BAHAMAS — The night had all the trappings of an exceedingly well-executed fraternity rush party, right down to the beer funnels, inflatable zebras, and throngs of women egging on the men and their thrusting “Magic Mike” dance moves.
Reigning over the festivities was the guileless master of ceremonies, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. A Norwegian Cruise Line ship normally known as Pearl was re-christened Gronk’s Party Ship for the weekend, sailing from Miami to the Bahamas.
With nearly 700 fans on board with Gronk and some of his family members, the cruise pulled out Friday afternoon and returned Monday morning.
To answer the question before it’s asked, yes, the party ship lived up to its name. Festivities hit booze-addled, fist-pumping heights and carried on till nearly 4 a.m. each day, bolstered by an entertainment that included rappers, DJs, and comedians. Even Gronk’s dad, Gordon, got in on the action, jumping up and down onstage during a late-night set from rapper Waka Flocka Flame.
“Am I having a good time? Oh my God, yes! Although I kind of don’t remember last night. I might have blacked out,” said a Framingham woman who identified herself as “There’s absolutely no way I’m telling you my name.”
On Saturday night, Gronkowski joined Boston rapper Sammy Adams and, in the spirit of the weekend, essentially did whatever he wanted. That meant dancing, dropping his shorts, and hurling his 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame around the stage like a big kid without a care in the world. For a weekend, he was a king in a tank top — or, more often no top — as he partied with onboard entertainers.
The booze flowed freely, sometimes directly into the mouths of partiers as entertainers poured from bottles. And there was plenty of gyrating, twerking, and other dance moves probably unseen until this cruise.
But it was also an opportunity for tamer Gronk fans to simply spend time in the substantial shadow of their hero. Most days the scene on the ship resembled any other Caribbean cruise. At press time, the fun never seemed to be excessive, nor was the ship turned upside down or trashed by rabid fans.
If anything, fans were respectful of Gronkowski, and not just because he was surrounded by his imposing entourage. There were requests for selfies, but passengers were mostly content to be in the presence of the Super Bowl champ, who was accessible and a near-constant presence at the parties.
Paul Vitiello, 29, of Somerville, had been skeptical about what might happen on the high seas. “I’m not going to lie: I thought it was going to be a hoax,” he said. “But I’m pleasantly surprised that everyone’s been so nice, and it’s so easy to get up close and personal with Gronk.”
Docked in Great Stirrup Cay on Saturday — a stunning beach that was dubbed Gronk Island for the weekend — Gronkowski waited in line for a boat ride back to the ship. Patriots fan Greg Amyx passed Gronk a football, which he tossed back.
“I went up to him afterward and said, ‘Hey, man, I’m sorry for that weak pass,’ ” said Amyx, a longtime Patriots supporter even though he lives in Michigan.
There were also plenty of cruisers who had no idea that good-time Gronkowski was among them. The Norwegian Pearl holds more than 2,300 passengers, but only 700 of them were part of Gronk’s cruise. The rest thought they were on the boat for an ordinary vacation to the Bahamas.
Non-Gronk fans interviewed said they were unfazed by the shenanigans; in fact, some of them enjoyed the additional color.
Visiting from Atlanta, Sue Fritz was on board with her husband and mother-in-law and admitted she wasn’t too interested in sports. “I’ve been telling my husband, ‘John, take a picture!’ ” Fritz said Friday afternoon. “Hey, the more drunk people there are to laugh at, the better for me.”
To get his inaugural party ship afloat, Gronkowski enlisted Sixthman, an Atlanta-based travel company known for its music-themed cruises and festivals at sea featuring everyone from Kiss to Kid Rock. Another Sixthman client had suggested Gronkowski could host his own cruise, and the company worked with him to secure the entertainment lineup. Anthony Diaz, Sixthman’s chief operating officer, said Gronkowski was an obvious fit and likened the cruise to “a Vegas pool party that’s floating on the water.”
Diaz said the cruise’s demographics broke down evenly between men and women, with most of them in the 21-to-35 age range and hailing mainly from Massachusetts, Florida, and New York. Prices for the cruise started at $700 double occupancy.
As big of a presence as he was on board, Gronkowski wasn’t quite as active on social media. His Twitter and Instagram accounts were largely quiet over the weekend. His handlers told the Globe that the cruise was intended to be more of a private party for Gronkowski and his family and friends. They weren’t exactly seeking media attention, even though various attendees posted a surplus of eyebrow-raising videos and photos online.
Gronkowski declined an interview with the Globe but, through a representative, issued a statement to the paper Saturday night. “I am having the most amazing time on board the ship. Seeing fans from all [over] the country is awesome, and we are all party-rocking together to some of the most amazing music and DJs,” he said. “If you didn’t join us, you missed out on a great time.”
Even the ship’s mellow lounge pianist couldn’t resist the Boston spirit. He regaled cruisers, many of them donning Patriots attire, with a spirited rendition of “Sweet Caroline” with the refrains of “so good, so good, so good!” regularly heard at Fenway Park.
On vacation from Washington, D.C., Maggie Paulin and her friend Courtney Duffy grew up in Westborough and West Boylston, respectively.
“You can’t be a Patriots fan without loving Gronk,” said Paulin, 29. And did she and Duffy see the man of the hour in the flesh?
“Oh, we were partying and dancing with him last night!” Duffy, 25, said. “I took a selfie with him.” “I think this is as much of a party for him as it is for us,” added Paulin.
A Gronk fan from Kentucky used this Q&A with Gronk to propose to his girlfriend. She said yes. pic.twitter.com/V2lDCktwgP— James Reed (@jreedwrites) February 21, 2016
He's misunderstood! "I'm not stupid," says @RobGronkowski during a Q&A with fans on #GRONKSPARTYSHIP @BostonGlobe pic.twitter.com/WSPeqdywyV— Christopher Muther (@chris_muther) February 22, 2016
A true party. @Brookeevers and @WakaFlocka jam out. #GRONKSPARTYSHIP @jreedwrites @BostonGlobe @RobGronkowski pic.twitter.com/M4jNyaiWWp— Christopher Muther (@chris_muther) February 21, 2016
• Can Gronk bench-press four women? Of course he can.
Photos: Grand adventures aboard Gronk’s Party Ship
Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @chris_muther. James Reed can be reached email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jreedwrites.