When Cirque du Soleil first announced its collaboration with Celebrity
cruises, Cirque fans weren't surprised. CEO Guy Laliberte had often
talked about expanding the Cirque "ethos" and style to other forms of
entertainment. Cirque hotels and restaurants were early ideas, and
the corporate-oriented "Tapis Rouge VIP Experience" tent has become a
profitable mainstay of the touring shows. So it was really no stretch
when Cirque announced that it would install "themed experiences" in
two of Celebrity's Millennium-class cruise ships, Constellation and
Summit.Unfortunately they didn't last...
Although we can no longer experience THE BAR AT THE EDGE OF THE EARTH, we
can get a glimpse into what the experience was like in two ways. First, through
some of the original character sketches and, second,
through through crusiers that had the opportunity to sail on the Edge.
|Premiere: ||December 1, 2004
|Type: ||Hospitality | Bar & Lounge
|Finale: ||December 1, 2005
|Status: ||No Longer Operating
A new world created exclusively for Celebrity Cruises by Cirque du Soleil will
materialize on select Celebrity ships, helping Celebrity further redefine premium
cruising and onboard entertainment. The spacious observation lounges on at least
two of Celebrity's Millennium-class ships will be transformed into the surreal
atmosphere of "The Bar at the Edge of the Earth," which Celebrity and Cirque
describe as "a place that invites guests, for two hours every evening, to cross
through the mirror to another universe." At a press event, Celebrity's President
and COO Jack Williams and Cirque du Soleil President and COO Daniel Lamarre detailed
their groundbreaking alliance and distinct onboard entertainment concept.
"Our partnership with Cirque du Soleil and
the incredible guest experience onboard will take cruise entertainment—and cruising
as a whole—to a new level of excellence," said Williams. "This is an experience that
even Cirque fans will find unique."
"With this partnership, Cirque du Soleil is defining what we mean by exploring
new creative platforms," said Cirque President and COO Daniel Lamarre. "We are
applying our creative expertise to enhance the guests' total experience. Celebrity
Cruises is clearly demonstrating its strength in fostering innovation. As a partner,
they truly understand how to work with Cirque du Soleil, allowing us complete
freedom to develop a creative concept that is truly unique in their industry."
"The inspiration to develop the content and concept was endless," said
Jean-François Bouchard, Cirque du Soleil's Director of Creation, Special Projects.
"The themes of water, navigators and the deep blue sea gave us tremendous
opportunities to create a unique ambience, storyline and mystical characters,"
The lounge area on the ships will be designed to create a unique atmosphere in
which guests will cross into an unknown, imaginary world.
In "The Bar at the Edge of the Earth," surreal characters will emerge for two
hours each evening to greet cruise guests as old friends, not cruise patrons. "The
Wave Correspondent" will carry precious bottles containing mystical messages from
the sea, and will deliver them to chosen travelers visiting the lounge. "The
Lantern Tuner," whose inexplicable desire to light dark places or to harmonize
with existing lighting will constantly transform the atmosphere around him.
Meanwhile, the abundantly curious "Pez Erizo," a large, round being, will wander
joyfully throughout the ship, seeking to meet and delight all who cross his path.
In addition to nightly activity, a Cirque du Soleil Masquerade Ball will be
presented once on every cruise. "The Bar at the Edge of the Earth" will also offer
exotic food and beverages available exclusively within that venue. Representatives
of Cirque du Soleil will participate in Celebrity's "Celebrity Discoveries"
enrichment lecture series on dates yet to be announced, and the two organizations
are designing new Cirque du Soleil boutique spaces for select ships beginning in
Constellation will be the first ship to feature the Cirque-created experience
on its seven-night Southern Caribbean cruises, departing round-trip from San Juan
beginning December 4, 2004. Summit will follow in early 2005. The ships' current
lounge venues—"Reflections" onboard Constellation and "Revelations" onboard
Summit—will be transformed into "The Bar at the Edge of the Earth" during
scheduled drydock periods.
