What has Simon Cowell got against cruise ships?

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”.

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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