Want to watch a movie? Hit the (cruise ship) deck

IN THE SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN

Who goes on a cruise to watch movies?

Umbrella drinks? Check. Midnight chocolate buffets? For sure. Daytime adventures in exotic ports of call? Definitely. Buttered popcorn and the latest Will Ferrell comedy? Hmmm.

Well, maybe nobody really hits the high seas for the sole purpose of seeing current flicks, but for a movie lover, it's certainly a nice way to spend an evening after a sun-filled day of snorkeling, shell hunting and sightseeing. Plus, how else can you sit under the stars with Brad Pitt?

In March, I sailed on the Grand Princess from Fort Lauderdale to Curacao and Aruba, with a stop at the cruise line's private Bahamian island, appropriately named Princess Cays. By day there were boat trips and cocktails and buffet grazing, but when the sun went down, I headed to the outside pool deck to watch movies on the big screen. It was an opportunity to catch up on some of the Academy Award-nominated movies that I had meant to see on land.

With all the bells and whistles on today's cruise ships — shopping malls, rock climbing walls, zip lines, merry-go-rounds, flume rides, ice skating rinks and spinning classes, not to mention chef-driven restaurants and fully loaded spas — movies are a quaint throwback. Yet, judging by the people hunting for chairs for Moneyball, it's an activity that resonates with passengers. There's not much required; you can even snooze a bit, as I did during Happy Feet Two. (Apologies to Mumble and the gang.)

Princess Cruises has the outdoor-movie thing down, having shown flicks this way since 2004. Just before show time, the crew points cushion-covered lounge chairs toward the giant screen and places a plaid wool blanket on the foot of each. A blanket? It's so balmy that people are still padding around in bathing suits. Who needs a blanket?

I did. Just 30 minutes into the The Help I found myself reaching for wool, pulling it up to my chin to ward off the breeze ripping across the deck. Another 30 minutes passed and out came free bags of popcorn and cookies. I could get used to this.

The next night it was Pitt and Moneyball. Another night's offering was Jake Gyllenhall's Source Code. (That was billed as teen night, but I watched anyway.) Happy Feet Two attracted the little kids, and Bob Marley: Music & Passion drew the music lovers. There was occasional dancing in the aisles. Yeah, mon.

Not all of the movies were shown under the stars. Two candidates — one the eventual winner — for best movie this year were screened in the Vista Lounge, where we watched an entertaining round of karaoke one evening. We saw The Artist, the silent movie that won the Oscar, and The Descendants from big cushy couches with very attentive beverage service.

There was a sparse crowd, and the air conditioning was cranked so high that I really needed that wool blanket. But the pina colada warmed me up a bit.

My only complaint?

I would have liked to have spent an evening under the stars with George Clooney, too.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8586.

Want to watch a movie? Hit the (cruise ship) deck 10/06/12 [Last modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 4:30am]

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