I am super excited that Mamma Mia! – featuring the music of ABBA – will be coming to sea as the featured musical on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas. But before we talk details, some history about me and ABBA, and ABBA and cruise ships.
Me first. It was the late 1970s. I was spending a summer working as a babysitter in Copenhagen –during the height of ABBA mania. All I heard was the Scandinavian band's music, in every bar and every club – even when I headed to the beaches of Spain's Costa Brava for a week on a cheap student package.
I was not a "Dancing Queen," and frankly the music drove me a bit bonkers – even more so since songs like "Take a Chance on Me" just stick in your head.
Fast-forward many years and the show Mamma Mia! Some of my BFFs wanted to go so I went along. Turns out we all knew the words to every song and sang them, LOUDLY, as we experienced what is really one big ABBA fest with an added love story.
I enjoyed the show and the subsequent movie, too. (How could I not go when Meryl Streep was in it?)
The creative brains must be working on overdrive at Holland America Line. Expansions have been announced to the cruise line's popular programs that get passengers competitively dancing, listening to Memphis-style blues and communing with famous chefs.
HAL passengers apparently have dancing feet. After a successful first year of "Dancing with the Stars: At Sea," a program tied in with the hit ABC show, the cruise line has announced dance pros and celebrities from the show would once again be aboard for six theme cruises in 2014.
The program also includes a contest on all 15 Holland America ships, where willing passengers are paired with a member of the show team for a dance competition themed on the popular TV show. The competition culminates with a Champions Cruise guest dance-off competition on the December 6, 2014 sailing of Westerdam in the Eastern Caribbean.
The other theme cruises are on Zuiderdam and Westerdam in Alaska and the Caribbean. Scheduled to sail are professional dancers Tristan MacManus and Kym Johnson, TV personality Carson Kressley and actress Sabrina Bryan.
The "Dancing with the Stars" offering has been one of the cruise line's "most successful partnerships ever," saidRichard Meadows, Holland America Line Executive Vice President - Sales, Marketing and Guest Programs.
HAL's Got the Blues
Holland America is also expanding its popular B.B. King's Blues Club, which debuted on Eurodam. Next year, the music experience will be featured on five ships – Eurodam, Noordam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Westerdam andZuiderdam – on select sailings.
Okay, collectively say, “Awwww.” Families can enroll in a new Disney Cruise Line offering sure to bring a gleam to young eyes, and maybe some nostalgic older ones, too - a Royal Court Royal Tea, hosted by Disney's most-beloved monarchs.
Offered in the princess-themed Royal Court dining room on 7-night cruises on Disney Fantasy, the tea comes with a $279 price tag for one adult and one child (minimum age 3), an extra $210 for each additional kid or $69 per additional adult.
Royal Caribbean announced its Anthem of the Seas, due in spring 2015, will be based in Southampton during the summer and Fort Lauderdale in the winter. Norwegian Cruise Line's soon-to-debut Norwegian Getaway headed down the River Ems in Germany and out to sea. And MSC Divina debuted in the ship's new homeport of Miami.
It's been a busy few days in the cruise industry.
Carnival Cruise Line spent $155 million to gut and redo the 17-year-old Carnival Destiny, which this week was officially renamed Carnival Sunshine (even though the ship already did a season in the Med) in an entertaining ceremony in New Orleans.
The 3,006-passenger ship, on its inaugural cruise, is showing the NOLA crowd what Fun Ship 2.0 is all about.
On board and headed to Cozumel, here are the top things we like about cruising on Carnival Sunshine.
5. The homeport
Cruising on Sunshine from New Orleans means you can combine your Caribbean fun-in-the-sun vacation with pre- or post-cruise fun in the Big Easy – including great eats and the music scene. For something different, the ship heads to Port Canaveral in the spring, so the combo element becomes the Orlando attractions.
4. Serene sunning
The Serenity adults-only deck space that Carnival has been introducing on ships of late gets a big expansion here, encompassing three decks with bar service, cushy loungers, hammocks and day beds big enough for two. If you can snag a quiet, forward-facing lounger (and there’s competition for these prime spots), you can watch the sea, relax and otherwise turn to mush. Heavenly.