Don’t you just hate those disparaging remarks made by certain X-Factor judges when they compare the latest wannabe with a cruise ship act?
Although not on the judging panel of the current Saturday night TV staple, Simon Cowell is a particular culprit, suggesting that acts that fail to deliver are more akin to appearing in front of cruise line passengers.
I suspect Cowell has never been on a cruise – he’s probably got a string of yachts of this own – so is merely using a cheap shot based on popular misconceptions about the quality of live entertainment to be found at sea.
Granted, I’ve witnesses some pretty appalling performers on board various ships (the term ‘has been’ springs to mind), but the overall quality of acts is actually pretty high and continues to improve.
If you are into Sixties, Seventies and Eighties pop, then there’s every chance you’ll find a star of the past recreating their hits in a cruise ship show lounge. And more often than not, they’ll be pretty good.
Remember, that when you are on a cruise, you are not paying any extra for shows in the main theatre, nightclubs, live music venues and comedy clubs (with the exception of some US lines which apply a fee for some forms of cabaret-style entertainment which includes a meal being served at your table).
Ticket to ride
So instead of forking out £30-plus per person for a regional theatre ticket, on a cruise you can take in a show every night, timed perfectly to fit in with either a pre or post-theatre dinner and drinks.
The best entertainment I’ve ever seen on a ship was this summer on board Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic, where the big productions would put many a West End musical to shame. You’ll be able to see for yourself when the ship returns to the Med in 2013.
It’s certainly no coincidence that Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson began her career on board a Disney ship. Although she’d been performing since childhood, Jennifer started her career in 2003 as a singer on the Disney Wonder, a stepping stone that led to ‘American Idol,’ an Academy Award and a Grammy Award.
I watched – and embarrassingly grooved in the aisles to – the best Beatles tribute band called Rain on board Royal Caribbean International’s Voyager of the Seas some years back. It was also somewhat disconcerting to bump into the facsimile fab four off duty over lunch in the ship’s Johnny Rockets 50’s themed diner.
As a bit of a music geek, I happen to love the intimate Fat Cat’s Jazz and Blues Club on board Norwegian Cruise Line’s big ship Norwegian Epic. The surroundings accurately replicate a dark and atmospheric Chicago-style bar complete with original posters of great musicians the on the walls.
Oceans of talent
A lot of the big lines have associations with entertainment groups, such as Royal Caribbean and Shrek creator DreamWorks and Norwegian with Nickelodeon, enabling passengers to mingle with movie and TV characters. I see that even Barbie has been recruited by Royal Caribbean to add extra appeal to children on a series of themed cruises starting in January and to be available across all 22 ships in the fleet by March.
But away from mannequins and movie characters and back to the kind of talent you will find on board.
In a way cruise ships as reflecting the kind of transformation Butlins has undergone in recent years. Swish new hotels and top class entertainment now make up the UK resort company’s offering. Once scoffed at, Butlins now has a whole new image and mass appeal including big name acts as part of the entertainment programme.
Likewise, cruising is now truly entrenched as a mainstream holiday choice, providing a wide breadth of entertainment choices from magicians and alternative comedians through to tribute bands, jazz combos and classical quartets.
I’m the first to admit that not all cruise shows are cutting edge and any number of runners up from the X-Factor can be found earning a good living on ships, but there are occasions when big names take to the stage.
P&O Cruises has been notable in promoting cruises by enticing popular talent to perform on board. I’m thinking of the likes of TV illusionist Derren Brown and internationally renowned tenor Russell Watson who have both played to packed houses on mini cruises from Southampton.
Attracting such names is a gift to the cruise company as they draw holidaymakers who can combine a short break to the continent with performances by star acts while getting immersed in the big ship experience of spa treatments, dinners in celebrity chef restaurants, gym workouts and duty free shopping.
And it’s a great opportunity for non-cruisers to experience a snapshot of a holiday at sea while enjoying world class entertainment on the way – with no arguments over who has to drive home at the end of the evening.
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