Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cruise Line Entertainment: Which Is The Best At Sea?

For years cruise lines have presented production shows described as Broadway-themed or Vegas-style entertainment. Their aspirations have been high, but seldom would they have been mistaken for the real thing. As a rule, cruise ship shows are quite entertaining and the performers range from good to excellent. Don't forget that "American Idol" finalist and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson got her first big gig aboard Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wonder. There's no question that Disney entertainment is superb.

However, passengers accustomed to actual Broadway shows and Vegas extravaganzas generally scoff at cruise ship shows they deem as cheesy or faux. Cruise Diva has never thought that was fair, but cruise line execs take what their guests say to heart and are now upping the entertainment ante.

With the introduction this year of Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) expanded the big-time theme to include actual Vegas acts at sea. In an industry first, they welcomed Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert aboard their newest ship to join another internationally well-known group whose reputation is nothing to sneeze at—the Second City Players, which are featured across the fleet. The reaction to this line-up of talent and showmanship has been nothing short of phenomenal. At this point, we might remind you that NCL pioneered the presentation of shortened versions of Broadway musicals aboard their ships. In the early-to-mid-1990s we saw "42nd Street," "Grease," and "Will Rogers Follies" presented on various NCL ships.

So, when we recently read what Adam Goldstein, President and CEO Royal Caribbean Intl said in his Why Not? blog, "I’m lobbying to change the name of our newest ship to Entertainment of the Seas," we paid attention.

Royal Caribbean is setting the stage for an encore when Allure of the Seas launches next month. Reprising the at-sea debut of "Hairspray" aboard Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas will feature "Chicago: The Musical" in its main show theater in a slightly condensed version to fit a run time of about 90 minutes. In addition, other entertainment options will be available, including a signature aquatic production in the ship's open-air AquaTheater and an ice show planned for the ship's ice-skating rink.

If that "slightly condensed" version of a hit musical has a familiar ring to it, it's because NCL did it first. More than two decades ago. While NCL (or anyother cruise lines) would be hard pressed to present ice skating reviews and aquatic shows, it is pretty difficult to compete with the popularity of Blue Man Group.

It is also beginning to look like we have a battle for the best entertainment afloat in the works. And the winner is ... cruise passengers.

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