Cruise Entertainment Heats Up
Written by: Paul Motter
Cruise line competition for the best in onboard entertainment is heating up, and we are the winners.
Last Monday (Oct. 3) Carnival held a special press conference in New York City to announce its newest entertainment initiative called FunShip 2.0. The $500-million plan will bring two television celebrities into the Carnival fold to “brand” future aspects of the cruise experience on Carnival ships. FunShip 2.0 starts with recently departed TBS late-night talk show host George Lopez becoming “Director of Comedy” for all the shipboard comedy clubs across the Carnival fleet. Additionally, Food Network personality Guy Fieri will bring his own personal touch to the new “Guy’s Burger Joint,” restaurant to be featured on all Carnival ships.
Is it any coincidence that Carnival called the press conference to announce this just after Norwegian Cruise Lines had already announced it will hold a press conference in New York City on October 6th (tomorrow) to announce the latest developments in its Project Breakaway ships? Is it any coincidence that Carnival then held their press conference three days before the Norwegian press conference?
Did Carnival intentionally steal Norwegian’s thunder? My little black 8-ball tells me “It is decidedly so.” But can you blame Carnival for doing that?
Carnival had been the lone holdout in terms of ramping up to the next level in onboard entertainment. The line has always had good stage shows, but nothing for guests to brag about when they get home. Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean and NCL (the two mainstream cruise line competitors to Carnival) have both been focused on much better entertainment for a few years now. Now that Carnival has joined the ranks, with a hefty $500-million investment, the very definition of cruise ship entertainment is going to a higher level.
Most likely, that Norwegian press conference will be for the purpose of announcing the entertainment offerings NCL has lined up for the two new “Breakaway” ships set to debut in April of 2013 and April 2014. And the news they intend to announce could be impressive, if the entertainment offerings on Norwegian Epic are any indication.
Norwegian Cruise Lines has had very good entertainment at sea for years now, and Norwegian Epic, the line’s newest ship, has the best entertainment at sea in my opinion, and that is saying a lot when you consider the shows Royal Caribbean presents on Oasis and Allure of the Seas. Those ships have real Broadway shows, ice and aquatic acrobatic revues and 3-D movies and characters from DreamWorks (Disney’s top animation competitor).
But Norwegian Epic has Blue Man Group, the Second City comedy group of Chicago, Howl at the Moon (dueling pianos) and a great blues bar hosted by authentic New Orleans bluesman Slam Allen. The ship certainly wins my award for best entertainment. Meanwhile, Norwegian is attempting to build excitement for its upcoming Project Breakaway ships, and I can’t help wondering what they could possibly do to top Norwegian Epic.
In all honesty, I have no idea, unless it is a Beatles reunion with a resurrected John Lennon along with Johnny Carson as the cruise director. Okay, let’s put it this way; the Project Breakaway entertainment will either be fantastically cool, or a disappointment. If the latter, the size of the disappointment remains to be seen. It could a little disappointing, or it could be a real bummer.
The ball is in Norwegian’s court. What can they do to surpass Blue Man Group?
Personally, “Rent” is one of my favorite Broadway shows, but it is a little controversial. “Spider Man” would be great, but not in high seas. You know, I’ll bet they had this very conversation at NCL.
They could get the actual Cirque D’ Soliel to do a show, rather than the pale imitation “Cirque Dreams and Dinner” (the act I forgot to mention above) that they currently have on Norwegian Epic now. They could get a big star, like Celine Dion or Conan O’Brien to live on the ship and entertain nightly…
Maybe they will do something completely different – like spend the night in Nassau once a week and have stadium shows by great rock bands where they save the floor seats for the cruise passengers. Bands like Pink Floyd or Eric Clapton will entertain.
In any case, one thing is certain with this announcement by Carnival; cruise ship entertainment has now officially gone to the next level. The days of “A Salute to Hollywood” stage revues featuring no-name singer/dancers culled from Dollywood are behind us. The new generation of cruise ship entertainment is Las Vegas caliber, not Branson Missouri.
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Posted: October 4th, 2011 under Paul Motter.