Where can you go to see your favourite musician, band, or comedian perform live?
Until now you have been restricted to massive concert halls and arenas. You can pay an astronomical amount for your tickets only to discover you are a gazillion rows back. You spend most of your time watching a dot on the stage or watching them on giant screens. You leave, content you have seen your idol but disappointed with the experience.
In 2014, Carnival Cruise Line devised a format that sees superstars perform small, intimate gigs in the theatres on its ships.
London’s O2 Arena has a capacity of 20,000 people while Carnival Breeze‘s Ovation Theater has just 1,349 seats. The smallest venue in the fleet boasts just 900 seats.
Carnival LIVE line-up
With small quantities of tickets available, you may expect the acts that grace the line-up to be washed-up.
Far from it. Carnival Cruise Line has hosted performances from legendary performers, and each year the programme goes from strength to strength.
Here are the headline acts for the last few years:
- 2014 – Jennifer Hudson; Gavin DeGraw; Lady Antebellum; Chicago; Foreigner; Jewel; Daughtry; Kansas; LeAnnn Rimes; Martina McBride; Olivia Newton-John; REO Speedwagon; STYX; Trace Adkins; and 38 Special.
- 2015 – Journey; Rascal Flatts; Smokey Robinson; Little Big Town; Styx; The Band Perry; BOSTON; Lionel Richie; and Heart.
- 2016 – Journey; Trace Adkins; Gladys Knight; KC & The Sunshine Band; Kathy Griffin; Sam Hunt; Chris Tucker; and Jim Gaffigan.
- 2017 -Tim McGraw; Jay Leno; Little Big Town; Jeff Foxworthy, Chris Tucker, and Nick Jonas.
Prices have steadily risen each year, but Carnival LIVE tickets still represent good value for money.
In 2014, standard tickets sold for between $20 and $40 each, and VIP tickets sold for between $100 and $150 each.
In 2017, standard tickets cost between $30 and $80 each, and VIP tickets cost between $100 and $300 each.
If your budget allows, book the VIP tickets if they are available. Not only will you get to some of the best seats available, but you will also receive a commemorative VIP pass. Best of all you will get a rare photo opportunity with the artist(s).
Standard tickets make up the remainder of the theatre and do not come with any additional meet-and-greet perks.
Note that as seat selections are not pre-assigned, seating is on a first-come, first served basis.
Gigs take place while the ship berths in a port of call. Locations include Cozumel, Mexico; Nassau, Bahamas; Catalina Island, California; and St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
The celebrities do not stay onboard before or after the show, so forget hopes of snapping a selfie with them at the bar.
How to book
You need to book onto a specific cruise to be able to buy tickets for these performances. Even then, tickets will be in demand as the theatres cannot accommodate every passenger onboard.
Weirdly, tickets are available as ‘shore excursions’, and you can buy them through that same platform. Pre-book these as early as you can. Do not wait until you get onboard as they will have sold out by then.
Carnival will arrange delivery of your tickets to your stateroom during your cruise.
You can find out more about Carnival LIVE here.
Is it worth it?
I cannot deny that some of the acts featured in the Carnival LIVE line-ups are real superstars. Others, to Brits like myself, are more obscure. Carnival is a US-centric cruise line, so this is understandable.
Even so, when it comes to live performances, I know which scenario I would prefer. The best land-based show I attended was Riverdance’s 20th Anniversary Tour, partly for the captivating performance, and partly due to the relatively intimate 2,000 person capacity of the Bristol Hippodrome. Shows by Lee Evans and Michael Mcintyre were great, but the 5,000 seat capacity of the Motorpoint Arena Cardiff meant I spent most of my time watching the screens (or dots on the stage).
I think the Carnival LIVE ticket prices and the small theatre capacities work beautifully here. You get an affordable night of entertainment and get to see your favourite artist or band in the flesh. Not a tiny dot on the stage but a clearly recognisable figure.
And the VIP ticket would give you a great excuse for the ultimate superstar selfie!
Who would you most like to see on the next Carnival LIVE line-up? Leave a comment below.
(Photo credit to Carnival Cruise Line)