Entertainment at sea has taken a different course on a variety of cruise lines lately, shedding the safe, Neapolitan-flavored offerings and offering up some unique and different options. What seemed in the past to barely qualify as “entertainment”, today brings everything from Cirque-influenced dining to Broadway shows on some ships. Others have bumped up onboard enrichment programs, children’s programming and more. On Carnival Breeze this week, we found a variety of entertainment options woven throughout the cruise experience.
It’s that “woven throughout the cruise experience” that sets Carnival Breeze apart from other cruise lines and even other ships in the line’s own fleet. Part of a unique focus on branding, Carnival has brought in a variety of influence that goes far beyond the main showroom stage, but let’s start there.
Tapping the producers from Playlist Productions, Carnival threw out the Vegas-style reviews to add “captivating live performances and high-tech special effects, all set to popular and recognizable songs,” the line said in a pre-sailing release, promising that Carnival Breeze would provide “exciting new innovations and a wide variety of dining, activity and entertainment choices to create a truly unique vacation experience for its guests.”
Carnival delivered on that promise with a series of palatable, 30-minute shows that are clearly identifiable as to what they are and of wide interest. Replacing bland, unpredictable shows titled something like “70’s through the ages” and “Seatime Shenanigans” with safe, sing-along offerings such as “The Brits” or “Diva’s”, Carnival actually got us into the showroom.
Actually, I think it was the “30-minutes” part that got me. We swore off cruise line shows years ago as “all the same” or “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”.
Not so with Carnival’s new menu of “shows”. But entertainment on Carnival Breeze goes way beyond just what we see in the showroom at night and that’s what sets Carnival apart from other lines
Setting the stage, Carnival has Miami Heat celebrity DJ Erie’s influence in every area of the ship. Does that mean we heard “Rock, Bop Until You Drop” in the spa? No.
I took a walk around the ship, the entire ship, one day listening to music in the various venues on board. Each had a unique sound that had been given every bit as much attention as designers had given to lighting, fixtures, décor and even the uniforms.
In the spa’s serenity areas, soft music by contemporary artists was mixed in with the instrumental selections required of a venue of that sort. Public areas, bars, lounges, and even hallways all carried their own music that changes throughout the day.
On Carnival Breeze, “entertainment” is more than sitting someplace, allowing ourselves to be “entertained”.
One focus that makes it work is that other elements of the Carnival Breeze entertainment experience cross over from their primary function. The Punchliner Comedy Brunch Presented by George Lopez is mainly a dining venue offered on days at sea when the cruise line knows many passengers will be eating at the same time. Cuchina Del Capitano is an Italian dining experience that manages to elude being called Olive Garden-like with singing waiters that perform from time to time throughout the experience.
Add to that an energized entertainment staff led by Senior Cruise Director John Heald and entertainment at sea has a new look and feel. Reality-based, the Carnival entertainment package is looking good with passengers from all over the planet too, not only the North American-sourced cruise traveler that is Carnival’s bread and butter.
Our 12-day sailing through the Mediterranean, sourcing guests from a variety of countries, seems the perfect testing ground for what Carnival Breeze has in the way of entertainment.
A partnership with game-maker Hasbro brings a larger-than-life version of Hasbro, The Game Show, featuring rotating content drawn from a variety of Hasbro games. Hosted by Carnival funny-man Butch Begovich (perfect for the role) its set up like the taping of a television game show episode with passengers invited to participate in a short triva game that decides two competing teams.
On stage, the teams immerse themselves in life size board games, earning Monopoly game pieces if they win. At the end of the (also 30 minute) show, the game pieces are opened to reveal a number. The guest with the highest number wins a fabulous array of cash and prizes. Not really, but I don’t get very close to being able to write “fabulous array of cash and prizes” often and could not help myself. The winner does get prizes though as do all who make it up to the stage….because “no one walks away empty-handed”.
Make no mistake though, the whole topic of entertainment is no game for Carnival, dead set on breaking the mold they themselves forged over decades of perfecting their product. For Carnival, it’s all about making memories and each individual part of their direct entertainment options does just that. Consider ancillary elements, some of which we mentioned here, and Carnival has an effective, flexible and sustainable entertainment package that should serve them and their passengers well into the future.
Chris Owen is a travel writer from Orlando Florida charged with sharing frank, inside information on cruise vacations with travelers. Certified a Master Cruise Counselor by the Cruise Lines International Association, Chris can be found via the popular travel blog, ChrisCruises.net and on the long-running cruise information website, YourCruiseDream.com.
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