I’m very familiar with cruising to bike rallies and events – I’ve been to more of them than I can count. But I’ve never been on an ocean cruise. The High Seas Rally brings together cruising and cruising – with zero chance of a DUI! 

2023 High Seas Rally Radiance of the Seas
Custom bikes are hoisted onto the Radiance of the Seas. Photo by Olivier Touron.

The High Seas Rally is a unique opportunity to gather with fellow riders as colder fall weather creeps in. The 2023 edition set sail on Oct. 28 from Tampa, Florida, and returned on Nov. 4. 

“I was initially skeptical about it,” said photographer Olivier Touron, “but I think it has the spirit of what makes a motorcycle gathering a great party even if you don’t ride to it.”

2023 High Seas Rally Dave Perewitz
Bike-building legend Dave Perewitz and his recently customized 2021 Softail Slim. Its M-8 motor boasts 144 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque. Photo by Olivier Touron.

Along with a ship full of like-minded motorcyclists was an assortment of notable bike builders. Paul Yaffe and his Bagger Nation enterprise are co-sponsors of the cruise, and he showed off the custom Road Glide he built that was painted by legendary builder Dave Perewitz, who was also on board and joined by daughter Jody Perewitz, a land-speed record holder and a builder in her own right.  

2023 High Seas Rally Jody Perewitz
Jody Perewitz, a Bonneville record-holder, aboard the 1950 Panhead she bought in 2003 and rode to Daytona in 2004. Photo by Olivier Touron.

Other builders sailing with us were Kory Souza of Kory Souza Originals, Pat Patterson from Led Sled Customs, and Rick Bray from RKB Kustom Speed – all of whom had their latest custom builds aboard the ship. Xavier Muriel of Providence Cycle Worx built a custom bike to be raffled off during the cruise. 

2023 High Seas Rally Kory Souza
Kory Souza and the FXRT-inspired custom he brought on the HSR to represent his company Kory Souza Originals. Photo by Olivier Touron.

Every good biker rally has live music, and the HSR is no exception. Prototypical female rocker Lita Ford played two shows in the ship’s theater, and boogie-blues rocker George Thorogood performed at an amphitheater during a stopover in Key West. The Outlaws brought their southern-rock tunes on board, joining country rockers Southbound 75 and Muriel’s cover band, Black Smoke Sinners. 

2023 High Seas Rally Pat Patterson Led Sled Customs
Pat Patterson from Led Sled Customs and the Sportster-powered custom he calls “Naked Truth.” We love its creatively de-signed Springer front end and the silicon-bronze welds used for graphics on the tank. Photo by Olivier Touron.

“Our goal is to provide amazing entertainment for targeted groups of people,” Chris Hearing told me about the themed cruises he and partner Greg Laubach operate as Entertainment Cruise Productions. 

2023 High Seas Rally
The party on the ship began before we even departed Tampa. Photo by Olivier Touron.

“It creates not only a sense of community,” Laubach added, “but a community almost like no other. People come together and are all like one big family.”

2023 High Seas Rally Black Smoke Sinners
The Black Smoke Sinners entertained poolside on the ship. Photo by Olivier Touron.

Sail Away

After departing from Tampa, I soon began conversations with my shipmates. One of the features of the HSR is that everyone on board has some kind of motorcycle connection, so there are always things to talk about. 

2023 High Seas Rally Lyonel Gammon
Lyonel Gammon’s “Barnyard Bike” was built around a Softail chassis with a Springer front end. Photo by Olivier Touron.

“Everybody you sit next to on this boat is your new best friend if you’re open to it,” observed Yaffe. “There’s this camaraderie amongst bikers in general, which we share at rally after rally.”

2023 High Seas Rally Rick Bray
A virtual treasure chest behind Rick Bray’s immaculate custom chopper built at RKB Kustom Speed. Photo by Olivier Touron.

We were aboard Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas, a midsize cruise ship with 1,200 cabins. The 2022 HSR was held on a larger vessel, which had the benefit of a large central area where passengers could congregate, but the two-wheel spirit was diluted by some passengers who weren’t motorcyclists. The 2023 HSR was a full-boat takeover. 

