iLuminate Suits In Full Light, Photo by Jason Leppert
When it comes to smaller cruise ships, generally one does not think of the best in entertainment, but Crystal Cruises has always had exceptional performances and continues to push the boundaries of what can be accomplished at sea on a smaller scale.
By virtue of stage and overall venue size, luxury ships will never match the lavishness of a Disney Cruise Line or Royal Caribbean International production, but of the luxury lines I’ve had the chance to experience, Crystal Cruises comes surprisingly close. Making the most of what the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony do have are stellar companies of singers and dancers is a wide variety of shows.
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The Crystal Symphony’s Galaxy Lounge, for instance, is a basic single-decker, in-the-round-style arrangement that is more reminiscent of traditional cruise ship cabarets than the biggest theaters now found on ships, and that’s okay. It’s actually a refreshingly intimate space because of it. Shows like “Rocket Man: A Tribute to Elton John” and tribute artist Elio Pace seriously rock the house while backed by an ace live orchestra, aforementioned company and the occasional pyrotechnic blast.
Elsewhere, the Symphony’s Starlite Club is an extremely dated venue screaming for a decor update, but even it is animated by fun spot shows such as “Jump & Swing-A-Mania” that bring to life timeless tunes. In fact, “The Speakeasy” show back in the Galaxy would be a great template for a perfectly themed Starlite remodel.
For the prohibition era performance, the main theater’s entrance is cleverly dressed with a brick wall applique and secret passageway. Upon entering, the cast and band perform classics with a twist in a contemporary electro-swing style that I simply adore. Shows like this expertly bring together Crystal’s core loyalist demographic and coveted millennials like myself.
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Perhaps the best example of Crystal’s entertainment prowess is its collaboration with iLuminate to perform one of my all-time favorite shows at sea. On the Symphony, “IMAGINE” (pictured post-show in the light above) is presented in complete darkness while wild luminescent-outlined costumes dance and pantomime a story of love to hit electronic and pop tunes, from Oingo Boingo to Daft Punk. The overall effect is futuristic stagecraft that presents an atmosphere straight out of the grid of “TRON.”
Guest entertainers also astound, particularly magicians for the line’s exclusive Magic Castle at Sea program, alone a worthy entertainment staple. Standup magician, Derek Hughes, for example, wows on stage as much as he does at his close-up performances. His humorous ability to misdirect the audience with mentalism and mind-bending feats of prestidigitation is nothing short of amazing.