THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN, FEBRUARY 20-21, 2016
A voyage of magical musical interludes
By VIVIEN ACHIA
We are talking cricket with an Indian crew member in the Cascades dining room on Radiance of the Seas. I tell a story of my father, a country cricket club captain, who goes to the crease amid applause, struts and pats the wicket, then is out for a duck. Hence the comment, “Every day is not Sunday.”
The anecdote draws a smile. Royal Caribbean claims its staff will greet you by name after being introduced once, and we find this to be true. There are greetings morning, noon and night.
We choose the Bravo cruise as a treat, because this eight-night extravaganza, out of Sydney, promises an amazing array of talent, with the added attraction of lazy days at sea and visits to Mare and Noumea in New Caledonia, and Mystery Island, Vanuatu.
Our travel agent has advised that the ship’s Aurora Theatre seats 900 but as there’ll be 1800 passengers, there’s a choice of two sittings for dinner in Cascades and two performances each evening. We request a 6pm dinner followed by a 9pm show; but that’s not where the entertainment starts and stops.
From 10 each morning until after midnight, there is music everywhere, with the headline show in the Aurora, a tiered theatre with excellent seating and good views.
And I mean “headline”. At the first show, it’s James Morrison, widely known as a jazz trumpeter, but a musician who can make almost any instrument sing.
He is joined by Emma Pask, a young jazz singer he has mentored, and it is a joyful evening. Later we wander into the Schooner Bar on an upper deck to find Morrison jamming with the Brad Childs Quintet.
The Metropolitan Orchestra from Sydney is on stage every performance under the direction of Guy Noble, who is one of the surprises of the line-up. When members of the orchestra fall ill, he skilfully re-orders mountains of sheet music, rehearses the orchestra to accommodate the changes, and plays the keyboard while conducting.
Night after night we are thrilled by the performers: musical theatre stars Anthony Warlow and Judi Connelli, Broadway performer Liz Callaway, flautist Jane Rutter, opera singers David Hobson and Suzanne Johnston,
young Italian tenor Mark Vincent, Great Opera Hits from Opera Australia and Irish tenor David Shannon. On the final evening, an all-star finale is hosted by Jonathon Welch of Choir of Hard Knocks fame.
Earlier in the cruise, Welch has asked whether some passengers would like to be part of a Bravo choir: about 130 turn up for the first rehearsal keen to work with him and take part in the whole musical experience.
The seas are calm. There are long days during which we are out of sight of land. It is disconcerting, but wonderful, to forget we are at sea while in the theatre, then to walk a few paces on to the deck and see that under a bright moon, we are powering along in the South Pacific, on inky black ocean, leaving a roiling white wake.
The next Bravo cruise, from October 17-24, sounds to be a musical treat, featuring opera great Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, in company with David Hobson, Marina Prior, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Cheryl Barker, Greta Bradman and Welch. On such cruises, every day is, indeed, Sunday.