A performance of Celine Dion’s Titanic theme, an app in place of the cruise director and themed events sporadically occurring around the ship were among a number of surprising twists on traditional cruise entertainment revealed by Virgin Voyages for its first vessel.
The performance of Dion’s 1997 track My Heart Will Go On occurred in the closing moments of Untitled DanceShowPartyThing, an immersive dance experience shown for media and trade partners during a weekend showcase onboard the adults-only Scarlet Lady in Dover on 21-22 February.
Many would consider the song a bold choice for use by a maritime company but Chris Stubbs, the line’s director of sailor [its term for guests] experience, says Virgin Voyages is “all about doing things tongue-in-cheek”.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” he tells TTG when asked of the idea behind featuring it. “We just want to play and do what nobody will expect.”
Untitled DanceShowPartyThing features nearly two hours’ worth of flash mob-style dancing, a rotating stage, trippy visuals (including sections of the show being narrated by a cosmic cat) and a giant inflatable pink whale.
The show, which will be performed during the first night of itineraries during Scarlet Lady’s inaugural season, was secretly road-tested on land at New York nightclub Le Poisson Rouge.
“It was unbranded and we never told anyone it was Virgin Voyages, we just advertised an epic dance show,” says Stubbs. “We ended up doing two shows for about 200 people each time.”
Untitled… is one of many immersive experiences encountered onboard, with others being a masked carnival procession making its way through the ship (which TTG duly joined for some festive fun) and an interview with the line’s president Tom McAlpin being suddenly interrupted by a ‘sex therapist’.
The random encounters were among the raft of different “Happenings” created by Virgin Voyages, from parties and “Grog Walk” bar crawls to wellness activities and arts classes, each playing on guests’ different passions.
“We wanted to create a festival of choice with something for everyone and help you see different parts of the ship and connect with like-minded sailors,” explains Stubbs.
He said Virgin Voyages considered the role of the cruise director “too much pressure to put on just one person’s shoulders”, so a Happenings cast of 14 was created and the position divided up.
Stubbs says in the absence of a cruise director, the line is developing an app featuring its line-up of experiences – due to launch ahead of its maiden voyage from Miami on 1 April.
The app won’t be “constantly buzzing at you”, he assures, but it will help guests select activities to suit them – with some events available for pre-voyage sign-ups, some advertised on digital screens throughout the ship and others just occurring seemingly at random.
One of Scarlet Lady’s more conventional aspects – its Red Room theatre – can be adapted to offer three different types of performance staging.
Alley mode allows for a catwalk-style set-up, with guests sitting either side. This helps to create the sense of two clashing tribes during the stylistic and acrobatic retelling of Romeo and Juliet, Duel Reality, performed for journalists and trade partners onboard.
Well this is definitely a theatre with a difference! Seats either side of a long stage in the middle. The performance is apparently a twist on Romeo and Juliet (not entirely sure how but excited to find out!) @VirginVoyages #ScarletLady pic.twitter.com/SWJJLqxtYw— Sophie Griffiths (@TTGTravelQueen) February 21, 2020
It can also be used as traditional stage theatre or have seating entirely removed to host large communal events, such as Untitled…
How would Stubbs sum up Virgin Voyages’ take on cruise entertainment?
“We want to offer stories that change your perspective of the world and play that ignites the child within,” he says.