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Home > Virtual Cruises > Pride of America: Inaugural Voyage with Regis & Kelly
Pride of America: Inaugural Voyage with Regis & Kelly
Day 1: Embarkation in New York
Day 2: Taping in Boston
Day 3: At Sea
Day 4: Taping in Philadelphia
Day 5: Taping in Norfolk
Day 6: Taping at Sea
Day 7: Taping in Miami/Debarkation
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Day 6: Monday, Taping at Sea
Taping at SeaToday we are at sea, off the coast of South Carolina (the ship was 150 miles from Charleston for the show's 9 a.m. start), and the guys and gals that make the show happen each day have invited me to watch a segment come to life from the control room.

When you watch "Live" on television and pretty much just see Regis and Kelly (and uber-producer Michael Gelman), you really have no idea how intricate and complex the scene is "backstage." Or in this case in the aerobics studio, which has been transformed into a control room. It's chock-a-block with high-tech equipment -- over 100 crates that took three days to get onboard and set up.

While the rest of us have had fun on the cruise -- while also working -- the "Live" crew here is pretty much all business. You'd have to be when you're required to start your work day at 5 a.m. When I poked my head in at around 8:45, they'd already been up for several hours, preparing to go on the air. As digital clocks above equipment towers crept closer and closer to show time, more and more staffers rushed in, and I grabbed a seat. I met the woman who creates all of the computerized graphics that run during the show (such as the animated cruise ship that sails across the screen). Another group of people runs tests of sounds (like the foghorn that blasted in today's episode) to make sure they aren't too loud or too soft.

In a fascinating insight relating to trivia contestants, I learned that a "Live" staffer at a table to my right already had the day's travel trivia contestant on the line, even before we were on air. Her main responsibility is to correspond with the contestants at home and patch them in at the appropriate time. I was surprised to find out that folks -- including the lucky winners on this trip -- are contacted for basic information as early as 7:30 a.m. Then they are called back or instructed to stay on the line until it's time to vie for their prize.

The director popped in about five minutes to air, and sat in front of a wall of televisions, about three dozen, barking out orders even with only two seconds to air. I quickly figured out that one screen showed exactly what the at-home viewer was seeing, and that the others were labeled with numbers corresponding to the four main cameras grabbing footage from both on and off the ship. The director could simply yell out "tape two!" or "tape four!" to change the live view. To orchestrate a cool fade-in, from audience to stage for example, he says, "Dissolve one!" It is a high-stress, fast-paced environment back here, but even from this remote aerobics studio-turned-control room, they can turn out professional programming.

Today was the first day I actually got to hear Regis' lead-in to the show (because it is pre-recorded and patched in from the control room, and inaudible on stage), and see the opening shots of the audience and aerials of the ship. It was actually pretty exciting to view it from the perspective of folks at home -- rest assured the ship looks just as big in person as it does on TV (and even the folks behind the scenes laugh at Kelly and Regis' jokes and playful banter).

When the first commercial rolled, I said my good-byes and thanked the staff, and went down to the Hollywood Theater to watch the rest of the show with my fellow cruisers (anyone without tickets for the day's show was welcome to watch there, or in their cabins). I was surprised to see so few people in the theater, and honestly didn't stay long for fear of falling asleep. Instead, I scurried back up to the pool deck to catch a glimpse of the Love Chef's live barbeque segment, where I ran into "Cruisin Jules" and "sashsacrab." They were hula-hooping by the pool in hopes of getting themselves on television. We agreed to meet up in the afternoon for a drink at the Gold Rush.

Today, for the first time, a little retail therapy was in order. The Newbury Street Shops -- named in honor of Boston's famed street of boutiques -- is a cluster of cute storefronts that includes a golf shop offering preppy fashions and rentable clubs, two souvenir and sundries shops, and a huge jewelry store. The most striking aspect about the Pride of America shopping experience is that there are no duty-free items (due to the ship's all-American sailings, the shops can't offer them). No cheaper-than-dirt alcohol and cigarettes here.

Maybe it is because of that that prices tended a bit higher; colorful Bijoux Terner scarves, which I've purchased for $10 on Carnival and Costa, were $15 here. The jewelry store, I must admit, is impressively large, with many department-store-style cases of fine silver and gold jewelry. I had a great time browsing, but didn't end up buying anything.

Window-shopping works up quite an appetite, so I shot upstairs to survey my options at the buffet. Lunch at the Aloha Cafe was really much better than dinner here last night (at least the food was hot this afternoon -- last night I ate cold roast beef, and struggled with crab legs after being told there were no seafood crackers onboard), and I loaded up my plate with a vegetable medley, salad and pizza. I've heard that Kelly often brings her kids to the ultra-cute kids' buffet, but I didn't see her here today (the kids' buffet area features small tables and chairs, and lower-to-the-ground serving stations featuring items like chicken fingers, grilled cheese, burgers and hot dogs).

