Just as cruise companies have stepped up their culinary game in the last decade, so too have they turned up the heat under their stage performances. From Cirque acrobatics to full-scale Broadway productions, the top quality entertainment now featured on many ships is nothing short of astonishing.

A great cruise is a dynamic blend of excitement ashore and afloat – fabulous port experiences combined with a delectable lineup of onboard entertainment. From live theatre to first-run movie screenings, dance lessons to ballet performances, hot jazz to cool blues, Cirque-style acrobatics to ice skating extravaganzas, art auctions, lectures that challenge the mind, painting classes that fuel your inner DaVinci and much, much more – you simply can’t avoid having fun!


Eager for glamour and romance? You’ll find it aboard the luxurious Cunard ships. On the Queen Victoria, where the red and gold draped Royal Court Theatre soars three decks high, the first-ever private boxes at sea offer an indulgent ‘nibble service’ for guests watching lavish hi-tech musicals and Shakespearean productions.

Cunard also takes the prize in the ‘dance and romance’ category. Not only can guests learn from suave dance instructors but they can also don tuxedos and shimmering gowns and dance to a live orchestra in the Queens Room, the largest and most elegant ballroom at sea.

The intellectual buzz of Cunard Insights, a speakers series featuring noted academics, novelists, explorers, politicians and former ambassadors, scientists and historians, actors and film makers keeps the ships vibrating, while Cunard ConneXions enables guests to dabble in everything from water color painting to computer lessons, bridge, board games, wine tasting.

Royal Caribbean


Royal Caribbean rocks the seas! The only cruise line offering Tony Award®-winning musicals, RCI’s Allure of the Seas®, Oasis of the Seas® and Liberty of the Seas® feature Hairspray, Chicago, The Musical and Saturday Night Fever as well as custom-designed RCI Productions extravaganzas, well-known bands, singers, comedians and dance troupes. With the only at-sea ice shows on Oasis-, Freedom-, and Voyager-class ships, RCI also offers AquaTheater dive shows with dancers, divers, acrobats, backlit fountains and gigantic screens on Oasis-class.

Kid-cruisers on select RCI ships love the Adventure Oceans program with its wandering characters from Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda, DreamWorks Animation’s movie “Turbo”, parades, the “Madagascar Aqua Show” and the “How to Train Your Dragon” ice show.


Whether you love the glitz and glam of a full-on musical production, the belly-shaking laughs of a comedy club featuring well-known funny man George Lopez, or the on-stage opportunity to compete with your friends and family in Hasbro, The Game Show, Carnival Cruises has you covered. You can even slip on the 3D glasses and watch jump-off-the-screen movies in the Thrill Theatre or dance to the hot tunes spun by Carnival djs, all graduates of DJ IRIE’s Spin’iversity school! DJ Irie rocks the tunes for the Miami Heat so you can bet every Carnival dance club is sizzling.



Celebrity Cruises raises the curtain – and the entertainment bar - in its main theater with custom-created productions such as "Pulse", "Remix" and "Edge" as well as tribute shows that channel the high-energy and style of Broadway, London’s West End and Las Vegas. Award-winning European-style circus shows co-created with international producer Poet Theatricals and the British-style "Panto" shows custom-created by the world-renowned Qdos Entertainment have also proven to be huge hits. The newest additions to the Celebrity lineup are “Sin City” a late-night comedy show aboard Celebrity ReflectionSM and Celebrity Solstice® and 54 Below, a cabaret-style club aboard Celebrity Summit’s Bermuda sailings where guests enjoy Broadway-style theater.


Although its Signature Shows are always a wow on every Princess cruise, their unique feature is the Movies Under the Stars® program, a chance to enjoy blockbuster Hollywood movies in the fresh night air. When the sky darkens, guests snuggle under cozy blankets and munch on popcorn, warm cookies and milk in the 300-square foot, 69,000-watt poolside top deck movie-theater.

Not all entertainment happens at night! Princess delights craft-loving guests with pottery classes in the world’s first floating ceramics studio and offers the ScholarShip@Sea Program®, a collection of more than forty classes that run the gamut from engaging lectures on history and culture to zumba, card making, wine tasting, pop choir and more.



Norwegian Cruise Lines has a stunning entertainment lineup including the Blue Man Group, Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, Rock of Ages and Burn the Floor. On select Norwegian ships, guests laugh along with Second City, the world-renowned improv comedy troupe that spawned comedic superstars Gilda Radner and John Belushi.

Music fans will love Norwegian’s Live Loud Festival at Sea cruise - a week-long arts and music immersion for enthusiasts – and the Rock Boat XIV cruise, hailed as “the ultimate summer camp for grownups” where campfire songs have been replaced by classic rock and roll.


The crown prince of children’s entertainment, Disney Cruises has a non-stop parade of roaming characters, princess breakfasts and Broadway-style musicals featuring classic Disney elements and tunes custom-created for their four ships. From Aladdin to Mickey Mouse, live shows to first run-movies and up-close-and-personal celebrity shoulder-rubbing, Disney has it all.

Written by Liz Fleming

First published in World Traveler Winter 2014

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