Easily the oddest thing about this already odd cruise (but in a good way), is that while the ship calls at ports such as Boston, Philadelphia and Norfolk, and Regis and Kelly are indeed filmed live (most days) against the appropriate urban backdrop, we ... can ... not ... get ... off! That's right. Passengers will not be able to visit these ports of call -- at all. People seem to be really good-natured about it. A lot of the winners are first-time cruisers, so they probably don't think much of it. I overheard one couple jokingly referring to it as a "prison ship," but they really were just joking. Most people are just grateful for a free vacation.
Because this virtual is delayed by a day or so -- this is Sunday -- "Live" is actually going to tape today for Monday. And today's taping at 3 p.m. is, of course, the main event. At around 2 p.m., ticket holders for today's show -- including myself, hooray! -- lined up on the deck below the stage. About 200 cruise guests get to go to each taping; the other 150 audience members are locals from each city (who won drawings or such and are the only folks who can get on and off -- though, alas, they must get off!).
Just before heading to the taping, I made a quick pit stop in the Gold Rush Saloon to check my e-mail (most of the ship's public rooms are wireless-friendly). I booted up the laptop, signed on and fired off messages for a good 10 or 15 minutes before a familiar voice registered. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a genial, older gentleman in sweatpants and sneakers chatting with a group of people at the table adjacent to mine. The guy in the sweats ... was Regis. I actually laughed at loud at this point, in disbelief that I'd been sitting there all that time and had no idea he was practically next to me!
My ears perked up immediately. He was discussing with his tablemates, presumably "Live" crew, how he should handle today's prerecorded show. "Do I say that it's Monday? It's not really Monday. Do I say that it is Sunday?" Along came Michael Gelman, the show's handsome executive producer (boy did I strike gold in this saloon!) to let Regis know that, indeed, taping was on schedule. I swear, Regis almost looked disappointed as if he wanted to hang out with us a bit longer. But he excused himself to go get ready, and they all left with cups of coffee still steaming on the table.
On the way to the "studio" I noticed that a table selling all sorts of Regis and Kelly souvenirs, like tote bags, magnets, shirts and coffee mugs, was mobbed by a bunch of passengers. You could buy a Reeege T-shirt ($20), a Kelly Signature Mirror ($10) and a Regis "When You're Smiling" CD ($15).
As a sideline to the usual Regis and Kelly celebrity meet-'n'-greet during each of the five shows, each day will feature a "special" participatory activity for those folks who are part of the groups of 20. In today's "Cruisin' Reunion Family Challenge", themed around the pit stop here in Boston, one representative from each group is required to retrieve hot dogs from a pile of (Boston) baked beans and a cherry from a (Boston) cream pie -- without using their hands. If it sounds gross -- well, it looked even more disgusting than you can imagine (or perhaps you saw the contest, in all its glory, on the actual show that aired Monday). Fifteen "winners" (five were eliminated) move on to the next competition; stay tuned for Tuesday's event, a hula hooping competition.
After standing outside for what seemed like forever, we were finally ushered up a flight of stairs to the set. Regis and Kelly's desk is up on a raised platform, and white folding chairs bearing the NCL America logo are lined up in rows for guests to file into. When arranging the audience area, some math whiz actually took the average, ahem, butt size into account when figuring out how many chairs could fit (comfortably) in a row.
I sat (comfortably) next to Dennis and Sue from Long Island, New York, first-time cruisers who won the trip for two from WPLJ-FM, a New York radio station. Dennis joked that all he to do was be the 25th caller, and almost felt guilty because of all of the work families like the Mathesons had to do (writing down clues, sending in postcards) to win their way onboard.
We were prepped on the proper way to clap (faster, not harder, doubles the sound), and taught the signals to look for (if Gelman waved his arms in the air, we were to hoot and holler). Soon enough, Regis and Kelly made their way onstage, and taping began. Because today's show is not airing live, Regis actually asked for a segment to be re-filmed. He cracked a "What are you all going to do when we go live Tuesday?" joke to his production staff while the cameras weren't rolling, but beneath the smile and laugh I really think he meant business. Kelly maintained the same personality both on and off the camera.
The taping flew by, at least for me, though it was quite hot up on deck and my forehead is now burnt to a crisp. Though it was hard to hear everything that was said, Joey McIntyre was just as cute as I suspected, and Nikki Cox from "Las Vegas" was painfully skinny, but extremely pretty and, ahem, curvy. Kelly commented to Regis during a commercial break that he didn't look at her face once (his eyes, she noted, had wandered elsewhere) ... and I have to agree with her.
After the taping wrapped up, they actually pre-recorded another segment, this one for Tuesday's airing, with Carson Kressley from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." A casting call was held yesterday for a bathing suit fashion show, and today, six cruisers (three men and three women) were chosen to model swimwear Carson picked for them. Carson explained the different styles that work for various body types. Anyone in the pool area at the time could watch the taping of this segment, whether or not they'd had tickets for the earlier show, and the deck was packed.
And just when I thought the "Live" activities were over, Regis and Kelly's choreographer Johnnie P. held an audition for a "Dancing with the Fans" segment that will air on Friday. By my estimate (confirmed by Dennis and Sue's guess), at least 200 people turned up for the audition up in the Diamondhead Auditorium; Johnnie P. says they are planning to choose approximately 25 people total for the routine, and the group will rehearse daily. He called down those interested in trying out by age group; if you can believe it, when the 40+ group was called, it was like a stampede. But people from all age groups got down and boogied; it was a fun time and camera crews were there, so keep your eyes peeled for the footage throughout the week.
After such a long busy day, I craved a relaxing evening. I decided to check out the sushi bar at East Meets West for dinner. I ordered a lot more than I really had room for (my eyes are always bigger than my stomach), and so sat there eating leisurely and gossiping with Robert and Randy, the sushi chefs. Robert let me in on a little secret: The day after tomorrow, East Meets West will be "closed" for Regis and Kelly (tonight, Lazy J's steakhouse was off limits).
I couldn't help but finish the evening off at Pink's for a second night in a row. W. T. Greer was playing and singing again, and I had a few glasses of bubbly with Steve and Terri from Connecticut, who also won a trip for two from a local radio station.
Tomorrow we're at sea, and with a break from show taping, Regis will actually be performing a portion of his nightclub act in the Hollywood Theater -- with his wife Joy.