Passengers on a cruise ship in the Adriatic Sea probably won't find comedians to entertain them. It's impossible to find one whose humor pleases or doesn't insult all 40 different nationalities on the ship.
However, that doesn't mean they won't find humor on the Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas.
One example is Alex Wildgoose III and Michael Craigmyle, who are featured performers in the professional ice skating show “Ice Odyssey.” Craigmyle describes his main character as a “creepy magician” who gets close to the audience, while Wildgoose is “always trying to make things up” with new tricks and juggling when he's on the ice.
They are also jokers off it.
Craigmyle showed up for an interview between shows in a white tutu while Wildgoose came in a red polka-dot dress and matching red ball cap. Both wore large glasses.
The reason: They heard they were going to be on camera.
“We wanted to provide a little comedy, a little entertainment,” Wildgoose said, as both continued to joke during the interview and even hummed a tune at the end of it.
A more public example of comedy on the recent cruise was the Quest Game Show where group members must exchange clothing to stay in the game. One middle-age passenger took the late-night challenge too literally and offered all of her clothing, except for her panties.
Cruise Director Mercedes Lafuente was the emcee at the time. Her response was to tell the topless woman that she could have just offered her shoes.
That was “too much and too close,” Lafuente said about the woman. “This was intense, but it does happen.”
While the humor is found in different ways, the entertainment is constant on the Voyager and starts early in the morning and lasts until early the next. It ranges from the ice-skating show to musical and variety acts, ranging from Broadway-style productions to the “Beatle Maniacs,” where white-haired women sit in the front row and wave their arms wildly to the music. The ship also has a casino, several clubs, a miniature golf course, a rock clicking wall, soccer field/basketball court, swimming pools and even a wedding chapel. And passengers can participate in a range of activities from game shows to trivia contests to karaoke to parades.
Restaurants such as Johnny Rockets also feature waiters who will stop briefly while serving large hamburgers, fries and onion rings to jive to disco music.
Perhaps that's why passengers return as early as 2:30 p.m. from their tours of scenic coastal cities in Italy, Slovenia and Croatia or stay on ship the whole time. It's like a miniversion of Las Vegas on waves.
“Everybody … has different expectations,” said Lafuente, who heads the entertainment and activities for the more than 3,000 passengers. “When they leave, we want them to say this was the vacation of a lifetime. ‘Wow, I'm going to come back. You exceeded my expectations.'”
Royal Caribbean touts the ice-skating show and its rink as the only ones on any cruise line. “Ice Odyssey” features 10 skaters, two pairs and six individuals from Russia, Canada, England and the United States, performing on a rink for 45 minutes four times during a seven-day cruise.
During a backstage tour for The Oklahoman, Stage Production Manager Hayley Smith discussed how she directs a crew of 13 that produces the show, as well as the 10 skaters, who sign up for more than six months on the cruise ship. She, the crew and skaters arrive in the morning before the first show at 2:30 p.m. to begin preparations and to warm up. Then, before the next show at 3:30 p.m., she does lighting and sound checks and directs the remaking of the ice where crews cut off two layers of ice and put it back on. She even will accept an occasional volunteer from the ship's entertainment division to help out.
Jason Little plays the drums in the production's orchestra but accepted the chance to work one of the second show's spotlights during the recent cruise. It was his debut in this particular area.
“I'm pretty pumped. I've always wanted to do it,” said Little as he added while laughing. “Hopefully no one gets hurt.”
Later that evening, Little could be seen with the orchestra at a Broadway-style production in the ship's 1,500-seat theater.
The ice show features dancers in various scenes and colorful costumes performing to upbeat music and fast-paced routines. The skaters use two small rooms backstage to change their costumes and return quickly to the ice again. Smith said one of the skaters has the duty of mending and washing the six-year-old costumes before and after performances.
As Ice Captain Colleen Maguire said, everyone in the cast is both a principal performer as well as part of the ensemble. Maguire, who is originally from Boston, handles the administration, schedules the performers and also is one of the performers. She said a cruise ship show is different from other ice skating shows because those are usually targeted for younger or holiday crowds.
“I love these shows because they are really for all audiences. There's a little something for everyone,” she said a few minutes before the second show. “There are fun numbers; there are serious numbers; there's intense skating.”
‘In the faces'
Craigmyle, of Vancouver, Canada, and Wildgoose, of Nottingham, England, may be the most intense and fun of the cast. Smith said Wildgoose is even thinking about a circus career after completing his stint on ice. Wildgoose said he simply tries new and different tricks because he has a short attention span.
Both strive to be entertaining during the shows.
“It's a close venue,” Craigmyle said. “You can get up in the faces of the audience members.”
The 10 skaters often come with inches of passengers who are in the front rows of the arena, and the audience can see sweat on the skaters' face as they try difficult routines. The skaters also smile constantly and show exuberance when the audience responds.
For Craigmyle and Wildgoose, it's part of the performance so the audience will leave happier than when they arrived.
“We're really excited to be doing this,” Wildgoose said. We “try to give the audience a little bit of that.”
The ice-skating shows even attract the attention of the ship's captain, Frank Martinsen, who extends Voyager's four stabilizers during the show to avoid the possibility that skaters might fall because of choppy waters.
“We want to ensure smooth sailing during the show,” Martinsen said.
The tan-faced captain with perfectly starched uniform seems as straight-laced as any military officer. But he's prone to ship humor, too, as shown by the stuffed monkey near his chair in the ship's control room. He'll even pose with it if you ask him.