A subjective list of awards for cruise experiences

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Seven Seas Explorer

here’s no shortage of travel industry awards and accolades. 

Today I’ll offer some cruise-only nods — a mini Academy Awards lineup, if you will —  based on my seven years of cruising for Travel Weekly. Unlike the Oscars, in which categories of longstanding tradition are properly judged, my award categories and winners are completely subjective and based mostly on one moment on one ship, rather than a studious fleetwide evaluation over time.

Plus, mine aren’t broadcast on national television. And there’s no statuette. But they’re fun. See what you think, and offer your own winners in the comment section below.

So, with no further ado:

Best naming ceremony: Princess Cruises. Skies were grey in Southampton, England, on that June day in 2013, but who can beat royal princess Kate Middleton christening the Royal Princess? The British pomp and pageantry and the ladies in their gowns and fascinators made it unforgettable. Runner up: More royals, plus opera great Andrea Bocelli singing “Nessun Dorma” for the Seven Seas Explorer in Monaco.

Meal: Celebrity Cruises. I think it was on the Celebrity Reflection with former Celebrity public relations spokeswoman Liz Jakeway that I had a nearly flawless Italian dinner at the Tuscan Grille. Runner up: Guy Fieri’s burgers on Carnival Cruise Line.

Suite:  Viking Ocean Cruises. The Owner’s Suite on the Viking Star duplicates owner Tor Hagen’s book collection and comes with a (faux) fireplace and a sauna with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall for ocean viewing. Runner up: the duplex suites on Royal Caribbean.

Service: Azamara. I know, not what you’re expecting, but I say: try it. The relaxed style really made me feel at home on a 2016 Central America and Mexico cruise on the Azamara Journey. When my time was up, I didn’t want to leave. Runner up: Seabourn.

Entertainment: Norwegian Cruise Line. “After Midnight” and “Million Dollar Quartet” on the Norwegian Escape in 2016 was a knockout one-two punch, and Norwegian has kept up the pace with each new ship: “Jersey Boys,” “Kinky Boots.” Great value for guests. Runner up: Royal Caribbean, where too much is never enough.

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Pool: Seabourn. The cosy aft pool on Seabourn’s 450-passenger ships puts sunbathers close to the water in stylish luxury. Runner up: the Solarium Pool on Celebrity, with its dancing waters fountain.

Cruise Director: Star Clippers. The line’s longest-serving cruise director, Peter Kissner, hails from Bavaria and is the most personable, knowledgeable, interesting person I’ve yet encountered in the job.  Runner up: Azamara cruise director Eric de Gray does it all.

Internet: Royal Caribbean gets the nod for its Voom, which not only is fast and simple but was first to market. What a difference in seven years. Runner up: MedallionNet on Princess Cruises is also fast and simple (but was not first).

Children’s character: Disney Cruise Line for Cinderella. As played by one of Disney’s cast members, the Cinderella I saw could have stepped out of the 1950 animated feature film. The children were enchanted. Runner Up:  Ellie, the towel elephant that prowls the post-turn-down cabins on Carnival ships.

Deck BBQ: Windstar Cruises. A twilight summer deck party anchored off the coast of Portofino. Trust me, it doesn’t get any better than that. Runner up: Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

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 .

New entertainment for Norwegian Escape  and Norwegian Getaway

For the Record: The Brat Pack
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Norwegian Cruise Line has announced fresh entertainment line ups for its two newest ships, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Getaway.

Due to the show’s overwhelming popularity on Norwegian Escape, For the Record: The Brat Pack – the critically acclaimed Hollywood night that celebrates classic soundtracks of motion picture masters – will be offered to an expanded audience as a complimentary show in the Escape Theatre beginning on 16 April.

As of 9 April, The Supper Club will feature an all-new dinner and live entertainment experience, with details to be revealed soon.

The Tony Award-winning Broadway hit After Midnight featuring Brenda Braxton will continue in the Escape Theater as regularly scheduled.

As For the Record: The Brat Pack moves to the Escape Theatre, the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet will leave Norwegian Escape from the 5 March and will re-open on board Norwegian Getaway on 15 May.

Million Dollar Quartet is the smash-hit musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time.

Legally Blonde on Norwegian Getaway will close on 30 April and Burn The Floor will continue as currently scheduled.

From 5 March until 16 April when For the Record: The Brat Pack begins, the Escape Theatre will feature Vocal Over Drive, a contemporary pop a cappella group, before it moves to the Getaway Theatre from 1 May until 15 May, when Million Dollar Quartet opens.