From Nudity to NKOTB: 10 Interesting Theme Cruises

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iStock

Theme cruises, by their very nature, appeal to a specific subset of the population. To everyone else, they may seem like a colossal waste of money and time. What began as a means for cruise lines to attract a few extra customers during the non-peak cruising season has grown into a booming business. Of all the theme cruises currently offered, here are 10 that caught our eye.

1. Thunder in the Tropics

Thunder Roads Magazine, in conjunction with Entertainment and Travel Alternatives, is sponsoring a Caribbean cruise for bikers this winter. The private beach party in St. Maarten, which will feature mud wrestling contests and a scavenger hunt for buried treasure, figures to be one of the highlights of the trip. From the event’s website: “This IS NOT your typical bike rally cruise.” Would your typical bike rally cruise include Thunder Bingo, with huge cash prizes, or a surfing contest on the ship’s FlowRider? We’re not sure. The cruise itinerary includes a number of other contests, as bikers will compete for the title of best beard, belly-flop, chest, and tattoo.

2. Titanic Memorial

History buffs may appreciate this cruise from April 8-19, 2012, which will retrace the itinerary of the Titanic, 100 years after the world’s largest passenger ship sank during its maiden voyage.

Guests will cruise on the Balmoral, which is operated by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, whose parent company built the Titanic.

With 1,309 passengers aboard, the same number as were on the Titanic, the Balmoral will depart Southampton, stop in Cobh, and then head for the spot where the Titanic sank. A memorial ceremony will be held between the time Captain Edward J. Smith’s vessel hit the iceberg on the night of April 14 and the time the ship went under. The cruise will continue to Halifax, Nova Scotia, home of the cemetery where 121 of the Titanic’s passengers are buried.

Lectures chronicling the ship’s history and tragic end will be provided throughout the journey, while the menu will match the Titanic’s and the entertainment will be based on music and dance from that period.

3. I Love Lucy

A cruise ship is a fitting setting to celebrate the 60th anniversary of I Love Lucy, considering a 1957 episode of the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour revealed that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s characters met on a 1940 cruise to Havana. The November 2011 I Love Lucy Cruise to the western Caribbean on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas will also commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ball’s birth. The beloved actress died in 1989.

In addition to enjoying the ship’s zip-line and rock climbing walls, guests will be treated to a birthday party (with conga band, of course), Lucy trivia, impersonation contests, and non-stop screenings of the show. Keith Thibodeaux, who played Little Ricky, will be one of several featured guests.

4. Bare Necessities

Since 1990, Bare Necessities has chartered nude cruises for those who enjoy a little extra freedom on their vacations. The company’s mission is to “provide relaxing, entertaining and health-conscious vacation opportunities that offer non-threatening, natural environments where the appreciation, wonder and compatibility of nature and the unadorned human form can occur.” When Nancy Tiemann and her husband, Tom, started the company, they booked their first trip on a small dive boat. Today, Bare Necessities cruises top more than 2,000 passengers.

Are clothes always optional? “In the formal dining room we’re clothed and also when we get out of international waters and approach a country where nudity is illegal, which is most of them,” Tiemann told The Washington Post in 2009.

5. Whodunit Mystery Cruise

Whodunit Productions offers live mystery theme cruises for amateur sleuths throughout the year. As part of the productions, which are designed to be as comical as they are suspenseful, passengers are given a role to play for the duration of the cruise when they board the ship. It is up to the individual passenger how much he or she participates in the mystery, which begins on the first night and culminates with the solution being revealed on the last day. Hired actors play the most important roles in the mystery, slipping suspicious notes under cabin doors and placing clue-filled calls to passengers’ rooms. There’s often a prize for the top sleuth. Whodunit Productions is leading a Halloween-themed mystery cruise to the Bahamas later this month.

