Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Dawn

January 06, 2004

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit it. Cruising on the Norwegian Dawn - an ultra-modern, no hold’s barred luxury liner - was a blast. The entertainment, the food, the drinks, the women... and that was just the taxi ride on the way to the pier (thanks to Dan Goldstein, editor of Installation magazine, for that one).

Seriously though, cruises are meant for escape, to unwind and get away from the stress of everyday life. But this was to be no relaxing holiday. Oh no, this was work. Accompanied by photographer Allan Toft and Leisure Segment Manager Karsten Petersen, I boarded the Norwegian Dawn for three days of intelligent lighting investigation, and with any luck a bit of relaxation. After all, how many intelligent lights can there be on a cruise ship?

Norwegian Dawn
While relaxation may have been the intention of the cruiser of yesteryear, today it is entertainment, with high technology entertainment systems’ presence on modern cruise liners growing with each record-breaking launch. As I was to find out, the opportunities for systems integration on one single ship are plenty – theatre, cinema, lounge, casino, lobby, conference room, recreation room, pool, kids area and more – many of which occur in multiple numbers. Nowhere else is space used so efficiently.

With each new ship come integrated systems in greater scope and increased quality. Take Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) newest Freestyle Cruising ship, Norwegian Dawn. Designed to entice and entertain, the number of areas that require automated lighting systems alone is immense.

Based in New York, Norwegian Dawn cruises a weekly four-port itinerary to Florida and the Bahamas. Accommodation is for 2,224 guests with a crew of 1,112 (quite a nice ratio) and amenities are numerous. Built at Germany’s Meyer Shipyard, FUNA GmbH served as contractor, system integrator, main installer and supplier with all Martin equipment supplied through Martin Germany.

First impressions are everything and guest’s first look at the ship’s eight-story Atrium doesn’t disappoint. “It’s the first thing people see when they board so we wanted something impressive,” comments Charles Arrata, lighting designer for several areas of the ship including the Lobby/Atrium and Spinnakers Lounge.

Charles had to overcome several challenges in the Atrium including pre-existing fixed lighting positions in a large space that is essentially a multi-purpose room. “It was a real challenge as there were several varied elements of the space to consider like the stage, piano platform and hanging sculpture, as well as the room in general.” Charles based his color choices on the nature-like water and plant theme that dominates the atrium with the result being an abundance of color washes onto several areas of the space. Even so, the color is not overpowering, effectively blending into the décor.

Martin CX-4 color changers, MAC 250 profiles and MAC 300 wash lights color the Atrium’s central 5 story high mobile sculpture. MAC 300s, MAC 250s and Atomic strobes highlight an elevated stage area with MAC 500s used to illuminate a high profile piano area. Lighting control is from the PC-based LightJockey. Behind the reception desk a Martin FiberSource QFX fiber optic illuminator powers an attractive color changing seashell motif.

Spinnakers Lounge
Charles also completed the lighting design for Spinnakers, essentially an observation deck turned lounge, and the main club space on the ship. Charles altered the space using color from MAC 250 profile spots and MAC 300 wash lights with CX-4 color changers illuminating a series of ceiling mounted light deco sails. Clear 50mm tubelight dresses the ceiling beams and pillars as well as the dancefloor. Martin Atomic strobes add that extra punch when needed.

For a particularly festive South Beach Fiesta night a stage is exposed with an additional riser of MAC 250s along with additional 250s on the floor. A laser effects show and shadow dancing cages complete the scene. Although windows are blackened and volume is kept under control (lest the captain whose quarters are directly below the lounge complain of too much light and sound), the space has been transformed into an attractive dance environment.

Stardust Theatre
The focus of the ship’s entertainment takes place in the elegant Stardust Theatre, a Broadway class 1,036 capacity theatre. Decorated as a 1920’s European style opera house, guests can enjoy a variety of shows ranging from an authentic Miami South Beach Rave to the sensual sights and sounds of India’s Bollywood to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Music of the Night, with whom NCL has an exclusive entertainment agreement.

Lighting designer for all three shows is Jim Ryan, owner of Infocus FX and Lighting. 

Jim comments, “There has been a major change in the last decade in the productions and budgets for cruise ships. These are multi-million dollar theatres with multi-million dollar productions. They are as fine if not finer than any theatre in Las Vegas or anywhere you go.

“The hardest part about lighting for a theatre is that you have three very different shows to think about and time is a big problem. When you do a Broadway show you might have two months to light it, a Vegas show you have six to eight weeks, but on a cruise ship you have six or seven days to light each show. You have to turn it around very fast.”

The theatre’s lighting rig is impressive to say the least. It is made up of several layers of lighting, balanced left and right. “The symmetry I like to keep in all of the lighting,” Jim states. “Just by changing one side or the other you can make a big difference. We want each show to look unique so we’ve created different styles for each show entirely by the use of color. Bollywood for example is a very warm show with very warm tones and a lot of action and movement. South Beach Rave on the other hand has cooler tones for that Florida South Beach neon look. Music of the Night is much more traditional as if it were lit with conventionals so you see a lot of specials but very little movement.”

