After a successful maiden voyage in 2023, The Big Easy Cruise will once again bring the music and culture of New Orleans to the high seas when it returns for its second edition, due to set to sail from Fort Lauderdale, FL on January 5th, 2025 and make stops in Key West, Belize City, and Cozumel before returning to port on January 12th, 2025.

Much like the other themed, genre-specific floating festivals run by StarVista Live—including the late-’50s/early-’60s-themed Malt Shop Memories Cruise, the classic R&B-focused Soul Train Cruise, and the ’70s Rock & Romance Cruise, among others—The Big Easy Cruise aims to gather the greats from a celebrated and eclectic corner of the music world in order to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for a specific group of fans. It’s a model this team has been employing for decades—since long before their concert cruise era.

Before it was spun off as StarVista Live, the company was part of Time Life, perhaps best known as the purveyors of decade-specific CD box sets sold via TV infomercials. “We were Time Life up until about a year or two ago,” explained Mike Jason, StarVista’s SVP and the executive producer of The Big Easy Cruise, “and Time Life is The Hits of the ’60s, The R&B Hits of the ’70s… those infomercial sets that you saw with the 150 songs and kind of capturing a time period and kind of a feel.”

“We did that for many years,” he continued, “and about 15 years ago we said, ‘That’s not going to last forever.’ People love the music, they love the experience of listening to it, but they don’t want discs, and people don’t watch TV the same [way as they used to]. … So we said, ‘Let’s just take those great sets of music, get the artists, and perform it on ship.’ It came from the music side of the business more than the cruising side of the business, where we just said the cruise ship was a way of delivering a great experience to people.”

For The Big Easy Cruise, however, organizers always knew that capturing the unique essence of New Orleans would take more than spotlighting a single genre of music. “I’ve been to Jazz Fest a bunch of times,” Jason noted. “I’m a big fan of this music. I love the feeling of it. I love Americana—that kind of rootsy [sound] is my favorite type of music—and The Big Easy Cruise is right in that pocket. The ‘genre’ is interesting because it can go gospel, it can go blues, it can go jazz, it can go southern rock, zydeco. … It’s really uniquely American, but the music itself is pretty wide.”

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“I’m always amazed at how [this] music can be really distinct and really different, but still something about it feels like the community,” he added. “So you go from the Blind Boys of Alabama to Tab Benoit to Marcia Ball or The Soul Rebels and you’re like, wow, this is just eclectic. But there’s definitely that through line there.”

In that vain, The Big Easy Cruise will host over 100 live performances by a diverse mix of beloved artists from New Orleans and beyond including the aforementioned acts as well as Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Keb’ Mo’, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, The Allman Betts Band, Anders Osborne, Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Blind Boys of Alabama, Louisiana’s LeRoux, Dwayne Dopsie and The Zydeco Hellraisers, John Boutté, Bender Brass Band ft. Sugaray Rayford, Johnny Sansone and Chambers DesLauriers, Bonerama, Tin Men, Washboard Chaz Blues Trio, Minx Burlesque, Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, John “Papa” Gros, Sierra Green and The Giants, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, J’Wan Boudreaux, and many more across six stages—more than enough talent to provide a uniquely NOLA soundtrack for the cruise. But even a cast of artists as impressive as that wouldn’t fully capture the visceral magic of the Crescent City music world.

“It’s never been about just putting music on a ship,” Jason explained. “[For] the Country Music Cruise, we have the Grand Old Opry come in in to take over a night, and they have the [famous] mic stand, and they actually replicate the show on board. We have jam sessions, we have songwriters come and tell the story about writing the song and then perform it. We have people that are immersed in the history of country music. And obviously The Big Easy Cruise fit so well into that because it’s a world unto itself. So we said it’s got to be the combination of the music, but it’s got to be the food, it’s got to be the culture, the feeling. It’s got to be taking that community and offering them … a real, serious taste of New Orleans and Louisiana, but on the ship.”

On The Big Easy Cruise 2025, that bite of the NOLA experience will come by way of over 20 interactive artist-led events including jam sessions, Q&As, gameshows, trivia, themed pool parties, costume nights, live painting by local artists, and the very best authentic New Orleans cuisine from renowned chef Kevin Belton at all of the specialty restaurants on board.

Beyond that, Jason and the StarVista team actively work to make sure that The Big Easy Cruise schedule both facilitates the free-roaming curiosity of veteran Jazz Fest-ers and sets the artists up to partake in another crucial piece of the NOLA music tradition: collaboration. After all, going to see artists from New Orleans perform is less like going to watch a band and more like stepping into their world—a world in which everyone is connected.

“One of the complex things with [The Big Easy Cruise] is that a lot of artists from one band want to [sit in] with two or three other bands,” Jason explained. “So when we’re doing the scheduling, you can imagine how hard it is. … You can’t force it, but you set it up so that stuff happens, and the beauty of it is with these artists, they do it naturally if you give them the right environment.”

Above all, Big Easy Cruise hopes to embody perhaps the most important element of New Orleans music: the tight-knit, enthusiastic community that surrounds it. “The New Orleans community is incredible,” Jason said of the inaugural year. “It couldn’t have been more supportive from the get-go—’how can I help?’ And people volunteer to help us and gave us advice and it was a great experience.”

This year, in an effort to return that favor, The Big Easy Cruise has entered into a partnership with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the non-profit that owns the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest) to help fund its efforts.

As Mike Jason explained, “We reached out to them and said, ‘We want to raise funds for your endeavors. We want to be able to support the community and ally ourselves with all the right folks.” In addition to donating a cabin on this year’s Big Easy Cruise to recent foundation fundraising auction, Jason said, “They will have a presence on board. We will be raising additional funds for them. And we told ’em it was really just a one way street. We weren’t really looking for anything. We feel like if we have the right partners and we’re doing the right things, that kind of good things happen. It’s kind of been our approach all along.”

Book your cabin on The Big Easy Cruise and let the good times roll sail in January 2025, head here. For more information on the event, the amenities offered on the ship (the Holland America Line Nieuw Amsterdam), and the various cabin options available to book, head here.