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Supply And Demand — Carnival Live 

In the first year of our marriage, a few decades ago, we paid $1.25 to see the ForeverRay_STAMPincomparable Ray Charles in concert. No, it was not during The Great Depression. It was just the going rate for concert tickets (or some of them) at the time.

When Carnival introduced its Carnival Live concert series this year, the going rate started at $20 to see and hear performers like Lady Antebellum, Chicago, Jennifer Hudson. The concerts have been staged on Carnival ships while they’re in port, and they were so successful that Carnival Live will be back for an encore in 2015.

At a different going rate.

Tickets will start at $35.

The point is that, like almost everything else, prices are dictated by supply and demand. Carnival didn’t know what people who had already bought tickets for their cruise would be prepared to add to the expense for a concert, so the decision was made to start modestly at $20, up to $100 for a meet-and-greet with the artists.

Popularity has driven that price up, too. Depending on who you meet, it’ll cost between $125 and $250, according to our Ports and Bows colleague Phil Reimer.

The only common act from this year, so far, is Styx. Coincidentally, of all the 2014 acts, Styx (below) did the most shows — six. Will Kansas or REO Speedwagon or Lady A return Styxin 2015? Perhaps, since only five shows have been confirmed…Smokey Robinson, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town and Journey are the others.

That Carnival is charging more demonstrates what a bargain these concerts were in 2014. It also could mean even bigger names will flock to the ports as Carnival Live generates more income for the cruise line.

Supply and demand…remember?

Today at portsandbows.com: Hail Britannia!

Norwegian Jade
10 nights
January 14, 2015
Rome (return): Olympia, Athens, Ephesus, Istanbul, Naples
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $49

Carnival Live Surprising Performers

This was Day 2 of an 8-day Carnival Freedom cruise and Jim Berra, the line's Senior VP and Chief Marketing Officer, was talking about Jennifer Hudson. It's entirely possible that Jim Berra never thought his name would be linked to Jennifer Hudson's, but this was that day.

The reason was Carnival Live, the concert series on ships in port, now just under halfway through its initial season. If there was a moment when Carnival realized its Jennifer Hudson-Carnivalproject was more than a one-off — as in one year — that moment was Jennifer Hudson.

Berra explained it this way:

"At first, the artists were asking: 'Are your guests really going to be into my performance, or is it just a cruise with a concert?' Once she — and we — found it was quite the contrary, that people were coming specifically to see the artist, we gained the confidence of the artists. Now they're calling us."

Jennifer Hudson was the biggest name appearing in the early weeks of Carnival Live. She did concerts on consecutive nights in Cozumel for passengers on the Breeze and the Ecstasy. Concert goers were paying $20 to $40 to see her perform in a facility seating 1,100.

On the shore, they might pay twice that and be in a much bigger venue.

So far, the genres have been mostly rock 'n roll and country.

"Rock 'n roll works everywhere," Berra said. "With country, we know it won't work as well in Miami as it will in Galveston. Pop is the toughest one — it's not as easy to slot."

Maybe it doesn't matter.

One passenger told the Miami Herald that she and a friend flew from New Mexico to the Bahamas to see Olivia Newton-John in concert. One Florida travel agent met people at a Chicago concert who were there because it was Chicago, not Carnival.

In both cases, none of them had ever been on a cruise.

Year One of Carnival Live winds up in December. Any day now, Carnival will be making announcements for Year Two. That's how successful it has been.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The new AmaSonata

Caribbean Princess
7 nights
August 16, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess CaysSt. ThomasSan JuanGrand Turk
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

Carnival Live Series Already A Hit

If our memories are as good as we hope they are, it was Royal Caribbean that first started flying performers (Taylor Swift, Martina McBride) in for a concert on the ship while in a port. Norwegian picked up on it (Rascall Flatts).

Now, Carnival has take the concept to a new level.

The Carnival Live Series started last week. The band was Styx, the concert was a Styxsellout and it took place on two ships, the Fantasy and the Fascination, in Nassau. The concept will run through December, at which time Carnival will re-assess…it might not be necessary after such an impressive start.

Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw put it like this: "All I know is our boats were rockin’. We had a great time and it looked like our fans loved it, too. Can’t wait to do it again in the fall in Nassau and then in Catalina Island and Cozumel.”

