Costa Luminosa Cruise Review by paulears
- Sail Date: October 2018
- Destination: Mediterranean
Please forgive me if my review contains technical stuff and jargon that only entertainers might understand. I can't just say it was terrible, because it wasn't, but some of it was pretty poor. I think maybe I just expected better. I might have expected too much, but I don't think so.
Review of the Entertainment on the Costa Luminosa.
My wife and I have just had our very first cruise experience with Costa on board the Luminosa and we found the ship, the food and the staff wonderful. My career has been in entertainment, starting professionally in 1984, and at 60 – I’m now working as a Production Manager, or Company Manager or other similar roles. I’m currently preparing a show for XXXXX, which has already sold over 35,000 tickets, and I will be the Company Manager for this production. A number of my previous dancers have worked for Costa, so I was looking forward to the on-board entertainment. On arriving at the theatre I noticed a good technical installation – Digico sound desk and the stage revolve and lifts. Sadly, once the shows started to run, things were not so good.
Small things at first – I’m aware that cruise ship shows are pre-produced and run from timecode, but some of the things I observed were a failing of the house crew in maintaining and tweaking. For example, pre-show, the lighting provides some slow moving gobos on the auditorium sides – all in one colour, bar one that was green. Nobody noticed, or they did, they didn't fix it. Similarly, quite a few states features fixtures with their beams in a row, apart from the odd one – presumably it had been removed for servicing or repair and replaced, but nobody checked the alignment. The actual lighting design was a bit odd – so many basic stock effects and bog standard gobos – that I can see everywhere – just not special.
The one person technically who stood out was the guy mixing sound. He was clearly skilled, and dedicated. He removed his comms headset which shows he was only interested in sound balance, and he made constant adjustments, and did not lose his focus in any of the shows where I observed him. I think he did an excellent job with the material he was presented with.
In the technical department the only crew issues from the production point was the video. The theatre has decent equipment but those Vinten heads are capable of very smooth and precise movement. The cameras have remote zoom and focus demands, but the head is set up badly, so moves were very jerky. Not really an operator fault, merely nobody skilled enough to set up the head controls and realise that pan bars should be more horizontal than vertical – because this exaggerates the jerks.
Power flying of the slower sort always looks a little iffy – but what became very annoying was the continual flying in and out of the various screens and gauzes, and some of the moving lights fixed to the vertical drops had very visible equipment in the almost dark state – this encourages viewers to try to see what it is. Whenever this kind of thing is done, the lighting needs adjusting to make the mechanics invisible. In one show there were two mirror balls, rigged at different heights – looked really tacky.
One safety issue I noticed. Scanning the audience with lasers is a very controlled effect, and this wasn’t controlled at all. I held a finger up to my eyes so I could see the effect, but not the actual device for my own safety. Where I was sitting on deck 3, the beams clearly hit the people on deck 2 seating and occasionally went up above my level. The risk assessment for the lasers would be interesting to read. The usual rule would be to NOT scan the audience. Costa seem to think this is OK - in the UK, it would not be done.
The performers, however, were a very weak link.
I appreciate that almost certainly the tracks they performed to are common to all ships, but their range did not match the tracks at all well. Both male singers were weak in their bottom range and had little power, so it wasn’t until they could sing higher that any power was available in their voice – unfortunately, many numbers started low – too low for these two. The taller of the two was quite weak, vocally - and had very poor stage presence looking awkward in some numbers. The shorter of the two had a nicer voice in his higher range, but was still weak. The two girl singers were simply average – pleasant enough, but in numbers where they were clearly supposed to be singing in a certain style – Diana Ross, Whitney Houston etc. they were unable to be convincing. One had quite painful pitching in places. In general, the four singers were typical of the UK Haven holiday centre standard – I’m very familiar with Haven, Warners and a few others, including the excellent Potters holiday centre – which is equipped in a very similar way to the Costa ships. None of the singers met the Potter’s standard, which was not what I expected.
