While Royal Caribbean was installing real Broadway shows on its largest ships and Norwegian Cruise Line was building a custom theater for Blue Man Group on its newest megaship, Norwegian Epic, Carnival Cruises was muddling along with the same basic showtime entertainment format it had for years, possibly decades.
Disney Cruise Line has its own animated characters, movies and original stage productions to present on its ships. Inspired by Disney, Norwegian (NCL) forged an agreement with Nickelodeon to put the channel's popular kids' TV characters like Spongebob Squarepants on its ships. Royal Caribbean aligned with DreamWorks to get Shrek and Fiona and a number of other popular animated movie characters for special shows and appearances on some of its ships.
Meanwhile, cruise industry leader Carnival stuck by their solitary kids' mascot, Funship Freddy. Not exactly a household name in the world of family entertainment.
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Trans-Atlantic bargains for third and fourth guests from $99 each, $199 in Mediterranean, $299 in Baltic.
Holland America Line
Well, the comment cards must have been telling Carnival something - because just two days ago Carnival announced a $500-million investment in entertainment upgrades to its entire fleet, starting with a new kind of celebrity "branding." For the first time a cruise line is affiliating itself with celebrities that appeal to adults, rather than kids.
Carnival just named former TBS late-night talk show host George Lopez as its "Director of Comedy." The popular comedian will appear on Carnival cruise ships though pre-recorded audio and video messages. More importantly, he will also be responsible for finding the comedic talent for the Punchliner Comedy Clubs aboard ships in the Carnival fleet. Carnival Comedy Club shows feature two different comedians doing two or three shows nightly. Now there will also be a "comedy brunch" added to each cruise.
Carnival also announced a new affiliation with popular Food Network personality Guy Fieri who will create a new shipboard dining spot called "Guy's Burger Joint" to serve top quality beef hamburgers and hand-cut French fries. There will be no cover charge for the burger restaurants, which will replace the hamburger grills currently in place on the pool decks.
Celebrity Last-Minute Cruise Bargains
Holy Land $899, 11-night Europe $1099, Caribbean 4/5-night $299, 7-night $699
Carnival has also joined up with EA SPORTS; a division of game maker Electronic Arts specializing in sports video games such as Madden NFL, NBA Elite and NASCAR. Carnival will install EA Sports Bars on its ships featuring real sports on flat screen TVs, real-time game score tickers, trivia contests, video game tournaments, bar snacks and a drink menu for people of all ages.
Yet another new alliance involves popular game maker, Hasbro. Carnival will create a new series of interactive games based on the popular Family Game Night television show from the Hasbro television station called The Hub (which replaced "Discovery Kids" a year ago; the channel appeals to kids during the day and families at night). Carnival will create a theater production called "The Game Show," with a series of six new games based upon Hasbro themes including Sorry Sliders, a giant shuffleboard court; Simon Flash, where two teams of four guests wearing giant lighted color boxes compete to repeat color sequences; Yahtzee Bowling, using a giant ball and larger-than-life bowling pins; Operation, a Skee-ball-like game board where balls must fill different slots on the patient's body; and Connect 4 Basketball, a checkers-based game using basketballs.
CruiseMates Cruise - Europe 2012
Sail on the Brand New Carnival Breeze on a 14-day cruise from Barcelona to Italy starting at $1499 per person.
Carnival Breeze 2012
The RedFrog Bar - which is already a hit on the new Dream-class vessels, will be put on ships throughout the fleet and will serve the new private label Carnival beer, ThirstyFrog Red. This bar will be juxtaposed across the deck from another new theme bar called the BlueIguana Cantina, a Mexican bar and restaurant featuring freshly made burritos, tacos and an on-site tortilla making machine.
For after dinner entertainment Carnival has found DJ Irie, said to be already famous in Las Vegas and Miami, who will operate the "DJ IRIE's Spin'iversity" to develop the skills of future ship-board DJs within the Carnival fleet.
For production shows, Carnival has teamed up with Playlist Productions to update the current onboard production shows. The shows, originally created by leading producers, directors and choreographers who have worked on Broadway and London's West End, include Motor City, based on the 60's Motown sound; Divas, based on the shows of iconic female entertainers, Latin Nights! and The Brits!
The new productions will debut on Carnival Breeze when it enters service next summer. They will be put aboard other ships in the fleet in the following year.