Top Headlines in Cruise Ship Entertainment

Norwegian Cruise Line will feature the new Broadway-style show “Burn the Floor” onboard its Norwegian Epic.
Norwegian Cruise Line will feature the new Broadway-style show “Burn the Floor” onboard its Norwegian Epic.

This year, the major oceangoing lines are rolling out some big-time entertainment, including top celebrity artists, new shows and new entertainment venues. Here’s a sampling.

“Live” from Your Cruise Ship: Now in its second year, the 2015 Carnival LIVE Concert Series kicked off in March with two sold-out performances by the rock group Journey onboard Carnival Liberty and Carnival Splendor while the ships were docked in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. Smokey Robinson is also performing on several Carnival ships docked in Cozumel this month.

What’s next? Rascal Flatts will perform on the voyages of three ships departing May 2, 3 and 4 from Florida, while Styx is slated for the June 13, 14 and 19 voyages from Charleston, Port Canaveral and Miami; performances will occur while the ships are docked in Nassau and Cozumel. Additional acts are expected to be announced soon for summer and fall; the schedule is at www.carnival.com/carnival-live/bands/tour-dates.aspx.

Typically, artists join the ship in port, perform in the main show lounge that evening and disembark following their show. Tickets cost $35 to $60 each and cannot be purchased until the cruise itself is booked. Booking of tickets can then also be done online. A limited number of  VIP tickets are also available for each show for $125-$250 each. These include an artist photo opportunity, seating in the first four rows and a commemorative laminated concert pass.

This line-up of live bands and musical hit makers has proven to be a great way for agents to get client “fans” of the music celebrities onboard, even if the customers wouldn’t normally pick a cruise for their vacation. “Many travel agents have told us how Carnival LIVE has been a successful marketing tool for them in attracting cruise rookies,” says Joni Rein, Carnival’s vice president of worldwide sales. 

 Disney Wonder hosts “The Golden Mickeys” on select days at sea.
Disney Wonder hosts “The Golden Mickeys” on select days at sea.

Rein said last year that one travel agent partnered with a local radio station on a promotion related to one of the Carnival LIVE acts and built a group cruise around it. “Not only did the travel agent end up with a lucrative affinity group, but they also brought in new clients who had not cruised before and are already talking about booking their next cruise,” Rein stresses.

The Ship’s a Stage: Breaking from traditional theater design, Holland America Line’s new Koningsdam, launching in spring 2016, will have a new main theater, World Stage, surrounding the audience. It also will have a two-story, 270-degree, high-definition LED screen that’s 250 feet long. The flexible theater design can accommodate either a theater in the round configuration or more conventional proscenium staging. Initially, guests can expect to see five new productions performed in repertory by an international cast.

At Cruise Shipping Miami in March, Holland America Line also revealed new entertainment partnerships for Koningsdam’s Music Walk complex. A new Lincoln Center Stage venue — presented in an exclusive partnership with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts — will feature an ensemble playing chamber music with multiple programs nightly, and in the afternoon on sea days.

Holland America also will begin offering Lincoln Center Stage on Eurodam in January 2016 and on Oosterdam in April 2016. Lincoln Center Stage programming on additional ships will be announced later.

Koningsdam’s Music Walk also will have Billboard Onboard, a new live interactive music experience. Two pianists, a guitarist and a DJ will take turns performing “live” shows centered on music industry’s facts and figures as chronicled by Billboard. Between the nightly sets and songs, guests can sing and play along with trivia questions presented on video screens.

When Koningsdam sails in spring 2016, it will also feature the line’s signature B.B. King’s Blues Club in the Music Complex. Cruisers will hear the B.B. King All-Star Band — an eight-piece group featuring two vocalists backed by rhythm and horn sections. Recreating the sounds of Memphis’ Beale Street, the band will perform six nights a week in the Queen’s Lounge. Specialty cocktails from the B.B. King land-based clubs will be served, including the rum-based Lucille and Rock Me Baby concoctions.

B.B. King’s Blues Club is now on Eurodam, Noordam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Oosterdam, Westerdam and Zuiderdam, and launches this month on Rotterdam using the redesigned Crow’s Nest stage.

Epic Entertainment: For show-loving clients planning on sailing in the Mediterranean this year, one option is Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic, sailing year-round from Barcelona starting this month. The ship, Norwegian’s largest, will offer two new Broadway-style shows plus a new “Cavern Club” British pop music experience at sea.

The headliner show “Burn the Floor” will feature “Ballroom Blitz” with 14 dancers, a live band and two singers. It’s a high-energy, theatrical dance experience. Starting with the October 18 voyage, a second headliner show, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert– The Musical,” will debut. Clients can expect to see 500 costumes and 200 head-dresses, as well as watch such dance action as “It’s Raining Men,” “I Will Survive” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

Norwegian Epic also will introduce “The Cavern Club,” created via a partnership with owners of the famed Liverpool club where the Beatles gave 272 “live” performances between 1961 and 1963. The club still thrives as a contemporary music venue. Starting with the October 11, 2015, sailing, Norwegian will re-create that Cavern Club experience at sea, rocking guests each evening to the sounds of the Beatles and other international musicians.

