VENUE Takes to the High Seas Aboard Princess Cruises

It’s hardly a secret that today’s cruise ship experience is comparable to visiting a floating five-star resort. Princess Cruises—made famous by the popular ‘70s and ‘80s television series, The Love Boat—is one of the leading companies in the industry, boasting a fleet of 16 high-tech luxury ships sailing to ports of call across the globe.

Each ship offers a wide range of activities and events designed to keep passengers pampered and entertained. The Princess Theater, a traditional proscenium-style theater, serves as one of the main hubs for daytime and evening entertainment. By day, the theater offers a range of enrichment programs, lectures, destination events, and movies, while in the evening it hosts a Broadway-style revue, featuring a large cast, vocalists, and an eight-piece orchestra.

The cruise line recently completed an audio system upgrade on five of its ships’ 750-seat Princess Theaters, as well as 500-seat secondary venues on two of the largest vessels. All existing analog mixing consoles were replaced with Avid VENUE Mix Rack Systems, featuring the VENUE Profile console, and installed by Torrance, CA-based Gridworks and Harbor Marine Systems of Miami, FL.

The old consoles were showing significant wear and tear, according to Denise Zimny, manager of production services, with maintenance and repairs becoming increasingly difficult. They were also taking up a massive amount of floor space, clearly a premium on a cruise ship.

“[The] VENUE [system’s] effects are built right into the desk, which gives it a compact footprint that’s the perfect size for our Princess Theaters,” Zimny says.

Having a consistent user experience was another key factor that influenced the VENUE selection. With more than 30 audio professionals rotating through the fleet, onboard FOH engineers change frequently. Because all VENUE systems operate under a common VENUE software platform, engineers will be immediately conversant with every system on every ship. The shared platform also enables engineers to create, save, and load show files for use on any VENUE system through a USB drive.

“The Profile’s performance is consistently outstanding and it’s very user friendly, which ensures we get excellent results regardless of which audio engineer is on board,” Zimny says. “Once the engineers learn one console, they know them all.”

VENUE’s snapshot automation, which allows for instant recall of mixer and effects settings, also significantly influenced the company’s decision to install the Mix Rack Systems. Scene snapshots can be easily saved to any USB drive, giving engineers portability and expanded system control.

“Our engineers are switching gears often with different types of shows throughout the day,” Zimny reports. “Learning all the show designs and peak moments can be very challenging, especially with a multi-national staff rotating in and out so frequently. The snapshot feature does a lot of that work for us.”

Virtual Soundcheck is another VENUE feature that has proven to be invaluable to the engineers of Princess Cruises. It allows for direct multitrack playback of live recordings from Pro Tools, so that sound checks can be conducted without the entertainers present.

Princess Cruises fleet audio trainer Danny Fiandaca, who oversaw each of the installation projects, adds, “The VENUE systems have represented a huge leap forward for us. It’s a very intuitive interface that makes it easy for our engineers to get up to speed quickly, which is vital in our fast-moving environment.”

“VENUE has certainly been a huge improvement in terms of sound quality and flexibility,” notes Zimny. “It has also been quite helpful for us in maintaining the quality and design of our productions. Overall, VENUE has been an excellent choice for us.”