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May 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Alaska cruise: If sourdough country isn’t entertaining enough, here’s what’s onboard

The Star Princess Singers & Dancers groove out on British Invasion night. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

The Star Princess Singers & Dancers groove out on British Invasion night. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

Onboard entertainment varies from cruise to cruise, ranging from Vegas-style shows in a large theater to piano-bar crooners, comedians and all the way down to passenger talent shows. On the booking circuit, this looks to be about the next notch down from tribal casinos, but hey, it’s all included in the price of your floating hotel.

Here’s a sampling of entertainment this week on Star Princess:

Stage shows: The ship has its own “Star Princess Singers & Dancers” selected in a cattle call from around the world, and some are very good, by an off-off-off Broadway measure. Stage shows have included a “production spectacular” called “Destination Anywhere” with a travel theme; aerial ballet artists Alexander and Evgenia; and an international crew talent show.

Thursday night, I caught  the “British Invasion” musical show, elaborately staged with pyrotechnics, an oversize red phone booth, a London bus replica and a real Mini Cooper painted with a Union Jack. Highlights included a rousing rendition of “Downtown” by a singer who looked Slavic but wore a blond Pet Clark wig and Op Art mini skirt. There was a surprisingly good “Bohemian Rhapsody” (not everyone can do Queen), while the “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” trapeze number was perhaps misguided.

Variety acts: There’s usually comedy on board, and Star Princess had a fellow named Sarge, billed as “the funniest comic you never heard of.” He got some good chuckles, though quickly exceeding his quota of fart jokes. I joined the exodus with a large Chinese family after his long shtick making fun of the speech patterns of Asian people (probably a third of this ship’s passengers).

More likable was Dan Horn, and I admit to being surprised to really enjoy a ventriloquism act. His alter ego, “91-year-old” Orson, provided lots of geriatric humor, which hit home with much of the cruise-ship crowd.

Educational: Naturalist Michael Modzelewski gave several popular slide-shows (see earlier post, “Right People…”) and often kept watch from the bridge for whale and eagle sightings. Iditarod dog-sled champion Libby Riddles came aboard at Juneau for a talk and book signing. And there was an Alaska folklore show, dance lessons, wine tastings, craps lessons and more.

Executive Chef Gaetano Patamia, left, and Star Princess Maitre d'Hotel Angelo Balbiani react as brandy flames up on a hot dish in a cooking demonstration. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

Executive Chef Gaetano Patamia, left, and Star Princess Maitre d’Hotel Angelo Balbiani react as brandy flames up on a hot dish in a cooking demonstration. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

Friday morning, I watched a cooking demo by the ship’s executive chef, Gaetano Patamia, and the maitre d’, Angelo Balbiani, in the big theater. With a range, counter and big-screen video for the audience, they prepared four popular dishes (from the 13,000 meals prepared daily by 154 cooks on Star Princess): salmon gravlax with honey-mustard sauce, a salmon pasta with leeks, chives and parsley, sea scallops Mediterranean style (with ratatouille), and Black Forest cherry cake.

The pair of old Italians (one from Milan, the other from Lake Como, both with Princess since the 1970s) interacted like cross-talk comedians.

Balbiani: “What do you call first-press olive oil?” Patamia: “Extra virgin.” Balbiani: “Second press?” Patamia: “Virgin.” Balbiani: “Third press?” Patamia: “Olive oil.” Balbiani: “Fourth press?” Patamia: “Motor oil!”

Movies and TV: They claim to have “first-run movies,” but “Oz the Great and Powerful” may have been the only one not yet out on DVD. Others included “Argo,” “Les Miserables,”  “Life of Pi” and more. Most were “Movies Under the Stars,” on a jumbo screen over the outdoor pool, requiring lots of blankets on this voyage. Classic movies were shown regularly on the stateroom TV.

Social and fun: Activities included LGBT get-togethers, singles and solo travelers get-togethers, bingo, special casino nights, art auctions, dance parties in Skywalkers Nightclub (the ship’s “hemorrhoid,” as I call it), ping-pong competition, trivia games and more.

My “good thing” in all this: On a cruise, you can do everything, and never run out of options, or you can do nothing – just sit by the pool, read your book and watch the ocean go by. The challenge is to not feel pressured to do too much and end up exhausted when you go back to work.

(See READER COMMENTS HERE.)

Comments | Topics: Alaska cruise, cruise entertainment, cruise ship

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