Erik Kabik and Cassi Thomas/ErikKabik.com
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 | 4:43 p.m.
NEW YORK — Back when she was a nobody, long before she blasted to stardom on "American Idol" and "Dreamgirls," Jennifer Hudson sang on a cruise ship. And on Wednesday, the singer said she would do it again — this time as the headliner for a new concert series on Carnival Cruise Lines called Carnival Live.
"I used to work on a cruise ship, a long time ago," said Hudson before performing at a Carnival news conference in midtown Manhattan. "That's what I did before I did 'American Idol.'"
Her stint aboard a Disney cruise ship was "my test," she said. "Two days later, I went in and auditioned for 'American Idol.'"
Headlining the Carnival series "is like a full circle," she added.
Hudson is scheduled to perform June 18 on Carnival Ecstasy and June 19 on Carnival Breeze, when the ships are in port in Cozumel, Mexico.
The new concert series is being announced as Carnival tries to restore its image after three ships broke down last year. Images of passengers stranded at sea, ships towed back to port and trip cancellations created a torrent of bad publicity for the company that depressed ticket prices and revenue.
Other performers and bands scheduled to perform in the Carnival Live series are Chicago, Daughtry, Foreigner, Gavin DeGraw, Jewel, Kansas, Lady Antebellum, LeAnn Rimes, Martina McBride, Olivia Newton-John, REO Speedwagon, STYX and Trace Adkins.
So far 49 shows are confirmed for the year. Styx will kick off the series with an April 7 show on the Fantasy in Nassau. Tickets will only be sold to individuals taking the cruise.
Hudson sang "One Night Only" and several other songs for about 200 people at the Cutting Room, a Manhattan performance space, where Carnival's senior vice president of guest operations, Mark Tamis, announced the program.
Tamis described it as new initiative to increase entertainment options for guests, saying "we are turning up the music," and calling Hudson "the first lady of Carnival Live."
The concerts will be held evenings when ships are in one of three ports: Cozumel, Mexico; Nassau in the Bahamas, or Catalina Island off the coast of California. The 75-minute shows will be held in ship lounges that seat 800 to 1,500 people, depending on the ship.
Tickets will be priced $20 to $40, with a $100-$150 VIP option for premium seats and a photo op with performers.
Departures for the eight ships participating in Carnival Live — Sensation, Fascination, Fantasy, Imagination, Inspiration, Paradise, Breeze and Ecstasy — will be from Los Angeles, Charleston, S.C., Miami and Tampa, Jacksonville and Port Canaveral in Florida.