2023 High Seas Rally Theresa Peyton
Xavier Muriel and Providence Cycle Worx built this Softail custom for the HSR’s free raffle. The winner, Theresa Peyton, appears to adore it. Photo by Olivier Touron.

“We’ve been on a lot of cruises,” one guy told me, “but we have the most fun on the High Seas Rally.” His wife added that the absence of noisy children on the HSR also appeals to them. 

2023 High Seas Rally Paul Yaffe Dave Perewitz
Paul Yaffe (left) built this Road Glide for the High Seas Rally Dialysis Fund charity and had buddy Dave Perewitz (right) apply a gorgeous orange pearl paint job. A $20 raffle ticket won it for a dude named Paul G. Photo by Olivier Touron.

I was pleasantly surprised when I checked into my cabin and found a reasonably large living space with a desk and a small commode with a shower stall. Anyone accustomed to RV life will feel at home. A large round window about 20 feet above the waterline provided views unattainable from any Winnebago.

2023 High Seas Rally Doors
Experienced HSR passengers brought decorations for their cabin doors. Photo by Kevin Duke.

As I strolled around the ship, I noticed more couples than typically seen at bike rallies. It’s probably a lot easier to get your spouse to come along on a cruise than it is to spend a few nights in a tent at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip (another HSR sponsor). And if you’re paying for one cabin, you might as well fill it!

2023 High Seas Rally RKB Kustom Speed
Lyonel Gammon and Rick Bray from RKB Kustom Speed discuss the process of building Gammon’s “Barnyard Bike.” Photo by Olivier Touron.

Fun & Games

Each night, the HSR delivers a “room drop” to each cabin that outlines all the activities taking place the next day, a handy resource for planning your schedule. And there’s a lot going on. Gamblers gravitate to the casino, gamers play cornhole, drinkers play beer pong, and history buffs compete in motorcycle trivia contests. 

2023 High Seas Rally Jody Perewitz
Jody Perewitz and her father, Dave Perewitz, hosted one of the motorcycle trivia games during the cruise. Photo by Olivier Touron.

The gearheads on board appreciated the Grease & Gears Garage seminars. Bike builders shared insightful and sometimes comical stories about their builds and then opened up the room for audience questions. A new addition this year was the Behind the Builder presentations in which passengers are briefed about custom bikes and can ask questions directly to the person who built them. 

2023 High Seas Rally Beard Contest
Judging for a beard contest was held poolside aboard the ship. Photo by Olivier Touron.

The HSR also features multiple theme nights for passengers to dress up, including Hillbillies on the High Seas and a Pirate Takeover day. Dressing up is optional, but almost everyone participated in the High Seas Halloween celebrations. 

2023 High Seas Rally Halloween
These Halloween costumes are a perfect fit for each other. Photo by Olivier Touron.

Shore Leave

There are countless activities to keep passengers entertained, but after being confined on board the ship, the ports of call layovers were a great way to expand horizons and see new places. 

2023 High Seas Rally
Getting off the boat for shore excursions allowed passengers to stretch their legs and see new sights. Photo by Olivier Touron.

The first stop was in Key West, Florida, where I rented a bicycle to tour around the charming town located at the southernmost point of the continental U.S. I visited noted resident Ernest Hemingway’s former house and then found a nice spot near the ocean for dinner. In the evening, I watched George Thorogood bang out hits like “Bad To The Bone” and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer” at his amphitheater show. 

2023 High Seas Rally Sloppy Joe's Bar
Touron and his wife got a bit of throttle therapy with scooters in Key West. Photo by Olivier Touron.

The next port of call was in Cozumel, Mexico, where I set off with photographer Olivier Touron and his lovely wife, Shelly Denny, to sightsee in a rental car. We had lunch on the beach and visited a nature park where we saw crocodiles and tropical waterfowl. 

