What could be better than spending your vacation sailing to exotic destinations with the best views, food and service? Mind-blowingly amazing entertainment. That’s what we’ve come to expect when we embark any of the Norwegian Cruise Line ships.
You can always be sure that entertainment is at the forefront of your cruise experience. You’ll witness Broadway quality shows which make sure you will have the vacation of a lifetime!
I chatted to Richard Ambrose, Senior Vice President of Entertainment, to find out how NCL brings pure magic to the seas.
Tell us a little about your NCL entertainment journey thus far.
I started with the company in 2007. In May it will be 18 years which is amazing. I was brought in to ultimately improve the entertainment programme – to change it and make it more modern. It’s been about improving the quality of all aspects of what we do. Not only the theatrical product which gets all the acclaim but also the youth programmes, recreation, cruise programmes and technical.
The team and I brought the Broadway product to Norwegian. That’s my background, I’m a theatre rat, so we started with Rock of Ages then Million Dollar Quartet, Jersey Boys, Kinky Boots, Priscilla Queen of the Dessert and we just opened Summer on the Norwegian Prima. It’s really about quality.
With the vast number of productions currently on stage, how do you choose shows for the NCL fleet?
Number one, it’s about our guests. We’re constantly listening to them and we are always looking at what’s out there and what we feel would be a perfect match for our guests. Yes, we look at Broadway and the West End but more importantly these days we are looking at festivals like the Edinburgh Festival and the Adelaide Festival. We found our most popular show called Choir of Man at the Adelaide Festival.
In 2017, I saw this little show called Six, about the six queens of Henry VIII. Then it was just 6 girls and a piano and I thought it was wild. I started talking to the producers and we got the show. My team actually just got back from the Adelaide Festival so we’re really looking to the non-commercial places. We’re not only looking for the next big title but also for the designers, creative directors etc.
You’ve also had acts from shows such as America’s Got Talent. How were those shows identified?
These shows are what people know so we go after them. The acts from these television shows are always looking for a life after the competition so it’s a perfect opportunity for them and for us. We are literally scouring the globe for the best entertainment and it’s also not only talent for front of house, but also the creatives back of house too. One of the things we’re working on right now is with the creatives behind Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent to create a big original show. It’s about what can we create in our venues onboard our ships that will wow our guests.
We’re also in South Africa at least twice a year looking for talent. We’ve been doing that since 2015. A lot of our dancers and singers in our musical theatre product are South African. One of our biggest shows, Burn the Floor, has always had a big footprint in South Africa.
Covid was a very difficult time for the cruise and entertainment industries. How did you remain positive and focused during this time?
It was a double whammy for us in the entertainment and cruise industries. To stay positive, it was really about using this as an opportunity to go back and look at what we were doing and how we could do it better. We didn’t know how the world was going to look when we came out of Covid. We learned a lot of lessons and we are still learning every single day. We just kept our heads down and kept working. We couldn’t perform but we could create and figure things out. When we got back to performing after Covid, it was a completely different way of operating.
Summer: The Donna Summer Musical has just debuted on the brand-new Norwegian Prima. What is different about this production from previous NCL musicals?
Well, number one is the theatre. The Prima Leonardo Class theatre is just spectacular. It’s a multi-purpose venue. When I was working with the architects and designers, I wanted guests to walk in and it would be something different. They would enter a new environment every single time and we really have accomplished that. The pinnacle of that is Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. We’ve cut it down to just under 90 minutes which has made it a much stronger product. At NCL, we worked with the original creatives to refine and hone this piece and it’s just something spectacular. It’s nonstop energy with the audience on their feet multiple times. Kimberley Locke of American Idol fame was our original Diva Donna. She literally blew us all away.
What are you most excited about for the future of NCL entertainment? Can you let us in on a few secrets of what’s to come?
It’s always exciting. The great thing about NCL is that we are always innovating. We’re now building ships with the venues that we can put this entertainment in. You’ll be seeing a steering away from the mainstay Broadway product but still delivering these huge shows that are more immersive because we now have these venues that allow for it. There’s a lot more exciting things coming. We’ve launched the Prima and we have 5 more of the Prima Class ships coming.
We’ve also just announced that “Beetlejuice” The Musical will be the headline production aboard Norwegian Viva when it debuts in August 2023. This will be the biggest show that’s ever been performed on a ship. Our guests expect the best out of Norwegian entertainment and it’s our team’s job to make sure we keep delivering and surprising our guests.