Bands or artists on the agenda for either Nassau or Cozumel or Catalina Island include REO Speedwagon, Kansas, Olivia Newton-John, Martina, Lady Antebellum, Chicago and Jennifer Hudson.

The concept is win-win-win.

A win for the passengers who, for a reasonable ticket price ($20 or so) get to see favorite performers in a cozy setting.

A win for the cruise line, which uses the attraction to sell passage on the cruises.

A win for the artists, who can make a few bucks doing one-night stands like they're accustomed to doing on land and therefore don't have to devote a week to concerts, signing autographs and being recognizable in close quarters.

Carnival is making it work by often having two ships in the port of choice at the same time. That will happen — sometimes they are 3-day weekends — 14 times between now and December. Two ships, two concerts makes it all possible for two sets of passengers.

Today at portsandbows.com: Quantum of the Seas on the move and it's not even here yet!

Celebrity Constellation
12 nights
June 26, 2014 
Amsterdam (return): StavangerOldenMoldeAlesundGeirangerFlamBergenOslo 
Inside: $1,299
Cost per day: $108

Carnival's Bridging The Entertainment Extremes

You know, when it comes to concerts — and we've been to a LOT of them — there are two extremes. 

One, you can pay top dollar and take your binoculars so that you can actually see the artist you can't hear because you're screaming your lungs out, for reasons that can never be articulated to anyone with a brain.

Two, you can pay excessive dollars to see your favorite artist(s), who can be heard above the pin dropping in the theater, which if you're lucky is in a setting with some intimacy.

Carnival is bridging the gap.

With a new entertainment strategy called Carnival Live, the cruise line will import first-class entertainers to places where eight of its ships will be visiting (Cozumel, Nassau, Catalina Island), have them perform in the main show lounge (intimate) and give passengers an opportunity to buy tickets for $20 to $40. There is a limited number of VIP tickets, which include meets-and-greets, photo ops, prime seats and a laminated concert pass.

ONJ-homepage-stampSlice_02First-class entertainment?

Check this list:

Jennifer Hudson 
Lady Antebellum
REO Speedwagon 
Martina McBride 
LeAnn Rimes 
38 Special 
Olivia Newton-John (right)
Trace Adkins

All of them could command ticket prices beyond $40 in traditional concerts.

There's a couple of interesting names on the list of artists who this year will perform 49 times on Carnival ships. One is Jennifer Hudson, who happens to be the Godmother of the Dream…not the Carnival Dream but the Disney Dream. The other is Trace Adkins, who last week left the Norwegian Pearl to enter rehab for alcohol addiction.

Just interesting, that's all.

Carnival Miracle
7 nights
March 1, 2014
Long Beach (return): Puerto VallartaCabo San Lucas
Inside: $559
Cost per day: $79

Disney Ships' Parade Connection

When you have a seven-year-old crawling under your Christmas tree, as we did yesterday, the pause in festivities inevitably includes watching Disney’s Christmas Day parade on the flat-screen.

So we did.

As grandparents whose interests in cruising are as keen as grandchildren’s interests in what’s under the tree, the presence of Disney Cruise Lines intrigued us. For example, in the one-hour showcase of the “parade” there were six commercials that in some way could connect to Disney cruises.

Actually, to dismiss them as 30-second or 60-second spots is an injustice. These were infomercials and — this is so typical of Disney — while some content was the same the commercials were different. If Disney was going to lure you three times to its new resort in Hawaii, called Aulani, it would be done three different ways.

The ship that services Hawaii is the Wonder, a 2,700-passenger vessel that was the second ship in what will soon be a fleet of four, once the Fantasy arrives in March. It currently makes two 15-day voyages a year to the South Pacific paradise and, since there’s only one day in Oahu, it’s unlikely that a side trip to Aulani is included.

Maybe that cruise connection, between the Disney resort and a ship, is a stretch. A personality connection is not. Jennifer Hudson, who sang during the one-parade special, is a Disney Godmother.

Her ship is the Dream, sister ship of the Fantasy. Between the two of them, 8,000 new beds will be on the sea via Disney. That’s probably the main reason Disney cruises had such a presence on the Christmas parade on TV.

Disney Wonder
7 nights
April 15, 2012
Los Angeles (return): Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas
Inside $868

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