Majesty of the Seas to sail Cuba cruise in 2019

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Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas

Royal Caribbean International’s Majesty of the Seas will become its second ship to visit Cuba in 2019.

The line plans a four-day voyage from Port Canaveral departing March 25, 2019. The cruise will include a full day in Havana. Prices will start at $549 plus taxes and port fees, Royal Caribbean said.

Thus far, Royal Caribbean has only offered Havana on Empress of the Seas itineraries from Tampa, Miami and Port Everglades.

Ships’ productions put Cuban culture in the spotlight

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Dancers and musicians perform in “Amor Cubano” at the opening of Carnival Cruise Line’s new rehearsal studio in Davie, Fla. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
 

Cuba, the hottest cruise destination of the last year, has now become the hottest theme in cruise ship entertainment.

The island’s recent opening to U.S. tourism is inspiring show producers and casting directors at several of the Miami-based cruise lines, and production teams are using it as a springboard to explore Cuban culture and stress the authenticity of the music, costuming and overall approach.

Each of the three contemporary cruise brands in South Florida either has a Cuba-

themed show on its ships or has one in development.

Royal Caribbean International’s “Bailamos” is already being staged on the Empress of the Seas as that ship sails from Tampa on itineraries that include Havana. Carnival Cruise Line is shifting a production of its “Amor Cubano” show to the Carnival Paradise when it begins Cuba sailings in June.

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Carnival Paradise

Norwegian Cruise Line, meanwhile, is preparing an ambitious show developed by Tony Award-winning choreographer Warren Carlyle for the debut of its next ship, the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss, in 2018.

It was perhaps telling that when Carnival held an open house for its new 45,000-square-foot entertainment rehearsal hall, Carnival Studios, in Davie, Fla., earlier this month, the show it chose to highlight was “Amor Cubano.”

The show is a blend of Spanish and English language songs, sung and danced by a cast of 12 and backed by a four-piece Cuban band. It is performed against a backdrop of scenes from Cuba projected on a 480-square-foot LED screen.

Kerry Stables, director of creative development in Carnival’s entertainment department, said the show was proposed in 2015 by Peter Flynn, a Broadway director who had done five shows previously with Carnival’s creative team.

Stables said Carnival chose the show because it only had one other Latin show in its repertoire, which was a “Latin pop crossover style.”

In contrast, “Amor Cubano” is authentic enough that audience members born on the island have cried during some of the numbers, said Sarah Beth Reno, Carnival’s entertainment vice president.

The show, which debuted on the Carnival Vista, was added to the Carnival Glory in the fall of 2016 and will open on the Carnival Paradise next month.

“Once the announcement was made about the Paradise going to Cuba, it was a given that we should add the show to that ship, as well, to truly expand the guests’ experience while enjoying Cuba first hand,” Stables said.

Royal Caribbean’s cruise to Cuba aboard the Empress of the Seas features two shows that have elements of Cuban entertainment. The first, “Bailamos,” which means “let’s dance” in Spanish, showcases Latin music in a broad range of styles, from nostalgic Hollywood to new musicals on Broadway.

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Empress of the Seas

The second, called “Three,” is a tribute to showgirls of yesterday, today and tomorrow. The costuming, with its towering feather headdresses, is reminiscent of those that tourists in Havana can see if they visit the legendary Tropicana Cabaret for its two-hour outdoor extravaganza.

At Norwegian Cruise Line, the entertainment team has been working for nine months on an original musical.

“It’s basically going to be a celebration of Cuban culture and Cuban music,” said Richard Ambrose, Norwegian’s vice president of entertainment. “It’s also going to be [cast with] Cuban or Cuban-American artists. So it’s really going to be an authentic feel, under the helm of Broadway’s best.”

Ambrose said the costuming will be done by New York-based Cuban-American fashion designer Isabel Toledo, while the art direction and scenic design will go to her husband, artist Ruben Toledo.

The show is targeted for the Norwegian Bliss, which debuts in June 2018 in Seattle with “Jersey Boys” as its lead show. Ambrose said the Cuban production will be equally exciting but in a different vein.

“We think this is going to blow the roof off entertainment, not only at sea but everywhere in the world,” he said.

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Norwegian Bliss

Royal Caribbean Commits to Cuba Through 2019

Royal Caribbean Commits to Cuba Through 2019

PHOTO: Royal Caribbean International’s Empress of the Seas. (photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International)

After the initial success of Empress of the Seas’ arrival in Cuba, Royal Caribbean International has announced its expansion of the ship’s calls to Havana as far out as 2019.

“Since arriving in Cuba for the first time last month, we’ve seen the excitement of our guests when sailing into Havana and the passion they have for the city at sail away – its people, its architecture, its food, its music. This is the enthusiasm we strive to bring to adventure-seekers who vacation with us,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International, in a press release.

“The positive reaction to our Cuba sailings is very encouraging, and we are thrilled to expand on the number of sailings for our 2018-2019 itineraries.”

The ship will sail a new batch of 58 four- and five-night itineraries from January 2018 through March 2019, 28 of which will feature an overnight in the Cuban capital of Havana.

Empress of the Seas currently cruises from Tampa, Florida through November 4, 2017, and will next return to Miami, Florida to depart for Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay private island and Nassau, The Bahamas for the winter 2017-2018 season.

By summer 2018, the ship will be back in Tampa heading to Key West, Florida, Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, plus Havana, Cuba on most voyages. For the winter 2018-2019 season, it will leave from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Cuba is also featured on board the Empress of the Seas thanks to cortaditos and cafe con leche in Cafe Royal, plus salsa music and dancing in Boleros Latin lounge. The 48,563-ton ship accommodates 1,602 guests in 795 staterooms across 11 decks.