6. Backstreet Boys and New Kids On The Block

What’s a once wildly popular boy band to do when its celebrity starts to wane? Take a cruise. That’s what the Backstreet Boys and New Kids On The Block are doing anyway. The Backstreet Boys will welcome fans on a 5-day cruise to Key West and Cozumel aboard the Carnival Destiny in December. Those lucky enough to score a ticket—the cruise sold out in a day—will be treated to BSB performances and a question and answer session with the band. The not-so-New Kids On The Block are no strangers to cruising. The group’s 2009 and 2010 cruises both sold out.

7. Scrapbooking

The Strawberry Fields Scrapbook Shop in Cape Coral, Fla., has sold out its three-night cruise to the Bahamas this November. Liz Hicks leads classes on artful adhesives and different paint mediums, among other topics. Scrapbooking theme cruises have become increasingly popular in recent years. They typically feature a mix of expert-led sessions or classes, and open crops, during which participants can share scrapbooking tips and techniques with fellow scrapbook enthusiasts.

8. Pathway to Enlightenment

Famed psychic and healer Lisa Williams, who starred on a pair of Lifetime shows from 2006-2008, invites fans to join her on a 1-week cruise to the Mexican Riviera later this month. During the trip, Williams will discuss the difference between psychic and mediumship skills, and lead hands-on practice sessions with cards, pendulums, and crystal balls. Two attendees will be randomly selected to receive a free personal 1-hour reading with Williams.

9. Twilight

In August, Twilight fans took a 4-day cruise from Seattle to British Columbia and Alaska. The voyage, which included photo shoots and autograph sessions with some of the saga’s actors and actresses, was preceded by a land excursion to Forks, Wash., a key setting in the series. Plans are already in the works for a Twilight cruise to the Mediterranean in June 2011. Earlier this year, a Deadliest Catch-themed cruise followed a similar round-trip route from Seattle to Alaska. During the cruise, Captain Keith Colburn, one of the stars of the popular Discovery Channel show, taught guests how to select, crack, and clean fresh crab.

10. SpyCruise

SpyCruise is sponsored by the Northern Virginia-based Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies, a private intelligence training facility. Participants attend exclusive lectures on espionage and counterterrorism given by some of the intelligence community’s leading experts. The upcoming SpyCruise to the Caribbean will feature former CIA director Porter Goss and former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden. Attendees may receive academic credit through Henley-Putnam University and potentially write off all or part of the cost of the cruise by claiming it part of professional development.

11 Facts About French Bulldogs

iStock/carolinemaryan
iStock/carolinemaryan

These cute little dogs are enjoying a serious comeback. Here’s the scoop on the fourth most popular dog breed in America. 

1. FRENCH BULLDOGS HAVE ROOTS IN ENGLAND.


iStock/malrok

The French bulldog’s origins are murky, but most sources trace their roots to English bulldogs. Lace makers in England were drawn to the toy version of the dog and would use the smaller pups as lap warmers while they worked. When the lace industry moved to France, they took their dogs with them. There, the English bulldogs probably bred with terriers to create bouledogues français, or French bulldogs. 

2. THEY WERE BRED TO BE GREAT COMPANIONS.

Frenchies are affectionate, friendly dogs that were bred to be companions. Although they’re somewhat slow to be housebroken, they get along well with other dogs and aren’t big barkers. The dogs don’t need much exercise, so they are fine in small areas and enjoy the safety of a crate.

3. THEY CAN'T SWIM.


iStock/ginastancel

As a result of their squat frame and bulbous head, French bulldogs can’t swim, so pool owners should keep a watchful eye on their pups. Keep in mind that if you plan a beach vacation, your furry friend might feel a little left out. 

4. FLYING IS A PROBLEM FOR THEM, TOO.

French Bulldogs are a brachycephalic breed, meaning they have shorter snouts than other dogs. These pushed-in faces can lead to a variety of breathing problems. This facial structure, coupled with high stress and uncomfortably warm temperatures, can lead to fatal situations for dogs with smaller snouts. Many breeds like bulldogs and pugs have perished while flying, so as a result, many airlines have banned them. 

Luckily there are special airlines just for pets, like Pet Jets. These companies will transport dogs with special needs on their own flights separate from their owners. There's a human on board to take care of any pups that get sick or panic. 

