Have you ever imagined going on vacation with your favourite artists and bands? It may sound like an impossible experience but with Sixthman’s festivals at sea in partnership with Norwegian Cruise Line, you can do just that.
Sixthman proudly tears down walls between artists and fans by creating community-inspired vacation experiences at resorts and at sea. To get a more intimate idea of what these truly immersive experiences are all about, I sat down with Jeff Cuellar – Vice President of Events, Marketing and Community.
Sixthman and NCL have been entertainment partners for some time. How did this partnership come about?
It really is a match made in heaven. There’s a large amount of competition in the cruise entertainment industry in the US and internationally. My background comes from producing major land festivals for the last 2 decades before coming over to Sixthman to help develop and grow the business. The US is probably 10 or 15 years behind Europe when it comes to land festivals but when it comes to destination festivals, I’d say the US is 10 years ahead.
So, this marriage of NCL and Sixthman is really a great opportunity for NCL to be able to differentiate as the best in class in terms of immersive destination events. It also allows us to look at the ships themselves to see if we can create some permanent infrastructure to allow for better experiences. This partnership is a beautiful thing which allows us to take chances and do some bigger things and it’s an opportunity to pull in new fans to cruising who have never cruised before.
Of all the cruise festivals you’ve produced, which has been your most memorable and why?
That’s a great question. Probably the one we have yet to launch because I am continuously amazed at what we can do. For Flogging Molly this past Fall, we built a skate ramp on the sport court with professional skateboarders doing tricks. I’m so excited to see how we are executing Broadway. It’s just such a unique event. It’s not just going to see a Broadway show. It’s so much more than that. Personally, I’m a major hip-hop head so to partner with Rock the Bells especially during the 50th anniversary celebration of hip-hop, that’s going to be something truly special. We work so hard to execute these and then immediately think, how can we make this better and what else can we do to really wow people.
Who are your dream artists that you would love to have as part of your festivals?
O gosh. It really is less about the artist and more about the fan base. It’s where you see the most excitement and it’s that intersection where we find the artists that have that insane fan base. I love to talk about Coheed and Cambria. They are a phenomenal live act but with their fan base, it was the fastest selling event in Sixthman’s history. The fact that you’ve got that group of passionate fans together and you’re able to deliver an experience is a way to really dig into those tribes and deliver something truly special. The most exciting thing is uncovering where those passionate fans lie, that’s where the real magic is made.
Have you ever considered any South African artists or bands?
Africa right now is hot. We are very much looking into what’s coming out of Africa and South Africa and what will translate into what we do. The opportunity is there and with NCL who goes to more ports than any other cruise line in the world. So, our ability to identify those pockets and see where we can develop special itineraries. If we can super serve a guest then it’s on the table. The sky is the limit to what we can do if we know there is a passionate fan base that we can take on vacation.
Covid was a very difficult time for the cruise and entertainment industries. How did you remain positive and focused during this time?
We realised how we took our ability to move around and be together for granted. It allowed us to figure out what’s important and what we’ve seen coming out of the pandemic is the desire for people to be together and to have that shared live experience. More value is now being put on experiences and that puts us in a position for success. This really showed us that we are in the right place. From seeing what was taken away, now I value what we do and how we do it so much more. We are able to help people enjoy and explore this beautiful world in a way that is truly unique.
What’s next in the NCL and Sixthman partnership?
Wow, what isn’t next? We’re growing and rolling off more events. We have 18 this year and 23 next year. We see the growth and the opportunity that’s there. From sports, to music, to convention style events to food and wine. You name it if there’s passion there then there’s something we’re looking for. We’re in the great position to sustain the business we have and to do more. Our relationship with NCL also allows us to take some chances.
Very soon I’ll be joining Jeff and and Joe Bonamassa. We’ll be Keeping the Blues Alive in the Mediterranean as we sail from Athens to Dubrovnik and Santorini. Keep a eye on all our platforms as we truly Live Loud!