Celebrity's exclusive six-year agreement with Cirque du Soleil also includes
official sponsorship of Cirque's touring shows in North America and Europe, and
will offer guests one-of-a-kind pre- and post-cruise experiences. The two
organizations also will capitalize on a variety of cross-marketing opportunities.
"We are ecstatic about our new partnership, and see this as only the beginning
of a long-term relationship with a number of other possibilities," said Williams.
"Cirque du Soleil is a unique property that instantly conveys an image of
excellence, uniqueness and excitement—qualities that align closely with those
In "The Bar at the Edge of the Earth," surreal characters will emerge for
two hours each evening to greet cruise guests as old friends, not cruise
patrons. "The Wave Correspondent" will carry precious bottles containing
mystical messages from the sea, and will deliver them to chosen travelers
visiting the lounge. "The Lantern Tuner," whose inexplicable desire to light
dark places or to harmonize with existing lighting will constantly transform
the atmosphere around him. Meanwhile, the abundantly curious "Pez Erizo," a
large, round being, will wander joyfully throughout the ship, seeking to meet
and delight all who cross his path.
"How exciting and how challenging it is," smiled Jean-Francois Bouchard,
creative designer, "for a designer to have the whole ocean for his platform.
The inspiration to develop the content and concept was endless. The themes of
water, navigators and the deep blue sea gave us tremendous opportunities to
create a unique ambience, storyline and mystical characters. The overall
sensation," continued Bouchard, "would be as though the patrons were all part
of a Cirque du Soleil experience, not just observers, but participants in a new
style of entertainment."
In addition to nightly activity, a Cirque du Soleil Masquerade Ball will
be presented once on every cruise. "The Bar at the Edge of the Earth" will
also offer exotic food and beverages available exclusively within that venue.
Representatives of Cirque du Soleil will participate in Celebrity's "Celebrity
Discoveries" enrichment lecture series on dates yet to be announced, and the
two organizations are designing new Cirque du Soleil boutique spaces for
select ships beginning in 2005.
THE LANTERN TURNER is a master of light, and constantly transforms
the atmosphere around him by changing colours and intensities. He walks
around with a tree whose fruits are lanterns, which he hangs at his whim.
His very clothes give off a strange luminescence.
THE WAVE CORRESPONDENT is a sea explorer. He crosses the surface of
the oceans, seeking places full of stories. He gathers them from the waves,
and after they have dried, he puts them in bottles that he himself has blown.
The messages are revealed to the sound of an organ made of crystal glasses.
THE DREAM FISHER is a gatherer of rare pearls. Because he spends so much
time diving into the depths, his body has changed, and the line between human
and fish has blurred. The luminous pearls that he fishes for are the sea's
crystal balls, through which he can read people’s thoughts.
THE ABYSS GARDENER, who cultivates the ocean's depths and tends a
volcanic source, offers people the fruits of his gardens in the form of
unusual drinks and hors d’oeuvres. His arrival, in extreme slow motion,
seems to suspend time and creates the illusion that the entire bar is
under the sea.
PEZ ERIZO, a creature with a luminous shell, is the clown of the
group. Visiting from another world, he is discovering ours with kindness
and awkward naïveté. His insatiable curiosity compels him to touch and
feel everything in his reach, and most of the time, he creates catastrophes.
His clumsiness causes chain reactions and interferes with images, sounds
and even the service.
Cruise review site cruisecritic.com is a large site with tons of
member reviews of almost every cruise ship out there. We've excerpted
quite a cogent detailed report by an cruiser known as "efschlenk":
"For those who know the Constellation, the big news on this cruise was
that Celebrity launched its new association with the Canadian-based
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL entertainment group, well-known to Americans for its
thrilling combination of acrobatics and new-age artistry seen in
traveling venues across the US and in a permanent home in Las Vegas.
For several years, cruise lines have branded their cuisine with the
names of famous chefs (Michel Roux, Jacques Pepin, et al.). Celebrity
is the first, to my knowledge, to brand part of its onboard activities
with a famous entertainment group. The idea is brilliant, but the
execution is still in flux.
After great expense and much effort, the 11-deck forward lounge on the
Constellation has been converted to the "BAR AT THE END OF THE EARTH."
