Gay and Patti on the Malt Shop Memories CruiseRemember the Beach Boys, Chubby Checker, Lou Christie and Little Anthony and the Imperials?

I do, and so did the 1,771 other passengers aboard the recent Malt Shop Memories Cruise on the Carnival Inspiration.

In fact, that's why we all were there. No bonding required; we were all of the same mindset and were soulmates before the first doo-wop note rang out. The fun, the dancin', singin', strollin', twistin', hoppin' and boppin' never stopped.

The port of Tampa was barely out of view before iconic South Philly DJ Jerry Blavat, "The Geator With the Heater," warmed up the crowd on the Lido deck.

Fifties fashions made an appearance even as bartenders tallied the first round of drinks and waiters delivered vanilla malts.

A girlfriend-getaway group of five live wires from Long Island wore identical Pink Ladies bomber jackets, while a duo from Memphis donned red-and-white polka dot sundresses.

Some of the men sported Elvis wigs, and the ladies donned Marilyn Monroe-like blond tresses, sequined sunglasses and cardigans that were buttoned up the back.

Opening night in the Paris Lounge: Kenny Vance and the Planotones, followed by Jimmy Diamond and the Skyliners, preceded by the Fireflies in the Atrium Bar between dinner seatings.

I didn't find the dining room that first night. I was onboard the cruise with my sister, Patti McCool. We grew up with this music, and we did not want to miss a beat.

Time Life, which sponsored the Malt Shop Memories cruise, and Entertainment Cruise Productions, which hosted it, absolutely nailed this event. They knew their audience and market and played to them.

Over the next three days, between the dance classes, the cabin door decorating contest, karaoke sessions, pool parties, morning minigolf with Lou Christie, a cooking class with Chubby Checker (Rice Krispie cakes), a Jerry Blavat book-signing, the poodle skirt fashion parade and the two-hour nightclub shows, I watched the intricacies of running a doo-wop concert on the high seas unfold.

Poodle groupCloudy skies, rolling seas and threatening rain on day three made for a last-minute change in plans for the much-anticipated outdoor beach party and performance by the Beach Boys on the Lido deck.

Cruise organizers scrambled schedules and venues, stuck notices under cabin doors and turned one outdoor concert into two indoor nightclub shows.

Prom night with all its tulle and frills came off without a hitch. The king and queen were crowned at midnight, but rain disrupted the sock hop the next afternoon, and the Elvis lookalike contest had to be moved inside at the last minute to the Candlelight Lounge.

Little Anthony and the Imperials presided over the outdoor vow-renewal ceremony, but by show time that night, the ship was rockin' and rollin' to its own weather tune.

No problem. The man and his band moved in step with the Inspiration and delivered "Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko Bop" in true shipboard rhythm.

And Chubby Checker reminded us that the Twist, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, changed dancing forever. "With 'The Twist,' a two-minute, 42-second song, dancing a part to a beat was the biggest thing that ever happened to music," he said.

Blavat perhaps said it best: "We can't live in the past, but isn't it wonderful that we can go back and remember this music that gives us happiness to face the future?"

Sing out, Jerry. I just love that old-time rock 'n' roll; that kind of music just soothes my soul.

Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly. 

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