This week, I went to the theater on a cruise ship, and it was a revelation. Not just because the show (“Burn the Floor,” featured on the Norwegian Cruise Line‘s newest ship, Norwegian Breakaway) was excellent. But because it was actually like going to the theater ought to be.
You want to see the show? You need a ticket (a concept introduced a while ago for the big shows on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas and taken up by Norwegian on Breakaway and on Norwegian Epic). So you’ve made a commitment to going. Which means you arrive on time (and maybe even a little early).
When the doors close, latecomers aren’t allowed in — or certainly not during a song. You won’t find waiters squeezing through the rows with trays of drinks. Most important, you won’t see rude patrons getting up to leave halfway through a number or arriving late and loudly discussing where to sit. Or bringing kids who play on iPads while the bright lights and noise distract everybody around them throughout the show. Everybody is there because they want to be there; the fact that they’ve booked a ticket, albeit a free one, focuses the mind.
Theater etiquette in general has slipped; it’s not unusual for people to walk into a show late, talk, answer their phones or eat noisily throughout performances — even on Broadway. In London’s famed West End, some theaters allow patrons to bring booze into the auditorium, which seems completely unnecessary (although back in Shakespeare’s time, this was perfectly normal theater behavior). These bad habits have always seemed amplified on cruise ships, where audiences appear to have lost all respect for the performers let alone the other people watching the show.
Of course, you could argue that if cruise ships put on better entertainment, people would sit through full shows. Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have invested serious time and bucks to bring in shows such as the “Blue Man Group,” “Burn the Floor,” “Rock of Ages,” “Hairspray” and “Chicago” — and the box office system of booking tickets is essential because so many people actually want to attend.
I confess to walking out of some of the grimmer offerings on ships, although I always sit at the back if I think I might want to leave. And I would never leave in the middle of a number. But it was gratifying at “Burn the Floor” to feel that maybe some standards of theater etiquette remain at sea after all.
Have you ever walked out of a cruise ship show? Or have you been to one so good you were glued to your seat? Let us know.
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