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     Several years ago, Rich Bloch worked out an arrangement between the Magic Castle and the Crystal Cruise line. The Magic Castle at Sea program offers close-up and parlor magic shows provided by top of the line magicians when Crystal Cruise ships are not in port. 

     In the first week of June this year, Mark Haslam provided the entertainment on Crystal’s Symphony during a cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia to Whittier, Alaska. In addition to two evening shows in the ship’s theater, Mr. Haslam performed three forty-five minute shows in one of the ship’s lounges each of the three days the vessel was at sea. These shows were limited to twenty audience members at a time in an intimate setting that was ideal for close-up magic. 

     The smaller venues were tastefully decorated with posters of Houdini, Chung Ling Soo, and others, and the plush seating and wood paneled walls of the lounge complemented these colorful images from the past. Mr. Haslam stood just a few feet in front of his spectators, wearing a tie and three-piece suit replete with watch chain. The intimate setting and his easy going and accessible personality were ideal for close-up magic. And indeed, Mr. Haslam made the most of it.

     The effects he chose to perform primarily involved the use of playing cards, however, these were not “card tricks” per se. Rather Mr. Haslam used cards to reveal the serial number on a spectator selected and signed dollar bill (which appeared later sealed in an envelope in his wallet) for example. He also used cards to perform an impressive memory effect as well as his version of Chronologue. He is a charming performer, gracious, witty, and poised. His audiences in the lounge were suitably impressed, and clearly showed their appreciation with oohs, ahs, and applause. Additionally, the audiences seemed very excited when they were informed that their admission tickets also gave them access to the Magic Castle should they be fortunate enough to visit. 

     When Mr. Haslam performed his evening show in the ship’s theater it was particularly dramatic and impressive. Though essentially a “close-up” show using playing cards, he had a camera projecting the action onto a large screen strategically positioned on the back wall. The lighting was dramatic and as a result, each action was clearly visible regardless of where in the theater one was seated.  

     Mr. Haslam performed a medley of card effects that built to a crescendo with each effect more amazing than the next and which had the audience stunned and breathless. His timing, patter, and precision of technique all combined to make what one might think of simply a series of card tricks, into an example of high theater and artistry. The shows were extremely well received and people continued to talk about how impressed they were in the days that followed.

     The Magic Castle at Sea has introduced many outstanding magicians to audiences from all over the world. It’s a win-win for passengers who get to see close-up and parlour magic in the perfect venues while sailing between exotic destinations on some of the world’s finest cruise ships. 

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