As the competition for cruise passengers increases, cruise lines are upping their game in children’s programming, cuisine, recreation and now entertainment.
Several lines have found that offering shows to rival the best entertainment on land is a winning formula, whether they’re marketing to matures, millennials or families.
The Great White Way on the Big Blue Sea
All the major cruise lines have been entertaining guests with piano bars, maybe a jazz club, a disco with live DJ, and cabaret style reviews. Keeping passengers happy and drinking -– or busy and sipping mocktails — just contributes to the vacation value at sea.
Disney, the original entertainment company, turned that formula around. Disney Cruise Line passengers come aboard expecting to see superior, family-oriented stage shows based on the popular characters they know. And that’s what they get.
It may have been Norwegian Cruise Lines who started the Broadway trend in 2010, by building a theatre for “Blue Man Group” on their ship, Norwegian Epic. This ship also launched the popular “Cirque Dreams,” a tented, dinner show version of a Cirque du Soleil-style gymnastics show that guests were happy to pay for.
Broadway shows have proved to be so popular that Norwegian brought “Rock of Ages” to the Norwegian Breakaway and then, “Legally Blonde” to the Norwegian Getaway. Not to be outdone, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines launched its ship, Quantum of the Seas in 2014 with a full-blown, singing and dancing and weeping “Mamma Mia!”
The Crown Princess of Broadway
And who is raising the bar? Princess Cruises. Perhaps the most entertaining line after a 12-year run of the wildly popular TV show “Love Boat” set on the decks of the Pacific Princess, Princess rules the field with its latest partnership.
In March, the company announced that legendary Broadway composer and lyricist, Stephen Schwartz, will produce four original musicals as part of a multi-year agreement.
During his 40-year career, Schwartz has won four Grammys, three Academy Awards (for Disney’s “Pocahontas” and Dreamworks’ “The Prince of Egypt”) and has been nominated for six Tony Awards. He is the only songwriter in Broadway history to ever have three shows run more than 1,900 performances, has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was recently inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Having your own Broadway superstar on tap is an industry first.
How did Princess sign him? During the press cabaret announcing their partnership, Schwartz told reporters he was motivated by doing something new, without the pressure of Broadway investors. Schwartz – creator of hits such as “Wicked,” “Godspell” and “Pippen” among others — acknowledged that he had been on three cruises prior to making the commitment, because… (music to the ears of many) “I like cruising.”
Stephen Schwartz is Promising Magic
Schwartz will first produce “Magic to Do” on the Crown Princess, using some classics and music from an unproduced musical about Houdini. In order to fulfill his current Broadway commitments, he has a golden team of creative talent to help him assemble four, 45-minute Princess shows. Jim Steinmeyer, for example, an alumnus of magic shows with Doug Henning, Siegfried & Roy and David Copperfield, will do the magic illusions. “Magic to Do” is set to premier in the fall 2015 and will feature a brand new song written exclusively for Princess.
“I’m excited about the possibility of using the enormous resources available with Princess to create new and innovative theatrical entertainment,” said Schwartz. Promising that his creations would not be “just another Broadway touring company,” Schwartz told reporters that many of his offstage and onstage colleagues were also interested in collaborating on projects at sea.
Sound like something you and your Broadway-bound kids would love? You can’t get any more up close and personal than poolside on the Lido Deck with a celebrity.
“Part of my job is to be involved in casting and, in future shows, to be a producer and even a curator,” adds Schwartz. They are currently auditioning for Magic to Do in New York and Toronto, followed by Los Angeles and Vancouver. Point your wannabe stars here.
This year is the 50th anniversary of Princess Cruises and all itineraries feature celebrations with themed menus, cocktails and entertainment; special shore excursions; locally sourced dining; and even gourmet chocolate menus. In the latest update, we hear The Sound of Music — also in its 50th year — will be shown onboard all 18 ships while the crew leads sing-a-longs, trivia games, and other movie-themed experiences throughout the year.
With so much going on, be sure to check with your cruise travel agent or Princess.com (or call them at 800/774-6237) to reserve ahead for any of the magical Stephen Schwartz events or other inspirational musical moments.
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