What do Starbucks coffee, Victoria’s Secret undies, Swarovski crystals, Mary Frances purses and Guy Fieri burgers have in common? They’ve all made appearances on cruise ships.
As a retail therapy lover, I enjoy nothing more than when a favorite brand shows up on a ship as part of a cruise line collaboration. I can think of many stellar at-sea partnerships over the years, and many of these alliances are still thriving. But when one party (or both) decides the relationship has run its course, your favorite name brands can disappear from cruise ships in the blink of an eye.
Whether you’re feeling nostalgic or simply wondering whether your favorite cruise line still has the show, restaurant or amenity you love, here’s a list of 18 cruise partnerships that have come and gone.
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Carnival Cruise Line
Bathroom gift baskets
For years, Carnival Cruise Line put small amenity baskets in the bathrooms of all cabins on its ships. They included sample sizes of brand-name toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner and even razors. It was a nice touch, but the baskets were phased out sometime in the early 2010s.
A Carnival representative said he couldn’t find any information on whether the baskets were an official partnership, but it’s likely Carnival was collaborating with some company to offer them.
In 2011, as part of its fleetwide “Fun Ship 2.0” revamp, Carnival partnered with board game and toy manufacturer Hasbro to create “Hasbro, the Game Show.” The live on-stage version of popular board games — including Connect 4, Yahtzee and Operation — required audience participation, and contestants competed to win prizes.
The partnership no longer exists, but Carnival’s newest ships now offer a live version of “Family Feud,” which pits two cruise families against one another, much like the TV show.
In 2014, Celebrity Cruises entered an agreement with swanky land-based spa Canyon Ranch. The deal added 10 Canyon Ranch SpaClub locations to ships in the Celebrity fleet, offering not only standard massages and facials but also an entire battery of wellness options that included fitness classes and reiki healing.
The partnership fizzled five years later; the line’s spas are currently run by OneSpaWorld (formerly Steiner), which operates spas on most cruise lines’ vessels.
Celebrity chef partnerships are common in the cruise industry. One of the most notable was Cunard Line‘s affiliation with American chef Todd English, who opened his first at-sea restaurant in 2004 on Queen Mary 2. A second location followed on Queen Victoria.
However, in 2010, the line’s then-new ship Queen Elizabeth debuted without the venue. By 2013, the one on Queen Victoria had been replaced with The Verandah, a throwback to the line’s original onboard restaurants. By late 2015, the line also decided to replace the eatery with the Verandah on Queen Mary 2, ending the collaboration with English.
Holland America Line
America’s Test Kitchen
Holland America‘s partnership with America’s Test Kitchen — a real kitchen where chefs test and create for a half-hour television show — kicked off in 2016. Chefs trained by America’s Test Kitchen led live cooking demonstrations and gave advice on everything from procuring the right cooking utensils to making better desserts. The program was offered on all ships except Maasdam.
The line added new tutorials as recently as 2019, but a representative from the cruise line confirmed that Holland America no longer has the team-up in place. However, passengers who fancy themselves foodies can check out the line’s culinary-themed shore excursions, offered through a longstanding partnership with Food & Wine magazine.
O, The Oprah Magazine
When Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam began sailing in 2019, media mogul Oprah Winfrey served as its godmother. She bestowed the cruise line with her blessing and a partnership with O, The Oprah Magazine.
Throughout the tenure of the now-defunct link between the two brands, Oprah hosted a couple of themed voyages, including the “Adventure of Your Life” sailing and the “Girls’ Getaway Cruise,” both of which gave passengers access to editors from the magazine, as well as authors and motivational speakers.
Cirque du Soleil
Although MSC Cruises isn’t the only line to have joined forces with heady circus-meets-Broadway entertainment brand Cirque du Soleil, it is the most recent. The agreement began in 2013, when MSC started offering six custom-designed shows across three Meraviglia-class ships.
In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cirque du Soleil declared bankruptcy. It’s unclear whether that affected its ties to MSC, but, as with Celebrity Cruises’ Cirque du Soleil partnership, which dissolved in 2005, MSC’s is no more.
