Cruise Guide: Cruise line shows captivate guests

By Michael Coleman 

Celebrity sightings. World class production shows. Fireworks. 

Thinking about Las Vegas? Think again. Entertainment offerings aboard todays modern cruise ships are rivaling those of their land-based counterparts.

“Entertainment is a top (on board) priority and a new generation of cruise ships offers state-of-the-art facilities and technology, including full-sized theaters and show lounges, said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association, a trade organization representing the interests of 24 member lines and some 16,000 travel agencies.

As the industry heads into the second half of 2008, passengers will be treated to a host of entertainment options.

Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice, set to debut in December, has teamed up with Poet Theatricals, producers of the first worldwide touring show of the Lido de Paris, to create three original productions including “Solstice,” a “celestial” European-style theatrical circus featuring vocalists, physical comedy, group acrobatic and aerial performances and other specialty acts. The ship also will feature a unique glass-blowing show developed with The Corning Museum of Glass.

During Cunard Line’s transatlantic crossings on Queen Mary 2, look for performances and workshops by Britain’s famous Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and a September crossing will feature the Boston Symphony Chamber Players.

Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder and Disney Magic are the only cruise ships that launch actual fireworks as part of the lines nighttime “Pirates in the Caribbean” deck party. The swash-buckling adventure features Captain Hook and his rowdy buccaneers rappelling from atop the funnels as they take control of the ship in a fun-filled evening. Disney’s newest onboard show is “Toy Story – The Musical.”

Holland America Line (HAL), meanwhile, puts the spotlight on fashion in a series of Broadway-inspired productions with 55 original costumes by the legendary Hollywood designer Bob Mackie. Titled “The Hits of Broadway, the Designs of Bob Mackie,” and “Love Songs from Broadway, Designs from Bob Mackie,” the shows highlight the most popular hits of the Broadway musical songbook and are featured on six ships: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Ryndam, Statendam, Veendam and Zaandam.

A classical music cruise on Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony, meanwhile, stars Fredericka von Stade and internationally acclaimed master of the rare soprano saxophone, Anders Paulsson. Other headliners during the year on Crystal will include Tommy Tune, Marvin Hamlisch and Frankie Avalon.

MSC Cruises will feature Big Band sounds on MSC Lirica’s roundtrip Caribbean sailing from Fort Lauderdale, December 3. Look for the 15-piece Les DeMerle Big Band with vocalist Bonnie Eisele, featuring the sounds of Ellington, Basie, James and Miller, plus Broadway hits, rock Ëœn’ roll classics, hot Latin grooves and show-stoppers from the Ëœ40s through today. 

While many larger ships specialize in producing grand-sized entertainment, others are just as impressive for their more intimate offerings. John Lithgow, the award-winning actor, for example, will perform on Silversea Cruises’ Silver Whisper this summer.

Cruise Guide: Princess onboard retreat a big hit with guests

By Michael Coleman 

Passengers aboard todays modern cruise ships have a host of amenities to choose from but one brand has taken the R and R concept to a whole new, comfortable level.

Prompted by enthusiastic response from its passengers, Princess Cruises’ ground-breaking onboard pocket of tranquility – The Sanctuary – has become such a popular haven for passengers that it will soon be added fleet-wide. 

Since its debut in 2006, aboard Crown Princess, it has been a runaway favorite. Passengers enjoy a private, outdoor spa-inspired setting, massage cabanas, signature beverages, light meals, attentive service and relaxing personal entertainment. 

The exclusive adults-only retreat was recently rolled out Emerald Princess, and will also be available on Ruby Princess, debuting in November. Beginning this summer, the line’s trademark retreat will be added to Island Princess, followed by Grand Princess and Star Princess by the end of the year. Additional ships will have The Sanctuary added through 2010. 

“The Sanctuary has come to personify Princess’ essential philosophy of escape coupled with personal service,” said Princess senior vice president Jan Swartz. 

