As Cruise Director on Celebrity Equinox, Paul Baya is in charge of the entertainment presented aboard. You see him hosting the shows and events around the ship. In addition, you see him on stage in the Equinox Theater performing a duet with one of the singers in the production cast and as a lead singer fronting the band at the Rock the Ship deck party. All of this, however, is in addition to his managerial role programming Equinox's entertainment.
“Its an exciting time,” comments Mr. Baya. Celebrity is renewing its focus on entertainment so that entertainment is “right there with the high standards of service and the culinary offerings that Celebrity is well known for - - pillars of the brand for many years.”
“On the Equinox, the production shows have not changed since 2009.” However, Celebrity has announced that it will be implementing “18 new shows in 18 months within our fleet. Here, on the Equinox, there are three brand new production shows that will be switched in on one particular cruise.”
Celebrity is partnering with established names in the entertainment industry to develop these shows. For example, “Jamie Allen is a comic magician from the UK. He has produced a show called iMagic - - a show that explores the work of history's greatest illusionists using the latest technology. It is going to be debuting on Celebrity Summit.”,
The introduction of so many shows in such a short space of time is possible because “we have opened a big production studio, called the 'Studio, in affiliation with Florida International University. It is a massive 17 theater, rehearsal studio for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.” The production casts will be able to use these facilities to learn and rehearse the new shows. And because there are multiple studios, several shows can be in rehearsal at once.
Of course, not all of the shows in the Equinox Theater are production shows. Guest performers - - singers, comedians, acrobats, magicians - - also perform there. Celebrity's headquarters decides who will be performing on each of the ships. However, a ship's cruise director does have input into the decision-making.
“I can put in recommendations once I see particular acts. I'll gauge it from my own viewpoint and also from the guests' feedback both from written comments and from passing guests in the hallway. Cruise directors are able to get a good feel for the entertainers and say he or she did well but not quite suited for our brand or what have you.”
“For example, Jayne Curry was with us for the first time a year and a half ago. [Headquarters] said you're getting this entertainer coming out, she has done well at some corporate events, please let us know how she fares with the demographic clientele. I loved her. Her show had a great response from the guests and [headquarters] booked some other dates with the other ships.”
Talent alone is not enough to get a good recommendation. “A show here may not fare with a three or four day cruise on Carnival Line and vice versa.” Consequently, in making his assessments, Mr. Baya is mindful of Celebrity's style and of the type of people who sail on Celebrity. The acts have to be consistent with Celebrity's goal of providing a professional, “modern luxury” cruise experience and appeal to “the young 40, 50 and 60 year old couples who perhaps have two kids in college or who are just enjoying their baby boomer days” that travel on Celebrity.
Managing the entertainment on Equinox is not just about the shows in the Equinox Theater. Equinox has several other entertainment venues and the cruise director has to decide how to use each of these venues.
For example, “The Sky Lounge is one area that I would like to utilize more in my programming. Its a great venue, very spacious. [We use it for] the Liar's Club Comedy game show, the 70s interactive theme party with the production cast dancers, the senior officers' party and other activities. Sometimes the art program uses that for some of its art auctions.” However, because of its location on Deck 14, “it is just such a highly untrafficed area. To get guests up there, [an event] has to be well-advertised and have some type of draw to bring the guests up as opposed to saying we have this going on.”
“It's easier to get something [going] in the Grand Foyer where people are going to dinner, coming from the show or vice versa.” The Grand Foyer, the lobby area on Deck 3, was not envisioned as an entertainment venue when Equinox was built. “Granted it had the dance floor and the band playing there but now to bring in some fun activities in that area has been beneficial for us.”
In contrast, the Entertainment Court, which was envisioned as a major entertainment venue when the ship was designed, has not proved suited to that role. “They wanted to have some theme nights produced in there but you can see now for 2,800 guests or more that are aboard the ship, that particular venue is not the best location for massive viewing. The Entertainment Court is better for our comedy game shows, little trivas, and gender wars etc.”
The Gastrobar, a new venue created on Equinox during her April 2014 refit, “is creating some opportunities for our entertainment programming.” A complete concept, the Gastrobar is a combination sports bar and casual comfort food specialty restaurant. It even has its own playlist of background music designed to harmonize with the concept. Therefore, the entertainment in that venue must also be in tune with the concept. “We have done some open mike joke nights in there, a guitarist might be playing in there, the football games [presented on the video screens] and so forth. That is an area that has been kind of growing in its use cruise by cruise.”
Above: Mr. Baya sings a duet with production cast vocalist Crystal in the Equinox Theater.
Below: A less formal moment - - the cruise director goes in the pool during the Rock the Ship deck party.
Cruise ship interview - Celebrity Equinox - Cruise Director