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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

Cruise Concerts: How Much Too Much?

Now that cruise passengers are comfortable with paying extra for upscale restaurants, are concerts next?

For example, in Las Vegas, to see Celine Dion in a "small venue," your ticket price starts at $117. Donny and Marie starts at $108. Elton John is $115…Rod Stewart $89. You get the picture.

Our last stadium concert event was country super star Tim McGraw, near San Diego. With tickets almost $100 each and a two-hour drive to get there, we figured the evening cost between $250 and $300 by the time you added over-priced food and over-priced gas. To make matters worse, we had to bob and weave to see the stage through the flailing arms of other concert-goers, and…don't get us started.

On the way back, we decided we'd rather have paid $100 to see it (that would have been nice) on TV. Even better would have been to pay more to see the show in a small venue…like a cruise ship.

Maybe the biggest stars are still out of reach for cruise lines, but maybe not. Sitting with 500 other customers to watch a name act at work would provide an intimacy you can only find in small-venue Vegas these days. For that kind of show, when you've paid over $100 to bob and weave and not see the show, does the price really matter?

Crown Princess
12 nights
May 24, 2012
Venice, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Olympia, Athens, Mykonos, Ephesus, Santorini, Naples, Rome
Inside:  $999
Cost per day: $83


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