Cabaret Secrets Blog

What has Simon Cowell got against cruise ships?

April 17th 2010

Amongst the genuine talent in every year’s ‘X’ Factor, the usual batch of hopeless hopefuls is paraded around for our guilty pleasure. Despite their various failings, I pity the contestant that should prompt Simon Cowell’s now annual criticism of being “too cabaret”, or “too cruise ship”.

Ignore this man

Using cruise ships as a term of abuse is a predictable pastime for Cowell, but what’s he basing his opinions on? Has he been on a cruise recently? Does he know, for example, that Rihanna’s worked on one? How about Tony Bennett? Would he call James Taylor too cruise ship? They’ve all done it. Perhaps he’d be interested to know that Chicago is currently wowing audiences in a 1380 seat, state of the art theatre at sea. Too “cruise ship” for Mr Cowell?

We should remember that we’re talking about the man who introduced the British public to a Michael Jackson impersonator dressed as Darth Vader and the fleeting joys of Jedward. Two acts unlikely to be invited to grace the stage of any ship I know.

So what does Cowell mean when he says, “too cruise ship”? Tired lounge acts churning out wallpaper music? Maybe he saw Frasier Crane’s encounter with The Barracuda and thinks all cruise ship acts are washed up has-beens who spend more time working on their tans than their acts. Or maybe he cringed at the stale cruise director in ‘Out To Sea’ with an act cheesier than a fondue party. Well, yes, you might find a bit of that lingering in the recesses of some ships where the carpets are as old as the jokes, but it’s far from representative. Things have come a long way since the Love Boat.

Cruise entertainment presents some unique challenges. Audiences can be very mixed: young families on a budget, retired executives and people from all parts of the globe with their own cultural references and languages – each with their own idea of what constitutes good entertainment. With such a wide degree of tastes and expectations it’s often necessary to appeal to as many people as possible by presenting a ‘safe’ selection of inoffensive comedy, music and dance. Anything too specific risks alienating sections of the audience. Larger ships solve this by offering something for everyone in multiple venues. Choice is paramount and it’s easy to forget you’re on a ship at all. Celebrity’s Solstice class, for example, offers seven completely different entertainment venues. On any evening you could enjoy a classical recital, contemporary jazz, or a Cirque de Soleil style production show. It’s up to you.

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6 Responses to “What has Simon Cowell got against cruise ships?”

  1. Robbie says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your sentiments Gary!
    Although for me personally I enjoy the actual singing first and foremost and luckily,by and large, the many people who have watched and listened to my shows have enjoyed it also!
    So whether we perform down at the local pub karaoke, small club, caravan park, stadium, theatre or cruise ship the actual point Cowell is missing is that we are entertainers who want to entertain the public and the public want to be entertained,regardless of the location!
    It’s all about fun and an escape from everyday life!

  2. James says:

    I think u will find he is talking about the no name entertainers that always work on cruise ships!! Rihanna went on the Oasis just to open it up and she herself said she couldnt wait to get off!! Hairspray had poor reception at the Tonys so what does that say for the rest of them?…. I know exactly what Simon Cowell is saying… He is saying to the person if you want to be a superstar you cant be as mediocore as you!

  3. Maggie Moone says:

    Hi Gary

    Firstly, congratulations on your articulate defence of entertainment on board cruise ships. Not only are you a great singer, but also someone who can justifiably argue the merits of performers on the high seas through experience.

    Cruise ships offer the opportunity to artistes (who might otherwise be out of work in the UK or elsewhere) of perfecting their art to an audience who has come to expect the very best in performance. This audience, consisting of people of all ages, has “seen it all”, has diverse taste in music and entertainment, and probably welcomes a change from the same tired old formula of churning out “pop stars” on shows like X Factor to the interruptions of a primed screaming mob at every given moment.

    Whilst I have always been a fan of Simon Cowell and highly respect what he has brought to entertainment, I do not quite understand how he can make a sweeping comment denying the talent of any cruise ship performer when, in fact, he has probably never been on a cruise ship or witnessed the talented artistes on board. Certainly not in recent years!

    There are many X-Factor contestants and winners who may find themselves turning to cruise ships in future years for work once their hour of fame and glory has passed and they can no longer “sell records”, which is the only criteria that ‘floats the boat’ of music moguls like Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh.

  4. Rosanne says:

    I totally agree with you, Gary.
    I really resent ignorant comments like that.
    Competition to perform on cruise ships is now just as competitive as performing in the West End (perhaps Mr Cowell has never seen the lines for open cruise ship auditions). The money is actually better than most West End jobs, and singers are required to be more versatile because they will usually be required to perform several shows, not just one. It takes a lot of talent to win that kind of role.
    Recently I’ve been performing in a fairly low-budget comedy show (just to get something on the CV that proved I am also a versatile actress, and not just a singer). What really pissed me off was the musical director would frequently make comments like ‘don’t sing it so cruise-ship,’ or ‘you sang that line too cruise-shippy.’ Finally I lost my temper and pointed out that ‘singing it too cruise-shippy just bought me a house.’ The fact that he seemed to think that MDing a small-time production allowed him to look down his nose at cruise ship work really pissed me off, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s the other way around.
    I also agree with the other Ros, above.

  5. Ros says:

    Well said Gary. If it wasn’t for cruise ships half of show biz would be out of a job. Not because they’re not good but because theatres and good night clubs just ain’t around no’ mo’. More’s the pity.

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