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Pearl Time For The Legends

You know, those of us who have seen Legends In Concert on the Norwegian Epic should have known it would find a new home. We should have known it wouldn’t work as well in Europe, where the Epic has been since spring and where it will stay until November 2016, because Europeans don’t seem to take as readily to “tribute” acts as North Americans.

Legends in Concert-MJ copyWe should have known that Legends in Concert was sunk when a passenger pointed out last month on Cruise Critic that the show was cancelled during her cruise, with no explanation from Norwegian. In the fine print of the cruise line’s website, you can find (eventually) that the last show was September 20.

But we didn’t.

The good news is that Legends in Concert is moving to the Norwegian Pearl. Now the Pearl’s no Epic — a little more than half the size — but the theaters are probably much more comparable. Clearly, Norwegian had to find a home for this show once its five-year run on the Epic was over, or risk losing it to another cruise line.

Would that matter?

Norwegian is consistently cited for having the best entertainment at sea, often winning awards for it from the people who create awards. That goes for the Epic, too. It can’t be a coincidence that Norwegian has been at or near the top of the entertainment category for the last five years (the Epic is five years old) and that Legends in Concert has been a fixture on the ship.

PearlWe’ve seen Legends in Concert twice on the Epic. We weren’t expecting the shows to be winners, but they were. The “tribute acts” included some performers who were favourites (Rod Stewart, Jimmy Buffett) and some who weren’t (Michael Jackson, Britney Spears). All were good.

On the Pearl, starting…now, the tribute acts are Madonna, Elton John and Tina Turner. Well, two out of three isn’t bad…and you can guess which two.

In the news…

• Norwegian Star's propulsion problem takes ship straight to Tampa
• Doug Ward's 2016 Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ship Guide released
• Smaller Maasdam to replace departing Volendam in Australia

Today at portsandbows.com: Second American river cruiser for Pacific Northwest

Crown Princess
7 nights
November 28, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas
Inside: $504
Cost per day: $72

Elton John And 88 Keys


A few nights ago, we were entertained by Elton John, who has been entertaining his fans for longer than most people have been alive. He wasn’t as good as he used to be…he was better. Where else can you find somebody who makes music on 88 keys and 67-year-old vocal chords for two and a half hours without stopping?

Ah yes, 88 Keys

That’s the name of one of the shows on the Carnival Freedom. It’s a group that doesn’t make either headlines or much money. Seeing and hearing them is free once you’re on the Elton-2ship (you could take a short cruise for what it costs to see Elton John), and yes, it is hard to equate dollar value when there’s no charge.

The performers in 88 Keys were good, of course, because you don’t play for hundreds of people if you aren’t good, even when the audience is captive by a vehicle with not as many options as on land. As the title implies, it’s a piano show accompanied by a lot of singing and dancing, since there are eight participants and only one piano.

What we found especially interesting was the warm-up act. Usually, there aren’t warm-up acts for shows like this on cruise ship, but this one had Seth Gibson. He, too, played the piano and sang and warming up was a plug for his own show, at a piano on another deck. He was very good, perhaps better than the talents in 88 Keys, good enough that we later headed to the piano bar.

While 88 Keys featured the music of Billy Joel, Elton John, Ray Charles, Carole King and much more…Seth Gibson played what his listeners asked for, the way dueling pianists do when they are two. Something else made his show especially compelling. All eight members in 88 Keys showed up, just as part of the audience, and joined him for a song or two. Whether it was staged or impromptu, it was a nice touch.

During his show, Gibson played and sang songs from many artists who are infinitely more famous. And in setting up one piece, this is what he said:

“There are many great piano players…but Elton John is the best piano player in the world.”

Gibson should have been where we were on Saturday night. He’d have been able to say something else…

“I told you so.”

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news and views

Carnival Victory
5 nights
December 8, 2014
Miami (return): Freeport, Little Stirrup Cay, Nassau
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $39

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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