Proof of that is in the performances Travel Agent recently watched in the theater (see photo above) onboard the 3,660-passenger Sky Princess, the newest Princess Cruises vessel, now sailing roundtrip from Port Everglades, FL.
Unfolding in the ship's Princess Theater were "Rock Opera" and "Five Skies," different in scope and style but equal in creativity, dramatic theming, costumes, lighting and musical excellence.
The third show, "Jim Henson’s Inspired Silliness," was whimsical and unfolded on a smaller stage in the Vista Lounge. It ranked high on the “endearing” scale. Adults of all ages and kids loved it.
Rock Opera & Five Skies
With Rock Opera, the audience hears a brash, bold, and yes, quite loud, show, but the production is rock theatrics at its best. The show featured a "live" eight-piece orchestra/band and at least 18 performers that we counted.
Strong voices and iconic musical rock selections were prolific, intertwined with touches of traditional opera along with some softer, yet compelling rock favorites. The general consensus of audience-goers was that the vocalists were first-rate – and not just individually but also as a group.
That said, certainly an added plus in the strong voice arena was the special appearance (performing through next summer) of guest tenor Brian Justin Crum, who really set a high standard and was a hit with the audience.
Among the songs Crum performed was “This is Me” from the movie The Greatest Showman; he also sang that song in the finale of the Sky Princess’ christening ceremony late last year (see photo above) at Port Everglades, FL.
Crum placed fourth in the 2016 America’s Got Talent television program competition and later was part of America’s Got Talent: The Champions. He's featured in Rock Opera for Sky Princess’ inaugural season.
Rock Opera was created exclusively for Princess Cruises by Danny Teeson (director and choreographer), Nelson Kole (musical arranger), John Lacovelli (scenic designer) and Jackson Lowell (costume designer).
It certainly ranks with Broadway- or West End-quality musical theater. It's creatively produced with songs in English, Spanish, Latin and a Princess Cruises' first – sign language.
Switching gears, the techno-look and feel of Five Skies delivers a totally different theatrical experience than Rock Opera. It tells a story and offers compelling songs, high-quality costumes and high-flying aerialist performances.
In Five Skies, the audience follows along on a digital journey with laser lighting and digital sound effects as the protagonist moves through various levels and challenges to free the Sky Princess, if he can survive the trip.
The audience becomes immersed in the action and the challenges. Not spoiling the story for those planning to see it, let's just say that the twists and turns – particularly toward the end – don’t disappoint.
“The two shows, although very different, were amazing,” said Michelle Fee, founder and CEO, Cruise Planners, who watched it during the recent 2019 “Mission: Possible” conference with hundreds of CP agents.
From Fee’s perspective: "I’m not typically a show person, but I must say, Princess knocked it out of the park."
“Putting aside the great talent, the level of detail was insane,” said Fee, noting “I didn’t know where to look first. The elaborate sets, including a live orchestra, blew me away. Both shows received standing ovations.”
Jim Henson’s Inspired Silliness
Muppets were front and center and well off the silliness scale, just as they were decades ago when Jim Henson had the vision for these lovable characters.
In fact, the new "Jim Henson's Inspired Silliness" show in Sky Princess' Vista Lounge had two screens showing old TV clips of the Muppets on 1960's TV such as the Ed Sullivan Show or the Mike Douglas Show.
Anyone who watched those old shows will love it, and looking around the lounge during our visit, even the younger guests seemed to enjoy the humorous clips. But the video was just a small part of the action.
The show also featured live singing, dancing, puppetry vignettes and plenty of fun appearances by Muppets, both large and small.
In fact, one humongous blue shaggy Muppet played to the audience, and the adults, in particular, loved that.
A good dose of authenticity was provided in a video from Brian Henson, the late puppeteer's son, telling the audience that the show was true to his dad’s vision and actually reflected the early days of the Muppets.
This show also told the story of how puppetry unfolds behind the "scenes." One vignette included the reverse of what people typically see watching a Muppets performance.
Instead of hiding the puppeteers, the performance put them "out front" as performers changed the costumes, wigs and glasses of a puppet as a live performer interacted with it.
The team that created Jim Henson's Inspired Silliness included director John Tartgalia, a Sesame Street veteran. Jim Henson's Creature Shop built the show's puppets. Set designer was Anna Louizos, a three-time Tony Award nominee, who has created sets for such Broadway musicals as School of Rock and In the Heights.
The muppet-themed show is only on Sky Princess at present but will also debut on the new Enchanted Princess when it launches this year.
Overall, I'd personally rate all three shows A+ in quality and creativity, further strengthening our view that Denise Saviss, Princess’ vice president of entertainment, was richly deserving of being featured in Travel Agent's Innovators in Cruise cover story late last year.
Beyond those high-quality production shows, the new Sky Princess also has other entertainment options across the ship. For example, Charles Sylvia, vice president, membership and trade relations, Cruise Lines International Association, told us he spent his after-dinner hours every night at the new jazz club, Take Five.
What did he like? “The sophisticated and stylish design, historic imagery of jazz icons, and comfortable seating set the stage for one of the coolest venues I’ve seen aboard ship,” Sylvia said, adding that he loved listening to the ship’s house band and a featured jazz trio perform classics and sharing stories of jazz legends. “Take Five is a must for any jazz afficionado," says Sylvia.
Entertainment certainly has come a long way since the Love Boat days. Sky Princess' new production shows and entertainment options deliver that message loud and clear.
Sky Princess, Princess' first MedallionClass new build, is now sailing on voyages to the Caribbean through spring 2020.
Introduced on Sky Princess are new luxury Sky Suites with expansive views from what the cruise line describes as the largest balconies at sea. (You can check out our first-hand report with a slide show here.)