“Its a kind of celebration," Hayward says.EXPAND
“Its a kind of celebration," Hayward says.
Photo Courtesy of Moody Blues Cruise

Justin Hayward on Moody Blues Cruise: "It’s as Special for Us as It Is for the Fans"

With the plethora of themed musical cruises popping up practically every day, it was inevitable that an established band like the Moody Blues would jump on the proverbial bandwagon — or in this case, the luxurious cruise ship the NCL Pearl — and host an outing of their own.

“The idea of a cruise never entered my mind,” the band’s vocalist and guitarist Justin Hayward admits. “I never thought about the Moody Blues going on a cruise. I never thought of that as what the Moody Blues would be about."

But as it turned out, the Moody Blues Cruise became a tradition, one that Hayward himself quickly warmed to. “Eventually the company convinced us that it would be something different,” he recalls. “It wasn’t that we were simply the entertainers on the cruise but rather the cruise was the Moody Blues. Everyone on the ship would be Moody Blues fans. So with the audience and the band there together, the whole environment would be just like a festival."

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In fact, Hayward and his bandmates — bassist John Lodge and drummer Graeme Edge — have embraced the idea so enthusiastically that they’re now looking forward to the third outing of their signature cruise, set to embark from February 26 to March 1, sailing from the Port of Miami, with stops in Key West and the Bahamas. Can cruisers expect "Nights in White Satin"? Perhaps, but it will be a nostalgic sojourn regardless. Fellow travelers from eras past include such vintage acts as the Zombies, the Orchestra (consisting of ex-members of ELO), John Waite, the Ides of March, and, in a particularly appropriate twist, Christopher Cross, whose song “Sailing” should provide the voyage with its theme song.

“It’s always fun,” Hayward says. “It's a kind of celebration. It’s as special for us as it is for the fans."

Hayward says that one of his favorite features of the cruise is the question-and-answer segments with the individual members, each of whom gets his own special solo spot. “The less sort of controlled those bits are, the more fun they are,” he insists. “I like the unexpected questions, I like it when it’s completely unscripted. The fans think we all live together in this big house and we’re all best buddies and we do things together all the time."

Of course, when band and fans are in close proximity, there’s always the possibility for some mingling, and indeed, that’s one of the opportunities that a cruise offers over any traditional concert experience. Still, one shouldn’t expect unimpeded access to the stars.

“I tried stepping over the golden rope on the first cruise, and I didn’t get more than a few feet,” Hayward recalls. “That’s OK. I perfectly understand that. The Moodies fans are a lovely crowd. They’re gentle. They’re loving. So far, I’ve never had anyone be rude to me. Mostly, they just want a picture or to ask a couple of questions." Still, he cautions, there are boundaries. “I’ve never been able to just sit by the pool,” Hayward admits. “It’s not fair to the fans. It’s too much of a temptation for them.”

So what does he do when he’s not onstage or basking in the spotlight? Like many other passengers, he takes an opportunity to lie back and relax. “I catch up on my life outside the band, my own affairs, to plan some solo things,” he reflects. “It’s also an opportunity to catch up on my reading. The other guys like to do a lot of mixing, but I like to take that time for myself.”

There’s also time for reflection and, if you’re a member of an uber-successful band like the Moody Blues, to bask in your own awesome achievements.

“One night about midnight, I was just strolling along the top of the ship,” Hayward recalls. “We were in the middle of the Caribbean. There were beautiful moonlit stars everywhere, shooting stars above, two and a half, maybe three thousand people on the ship, and, suddenly, I stop and look down and I see these huge screens around the swimming pool. They were actually showing a film of the Moody Blues at the Montreux Jazz Festival. And there were all these people sitting around and watching it. It was very strange to be looking over at everyone and watching the screen and seeing myself. I thought, Yeah, this is really good."

The Moody Blues Cruise with Moody Blues, the Zombies, and more. February 26 to March 1, sailing from the Port of Miami, 1120 Port Blvd. Tickets cost $650 to $8,999 via MoodiesCruise.com.

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