Last updated: 02:46 PM ET, Thu March 19 2015

Travel Insights: Fine French Food & Top Broadway Hits at Sea

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Princess Cruises | James Shillinglaw | March 19, 2015

Travel Insights: Fine French Food & Top Broadway Hits at Sea

Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises

Last Thursday, March 12, I had competing cruise line events in New York City. Princess Cruises unveiled its new partnership with Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz and Regent Seven Seas Cruises debuted its new French restaurant concept Chartreuse.

I figured out that I could go to the Hudson Theatre on 44th Street to hear at least some of the Princess presentation, including a few Stephen Schwartz songs, and then walk seven blocks up Seventh Avenue to Le Bernardin, where Regent was holding a dinner to showcase its new restaurant.

Once again major cruise lines are pushing the envelope in terms of the culinary and entertainment offerings onboard. In Princess' case, the line has partnered with Schwartz to produce four original Broadway-type shows that will only be available onboard its ships. The first, "Magic to Do," will debut on Crown Princess this fall. Schwartz, of course, is famed for the music of “Wicked,” “Pippin,” and “Godspell.”

He's also winner of four Grammys and three Academy Awards for Best Song and Best Score for “Pocahontas” and Best Song for “The Prince of Egypt."

Now in the interest of full disclosure, "Magic to Do" will feature music from Schwartz's previous Broadway shows in a new book and performance. Indeed, at the media event last week we heard him play songs from "Pippin" (including one sung by Ben Vereen himself), "Godspell" and "Wicked." But he'll also bring with him Don Frantz, associate producer of “The Lion King,” and “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway, and Gabriel Barre, director of the national tour of “Pippin,” and the current Broadway-bound musical “Amazing Grace," among others. In addition, Jim Steinmeyer, who has worked with Siegfried & Roy and David Copperfield, will create the magic experience in “Magic to Do.”

It's the first time, to my knowledge, that a major Broadway composer has committed to creating original entertainment onboard a cruise ship (and I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong). Ten years ago cruise ship entertainment was often criticized as "warmed-over" Broadway. Now that's been transformed into "original" Broadway with some real Broadway talent.

Moving on to the food: Regent Seven Seas unveiled plans for Chartreuse, described as a classic French restaurant with a modern twist designed to evoke a hidden Paris café, that will debut aboard the line's new Seven Seas Explorer next year. Unlike many other luxury lines, Regent developed the new restaurant concept without the aid of a famous consulting chef. Again, this will be an experience that can only be found on a Regent ship. It's also a dining venue that is included in the cruise fare and won't require any additional surcharge.

Once again, here's a luxury cruise line upping the ante by including unique dining experiences. These days it seems that luxury lines are falling over each other to provide something different for their customers. It's often tough to keep straight just what dining experience is on what line and what ship. Maybe we need a Zagat's or Michelin guide to cruise line dining!

Regent also is paying close attention to the ambiance of Chartreuse. Guests will arrive in an entrance that resembles a cobblestoned Parisian street. They will dine in a space that features art-nouveau décor with a feature wall lined with sculpted Chartreuse glass surrounded by metallic and crystalline frames on one side and floor-to-ceiling windows separated by metal filigree screens on the other. Indeed, the restaurant takes its name from that decorative Chartreuse glass.

Now the six-course dinner we were served at Le Bernardin was selected as an example of what Chartreuse will offer guests. If that's correct, the dining onboard Seven Seas Explorer will truly be a luxury experience, even more than it was before on other Regent ships.

Both the Princess and Regent events only served to show once again that cruise lines are upping the ante across the board to attract new cruisers and get current guests to keep coming back to experience things at sea that they couldn't discover on land in the same way.


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