- Chris Michael
- 30 Nov 2019, updated: 2 Dec 2019
GET your balls out, Bobby. It’s 4 pm and I’m playing bingo. On a cruise ship. Surrounded by neon Lycra, leg warmers and Freddie Mercury lookalikes.
Oh, and it’s hosted by comedy blast from the past Bobby Davro — with a crowd eager to see his, er, lucky numbers.
Bobby Davro’s Bonkers Adult Bingo is just one of the non-stop activities and entertainment on offer during Throwback: The Ultimate Festival At Sea, which turns the clock back to the 1980s.
Sailing on Royal Caribbean’s 3,200-passenger Explorer Of The Seas, it departs from Southampton for three nights of non-stop partying to the sounds of the Eighties.
Headlining this year’s festival are former Spandau Ballet frontman Tony Hadley, Brummie reggae stars UB40 and American disco queens Sister Sledge.
While UB40 threaten to “play something from the new album”, Hadley shows his majestic voice has lost none of its magic as he reels off his big tunes.
And Sister Sledge really bring the party, with classics We Are Family, Frankie, Lost In Music and He’s The Greatest Dancer getting the audience off their seats and boogieing.
But this festival is so much more than the main acts. It’s a full-on party that starts as soon as you board around 2 pm. At 3 pm, I take my first wander through the ship.
Immediately, I come across one of the smaller bars with a live covers band tucked into the corner belting out Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer to an-already buzzing crowd.
I figure it’s time to down a couple of Let’s Get Fizzical cocktails and join them. The same band will later be headlining the Club Tropicana after-party into the small hours.
In the nightclub-like Studio B, Club Tropicana features DJ sets from Pat Sharp, the former mullet-haired presenter of kids’ TV game show Fun House, and Radio 2’s Gary Davies.
Their mixes are interspersed with live performances from a different Eighties cover band on each of the three nights.
The three nights also have their own fancy dress theme — freestyle; neon Lycra; and 80s music and film characters — and, wow, do the guests go to town.
There are plenty of Super Marios and Hi-de-Hi girls, a couple of Subbuteo players, Bungle, Zippy, a smattering of Chers and even a skimpily-dressed Hulk Hogan.
It’s the other guests’ enthusiasm that really makes the cruise. Unsurprisingly, this largely middle-aged crowd is always up for a party, whether they are dancing outside their cabins, joining in the elevator karaoke or rocking it poolside.
Perhaps the biggest of these comes from giant singalong specialists Massaoke on the final night.
The “mass karaoke” idea behind the band’s name basically means they perform hit after hit with the lyrics displayed on a massive screen behind them for everyone to join in.
And these hardcore rockers really get everyone going with an energy-packed set that sees the guitarist jump off stage to play in the crowd.
Such is their reception, that the querying murmurs as they break out into the decidedly non-Eighties Song 2 by Blur and Bonkers by Dizzee Rascal at the end are soon replaced by jumping up and down and raucous singing along.
Quick disclaimer: At least I think that’s what happened . . . but it was 2.30am on the third night of heavy drinking and dancing and by now I wasn’t exactly taking notes.
If drinking is your thing, choose the drinks package from £55pp per day — you can drink as much as you like throughout.
Food is plentiful and included in the price are a variety of venues from the waiter-service main dining room to the vast Windjammer buffet, as well as Sorrento’s Pizza, The Cafe at Two70 and Solarium Bistro.
For a little extra, you can enjoy a la carte dining in seven other restaurants offering everything from premium steaks to sushi.
If you want to upgrade to VIP passes, then you get access to a couple of extra lounges and cocktail parties with the stars.
But you’re just as likely to be able to collar celebs for a selfie and a chat strolling along the decks with the rest of the guests. If drinking is less of your thing, there is plenty else on offer. The ship docked in Le Havre for the day but for many that was time better spent recuperating.
Remember, you’re on a cruise ship. It just happens that this cruise ship has been given an Eighties makeover.
So lounge by the pool. Just be prepared for Nathan Moore from Brother Beyond to be doing the odd song nearby.
Or pop along to one of the Q&A sessions with the stars. Maybe you want to know if Cheryl Baker and Jay Aston, of The Fizz, ever made their minds up after 1981’s epic Eurovision.
How does Tony Hadley feel about Spandau Ballet touring without him? Can Bobby Davro ever see himself getting back on telly? As he says, his “jokes aren’t for everyone . . . like the lifeboats on this ship”.