Oh Captain, Our Captain: How We Keep the Shows on Course

After Midnight on Norwegian Escape

In football, the Head Coach works with Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Coordinators and several speciality coaches to run drills in practise. They create plays for their weekly games and plan all sorts of contingencies. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Production shows are led by their Creative Staff during rehearsals and have a few Captains of their own who take over the artistic integrity of the show once the shows are installed and the “Creatives” leave.

What types of captains do we have in our casts? In After Midnight, onboard the Norwegian Escape, we have a Vocal Captain and a Dance Captain. A Vocal Captain oversees vocal warmups before shows and has rehearsals for any songs in need of, pun intended, tune-ups. Dance Captains oversee the dancing and any physical movement, also known as “staging”.

Some casts, such as For the Record: The Brat Pack, have a Show Captain who assumes the Dance and Vocal Captain duties. Speciality show elements have their own Captains. Priscilla Queen of the Desert on the Norwegian Epic has a Fly Captain overseeing the show’s aerial work. Ships with only one production cast typically have one Dance Captain and one Vocal Captain who maintain the choreography and singing in all their production shows.

All show Captains are appointed by the Creative Staff during rehearsals at the Norwegian Creative Studios in Tampa, Florida. The Creatives consider principal, supporting and ensemble performers for these duties. In the first Priscilla Queen of the Desert cast, the actor performing the leading role of Felicia served as Dance Captain. In the current cast, the Dance Captain is a member of the ensemble.

Just like the coaches and players adapting to injuries or reevaluating an offensive scheme a few drives into a football game, the Stage Managers and Captains are responsible for maintaining the shows. We do so by giving notes after each performance and by having brush-up rehearsals. Captains run these rehearsals for songs, dances or transitions in need of work for safety or aesthetic purposes. Sometimes dancers focus on one or two sequences of a dance and they need a reminder of the story they’re telling throughout the entire musical number. The Captains help bring us back to the basics by reminding us of the Creatives’ original staging and artistic decisions. 

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Shows like After Midnight blend the lines of personal and set decisions. Many of the tap dances are improvisational or have solo moments. Within certain restrictions for safety and stylistic dance moves that fit the 1920’s jazz era we portray, dancers may change up their solos as often as they like.

Stage Managers and Captains also collaborate to implement any casting changes. This includes mid-contract joining or parting cast members, last minute illnesses or even mid-show injuries! By creating contingency plans and having understudy rehearsals throughout the week, we ensure the cast members whose normal performance routines change under abnormal conditions can do so feeling safe and confident in their performance.

No matter the circumstances, these true team leaders oversee the shows onboard. The Stage Managers and Captains work each day ensuring audiences see the best quality performances possible. Just like sports teams, it takes teamwork, hard work and the overall goals of the production to keep the shows alive and fresh every time a new audience enters the theatre .

Preview 2013: Cruise

Preview 2013: Cruise

By Tom Stieghorst
Preview 2013As 2013 arrives, the cruise industry can only pray that there is no repeat of the signature event of 2012.

A year ago, travelers seemed ready to pay higher prices for cruises. Then the Costa Concordia accident happened, casting a pall over cruising that lasted for a good part of the year.

Looking at next year, Micky Arison, chairman of Carnival Corp., which owns Costa Cruises, said in September that prices are generally well positioned to reach parity with 2011 by Q2 2013.

However, for the Costa line in particular, “to climb back to where things were before will take a couple of years beyond 2013,” Arison said.

In some markets, there are signs that next year will be more normal. Starting in January, Norwegian Cruise Line is hiking prices 10% on its Pride of America ship in Hawaii.

Alaska will continue to regain capacity in 2013 that was lost to the ill-conceived passenger head tax several years ago. But trouble looms in 2015 with a tighter standard for low-sulfur fuel, though some breathing room remains for reaching a regulatory compromise.

The biggest unknown hanging over the industry for 2013 is Europe, both as a source of passengers and as a draw for North Americans faced with continued high airfares.

At Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., capacity for 2013 is down 20% in the Western Mediterranean and 9% in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“The European market continues to be the most puzzling market we’re facing,” said RCCL Vice Chairman Brian Rice.

Closer to home, cruise lines continue to bring more ships to within driving distance of their customers. Princess Cruises in 2013 will operate a ship year-round from San Francisco, giving the Bay Area drive-market itineraries to Alaska, Hawaii and coastal California.

Disney Cruise Line will offer a full year of cruising from Galveston, Texas, another popular drive market, while Norwegian, Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line will all operate additional cruises from Boston.

NCL BreakawayBut the port with the biggest potential increase in passengers next year is New York, which stands to gain 4,000 passengers a week starting in May with the introduction of the $840 million Norwegian Breakaway.

The Breakaway is staking its claim to New York-area loyalists with a ship that boasts Sabrett hot dog carts and Brooklyn Brewery beer among its food offerings. Five water slides, a two-story spa and Norwegian’s first seafood restaurant are some of the Breakaway’s other attractions.

Another big debut will take place across the pond next year with the delivery of the Royal Princess, the first new ship for Princess in nearly five years. The 3,600-passenger ship will do 12-day Mediterranean cruises before repositioning in October to the Caribbean. Among its noteworthy features will be a cantilevered, glass-enclosed skywalk that extends 28 feet beyond the ship’s edge.

