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On Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas for a West End and Broadway-themed…

by Ace Damon
Stage cruises - hosted by the Floating Festivals - are dedicated to honoring West End and Broadway shows. If you shamelessly like musical theater, he plays all the right notes, says Jonathan Weinberg

Now it was not the South Pacific, but four nights sailing the English Channel on a voyage of the Sea Music Theater Festival. They certainly provided some enchanting nights.

Back in a rerun, the second Stages cruise – hosted by Floating Festivals – saw about 2,500 passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas for a star-studded experience of the West End and Broadway.

Even if I had dreamed a dream of my own fantasy cast, I would have struggled to secure Les Mis's Alfie Boe and Funny Girl's Sheridan Smith as the protagonist and lass with Britain's Got Talent winner in 2014, Collabro, providing a very special choir.

Stage cruises – hosted by the Floating Festivals – are dedicated to honoring West End and Broadway shows. If you shamelessly like musical theater, he plays all the right notes, says Jonathan Weinberg

These headliners meant that the only targeted passenger destination was the Palace Theater every night, regardless of the bad weather affecting our trip from Southampton, and as a result our days in Dublin shifted to Cobh near Cork.

Each performed three first-rate shows, receiving standing ovations for their hour, full of energy, jokes, audience participation and memorable musical numbers from artists such as Lloyd Webber, Mackintosh, Sondheim, Schwartz and many others.

Collabro even performed the Lion King's Circle of Life the final night with a passenger choir that spent the cruise rehearsing for its big moment.

Another chance for passengers to release their star from the inner stage came courtesy of the night of dressing up the musical theater.

You could rub your shoulders with the Beast (minus Beauty) in formal attire, a Sound of Music habit – or you could be Sister Act nuns – and more Wizards of Oz and Evil than you could shake a broom. .

As for me, I had a cameo as G.I. Chris from Miss. Saigon

After hearing feedback from 2018, when some lost their seats, the organizers split the number of audiences based on pre-allocated times, which meant the theater was comfortably crowded but not full.

Sheridan Smith who starred in Funny Girl Alfie Boe, star of Les Mis

The headlines on the Stages cruise came from Funny Girl star Sheridan Smith on the left and Alfie Boe from Les Mis on the right.

Collabro, pictured, presented the Lion King's Circle of Life on the final night with a passenger choir, who spent the cruise rehearsing for his big time.

Collabro, pictured, presented the Lion King's Circle of Life on the final night with a passenger choir, who spent the cruise rehearsing for his big time.

The food might not be as glorious as Oliver's famous number playing in the elevators and hallways for breakfast suggested it would be. I ate better on cruises and the huge coffee queues and plentiful but bumpy in quality buffet were a bit disappointing.

But let's face the music and dance. No one was here to eat, not when our hunger was satisfied with the oversized portions of concert music. You didn't even have to ask for more.

If you don't live, sleep, eat and drink music at home, Stages is not for you. But if, like me, you love shameless MT, then it hits all the right grades.

Jonathan says Stages impressed him because of "your sense of community - you were surrounded by like-minded people and could start theater conversations anywhere"

Jonathan says Stages impressed him because of "your sense of community – you were surrounded by like-minded people and could start theater conversations anywhere"

Jonathan explains that "all your needs are met from the morning until the early hours of the morning, from watching a music movie on the big deck screen while in a hot tub to one of the many daily musical-based tests" 39;

Jonathan explains that "all your needs are met from the morning until the early hours of the morning, from watching a music movie on the big deck screen while in a hot tub to one of the many daily musical-based tests" 39;

Hull of a Place: Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas, pictured here in Astoria, Oregon

Hull of a Place: Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas, pictured here in Astoria, Oregon

Jonathan in the photo says many of the West End's most talented artists were on board

Jonathan in the photo says many of the West End's most talented artists were on board

All your needs are met from morning to early hours, from watching a big-screen deck-based music movie while in a hot tub to one of the many daily music-based tests.

There were also immensely talented passenger chants and performances at the piano bars, the best being the popular Sing Easy, which was brought to the West End of the ship especially for the Stages.

Avenue Q's British cast even made Explorer one of their tour dates, leading us to a simplified version of the comic but adult puppet music. Although clearly not for everyone.

The steps were very much about the set.

Other talented West End artists on board performed solo or collaborative cabaret shows late at night, including Wicked's famous Elphaba alumni Rachel Tucker and Alice Fearn. Comedian Joe Pasquale also brought his own brand of crazy humor.

There was a groan as questions and answers with Alfie and Collabro were scheduled at the same time, but a masterclass of Jenna Russell theater royalty, a vision of Adrian Mole: the creators of the musical Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary, and keynote speakers, producers and agents, more than compensated for this.

The steps also impressed me because of your sense of community – you were surrounded by like-minded people and could start theater conversations anywhere, even traveling alone. A thriving private Facebook group of over 1,500 members has also allowed the before and after link.

Long lines at sea to reschedule for 2020 aboard Royal Caribbean's superb Anthem of the Seas have simply reassured this critic that Stages is a great success that will race and race.

TRAVEL FACTS

Book for Stage 2020 (September 27 – October 1), with major attractions including Miss Saigon Lea Salonga original, theatrical legends John Barrowman and Bonnie Langford, as well as John (Jean Valjean) Owen Jones, Ramin Karimloo of Phantom and Marisha Wallace of Dreamgirls, see www.floatingfestivals.co.uk. Cabins start at £ 699 per person.

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