Billboard Onboard on Holland America Line’s Koningsdam is a live interactive music experience with two pianists, a guitarist and a DJ.
Billboard Onboard on Holland America Line’s Koningsdam is a live interactive music experience with two pianists, a guitarist and a DJ.

Rock On: Royal Caribbean International’s new Anthem of the Seas is launching this month. In the Royal Theater, the headline show will be “We Will Rock You,” the rock group Queen’s tribute show. Cruisers can attend an after-show party with the musical’s cast. In addition, the theater will host a new original production, “The Gift,” combining music, fantasy and illusion — with a bit of mystery.

As on Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas will also offer clients entertainment at Two70, a multi-level performance, entertainment and gathering space. It boasts 270-degree panoramic windows, high-technology audio-visual elements, illuminating floor lighting, aerialists and other live performers. When the 100-inch LED TV screens on robotic arms drop from the ceiling, clients will think they’re in another world.

The new “Spectra’s Cabaret” show mixes digital imagery, music and live performances. More entertainment? Anthem of the Seas’ rock-and-roll inspired Music Hall will host DJ sets, live music and themed nights.

Swan-like Opulence: When the new 56,000-ton Seven Seas Explorer sets sail for Regent Seven Seas Cruises in 2016, it will have a floating showplace — the two-tiered Constellation Theater, which will cleverly have a swan motif in its design. Clients will see both abstract and not so abstract aspects of a swan in the theater’s seating banquettes, ceiling architecture and entry-way mosaic.

The ornate theater will seat 694 guests and pay homage to Hollywood’s golden age. Cabaret-style seating is intermixed with cocktail tables that feature hand-blown Murano glass lamps.

Disney Stages “Tangled”: In November 2015, the characters and music of the animated film “Tangled” will enchant audiences once again, this time as a new, original stage show spectacular at sea aboard the Disney Magic. “Tangled: The Musical” will immerse audiences in Rapunzel’s fairytale world through lavish production numbers and music., including three new songs created exclusively for this show by Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken and Grammy Award-winning lyricist Glenn Slater.

“Tangled: The Musical” complements the line-up of Disney Cruise Line-exclusive live entertainment performed every voyage aboard the Disney Magic, joining “Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story” and “Disney Dreams… An Enchanted Classic,” which will include a new segment from “Frozen” beginning in summer 2015.

Disney Wonder, meanwhile, hosts “The Golden Mickeys” on select times. The premise of the 45-minute production is that of an awards show in which Disney movie characters are nominated in several categories, including heroism and romance. Songs from nine Disney films are performed.

Shows Galore: Celebrity Cruises is introducing 18 exclusive new shows, produced over the next 18 months in partnership with top musical and show producers. Launching this month on Celebrity Constellation is “Elyria,” an energetic, late-night production about a witty, mischievous, dream-like world. A new contemporary illusionist show, “iMagic,” now onboard Celebrity Summit, utilizes such technology as holograms, lasers and iPads.

Besides the 18 new shows, Celebrity also plans to add up to 10 special entertainment experiences on each ship. “Side Show” will create an interactive and vintage circus theme party, “Reigning Rocks” will blend royal elegance with British pop music, and “Night of the Dragon” will mix Asian cultural beauty and pop music.

All the new entertainment is being created and perfected at “The Studio,” the new 130,000-square-foot production and rehearsal training facility that’s a partnership between Florida International University (FIU) and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Celebrity’s parent company. Located on the FIU Biscayne Bay campus, the facility opened in late March and can accommodate more than 460 cast members. Entertainment programs for Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises are also under development at this new facility.

Wickedly Creative: In March, Princess Cruises announced a new multi-year partnership agreement with Stephen Schwartz, a three-time Oscar winner and composer of “Wicked,” “Pippin” and “Godspell.” He’ll oversee creative development of four new musicals for Princess’ fleet over the next several years.

Opening on Crown Princess this fall, Schwartz’s first Princess-exclusive musical will be the 45-minute “Magic to Do.” The new show will combine magic, Schwartz’s most famous songs and a new song he’ll write exclusively for Princess. “I see it as an extraordinary and almost irresistible opportunity,” says Schwartz, who will oversee the creative development for all four shows, using Broadway talent to support the productions through direction and design.

For example, the “The Magic to Do” team includes Don Frantz, associate producer of “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway, while Jim Steinmeyer, who’s worked with Doug Henning, Siegfried & Roy and David Copperfield, will create the magic experience.

