When an excursion identifies itself as a “Cruise to the Edge,” it doesn’t exactly bode well for its final destination. But when the voyage is also identified with a band like Yes, whose work include the album from which the cruise takes its name, Close to the Edge, suddenly the prospects seem a lot brighter. Consequently, the Cruise to the Edge, embarking for a five-day journey from the Port of Miami on November 15 with Yes as its headliner, ought to be enough to have plenty of prog rock enthusiasts miming along on their imaginary mellotrons.
This is the band’s third such outing, and Yes’ guests this year include Marillion, Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre, Saga, Caravan, Spocks Beard, Neal Morse, Allan Holdsworth and other outfits boasting a similar progressive posture. This ship is just one in a growing trend of cruise offerings designed with a specific genre in mind, a rapidly growing vacation option for diehard devotees who have grown tired of the effort and inconvenience involved in trudging hundreds of miles to a festival site that offers limited food and a view of the stage that’s frequently less than ideal.
Geoff Downes, Yes’ keyboard player, tends to agree. “When you mention the idea of a cruise, it can have very different connotations,” he muses. “You get the idea of a retired couple going around the world. Initially, we had certain concerns that it might be perceived that way, but I think ultimately everybody in the band felt it was a novel idea, and so we gave it a try.”
Three years on, drummer Alan White concurs. “It’s quite enjoyable,” he nods. “The fans like it and I think they appreciate the band taking the time out to do something like this. There’s a multiple choice of venues on the boat and we get our choice of which bands are included. The promoters give us a list of the bands he would like to see participate and we give him a list of our own, and then we kind of come to a meeting at the end."
As far as any special logistics are concerned, White says they pose no special problem. In fact, he says, it’s easier to do a few days in one place — an advantage a cruise ship can offer — than to pick up and move like they do when typically on tour.
“We can do as much as we want or as little as what we want,” White insists. “We usually have a separate area of the boat that we can go to, so we’re not being hounded all the time by the fans and the public. It makes it a lot better for us, let’s put it that way.”
Yet one wonders if the band manages to maintain some degree of privacy while surrounded by fans in relatively close confines. “We go out and talk to the people out there on the deck, and go for a beer at the bar with certain people, or hang out with other musicians,” White reflects. “We’ve always got a place we can retreat to.”
“People will come up to you and want to engage,” Downes points out. “My advice is just to go with it. It is what it is. It’s a good time and there’s a carnival-like, festival-like atmosphere that makes everybody want to be a part of it.”
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Still, there will be some sadness lingering large this year, the result of the death of Yes founder and bassist Chris Squire just this past June. He’ll be replaced by Billy Sherwood, who’s worked with various individual Yes men on previous occasions.
“The band and its music represents the ‘70s, and I guess that in one’s mind you want to keep the Yes name going to keep that high standard of musicianship and then carry it forward,” White suggests. “Before Chris passed away, it was his wish that we persevere. When he got very sick, he called me and he called the others in the band... he was very optimistic about the future and he hoped to be back on the road by spring. So we said, ‘Ok Chris, but when you have something like leukemia, you’re going to be out of action for at least a year. And even after you get the treatment, at age 70, it doesn’t bode well for the future anyway.' They actually did get the Leukemia out of his body, but it weakened his heart so much he never did recover from it. It was shocking to everybody, especially for the band but also for the fans. But Chris wanted us to keep moving forward with the Yes name and to carry the Yes banner. And Chris wanted Billy to take over in the interim. Initially he just wanted him to do this next tour that we’re planning for right now. And then he was planning to go back. But unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way.”
Cruise to the Edge sails November 15 - 17, from Port of Miami, 1015 N America Way, Miami. Tickets cost $600 per person for a quad accommodation to $5999 per person for a 2-bedroom family penthouse with VIP experience. Government fees, taxes, and gratuities are included. Call 855-330-2883 or visit cruisetotheedge.com.