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Cruise Experience

Our Standards Are Extraordinary

Anita Berry
Anita Berry, Founder of The Jazz Cruise

For over 20 years, The Jazz Cruise has presented the very best in “straight-ahead” jazz, with a full ship of the world’s most passionate jazz fans sailing with the world’s best jazz musicians. The secret to its success is simple: great musicians, great production and always making sure that the guest experience is top notch.

Programming the cruise starts with over 100 world-class musicians, scheduled in many exciting configurations for around 225 hours of music, presented festival-style over 7 jam-packed days.

After a very special 20th anniversary sailing in 2020 and an exciting return to sea in 2022, The Jazz Cruise will raise the bar even higher in 2023. After all, Our Standards Are Extraordinary.

To learn more about The Jazz Cruise’s storied history, click here to read our 8-part Jazz Appreciation Month series on the History of Jazz Cruises.

Presentation of Music:
Festival Style

Music on The Jazz Cruise is presented “festival style,” meaning we use multiple venues of the ship at the same time and overlapping times so that 3–5 shows are going on at any one time. Doing so allows the guests to freely flow between venues as they wish without the need for tickets or queueing up, though securing a seat in some of the smaller venues may require arriving early.

The shows (typically 75-minute sets without an intermission) include performances by Performing Groups, All-Stars, Big Band and Special Shows (see below). Most configurations are presented multiple times during the week, allowing guests to sample each of the performers at various times.

The Special Shows are usually performed just once during the cruise and include our Opening Show, The Jazz Cruise Hall of Fame Show, Keyboard Capers and various fascinating combinations created by our Music Director, Shelly Berg. In total, The Jazz Cruise offers around 225 hours of music in the week.

Spending Time with Amazing Jazz Fans from Around the World

The Jazz Cruise brings together nearly 2,000 jazz fans from around the world. Though a festival or even a concert might attract a similarly large and diverse crowd, there is simply no way that those settings allow for the interaction and camaraderie created among our guests on the ship.

Long-term friendships have been created, nurtured and sustained on The Jazz Cruise. The atmosphere is a cross among a family event, high school reunion or going to camp.

Guests interact with others sometimes just for this week every year, yet they can pick up those friendships as if they saw each other just yesterday. The common thread of being jazz fans is an amazing ice breaker and bond builder.

Daytime Entertainment

Daytime music shows may be presented in any of the music venues (Celebrity Theatre, Rendezvous Lounge or Sky Lounge). Special shows may also be seen and heard in The Metropolitan Restaurant, the main dining room of the ship, which converts brilliantly into a cabaret-style music venue. One of the most revered Daytime shows is Wycliffe Gordon’s Gospel Show, a tradition of The Jazz Cruise.

Nighttime Shows

On two nights of the cruise, special shows are presented in the Celebrity Theatre. Guests who see the 1st Show (starting around 5:30PM), enjoy dinner after the show. The other half of the guests dine first and then attend the 2nd Show (starting around 7:30PM). Which show you attend is determined when you complete your Reservation and is reflected in the color of your Cruise Identification Card (BLUE or RED). Celebrity Theatre on other nights hosts large group presentations, such as Anita’s Big Band and special shows that require greater seating capacity. Otherwise, the programming reflects the “Festival Style” music shows described above.

It's Never Too Late for Jazz

The Jazz Cruise is renowned for providing guests with special late-night entertainment called “It’s Never Too Late for Jazz.” Starting around 10:30PM, Throughout the entire ship, there will be more music, parties, autograph sessions, comedy, dancing and much more. Besides concerts in the Celebrity Theatre and Sky Lounge, The Metropolitan Restaurant becomes a lovely late-night, cabaret-style venue which we call “Birdland at The Metropolitan.” The first show there every night features one of the vocalists on the cruise. The Rendezvous Lounge hosts a special solo piano event each night.

"Learn" Events

Another specialty of The Jazz Cruise is our series of “Learn” events, which include one-on-one musician interviews, panel discussions, instrument seminars and tutorials, and presentations of special topics for our music lovers. Though music is the main event on the ship, “Learn” events may also include cooking demonstrations, wine or whiskey tastings, and more. There's always something for everyone.

"Enjoy" Events

Sometimes we present events on the cruise just to have fun. We are skeptical of sharing too much of this information now as it undermines the surprise element, but here are three types of events we produce just for the sheer enjoyment of doing so.

Fun and Games

Daily bridge, presented by certified bridge coordinators, is offered daily. Trivia contests, Name That Tune events and various dancing events are plentiful during the week. The Houston Person Dance Party is one of the great events of the cruise.

Cocktail, Wine, Food Events

No jazz program would be complete without cocktails, wine and food. The Jazz Cruise takes that to another level by pairing these events with performers who serve as hosts. It may be a Happy Hour Hang or a fine dining experience, but you can be there with your favorite performer.

The Comedy of Alonzo Bodden

Alonzo Bodden, winner of Last Comic Standing and Jazz Cruises' Comedian-in-Chief, will perform his hilarious show for an additional two nights of "It’s Never Too Late for Jazz." Famous for delivering funny and pointed comments about current events and taking performers to task, some of the best people-watching is found during an Alonzo Bodden show.

Forming a Union where GREAT MUSIC is the ONLY RULE

Blue Note at Sea was created by Great Music lovers for Great Music lovers. In 2016, Blue Note Jazz Clubs, Blue Note Records and Jazz Cruises joined forces to create a cruise program that was unlike any other music cruise. Most music cruises present a deep dive into a particular genre, but not every performer fits neatly into a niche. 