5. THEY MAKE GREAT BABYSITTERS.

When a baby orangutan named Malone was abandoned by his mother, the Twycross Zoo in England didn’t know if he would make it. Luckily, a 9-year-old French bulldog named Bugsy stepped in and took care of the little guy. The pair became fast friends and would even fall asleep together. When Malone was big enough, he joined the other orangutans at the zoo. 

6. THEY'RE SENSITIVE TO CRITICISM.

Frenchies are very sensitive, so they do not take criticism lightly. If you scold a French bulldog, it might take it very seriously and mope around the house. French bulldogs respond better to positive reinforcement and encouragement. 

7. THEY'RE A TALKATIVE BREED. 

French bulldogs might not bark much, but they do like to “talk.” Using a complex system of yawns, yips, and gargles, the dogs can convey the illusion of their own language. Sometimes they will even sing along with you in the car. 

8. THEY HAVE TWO STYLES OF EARS. 


iStock/IvonneW

Originally, French bulldogs had rose-shaped ears, similar to their larger relative, the English bulldog. English breeders much preferred the shape, but American breeders liked the unique bat ears. When a rose-eared bulldog was featured at the Westminster Kennel Club in 1897, American dog fanciers were very angry

9. THIS CONTROVERSY LED TO THE FORMATION OF THE FRENCH BULL DOG CLUB OF AMERICA.

The FBDCA was founded in protest of the rose-shaped ears. The organization threw its first specialty show in 1898 at New York City’s famed Waldorf-Astoria. The FBDCA website described the event: “amid palms, potted plants, rich rugs and soft divans. Hundreds of engraved invitations were sent out and the cream of New York society showed up. And, of course, rose-eared dogs were not welcomed.”

The somewhat catty efforts of the club led to the breed moving away from rose-shaped ears entirely. Today, French bulldogs feature the bat-shaped ears American breeders fought to showcase. 

10. MOST FRENCH BULLDOGS ARE BORN THROUGH ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION. 

Due to their unusual proportions, the dogs have a little trouble copulating. Males have a hard time reaching the females, and they often get overheated and exhausted when trying to get things going. As a result, a large majority of French bulldogs are created through artificial insemination. While this measure makes each litter of pups more expensive, it also allows breeders to check for potential problems during the process. 

French bulldogs often also have problems giving birth, so many must undergo a C-section. The operation ensures the dog will not have to weather too much stress and prevents future health complications.

11. CELEBRITIES LOVE FRENCHIES.

Frenchies make plenty of appearances in the tabloids. Celebrities like Lady Gaga, Hugh Jackman, and The Rock have all been seen frolicking with their French bulldogs. Even Leonardo DiCaprio has one—aptly named Django. Hugh Jackman’s Frenchie is named Dali, after the way the dog’s mouth curls like the famous artist’s mustache. 

This article originally ran in 2015.

12 Festive Facts About A Christmas Story

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Which Oscar-winning star wanted to play Ralphie Parker's dad? Which actor went on to have a seedy career in the adult film industry? Can you really get your tongue stuck to a metal pole? On the 35th anniversary of A Christmas Story's debut, here are a few tidbits about the holiday classic to tide you over until TNT's 24-hour Christmas marathon.

1. JACK NICHOLSON WAS INTERESTED IN PLAYING RALPHIE'S DAD.

Though Jack Nicholson was reportedly offered the role of The Old Man Parker, and interested, casting—and paying—him would have meant doubling the budget. But director Bob Clark, who didn't know Nicholson was interested, said Darren McGavin was the perfect choice for the role.

2. IT OWES A DEBT TO PORKY'S.

What does Porky's—a raunchy 1980s teen sex comedy—have to do with a wholesome film like A Christmas Story? Bob Clark directed both: Porky's in 1982 and A Christmas Story in 1983. If Porky's hadn't given him the professional and financial success he needed, he wouldn't have been able to bring A Christmas Story to the big screen.

