The 2016 TCM Classic Cruise – Part Two

by Martin Hafer

I had a terrific time at the TCM cruise and so did the rest of the passengers I spoke with during the cruise and you heard about much of this in my first TCM cruise article.  In fact, I have to say that this was by far the friendliest group of people I have ever met on a ship and I struck up many long and wonderful conversations with complete strangers.  But, there also is a serious problem which I didn’t mention in the first part of this article…the future of the TCM Classic Cruise.  You see, just a few weeks before the cruise departed, TCM sent an email to all the passengers alerting them that this would be the last TCM cruise!!!  Needless to say, these nice passengers were not at all happy about this…especially the folks who attend year after year…and I sure met a lot of them.

Illeana Douglas

So why would TCM announce that there will be no more cruises?  Well, the reasons for this were left very, very uncertain…even following this last cruise.  A statement from TCM said “As TCM continues to grow and evolve, we will look to explore new business opportunities in markets across the country that will allow us to connect and engage with our fans in new and different ways,”.  But exactly why the trips are being discontinued isn’t completely clear and is the subject of a lot of conjecture.  As for me, while I loved the trip and would love to go on more, I can see two big reasons for TCM’s decision—and there easily could be more.  First, the previous five cruises all sold out and so TCM decided to move from the smaller Disney Magic to the much larger Disney Fantasy.  However, despite having room for 1300 more passengers, most of these spots were left untaken….and TCM surely must have taken a major loss because of this.  Second, and I know this will sound tacky, but due to the nature of the films on Turner Classic Movies, fewer and fewer and fewer of the old stars are still alive and able to take the cruise.  In fact, a huge number of the previous celebrity guests have since died.

So does this mean that there is no chance whatsoever for another TCM cruise?  Maybe…maybe not.  Although the official position is that no more cruises will take place, Illeana Douglas (a regular host on TCM) said to one of the audiences that there MIGHT be a reprieve for the decision…might.  What that means…no one knows.  The passengers were so excited about having future cruises that a petitioner walked tirelessly for days about the ship haranguing fellow passengers to sign a petition that practically demands another TCM cruise!  Clearly, there is a devoted following for future cruises.

Ben Mankiewicz

So what does need to happen in order for there to be more of these great cruises?  I have a few suggestions that might make more of these trips possible:

First, the decision to move from the Disney Magic to the Disney Fantasy was, in hindsight, a very bad one.  TCM assumed that by selling out the previous five cruises that they could easily rent out a larger cruise ship and fill it…and this did not happen.  While I loved that this made the ship far less crowded, it also meant far less revenue for TCM…and while folks don’t want to face it, TCM and all TV networks are in the business to make money, not lose money!  They will have to use a smaller ship and accept that not everyone who wants to go will be able to go…only the folks who sign up quickly will be accommodated.

Jerry Lewis

Second, classic film stars die and will continue to die.  This is rather blunt but also is reality…and to deny it or blame TCM is just crazy.  Because of that, TCM and the passengers will have to accept that some changes need to be made in regard to the stars.   ‘Lesser’ stars, such as supporting and character actors will need to be invited as the mega-stars are disappearing.  I am also sure some folks might blanch at this, but TCM needs to invite stars who are younger and who made films more recently.  I know that ‘classic films’ means the 1940s and 50s to most of the viewers, but the 70s, 80s and even, possibly, the 90s need to be included in this as well…it’s inevitable.  Additionally, instead of focusing on the actors, the TCM cruise might want to consider broadening the notion of what constitutes a star.  Why not invite the talented writers, directors and producers to attend as well?  Some might not want to see these folks, but I know I would be very excited to see them and hear their many stories.  And, finally, TCM might want to consider inviting some classic foreign film stars.  Perhaps some folks like Catherine Deneuve, Alain Delon, Bruno Ganz, Jo Shishido and many other international stars of yesteryear would love to attend the cruise.  Again, I sure would love to see them.  Plus, having more than five stars might actually now mean that passengers will actually get to talk to and interact with the talent!

Eddie Muller and Martin Hafer

For most of my suggestions to work it will mean folks being willing to give a bit.  I know from being on one of the TCM Facebook groups that many people go crazy when they see TCM showing foreign films or more recent American movies…and I assume these same people will balk at opening up the talent pool for upcoming cruises.  But what other choices are there?  If you have no film stars, the cruises simply won’t take place…so you have to be willing to think outside the box.  Heck, they might even want to consider inviting a few old time television stars as well!  Will this be TCM as we now know it?  Maybe, maybe not…but unless some big changes are made there is a zero percent chance of any future TCM trips….and that would be a shame as I had a wonderful time and met some amazingly friendly and nice people.