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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Entertaining Thoughts

Think entertainment, and you usually picture a stage. But a lot of cruise ship entertainment takes place off stage and in the most unlikely of places. Here are just a few:
Bartender as showman. Juggling, it seems, is a new prerequisite for bartending. Many a cruise lounge features a bartender right out of Cocktail, sending glasses and bottles swirling into the air to a squealing and appreciative crowd. One “Quest” event’s opening act featured bartenders outdoing each other in their alcohol antics.
Crew talent night. We’ve seen these on Holland America (HAL), but the listing is buried in the newsletter and the events are late at night. But they’re well worth staying up for and great for the crew, too. They get to show they can do more than clean rooms and deliver food. And it can be a real treat to hear an unassuming room steward from Indonesia suddenly fill the room with a heart-stopping rendition of “O Sole Mia.”
Food for fun. I talked about this one in an earlier blog post, how the ships have taken the lead from TV and turned cooking into entertainment. We’ve seen “Iron Chef” knockoffs on HAL, kitchen crew skits on Princess, and been to countless food demos through HAL’s partnership with Food and Wine magazine, and on Celebrity’s ships as well.
Towel animals. Alas, towel animals are becoming a dying breed, as the ships try to better manage
room stewards’ workloads. Cruise veterans know the surprise of coming back from dinner to be greeted by a white elephant or swan sitting serenely on the bed, or a cotton monkey dangling from the ceiling. Our last menagerie was recently on Allure of the Seas.
Offbeat and memorable. We tend to think of ship captains as a serious lot, but one in particular smashed that misconception forever. He and another senior crew member delighted a loyalty club audience with their mimicry of two bulked-up acrobats.
Next to you at dinner, in the bar or the lounge chair. In the end, few forms of entertainment can beat watching your fellow passengers. There was the plump, white-bearded elderly man on a December cruise who showed up each day wearing a red stocking hat. The 30-something partyer who grabbed a wild iguana off the rocks in St. Thomas’ Crown Bay. Formal night’s kilts and kimonos. Bow-tied tots and five-inch stilettos.

The formal entertainment, food and ports on a cruise are a given. But it’s the unexpected that you really remember. And in the end, isn’t that what travel’s all about?