3. RALPHIE SAYS HE WANTS A RED RYDER BB GUN A LOT.

For anyone keeping count, Ralphie says he wants the Red Ryder BB Gun 28 times throughout the course of the movie. That's approximately once every three minutes and 20 seconds.

4. THESE DAYS, PETER BILLINGSLEY SPENDS HIS TIME BEHIND THE CAMERA.

Peter Billingsley, a.k.a. Ralphie, has been good friends with Vince Vaughn since they both appeared in a CBS Schoolbreak Special together in the early 1990s. He doesn't do much acting these days, though he has popped up in cameos (including one in Elf, another holiday classic). Instead, Billingsley prefers to spend his time behind the camera as a director and producer. He has done a lot of work with Vaughn and Jon Favreau, including serving as an executive producer on Iron Man (in which he also made a cameo).

5. YES, YOU CAN GET YOUR TONGUE STUCK ON A PIECE OF COLD METAL.

Mythbusters tested whether it was possible to get your tongue truly stuck on a piece of cold metal. Guess what? It is. So don't triple dog dare your best friend to try it.

6. ONE OF THE YOUNG ACTORS MOVED ON TO A CAREER IN ADULT FILMS.

Scott Schwartz, who played Flick (the kid who stuck his tongue to the frozen flagpole), spent several years working in the adult film industry. In 2000, he turned his attention back to mainstream films. His most recent role was as "Disco City Hot Dog Vendor" in the 2017 TV movie Vape Warz.

7. RALPHIE'S HOUSE IS NOW A MUSEUM.

Next time you're in Cleveland, you can visit the original house from the movie. It was sold on eBay in 2004 for $150,000. Collector Brian Jones bought the house and restored it to its movie glory and stocked it up with some of the original props from the film, including Randy's snowsuit.

8. THE IDEA FOR THE FILM CAME TO BOB CLARK WHILE HE WAS DRIVING TO PICK UP A DATE.

Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, and Ian Petrella in A Christmas Story (1983)
Warner Home Video

Director Bob Clark got the idea for the movie when he was driving to pick up a date. He heard Jean Shepherd on the radio doing a reading of his short story collection, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, which included some bits that eventually ended up in A Christmas Story. Clark said he drove around the block for an hour until the program ended (which his date was not too happy about).

9. IT PARTLY INSPIRED THE WONDER YEARS.

The Wonder Years was inspired in part by A Christmas Story. In fact, toward the very end of the series, Peter Billingsley even played one of Kevin Arnold's roommates.

10. YOU CAN STILL BUY A RED RYDER BB GUN.

The real Red Ryder BB Gun was first made in 1938 and was named after a comic strip cowboy. You can still buy it today for the low, low price of $39.99. But the original wasn't quite the same as the one in the movie; it lacked the compass and sundial that both the Jean Shepherd story and the movie call for. Special versions had to be made just for A Christmas Story.

11. THE LEG LAMP CAN ALSO BE YOURS.

Peter Billingsley and Melinda Dillon in A Christmas Story (1983)
Warner Home Video

While we're talking shopping: you know you want the leg lamp. Put it in your window! Be the envy of your neighbors! It's a Major Award! You can buy it on Amazon (there's a 40-inch version, as well as a 20-inch replica). If you're not feeling quite so flamboyant, they also make a nightlight version.

12. IT SPAWNED A TRIO OF SEQUELS.

A Christmas Story led to two little-talked-about sequels. The first one was a 1988 made-for-TV movie, Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss. Jerry O'Connell played 14-year-old Ralphie, who is excited about his first job—as a furniture mover. Of course, it ends up being awful, and it might make him miss the annual family vacation at Mr. Hopnoodle's lakeside cabins.

My Summer Story, a.k.a. It Runs in the Family, debuted on the big screen in 1994. Kieran Culkin plays Ralphie, Mary Steenburgen is his mom, and Charles Grodin is his dad.

And in 2012, the direct-to-video sequel A Christmas Story 2 picked up five years after the original movie left off, with Ralphie attempting to get his parents to buy him a car.

An earlier version of this story appeared in 2008.

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