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Cruise Comedy Not For Curmudgeons!

On the weekend, we had friends visiting us right after they spent a few nights in Las Vegas — a few nights in Vegas is usually enough for anybody — and they told us about a comedian they’d gone to see. Las Vegas is, of course, filled with comedians. Some of them are even funny.

Apparently, Gordie Brown was. Or is.

We told our friends that we’re not really into comedy, so don’t expect us to be jumping up and down (or even laughing) because another comedian, George Lopez, is expanding his George Lopezrole with Carnival. it seems that George has gone incognito on three Carnival cruises, posing as a sushi chef, a line worker at Guy’s Burger Joint, a burrito maker at BlueIguana, helping people on a “suspended ropes” course, leading the Seuss-a-Palooza Parade and pouring drinks at one of the bars.

All the while, Lopez was interacting with passengers. Some of it will show up on AOL in a series of (at least) six episodes of Laughs on Deck. This new “branded” series is available on AOL or at www.on.aol.com/laughsondeck.

“Getting to do it in such an inventive way was a blast,” he said.

This is all about providing AOL with digital content while promoting Carnival ships and enhancing the popularity of George Lopez, while using unsuspecting passengers as foils. It’s a great — perhaps even brilliant — idea for AOL and Carnival and most of the passengers are probably thrilled at getting to enjoy their 15 minutes (or seconds) of fame by being part of a video production.

Curmudgeons like us are not.

And that’s why we’re not into comedy!

Today at portsandbows.com: Photo preview of a new Princess

Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas
5 nights
November 17, 2014
Tampa (return): George Town, Cozumel
Inside: $179
Cost per day: $35

Carnival Heats Up Ice Bucket Challenge

You’ve heard, no doubt, about the Ice Bucket Challenge. How celebrities and non-celebrities are dunking themselves with buckets of ice to raise awareness — and money — to fight ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

It’s spreading much faster than the disease. That’s good.

The first cruise line to get involved is Carnival. It will surely not be the last. It started with a clever Carnival cruise director named Matt Mitcham. On the Breeze, he drenched himself with 150 gallons of icy water, then challenged other Carnival cruise Ice Bucket-Cahilldirectors to do the same thing. The “challenge” is to pour a bucket of ice water over your head, or make a donation to ALS within 24 hours.

Many do both.

Mitcham’s move went up and down the Carnival food chain. You had to know the most famous of cruise directors, John Heald, would be first in line. He was on the Miracle at the time, in Alaska. When it comes to Alaska, there’s ice…and there’s ice. Brave is the person who has an ice shower in the 49th state.

Heald did, of course. As did President and CEO Gerry Cahill, albeit in the temperate climate of  Miami, in front of company employees at Carnival headquarters. Celebrities connected to Carnival — comedian George Lopez, deejay DJ Irie, food guru Guy Fieri — are all complying.

This phenomenon is world-wide.

Ice Bucket-CrosbyCelebrity participants run from 27-year-old hockey superstar Sidney Crosby (somewhere under the blue box) to 86-year-old famous family matriarch Ethel Kennedy (86) — see video — and she challenged President Obama to get in line. Perhaps strangely, Obama opted only to make a donation. Perhaps the White House was short of towels.

And just last night former major league star Ken (Hawk) Harrelson, now a Chicago White Sox broadcaster and soon to be a member of the club, said this about the phenomenon:

“It’s unstoppable.”

The seed is believed to have been planted by Pete Frates. The Boston College star athlete was diagnosed with ALS more than two years ago. He first issued the challenge on social media. Today, he has been silenced and unable to swallow by the disease that made a famous major league ballplayer from 80 years ago even more famous in death.

Along the way, the idea picked up celebrities, and nothing makes an idea grow faster. In the last month, ice-bucketing has raised $2.3 million for the ALS Association. For this year, that figure has climbed to $15.6 million, compared to $1.8 million for the same period in 2013.  One of the 300,000 contributors this year is Carnival Cruise Lines, which added $100,000 to the pot. Besides the money, the campaign has delivered millions more in awareness.

Participants join the Ice Bucket List, giving a new twist to everybody’s Bucket List.

And beating ALS is on everyone’s.

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news, views and gossip…from the ships at sea

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
7 nights
September 21, 2014
Port Canaveral (return): Coco Cay, San Juan, St. Maarten
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

Carnival Liberty an hors d'oeuvre

Our cruise blog teammate Phil Reimer, who has been writing about ships and ports and the eateries and people on both, has spent this week on the Carnival Liberty. His impressions are posted daily on his cruise blog, portsandbows.com.

The Liberty is the first Carnival ship to go 2.0.

In Celebrity’s world, this is called “Solsticizing.” In Carnival’s world, it’s called “Fun Ship 2.0″ and the idea must be that it’s more intuitive for the young people that is Carnival’s client base.

This is a huge project — the price tag is $500 million — and that’s only for the first phase, which won’t be completed until 2015. It includes personal endorsements or participation from celebrities Guy Fieri (a food man), DJ Irie (a dance man) and George Lopez (a laugh man).

Our pal Phil, who loves food and laughter, is a cinch to enjoy at least two of them. During his week on the Liberty, he was able to get a taste of Fieri.

“I don’t claim to be a burger expert but Guy’s Ringer ranks with the best I’ve ever enjoyed,” Phil says.

The Liberty is simply the hors d’oeuvre when it comes to Fun Ship 2.0. The main course is the Carnival Breeze, still a few months away from its launch. It will have all the features that eventually will become upgrades, and don’t be surprised if Fieri, Irie and Lopez are all there to break a bottle of bubbly on the bow.

Besides the food, which Carnival hastens to point out is almost all included with the cruise fare, Phil seems enamored with Deck 9 on the Liberty. It’s the “funnest” place on this Fun Ship — he calls it “party central.”

Hmm…maybe he’ll like the dance man, too.

Carnival Pride
7 nights
February 5, 2012
Baltimore (return): Port Canaveral, Nassau, Freeport
Inside $449

Carnival Comedy in George's Hands

George Lopez is the kind of comedian who can leave you rolling in the aisles or rolling your eyes. That’s both the blessing and the curse of most comedians, isn’t it?

One of the things — and there are many — that makes Lopez a little different is he has established over the years that he has a sometimes-narrow demographic. Not everybody objects to his often-ethnic jokes or caustic humor…not everybody likes them.

Now Carnival is gambling that the cruise line and George are a match, at least when it comes to demographics.

In a massive entertainment overhaul, Carnival has made him “creative director for comedy.” Translation: Head Comedian. He will have a (taped) presence on the comedy clubs, and on all Carnival ships they’ll be called “Punchliner Comedy Clubs Presented by George Lopez” and there will be a Punchliner Comedy Brunch on sea days.

And just to make certain nobody misses his act, one of his routines will be shown on your in-room TV.
George’s act, historically, wears thin after a while. The late-night TV show “Lopez Tonight” ended its two-year run last summer. He succeeded Arnold Palmer as host of the Bob Hope Golf Classic in California, also for two years until he was shown the door in 2009.

The TV show in his name on ABC had a five-year run, which is impressive, but it has been four years since its demise.

As one of four Latinos to have his own network TV show, he has always had a huge following among Hispanics. Part of Carnival’s gamble is that more Hispanics will take cruises.

Or at least more people who like George Lopez.

Seabourn Quest
December 9, 2011
13 nights
Fort Lauderdale (return), Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, Barbados, Dominican Republic
Oceanview Suite $3,799

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