MSC Cruises also has an entrant in the newbuild derby, the $742 million Preziosa, which will boast a 394-foot water slide, the world’s longest at sea.

Carnival Cruise Lines in 2013 will take the wraps off the largest ship makeover in its history when it refits the 17-year-old Carnival Destiny in a 49-day drydock. When it emerges in April, the vessel will sail under a new name, the Carnival Sunshine, and with a slew of new features.

The $155 million transformation will add part of a new deck and expand two others, giving the ship a new layout.

Another 182 cabins will be added to the ship, along with new restaurants, more sports activities and a three-story, adults-only Serenity space.

The Sunshine is emblematic of the trend toward reusing and upgrading older ships rather than ordering new ones. Cruise executives say they want to add new ships in a more measured way than in the past to avoid excess capacity, which dilutes cruise pricing.

They are putting capital into retrofitting older ships with features from newer ones to give them a contemporary feel.

Another example is the Royal Advantage program under way at Royal Caribbean International, which is spending $500 million to modernize 11 ships.

Due for a makeover in 2013 are the Legend, Brilliance, Independence, Vision and Navigator of the Seas, which range in age from 5 to 18 years old.

Prominent among the additional features will be specialty restaurants that boost onboard spending, but the whole package should enable Royal, and agents, to tout new amenities that command better prices.

Deployments in 2013 will feature more cruise segments that can be combined into longer voyages. Celebrity Cruises, for example, will offer more short cruises in Europe that can be paired with a second short cruise with a different set of port calls.

“We want to have more seven-day itineraries for that family or couple who can’t get away for a long time,” said Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president of sales at Celebrity.

Luxury lines, as always, will be focused in 2013 on destination development. Azamara Club Cruises will offer a night excursion with each cruise after its two ships come out of drydock early next year.

Another trend is a tighter watch on rebating, which makes for an uneven playing field among agents. Silversea Cruises cracked down on client poaching by saying that agents who rebook a client more than 30 days after they have already booked with a different agent will not receive a commission.

Whatever actions cruise lines take to improve their prospects, some of the key ingredients to prosperity remain beyond their control.

The wild card factors of the economy, oil prices and geopolitical stability can upend any strategy the industry has conceived.

That said, economic trends seem favorable going into 2013.

The wealth effect from a rising stock market could drive a more robust Wave season early in the year. At about $90 a barrel, oil prices were off their March high of $110 a barrel. And U.S. unemployment fell to 7.7% in November, meaning more consumers would be getting a paycheck to spend on vacations.

Although the jobless rate remains high, travel agent Grace Dieleman, owner of Vellinga’s Travel Service in Chatham, Ontario, said that inverting the equation gives 2013 a rosier hue.

“You always hear about 10% unemployment,” Dieleman said, “but that also means that 90% of the population is still working.”

Down Under overview: Cruise growing by leaps and bounds

Down Under overview: Cruise growing by leaps and bounds

By Donna Tunney
InsightThe cruise industry in Sydney is in an extraordinary growth phase, and it doesn’t look like it will slow down, according to Chris White, chairman of Cruise Down Under, the cruise marketing organization representing the Pacific region’s national and state tourism agencies, regional ports, shipping agents and cruise operators.

In his recent year-end report, White said there were 214 ship visits to Sydney in 2011, up from 150 in 2010; that represents a 43% increase.

For the 2012-13 season, 264 ship visits have already been booked.
Sydney’s harbor is the only one in Australia with two dedicated cruise passenger terminals, he noted.

This winter, several ships will make their maiden visits to Sydney, including Costa Cruises’ Costa Deliziosa, Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Century, Holland America Line’s Zaandam and Princess Cruises’ Sea Princess.

February will be the high point of the cruise season, said White, with a new record of 33 ship visits, up from 27 for February 2011. Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth is one of the ships that will call at Sydney next month.

The Sydney Ports Corp., which develops and maintains the city’s facilities, is taking steps to improve the services and infrastructure necessary to sustain the city’s growth in cruise shipping. It is, among other initiatives, planning a significant upgrade at Sydney harbor’s Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay during the next couple of years, said White. And it will begin work soon on a $57 million terminal at White Bay, which is part of Sydney harbor where a temporary dock has been operating.

Meanwhile, said White, other developments are springing up in the Pacific region. The Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority, for example, has set its sights on luring more cruise ships by 2013. About 100 ships called in Papua New Guinea in 2010. Numbers for 2011 were not yet available.

“Papua New Guinea, the world’s truly last frontier, is waiting, beckoning to be explored and experienced. Every step in this uniquely diverse country of 800 different languages, tribes and peoples is an experience on its own,” said White.

A cruise port and terminal is located at Port Moresby, on the Gulf of Papua. Tourism officials are working to raise awareness of the destination with additional marketing projects and by attending major trade shows, such as Cruise Shipping Asia.

On the shore excursion front, Cruise Down Under recently announced a new product that might be an eye-opener to cruise passengers who visit Tasmania.

It’s a guided tour of the Coal Mines Historic Site, a former convict site, near Port Arthur.

“Located in a now peaceful bush landscape about 30 minutes’ drive from Port Arthur, the Coal Mines is a little known element of the great experiment in crime and punishment on which the Australian nation was founded,” said White.

Participants will explore the ruins of houses, barracks, offices and the underground cells of those who once lived and worked at the Coal Mines, a place where the “worst of the worst” convicts were sent for punishment.