Royal Caribbean International Redefines Entertainment
Photo by Jason Leppert
There once was a time when the most you could expect from a cruise ship production show was a simple revue of Broadway and pop tunes performed by a small company of singers and dancers paired with basic staging. Over time, performances have become more and more lavish, eventually telling elaborate stories along the way, but they are typically still housed in traditional show lounges. Today, Royal Caribbean International is not only pushing the envelope on the main stage but in entirely new types of venues that transcend mere theater.
The undisputed master of stagecraft in a traditional theater at sea continues to be the Disney Cruise Line with its constant narrative focus and deployment of seemingly every theatrical technique imaginable, but Royal Caribbean is even nipping at the heels of Mickey Mouse and the gang with genuine Broadway-caliber shows like “Grease” on its newest Harmony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world.
But where Royal Caribbean is really beating all of the competition is in its unique performance venues that started when it introduced Studio B on the Voyager of the Seas years ago. The multipurpose ice rink allows guest skating by day and presents spectacular ice shows by night. It has since evolved into a technological marvel on the Harmony, combining live skaters with unique projection technology that now cleverly animates the ice itself. “1887” is an excellent abstract steampunk show that even features magic tricks on top of it all.
Royal Caribbean didn’t rest on its laurels, however, and unveiled the AquaTheater on the first Oasis-class ship, the Oasis of the Seas. The Harmony of the Seas is the third in the series. On the Harmony, “The Fine Line” is a true spectacle. The show activates all around the audience with high dives, synchronized swimming, splash beat dancing, kinetic fountains and aerial acrobatics. The show isn’t exactly set to a narrative, but the effects are enough to satisfy. Other shows not seen on our preview sailing apparently do tell a story which I can only imagine to what degree it adds to the overall experience.
Also, the line’s other new series of ships, the Quantum-class led by the titular Quantum of the Seas, reinvents theater in its own way at Two70, an observation lounge at the stern that transforms into a showroom in the evening. The massive space is wrapped in tall floor-to-ceiling video projections while six Roboscreens (pictured above) descend from the ceiling. Picture half a dozen individual high-definition panels attached to the same robotic arms that manufacture cars dancing in unison as motion graphics are simultaneously displayed. “Spectra’s Cabaret” employs the tech only as one element and adds in live singing and dancing, plus aerial acrobatics as well.
Any technology and creative new venue is great alone, but Royal Caribbean is wise to know that live performance is still the glue that sells the total show. Consequently, its singers and dancers sustain a level of talent that matches or exceeds the impressive techniques that would come across only as gimmicks without. Bravo, Royal Caribbean International and encore!
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