The theatre’s rig is made up of a mix of MAC 2000 Profile, MAC 500, MAC 600, MAC 250, Atomic strobes, RoboScan Pro 918 scanners and a few conventionals. A Martin FiberSource QFX150 powers an 800 outlet Traveler fiber curtain.

“Because we have weight issues on the ship we went with lighter moving head instruments,” Jim continues. “We have a row of MAC 600s out front along with 2000 Profiles for effects to give texture to the set. We placed 600s on the side for side wash and on the top back for stage lighting. The MAC 2000s in the back are used for beam effects and I always mix MAC 500s into that. I don’t waste the 2000s anywhere overhead but always use them front light or back light because of the punch. I use the MAC 500s for the effects we want on the floor. I like to dress up the stage with lights as well so we have some located on the floor which provides a lot of flexibility.”

With all that firepower you might expect a mix of big lighting looks but Jim tends to stay away from big concert lighting because “people come to see theatre, not an overpowering light show. We don’t want people to leave here saying the lights were great, we want them to say that the show was great.” Jim does his own lighting programming and used the Martin Case soon to be replaced with the new Martin Maxxyz console.

More Martin
Specialty lighting has also been installed in several other vital areas of the ship including the outdoor pool area, The Oasis, where Martin Exterior 200s and Exterior 600s colorwash hot tubs, sun beds and a central gazebo used for stage entertainment. Control is from a Martin LightJockey and a Martin 2518 playback controller.

And more…
Martin lighting can also be found in several of the ship’s other lounge areas including Dazzles 2 Nightclub, a late night karaoke and small band lounge where Martin Raptors, RoboScan Pro 518s and Atomic 3000s illuminate a small stage and dance area; and adjacent Dazzles Lounge, also with Raptors and RoboScan 512 scanners. Jem ZR 12 and Jem TechnoHaze machines provide both areas with atmospheric haze.

And more…
But it doesn’t end there. Martin CX-4s provide spot lighting for the piano players at Gatsby’s Piano Bar; Acrobats, MX-1s, CX-2s and Atomics provide the energy for a hard working crew in the Crew Bar; and a teen disco features MX-4s, Raptors, RoboColor IIIs, Atomics and a Jem TechnoHaze.

Three days later we disembarked, Allan with a sore shutter finger and me with writer’s cramp. Ok, so we did manage to get in a bit of pool time, but for those interested in high technology entertainment systems, today’s luxury liners can be a lot of work.

2 x Martin MAC 500
2 x Martin MAC 300
4 x Martin MAC 250+
3 x Martin CX-4
1 x Jem ZR12
1 x Martin LightJockey PC 256 Ch
1 x Martin 2518 Playback controller

Spinnakers Lounge
20 x Martin CX 4 
15 x MAC 250´
Outside ring:
4 x Martin MAC 300
6 x Martin MAC 250+
Middle ring:
4 x Martin MAC 300
4 x Martin MAC 250+
2 x Martin MAC 300
4 x Martin MAC 250+
2 x Martin Atomic 3000 strobe
2 x Jem ZR12
2 x Jem AF-1
1 x Martin LightJockey, 2048 channels
1 x Martin 2518 Playback controller

Stardust Theatre
8 x Martin RoboScan Pro 918
14 x Martin MAC 2000 Profile
38 x Martin MAC 600NT
16 x Martin MAC 500
14 x Martin MAC 250+
6 x Martin Atomic 3000 strobe
4 x Jem ZR 33
4 x Jem StageHazer
2 x Jem Glaciator´
4 x Jem AF-1
10 x Martin FiberSource QFX 150
1 x Case controller

The Oasis (pool deck)
2 x Martin Exterior 600
14 x Martin Exterior 200
1 x Martin LightJockey PC 256 Ch
1 x Martin 2518 Playback controller

Dazzles Lounge
2 x Martin Raptors
6 x Martin RoboScan Pro 518/II
1 x Jem ZR 12
1 x Jem TechnoHaze
2 x Jem AF1 Fan
1 x Martin LightJockey PC 256 Ch
1 x Martin 2518 playback controller

Dazzles 2 Nightclub
6 x RoboScan Pro 518/II
2 x Atomic 3000 strobe
3 x Raptor
1 x Jem ZR 12
1 x Jem TechnoHaze
2 x Jem AF-1
1 x LightJockey 256 channel
1 x Martin 2518 playback controller

Gatsby’s Piano Bar
3 x Martin CX-4

Crew bar
2 x Martin Acrobat
4 x Martin MX-1
4 x Martin CX-2
1 x Martin Atomic strobe
3 x Martin MC1 controller

Teen Disco
10 x Martin RoboColor III
4 x Martin MX-4
1 x Martin Atomic 3000 strobe
2 x Martin Raptor
1 x Jem TechnoHaze
1 x Martin MC1 controller
1 x Martin Detonator
1 x Martin 2510 playback controller

Joel Koves, Manager NCL, Entertainment Technical
Sean Wells: Senior Lead Technical Coordinator
Jim Ryan: Lighting Designer, Stardust Theatre
Graeme Rivers: Lighting Operator, Stardust Theatre
Charles Arrata: Lighting Designer, Spinnakers Lounge/Atrium