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It only takes a short stroll through my small office to get a sense of my musical taste. I have records on display from Frank Sinatra, Kamasi Washington, Dawes, Santigold and Superchunk, just to name a handful, and on the other side of the room is a mountain of concert tickets, lanyards and signed posters from other bands I’ve seen and have adored listening to for many years.

So, and to be perfectly honest, when I think back on my oldest child’s first concert, it’s not exactly the way I’d have drawn it up. As a child who grew up with the sounds of Sinatra and Nat King Cole, and as a young man forged by the discordant guitars and odd time signatures of post-punk and independent college radio, I’d probably have chosen someone other than Willie Nelson to be the first concert experience of my first born child.

Old Blue Eyes and Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye aside, as first concerts go, Willie Nelson (and no-slouch-headliner Bob Dylan) at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown during a family road trip is still pretty darn impressive. That my oldest child is incapable of having a single memory of that warm August evening is of no real consequence, she was but a child, an infant of 5-months, when she rocked out mostly slept through uneven sets by Nelson and Dylan, but it was our first live music experience shared as a family and it’ll always be special to me for that reason.

The important take away is on that August weekend, we laid the foundation for a family life of travel and of live music, and often, spectacular days and nights when those two intersect perfectly; like when we were in Colorado to see The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks, celebrated New Year’s Eve with The Pop Ups, Justin Roberts, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and Lucky Diaz at Legoland California, drove down to Maryland to see Dawes perform with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and headed up to Rhode Island for multiple Newport Folk Festivals.

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Sam Hunt performs on the Carnival Splendor in Cozumel, Mexico. Photo by Jeff Bogle.

120 months after sleeping through the better portion of Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, that same child, now a full-fledged tween, was very much awake when Sam Hunt tore up the Carnival Splendor’s Spectacular Theater stage whilst docked in Cozumel, Mexico. Another vacation, another concert, only this time, for the first time in our lives, it was a concert during a cruise!

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Sam Hunt performs on the Carnival Splendor in Cozumel, Mexico. Photo by Jeff Bogle.

Live entertainment has always been a mainstay of cruising, but big name musical and comedy acts are what Carnival is now bringing on board with their impressive Carnival Live series and it is proving to be a blast for guests and superstars alike. Sam Hunt nailed it when he said, “People are on vacation so they’re already in a good mood which makes everything fun for us too”, before his performance on board the Splendor in October. He’s right, people loved seeing one of their favorite acts in a small, intimate room and it was obvious that Hunt and his band were enjoying the night just as much.

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Fans get up close and personal with Sam Hunt as he performs on the Carnival Splendor in Cozumel, Mexico. Photo by Jeff Bogle.

Live music and traveling the world together have been two constants of our family life dating back to that first road trip to see Bob and Willie over 12 years ago. That we can now take the show on the road AND on the water on board Carnival cruise ships is almost too perfect. Now, if only the world’s most popular family cruise line would book an epic kid’s music cruise with Grammy Award winners The Okee Dokee Brothers and Tim and the Space Cadets, along with Grammy nominated bands like Recess Monkey, Frances England, The Pop Ups and Brady Rymer. That right there is the recipe for one amazing family vacation.

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Carrie Underwood performs on the Carnival Vista in NYC, she’ll be a part of the 2017 Carnival Live concert series. Photo by Jeff Bogle.

As if Sam Hunt in Mexico wasn’t enough this past autumn, we were also treated to a special Carrie Underwood performance on the Carnival Vista when it made its debut in the States, in NYC, just as the weather started to get chilly. Now it has been announced that she’ll be a part of the proper Carnival Live series this coming spring. This is an artist who plays massive football stadiums, for $100+ dollars a ticket, putting on a full concert in an intimate setting on a cruise ship for only $80 per person. Having recently seen her on a Carnival ship, I can guarantee that’ll be a memorable experience.

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Carrie Underwood performs on the Carnival Vista in NYC, she’ll be a part of the 2017 Carnival Live concert series. Photo by Jeff Bogle.

The Carnival Live concert series continues in 2017 with live music and comedy being performed on ships in multiple ports. Highlights include the aforementioned Carrie Underwood on the Carnival Imagination sailing to Catalina Island departing L.A. on April 2nd 2017 (tickets are $80 or $150 for premier seating), Jay Leno in Cozumel on back to back nights on two ships, the Carnival Victory (May 3rd) and Vista (May 4th), and in Nassau, Bahamas there’s Tim McGraw for two nights (March 2nd on Carnival Breeze, March 3rd on Valor) and Little Big Town on the Carnival Dream (May 11th) and Valor (May 12th). Tickets for Tim McGraw, Little Big Town and Jay Leno range from $30 to $80 for general admission, while VIP tickets which include seating in the first five rows, a photo opportunity with the artist and a commemorative concert pass are available for $100 to $300. Steep on paper but compared to seeing these acts on land and to other excursions, a relative bargain for true fans hungry for an personal music or comedy experience during their Carnival cruise vacation.

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