Separately, this month Princess starts partnering with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment to show “The Sound of Music,” onboard all 18 Princess ships and offer sing-alongs, trivia games and other movie-themed experiences. The program celebrates the 50th anniversaries of both the cruise line and the musical.

They’re part of a year-long campaign to honor the classic film, which will be shown once each cruise on each vessel’s Movies Under the Stars top-deck screen, while a sing-along version will run in the Princess Theater. Guests can meet and rehearse for a “Sound of Music” edition of the Princess Pop Choir. Plus, a themed trivia challenge will test fans’ movie knowledge.

Piano Man Tunes: In November 2014, Crystal Cruises introduced the new “My Life: The Music of Billy Joel” show on Crystal Serenity. Shows continue this year with the Galaxy Orchestra and Crystal’s musicians, vocalists and dancers performing such hits as “Uptown Girl”, “She’s Always a Woman to Me” and, of course, “Piano Man.”

In addition, the “Rocket Man: a Tribute to Elton John” show, formerly on Crystal Serenity, premiered on Crystal Symphony in February. The two shows have launched Crystal’s Concert Production series, which spotlights the works of well-known artists. Shows feature lighting effects and a floor-to-ceiling video wall.

Also Crystal Symphony is now offering “5-6-7-8,” a new dance production that puts a modern twist on the classic song-and-dance shows of old. Clients can expect to see Crystal’s singers and dancers perform jazz, jive, modern, hip hop, tango, tap, contemporary and salsa dancing, along with vocal performances.

Blue Notes: Cunard Line and jazz label Blue Note Records inked an entertainment partnership that will debut on Queen Mary 2’s October 29, 2015, transatlantic crossing. Guests will hear jazz performances by “Our Point of View,” the Blue Note 75th anniversary all-star band, formed for the label’s 2014 anniversary.

Band members include keyboardist Robert Glasper, trumpeter Keyon Harrold, tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland, guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Kendrick Scott. The repertoire will tap the artists’ musical catalogues and provide new spins on Blue Note classics.

Sailing on this voyage is musician Don Was, president of Blue Note Records and Grammy Award-winning producer for Bonnie Raitt and the Rolling Stones, among others. He’ll participate in Q&A sessions. Jazz lovers can expect two more such cruises in 2016; Was will personally pick participating artists from Blue Note Record’s portfolio of musicians.

Italian Immersion: Long touted as “cruising Italian style,” Costa Cruises has introduced a new “Italy’s Finest” campaign that will provide an even more immersive Italian experience. In onboard theaters, guests will find more Italian-style shows like “Sapori d’Italia” — or “Flavors of Italy” — that highlight Italian music, art, opera, cinema and style.

Also new are themed parties on the lido deck such as “La Notte in Maschera” and “La Notte Bianca” that celebrate two Italian traditions: the masked Venetian carnival and a white night festival.

Viking Star has a main performance venue, The Theater, that will offer live performance focused on “the destination” along with “theatrical journeys.”
Viking Star has a main performance venue, The Theater, that will offer live performance focused on “the destination” along with “theatrical journeys.”

Shaken Not Stirred: Last fall, Silversea Cruises announced new production shows for its five classic fleet vessels. The shows have been added to four of the line’s ships and just debuted this month on Silver Spirit during its Fort Lauderdale to Lisbon voyage. In addition to three new offerings on every ship — “Musica Maestro,” “Mind the Gap” and “Don’t Stop the Music” — the line is also now rotating additional shows among the ships.

So repeat guests will find something new they haven’t seen. “Shaken Not Stirred” celebrates the intrigue and glamour of 50 years of James Bond films. “Caliente” is a Latin-flavored production with music from South America and Spain. Not surprising, “Amore” is focused on timeless love songs. And “Premiere” is a chronological musical tribute to some of the world’s top movies.

Showcasing the Destination: Recently launched, the new Viking Star, the first oceangoing vessel of Viking Cruises, has a main performance venue, The Theater, that will offer live performance focused on “the destination” along with so-called theatrical journeys.

The new ship will have two theaters, each of which will host lectures and other entertainment, but also first-run movies and such destination-driven films as “Room with A View,” “Roman Holiday,” or “Skyfall.” The line has also created soft, spacious sofa seating and chairs for its theater, rather than the typical theatre-style seats side by side.

Slip Sliding Away

Entertainment means different things to different people. Clients who love gaming can create their own show of sorts as MSC Cruises introduces the cruise industry’s first Slideboarding on the new MSC Seaside, launching year-round service from Miami, starting in late 2017.

Slideboarding is an unusual waterslide and interactive video game “all-in-one experience.” In a new waterpark twist, guests will race down a two-story, 367-foot slide on a sleekly designed raft that includes an embedded game controller with colored buttons.

The end goal — match the color of the flashing strobe lights seen on various sections of the slide with the colored buttons on the raft. The slide uses a smart gaming system that knows who riders are and tracks their progress and scores over the run down the waterslide.

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