Last updated: 08:00 PM ET, Tue March 08 2016

TravelPulse On Board: Carnival LIVE

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Carnival Cruise Line | Jason Leppert | November 25, 2015

TravelPulse On Board: Carnival LIVE

Photos by Jason Leppert

Carnival Cruise Line recently announced the musical artist lineup for its first set of select 2016 Carnival LIVE sailings in the Caribbean including returning favorite Journey and new-to-the-program KC and the Sunshine Band. But just what is the experience like, you may ask?

Well let me first tell you it’s a blast! I had the opportunity to see Martina McBride on the Carnival Freedom in Galveston, Texas for a special salute to our military and Styx on the Carnival Imagination sailing from Long Beach, California, and both shows exceeded all of my expectations.

Carnival LIVE is essentially a form of specialty entertainment in the same vein as specialty dining. Instead of a dinner, a nominal fee (subsidized by the base cruise fare) treats cruise guests to an exclusive concert experience from a list of popular performers. Keep in mind that there is only one show offered per sailing, and not every guest onboard can be seated at once in the main theater. So, plan accordingly and reserve the concert early.

Since my Styx sailing, the price has gone up but is still absolutely worth it. Depending on the band, $40-75 will get you a general admission ticket in the ship’s main show lounge. VIP tickets are also available for $150-250, including a commemorative concert pass, photo meet-and-greet with the band and preferred seating in the first four rows.

My mom and I had the pleasure of enjoying Styx with VIP passes among a hundred or so other guests. The experience begins about an hour before showtime in one of the ship’s smaller lounges where you are given your credentials, in a fun laminated lanyard with the band’s logo. VIP guests then line up so when the band arrives you can have your photo taken with them in front of a step-and-repeat backdrop plastered with the Carnival LIVE logo.

It’s worth noting that the sooner you have your photo taken, the sooner you will exit the lounge to enter the theater and thus the closer you will be able to get to the stage. Seating within the first four rows is first-come-first-served for VIPs as well as for general admission guests in the rest of the venue. Because of that, regular ticket holders begin to queue at least two hours ahead of time outside the entrance doors.

Once everyone is inside, it’s immediately clear that the theater has been tailored for a genuine concert. I was especially surprised to see that the house sound system was temporarily discarded in favor of the band’s own equipment. A massive bank of additional speakers was hung from the ceiling and even a mixing board was installed in the back row fed by a cable snake from all the instruments; no small undertaking for a single performance.

Then when Styx took to the stage they put on quite a show. The custom sound system rocked the house with astounding concert amplification far exceeding the usual theater volume, and a full set of eleven numbers were energized from their studio versions. The band jammed on their instruments and vocals, coming into the audience from time to time and tossing Styx logo guitar picks our way. All the guests were on their feet by the end, wanting to "come sail away," and both my mom and I were extremely impressed.

Unfortunately, there are no more west coast Carnival LIVE sailings, but the ones that are initially planned for 2016 are a great Caribbean continuation of the entertainment program.

Gladys Night, known widely for her hit “Midnight Train to Georgia,” is new to Carnival LIVE and will perform onboard the Carnival Liberty, Carnival Valor and Carnival Splendor while docked in St. Thomas on Feb. 1-3 respectively.

KC and the Sunshine Band is also new and is scheduled to “get down tonight” in Cozumel while the Carnival Paradise, Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Breeze are berthed on March 22-24.

Journey returns to delight cruise guests and remind them again to never stop believing on the Carnival Pride and Carnival Victory in Nassau on May 5 and 6.

Trace Adkins, who most recently made an appearance at Carnival’s Ultimate Cowboys Fan Fest last month, also will return with his country music in Nassau aboard Carnival Freedom, Carnival Dream and Carnival Conquest on July 6-8.

Carnival LIVE is expected to rock on with even more acts to be announced along the lines of Carnival’s list of impressive past artists like .38 Special, The Band Perry, Boston, Chicago, Daughtry, Foreigner, Gavin DeGraw, Heart, Jennifer Hudson, Jewel, Kansas, Lady Antebellum, LeAnn Rimes, Lionel Richie, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Olivia Newton-John, Rascal Flatts, REO Speedwagon, Smokey Robinson and Styx.


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