As mentioned above, the size of the Athenian Show Lounge does not permit overly ambitious, Broadway-style presentations. But the entertainment on most evenings -- by the Jean Ann Ryan Production Company, a popular ensemble on many cruise ships -- made up in enthusiasm and effort for any space-dictated deficiencies. The same room was used during the day for lectures on the history, culture and lifestyles of the indigenous peoples of Alaska.
The entertainment hit of the cruise, though, was a talented flautist named Bettine Clemen whose credits include appearances in such prestigious international facilities as the Royal Albert Hall in London and New York's Lincoln Center. Her unusual performance transcends the simple playing of the flute. Her concerts included musical genres as diverse as jazz and pop, illustrated on screen by stunning pictures of animals (from camels to penguins) from the Middle East, South America, China, Sri Lanka, Russia and, of course, Alaska. It is not easy to describe the connection in words but, believe me, it works.
Hint: Pay special attention to the timing of the evening shows. In order to accommodate all passengers -- some of whom like to eat early, some late -- the entertainment might start one evening at, say 6:15 p.m. as a pre-dinner diversion and the next at 10:15 p.m. to allow even the latest of late eaters to attend.
There were the usual shipboard entertainment staples, such as the Liars' Club (with the cruise staff mostly lying their heads off while guests tried to decide which one is actually telling the truth), team trivia every afternoon in the Observation Lounge, and classes in bridge, backgammon, needlepoint and more.
On a recent Silver Shadow cruise to Alaska, entertainment ashore -- namely, excursions -- ranged from the fairly basic (Wrangell Highlights, a coach tour costing $37 per person) to the somewhat more exotic (Haines by Classic Car, $52 per person). The ship's most expensive excursion was a four-hour bear watching adventure out of Prince Rupert that sold for $350 per person and involved a float plane trip over the Coast Mountain Range to the waters of Khutzeymateen Inlet. The shore excursion brochure does not feature a large number of super-active outings, being light on hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, white water rafting and such, primarily a reflection of its more mature passenger base.