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Around the World on a Cruise to...

The Mirage, a tropical oasisWhat would you think about a trip that allowed you to pass the Manhattan skyline, stroll through the Roman forum, explore a tropical rainforest, and sip cappuccino beside a Venetian canal as a gondola quietly floated past? I did all that, plus saw a pyramid, felt the heat of a volcano, heard the roar of a snow white tiger, and was enchanted by dolphins at play. Did I take a world cruise? Not exactly. In fact, my resort didn't even float.

Welcome to Vegas, baby! What happens there doesn't necessarily have to stay there and I'm willing to share the highlights. First things, first... you might be wondering what the Cruise Diva was doing in landlocked Nevada. 

It's quite simple--Las Vegas is a convention mecca and I was there to attend one. I was also one of nearly 37.5 million annual visitors to America's playground in the desert. Wow! No wonder seventeen of the world's largest hotels are in Las Vegas. Mine was the Mirage, which heralded a new era of mega-resorts when it opened in 1989. The tigers, dolphins, and volcano are just a few of the Mirage's attractions. Exotic bird sounds greet guests arriving beside the tropical lagoon and a profusion of greenery and exotic flowers fill the atrium inside. One the world's largest indoor saltwater aquariums is a soothing sight while waiting in line to check in. Past the hyper-active casino, elevators whisk guests to spacious rooms overlooking the skyline (well, my view was mostly of a roof, but the lights of the strip were cool after dark).

One of Las Vegas' main attractions is gaming, of course, but there's a lot more to this adult oasis than blackjack and slot machines. Top entertainers appear in the show lounges, world-class spas offer pampering and relaxation, the food is to die for. Repeat visitors even book hotels based on the quality and ambiance of the various resort swimming pools. How does all this decadence stack up to a cruise?

The last time I was in Las Vegas I saw Elvis. The real Elvis. The King of Rock 'n Roll in a rhinestone encrusted jumpsuit. The Elvis who swiveled his booty on The Ed Sullivan Show. He was no longer the epitome of Bad Boy then and, truthfully, looked something like an overstuffed sausage with sideburns in that jumpsuit. He still had that magic, though, and the former teeny-boppers still swooned. Are audiences still swooning in Vegas? I was about to find out.

Celine Dion - A New DayOne of the hottest tickets in town during my stay was for a seat in the huge Colosseum theater that Caesar's Palace built especially for headliner Celine Dion. Her show, "A New Day" proved worthy of the expense (both for the theater and the ticket). Don't expect her to take the stage alone with only a band and backup singers as Elvis did. Ms. Dion is a tiny presence on an enormous stage with a bevy of dancers and a few assorted odd characters that I found distracting. Her lovely, clear voice captures the audience's attention when she performs her own material. She's simply stunning when singing "My Heart Will Go On" (the love song from the movie "Titanic"). I was transfixed; the theater melted away with the power of her voice. It's almost a shame that there's so much going on behind her. With an overall Cirque-like quality, dancers in dreamy lyrical costumes execute a mixed bag of footwork, some of it classic and the rest cloddish and hip-hoppity. Even the scenery gets into the action with realistic storm clouds overhead and trees and musical instruments floating through the air. Ms. Dion manages to overcome all that, plus her curious repetition of jerky hand gestures and lack of stage presence (she can't dance, although she tries mightily), and carries a quite amazing show with the strength of her vocals.

Today's other headliners include musical royalty, both past and present. But there's more... production shows, comedy, magic, tributes to the greats (the Rat Pack, the Beatles), and "Folies Bergere" featuring traditional showgirls adorned in feathers and sequins (and little else at times). Designed to delight women, the Chippendales showboys are eye candy and... yes, even talented. (Fair is fair, after all!)

Mystère, "O",  KÀ, and Zumanity are Cirque du Soleil productions featuring surreal surroundings and odd characters that are really some of the most agile acrobats you'll ever see. A bit weird for my taste, but wildly popular, they mesmerize the crowds with their movements.

So, how does cruise ship entertainment stack up? Well, you aren't likely to ever see Elton John at sea. However, you also aren't paying upwards of $100 for a ticket for some awfully good performances on cruise ship stages. You might also see some awful performances, but you could run into that in Vegas as well. Vegas-style ship productions are, in reality, more akin to the old-style Vegas variety shows. The latest thing is emulating Cirque, which some sea-going song and dance companies have accomplished fairly well.

Finally, in Las Vegas, the spirit of the Titanic lives on through "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition" at the Tropicana. You aren't likely to see anything like it on a cruise ship.

More Las Vegas --> Spas & Nightlife, how they measure up

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