Just as these three iconic presenters have done independently for decades, they came together to present Great Music of all kinds in an innovative way to the world’s most discerning and passionate music fans. Yes, jazz is a prevalent component, but Blue Note at Sea performers, and the wall-to-wall music experience presented aboard a luxury ship, operate outside of standard industry classifications. They are truly the “Blue Note” of their craft.

Blue Note Jazz Clubs bring great skill and knowledge as a talent provider and presenter. Its leader, Steven Bensusan, is known by musicians, agents, and managers throughout the world, mirroring the expanse of his clubs.

Blue Note Records may be the most heralded jazz label in the world. Its list of musicians includes legends of the past and stars of the present. Under the watchful eye of Don Was, the label has risen once again to prominence and influence.

Jazz Cruises has been producing music programs longer and in greater number than any charter company in the world. Though it dominates the jazz cruise genre, it has also produced cruises that feature rock, country, gospel, and pop music.

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Past Sailings of Blue Note at Sea

Blue Note at Sea has sailed in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Each cruise was a sellout featuring some of the GREAT NAMES in the world of GREAT MUSIC. Here is a partial list of those who have performed on Blue Note at Sea:

Marcus Miller / Robert Glasper / Wynton Marsalis / Pat Metheny / Kamasi Washington / Chick Corea  / Gregory Porter / Dianne Reeves / Melody Gardot / David Sanborn / Joshua Redman / Lalah Hathaway / Chucho Valdes / Terence Blanchard / Dee Dee Bridgewater / Kurt Elling

Due to scheduling issues caused by the pandemic, Blue Note at Sea did not sail in ’21 and will not sail in ’22. ’23 will be its big return to the high seas.

Show Style Presentation

Blue Note at Sea presents your GREAT MUSIC in several ways during the weeklong cruises, combining the very best aspects of a music festival, theater concerts and intimate jazz club shows amidst the comforts of a luxury cruise ship. At all times, the sound, lighting, and production elements are top notch. The Blue Note at Sea ’23 Production Team is led by Brian Rachko, who has been a part of Jazz Cruises’ programs for nearly 15 years. No sense in presenting GREAT MUSIC without providing the very best way to enjoy it.

Daytime Shows 

Daytime music shows may be presented in any of the music venues (Celebrity Theater, Rendezvous Lounge or Sky Lounge). Special shows may also be seen and heard on the pool deck or in The Cosmopolitan Restaurant, the main dining room of the ship, which converts brilliantly into a cabaret-style music venue. Except in rare occasions, all Daytime Shows are presented on a first-come, first-served basis.

Nightly Main Shows

Each night there is a main show held in the Celebrity Theater. The show is presented twice so that every guest is able to attend. Guests who see the 1st Show enjoy dinner after the show. The other half of the guests dine first and then attend the 2nd Show. Your Main Show Schedule is determined when you complete your Reservation and will be reflected in the color of your Cruise Identification Card. Half the guests will have a BLUE card and half will have a RED Card. Your card provides your entry to the show. Once inside the Celebrity Theater, your seating will either be assigned or would be open for you to choose.

Cruising After Dark

For nearly 22 years, Jazz Cruises has been providing its guests with a special late-night array of entertainment that it calls “Cruising After Dark.” Starting around 10:30 pm or so each night, after everyone has had dinner and seen the Main Show, the entire ship opens to guests. There will be music shows, parties, autograph sessions, comedy, dancing and much more. Once The Cosmopolitan Restaurant is cleared from dinner, that room becomes a lovely late-night, cabaret-style music venue. Particularly exciting on Blue Note at Sea are the late-night jam sessions led by Robert Glasper. Most start around midnight and end when Robert says that they end! When we talk about music events on the ship that do not occur on land, the late-night jams are at the top of the list.

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“Learn” Events

Another cruise specialty is our series of “Learn” events, which include one-on-one musician interviews, panel discussions, instrument seminars and tutorials, and presentations of special topics for our music lovers. Though music is the main event on the ship, “Learn” events may also include cooking demonstrations, wine or whiskey tastings, and more. Always something for everyone.

“Enjoy” Events

Sometimes we present events on the cruise just to have fun. We are skeptical of sharing too much of this now as it undermines the surprise element, but here are three types of events we produce just for the sheer enjoyment of doing so.

Game Shows

One of the runaway hits of past cruises are Family Feud-type game shows pitting Robert Glasper and his band against Marcus Miller and his band. It was hilarious and the teams are gearing up for a rematch.

Cocktail, Wine, Food Events

No cool jazz program would be complete with cocktails, wine and food. Blue Note at Sea takes that to another level by pairing these events with performers who serve as hosts. It may be a Happy Hour Hang or a fine dining experience, but you can be there with your favorite performer.

The Comedy of Alonzo Bodden

Alonzo Bodden, winner of Season 3 of Last Comic Standing, and the Comedian-in-Chief of Jazz Cruises, will perform his hilarious show for an additional two nights of Cruising After Dark in the Main Lounge. Besides Alonzo’s humorous and pointed comments and observations about today’s events and the various humorous ways of the public, Alonzo is always able to comment (a polite word for roast) upon the ups and downs of the cruise itself. Famous for taking the performers to task, some of the very best people-watching can be found during an Alonzo Bodden comedy show.

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