Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sailing Away on a Tide of Booze

Fan outreach and transmedia have become increasingly important to fans of genre media in the past few years. One of the companies that has been at the head of the pack since day one is HBO, so much so that the promotional cruise they hosted with LivingSocial to celebrate the second season of historical drama Boardwalk Empire seems nothing more than the next logical step.

The next awesome, logical step.

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to the day cruise that left from a dock on Manhattan's east side, just a few blocks south of the ancient and revered Water Club. The day was overcast but bright and unseasonably warm, and as I filed onto the yacht I was pleased to see a lot of people had embraced the spirit of the occasion and dressed accordingly. Unfortunately, I had naught by camera phone to capture the fun with, but capture it I did.

Upon stepping onto the deck of the ship, I was greeted by smartly dressed shipmen and given a glass tumblr inscribed the Living Social logo. There was a long deco counter to my right, bearing all the silver containers that would hold the classic Americana dinner to be served later. Straight ahead of me was a Blackjack table.

That's where I would end up spending most of my ride.

Tables circled a wooden dance floor and a band in tuxes loitered around a piano, playing hits of the 20s and 30s as people found places to lounge. There was a bar in back, a backdrop for photos in front, and a second level.

Up the circling chrome staircase was a lounge where you could watch cigars being rolled, then partake of them, and out on the open air part of the deck was a whiskey tasting station. That was where I would end up rounding out my cruise.

The crew from LivingSocial were kind enough to chat to me about how excited they were for the whole idea of excursion events being partnered with media, since they're all big nerds who watch Boardwalk and True Blood and Game of Thrones.

Though if there's a Game of Thrones cruise, I can't imagine it being quite this pleasant. Anyway.

So there were drinks at the open bar, which were delightful. There was a strange, catty girl who gave me attitude because the bartender turned to me before her. I think she thought there was a line. It's a bar, sweetheart, not a booze dispensary, and also, I was waiting at it before you moseyed your horse face on over, so just chill.

I took my wine over to the Black Jack table and sat down to a delightful lesson from NYC's School of Cards. The table filled quickly and we bet big, since we'd all been given substantial piles of chips to play with. The games weren't live, just friendly and instructional, but the spirit was of a bunch of high rollers. It's amazing how fun it is to double down when it's not real money.

There was an old fashioned popcorn popper next to a bank of couches that people frequently went to for a fresh bag. I refrained, since there was prime rib and then a chocolate fountain with a wide array of fruit. As the dinner service wound down, the band kicked it up a notch, there was singing involved, and some people danced. I was too busy drinking and fake gambling, but it was fun to watch.

Then there was entertainment. Leading up the playing of the premier of Boardwalk Empire's season two trailer, we were graced with a burlesque tap performance by a performer straight out of Babette's. Tap dancing is much more enjoyable when there is stripping involved. 

Her hair was flawless and remained so even once the performance was done. Aces.

The Boardwalk Empire trailer was revealed, and both the crew and passengers watched with rapt attention. Everyone's favorite character made an appearance and once the footage was done, people took immediately to discussing what was bound to happen to whom over the course of the season.

Eventually I went upstairs and talked to some other passengers about what drawn them to the cruise, if they were Boardwalk fans or had just stumbled across the LivingSocial invite and jumped at the idea of the cruise. It was a surprisingly even survey of real fans and people who had just seen it, caught the theme, and thought it might be fun. Everyone agreed that they were pleased with the size of the event- more people and it would have felt overcrowded and like the point was to make a buck, instead of provide a cool experience.

Frankly, the concept is brilliant. LivingSocial has already created a great new idea with their Excursions and Adventures, one a bargain system for exploratory trips away and one for active, involving experiences. Pairing up with HBO seems like an incredibly smart and potentially lucrative endeavor for both companies.

So and then there was whiskey.

I drank a lot of it.

A lot.

There was a silver cup for spitting it out. I didn't.

The whiskey somelier, which I do not know what his actual title is but it's fine, cuz whiskey, walked us through five varieties including scotch and rye, giving us a history of how each bottle was made and where they originated from. Peat and dirt were discussed but I don't honestly remember under what circumstances. It was delicious, though, and I can only assume high informative as well.

This chick showed up halfway through, which was nice. 

All in all, it was a lovely time. Hopefully HBO will work this relationship like woah and do some sort of tundra horse riding Stark themed trip. If they do, I'm going.

In all seriousness, the only way to improve upon this experience would have been to go bigger. The boat was nice but not opulent. Of course, the cost of opulent would be considerably higher than what the tickets were going for on LivingSocial. Still, it makes me yearn for more exclusive, themed opportunities of this nature.

Or really, any excuse to get dressed up and drink on a boat.