Last updated: 09:51 AM ET, Wed August 31 2016

Oceania Cruises’ Riviera Transitions from Vegas to Broadway Entertainment

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Oceania Cruises | Jason Leppert | August 30, 2016

Oceania Cruises’ Riviera Transitions from Vegas to Broadway Entertainment

 Photo by Jason Leppert 

There’s a change of the guard happening in cruise ship entertainment as typical Las Vegas-style cabarets give way to more Broadway-style productions, and Oceania Cruises’ Riviera is currently at the turning point.

During our seven-day cruise, three main production shows – those with a full cast of singers and dancers – were scheduled in the Riviera Lounge, but unfortunately one of them was scheduled the very first night of the cruise, usually reserved for a “taste of things to come” throwaway.

As many passengers were just flying into Europe that day, including yours truly from the U.S. west coast, there was no way many of us were going to make it to the 9:45pm show as we recovered from jet lag.

As such, my first taste of the entertainment onboard was the next evening as Italian tenor Ugo Paliotto took to the stage. Suffice it to say this is the type of old-guard performance that is beginning to feel a bit tired on ships. Yes, he was talented enough as a vocalist but not exceptional, and the live orchestra was a welcome musical backing.

 READ MORE: The Exquisite Cuisine of Oceania Cruises’ Riviera 

However, the show came across a bit lounge lizard-like, particularly as karaoke style lyrics were displayed on the video wall and he pointed the microphone at the audience to sing along. To be fair, it seemed to play well to the older members of the crowd, but when a performer begins to rely on such interactive participation, it feels a bit lazy and amateurish.

Now that Oceania Cruises resides under the larger Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Limited umbrella, the entertainment prowess of the performance-savvy parent company has begun to rub off on the boutique brand.

Thankfully, the next night’s performance of “Lights, Camera, Music” was far more redeeming in my younger eyes as an abbreviated revue of classic to modern film songs, only about 35-40 minutes in total length.

The dozen live performers consisted of good vocalists and even better dancers, and staging was simple but still more elaborate than expected thanks mostly to the aforementioned video wall for setting the scene. My favorite segue was from the song “Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” to a medley of talented “Moulin Rouge” numbers.

 READ MORE: Oceania Cruises Makes a Fine First Impression 

The real surprise was actually the final “World Beat” as an international journey through song from Greece (pictured above) to Ireland and lots in between for a longer and more complete performance, clocking in closer to 50 minutes. As a huge fan of the Irish and Norwegian instrumental duo Secret Garden, I was pleased to hear their famous “You Raise Me Up” performed, even if it soared less vocally than usual.

Where the show surprised most was its colorful costuming and dialed-in dance numbers. The Indian showcase, which included the obligatory “Jai Ho” from the film “Slumdog Millionaire,” challenged the western vocalists but was more than made up for by its excellent choreography. The kinetic staging continued as a Chinese dragon also activated the visual space, and high-energy step dancing represented Ireland.

I foresee a time when Oceania Cruises entertainment is consistently good across the board, as it is well on its way, but right now it is teetering just a bit between tacky, old-school Vegas and glamorous, new-school Broadway. Once it locks in its identity, all will be right on stage.

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