Butch Begovich is the seemingly tireless, always smiling cruise director of Carnival Breeze. His announcements over the P.A. system are always addressed to the “Carnival Breeze family.”
“We are a family here onboard. As crew members, we live here, we work here and we play together. I think extending that to our guests and have them be part of our family is part of Carnival Cruise Lines' core values. You do feel a connection with people after you have spent a cruise with them.”
Some nine years ago, Butch decided to take a job for a few months as a member of the activities staff on Carnival Glory. Senior Cruise Director John Heald “sort of took me under his wing” and Butch became an assistant cruise director and later a cruise director.
“I am very honored to be the cruise director on the flagship of the fleet. Its addictive being on the sea. You meet so many people who add value to your life.”
As the cruise director, Butch's primary responsibility is the entertainment on Carnival Breeze and he is quick to point out there is “a lot of new stuff on this ship.”
The primary entertainment venue on Carnival Breeze, as on most cruise ships, is the ship's theater. However, Carnival has significantly revamped its approach to the theater.
“We used to have these sort of grand shows that featured really elaborate costumes and hundreds of costume changes.” In addition, these shows involved standard theater scenery that had to be moved for each change of scene in the show.
“Those shows were great and they are still on many of our ships but what was maybe a pitfall of those shows was that the initial investment was so great and so grand. Also, the infrastructure [had to be] built into the ships for those shows The shows became outdated very quickly and there was no way to change them over without another great investment.”
In place of the traditional production shows, Carnival Breeze has implemented Playlist Productions. These shows utilize large LED panels for the scenery. Instead of a scene painted on a cloth back drop or a wooden theatrical facade, the backgrounds are images that appear on the screens.
“You have a million dollars worth of LED technology. The scenery still moves, it still comes in and out. But because it is LED walls, we able to change [a scene] literally within an instant.”
Furthermore, because the scenery is no longer physical objects that are built into the ships, “we can change out the entertainment [while the ship is] in service, no longer in a drydock situation.”
Along the same lines, before if Carnival wanted to have a show in more than one ship, the infrastructure for that show had to be built into each ship. As more ships are equipped for Playlist Productions, “we can move these shows around the fleet easily.”
Playlist Productions also gives the cruise director more flexibility in scheduling entertainment. “We can have a show at 8:15 and then have a completely different show at 10:15 because they use the same elements [i.e. LED panels rather than physical scenery].”
With Playlist Productions, Carnival is also changing the content of its shows. “The reason it is called Playlist Productions is because the songs that are used in the shows are songs that people connect with. The Motown show and the British production, those are songs that people from a certain generation connect with. The Latin show and the diva show, those are songs that a different generation connects with. So instead of using the idea of Latin as a theme, it is the actual content of the music that shapes the show.”
The shows are also shorter, 30 to 35 minutes. “The shows became a little shorter and compact and more high energy because we took out all of that transition that we used to do to change the scenery or change the costumes.”
Carnival has also taken a new approach with regard to the performers. Traditionally, the cast of a cruise ship's production show consisted of a group of people who dance and a separate group of people who sing. With Playlist Productions, “the quality of performers is higher because now we are using eight performers who all sing; they all dance. They are onstage the whole time and so you become really enthralled with that coupled with the content on the screens.”
“We no longer have a band in the show. And again that is taking away a thing that made it difficult for us before to change the show or bring new people into the show - - [the] large rehearsal period. The decision was to make it as easy to do what we call 'plug and play' as possible. So the removal of the band came out of that.”
Playlist Productions is not the only new entertainment concept featured in Breeze's theater. Another innovation is Hasbro, the Game Show. “It is the first live game show at sea where you feel like you are in a live studio audience. It is a real game show [where guests] come up on stage and participate in the show. And somebody wins real prizes. It is different from our other activities that we have onboard where we give prizes away for trivia and games. This is a live game show on stage where anything can happen and anything is a possibility.”
“And it is Harsbro games. Everybody knows or plays Monopoly, Yahtzee or Operation. Those things come to life onstage. It is very nostalgic for a lot of people. That is why I think the show is so popular.”
