Cruise To The Edge Sails Again – A Recap Of The 2024 Edition

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“On a sailing ship to nowhere, leaving any place…” These classic Yes lyrics were aptly prescient fifty years ago for what would eventually come to be: an epic floating prog festival. As many passengers affirmed, the ship could sail to nowhere and they’d care less, there being over two dozen dazzling prog bands aboard to provide more thrills than any port-of-call could offer. And although Yes has ironically no longer been part of the lineup for the past two trips, their legacy is still embedded in the very fabric of an event called “Cruise To The Edge”.

Now in its eighth voyage, Cruise To The Edge (from here onwards referred to as CTTE) has gained more familiarity, respect, and even awe than when it first began in 2013. Still, if you are fairly new to the idea and wonder how in the world it’s all come to this, check out our extensive overview of prog-cruise history and logistics in our coverage of 2022’s previous cruise HERE. Once you’ve got your sea-faring legs established, we can dive into the highlights of 2024’s illustrious edition:

Photo by Joel Barrios

The ship for this year was the familiar Norwegian Pearl, having previously hosted multiple CTTE’s as well as Mike Portnoy’s only Progressive Nation At Sea Cruise ten years earlier. Over 2,000 passengers sold out this year’s edition faster than ever before, though admittedly this was a smaller ship than 2022’s Cruise. There were fewer bands this time, too, but few people were even counting given the continuous onslaught of music available. Indeed, some fans even plead for fewer bands so that they will have fewer scheduling conflicts and choices to make. 

Photo by Joel Barrios

With Yes out of the mix this year, Marillion established themselves as the other main headliner option, an ocean (cloud) cruise being a nice alternative to their legendary land-based Marillion weekends. During their two shows, the band captivated fans with a career-spanning set and spirited performance, especially from charismatic lead singer Steve Hogarth. In a unique twist, bassist Nick Beggs took the place of Pete Trewavas who was recovering from a medical procedure. Of course, his playing and attire stood out, in prime Beggsy fashion. The other long-standing headliner was Steve Hackett, whose veteran band served up impeccable renditions of Genesis classics along with a few songs from his excellent latest album. The towering Nad Sylvan was perfectly cast to watch the skies or play the Devil in his cathedral. The only complaint from this exquisite show was that it only ran 70 minutes long, about half the length of his current theater tour on land, serving as a reminder that this is indeed a festival setting, where quantity refers to the number of bands not the length of sets.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Another official headliner this year was Riverside in the theater, who refused to return to the Pool Stage after the seemingly hurricane-level winds that attacked their set on the last Cruise. Although these were their first shows of the year, you wouldn’t have known it judging by the tightness of their performance or the top-tier lighting show. They received a rapturous response. Finally, the supergroup Flying Colors held what could be some of their last performances ever, or at least until Mike Portnoy comes out of his Dream. They fully delivered despite it being a one-off performance, their first in five years. Casey McPherson held the audience wrapped in a spiritual fervor while Steve Morse, Neal Morse, and Dave LaRue demonstrated their seasoned skills during one sizzling song after another. Portnoy let the “Tom Sawyer”-esque drum fills fly on “Mask Machine” and the band closed with their epic “Infinite Fire”.

Photo by Joel Barrios

In addition to the four main headliners, some of the biggest buzz on the ship was generated by a train – Big Big Train to be exact – making its Cruise debut after a brief initial tour of the States. Expectations ran high, yet were met and exceeded during the band’s initial theater show which will likely go down as one of the triumphs in CTTE history. Receiving a standing ovation after nearly every song, the band seemed on fire, led by new singer Alberto Bravin who played multiple instruments as he ran around the stage and through the audience. His “Love Is The Light” served as one of the best songs of the Cruise, matched in energy by Nick D’Virgilio’s subsequent instrumental “Apollo” where the whole band let loose. The next day Big Big Train took to the Pool Stage for a sailaway show, sporting a mostly new setlist which found them curating butterflies as the setting sun danced through the clouds. Gorgeous.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Every Cruise boasts numerous opportunities for collaborations and one-offs that you won’t find anywhere else, some planned, some spontaneous. This year some collaborations came out of necessity, such as Beggs joining Marillion. Or the time when Tony Levin’s Chapman Stick had gone missing – instrumental to his Stick Men trio – and a quick impromptu collaboration took place instead, with Adam Holzman joining Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter for a moody, ambient improvised set on the evening Pool Stage for those lucky enough to witness it. Holzman later joined his wife Jane Getter for two sets from her talented band Jane Getter Premonition. Fear not, the Stick was eventually found and Levin joined his other Men for a full set later in the Cruise, as well as joining Adrian Belew’s trio for a reading of the classic “Elephant Talk” after they had already delighted the crowd with a mix of Crimson hues and solo material.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Prog metal was well-represented this year with debut Cruise performances from the legendary Queensrÿche belting it out twice (the second time at The Theater with fans even standing out in the aisles), and the neo-classical stylings of Symphony X whose epic “The Odyssey” felt right at home on a ship sailing the seas. There were plenty of fans on board who were more than ready to head-bang to those old favorites and then were joined in by the relatively newer French band Klone who will make your neck ache just by watching them. Bridging the gap between old school and modern prog metal, Haken brought it yet again with a commanding nighttime Pool Stage show, complete with lasers and fog, their frontman Ross Jennings confidently owning the stage like a “Cockroach King” as Ray Hearne bashed it out behind the drum kit.

