Celebrity Tie-ins Newest Cruise Trend

| Monday, 07 Oct. 2013

The newest trend at many cruise lines is creating affiliations with celebrities for a variety of reasons

Kristen Chenoweth charms as the Quantum Spokeswoman

They may have tie-ins with Broadway, movies, television, sports, literature, politics or any other reason for notoriety. In some cases it is to consult, in other cases it is to manage and at best (but in rare cases) they are coming onboard ships to actually entertain the guests.

The latest cruise line trend has the “celebrity tie-in” to develop or consult on a new feature aboard its ships. Celebrity chefs can create new recipes, celebrity DJs can train the other DJs in the fleet on the art of playing records, home décor experts can aid the cruise line matching its drapes and curtains and sports figures can consult on fitness amenities.

The celebrity trend started years ago, such as the famous Kathie Lee “If you could see me now” affiliation with Carnival Cruise Line.  Many cruise lines hired celebrity chefs to add some zest to the onboard cuisine. But lately it seems hardly anything can go on a cruise ship without some kind of celebrity endorsement.

Just today I received a new announcement from Royal Caribbean that made me wonder if this trend has gone too far. The problem is that I am not a celebrity watcher, so I cannot honestly gauge the importance of this announcement. So, I decided to do my research.

The announcement is telling me that Royal Caribbean just “teamed up” with former NFL sixth-round draft pick Dhani Jones, to “create a game plan for active cruising onboard Quantum of the Seas,” the line’s new ship set to debut in November, 2014. I found out that Dhani left the NFL in 2007, but that he followed his football career with a Travel Channel television series where he learns to play different sports games unknown to most Americans.

I checked the Travel Channel for details about these unknown sports and what did I see? Let’s just say I once knew a bartender named Fritz on Royal Viking who would have “loooooved” these episodes. The titles include “Dhani is Schwingen in Switzerland,” “Dhani Gets Worked Over Down Under,” and even “Dhani Jones Uncut in Italy.”

I don’t mean to belittle the celebrity concept, but I have to question its efficacy.  Will the cruising public even remember the name Dhani Jones when they finally get aboard Quantum – more than a year from now?

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The same announcement says Genevieve Gorder, “one of America’s favorite interior designers and the most popular personalities on cable television network HGTV,” as another of many “Quantum Experience Advisors.” Gorder has been working with Royal Caribbean since May 2013 “to influence and inspire the décor and furnishings in the loft and suite accommodations onboard Quantum of the Seas, where her soulful and whimsical style will be felt throughout” says the cruise line.

I am obviously not impressed. My guess is that Royal Caribbean’s own design experts are doing 99% of the real work.


Compelling Cruise Line Celebrity Tie-ins

But some celebrity tie-ins coming from cruise lines are truly compelling, and what bothers me is the way too many of these announcements dilute and cheapen the real celebrity tie-ins that actually enhance the cruise experience.

Holland America deserves a lot of credit for featuring real contenders from the ABC Network hit show; Dancing with the Stars. The line brings on top competitors from the show to perform in front of real audiences on the ship – a huge difference.

Recently the Oosterdam featured Kym Johnson, a three-time Dancing with the Stars champion. Reports came back that Johnson literally had more than half the ship “dancing like no one was watching.” Other notable dancers appearing on Holland America include Tristan MacManus and Sabrina Bryan. The “Champions Cruise” will be held next January 12 on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

I also recently received a note from Holland America to mention a reverse “celebrity tie-in.” One of the line’s former entertainers is now a real contender on the NBC show “The Voice.” 29 year old Stephanie Anne Johnson, a singer from Tacoma who spends about six months per year singing on Holland America ships, wowed the show’s judges CeeLo Green and Christina Aguilera last Tuesday night (Oct. 1). She picked Aguilera to be her coach for the show’s later rounds.


The “Celebrity Tie-in” Legacy

It is hard to say when the idea of using celebrities to boost cruise line profiles started. Even British royalty, including the Queen of England herself, have christened cruise ships. Sophia Loren has christened so many ships in Europe she could start her own cruise line. But for most Godmothers any affiliation with the cruise industry seems limited to the one event.

One notable exception is Royal Caribbean already using Kristen Chenoweth, who will be the Godmother for Quantum of the Seas, as the spokeswoman for many events for the forthcoming ship. Royal Caribbean enlisted her services starting 20 months ahead of the ship’s inaugural. Kristen is an Emmy and Tony-award winning star of Broadway, television and movies, and so far she has been engaging and charming – adding considerable flair to the Quantum events. I would call that a “celebrity tie-in win.”

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