Rather than presenting its usual acrobatic acts, Cirque du Soleil
emphasizes that this is an "experience" rather than a "performance,"
and they add that it is an experience in evolution. We attended three
times while on the cruise, and noticed it was smoother and more
refined each time, but still seemed a bit cerebral, lacking a story
line or anything one could really relate to or empathize with.
THE LOUNGE has been draped in white muslin and theatrical scrims so
that laser light shows can be reflected off of almost all surfaces.
The bar has been retained, but now has something of an "arctic white"
appearance. The perimeter seating has been replaced by curtained
platforms with cushions (which may be a problem in Alaska or Norway,
where these seats are prime nature-viewing locations). The remaining
seating has been draped with white linen covers. The stage and dance
area have also been curtained with moveable scrims that show projected
images relating to the "characters" which appear and disappear over
the course of an evening. We were told by another passenger that the
investment in décor alone was more than $1 million US.
The lounge features several imaginary (symbolic?) CHARACTERS, each
with an elaborate and ingeniously lit costume (one looks like a sea
anemone, one a mushroom, one an intestinal parasite, one.... well, you
get the picture). Each appears from behind the scrim, dancing and
relating to the images on the scrim and the synchronous new-age music.
The characters are not recognizable (to me at least) as anything from
literature, history, or even the natural world. There is no real
narrative associated with any of the characters - again, this is an
"atmosphere" or "happening" and not a story or performance in the
usual sense. The effect is something like [the alien] bar in Star
This still is a bar, and drinks are served by an agile and (of course)
gracious Celebrity staff dressed in Ewok-style hooded brown costumes.
As usual, smoking is allowed on the port side (including the bar
area), so you may wish to choose your seating accordingly. The music
is very loud (as on all cruise ship venues, not just Celebrity's.
The first night of the cruise, the BAR AT THE EDGE OF THE EARTH was
open only to the cruise line representatives for the launch. The
second night there was a free preview for Captain's Club cruisers, and
one night there was a "masquerade party" at which those purchasing
tickets ($30 per person, mask included, bookable in advance by your
travel agent) were requested to wear white and were provided with
masks (left in your stateroom or selected at the new CdS shop
onboard). Most cruisers were elegantly clad in white, but one
iconoclastic cruiser wore his bathrobe - the essence of "thinking
outside the box" when good manners generally preclude wearing one's
bathrobe outside the stateroom.
What was the RECEPTION OF THE WHOLE CdS VENTURE by the cruisers?
Well, there was surprisingly little discussion of it (no buzz) by our
fellow cruisers after the event (except for one elite-category
Captain's Club lady who wanted her money back because she bought a
ticket and was also given a masquerade ticket free). At the end of
the cruise, all masquerade tickets were refunded.
MY IMPRESSION is that CdS is best known and loved for its acrobatics,
and its "atmospherics" when viewed alone are too artsy-fartsy for most
Americans, many of whom have unfortunately been "Disneyfied" into
I think Celebrity was a generous host and investor in the project,
which is brilliant in concept, but I think that CdS fell short in the
product it has provided so far. I say "so far" because I think that
the product can be rescued by doing some re-programming. I think most
audiences want something they can relate to - preferably a story with
a beginning, middle, and end. In this case, real inspiration might be
found in the delightful and awe-inspiring lectures of the ship's
oceanographic lecturer who demonstrated that nothing exceeds the
beauty and ingenuity of the natural world. Why not base the CdS
experience on creatures of the sea? It does not have to be dumbed
down to a Little Mermaid or SpongeBob Squarepants, but should have
something an audience can relate too.
Perhaps it did not help that the CdS "family" on board this cruise was
quite large, and although friendly, they seemed to be a bit self-
indulgent both on and off stage. Ironically, the one awesome CdS
experience was provided by their sole female gymnast/acrobat/adagio
dancer who gave a short performance with recognizable CdS style a few
times during the cruise. We shall see what the future brings to the
Celebrity/Cirque du Soleil marriage. In the meantime, see it and judge
Article features text written by Keith Johnson, as published
in the "Fascination! Newsletter".