Simply Cruising

Skating Adventures at Sea

Thinking of taking a cruise this season and want to enjoy some on-board skating entertainment while sailing the high seas?

Then look no further than the innovative ice shows produced by Willy Bietak Productions, Inc., for the Royal Caribbean line.

Bietak, a nine-time Austrian pairs champion (1963-’71) and two-time Olympian, and his team specialize in producing ice shows for 10 of the Royal Caribbean cruise ships that sail to exotic parts of the world.

This season Bietak Productions has created two innovative shows for the newest addition to the Royal Caribbean fleet, the Allure of the Seas. The Finnish-built mega-ship, which is billed as the world’s largest cruise liner, was christened in Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 11.

“The Allure is considered the entertainment ship of the fleet, and with that in mind we produced two ice shows that are pure entertainment,” said Sylvia Froescher, Bietak Productions associate producer.

“One of the shows, ‘Ice Games,’ is a production based on a customized Monopoly board which comes to life on ice and takes you to all the different destinations [properties] on the ship through a video game,” she explained.

“The second show, ‘How to Train Your Dragon on Ice’ is a brand new concept for Royal Caribbean. The company recently partnered with DreamWorks to showcase some of its product on this liner, so we choreographed a show based on Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new movie ‘How to Train Your Dragon.’

“Jeffrey came to the opening of the show to see his latest movies being depicted in different ways,” Froescher added.

“There is also a parade that has Shrek and Kung Fu Panda in it, which are also DreamWorks products. They are both family-friendly productions.”

Renowned choreographer Sarah Kawahara was the mastermind behind the on-ice creations.

Bietak has been producing skating shows for Royal Caribbean for 10 years. “The cruises cover the world from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean,” Froescher said. “In the wintertime, there are a lot of ships in the warmer climes, such as the Caribbean.

“Next summer there will be seven cruise ships based in the Mediterranean that will all have unique skating shows as part of the on-board entertainment. Every production has a different theme.

“We have a show called ‘Strings’ that takes you on the journey of a violin,” Froescher explained. “On another ship we have a show called ‘Ice Dancing,’ which features in-novative numbers that were created especially for the ice. But it is not ice dancing the way we know it in the competitive sense, it is an artistic presentation of ice dance.

“Another ship has a show called ‘Seasons,’ which, as the title implies, takes you on a journey through the diff-erent seasons.”

Bietak currently has 14 different shows running on the 10 ocean liners. “Some of the ships have two shows — it all depends on the length of the cruise,” Froescher explained.

“And you never know who might run into onboard. Katie Holmes and her daughter, Suri Cruise, were on the Allure recently. I think they came to our show three times. Adam Sandler was also on the cruise. It was a nice opportunity for our cast to meet them all.”

Skaters from all over the world audition for jobs on these ships. “Everyone in the shows is a principal-level skater, and with that level of talent we are able to push the envelope,” Froescher said. “They all love the chall-enge of taking the shows to a new level.

“Each one of the skaters sign on for six months and then they change, so there are 20 cast changeovers a year.”

Bietak’s ice shows are also showcased on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure, Explorer, Navigator, Mariner, Freedom, Voyager, Oasis, Independence and Liberty ships. Cruises range from five to 14 days.

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Originally published in February 2011