Luxury Cruises Ramp Up New Entertainment Options

by James Shillinglaw

Seven Seas Explorer will feature a Burn the Floor ballroom dance performance set to music from the Beatles. 

What’s the show tonight? That’s the question many guests ask on their cruises, not necessarily expecting any great performances. Indeed, cruise ship entertainment has often been overlooked for the value it brings to guests and as a selling point for travel agents. 

For larger vessels, entertainment has become a crucial part of the draw, with full Broadway musicals, major production shows, name brand stars, and more being featured onboard. 

On smaller luxury ships, however, entertainment is sometimes overlooked, even though it can be of extremely high quality. At the Seatrade cruise industry conference in Fort Lauderdale earlier this month, one major luxury line unveiled a new program designed put its entertainment on par with what’s offered on larger vessels. 

Regent Seven Seas Cruises introduced four new production shows for its new Seven Seas Explorer, set to debut in July, which were created with the support of its parent company, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH). The stated goal is to take luxury cruise ship entertainment “to the next level,” said Richard Ambrose, NCLH’s vice president-entertainment.   

The four shows include “Paradis,” a salute to Paris burlesque and cabaret created by Patricia Wilcox, one of Broadway’s leading choreographers, with the performers changing into more than 300 costumes. Another show is the “Peggy Lee Songbook,” which features new arrangements of the songs made famous by the 1950s jazz and pop singer. 

There’s also a Broadway style show, “A Day in Hollywood,” adapted from an original Tony-award winning show called “A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine,” described as a review of the golden era of movies, from musicals to film noir. 

Finally there’s Burn the Floor My Revolution, a ballroom-dance show created for Regent by Peter Roby that centers on Feb. 9, 1964, the night the Beatles were introduced on the Ed Sullivan Show. Ambrose described the show as ballroom dancing performed to Beatles music and more. Norwegian Cruise Line already features Burn the Floor performances on many of its ships. 

A top theatrical team comprised of writers, directors, and choreographers with extensive Broadway experience is developing the new productions specifically for Seven Seas Explorer, led by Julliard-trained musical director Jeremy Fenn-Smith. They feature a cast of 12 singers and dancers accompanied by a live seven-piece orchestra. All shows will debut in July on Seven Seas Explorer when the ship is launched.  

Regent Seven Seas also is upgrading the level of entertainment across its entire fleet after each of its other vessels go into dry dock. In the coming months, each ship will add a wide range of staged entertainment, from Broadway-style theatrical shows and musical medleys to variety-style comedic productions. 

Of course, Regent Seven Seas isn’t the only high-end cruise line to feature entertainment. Seabourn features several shows created by London’s Belinda King Productions. Most cruises offer two production shows a week with a six- or seven- member cast. Each ship features five shows in its overall repertoire, and they are different on each ship, said Chris Jurasas, Seabourn’s manager of cruise programming.  

Seabourn’s three ships, which carry 450 guests each, are smaller than Regent Seven Seas’ vessels. They have a Grand Salon theater that has a low ceiling and a large dance floor, so they don’t have the facilities to stage large production shows. 

Instead, Seabourn features more intimate performances, such as Seabourn Sessions, which has four vocalists sitting in a recording-studio setting singing classical, Broadway, West End, and soul.  

For its new ship, Seabourn Encore, which launches next year, the cruise line will continue to feature shows developed by Belinda King Productions, though no details are available yet on the specific themes and performances. Jurasas said Seabourn Encore will have at least one new feature: A series of LED walls in its theater where video will be integrated into the productions.  

Seabourn also has an extensive guest-entertainment program, according to Jurasas, usually featuring two guest entertainers on a seven-day cruise, everything from vocalists to magicians, classical and pop pianists to comedians. “On a seven-day cruise you will probably only see two production shows,” he said. “The rest of the evenings are guest entertainment or performances by the crew themselves.” 

In addition to production shows and guest entertainers, Seabourn also offers local entertainment, everything from a Military Ensemble in St. Petersburg, Russia, to a Bollywood show in Mumbai, India, to a tango show in Montevideo. It also features a Seabourn Conversations series with top lecturers and media personalities, and a Seabourn Concert series, with Tony award-winning vocalists, opera singers and comedians. 

At Silversea Cruises, a number of new productions made their debut last year across the fleet. These shows feature live singing complemented with musical tracks recorded exclusively for Silversea by such groups as London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. 

There are seven different shows featuring an ensemble of accomplished vocalists, known collectively as the Voices of Silversea. Three of the principal productions performed in the main Show Lounge fleetwide include “Musica Maestro,” a 45-minute tribute to popular operatic arias and classical crossover music; “Mind the Gap,” described as a lively journey back to the 1960s and the British Invasion that conquered the airwaves with such legendary pop and rock stars as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Lulu, Tom Jones and more; and “Don't Stop the Music,” a sing-along homage to the disco era where guests can t take to the dance floor when the ship's DJ steps in. 

In addition, four other musical production shows are rotated among Silversea ships, including Caliente, a Latin-flavored production encompassing tunes from Spain and South America; Shaken Not Stirred, celebrating the intrigue, glamour, and sophistication embodied in 50 years of James Bond films; Première, a chronological musical tribute to some of the world's greatest movies; and Amore, featuring timeless love songs. 

Silversea also features a collection of specialty voyages titled "Exclusively Yours- Enriched Voyages," that offers special programs, such as opera shows performed by the world-renowned Accademia Teatro alla Scala and classic ballet performances by acclaimed soloists from the esteemed State Academic Bolshoi Theater of Russia, among other performers. 

For its part, Crystal Cruises has a full slate of productions onboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, though entertainment on its new Crystal Esprit yacht is more limited because of the small size of the vessel. 

Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity showcase a wide variety of contemporary and classic Broadway-style production shows in the Galaxy Lounge, the ships’ main lounge for show-stopping performances.  These shows include “iLuminate: The Tourist” and “iLuminate: Imagine,” similar shows created exclusively for Crystal featuring an innovative musical meshing of song, dance, and light that first wowed audiences on America’s Got Talent. There’s also “Rocket Man,” an Elton John tribute; “6/8 Café,” a rhythm and beat mash-up featuring songs from the 1960s and 1980s; and “My Life,” featuring the music of Billy Joel. 

Crystal also offers magic shows and magic education for kids and adults through its exclusive Magic Castle at Sea. Other entertainment choices include screenings of recently released movies in the Hollywood Theatre, string quartets, jazz, or piano music in the lounges, ballroom dancing with a live orchestra.  

Tip of the Day

Something could happen to any of us, the loved ones we travel with, or in this case, to the magnificent marvels put up by those who came before us. So we must travel as far and as often as time and money allow.

Stefanie Katz, The Travel Superhero

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