Mark Dixon and Dan Lock at the launch of Spirit of Discovery (Image: Live Business)
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
Boasting boutique-style interiors, fine dining, all-balcony accommodations, personalised guest services and even a royal godmother (HRH the Duchess of Cornwall), Saga Cruises’ first purpose-built cruise ship, Spirit of Discovery, marks a new direction for the UK-based cruise brand. Designed as a celebration of all things British, the ship has been delighting and surprising the line’s new and existing guests since she was inaugurated in the cruise industry’s first-ever garden party-style quayside christening ceremony in July 2019.
In keeping with Spirit of Discovery’s name, Saga Cruises wanted to create a ship and onboard offerings that led guests to discover something new and unexpected, particularly when it came to entertainment. That’s why it turned to Live Business, an award-winning British company with an international reputation for designing bespoke entertainment concepts that push the boundaries of creativity and innovation. “We’ve had topline discussions about entertainment ventures since 2012, but Spirit of Discovery provided the perfect opportunity for us to collaborate and achieve something unique,” says Dan Lock, managing director of Live Business. “Both companies share many common goals and objectives, and we both follow ethical trading standards that take into account the social, economic and environmental impact of our organisations, so it was an easy and natural decision to work together.”
Prior to creating the entertainment programme, Live Business carried out extensive research into popular trends and spoke with Saga Cruises’ loyal guests to identify what they may potentially want to see on stage over the next three to five years. “Understanding the Saga Cruises demographic was critical to introducing creativity without alienating guests and thereby ensuring our entertainment operation would be successful,” explains Lock. “First, we asked guests what types of music they listened to when they were growing up, what contemporary music they liked, what films they related to and what current entertainment trends and styles they found most appealing. Next, we asked ourselves how we could recreate and reinvent all of these aspects to provide a universally appealing entertainment offering and, most importantly, make guests feel connected to what they see on stage.”
The company’s creative and technical teams also visited Spirit of Discovery at the shipyard during the final construction stages to visualise how best to deliver the innovative entertainment. “Saga Cruises’ designers, planners and outfitters have created a terrific array of contemporary entertainment venues and it was a pleasure to work alongside them to plan how we could use them to create special and exciting entertainment moments on every cruise,” notes Lock.
The result is a raft of carefully balanced classic and contemporary entertainment offerings that have been crafted to delight and surprise guests throughout their cruise. On the contemporary side, Live Business’s in-house team has created customised illustrations and animations that will be shown on the LED screens in Spirit of Discovery’s Playhouse Theatre to support productions. “We can continually develop bespoke digital content for Saga Cruises that will never be seen on any other cruise ship in the world,” says Lock. “This content will instantly transport audiences from one scene to another by immersing them in a digital environment that ranges from the Amazon to Antarctica, and everything in between. It’s the first time Saga Cruises has embraced a digital entertainment proposition and puts the line in an entirely new category of operators in terms of onboard experience.”
To develop more traditional entertainment offerings, Live Business collaborated with some of the UK’s leading choreographers and musical directors who have all worked on top productions on London’s West End. “Together, we’ve come up with a lineup of shows that wouldn’t look out of place in London’s top theatres,” comments Mark Dixon, managing director of Live Business. “Guests can choose from a diverse range of show concepts that all contain bespoke sets, costumes, musical scores, vocal arrangements, choreography, themes and storylines that are designed to provoke emotion. Our attention to detail, and the exceptional quality and finesse of our performers, speak directly to the hearts of the guests – whether they’re watching a real motorbike being ridden around the stage, marvelling at Saga’s first-ever aerial performances or listening to the charming flute lines within our musical arrangements.”
At Saga Cruises’ request, Live Business has also kept British themes at the core of the entertainment programme. “Spirit of Discovery brings to mind the interiors of boutique-style London hotels and the kinds of fine dining experiences that would be found in the very best restaurants,” says Lock. “Hence, we wanted to create shows that reflect the very best of what showbusiness and, in particular, what British traditionalism has to offer.”
Judging by the feedback that Live Business has received since Spirit of Discovery set sail, the company’s meticulous approach to creating the right entertainment offerings has certainly worked. “We truly couldn’t have imagined how positive the feedback has been so far, both in terms of the ship in her entirety and the entertainment we’ve created,” remarks Lock. “Both longstanding Saga Cruises guests and new customers are intrigued to sail on the ship. Plus, they have truly embraced the new entertainment proposition with open arms, welcoming the steps towards innovation and modernisation within the production model.”
Thanks to its creative experts and talented performers, Live Business has helped to raise the entertainment bar, not just for Saga Cruises, but also for the whole UK cruise industry. “We knew this ship was a big deal for Saga Cruises, so we were under pressure to get everything right and do an excellent job to repay the company for putting its trust in us,” says Dixon. “Our team met the challenge head on, delivering the project on time and within budget, surpassing all expectations along the way. Saga Cruises can now compete with global operators in terms of entertainment variety and choice, and we’re incredibly proud to have received such amazing feedback on the ground-breaking production shows we created in a relatively short space of time.”
Following the resounding success of Spirit of Discovery, all eyes have turned to her sister, Spirit of Adventure, which will debut in summer 2020. Preparations are already well underway for the newbuild’s entertainment proposition. “Everything is still top secret, but our creative team is working hard with our partners at Saga to design what we believe will be the next level in cruise entertainment for the Saga Cruises guests,” reveals Lock. Dixon adds: “We’re excited to continue taking Saga Cruises’ guests on a journey of stimulating creativity and delivering inspiring pieces of theatrical entertainment that will thrill and delight them for years to come.
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