2023 High Seas Rally Cozumel
Cozumel was the second port of call during the 2023 High Seas Rally. Photo by Kevin Duke.

The final stop was in Costa Maya, Mexico, a place I had never heard of. It was a sleepy little town of about 4,000 residents, but it’s rapidly booming after a cruise port was recently built. While there, I took the opportunity to swim and comingle with a friendly and lovable dolphin named Becky in an oceanside pool. To be in the presence of such a smart creature and have her pull and push me around the pool was a magical experience and definitely worth the extra cost. 

2023 High Seas Rally Olivier Touron
A rare moment when ace photographer Olivier Touron is in front of the camera lens. Photo by Kevin Duke.

Biker Hearts

Like many rallies, the HSR boasts a charitable angle, raising funds for the ill or needy. More than $3 million has been donated to charities over the years of the rally. 

“The charity aspect is an integral part of the HSR,” said Laubach. 

2023 High Seas Rally Lita Ford
Lita Ford rocked the boat with her punk-rock blend of styles, including hits like “Cherry Bomb,” “Kiss Me Deadly,” and “Close My Eyes Forever.” Photo by Olivier Touron.

The High Seas Rally Dialysis Fund has been operating for 20 years. Organizers grant trips on the HSR to 10 dialysis patients and a companion at no charge, and medical care and dialysis treatments are provided on board. Additionally, nearly $40,000 was raised for the Wounded Warrior Project. 

“It’s fascinating and humbling to hear their stories,” said Hearing, who added that six Wounded Warriors and their companions also received free trips. “Their spirit and lust for life are remarkable.”

2023 High Seas Rally Gary Michaels
A hypnosis demonstration sounds boring, but Gary Michaels was amazing, and his show was riotously funny. Photo by Olivier Touron.

“The support we receive from community fundraising events like the High Seas Rally helps Wounded Warrior Project honor and empower warriors and their families,” said Angela Hemmen, WWP director of fundraising events. 

Find more moto-events at American Rider‘s Events Calendar

Homeward Bound

After leaving Costa Maya, the ship sailed directly back to Tampa. I used the time to interview Emily Wiegel, a lovely young lady who had traveled all the Lower 48 states in just 17 days on her Indian Chief Vintage. Stay tuned for a feature story about Wiegel, who was also the poster girl for the Sturgis Buffalo Chip.

2023 High Seas Rally Xavier Muriel
Xavier Muriel pounding the skins alongside bassist (and motojournalist) Chris Callen in their band Black Smoke Sinners. Photo by Olivier Touron.

The return voyage also gave me time to sit down with photog Touron to reflect on the cruise. This was his second HSR.

“You find a group of people sharing the same enthusiasm for motorcycles and the culture around it,” he related. “Whoever you come across on the boat, you are sure to find a good subject to talk about – a place you have visited or events you have attended.”

2023 High Seas Rally
When passengers tire of parties and games, the HSR also offers places to chill and relax. Photo by Olivier Touron.

Touron’s wife was similarly impressed after her first HSR. 

“There is never a dull moment and something for everyone,” she said. “You already know you have something in common with every single person. It’s a chance to meet new motorcycle friends from all over the country, and it’s jam-packed with activities.”

It was also the first HSR for Mark Reid, who joined the party because of recommendations from friends who were also attending, as well as the charity angles. 

2023 High Seas Rally Paul Yaffe Ari Levenbaum
Paul Yaffe having fun with Ari Levenbaum from the Law Tigers, a sponsor of the High Seas Rally. Photo by Olivier Touron.

“I’ve had a fantastic time, hanging out with friends, lots of things to do,” he told me. “It seems like the whole theme of the rally is to go out and have a good time, have a great party, and do something good for some people.” 

My complaints are few. Alcohol costs extra, and so does internet access. Regardless, I’d love to sail the HSR again in 2024. 

As I was disembarking, I met a woman on the elevator who had attended a previous HSR but was balking about attending this year. 

“I’m so glad I came!” she said with a giant and satisfied smile. “I’ve had so much fun!”

Find more information at the High Seas Rally website.


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