Ahoy! 'Monsters of Rock' cruise hits the high seas

The MSC Divina cruise ship arrives at Marseille harbor, France.
Gerard Julien | AFP | Getty Images
The MSC Divina cruise ship arrives at Marseille harbor, France.

In Larry Morand's former life, he was a tour manager for some of the world's biggest hard rock bands like Poison and Ratt. Today, he's not just taking the band on tour—he's hitting the open seas and bringing the fans.

And unlike in previous years, this time everyone gets a backstage pass.

Morand is producer of the five-day "Monsters of Rock" Cruise, an ocean excursion that's scheduled to leave Miami for the Bahamas this weekend. It promises plenty of "fun, sun and rock star debauchery."

"The people on the cruise know how to handle their partying," he said in a CNBC in an interview. But this is still rock 'n' roll, and therefore it's still a nonstop party, he adds.

Working in the music industry since college, Morand has seen it all. He started in the early 1980s as an intern for the late Ronnie James Dio, who in his heyday fronted for groups like Black Sabbath and Rainbow. Dio, a heavy metal icon, and manager-wife Wendy became mentors to Morand.

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From a castle to the high seas

Rock band Night Ranger performs on "The Late Late Show" in Los Angeles.
Getty Images
Rock band Night Ranger performs on "The Late Late Show" in Los Angeles.

Now 51 with a family at home, he said he's been "looking for an out" from the grueling work and long stretches away from home as a rock tour manager. He calls that "a younger man's game."

Four years ago, Morand hooked up with cruise industry veteran Mike London, and the Monsters of Rock Cruise was born. The tour is based on the old Monsters of Rock annual festivals, which once regaled rock listeners at England's Castle Donington.

As it turns out, touring the ocean is a lot more work than driving cross-country in a tour bus. Yet this is just a 5 day tour, and for Morand and the bands on board, the beautiful backdrop of Miami and the Bahamas makes it seem easier.

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This year's lineup includes more than 30 classic hard rock artists like Night Ranger, Cinderella, Queensryche, Lita Ford, Tesla, and Extreme.

Although these rockers can't fill large arenas like they used to, they can still play to a sold-out ship. The tour is using one of the largest cruise ships in the world, the MSC Divina, and more than 3,400 rock fans paid around $1,000 for the privilege of rocking out to classic acts.

On board, the fans get a chance to really connect with their favorite rockers, something they might not get a chance to do at a traditional music festival.

"There's a great vibe on the ship," Morand said. "The bands bring their families, and the fans have become friends off the ship."

"Theme cruises are a great idea," said Monty Mathisen, managing editor of Cruise Industry News, who expects such geatways will help make the cruise industry even more popular. In 2015, he's projecting 23 million people will go cruises of various sorts.

Morand is moving full steam ahead, trying to get a piece that action by creating niche experiences for willing fans. He already produces a progressive rock cruise, a Moody Blues cruise and even a craft-beer-lovers cruise. Next year he plans to create some 'Hysteria on the High Seas' when he sets sail with one of the biggest selling rock bands of all time, Def Leppard.

"Sky's the limit", Morand said of this new chapter of his career.