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‘Greased Lightning’ Coming To Harmony

Olivia Newton-JohnWhen you go to see Olivia Newton-John perform, as we did last week, there’s some baggage that comes with it. Friends and relatives who are less enlightened will say — or at least infer — that you’re living in the past. One was astounded that you passed up watching the World Series to see a 67-year-old “has-been” sing songs from another century. Some may even keep their distance, for fear of being tarred with the nostalgia brush.

We didn’t care. We loved Olivia’s show and, unless our hearing is going, she sounded as good as the last time we saw her 33 years ago.

Furthermore, we love Grease. One of us has seen it so many times she’s lost count. Her husband has to admit it’s a classic, too. What’s not to love?

In the movie, Olivia Newton-John plays Sandy Olsson. John Travolta plays Danny Zuko. If you don’t already know that, you’re probably not interested in knowing that Sandy and HarmonyDanny are going to be performing Grease on Royal Caribbean’s third (and next) Oasis Class ship, when Harmony of the Seas is launched next year.

That means they’ll be singing Greased Lightning, Summer Nights and Beauty School Dropout together, just like Olivia and one of her back-up singers (no Travolta, but very good) did last week in Las Vegas.

On Harmony of the Seas, Grease will be the main theater entertainment.

As it should be.

In the news…

• Norwegian Escape christened by 'Godfather' Pitbull in Miami
• MSC, Cirque du Soleil in long-term partnership for Meraviglia Class ship shows
• Star Princess ends successful cruise season for Canada's Victoria Harbour

Today at portsandbows.com: Anthem of the Seas — Part Two

Carnival Dream
7 nights
January 31, 2016
New Orleans (return): Roatan, Belize, Cozumel  
Inside: $419
Cost per day: $59

Legends in Concert — A 'Really Big Shew' at Sea

Jimmy Buffett tributeSo…Jimmy Buffett or "Jimmy Buffett?" Rod Stewart or "Rod Stewart?" Michael Jackson or…don't go there. These are the options that Legends in Concert have given the world, for the last three decades. For the last three years, they've been doing shows on the Norwegian Epic…the 1,000th one earlier this month.

Despite having seen the billboards and come-ons for years in Las Vegas, it was the Epic that introduced us to Legends in Concert. We were skeptical, to say the least, about going to see "impersonators" which is what these people were called before they were "tributes." In thinking about it, the prospect of seeing "Elvis" at every state fair or local theater probably — in the early days at least — poisoned what this has become.

And what it has become is big business.

Legend-BritneyThere are tributes of artists from A to Z…that's Abba to Britney Spears to Whoopi Goldberg (as close as they come to Z). The cast includes stars from the relatively new (Katy Perry and Carrie Underwood) to the deceased — and the list there is long and, alas, growing: Frank Sinatra and Louie Armstrong, Whitney Houston Legends-Michaeland Judy Garland, Johnny Cash and John Lennon, Dusty Springfield and Donna Summer.

It includes people who don't or didn't sing, like Ed Sullivan and Jay Leno. Groups from The Beatles to the Supremes. There are currently 16 Elvis Presleys available (after all, he's only been gone for 36 years), four Michael Jacksons, four Neil Diamonds, three Blues Brothers (that's three pairs) and three Dolly Partons…don't go there, either. 

The current stable lists 117 imperso…ah, tributes.

And guess what?

The early skeptics — that would be us — have seen Legends in Concert twice, both times on the Epic. And now we'd go again…and again…and again…

Yes, they are that good.

Celebrity Constellation
5 nights
April 14, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): CozumelKey West
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $99

The Cruise Ship in Perpetuity


On Saturday in Las Vegas, we visited one of the seven Titanic exhibitions in the U.S. and, in case you think the public's appetite for the most star-crossed cruise ship in history has been lost, No. 8 opens in two weeks in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It was our first "Titanic museum" experience, and we entered it with assumed names, Thomas Andrews Jr. and Dagmar Jenny Ingeborg Bryhl. Since Dagmar was a "Miss" it was clear they were not (like us) husband and wife.

This is the novel way the curators of The Artifact Exhibition start to take you back in time, by issuing Titanic tickets in the names of two passengers. They also point out you can check the list of passengers at the exit to see if you survived, or perished in the disaster.

An eerie stroll through this time capsule, a fixture at the Luxor in Vegas, takes about an hour. It is, as you might expect, full of artifacts from the sunken luxury liner, many of them "never before seen" and for people like us who'd never been to an exhibition, that sell line was a certainty. Yet we found it was the people — survivors and victims — whose stories were more compelling, many of which were "never before heard" (at least by us).

Like the French salesman who packed 65 vials of perfume in his luggage, 62 of which were recovered 90 years later, and you can still get a whiff of the fragrance among the artifacts.

Like a famous fashion designer named Lady Lucille Duff Gordon, who wrote in her diary: "Fancy strawberries in April and in the middle of the ocean…why, you would think you were at The Ritz!"

Like the Larouche family of six heading for Argentina because the husband/father had a better chance of employment in his native country.

Like Thomas Andrews (right), the White Star Line's chief designer, who was on the ship only because his uncle (one of the company's owners) was ill and couldn't go.

Like the British passenger angrily leaving his fiancee behind because he had to attend his brother's wedding in Chicago, writing: "Right now I wish the Titanic were lying at the bottom of the ocean."

There are more than 2,200 such stories from the Titanic, and more than 1,500  of them are at the bottom of the ocean. For us, they're more interesting than looking at broken tea cups and dirty socks and bedposts from the grand old ship, although we did find "The Big Piece" fascinating. It's a chunk of the starboard side of the ship, 26 feet long, and it will have a 10-year stay at the Luxor, five of which remain. But imagine that from a ship 823 feet long, the biggest piece recovered is just 26 feet, and that it took two years just to remove enough salt to slow its deterioration.

It was Thomas Andrews who delivered the death knell to the Titanic's captain, on that April night almost 101 years ago. After the designer assessed the damage he reported that sinking was a "mathematical certainty." He never made it into a lifeboat.

Dagmar Bryhl did.

Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas
4 nights
April 4, 2013
Tampa (return): Cozumel
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $102

Cards From the Same Deck

Okay, now they've got us. The cruise line and the hotel. It's not so much that they want to be in our deck of loyalty cards, it's that they want to be there together.

Royal Caribbean, naturally, has a loyalty program for those of us who enjoy frequenting cruise ships. That doesn't make Royal unique. What does is its affiliation with MGM, which has loyalty cards for gamblers…er, patrons of its hotels and casinos.

We have cards for both.

This doesn't mean that we'll be one card short of a full deck — although there may be people who have thought that anyway — because it's not going to be a one-card-fits-all partnership. The new relationship just means that Royal Caribbean cruisers will get benefits at MGM hotels (and casinos), and vice-versa.

What benefits?

Offers. Probably lots of them. Over the years, Las Vegas hotels have become famous for offers of free accommodation, although now they are tied to how much you lose…er, play in the casino.

Now MGM will have access to email lists of Royal Caribbean customers, and vice versa. M life members will find out what fun they can have cruising on Royal Caribbean ships…and Crown & Anchor members will be encouraged to visit MGM resorts, even if they're not in Vegas, although the promise of concert tickets, title fights and room upgrades does sound rather Nevada-ian, doesn't it?

What both companies call it is a strategic alliance.

But really, it's all about the cards.

Crown Princess
7 nights
January 12, 2013
Galveston (return): Cozumel, Roatan, Belize
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

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