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Elvis…Far From The Mississippi

It’s 1974. You’re Elvis Presley — many wished that for almost two decades. You’re not at the height of your career, but you’re still packing them in wherever you go. Some people actually are “Elvis Presley”…as impersonators are beginning to pop up. Your country is in an awful war (like there are any other kind), in Vietnam.

Fast forward 42 years.

Elvis is long gone. The impersonators are not. In fact, there are more Elvis look-a-likes than ever. Some of them are even pretty good performers, not just in Vegas and assorted venues ranging from small theaters to street corners.

One is doing it in Vietnam.

His real name is Damian Mullin and he’s an Australian…crikey! He’s the best of Australia’s Elvis impElvis impersonators, having won the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest and he has the seal of approval from Elvis Presley Enterprises, which means The King’s company has a financial interest in the performances in…Vietnam.

The event will take place over eight days in September, on board La Marguerite, a river cruise ship that sails under the flag of AmaWaterways through its Australian partners, on the Mekong River in Cambodia and Vietnam.

“It’s an opportunity to present something different with a more intimate atmosphere,” said Jodie Quick, director of The Cruise Gallery, the Australian agency that’s selling the tour. “Most music cruises are on larger ships…[this one] gives passengers the chance to travel somewhere more adventurous and exotic with the comfort of Elvis’ crooning!”

The cruise is called Rockin’ the Mekong.

You can only imagine what Elvis would be thinking.

Today at portsandbows.comCelebrity Solstice back to Australia for 2017-18

Carnival Magic
7 nights
January 31, 2016
Galveston (return): Key West, Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78

Eclectic Entertainment on the Escape

Like we always told our kids through their teenage years, nothing good happens “after midnight.”

Today, we are making a public retraction.

On the Norwegian Escape, which will be the cruise line’s 14th ship when it arrives in November, two Broadway musicals will be added to the entertainment for which Norwegian is so well-known and one of them is called…

After Midnight.

How do we know it will be good? Because we’ve seen enough Broadway shows over the Million-Dollar Qtyears to know that there’s rarely a bad one, at least in our books. Besides that, After Midnight won four awards — including a prestigious Tony — for choreography before recently completing its eight-month run on Broadway. It’s a musical with big-band, jazz and dancing that brings Harlem’s Cotton Club to life.

Also in the Escape Theater will be Million Dollar Quartet, another Tony Award winner (actor) that tells the story of four Memphis musicians who rose from a famous impromptu recording session to world-wide fame. The four were Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. The show is currently playing in Chicago and Las Vegas, and on the road touring America.

Frankly, this one sounds the more appealing to us because it caters to the musical tastes of our era.

Besides, the other one is…”After Midnight.”

Today at portsandbows.com: Tulip Time for AmaWaterways

Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas
5 nights
February 21, 2015
Port Canaveral (return): Cozumel, Nassau
Inside: $388
Cost per day: $76

American Queens Trippin' the Mississippi

From conversations we have with friends, family and just travellers, it seems like everybody has seen Graceland.

And everyone should.

The caveat there is that “everyone” means “everyone who has heard of Elvis.”

So, everyone.

The few who have missed it, or the many who like going more than once, are getting a new opportunity…and a cruise to go with it. Courtesy of Priscilla. Yes, Elvis’s Priscilla.

She is the Godmother of the American Queen. Some would say that’s an oxymoron. In 1967, she was the American Queen…simply because he was the King of Rock ‘N Roll when he married her.

Now she a ship’s Godmother, a ship that passes through Memphis on its way down (or up) the Mississippi, and a ship that will pause long enough for passengers to disembark and make the journey to Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home.

It’s not the palace that you might think, although in its time it was. It’s not in the prettiest of districts, but it’s a mansion, still laced with many of the trappings of fame. Most of the house is accessible, the bathroom where he died being an exception, and the trip through it ends with a visit to the memorial where his body was finally laid to rest, beyond the clutches of the souvenir hunters who wanted a piece of the site.

The whole experience borders on tacky at times, especially at the souvenir stands where you can buy Everything Elvis, but it’s still worth the trip, as American Queen passengers will discover.

