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Princess Lands ‘The Voice of the Ocean’

On September 21, The Voice returns to NBC for Season 9. On October 3, The Voice of the Ocean goes on Princess Cruises for Season 1.

The competition on Princess ships is the same concept as in the TV studio. Blind auditions followed by coaching. Performances behind the three rotating chairs occupied by the “coaches.” For any number of reasons, starting with logistics, the chairs won’t be occupied by Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Pharrell Williams or Gwen Stefani.

Because Voice of the Ocean will be on 11 ships and 24 cruises between October and next  May, those coaches will be “charismatic” people who might also be guest performers on the ships, or hotel managers or even captains.

The contestants?

That’s you!

Passengers with talent will be invited to auditions. With mentors by their sides, they’ll be polished and accompanied by back-up singers and musicians. The coaches will pick their The Voice-2teams, just like they do on TV, and on the last night of the cruise members of the audience will vote with remotes to determine who wins The Voice of the Ocean Trophy.

The first show will be on the Regal Princess when it departs from New York. That will be followed by The Voice of the Ocean performances on the Royal, Caribbean, Emerald, Ruby, Golden, Island, Coral, Crown, Grand and Star Princesses with the final departure from Vancouver to Alaska on May 14.

The inaugural cruise, on the Regal, will sail up the coast and into Canada and back during the autumn colors. The cruise is from New York, return. 

Hey, if the winners are good enough, they can go straight to Broadway!

In the news…

AmaWaterways christens AmaSerena on banks of the Danube
• Viking Star: one cruise cancelled, one delayed by mechanical repair
• Low water on European rivers still haunting ships and cruisers

Today at portsandbows.com: More big money people in cruising

Carnival Ecstasy
3 nights
September 18, 2015
Miami (return): Nassau
Inside: $189
Cost per day: $63

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

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's Bridging The Entertainment Extremes

You know, when it comes to concerts — and we've been to a LOT of them — there are two extremes. 

One, you can pay top dollar and take your binoculars so that you can actually see the artist you can't hear because you're screaming your lungs out, for reasons that can never be articulated to anyone with a brain.

Two, you can pay excessive dollars to see your favorite artist(s), who can be heard above the pin dropping in the theater, which if you're lucky is in a setting with some intimacy.

Carnival is bridging the gap.

With a new entertainment strategy called Carnival Live, the cruise line will import first-class entertainers to places where eight of its ships will be visiting (Cozumel, Nassau, Catalina Island), have them perform in the main show lounge (intimate) and give passengers an opportunity to buy tickets for $20 to $40. There is a limited number of VIP tickets, which include meets-and-greets, photo ops, prime seats and a laminated concert pass.

ONJ-homepage-stampSlice_02First-class entertainment?

Check this list:

Jennifer Hudson 
Lady Antebellum
REO Speedwagon 
Martina McBride 
LeAnn Rimes 
38 Special 
Olivia Newton-John (right)
Trace Adkins

All of them could command ticket prices beyond $40 in traditional concerts.

There's a couple of interesting names on the list of artists who this year will perform 49 times on Carnival ships. One is Jennifer Hudson, who happens to be the Godmother of the Dream…not the Carnival Dream but the Disney Dream. The other is Trace Adkins, who last week left the Norwegian Pearl to enter rehab for alcohol addiction.

Just interesting, that's all.

Carnival Miracle
7 nights
March 1, 2014
Long Beach (return): Puerto VallartaCabo San Lucas
Inside: $559
Cost per day: $79

Cruise Ships a Haven for Entertainers

It seems to us that two things have been a boon to the concert industry over the past few years — casinos and cruise ships. You could say to the “small” concert industry, for entertainers who never have, never could or can no longer fill 20,000 arenas.

Casinos more than cruise ships have provided them with a venue. Cruise ships are starting to catch up.

These are people like Chubby Checker, Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, Little Anthony, Charley Pride (left), Lesley Gore, Bobby Rydell, The Crystals, Frankie Avalon, The Drifters. All have played or will play on cruise ships around North America. All have known varying degrees of success. All have maintained the ability to entertain, at least that’s been our experience, and we’ve gone out of our way to see many such oldtimers.

The latest such theme cruise to surface is another Malt-Shop Memories Cruise from Time-Life and Sixthman, a theme cruise organizer. It’s on the Carnival Sensation, it’s four nights of doo-wap and dancing after leaving Port Canaveral, and there’s a stop in the Bahamas along the way. Performers include Chubby — celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Twist — Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Crystals and The Drifters.

Cruise entertainment also help the not-so-famous. A Washington State songstress, Brandi Carlile, impressed Norwegian Dawn passengers earlier this year. A long-time, under-the-radar singer/songwriter named Jo-El Sonnier, who has a Grammy-nominated song in his arsenal, impressed us on the Celebrity Millennium…he’s been around for two decades but we’d never heard of him.

Musically themed cruises aren’t for everyone. USA Today’s Gene Sloan fielded a complaint from one cruiser who claimed shipboard activities were altered on a Carnival cruise with a country music theme (Charley Pride) that ran throughout the ships’ bars and shops. The author, who warns cruisers to ask about themes before booking, hates country music.

Hard to believe that, isn’t it?

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