Putting on a show with Carnival Cruise Line

Onboard entertainment spaces need to offer guests something unique and special, but functionality has to be at the core of the design

Putting on a show with Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival’s newest ships have performance venues like Liquid Lounge

The fundamental mission of an entertainment team is to provide guests of all ages with high-quality, memorable shows that add value to an already incredible vacation. 

Just like other aspects of the cruise industry, Carnival Cruise Line’s onboard entertainment has evolved to keep pace with guest preferences and incorporate the latest technological advancements. This is particularly true in relation to Playlist Productions, our main production shows that feature ‘triple threat’ performers and continue to raise the bar on what’s possible with seagoing entertainment. 

The spaces hosting these productions are designed with video capabilities, including large LED screens, to create truly unique venues and allow guests the chance to engage with shipboard teams in a fun way – whether it’s via pre-show activities, a Playlist after party, the wildly popular piano bars or comedy shows.  

While we offer all sorts of entertainment onboard – Fun Squad, musicians, comedians, youth and family experiences, engaging piano players – our productions shows are truly at the heart of the Carnival experience and something that our guests look forward to each evening. 

Like with every other aspect of the Carnival experience, we constantly listen to our guests and adapt our entertainment products accordingly. With 24 ships and many repeat guests, we know that we must always find new ways to keep our guests entertained. In fact, many of our entertainment ideas – from Playlist shows to magical acts and our popular rock bands – are the direct result of listening and responding to our guests who remain our guiding force in everything we do. 

The theatre is typically the largest space on a cruise ship, so we know that guests come to these spaces to be dazzled – not only by the performances but also with the latest technological advancements such as pyrotechnics. To help make our operations even more efficient, we have constructed rehearsal studios near our Miami headquarters that replicate the stages on our various classes of ship. This allows us to rehearse and develop new content. 

The actual entertainment experience is key, but without adequate sight lines, ample seating or employing the latest technology advancements, we could greatly diminish the guest experience. Plus, when guests are in elegant and memorable surroundings, it puts them in a mindset to expect something special to take place. This adds to the excitement and enjoyment of the performance. 

If you look at the most famous theatres in the world – be it Radio City Music Hall or Carnegie Hall in New York – the designers started with functionality first and then found visual elements to support the venue. Cruise ship theatres follow the same design formula. Our theatres contain the functional requirements to deliver stunning performances and their visual appeal is designed by some of the finest maritime architects in the world – and our guests know that they’re in for something special that night. And our performers know it, too. The symbiotic relationship between performer and audience is only enhanced by a venue that is as memorable as the performance itself. 

Our newest ships have performance venues called Liquid Lounge, which is an adaptable space with fixed seating as well as movable seating near the stage. This allows us to be very creative in developing shows that utilise the entire venue as a performance space. For some shows, we are able to create mini-nightclubs or pop-up live music performances right in the middle of the audience. It’s become one of the most popular elements of our shows. It’s this type of interaction that creates a unique bond between our entertainers and guests and really sets us apart from other cruise lines. Given that the seats are movable, the Liquid Lounge space can be used for a multitude of activities both day and night. 

Whenever we’re building a new ship or refurbishing an existing vessel, all departments, including entertainment, are asked to present a ‘wish list’ of their ideal features for the ship. From the entertainment side, this includes everything from the physical spaces to the technology that is currently available (sometimes this technology has never been employed on a cruise ship). For example, we worked closely with Mardi Gras’ designers on the entertainment aspects of a groundbreaking atrium design called Grand Central that was built into the side of the ship with a stage backed by 3,000-square-foot LED panels where we are presenting different shows each night. The results are simply stunning, and we can’t wait for our guests to see for themselves all that Grand Central has to offer. 

Our guests love comedy – we host upwards of 25,000 shows a year, the most on land or at sea – and we were also able to work with the designers to create two comedy clubs onboard, making Mardi Gras the first cruise ship to do so. The same consultation also works with refurbished ships as we have retrofitted ships with new entertainment technology and, in some cases, built brand new entertainment venues. 

Space is always at a premium on a cruise ship, but I think our designers have done an amazing job with the Grand Central Atrium on the new Mardi Gras. It is truly a transformative space – during the day it’s ideal for sipping a coffee or savouring a light snack while guests enjoy panoramic views of the ocean via large picture windows overlooking the ocean. Then at night, it comes alive with awe-inspiring shows specifically created for Mardi Gras that incorporate talented performers with 16 interactive LED panels. There’s nothing else like it at sea. 

Chris Nelson is vice president of entertainment at Carnival Cruise Line 

This article was first published in the 2021 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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By Chris Nelson
28 June 2021

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