“Passengers have told us they love this opportunity to completely relax in such a peaceful and pampering environment, so we’re delighted to introduce this special Princess feature on all our vessels,” she said

Guests lounge amidst lush greenery with the presence of gentle breezes, ocean waves, and softly piped-in spa music combining to further insulate the area. Guests can relax on plush outdoor furniture including double loungers for couples, as well as deluxe chaise lounges and chairs. 

Passengers also enjoy the personal attention of Serenity Stewards in The Sanctuary, each on hand to provide everything from a chilled face towel and Evian water atomizers, to a menu of healthy beverages and fare. Serenity Stewards also have personal MP3 players with noise canceling headphones available with themed playlists focused on relaxation.

In addition, look for two outdoor private cabanas where guests can also take advantage of exclusive Lotus Spa Services, including Deep Tissue Muscle Massage, a relaxing Swedish Massage or a Full Body Lotus Massage especially for couples. 

Look also for a variety of special drinks and snacks created exclusively for guests including smoothies, energy drinks, iced flavored waters and freshly made lemonade. A menu featuring a selection of light bites – fruit skewers, lettuce wrapped spring rolls, and spicy tuna pate with baked pita wedges – is available.

Half-day passes are available for $10 per person, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 5 pm. 

Princess, one of the best-known brands in cruising thanks in no small part to the hit 1970s television series Love Boat, operates a fleet of 16 modern ships renowned for their innovative design and array of choices in dining, entertainment and amenities.

The line sails to all seven continents, ranging in length from seven to 107 days.

Cruise Guide: Move over New York; Central Park now at sea

By Michael Coleman 

An unnamed vessel, soon to be the largest cruise ship in the world, will feature its own onboard park complete with serene pathways, seasonal flower gardens and canopy trees.

Central Park, in fact, will be just one of seven neighborhoods aboard Royal Caribbeans latest architectural marvel, dubbed Project Genesis. The line renowned for introducing rock climbing walls, skating rinks and surf parks at sea is now outdoing itself: bringing the best of land to sea.

When the 220,000-ton vessel launches in late 2009, it will be the largest and most revolutionary cruise ship in the world, spanning 16 decks and carrying 5,400 guests in some 2,700 staterooms.

Building such a large vessel allowed us to add even more of the choices and amenities that our guests value and Central Park is a dramatic addition to our already extensive array of exciting features, said Richard Fain, the lines chairman/CEO. 

Added Adam Goldstein, Royal Caribbeans president/CEO: Our brand identity is founded in innovation and on delivering the best cruise vacation through ˜WOW experiences. Central Park is a true evolution of cruise ship design and allows us to provide our guests with not only a more varied selection of balcony accommodations, but also a stunning public venue that will be a central element of the ship, both during the day and at night.

Central Parks central piazza will be the ships town square. It will evolve from a tranquil and peaceful atmosphere during the day to a gathering space for alfresco dining and entertainment in the evening, complete with concerts and street performances. The neighborhood will be lined with balcony staterooms rising six decks, offering views of the Park below and the sky above.

Look for an array of restaurants with choices ranging from fine dining to casual chic. Passengers will have the option of an elegant dinner at the new 150 Central Park or a picnic lunch from the more casual Central Park Cafe. 

Other dining choices will include Giovannis Table, an Italian restaurant; Vintages wine bar; and Royal Caribbeans signature Chops Grille steakhouse. Several bars will be scattered throughout the Park, including the Canopy Bar and Rising Tide bar – the first moving bar at sea. The venue will span three decks and will allow passengers the opportunity to enjoy a cocktail as they slowly ascend into Central Park. 

Located on deck 8, the Park will also feature stylish boutique shops, showcasing a selection of upscale merchandise. The sophisticated neighborhood will include 334 staterooms overlooking the Park, 254 with balconies.

Look also for quiet reading corners; a Chess Garden with large-scale pieces; the Pergola Garden, an interpretive spot featuring vegetation from a host of Caribbean locales; and a Sculpture garden, highlighting work by international artists.

The ship will offer roundtrip Caribbean itineraries from Fort Lauderdale. In 2010, Royal Caribbean will launch a sister-ship.