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Editor's Picks and "Best of the Best"
reflect the personal opinion of
Paul Motter, CruiseMates' editor-in-chief.

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Best Cruise Lines for Nightlife

We've compiled some of the best cruise lines for nightlife.

Norwegian Cruise Lines - With the advent of Free-style 2 (F2), NCL has undertaken to change the face of shipboard entertainment, for the better we say. Instead of developing the usual "cruise ship production shows" which are most often "salutes" to this or that (Broadway, Gershwin, Hollywood, the Fifties, etc etc etc..) they are putting up popular and proven shows like "Tony and Tina's Wedding" which is an interactive improvisational play which first became popular off-Broadway in New York City. In the play, the audience members interact with the performers throughout, as if they are at the wedding themselves. Naturally, a certain number of staged mishaps occur.

NCL has now staged a number of more unusual (for cruise ships) arts performances which while not common for cruises are already proven crowd pleasers on shore - a logical idea although few cruise lines have tried it.

Another proven performance concept is the Second City Comedy Troupe first incarnated in Chicago but now working in major cities everywhere. The group is most well known for spawning talent for Saturday Night Live in New York City. Many notable comedians have come out Second City.

In a different, more classical and artistic vein, the line has put up modern dance pieces by reknown New York choreographer Twyla Tharp.

Another aspect of the NCL entertainment that makes it unique is that they are no longer just offering one show each night for all the passengers. Different shows are scheduled and repeated throughout the cruise at different times. This ties in with the free-style concept of dining where cruisers may be dining at different times and places each night of the cruise. They now have the option to coordinate their culinary experience with their entertainment experience.

The entertainment on the just launched Norwegian Jade gives us a good idea of the future of entertainment on NCL, and very possibly on all cruise ships some day:

Smokey Joe's Café©, The Songs of Leiber and Stoller: A jukebox comes alive during this Tony-awarding winning musical, showcasing more than 40 classic favorite rock and roll, rhythm and blues songs written by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The hits include "Dance with Me," "Poison Ivy," "Hound Dog," "Stand by Me," and more.

SHOUT! The Mod Musical: Based on a popular British magazine, this engaging revue brings back the smashing sounds of England in the 1960s. From cover to cover, SHOUT! travels through the decade with unforgettable music of the era and includes performances of classic songs such as "Downtown," "Son of a Preacher Man," and "Goldfinger" along with eye-popping fashions and groovy dance numbers.

And the World Goes 'Round: The Songs of Kander & Ebb: This glittering musical features an eclectic collection of love and torch songs, such as "New York, New York," "Cabaret," and "Money, Money," interspersed with banjos, roller skates and a tribute to Sara Lee.

Showdown!: This NCL Entertainment original production features four "contestants" who compete in a mock reality singing competition where the audience votes on the winner. The contestants sing Motown favorites and engage the audience with their unique personalities. They also invite the audience to join in the fun in a dance-a-thon medley.

Sinatra Suite: Choreographed by the award-winning dance legend Twyla Tharp, this two-dancer ballet set to Sinatra music was originally performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and is performed on the ship by a husband and wife team. Full of emotion and romance, the piece features classic Frank Sinatra songs, including "Strangers in the Night," "That's Life," and "My Way." Costumes for the production were designed by Oscar de la Renta. The dance is performed as part of a Classical Evening that includes an opera singer and another Tharp choreographed work, Junk Duet.

The Second City International Cabaret: A seven-member ensemble from famed Chicago improvisational group, The Second City, hosts an entirely new and expanded evening of cabaret theatre in the Spinnaker Lounge. Offered multiple nights and running for four hours, the cabaret mixes The Second City's unique sketch improvisational comedy with game show vignettes, special guests and dance and music sets performed by a live band. This highly interactive evening includes lots of spontaneous entertainment and audience involvement.

Tony 'n Tina's Wedding: The hottest off-Broadway show and one of the longest running, Tony n' Tina's Wedding is a hilarious interactive show that satirizes a traditional Italian-American wedding with audience members as "invited guests" to the nuptials of the Vitale and Nunzio families, portrayed by a improvisational cast of 25. The wedding and reception is held once per cruise in the Spinnaker Lounge, which is transformed into Vinnie's Coliseum restaurant, a classic Italian wedding hall complete with pasta served on paper plates.

Bar Central: In addition to the shows in the Stardust Theater and Spinnaker Lounge, Bar Central is another exciting entertainment venue. This dynamic piano lounge attracts guests from cocktail hour to late night with its engaging blend of show tunes, classical and popular music. Guest entertainers from other venues often drop in for impromptu duets and star turns. Freestyle 2.0 Offers Enhanced On-Board Activities

Carnival Cruise Lines - Carnival's ships have so many things to do at night you'll be wandering the ship wondering where to land, which all depends on what you like. Certainly, the discos on Carnival ships are not an after-thought, transformed from a day lounge into a party room at night like other ships. When they say "Disco" on Carnival think Donna Summers and the BeeGees. Get out the Sirens, mirror balls and of course, video screens. On Carnival Destiny, the room has literally 500 video monitors surrounding the dance floor, and their expert DJ/VJs know how to go from a hot disc to simulcasting a video hit without dropping a single 120 beats-per-second note.

Elsewhere on Carnival, of course, you'll find plenty of live music for dancing, sing-along (the piano bars), or just listening to jazz, rock, cabaret or even classical at times. The casinos are some of the biggest at sea, and the main theater production shows and comedians are what we consider to be the best in the cruise world. Talented singers and well-written shows make then the exception, with more focus on quality than razzle-dazzle.

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Royal Caribbean - The largest Royal Caribbean ships have excellent stage shows and more "name" talent than the other cruise lines, even if those names are some you probably haven't since the days of "Fantasy Island." The casinos are huge, and there are usually plenty of young people on board for making new friends. Best bets are the Voyager-class (Voyager, Explorer, Adventure and Navigator of the Seas) and Freedom of the Seas

Costa Cruises Similar to Carnival Cruise Lines, but with a European flair, the large ships of Costa, especially in Europe, are filled with young people who still drink and smoke as if the original disco era is still here. The dance well, they dress great, they flirt with their exotic accents. If you are a single woman looking to have an affair with dark handsome Italian, what happens on Costa stay on Costa.

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