What's Entertaining?

It's varied, it goes on all day and night, and it's included in the price!

Judging entertainment is like judging food: There are no absolute standards. An entertainer that I consider to be filet mignon might be another person's Big Mac®. So in this article I'll concentrate more on the types of shipboard entertainment you're likely to find, as opposed to specific performers or shows.

(For my tastes, the best entertainment to be found on any ship is people-watching! One would be hard pressed to find any professional act, in any venue, more entertaining than watching your fellow passengers interact by the swimming pools, or in the lounges, or even in the dining room. But I digress...)

Today's modern cruise ships are floating resorts that schedule various types of entertainment throughout the day and evening. On warm weather cruises, by noon the poolside area is normally filled with the sounds of a steel drum, reggae, or on occasion, a "top 40" band. On the first morning of a cruise, after I've staked out my sunning area, lathered on the sun block, and listened as the band strikes up a familiar Caribbean tune, I can feel the stress drain from my body. That's the defining moment, letting me know I'm cruising again!

Daytime entertainment on ships runs the gamut. I've seen everything from poolside games, to lessons on napkin folding or scarf tying, to wine tastings, to guest lecturers, and of course, the old cruise standby, bingo.

When evening arrives, the larger vessels can easily offer up to a dozen venues with live entertainment. I really enjoy the ships that offer "easy listening" music in the dining room. The food seems to taste better when there's a trio playing the theme from Doctor Zhivago in the background.

One of my personal favorites, available on some ships, is the sing-along piano bar. I couldn't hit a correct note if they offered me free Creamsicles for the duration of the cruise. But I really enjoy watching the talents (or lack thereof) of my fellow passengers. And once there are 50 other voices singing along, I can feel comfortable allowing my "nails on a blackboard" voice to join the melee.

Many ships offer various lounges for those who like to strut their stuff on a dance floor. I strut about as well as I sing, so it's not likely you'll find yourself ballroom dancing next to Mrs. Kuki and me anytime soon. However, there's normally a place available for those that can. You'll easily find everything from disco dancing to ballroom dancing, and generally a lounge featuring Top 40. Heck, there's often even a country and western night for some serious line dancing.

In the Caribbean, some of the best dancing can be at the deck parties, normally held twice a week when the ship is leaving port. The drinks flow, the conga lines form, and people have a ball.

I've been known to join a Conga line myself on occasion, since you only have to know how to hop or jump.

Any discussion of entertainment must include the "Show Room" programs. Each evening, most ships offer "feature entertainment" in their show rooms. And they're normally structured so both early and late diners can enjoy them. Shows are held either just before or after each dining time.

At least twice during a cruise, there's usually a Las Vegas-style revue in the show room. Since I've already admitted my inability to sing or dance, you might correctly surmise that these "song and dance" shows aren't really my thing. But Mrs. Kuki does enjoy them. The beauty of a cruise is that while she's enjoying the show, which I might consider undue punishment, I can relax in the casino. After the show, she'll often come get me, and we'll go for a drink so I can pretend to be interested in her description of the show she saw. It's one of our cruise rituals.

So to this point we've learned that I don't sing, I don't dance, and I don't enjoy song and dance shows. I like the casino, and I enjoy lazing by the pool doing nothing. Do I sound like your husband?

Even with my male attitude, there are still plenty of entertainment choices for me. I love a good comedian, and fortunately the cruise lines usually have two or three comedy shows during a seven-day cruise. In the case of "feature" or " headliner" entertainers, I've found these tend to be either young "stars" on their way up, or old stars on their way down. In both cases, I've seen some great acts (and occasionally, some stinkers).

Although song-and-dance shows and comedians are the staples on cruises, you might also find a good variety of novelty acts. Often there are magicians or jugglers. And good or bad, I've found myself in awe watching them perform their acts on a moving ship.

Many of these performers remain under contract with the cruise lines for lengthy periods, rotating from ship to ship at different ports of call. In some cases they can be on three different ships during the same week.

I do have some personal favorite entertainers from recent cruises who may still be working at sea. I recommend that you don't miss these individuals if they happen to be on your next cruise:

  • Noodles Levenstein--Perhaps the funniest comedian I've seen anywhere.
  • Marty Allen--Yup, he's still alive, still performing, and still funny.
  • The juggler guys -- Don't ask, just go.
  • A Hypnotist aboard Grand Princess whose name escapes me. Some 45 seconds into his act, if I hadn't forced my hands apart, I would have been onstage as part of his act.
  • Barty, a pianist who performed in the atrium on the Ocean Princess. He'd talk to people as they wandered by while he was playing. He had the funniest lines I've ever heard. He said, "This is the last time I take a job playing in a hallway.."

To ask Kuki a question directly, e-mail him at: kuki@cruisemates.com

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