When the MSC Meraviglia is christened June 3 in Le Havre, France — receiving a blessing from Italian actress Sophia Loren, no less — a group of 15 performers will have already spent more than a month on the docked ship flying through the air, juggling, perfecting acrobatics and, just as important, getting their sea legs. As Cirque du Soleil takes its act to sea through a new partnership with MSC Cruises, there’s no use rehearsing on solid land.
The maiden trip leaves June 4 from Marseille to Genoa, Naples and Messina in Italy; Valletta, Malta; and Barcelona. Fares start at $589.50. The seven-day cruise will be a two-ring circus of sorts: The 5,700-passenger ship will be the first to host not one but two distinct Cirque du Soleil shows six nights a week in a $22 million theater called the Carousel Lounge, which was designed specifically for aerial feats. “Viaggio” is the first show; “Sonor” will not begin until June 18. While the entertainment company has performed on cruises before, these are the first original Cirque du Soleil productions at sea, in the first such venue built specifically for the needs of circus performers.
Over the next three years, six more Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows will launch in custom-designed theaters on three sister ships of the Meraviglia, thanks to a long-term partnership between the Montreal-based performing company and MSC Cruises, which is based in Geneva.
Creating a cruise show brings up some unconventional theatrical considerations.
“You have to keep that high level that Cirque offers of acrobatic performance, but you’re not on flat unmovable land,” said Susan Gaudreau, show director of Cirque du Soleil at Sea. “It upped the level for us a little bit.”
Plus, space on a cruise ship is limited. The intimate Carousel Lounge can accommodate 413 spectators, a fraction of the…