That is, if they haven’t already.

Star Princess
5 nights
May 15, 2012
Vancouver, Juneau, Ketchikan, Seattle
Inside $429
Cost per day: $85

Royal Rewards…if Cruise Sells Out

It’s always nice to see a person’s faith rewarded. To see a calculated risk rewarded. To see somebody who believes so strongly in something that they benefit from their belief.

So congratulations, Johnny Welsh, whoever you are.

This week, Johnny is on a three-day cruise off Australia, aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas with more than 2,000 of his newest and closest friends. It’s called The King Tribute Cruise, featuring 14 Elvis acts (they’re called tributes, not impersonators), and Johnny mortgaged his house to book the entire ship, in the hope that he could entice enough passengers.

We had to do the math.

The ship holds 2,435 passengers. Cost of leasing the ship is $340,000 a day…at that point, it doesn’t matter if that’s American, Canadian, Australian, Hong Kong or Monopoly dollars).

So Johnny was on the hook for $1.02 million. He had to sell every ticket at $419 each to break even. Let’s assume he charged $500 for a three-day cruise. At that rate, he’d have to sell 2,040 tickets to break even. At that rate, his profit would be $197,500…if he sold every ticket.

And he did.

Celebrity Century
18 nights
January 30, 2012
Auckland, NZ to Perth, Australia
Inside $1,128

Photo credit: Paul Smith / Martin Fox

The Epic's Memorable Captain

Cruising is such fun, and then real life intercedes. For us, this happened yesterday.

We’d written a blog about Trygve Vorren, whom we met on the Norwegian Epic. We were told that he was a man of few words. His first language is Norwegian and, in English, he was shy. He is not always comfortable around strangers, and no ship in the NCL fleet carries more strangers (4,000-plus) than the mighty Epic.

In short, our interview with Captain Vorren would BE short.

We asked for 15 minutes. We wanted to talk about the ship, the man in charge of her and the cruise industry at large. We’d been fortunate to have dinner at the same table as the captain the night before the interview, so the ice was broken.

The interview lasted almost an hour and a half…not because of us, because of him. He regaled us, this man of few words, and we felt like we’d known him forever, or at least a long time.

When we met, he was one of two captains of the Epic, the biggest cruise ship in the world that doesn’t belong to Royal Caribbean. His home town was Stavanger on the west coast of Norway, a seaport not far from the Shetland Islands, but he had become Americanized, living in North Carolina, with two grown sons who live in Florida. All Norwegian ships have two captains and, yes, most of them are from Norway…19 of 22 at last count, with the others coming from Sweden, Finland and Greece.

As a young man, this captain was a fan of The Beatles and Elvis. He said he thought the music of the sixties and the seventies was better…other than perhaps Michael Jackson, and that in Europe in the sixties, it was all about the music. Everybody had favorite bands, and everybody liked disco. Music had become a big deal on cruise ships, especially among the young people, and he was witness to the evolution.

While all cruise lines are constantly trying to find ways to attract young people, Norwegian took the first step by introducing “freestyle cruising” which went a long way to eradicating the stuffy, rigid, tuxedo-wearing image of cruise ships (real or not). Captain Vorren was there for the beginning.

He was on the Norwegian Sea for some Christmas tours when NCL tried out the freestyle concept. He laughed about listening to the comments of the passengers, because this was the first ship with a bistro and the first on the high seas with a separate restaurant.

That toe-in-the-water experiment was followed by what was then full-blown freestyling on the Norwegian Sun and Captain Vorren was part of that, too. He said everybody wanted to see what it was all about, with the specialty restaurants and the coffee bars. It took some time before it was accepted in the industry, but it became popular quite quickly. It took a few years to get it right, schedule things in the right way, and the captain believed NCL was different for the time being, that most cruise lines would soon be introducing some form of freestyle cruising. It would just take a few years.

Yesterday, real life was getting word that Trygve Vorren passed away from cancer and surgical complications in August. The cruise world is worse off without him…the whole word is worse off without him.

Radiance of the Seas
12 nights
April 22, 2012
Honolulu to Vancouver
Inside $1,748

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