Focus on ships' crews tries to avoid all the spray tans, yelling
Aboard the ships of the Portland Spirit, crew members are talented and “somewhat quirky,” organizers say — a perfect combination for the reality series “Ships Ahoy!”

A new reality show being filmed in Portland is trading fake tans, short skirts and drunken shouting matches for some good old-fashioned family values.

'Ships Ahoy!,' a fly-on-the-wall series that has been in production since August and will continue through December, documents the lives of the crew and passengers aboard the ships of the Portland Spirit - a river cruise company that has operated in the city for more than a decade.

Rather than using sensationalism to enhance drama, the show will demonstrate how the crew works as a family to solve real world problems in a positive manner - an unconventional approach to the genre, to the say least.

Kyle Bryant, owner of Cinesational Video Productions, a Christian production company, and creator of the show, says he thought of the show's concept one night while watching 'junk' on television.

'My wife and I came up with the idea of doing a reality show that wouldn't have the drama of people acting ridiculous,' Bryant says. 'I think the yelling and screaming stuff is getting old.'

Bryant says he chose the Portland Spirit as a focus for its close-knit staff and respectable reputation.

Although the show's pilot, which will be pitched to the Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel among others, will not have the scandalous backbiting of Lifetime's 'Project Runway' or the furious fist pumping of MTV's 'Jersey Shore,' it will depict what it's like being aboard the Spirit's five vessels, which, according to its creators, is more exciting than you would think.

For starters, the crew members are not your ordinary dining staff. Because the work is seasonal and requires a certain set of theatrical traits - employees are often required to sing and perform for the passengers - the crew includes a wide range of characters who, according to the show's press information, live 'somewhat quirky' lives.

One server, for example, played a terrorist on a national television show; others are songwriters and singers.


Courtesy of Cinesational Video Productions • Marylou and Kyle Bryant co-produce the wholesome new reality show, "Ships Ahoy!," about the crew and passengers aboard the Portland Spirit's river cruise ships.

Some yelling involved

At first glance, the show almost seems like a real-life version of 'Party Down' - an HBO comedy series that followed the inner workings of a catering company made up of eccentric actors and screenwriters.

'I had a young server several years ago who worked for me, and I knew she wrote plays. She went ahead and left for L.A. to make her big break, and about a year ago I come to find out she received an Emmy for being a writer on 'Grey's Anatomy,' ' says Dennis Corwin, general manager of the Portland Spirit. 'It's a certain kind of product that lends itself to creative people.'

Cameras follow the crew as they host and cater events - from an anniversary party for five couples, each celebrating 50 years of marriage, to a rowdy wedding reception for hundreds. The stories of individual crew members and passengers are showcased as they interact with one another.

'It's going to be personality driven. I think the viewers are going to find these people - the passengers and the crew - really interesting, and they're going to want to know what they do next,' Bryant says.

Their interactions are not always pleasant, however. Sometimes situations with intoxicated passengers turn ugly (there's got to be some yelling). Other times, the crew - partly made up of real family as many of its members are husbands, wives, daughters and sons - has disagreements, like when a bride's wedding cake is dropped.

Then, there are the unexpected problems that occur on the water, like a drowning windsurfer in need of rescuing or a suicidal woman almost hitting one of the moored boats with her car - juicy reality drama at its finest.

Even though the drama can be there, the difference between 'Ships Ahoy!' and other reality series is its focus on how it's solved. Just like a family, after fights occur, the crew works out its differences and comes together to resolve the issue, which demonstrates a more reassuring reality than that often seen on television.

'As is with every walk of life, this job has tough challenges and people make mistakes, but what we don't want to do is create a 'Jersey Shore'-type drama,' Corwin says. 'It's about dealing with emergencies and crises and trying to show a positive resolution.'

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