Next stop? The Gold Rush Saloon! Here I met "Julie McCoy" who actually won the contest for 20 (including daughters "sashacrab" and "Cruisin Jules") thanks to the help of our boards! When she got the phone call early in the morning from "Live," she actually printed out a thread loaded with clues and details from recent airings, and studied up before going on the air with Regis and Kelly. Without Cruise Critic, she tells me, she never would have won. I also met "Captain's Quarters." We had a great time sipping beers and listening to karaoke.

Tonight Steve, Terri and I have reservations again at Jefferson's Bistro. Unfortunately we weren't able to get into Little Italy, and I'm going to fall one restaurant short of my eat-everywhere goal. In fact, all of the specialty restaurants were booked solid by the third or fourth day onboard, though I imagine Little Italy fills up fastest because, like the Cadillac Diner, there's no cover charge here (the restaurant offers pizza, create-your-own-pasta dishes and typical Italian fare like chicken parmigiana in a casual setting with bright tiles along the pillars and floors).

Steve attended Regis' hour-long CD signing session earlier today, and got his autograph. He said Regis was friendly and in good spirits, which was nice to hear. Apparently he's had a few mood swings here and there, and while he can be quite funny and pleasant with the fans, he can also get a bit cranky (one woman chased him and his two Navy SEAL bodyguards clear across the deck and down a flight of stairs for an autograph ... and when he finally agreed to stop and sign, and she didn't have a pen, he was none too pleased: "How do you expect me to sign something without a pen?!").

But really, can you blame the man for being occasionally irritable? He can't even walk to his stateroom in peace. At least back in Manhattan he can go home at the end of the day -- here, he and Kelly and the other celebs onboard have had nowhere to hide. If it has been claustrophobic for us "regular" people living in small quarters and not being able to get off the ship, it must be twice as hard for them. However, I have heard that Regis has been consistently sweet to the children onboard and, in return, they've adored him. One little boy went up to him in the Aloha Cafe and brought him an ice cream cone so he wouldn't have to wait in line -- how sweet is that?

Dinner at Jefferson's Bistro was a nice affair once again. I had filet mignon (which was really much better here than in the steakhouse), French onion soup and Caesar salad, and then this huge chocolate cake for dessert (though I did pilfer some of Terri's crepes Suzette and that was delicious, too). Steve decided to try out the "Fire Star," which is a specialty in this eatery. The waiter brings out this huge wooden contraption with metal spokes hanging from it, and each of the metal spokes holds a bite-sized piece of meat, fish or vegetables. After it is brought to the table, it is doused in alcohol and set on fire to "release the juices." It was an experience, to say the least. I did like some of the dipping sauces that came alongside, like Bearnaise and herbed butter, but being a bit of a pyrophobe, wouldn't order this for myself (our waiter told me that a tablecloth or two has caught fire, so they have to be really careful).

Steve, Terri and I exchanged contact information before heading back to our cabins to pack. NCL is offering an express walk-off tomorrow morning, which I would normally take advantage of, but because I'm going to attend the last taping onboard, I had to color tag my bag and get it out in the hallway before 1 a.m.

But just because my bags were packed was no excuse to call it a night. At Mardi Gras the live band wasn't playing but the DJ was spinning tunes, and the place was packed. A couple of NCL folks were here, lots of "Live" staff, and I even saw New York weatherman Sam Champion at the bar, chatting with a blonde I recognized from somewhere but could not place. I spent most of the evening getting to know Ashlee and Dave, two friends from St. Louis who'd spent the week trying to get in good with "Live" folks including choreographer Johnnie P. Sure enough, Johnnie P. had given them each a tour of the production room earlier today, and told them to meet him at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow to "help out" with the dance routine. I can't wait to find out what that entails!

A funny side story: Someone onboard played a nasty trick on Ashlee and Dave. Last night, an invitation on official Pride of America stationery was left on their door inviting them to have dinner with Regis and Kelly this evening at the bistro. They asked the folks at the "Live with Regis and Kelly" desk for more information about the dinner (Were we selected at random? Who else is going? What should we wear?), and nobody had any idea what they were talking about. After asking around all afternoon and realizing that they really were the only people to have gotten an invite, they deduced they'd been duped. Was it the cabin steward? Johnnie P.? Nobody knows! I half expected Ashton Kutcher from MTV's "Punk'd" to show his face. Bottom line: Ashlee and Dave didn't show up at the bistro (and I assured them that Kelly and Regis were not sitting there waiting for them).

At 1:30 a.m. I decided to call it a night. I sat on my balcony for awhile watching the glittering Miami skyline grow larger and larger, and feeling the ocean breeze on my bare feet propped up on the railing. It was extremely humid, though, and once I saw lightning tearing through the sky I decided that was my cue to come inside and get some shuteye.

Tomorrow we film the last episode of "Live's Pride of America Cruisin' Reunion" and then I, sadly, head home.
Day 5: Taping in Norfolk red arrow Day 7: Taping in Miami/Debarkation

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