Let Me Entertain You…

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Imagine a cruise where “New York’s best comedy club, Austin’s most talented musicians, a handful of gold medal gymnasts, and the ghost of Studio 54 got together to transform a ship into a series of acrobatic productions, interactive experiences, and soirees replete with constellation-themed cocktails and zodiac stories under the stars.” That’s how Virgin Voyages describes the entertainment program aboard their cruise ship Scarlet Lady. Oh and let’s not forget the Drag Queen Brunch…you’re not going to find that on other cruise ships!

Virgin has a different approach to the entertainment on their ships…they don’t use a Cruise Director. Instead, they assign multiple crew members as co-equals to run different segments of the ship’s entertainment program. It results in an entertainment program with multiple personalities, but rather than being dysfunctional, Virgin views it as advantageous. They believe the Virgin approach to cruise ship entertainment gives passengers (sailors in Virgin speak) multiple options, allowing them to pick the type of entertainment that best fits their idea of fun.  And most importantly, since Virgin’s ships are all adults only, they don’t have to tame anything down or make you stay up for the late night 18 and over version of the shows. Let’s use Virgin’s own words to break it down a bit.

Virgin’s entertainment producers sought out, and found, a NYC comedy club show that fits their idea of fun. Think of the traditional cruise ship game shows like “The Newlywed/Not So Newlywed Game,” remove all barriers and decorum, and that’s what you have in Scarlet Lady’s headliner comedy show, “Never Sleep Alone” also known as NSA. I had no idea! I won’t give away the fun from the teasers I’ve read except to say if you don’t want to be taken out of your comfort zone, don’t go to this show. It is based on the wildly popular book and comedy show originated by PhD sexologist, Dr. Alex Schiller, represented in Scarlet Lady’s show by the character “Dr. A”. That’s a persona by the way, both for the real Alex Schiller and Scarlet Lady’s Dr. A. Neither holds a PhD in anything. Not even an honorary one as Alex Schiller is quick to point out. Nor is either a trained sexologist, at least not in the academic sense. It’s all part of the show as “Dr.” A applies her experience at learning how to “never sleep alone” to your love life in an effort to help you do better. That is if you’re lucky enough to be called up on stage. If the thought of sharing your most intimate dating and seduction secrets in public makes you break out in a sweat, you’ll want to make sure you sit in the “Voyeurs” section.

“Austin’s most talented musicians” refers to the ship’s effort to recreate the musical component of SXSW at sea. I don’t think there is nearly enough deck space for Virgin Voyages to fully recreate the SXSW musical experience, but as a record label and music production company I’m equally sure the music is one part of Scarlet Lady’s entertainment program Virgin will get right.

Gold medal gymnasts are central to the dramatic performance of “Duel Reality.” This is Virgin’s modern take on the classic star-crossed lovers’ story of Romeo and Juliet. It is described as a fast-paced retelling of the classic story line with an elaborate circus twist as two groups grapple with the desire to rise above one another (both figuratively and literally) through graceful and death-defying acts. In other words, Shakespeare meets Cirque de Soleil…Virgin style. It also takes full advantage of another Virgin cruise ship design innovation…the Red Room. Scarlet Lady has no main theater with soaring three deck high ceilings and tiered seating. It has a more intimate theater-like venue called the Red Room where the audience is seated around, and in the middle of, the action. “Duel Reality” sounds like it was custom made for that venue, which…actually…it was.

The final piece of Scarlet Lady’s entertainment is what Virgin describes as the “Ghost of Studio 54” in a clear reference to the over-the-top NYC opera house turned disco from the late 1970s. It is more a reference to the themed party vibe on Scarlet Lady rather than to a specific venue because parties on Scarlet Lady can pop up anywhere, anytime. From the classic Sail Away party on the pool deck to the soon to be classic Pajama Party under the stars, Scarlet Lady boasts a different themed party each night.

The first true Studio 54-ish event of each cruise is the Retro Glam pool party. This is described as an event where Old Hollywood glamour meets modern Miami pool vibe. The idea is to dress in your most glammed up pool attire and join in the fun of a 1960s themed afternoon Hollywood pool party. Of course there will be a Virgin twist…a Glam squad from the spa will be there, ready to make you up just in time for your Retro Glam photoshoot with the pool as a backdrop. I’ve heard there are pool toys and floaties involved as well…lots of fun.

The signature event aboard each of Scarlet Lady’s sailings will be held on the final night, and it is described as Scarlet Night. This party is so big it can’t be contained to a single area…it becomes a ship wide event. Virgin trades in the boring White Party popular with other cruise lines and dives right into the naughty fun associated with the color scarlet. Sailors are encouraged to wear a splash of scarlet somewhere on their bodies that they are willing to display. Sounds a bit like wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day except I’m pretty sure something more naughty than a mere pinch will be the penalty for the non-conformists.

I probably won’t be able to tell you what Scarlet Night is all about. Janet and I lost interest in cruise ship parties about 20 cruises ago. We usually spend the last night of our cruise in the cabin packing, and then walking the deck looking out at the stars. Maybe I’ll bring a scarlet handkerchief along on our walk on the Promenade…just in case the party catches up to us!

That’s just a snapshot of Scarlet Lady’s entertainment highlights. Virgin promises so much more…like the Drag Queen Brunch that I’m still waiting on details for. And the karaoke room. Yes, Scarlet Lady has a purpose built, intimately sized karaoke room that is wired for sound, unlike the large multipurpose lounge most cruise ships use that get pressed into service for karaoke when not being used as the Bingo Hall. There’s the roving band of dramatic comedic performers with pop-up productions all over the ship and…well…SO MUCH MORE!

I’ve cruised on ships before when the experience was outside of my comfort zone…those are the cruises Janet and I take most often these days. We want to use our travel time and dollars wisely, for experiences that don’t necessarily appeal to us but that we know do appeal to some of our clients. Well this cruise goes WAY beyond that. And though it makes me a bit nervous to be taken as far outside of my comfort zone as Scarlet Lady promises, I’m even more nervous that she won’t.

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