May 20, 2014 | By Colleen McDaniel | 3 Comments
Carnival announced its Carnival Live! concert series with a lot of fanfare
— and help from Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson back in January. The idea was simple and cool: Musicians, like Jewel and REO Speedwagon, would perform on one of the line’s ships while docked in either Nassau or Cozumel. Passengers could pay $20-$40 for regular general admission seats or $100-$150 for VIP status, which includes a meet-and-greet with the artists, premium seating and a souvenir photo.
The question remained whether passengers would be willing to pay extra for a chance to watch the chosen musicians, more than a decade past their popularity peak. Carnival, of course, hoped the answer would be a resounding, “Yes.”
So far, so good. With 10 of the line’s 49 concerts complete, Carnival is pleased with the response. In fact, Director of Carnival Live! Bernie Dillon said 2015 is shaping up to be even bigger than 2014: bigger ships, bigger names and more shows.
We were onboard Carnival Ecstasy last week and saw country star Martina McBride perform (and we’ll be talking about the series at our weekly Cruise Critic chat
, this Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern time). Until then, here are five reasons to give Carnival Live! a try.
Small Venue: Concerts take place in the theaters of some of the smallest ships around, and those theaters are also small (the largest is onboard Carnival Breeze, where the capacity is 1,400; most other ships have room for around 900). You won’t find a bad seat, even at the lowest pricing. You’ll be so close, you can count the sequins on Martina McBride’s pants.
Value Pricing: Try finding a concert on land that would cost you less than $50. It’s not easy. On our sailing, we chatted with a number of passengers who didn’t know McBride by name but were willing to pay 20 bucks to see a pro perform. All were happy they did, and most recognized “a song or two.” Even $100-$150 for the VIP treatment is a pretty solid deal when compared with what you might pay on land.
You Know the Music: Sure, REO Speedwagon and Styx were huge in the 1970s and 80s, but I guarantee you know the music and will be singing along to “Can’t Fight This Feeling” or “Mr. Roboto.” Your voice might be hoarse by the end of the show, but you’ll remember it for a long time to come.
VIP Perks: Your $100-$150 gets you premium seating in the first four rows, a meet and mingle with the artists and a souvenir photo. If you’re a super fan, that’s a great bargain. At the concert we attended, VIP ticketholders skipped their seats altogether, instead dancing stageside and singing along.
Bring Your Camera: So many shows restrict usage of cameras and video. Not so with Carnival Live!, where you can snap pics to your heart’s content. At our show, fans took videos, and McBride even posed for photos mid-concert.
Of course, nothing is perfect, and a couple of issues caught our attention…
Talking During the Show: The intimacy of the venues means when passengers talk to one anther during a concert (especially during ballads), you can hear it. Worse, the performers can hear it. During our show, McBride took time out to say she loved performing in venues that small because she could see and hear everything. Perhaps she meant it as a genuine statement on how great the theater was. But the audience definitely took note; there was much less chatter from that moment on.
Sound: Big performers have big voices, and cruise ships aren’t necessarily designed for the kind of volume these artists bring to the stage. Sound issues were noticeable when McBride hit her famous sustained high notes, and passengers who saw REO perform on Ecstasy complained about the sound on Facebook. We expect this will improve as Carnival hosts more artists.