Dancing on the Waves

 

Dancing With the Stars at Sea
“Dancing With the Stars at Sea” finale onboard Holland America Line’s Eurodam.

When Holland America Line began sailing across the Atlantic in 1873, cruise entertainment meant flopping into a deck chair, reading a good book and just relaxing. But today, “plenty of people who get onboard are looking for more active things to do,” says Bill Prince, Holland America’s entertainment director based in Seattle.  

In 2012, he dreamed about the possibility of bringing the Dancing With the Stars (DWTS) brand onboard the line’s ships. “We’re always looking for branded partnerships that can add some cache to our activity offerings,” says Prince. “So as we were running down the list, we came across this and it was appropriate for our brand and our demographic…this was about as good as it got.”

BBC actually owns the brand, but ABC was also involved, as it’s the TV home in North America for DWTS. While the deal took a while to be put together, Prince says once the parties were aligned in a common goal, the program came together fairly quickly. 

The partnership has two key elements. The first is the “themed cruise” in which select dancing professionals and star participants from the ABC hit TV program come onboard for a production show and various events. The first such program was in February on a Eurodam sailing. 

Guests watched dance presentations, met the star performers, enjoyed a fashion show and participated in photo opportunities and dance classes. During one event, as many as 400 or so guests onboard participated—showing the strength of the Dancing With the Stars brand. 

Clients might choose from three more similarly themed cruises this summer and two more in January 2014. On these themed cruises, “we are bringing on the talent from the show,” says Prince. “That also includes a couple of dance pros, celebrities, a producer, a costume team and everything you need to do a large-scale production of a Dancing With the Stars-like show.” It unfolds on the main theater stage.

For fans of the show, agents might promote these summer DWTS-themed cruises: June 22, seven-day Canada and New England cruise onboard Veendam with professional dancers Chelsie Hightower and Mark Ballas, and celebrity Shawn Johnson; and June 30 and July 7, seven-day Alaska sailings onboard Oosterdam with professional dancers Kym Johnson and Tristan MacManus with stars Carson Kressley, Johnson and Sabrina Bryan.

In addition, there will be two themed cruises in early 2014— Jan. 5 and Jan. 12, 2014, seven-day eastern and western Caribbean sailings on Nieuw Amsterdam. The professional dancers are yet to be announced; celebrity star Sabrina Bryan and others will perform. Professionals and celebrities are subject to change. 

In the second major component of the DWTS partnership, clients who book any sailing on any Holland America ship through November 25 of this year will receive a bit different experience. While the pros and stars only perform during the themed cruises mentioned above, every sailing on all 15 ships in the Holland America Line fleet will feature an exclusive “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” program that includes complimentary dance lessons with the ship’s dance professionals and a dance-off for guests. 

“We are essentially doing our own Dancing with the Stars competition on each sailing,” Prince says. The line built a branded set that resembles the TV ballroom and it has costumes that resemble those on the show. Shipboard dancers partner with guests to compete throughout the cruise and on the last night, the top six compete on the main theater stage. 

 

Caribbean cruises onboard HAL’s Nieuw Amsterdam
In January 2014 there will be two “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Caribbean cruises onboard HAL’s Nieuw Amsterdam.

Judges include senior officers, shipboard professional dancers, other cruise staff and, at times, even the captain. The judges’ scores are then combined with audience appreciation scores from guests watching in the theater. One guest is picked as the winner of the contest for that cruise.  

Then in December, the 15 guest “cruise champions” who posted the highest scores on each of Holland America Line’s participating ships will win a free oceanview stateroom on the Jan. 12, 2014, “‘Dancing with the Stars: At Sea’ Champions Cruise” on Nieuw Amsterdam. During the final competition, these high scorers will compete for a Mirror Ball Trophy and Grand Champion honors.   

Holland America has always had dance classes taught by onboard staff dancers, cruise directors or special dance guests. “But there has been nothing that has equaled the power of this brand,” Prince believes. He said the line-taught classes of the past typically may have attracted 30-50 guests, but the first such classes during the DWTS-themed branded experience drew three or four times that number. 

He also says many more are coming to watch, simply because they’re fans of the show.  “There’s nothing quite like Kym Johnson walking people through the classes on video,” he emphasizes.

The draw for the Dancing with the Stars branded experiences was almost immediate, he says. “When we started running this competition, one of the first e-mails I got from one of the ships was, “Are we firm on our 18-year-old floor for this; we have a 17-and-a-half-year-old who could probably win the whole competition.”  The minimum age to participate in the dance contests is 18.

To assist travel agents, the line has placed a flyer, banner ads and a print ad template online at its travel agent headquarters site (www.hollandamerica.com/travelAgentHQ/Main.action); all are free for agent use. The current term of the partnership is through January 2014. Will Holland America consider renewing the partnership? “We’d like to continue if things continue to go well,” says Prince. “We’re certainly open to it.” 

Dance Fever

Do you have clients who’d like to dance a rumba, cha-cha, salsa or waltz? Celebrity Cruises’“Let’s Dance” program provides onboard dance training for guests and also pairs guests with the line’s professional dancers to participate in “Every-body Dance,” Celebrity’s own dance competition.

The dance-fitness craze Zumba now has over 14 million followers worldwide. Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that it will roll out new, complimentary Zumba classes for guests onboard. Zumba combines such high-energy dance music as hip-hop, salsa, African beats and Reggaton with fun dance moves designed to burn calories. Led by licensed Zumba instructors, the Norwegian classes will begin this spring and be introduced in phases. Ultimately, it will be on all Norwegian ships.   

That’s Ballroom, a production show performed on most Crystal Cruises sailings, combines professional dance performances and a “Dancing With the Crystal Stars” approach. The “stars” are crew members who use their free time to learn to fox trot, swing or rumba. In an approach mimicking onboard dance reality shows, the crew members’ training and rehearsals are filmed so video clips can be shown to the audience before the performance. 

Many lines offer dance classes onboard and some provide Gentlemen Hosts to dance with women traveling solo. If your clients like to dip, twirl and spin, an ocean of dance fun awaits.

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