Entertainment on the high seas has taken a turn for the better in recent years and cruise ship shows are changing. Cruise lines are adding more options than ever before. The old days of a 70’s Vegas-style revue and bingo as standard fare are quickly coming to a close as cruise lines roll out new productions. A recent USA Today poll voted Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic as the top ship for entertainment. Other ships, from different lines, are turning out some great productions too as an at-sea evolution of entertainment options continues.Cirque Dreams and Dinner
On the top of any list has to be Norwegian Epic’s Cirque Dreams and Dinner show, arguably one of the best shows at sea. The two-hour set-meal show in the round has set the bar high for entertainment on any cruise line, if not on land as well. The food part, while good, was secondary to the audience-participation show for which video and flash photography were not allowed and that ban strictly enforced. While the company that produced this show is not connected with Cirque du Soliel, comparing the two is appropriate and accurate; the show blows your socks off, over and over again… but two feet away from you.
Blue Man Group
Also on Norwegian Epic, Blue Man Group combines music, comedy and multimedia theatrics in a shortened version of the off-Broadway production that started in 1991. If you have never seen a Blue Man Group performance then to say “silly”, “gross” or “disgusting” would probably turn you off. If you have had the pleasure, you know those things work with this amazingly zany production that leaves you thinking “How did they do that?” more often than not.
Royal Caribbean brought a shortened, 90-minute version of the Broadway musical to sea in 2009 on board then the largest cruise ship in the world, Oasis of the Seas. The show takes us back to 1960’s Baltimore, where the 50’s are out and change is in the air. Heroine, Tracy Turnblad, has a passion for dancing, and wins a spot on the local TV dance program, “The Corny Collins Show.” On a three year run with an option for one more, the Tony ward winning musical has all the high-energy numbers and is offered several times during a seven-night cruise. Savy booked passengers book seats in advance on Royal Caribean’s website to insure admission.
Also on Royal Caribbean, this Broadway musical made it’s at-sea debut on new Allure of the Seas in the ship’s 1300-set Amber Theater. Set in prohibition-era Chicago and based on actual crimes from the era this one is a satire packed full of singing, dancing, glamor and glitz. Also available for booking in advance of sailing,
OceanAria Aqua Show
Royal Caribbean brings an ancient underwater civilization to life from the deep below the new ship’s AquaTheater. Dancers soar above the crowd as performers execute stunning high dives into the theater’s deep pool, all while colorful back-lit fountains provide a synchronized backdrop of mist, rain, and streams.
Punchliner Comedy Clubs
Carnival Cruise Lines goes fleet-wide with this concept on all ships by year’s end. Located in the ship’s aft lounge, each Punchliner Comedy Club will offer guests loads of laughs with five 35-minute shows on multiple nights during each voyage, with at least two comedians performing each night. The two early-evening shows offer fun for the whole family while the later performances will feature adult-oriented comedy. Guests can also get rockin on a Carnival cruise with superstar Karaoke.
The Golden Mickeys
In addition to deck-side AquaDuck onboard roller coaster, Disney Cruise Line’s new Disney Dream features this 50-minute live musical show, a tribute to the musical heritage of Walt Disney. Set up like a real awards show, red carpet interviews are conducted with audience members prior to the show then Disney fans get a full dose of just about every Disney character on the roster. First introduced on Disney Wonder in 2004, this is an updated, re-energized version, sure to please anyone so hooked on Disney stuff that they took the cruise in the first place.
Also on new Disney Dream, “Believe” is a a love story between a father and daughter with a bring-along-the-Kleenex Disney-style message. Along the lines of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, “Believe” was a joint effort with Broadway director Gordon Greenberg, choreographer Patti Columbo and writer Kirsten Childs, as well as Disney’s creative team. The quick-moving show involves a father who overlooks his daughters birthday and the Genie from Aladdin who takes him through a series of shorts from classic Disney films aimed at transforming him to someone who believes in the magic of love.
Yes, they still do have production shows made especially for cruise ships. Carnival Cruise Line’s “Vroom” is one of the best featuring highly choreographed rock standards with an array of special effects. Showing ships including Carnival Splendor, just back from repairs after last year’s onboard fire knocked her out of service, this one gets rave reviews.
The only ship at sea with a planetarium, Cunard line’s Queen Mary 2 features three shows in a partnership with the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium. Harrison Ford narrates “Search for Life” in collaboration with NASA that explores the role of water as one of the necessities for life as we know it. “Cosmic Collisions” narrated by Robert Redford, launches passengers on a trip through space and time to explore the cosmic collisions and hypersonic impacts that drive evolution of the universe. “Passport to the Universe”, narrated by Tom Hanks, reveals the wonders of the universe on an exhilarating flight into the Orion Nebula, deep into intergalactic space.
Photo courtesy Blue Man Group