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Carnival Tunes In Top Vocal Group


Come Sunday night, a lot of us will be watching the Academy of Country Music Awards because, well, we like them. Also because it always seems to be more about the music than the awards.

Enter Carnival.

The world’s biggest cruise line is writing a huge success story with its Carnival Live series, in which well-known performs board ships in port, then perform one or two concerts for which passengers are happy to pay, given the sizes of the venues.

There are the old standbys — Journey, Styx, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie — from yesteryear. There is a sprinkling of current performers: Rascall Flatts, Little Big Town, Martina McBride.

And now, the series’ summer/fall line-up includes The Band Perry, for three concerts in Nassau on Carnival ships Sensation, Fascination and Magic.

On Sunday night at the ACMs, these two brothers (Neil, Reid) and older sister (Kimberly) are nominated for “Top Vocal Group” which they won in 2014. That was a year that began by performing at the Super Bowl pre-game show, then touring with Blake Shelton. This year, they won a Grammy and now they’re headliners on tour.

Get the message?

The Band Perry is hot in country music and that makes Carnival a winner. Make that, more of a winner. Older passengers enjoyed seeing the stars of the past. Now they’ll be joined by younger, hipper spectators…because of The Band Perry.

Today at portsandbows.com: Deals from AmaWaterways, Avalon

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
May 10, 2015
Galveston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

Carnival’s Voices Of Freedom

In quasi-military vernacular, what happened in Galveston on the weekend might be called the “perfect storm.”

Operation Homefront, recognizing the troops. A country singer, because country singers are the most prominent pro-military entertainers. And a ship called “Freedom.”

This was Carnival’s Freedom, of course, and it was in Galveston to begin operations from its new home-port. It was also Carnival’s Martina McBride, the country superstar who has Freedom-Galvestonbeen performing in the cruise line’s wildly popular entertainment series called Carnival Live.

And both of them were there to pay tribute to troops.

A check for $100,000 was cut for Operation Homefront, the nonprofit that supports military families, some of whom were the audience for what was called an exclusive Carnival Live concert by the winner of 14 Grammy Awards. She sang from the upper deck of a ship that last year underwent a $70-million refurbishing that enhanced its family features, such as Seuss At Sea and Camp Ocean, where kids enjoy 200 marine-themed activities.

The consensus was that McBride gave a show-stopping performance. For those of us who have seen her (twice now), this is not a surprise. She was the consummate professional the first time we saw her, in 1996, and again in 2013. All the succeeding years did was make her even better.

“Performing for these military families was an incredible honor,” she said in Galveston. “I’m so glad I was asked to be part of it.”

Carnival now has three ships based in Galveston — the Triumph, the Magic and the Freedom. While it may not be a stretch to make a military connection to the names of all three, nothing speaks to the troops like the Freedom does.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas
14 nights
May 4, 2015
Tampa, Norfolk, Cork, Cherbourg, Brussels, London
Inside: $799
Cost per day: $57

Country Connects With Carnival Live

If there's been a better — and more successful — cruise entertainment idea than the Carnival Live Concert Series, could somebody please tell us what it is?

Carnival Live is more than a month old now and apparently drawing rave reviews from all sides.

This week, country star Martina McBride flew into Cozumel, did two shows (one for passengers of the Ecstasy, the other for passengers of the Paradise) and was back Martina McBridehome in Nashville soon after the ships left the Mexican port. She told Carnival's Vance Gulliksen she hoped the concept was a "win-win situation for all concerned."

And how could it not be?

The cruise line, in this case Carnival, attracts customers to ships that feature Carnival Live. In an age when cruise lines are challenged to come up with new entertainment concepts, this one seems to work because Gulliksen says Carnival is already working on bookings for next year…for both performers and passengers.

The artist, in this case Martina McBride, is paid for two concerts over a short time in a warm port where people holiday and the only tour buses around are the ones who take passengers on shore excursions…and while what the artists are paid is not public knowledge, it's clearly a comfortable compensation.

The passengers/concertgoers pay for the performance but the price is less — at least for now — than they'd pay for the same concert on land and they watch it in a small venue, as opposed to a cavernous stadium. They might even get to pose for a photo-op are get an autograph, if that's their thing.

This year, there will be 49 shows in Carnival Live, continuing from now until 10 days before Christmas on Carnival ships when they stop at three ports: Cozumel in Mexico, Nassau in the Bahamas and Catalina Island in California. The early indication is that next year it will spread.

More performers? More ports? More passengers?

Talk about good news for everyone!

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The canal that made sea-to-sea possible

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
7 nights
June 29, 2014
Port Canaveral (return): Coco CaySt. ThomasSt. Maarten
Inside: $798
Cost per day: $114

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

Yee-haw! Cruisin' With Country Music

On Sunday night, we'll be watching one of our can't-miss shows on TV: the Academy of Country Music awards show…CBS, if you need to know.

Maybe it's our demographics…maybe we're returning to some form of roots when we listed to what was called "cowboy music"…maybe we just like the sound.

But we'll be there.

We'd also like to be on Holland America's Country Music Cruise next January, on Martina McBridethe Eurodam…because that's where Martina McBride (left) will be. Also Darryl Worley, John Anderson (right) and Restless Heart — we admit it, John Andersonwe've seen them all in concert multiple times. Also Charley Pride, Lorrie Morgan, the Gatlins, Aaron Tippin, Wade Hayes, Asleep At The Wheel and Bryan White.

It's a 7-day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean, leaving Fort Lauderdale on January 18, and it's not cheap ($2,200), but you get what you pay for, right? There are performances by the country artists every night and a series of extracurricular events, including panel discussions, line dancing, celebrity cooking, karaoke, hat night…even renewing your vows. But for us, it's not about scooting' boots or seeing if Charley Pride can cook chicken.

It's about the music. Period.

Just like it will be on Sunday night.

Today at portsandbows.com: Catherine Deneuve and the ship with her name 

Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas
7 nights
April 19, 2014
San Juan (return): TortolaSt. MaartenSt. KittsRoseauBarbados
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57



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