The BBC's Strictly Come Dancing bursts back onto our screens on September 19 and to cash in on the nation's foot-tapping mood, Thomson Cruises has launched the third annual sea-going version of its own take on the contest: Darren and Lilia's Get Up and Dance competition.
Hosted by Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova, one of Britain's top professional Latin dance pairs and both former champions of Strictly, the 2010 dance competition will take place on the informal Island Escape, part of the Thomson fleet since spring this year.
Anybody can enter though of course you need to cruise to participate. This is how it works. On each 'Colourful Coast' fly-cruise out of Tenerife in January and February 2010, there will be at least two free dance classes a day, covering jive, rumba, salsa and cha cha cha – so even those with two left feet can learn from scratch, with no partner required.
A heat will take place at the end of each cruise and the winners come back, at Thomson's expense, for the grand final in April, which is hosted by Darren and Lilia. They'll hold a week of master classes to polish off the dancers' moves before judging the competition.
This year, there's an additional twist to Thomson's dance fever. Throughout the heats – and the winter season across the whole fleet – the Thomson entertainment team will be on the lookout for eight sociable, respectable and nimble-footed males along with four female passengers who can act as hosts on two dance-themed transatlantic cruises on Thomson Destiny, one at the end of summer 2010 and the second in the spring of 2011.
Six hosts are being recruited for each cruise and each one will travel free of charge in exchange for offering three hours of tuition on each sea day.
As the biggest barrier to dancing enjoyment for many seems to be an unenthusiastic partner, or no partner at all, 50 extra single cabins will be created for each cruise, in the hope of encouraging single dancers to take the plunge. The job of the hosts, as well as offering tuition, is to sweep any wallflowers off their feet and keep the party going at night.
Other cruise lines, including Cunard Line, Silversea, Crystal, Fred. Olsen and Regent Seven Seas already have gentlemen dance hosts, who are not paid but come via an agency and in fact, pay the agency a fee of $28 a day for the privilege of cruising otherwise free of charge and keeping the single ladies on their toes. Recruiting hosts from among its own passengers is a new departure for Thomson. "To trial the initiative, we are going to place our dance hosts on the repositioning cruises first, with a view to adding the programme on different ships and itineraries," says a spokeswoman.
But if nobody comes up to scratch, passengers will have to be content with dancing with members of the ship's entertainment team, as usual.
By Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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September 14, 2009