The Rock Boat concept was born in 2001 with a joint venture from Gainesville, Florida alternative rock band Sister Hazel and Atlanta, Georgia travel company Sixthman in a partial charter aboard the Carnival Jubilee. Sister Hazel was joined by the band Dexter Freebish and approximately 400 of their fans. The bands performed once on the ship, which sailed from Tampa, Florida to Cozumel, Mexico.
The concept has grown to become an annual event. Destinations have included locations such as Mexico, Nassau, Bahamas, Jamaica, and Turks and Caicos. The event is always hosted by Sister Hazel and includes musicians from all over the nation. Past performers include: Tonic, Carbon Leaf, Gaelic Storm, Collective Soul, Cowboy Mouth, Pat McGee Band, Zac Brown Band, Michael Tolcher, Vertical Horizon, David Ryan Harris, Ingram Hill, Better Than Ezra, Marc Broussard, Wideawake, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, and many more. There are generally four or five performing stages constructed on the venue, and performances are scheduled from noon until 3 AM. However, many bands have been known to continue performing well beyond their scheduled set times and often collaborate on stage with other artists until dawn.
The cruise has been described by Ken Block (lead singer and guitarist for Sister Hazel) as "Spring Break for people with jobs."