The World Stage on Holland America Line’s Koningsdam. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The World Stage on Holland America Line's new 2,650-passenger Koningsdam offers a new kind of space for performances at sea, with a stage extending far out into the audience.
The wedge-shaped stage culminates in a semicircular space, with the seats in the front half of the house arrayed around the rounded front.
The shape is made possible by floor-to-ceiling LED panels, two stories high and 250 feet long, that form the back of the stage and climb the aisles into the sloped house on both sides. The panels eliminate the need for conventional scenery and the standard stage setup that accommodates it.
"World Stage will be a game- changer for entertainment on Holland America Line and unique in the cruise industry," said Bill Prince, the cruise line's entertainment director.
As at other lines, HAL is still figuring out how to use the LED technology to its maximum effect. On a cruise shortly after the Koningsdam's inauguration, I saw five shows on the World Stage, three by contract performers flown onto the ship and two produced in-house.
The contract entertainers included Jamie Allan, a British magician whose act makes clever use of iPads and other technology to perform card tricks. He employs a video camera to help the audience see his tricks, which were projected onto one of the screens behind him.
I thought this was fine, but it could have easily been done in a smaller venue. Allan was dwarfed by the large stage, although he used it effectively to engage with the audience.
Another act, the Upbeat Beatles, also seemed overmatched by the size of the venue. As they performed, the Beatles tribute band displayed video clips of the Fab Four behind them on one screen. Again, I was left waiting for a moment when all the technology was used to its full effect.
It was explained to me that the contract performers bring their own visuals, which are not adapted to the unique aspect ratios required for the World Stage screens.
The first real glimpse of what the World Stage could do with its 270-degree walls came in OneWorld, a mostly traditional cruise ship entertainment program with singers and dancers in a dreamy tour of global cultures.
The LED backdrops were fairly tame scenes of clouds and landscapes. It was not as exciting or creative a use of the programming as I have seen on some other ships.
By far the best of the shows I saw on the World Stage was "Musicology, a Dance Concert."
The concept of the show was to take instruments from the orchestra, such as the cello or bassoon, and create a series of short dances around them, with synchronized music, images and light effects.
The pieces really brought the character of the instruments to life. Toward the end, the show evolves into a tribute to 1940s-era swing bands, with the solo dancers replaced by an ensemble.
This was the production I'd been hoping for on the World Stage, one that I told friends should not be missed.