Clearly the dancers at audition were probably competent, however I can only assume there is no dance captain, or that there is, and this person is ineffective. Many routines, and I saw all the entertainment available, were sloppy. In some, difficult to guess if sequences should have been in unison or canon! Things like split leaps for example. Simply all over the place. No symmetry and messy. One of the dancers – who looked a little older and had lighter hair and featured in some duet numbers looked like he knew exactly what to do, but was doing it at his version of the correct time, while the others did it reasonably together in theirs. He partnered frequently with a guy with short dreadlocks, and the two never seemed to gel. The other two male dancers were forgettable. Not bad, but they didn’t shine. The five girls were competent but uncoordinated – all the small things – too much hip turn or too little compared to the others – arms and legs at different angles and very varying degrees of effort and energy, A few numbers looked like they were marking, not performing. The girls also had spacing issues, despite the usual tape numbers on the hidden stage edge – I checked. They had trouble retaining shape when going upstage, especially when the lifts were up, and they had to go up and back, and the shape got lost. Small things made it messy – in one routine when they all saluted, they all did it differently. Different arm angles and worst of all, their palms – vertical and facing front, or horizontal facing down – and those facing down had some rakish angles? These small attention to detail features should have been spotted and rectified by the dance captain, but clearly this was a feature not implemented, which comes down to not just the dancers but the person in charge. If this person was me, I’d have had them in for extra calls to tighten things up, fix the spacing, remove some strange physical weirdnesses (the dancer who always turned their lip up, for example). Exits were also a bit odd – some doing some very contrived movements, others not. Some looked bored, some looked keen and excited.
They were competent, professional and entertaining – for about ten minutes. An entire show was just too much, it got repetitive and dull. Cannot fault their performances but better as an insert to another show, it did not warrant a show of it’s own.
I had low expectations and wasn’t disappointed. It made me feel embarrassed to be there. The standard of the performers was bound to vary considerably, but it was the management of it that was awkward. As a concept it had merit, but I sensed the audience were not like the Voice or X-Factor audiences out to laugh at them, and they too felt embarrassed with the weak ones, and over enthusiastic with the better ones. Picking the winner was simple.
The Crew Show
I expected, based on the professional performers, that this show would be terrible. In fact, it was excellent. Showing up the professional dancers in terms of energy, and one of the singers was better than the professionals – this should NOT have happened. A crew member, singing for fun should not perform better than somebody who does this as a career. The dancers and singers did not appear to have any extra duties, so I wonder what they did with all their time off? Certainly it wasn’t spent rehearsing.
I’m familiar with the ship band concept from my own limited experience on ships – I’m in a tribute band who have played on P&O, and like the theatre team, many seemed bored to tears. The guy playing the piano in one bar used tracks, and got hopelessly lost in one of the songs, clearly he can play and sing, but just forgot where he was. In another venue there was a duo, and in the venue where guests were dancing, their showband were clearly talented but playing dire music – although I have to say that people were dancing to it. Tarentellas and Polkas I really did not expect on a cruise, but that’s almost certainly me not realising what the average guest wants.
They tried hard, but so much of what they had to do was old fashioned and boring, what could they do? Quizzes – who on earth designed these, they were awful. Showing images from countries around the world, and guests writing down the countries was so dull – then they went around them all again, to cope with a few new guests who strolled in. Gripping? More like watching paint dry. So long for so few questions. Same again with the only other quiz I witnessed – identifying beer brands from bottles around the world! Really? This kind of entertainment is cringeworthy if you are under 30, and awkward for me, just turned 60. I also started to watch a quiz where the three ents team members mimed actions to movie theme music. I left.
It’s also probably a country specific thing, but I resented after a while, the constant demand to applause – applause. If I want to applaud a performer, I will. In this case I was asked to applaud performances that were poor, lacklustre or in some cases, embarrassing.
I saw a number of very average shows, and none that impressed me with the exception of the crew show. Standards wise, in the UK we have various levels of performance standard in shows. In quality terms, the West End shows are at the top, with very critical attention to detail, the touring production of these shows try to maintain this quality, but there are compromises due to the differences in venues. Out of the holiday centre market, I have not seen better than the shows at the Potters Resort in Norfolk. Good staging, competent singers, dancers and musicians. The Warner holiday centres come next in quality, with Haven and the individual small group sites firmly at the bottom because their entertainers tend to be generic rather than specialists in one area. I have to report that the Costa show falls to the bottom of the list. Not entirely the fault of the performers, but the management who clearly have noticed none of this.
It did not spoil my holiday, as the off-ship experience was very good, and of course the food on board was wonderful, but as my job is entertainment, I was looking forward to excellent entertainment, and it was embarrassingly poor.
We shared our dining table with two other couples and they said exactly the same thing, from their non-entertainment background.
Sadly - that's my first and last Costa cruise - I shan't be doing any more whatever.
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