When it come to cruises, I’m all about the theme. These days when you’re out there navigating the waters of different experiences, you’ll find just about every pop culture-themed cruise imaginable. They run the gamut from a Star Trek sailing to an '80s-laden excursion loaded with bands from the era of parachute pants and bangle bracelets.
Among the themed cruises I’ve sailed, I must admit the Kiss Kruise wags its tongue near the top of the heap. This year the sold-out experience, which sails on the Norwegian Pearl from Miami to Jamaica Oct. 30-Nov. 3, finds Kiss recreating its famed “Alive” album on the boat. Additional acts rock the ship, including Lita Ford, Steel Panther, Fozzy and a host of others. And onboard activities such as a pajama party, a Halloween bash, a pizza party with Paul Stanley and a belly flop contest with host Gene Simmons help up this year’s ante. Included in the cost is a photo of you and your cabin mates with Kiss in full regalia.
I had the opportunity to hop aboard the inaugural Kiss Kruise in 2011. The non-stop party found Kiss fans from all over the globe converging on the boat, rubbing leather with members of the band in the process. Where else could you be noshing on dinner in an elegant restaurant with Iron Maiden blaring on the house sound system? Below are a few of the shots I captured on board.
Throughout the years, I’ve had the opportunity to interview Kiss co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Here are excerpts from those interviews.
Q.: And you’re definitely a marketing genius. Kiss products are everywhere. Anything you’ve ever shied away from endorsing?
A.: Kiss crack. That’s not a good one. It has a nice ring to it, but it’s not a good idea. Otherwise why shouldn’t everything in the world be branded Kiss? Why not? I would change the name of the planet to planet Kiss. Now tell me that doesn’t sound better than planet Earth. And everybody on the planet would wear make-up. You have four choices. You’d break your ankles walking around on the high heels, but you’d look cool.
Q.: Some folks in my neighborhood have a pair of giant cat props from an old Kiss tour. They set them out at Halloween, and it’s the hottest trick-or-treat spot in the area.
A.: I’m sure it is. I will tell you to you can go [online] and buy full Kiss outfits and Kiss make-up gear. And it’s been going like this for [more than 40] years. I remember the first time I had the sense that we became big was around 1975. We were in New York City. ...And I saw a guy dressed like me in a parade. And I said, “That’s it.” We’d entered the iconic lexicon.
Q.: What do you like most about performing on the Kiss Kruise?
A.: It’s a chance for us to not worry about the big stage show. We get out there and play obscure stuff, and really interact with the fans, which is what it’s all about. We’ve never shied away from diving into the deep end of the pool and just going for it.
Q.: Pound for pound, you have the best between-song banter in the history of rock 'n' roll.
A.: There are people who would agree, and there are people who would say it's the most absurd banter. But either way it's memorable.
Q.: Although everyone shares vocal duties, you've always been the onstage mouthpiece of the band. How did that come about?
A.: I think early on we kind of realized that the idea of everyone talking when they feel like talking is insanity. You just wind up with chaos. It just seemed like, "Gee, Paul seems to be the best at doing this. So maybe we'll all shut up." And that's how it came about. I try to make hosting the show and pacing the show part of the show. ... The show is so high-energy, the connection has to be that high-energy. ... I'm somewhere between a preacher and a game show host or somebody leading the troops. The KISS Army needs somebody to say "forward," and I guess that's my job.
Q.: Explain the band's involvement in raising money for the Wounded Warrior Care Project.
A.: It's everybody's job and obligation to give back and not just to get. You've got all of these brave men and women going overseas to fight for our freedom, and some of them make the ultimate sacrifice and lose their lives. Others come back and have all sorts of problems: physical, psychological. And the government isn't taking care of them. Augusta, Georgia, has an incredible rehabilitation facility, and all of these great soldiers deserve to be treated like heroes when they return. And we're making sure we don't let the government get in the way of helping these people.