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INNOVATION IN
ENTERTAINMENT

An Interview with Cruise Director
Dru Pavlov

by
RICHARD H. WAGNER
Celebrity     Cruises
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CELEBRITY
SOLSTICE
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Dru Pavlov is the Cruise Director on Celebrity Solstice, the lead
ship in Celebrity Cruises latest class of ships.  To many
passengers, the cruise director is the master of ceremonies who
introduces the shows in the theater, makes announcements over the
public address system and acts as talk show host of the morning
program on the in-cabin television.  However, beyond being the
public face of the ship, the cruise director is a senior manager
whose responsibilities include managing the activities staff and
scheduling the onboard activities and entertainment.

The cruise line gives the cruise director the component parts for
the entertainment that will take place during the cruise.  Of course,
it provides the venues and the technology but it also gives him or
her, the staff, the guest entertainers and the production shows.  It
also establishes an overall style consistent with its brand image.  
However, within this framework, the cruise director has a great
deal of discretion in designing the entertainment experience during
a given cruise.

" I take all of those things and I try and schedule them in a way that
makes some kind of sense in terms of the entertainment arc of the
cruise - - taking guests on a voyage from the start to where I want
them to end up.  There is no right or wrong way to do things.  The
way [my predecessor] would do something, the way I would do
something and the way whoever takes over from me is not
necessarily going to be the same   You have to gear it toward your
own personality.    One comedian can't do another comedian's
routine.  We are very much the same way in that respect."  

The cruise director acts as an unofficial guide to the voyage. "I am
one pair of glasses through which to look at the ship.  Being cruise
director, I focus on the entertainment.  I get to show the ship's fun
side, artistic side and creative side.   There are many crew
members who have a much longer personal contact with guests
like the waiters, the stateroom attendants.  Everybody sees their
waiter every day; they see their stateroom attendant every day.  I
may not get that one-on-one contact with the guests but there are
few people who by the end of the cruise who will be as
recognizable.  Everybody has at least seen me: they have seen me
on stage; they have seen me on TV.  So, I have a bit of a unique
opportunity to hold the guest's hand a little bit and say these are
some of the highlights, this is what I would do if I were you, these
are some of the things that we have going on and of course, it is all
there for you."

During cruises in the Caribbean, "it is very much about doing that
onboard the ship.  I don't feel too much of a responsibility to help
guests feel comfortable going out  in San Juan or St. Maarten - -
most people have been to these ports before.  In Europe, it is a
different story.  When we go across to Europe, my role shifts
somewhat.  People have come along way and for many of them this
is their one and only chance to see Rome or Athens or wherever
we are stopping that day.  So, they rely very much on my advice
and my insight in terms of what to do."

Adjustments have to be made in other ways when Solstice crosses
the pond.  "It is always easier to cater to a more homogenous mix
of nationalities or even age.  But we have the ability to kind of
expand our offering a little bit and make some alterations if we get
a more diverse clientele.  In Europe, our percentage of American
guests drops from in the 90s to anywhere from the mid-40s to the
60s but usually not too far above that.  So, we have a lot of
offerings in other languages and things going on.  The show's
attendance, for example, is cut in half.  People go ashore all day
and they are on tour and they are exhausted when they get back and
they have dinner and go to bed.  Next morning, they are on tour
again. Instead of having 100 guests go out on excursion, you have
1,400 guests on tour so the activities staff is down on the gangways
helping to direct people and assisting the shore excursions staff.  
But, there are still are regular core cruising guests who love the
activities, love the shows and want to come to all that stuff as
well.  So, the world is definitely very different."

Celebrity Solstice has an innovative design.  In addition to the
normal array of bars and lounges the ship has additional public
areas that lend themselves to being entertainment venues and
which have been so equipped.   "They have done some very
interesting things with the design that allow me to explore some
new ideas on how we program entertainment.  For example, we
have Celebrity Central, which is our cinema/comedy club.  The
stage actually rotates out to face into the Entertainment Court,
which allows us to do live music, fully produced and amplified
right there as people are coming into and out of the theater."

