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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

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

Cruising: a dictionary of its own

Sometimes, those of us with any kind of connection to cruising can be rather one-dimensional. We think the word "cruise" can only mean one thing.

Then we'll hear aboiut the latest Tom Cruise movie…or girlfriend.

Yesterday, we experienced another reality check. We were in the car with two of our grandchildren and one of them had her iPod (or other musical device) playing one of her favorite songs…

Baby you a song
You make me want to roll my windows down and cruise
Come on girl
Get those windows down and cruise

The song is a hit for the country group called Florida Georgia Line (right) and, yes, it is great when you have grandchildren who like country music. The name of the song is Cruise and as you can tell by the lyrical excerpt, it has nothing to do with sailing on the ocean with 2,500 of our closest friends.

Some of us just have trouble believing that "cruise" could mean anything else.

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
December 1, 2013
Miami (return): Key WestCozumel
Inside: $159
Cost per day: $39

Country Collection — at What Price?

Okay, you lovers of country music…

How much would you pay to see performances — in the same week — by Vince Gill, Kenny Rogers, Patty Loveless, Larry Gatlin and his brothers, Joe Dee Messina, Ronnie Milsap, Restless Heart, Ty Herndon, Andy Griggs, Jamie O'Neal, Wade Hayes, The Warren Brothers and Bryan White?

This collection of singers has combined for 90 songs that reached No. 1 on the charts, and all 13 acts will be on Holland America's Eurodam for seven days in January. The exercise below is to try and determine what you have to pay to enjoy such a festival at sea.

Let's start with the facts.

The itinerary is the Eastern Caribbean — Fort Lauderdale return, departing January 19th. The ports are Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Maarten and Half Moon Cay. The ship carries 2,104 passengers.

You won't find this cruise on Holland America's website. In fact, you won't find a similar cruise on the Eurodam as it appears to have been entirely booked by Country Music Cruise for the January 19th departure and by another party for the January 12th departure, which also is nowhere on Holland America's website.

So, for comparative purposes, let's look at the cost of a couple of other 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise, one on the Eurodam three weeks earlier (December 29th) and the other one day earlier (January 18th) on the Westerdam — all prices per person, taxes not included…

Eurodam (December 29th)

Inside stateroom: $1,299
Oceanview: $1,499
Balcony: $1,699

Book the Country Music Cruise, which goes to the same ports except St. Maarten instead of St. Thomas, and here are the prices, with the differences in parentheses…

Inside stateroom: $1,925 ($626 more)
Oceanview: $2,200 ($701 more)
Balcony: $2,575 ($876 more)

Westerdam (January 18th)

Inside stateroom: $749
Oceanview: $849
Balcony: $1,049

On the Country Music Cruise, which also goes to St. Maarten instead of St. Thomas, the prices (with the differences in parentheses) are as follows…

Inside stateroom: $1,925 ($1,180 more)
Oceanview: $2,200 ($1,351 more)
Balcony: $2,575 ($1,526 more)

Now you can decide.

Caribbean Princess
7 nights
March 16, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess Cays, Curacao, Aruba
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92

Pearl's Sweet Cruise Alabama

Quickly now, who wants to vacation with Alabama. Not IN Alabama, but WITH…as in the country super group?

Well, you can.

Alabama hasn't toured for a decade but in October they're doing a mini-tour, of sorts, on the Norwegian Pearl, and can it be coincidence that they chose this ship because of Minnie Pearl, whose humanitarian award they won?

This tour is four nights long — Miami to the Bahamas and back — and Alabama will play on two of the nights. They'll also have some of their favorite bands on the Pearl, a dozen musical friends to participate in four nights of music at sea. including a beach party at Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian's private island.

There will be plenty of time for photos and autographs and all of the trappings of having a private audience with celebrities. Because it's a cruise in which Norwegian is partnering with Sixthman, which specializes in theme cruises, presumably everybody on the ship will have access to everything on the agenda.

Launched four years after Alabama retired, the Pearl carries 2,394 passengers.

In the group's heydey, there were four of them — lead singer Randy Owen, his cousin Teddy Gentry, their distant cousin Jeff Cook and drummer Mark Herndon. A bitter lawsuit filed by Herndon after their farewell tour made Alabama a threesome, one that pops up now and again at awards shows and events like the cruise, and sometimes even in a recording studio.

Alabama produced 41 or 42 or 43 singles that made it to No. 1, depending on your source, and one of the CDs in our collection is entitled: For The Record 41 Number One Hits. Next fall marks the 40th anniversary of the day Alabama launched that career, in South Carolina, and they'll be celebrating it on a cruise ship…off the coast of Florida.

The cost of this vacation with Alabama starts around $1,000 (per person) for an inside stateroom, including taxes and gratuities. A balcony room goes for more than $1,500, and "tickets" go on sale March 20. By then you should know who their "friends" will be.

When you take two concerts and factor in the exclusivity angle, the price shouldn't come as a surprise..

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas
8 nights
February 10, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): St. Maarten, St. KittsSan Juan, Labadee
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61

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