When MSC Preziosa, the third of MSC’s four Fantasia-class vessels, splashed onto the scene in 2012, it debuted with Eataly-branded restaurants on board. The trifecta of eateries — an Italian restaurant, a steakhouse and a pizza venue — also made their way onto MSC Divina and MSC Meraviglia.
MSC Seaside was also slated to house the alternative dining options, but the partnership ended before the ship began sailing in late 2017.
Norwegian Cruise Line
With the rollout of its first Breakway-class ship in 2013, Norwegian Cruise Line brought several innovations and new affiliations to the high seas, including a branded mini-version of Carlo’s Bakery of “Cake Boss” fame. At the onboard outpost, passengers could purchase cakes, cupcakes and pastries made using Buddy Valastro’s recipes.
In 2015, Norwegian Encore, the line’s first Breakaway Plus-class vessel, emerged from the shipyard without Carlo’s and, instead, put The Bake Shop in its place. By 2016, the line’s contract with Valastro expired, and The Bake Shop replaced Carlo’s on Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway.
‘Kinky Boots,’ ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Rock of Ages’
In 2011, Royal Caribbean was the first cruise line to bring Broadway shows on board, but Norwegian wasn’t far behind. The list of titles it has hosted is impressive and includes “Kinky Boots,” which opened on Norwegian Encore in 2019; “Legally Blonde,” which made its at-sea debut on Norwegian Getaway in 2014; and “Rock of Ages,” which had a run on Norwegian Breakaway beginning in 2013.
At the time of publication, “Six” and “Jersey Boys” were still featured on some NCL ships, but the other three shows have closed.
Nearly a decade ago, kid-favorite brand Nickelodeon joined up with Norwegian to offer children’s programming on five of the line’s vessels. The ships featured live character appearances with the likes of SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, themed miniature golf and water park areas, a couple of theme cruises hosted by stars from Nickelodeon TV programs and, of course, slime as part of onboard game shows.
The link-up lasted five years, from 2010 through 2015, when the pair parted ways.
Following their stint as co-godmothers of Norwegian Breakaway in 2013, New York City’s famous synchronized dancers, The Rockettes, joined the ship for a series of sailings on which they performed.
The original deal was for The Rockettes to join the vessel’s first six sailings, followed by the first sailing of each month after that. The partnership, which also included things like Rockettes-themed workouts in the ship’s fitness center, is no longer in place.
In 2015, NCL broke with maritime tradition by making rapper Armando Christian Perez, also known as Pitbull, the godfather of Norwegian Escape — the first godfather of a cruise ship. As part of the joint effort, Pitbull shot an onboard video for his song “Freedom,” which was part TV commercial for Norwegian. His own Voli Vodka brand was also served on ships across the fleet for a time.
Perez will always be godfather to the ship, but Voli is no longer found at bars on board.
Norman Love Confections
Cruising and indulgence go hand in hand, which is why a partnership between Princess Cruises — known for being the romantic cruise line, thanks to its ties to TV show “The Love Boat” — and chocolatier Norman Love made total sense. The link-up began in 2014, appearing on ships across the Princess fleet under the name Chocolate Journeys. It included offerings like chocolate massages in the spa, desserts made with Norman Love chocolate and the chance to purchase his tasty works of art on board.
The partnership dwindled over the years, with the line phasing out bits of it until it finally ended.
In the quest for quirky godmothers, Royal Caribbean found Princess Fiona — an animated character from the DreamWorks movie “Shrek” — and honored her with blessing Allure of the Seas during its 2010 christening. A DreamWorks collaboration followed.
Favorite characters such as Shrek and King Julien from “Madagascar” danced down the Royal Promenade during parades on a handful of its vessels. Passengers enjoyed themed performances, including a “Madagascar” show at the AquaTheater on Oasis-class ships and a “How to Train Your Dragon” ice show in the Studio B onboard ice rinks.
The partnership lasted an impressive nine years but ended in 2019.
Seabourn Cruise Line
One of the oldest and most longstanding celebrity chef partnerships in the cruise industry was the collaboration between Charlie Palmer and Seabourn Cruise Line. In 2011, Palmer became the luxury line’s consulting executive chef and led the charge to create an upscale dining experience for passengers.
Palmer and Seabourn parted ways in 2011 after a decade of working together.
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