"The impact of that has been tremendous.  It used to be if I was
going to use the a cappella quartet in an effort to provide some
ongoing entertainment after a late night show [in the theater], I
would typically put them in a [bar or lounge]. The Kova Cafes on
the Millennium-class ships are about the closest venue that I could
catch people coming out of the theater.  It is not really set up to be
an amplified performance space.  For that, I have to go all the way
back to the Rendezvous but that is even further toward the aft [and
thus away from the theater].  The people go up the forward
elevators or to the nightclub.  Here, everybody coming out of the
theater will hear that there is an a cappella show going on and they
can stick around and watch or go do their own thing but at least
they don't think there is nothing going on.  They can hear that there
is something going.  It is right there, it is timed for when they come
out of the show."

"The same for the live music going into the show.  You may not
even realize that we have a guitarist onboard.  But when he is
playing when you are going to the theater, you cannot help but be
exposed to him.  This way, the musicians get exposed to a majority
of the guests rather than just a few.  When you see him there, you
realize that he is around and if you really enjoy what he is doing,
you can start following the program and catch him again other
places."

"We have what we call interactive productions - - a little quick
fun.  They are not so much a theme party as a quick mini-show.  
Rather than having music and having activities personnel running
around trying to manage a party, we have a choreographed
performance produced with some of our cast members.  The
activities staff is still around because some times people really
want to participate but they need a little bit of a welcome.  But
they get to see a performance by the cast which gets them in the
mood for whatever the party is."

"One of those interactive productions is called "Groove".  It is
directly following both shows, again, in the Entertainment Court
outside the theater.  It is like a 10 or 15 minute little, produced
Sixties tribute and then the party moves into the Quasar Club,
which can also open out onto the Entertainment Court, and
everybody flows in there.  Then, they close the doors on Quasar
and party in there.   It is not just that we are playing the music, we
have actually put some of the dancers there in costume and they are
dancing around with the guests in sort of a go-go style.  It always
makes me think of Austin Powers. I think if Austin were onboard
he would definitely be enjoying Groove."

"The dancers love it too. It used to be that part of their contracted
duty was that they would assist our activities staff.on the theme
nights.  We have four or five activities staff so with the dancers
around you can have more of an impact on the event. But now, we
actually put them in a costume, give them choreography and allow
them to perform as professional dancers.  It really increases their
enthusiasm to participate.  The activities staff love it because they
get to feel that they are part of a show with a little more production
value and a little more 'Wow' factor."

"A lot of times, we would put a little theme party on and guests
would attend but would sit down and wait for something to
happen.  We have always tired to convince them before: 'Don't just
sit and watch, come participate.'  Some people want to do that but
others just want to see something.  So, now we are showing them
something.  They can either watch for 10 or 15 minutes and then go
check something else out or if they get inspired enough or get in the
mood because of that, the participation takes care of itself. We are
going to have more of these as well."

"Our theater and the shows [performed there] are something that is
not only a new standard for us but I think at sea, quite frankly.  No
longer do we have a cast of singers and dancers and maybe a duo
that does aerial work.  The cast are all cross-trained and all do
some aerial [work].  Yes, we have the aerial duo but we have
various other specialty acts as well.   The theater itself is almost
an act onto itself - - the capabilities it has in terms of what you can
do from a technological point of view.  Anyone who is used to the
shows that we have done before is going to see some new tricks
and some new directions."

Solstice's technological capabilities do not just increase the
entertainment possibilities in the public spaces but also reach into
the staterooms.  "The TV system here is amazing   What we are
able to do in terms of the amount of content that we have, how
much is available on demand is totally new.  We have always had
our pay movie system just like other ships and hotels have but now
a lot of our own content can be coded to be  free on demand.  
Thus, for example, we have a lot of documentaries that were made
when the ship first came out - - great stuff.  Nick Weir, who was
the start-up cruise director, went to the shipyard and took the
camera around when we were in the dry dock, went to the bridge
with the captain and he was there for the naming ceremony - - all
of these landmark moments in the early part of the ship's life.  We
are able to have those [amongst the free on-demand content on the
in-cabin television]."

