny remarked that his cruise packages are so popular that, “when they leave the cruise ship, half of the people sign up for the next one.” On this particular cruise, there were a lot of repeat customers.

A mandolinist himself, Danny has performed with numerous bands including Remington Ride. “I played in local and regional bands for years, but then my passion shifted from playing to promoting. I didn’t want to be a road warrior anymore. I wanted to build the party and let the people come to me.”

“We have a great working relationship,” Christa said. “Success is measured by how you treat your guests.” With so many returning customers, their formula seems to be working well. 

First-time cruiser, Florida bluegrass promoter, and mandolinist, JT Shealy, reflected…

“It cannot be improved upon; great music from unpretentious bluegrass entertainers and cruise amenities were perfect. Kudos to Danny and Christa for their hard work and generosity! We’ll be back!”

Returning cruiser and MI mandolinist, Terri Grannis, noted…

“Bluegrass cruises are simply the best! We’ve been lucky enough to have cruised bluegrass-style over a dozen times. They’re the perfect blend of a festival atmosphere—performances and jamming—with the bonus of everything the cruise line offers. Different ports, cruise shows, sightseeing, etc., are incredible. The icing on the cake is making new bluegrass friends with folks from, literally, all over the globe.”

There were praises from the performers as well.

Joe Mullins stressed, “It was wonderful to be with fans, the other bands, families and friends from near and far. A cruise is always a great vacation- add in plenty of picking and fellowship and it’s hard to beat!”

Fast Track’s banjoist, Dale Perry, conveyed, “I’ve been on many bluegrass cruises in my career. Danny and Christa Stewart sure know how to put one on. This has been by far my favorite, and best one to date.”

Lizzy Long agreed. “Danny Stewart has the best bluegrass cruise bar none: always a theater, always a nice ship. The fans are there enjoying every minute!”

Steve Dilling summed it up. “I love working with Danny and Christa Stewart. They are great hosts, not only do they take care of their guests, they take care of their artists.”

Danny Stewart Productions promotes five bluegrass festivals in four different states and several bluegrass cruises. They already have two cruises scheduled for 2025: another cruise to the Bahamas, January 16-20, and an Alaskan Glacier Cruise, August 8-15.

For more information and to book your spot, visit Danny Stewarts Bluegrass Cruise online, call 570-721-2760, or contact them by email. Refundable deposits reserve you a cabin, and early booking saves in total costs.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.