In addition to the main theater, Carnival Breeze also has the Thrill Theater. “Our 4-D theater experience. Lots of fun. Very popular, especially with the kids. I think the pricing structure is very reasonable $14.95 for a week long pass. You can go to as many shows as you want.”
The Thrill Theater is a small viewing room that shows high definition 3-D films. But in addition, the seats move up down and side to side, water sprays and breezes blow at appropriate points in the film so that there is even more of a feeling of being in the movie than in a 3-D theater.
Currently, the Thrill Theater shows shortened versions of the films Happy Feet and The Polar Express along with a documentary on the ocean and a short animated film in which you ride a roller coaster through the jungle.
“The content that we have in the Thrill Theater, we are still working on. This is the test ship for it There is other [existing] content that we are inquiring about with other studios for the rights [and Carnival is looking into] developing additional content that is specifically for us.”
Carnival Breeze's other large indoor entertainment venue is the Limelight Lounge. On certain evenings during the cruise it becomes “Punchliners Comedy Club presented by George Lopez.” During those evenings, two stand-up comedians alternate giving two family-friendly shows and three adult shows.
“For a six day voyage, we have two comedians who perform on two different nights. On an eight day voyage, we have four comedians. Two perform two nights back-to-back on the front of the cruise. We lose them mid-cruise and pick two up mid-cruise that will do two nights at the end of the cruise.”
Carnival ships have had comedy clubs for several years, what makes this different is the involvement of George Lopez. “To have his face on the comedy club - - he is a very well known American comedian - - makes our comedy clubs more appealing to our guests.”
“He is a curator of comedy. He is involved in making recommendations for selections of comedians.”
Furthermore, “you can see George a little bit in the content before the shows. Then we have this comedy brunch where you also get to hear him during the brunch. The menus are some of his family recipes and the comedians perform there.”
It is also worth noting that this is no small time operation. “Currently, with 24 comedy clubs presented by George Lopez around the fleet, we are the largest comedy club chain in the world.”
Carnival has also partnered with an outside entertainer to enhance the music onboard. All of the DJs onboard “go through what is called a 'spini'versity.' It is run by DJ Irie. He is the official DJ of the Miami Heat and now the official DJ of Carnival Cruise Lines.”
“It is just a way of getting them all on the same page as to the experience that we want our guests to have with music and how do we give that to them. We want to have somebody there who is trained, who knows our audience, who knows our demographics, who knows our crowd, to play specifically to them.”
“It also makes the DJs more of a personality. Instead of just playing music, are you on the microphone, are you hosting? It is just an enhancement of the experience.”
Another break with the past is in the scheduling of the entertainment onboard Carnival Breeze. In the past, each night the entertainment would revolve around the shows in the ship's main theater. There was one show for guests dining at the early seating and one show for guests dining on the late seating. If you missed the show for your seating, there was no other opportunity to see it during the cruise. Now with more than one entertainment venue operating each night and a large number of guests on the Your Time Dining system, the traditional approach to entertainment scheduling has become obsolete.
“One of the best things that we have done is something called 'dynamic scheduling.' We wanted to offer more choice when it came to entertainment so guests didn't have to feel that they had a choice of either coming to this show or going to the comedy club or going to a special theme night in the nightclub or the piano bar.”
Accordingly, shows are repeated during the course of the cruise. “One night you can catch the Brits at 8:15 then three or four nights into the voyage after that you can catch it at 10:15.” Thus, if it is inconvenient to see a show one night, you have the opportunity to see it at a later date.
“We print a grid of the show times and deliver it to each cabin on the first or second day of the cruise so guests can now know what their entertainment is for the week long voyage. They can then pick and choose. We wanted them to have a choice and know that choice beforehand instead of getting that Carnival Fun Times the night before and having to decide between these two big things.”
Cruise ship interview - - Carnival Breeze - - Carnival Cruise Lines - Cruise Director - Butch Begovich