" It used to be that people would ask is there an engine room or
bridge tour and do you have something on TV.  You'd say, 'oh
yeah, it is on channel 20' and they'd say 'when?'  'Oh, it comes up -
- just keep watching.'  Now, we have that program playing [from
time-to-time on the regular channels] but if you want to see it at a
time that is convenient for you, you can scroll through and select it
[from the on-demand content].  So, the free content on-demand is a
great new tool for us."

"As I continue what Nick was doing, I'll be taking the camera
backstage and behind the scenes in various other locations, we
will meet the spa, we will meet the cast, will meet the galley
teams and this stuff will all be built into the on-demand content.   
A lot of guests love to get a look at what goes on behind the
scenes."

Another innovative feature of Solstice is that she has several
specialty restaurants in addition to a traditional two-seating main
dining room.  Typically, the schedule of the evening entertainment
on a cruise ship is built around the two seatings in the ship's main
restaurant.  For example, the times for the shows in the theater are
geared to when each seating will be finished.  Due to the large
number of alternative dining venues on Solstice, a substantial
number of guests will not be dining in the main restaurant.  
However, this fact has not made scheduling the entertainment more
difficult. "The other restaurants have their own seatings as well in
a way.  There isn't enough time in the evening to turn a table over
more than once.  Most guests end up dining at pretty similar times
anyway, around six o'clock-ish or between eight and nine.  So, the
guests in the main dining room with the two seatings and in the
other restaurants have similar schedules."

Celebrity plans to add a total of five Solstice-class ships to its
fleet.  These ships are large ships not only in comparison to
Celebrity's existing ships but in absolute terms.  Thus, the company
both anticipates and requires growth.  Innovation in the onboard
entertainment is part of that growth strategy. "The idea is to try and
get away from some of the things that we have been doing, some of
the things that we have been doing the same way for a long time.  
As we get more and more frequent cruisers we must offer things
that are new and that they have not seen before.  It is a bit of a
balancing act because at the same time you don't want to abandon
what your people have come to love about you and what you do.  I
think it is fair to say that we are trying to do things in a new fresh
way where possible, not necessarily sticking with all the old
paradigms."

"What is important to me is the production value as well.  For
example, The Liar's Club - - that is not a new activity.  In fact,
other lines do a similar activity to that.  We have done it before in
an open lounge where musicians are waiting to play. Some people
are there to dance and some people are there for the game show.  
Our staff is walking around with the words printed on a piece of
paper that they show to the audience.  Now that we have Celebrity
Central, we have a venue where we can make it a little bit slicker.  
It is very simple things - having the words appear on screen and
have it be a venue where everyone can see and is ready for a
comedy type show.  So, we definitely want to do things a little bit
differently."

"Being our first new build since Constellation in 2002, why would
we just do things the way that we have always done them?  Just
because things have always been done a certain way, is that
always the best way to do them or do you just fall into some
comfortable habits?  The demographics change, more and more
people are cruising all the time and what might have entertained
people ten years ago, five years ago, may not now."  

"You also see the same thing with the specialty dining.  You have
far more dining options [on Solstice] than ever before.  I don't
think it is a reflection the size of the ship so much, we could have
easily just made the restaurant a little bit bigger and designed it to
accommodate all of the guests.  But we are finding that the
specialty restaurants on the other ships are such a popular offering
why would we only have the main restaurant and one specialty
restaurant here?  Why could not there be four or five specialty
restaurants? It is really neat to see how they built the ship with
these new concepts in mind and how the guests really seem to be
responding to them."
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VERSION OF THE ARTICLE
Dru Pavlov
An aerialist performs
during a show in Solstice's
theater.
Celebrity dancers perform the
interactive production show
"Groove" in Solstice's
Entertainment Court.
The a cappella group Oceans
Four performs in the Solstice
Entertainment Court.
Cruise ship Interview - Celebrity Solstice - Celebrity Cruises - Dru Pavlov
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