Carnival Cruise Lines Unveils Onboard Concert Series

Big news for seafaring music fans: Carnival Cruise Lines unveiled their new entertainment offering at a reception in a New York City music club. Through a collaboration with talent agency CAA, the line has launched the Carnival LIVE Concert Series, which will include exclusive onboard performances by popular music artists while ships are docked at select ports of call.

After 60 million passengers (so far), Carnival President Gerry Cahill said, the company knew that they needed to change their product. "People today require constant innovation," he said. To that end, they decided to look at their entertainment options--specifically, onboard concerts.

“We asked our guests what kind of music they liked,” said Mark Tamis, senior vice president of guest operations at the reception. “Then we asked them who their favorite singers are.” Over the following months, Carnival made arrangements with performers and set up the concept: Performers will come onboard while ships are in ports of call at Cozumel, Mexico; Nassau, Bahamas; and Catalina Island, California. After spending a certain amount of time onboard (and possibly mingling with some guests), they will perform an exclusive (and, by necessity, intimate) concert and disembark. Guests who don't attend the concert will have an extra evening to explore the port city. 

Beginning in April, the Carnival LIVE concerts will take place on board eight Carnival ships. Tickets cost $20-40 each and a limited number of VIP tickets are also available for each show for $100-$150 each. The VIP experience includes an artist meet-and-greet, photo opportunity, seating in the first three rows and a commemorative laminated concert pass. All tickets can be purchased through Carnival’s online Shore Excursion System prior to sailing, or on board participating ships at the Shore Excursion Desk based on availability. 

“Music is the soundtrack of any vacation,” Tamis told Travel Agent after the presentation, acknowledging that getting involved in the concert business is rather complicated. “We put together our own concert team in-house, people who have tremendous experience.” 

Carnival has booked 49 performance dates for the 2014 concert series with the following artists: 

  • 38 Special 
  • Chicago 
  • Daughtry 
  • Foreigner 
  • Gavin DeGraw 
  • Jennifer Hudson 
  • Jewel 
  • Kansas 
  • Lady Antebellum 
  • LeAnn Rimes 
  • Martina McBride 
  • Olivia Newton-John 
  • REO Speedwagon 
  • STYX 
  • Trace Adkins 

At the reception, Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson performed several songs from her new album and from Dreamgirls. In between songs, she talked about an early job she had as an entertainer on a cruise ship, and how the experience encouraged her to audition for American Idol and take her career to the next level. “Without that cruise experience, I never would have made it this far,” she said.

In addition to the Carnival LIVE Concert Series, Carnival is also boosting its onboard house bands, adding new set lists with increased choreography and diversity as well as increased interaction with guests. “We really wanted to raise our game and create an incredible live music experience,” Jim Berra, Carnival's SVP and chief marketing officer, told Travel Agent. The bands have been rehearsing in Miami and getting ready to perform onboard. Nine Carnival ships currently feature the new bands, with implementation across the full over the course of this year. 

Visit to view the full list of 2014 Carnival LIVE concert dates.