Photo by Joel Barrios

For something completely different, enter the enchanting world of Gryphon. Although they’ve been around 50-plus years, it was clear that most Cruisers hadn’t been aware of them before. The band offered a truly unique experience, delighting and beguiling the audience with their fanciful songs and unique instrument explanations (cue the Crumhorn). Elsewhere, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin terrorized the crowd with their killer playing of a frenetic soundtrack to horror movies, some of which were even projected on-screen during their Pool Stage show. The trio known as Baraka made it all the way over from Japan to offer unique instrumental rock jams, while the gypsy quartet Marbin established themselves as the house band of the Cruise, their guitarist Dani Rabin single-handedly playing more notes on the ship than any other musician.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Making their Cruise debut, John Mitchell’s Lonely Robot self-help therapy project was a big winner. Bolstered by one of the best rhythm sections on the ship (also borrowed from Hackett’s band) – bassist Jonas Reingold and drummer Craig Blundell – and powerful support vocals from Kayleigh Armstrong, Mitchell won over the crowd during both of his sets. He even got Hogarth to join in on a couple of tunes. Also debuting this year was Ryo Okumoto (who IS rock ’n roll, by the way), the keyboardist from Spock’s Beard. Backed by a killer band that included his wife on lead vocals and Alan Morse on guitar, they tore through tracks from Okumoto’s fine album “The Myth of the Mostrophus”, along with an unexpected guest appearance from Neal Morse and Jimmy Keegan singing the Beard’s “June”, much to the delight of the audience. At Okumoto’s next set, D’Virgilio guested to sing “Carrie” from the “Snow” album, making the experience that much more memorable.

Photo by Joel Barrios

The one-off collaborations continued elsewhere on the ship, with the Morse brothers, Keegan and Dave Bainbridge launching into The Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers” medley. During Jordan Rudess’ keyboard sets, all sorts of guests crashed the stage, including Portnoy and Haken’s Charlie Griffiths for “The Spirit Carries On”, and Joe Payne singing medleys from Genesis, Yes, and Queen. Dave Kerzner’s All-Star Band – featuring the hardest-working guitarist Fernando Perdomo – rocked out on many of his own compositions, including celebrating the 10th Anniversary of his excellent “New World” album. But his special guest Billy Sherwood truly brought the low end on several tunes and surprised with a debut performance from their band Arc of Life’s “Don’t Look Down”. Elsewhere, during a special benefit show to support Casey McPherson’s “To Cure A Rose” Foundation, D’Virgilio/Morse/Jennings debuted several folk songs to a delighted intimate crowd.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Back to the scheduled bands, The Flower Kings played two transcendent sets – one of them under a glorious sky on the Pool Stage – bolstered by the classical keyboardist Lalle Larson. Stardust they are. Airbag brought their moody, atmospheric identity to the crowd after a day at the beach in Cozumel, with Durga McBroom sitting in on vocals for a song. Lifesigns had already won over the ship during the previous Cruise and so had an easy time of maintaining their altitude this time, too, with special guest Simon Phillips sitting in on drums. Speaking of Phillips, his ace jazz fusion band Protocol were an easy highlight of the week, as they tore through an inspired set that left jaws dropping. Finally, the classic rock era was well represented by Wishbone Ash, Martin Barre, and The Steve Morse Band all delivering memorable Pool Stage performances that kept the flame burning bright.

Photo by Joel Barrios

In addition to that heady list of artists, the Late Night Live stage cranks out prog classics played by a bevy of talented passengers and emceed by Rob Rutz, the karaoke lounge leads to some truly hysterical detours, and Brook Hansen’s piano bar keeps the prog tunes rolling through dinner and drinks, with more surprise guests showing up from time to time. Over the course of two days the ship visited Cozumel but most passengers only had music on their mind, even as they stopped off for margaritas and a little beach time. The music never stops: while walking down the halls outside the cabins, an inspiring prog playlist is piped in wherever you go. Even before the Cruise started, there was a pre-cruise concert in Miami that featured several bands including special guests District 97, who ingeniously incorporated the incessant low-flying planes overhead into their set.

Photo by Joel Barrios

What more could a prog fan want? To do it all again, of course. Next year’s Cruise is already set for April 4th-9th, 2025. The lineup is yet to be announced but it’s bound to have some of your favorites included and hopefully a few choice discoveries that you’ve never heard of before. It’s only prog ’n roll but we like it, like it, yes we do. 

Photos by Joel Barrios

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