For several years, cruise lines have branded their cuisine with the names of famous chefs (Michel Roux, Jacques Pepin, et al.). Celebrity is the first, to my knowledge, to brand part of its onboard activities with a famous entertainment group. The idea is brilliant, but the execution is still in flux (more about that shortly).
After great expense and much effort, the 11-deck forward lounge on the Constellation has been converted to the "Bar at the End of the Earth". Rather than presenting its usual acrobatic acts, Cirque du Soleil (CdS) emphasizes that this is an "experience" rather than a "performance", and they add that it is an experience in evolution. We attended three times (well, two and a quarter to be honest) while on the cruise, and noticed it was smoother and more refined each time, but still seemed a bit cerebral, lacking a story line or anything one could really relate to or empathize with.
The lounge has been draped in white muslin and theatrical scrims so that laser light shows can be reflected off of almost all surfaces. The bar has been retained, but now has something of an "arctic white" appearance. The perimeter seating has been replaced by curtained platforms with cushions (which may be a problem in Alaska or Norway, where these seats are prime nature-viewing locations). The remaining seating has been draped with white linen covers. The stage and dance area have also been curtained with moveable scrims that show projected images relating to the "characters" which appear and disappear over the course of an evening. We were told by another passenger that the investment in décor alone was more than $1 million US.
The lounge features several imaginary (symbolic?) characters, each with an elaborate and ingeniously lit costume (one looks like a sea anemone, one a mushroom, one an intestinal parasite, one . well, you get the picture). Each appears from behind the scrim, dancing and relating to the images on the scrim and the synchronous new-age music. The characters are not recognizable (to me at least) as anything from literature, history, or even the natural world. There is no real narrative associated with any of the characters again, this is an "atmosphere" or "happening" and not a story or performance in the usual sense. The effect is something like a friendly space bar in the early the Star Wars movies.
This still is a bar, and drinks are served by an agile and (of course) gracious Celebrity staff dressed in Ewok-style hooded brown costumes. As usual, smoking is allowed on the port side (including the bar area), so you may wish to choose your seating accordingly. The music is very loud (as on all cruise ship venues, not just Celebritys, but more about dealing with that later).
The first night of the cruise, the "Bar at the Edge of the Earth" was open only to the cruise line representatives for the launch. The second night there was a free preview for Captains Club cruisers, and the following nights there were "masquerade parties" at which those purchasing tickets ($30 per person, mask included, bookable in advance by your travel agent) were requested to wear white and were provided with masks (left in your stateroom or selected at the new CdS shop onboard). Most cruisers were elegantly clad in white, bit one iconoclastic cruiser wore his bathrobe the essence of "thinking outside the box" when good manners generally preclude wearing ones bathrobe outside the stateroom.
I believe that in the future the CdS lounge experience will be free. Each visit we made was essentially the same format, so attending a masked (ticketed) showing is not necessary.
What was the reception of the whole CdS venture by the cruisers? Well, there was surprisingly little discussion of it (no buzz) by our fellow cruisers after the event (except for one elite-category Captains Club lady who wanted her money back because she bought a ticket and was also given a masquerade ticket free). At the end of the cruise, all masquerade tickets were refunded.
My impression is that CdS is best known and loved for its acrobatics, and its "atmospherics" when viewed alone are too artsy-fartsy for most Americans, many of whom unfortunately have been "Disneyfied" into homogeneity.
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