Step aside, feathered showgirls. Cruise ship stage shows now rival land-based theater productions, thanks to partnerships with Broadway musicals and big-name entertainers. Outrageous costumes, high-tech effects and creative venues (including water-based and ice skating performances) are now commonplace on many mega-ships. With so many incredible offerings, we had trouble choosing our favorites, but if you're addicted to great theater, you can't go wrong with these top five shows on cruise ships today.
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1. "Mamma Mia!" on Royal Caribbean
Ship: Allure of the Seas
Why We Love It: ABBA songs, colorful costumes and a silly-yet-sweet plot combine to create a toe-tapping extravaganza. The Greek Island setting is perfect for a show at sea, and the musical is so well done that many cruisers go back to see "Mamma Mia!" a second time.
2. "Burn the Floor" on Norwegian Cruise Line
Why We Love It: This ballroom and Latin dance show gets a standing ovation from Cruise Critic members and editors. It's fast-paced and steamy -- and performed by true professionals. Even better, you can watch the full-length version in the theater or see an abbreviated show at dinner.
3. "Disney Dreams" on Disney Cruise Line
Why We Love It: Disney brings the same entertainment quality to its onboard shows as it does to its park-based shows and animated blockbusters. One of our favorites is "Disney Dreams -- An Enchanted Classic," a heartwarming tale of a little girl who learns to believe in fairytales with the help of Disney characters and songs from its classic movies. It's a mashup of Disney classics that's sure to have you singing along, but you might want to slip a few tissues in your pocket before heading to the theater.
4. "Magic Castle at Sea" on Crystal Cruises
Why We Love It: Some lines win with huge high-tech, high-energy shows to standing-room-only crowds. Crystal excels in intimate, high-quality experiences, and its best show follows that credo. Just 20 people at a time can attend this sleight-of-hand magic show, performed by a rotating roster of magicians affiliated with Hollywood's Magic Castle (a private magician's club). Even close up, you'll be amazed at the tricks these magicians can pull off without your having any idea how they're doing it.
5. Shakespearean Plays on Cunard Line
Ship: Queen Mary 2
Why We Love It: Take a transatlantic cruise on Queen Mary 2, and you'll be treated to a rarity at sea: serious theater performed by a renowned professional troupe. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) posts actors onboard ocean crossings to perform hourlong versions of Shakespearean plays, such as "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The shows change every transatlantic season, but the quality remains outstanding.