done well, smooth jazz cruises are my favorite form of
vacation. The main reason jazz fans take a week off work
for these floating festivals is the seemingly nonstop smooth
jazz and a type of access to the artists you can’t
find anywhere on land. Since fans and artists are sharing
life together on a ship, it’s common to play basketball
with Wayman Tisdale, jog with Warren Hill, take a spinning
class from Marion Meadows, share a glass of wine with Jonathan
Butler during a jam session, chat with Bobby Caldwell over
a martini, dine with or next to many of the musicians,
sunbathe next to Jeff Golub on the pool deck, or get cookie-baking
lessons from Dave Koz.
Aside from all of the exciting interactions with the stars
of smooth jazz and the incredible musical performances, cruising
is a convenient and comfortable way to travel. You only have
to unpack once. All the cooking and cleaning is done for
you. Food and drinks are available 24/7, and for those more
disciplined than I am, there is a gym, running track and
various fitness programs. The full-service spa offers a variety
of massages, facials and other treatments. There’s
also a lot of exploring, shopping and water activities available
in exotic ports of call.
While there are now several annual cruises that offer live
smooth jazz, each one is different.
With the untimely passing of Dave Koz’s mom, Audrey,
the maiden voyage of the Dave Koz & Friends at Sea was
as emotional as it was enjoyable for the 1,850 passengers
aboard Holland America’s ms Oosterdam. The Sunday afternoon
gospel hour with Kirk Whalum and Butler was a much-needed
spiritual uplift for fans and artists alike. It helped turn
a devastating event into a joyous celebration of Audrey’s
life. And Patti Austin’s Women Over 40 program that
week is still quite the buzz in smooth jazz. This full-ship
charter sold out several months before departing the port
of San Diego last November.
First-time smooth jazz cruise promoters Mark Vrabel and Tony
LaBarbera brought more than 1,000 jazz fans together for
the 2005 All-Star Smooth Jazz Cruise hosted by Rick Braun.
Their group of mostly first-time cruisers shared Carnival
Cruise’s Conquest with non-jazz passengers on this
seven-day excursion that departed Galveston, Texas, last
November. They kicked off the cruise with a two-day festival
that was a joint celebration for the third anniversary of
Houston radio station Smooth Jazz 95.7. This event, billed
as the Wave’s 3rd Annual Wave Days 3, featured Al Jarreau,
Boney James, and the cruise all-stars, and was held at the
Moody Gardens Resort and Convention Center on Galveston Island.
On board, the stellar lineup of main stage performances included
Rick Braun (host), Peter White, Brian Culbertson, Mindi Abair,
Euge Groove, Eric Darius and Craig Chaquico, among others,
along with autograph sessions and artist panel discussions.
But it was the phenomenal late-night jam sessions hosted
by Nick Colionne that created the most buzz on this voyage.
They were probably the best I’ve ever seen anywhere.
Lillian and Phil Perry have jumped on the cruise ship bandwagon
as a means to raise money for their non-profit PhilLill Foundation.
With 40 people in attendance, the first annual Phil Perry
New Year’s Weekend Cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s
Monarch of the Seas departed San Pedro, California, on Dec.
30 for a three-day excursion to Ensenada, Mexico. Plans for
a Valentine’s Weekend Cruise for next year’s
fund-raising event are underway and is scheduled for Feb.
Then there was the fabulous cruise hosted by Warren Hill
in January. Having completed three successful sailings so
far, the last two of which were full-ship charters, this
cruise is probably as perfect an event as can possibly be.
From the music to the meals and activities, everything was
flawlessly orchestrated. With more than 20 years of jazz
cruise experience, Michael Lazaroff of Jazz Cruises, LLC,
has tweaked every detail of all of his cruises by hiring
some of the best people from all areas of the business. First,
he operates an established family-owned travel agency to
handle all of the bookings and travel arrangements. He hired
Southern California promoter Scott Pedersen (Scottland Concerts)
to act as artistic director to book all of the bands and
artists and gather an experienced production crew. And to
manage all cruise operations, he added Dane Butcher, with
eight years of cruise line experience, as Jazz Cruises, LLC’s
director of cruise operations and marketing, and onboard
As different as all of these cruises are, one commonality
that they share is the friendships that are formed throughout
the week at sea. Whether it’s with other jazz fans
or the stars they admire, these precious new relationships
and fond memories, combined with the incredible music, are
the strong forces that seduce people back to sea each year.
No smooth jazz fan’s life will be complete without
experiencing the succulence of a smooth jazz-themed cruise.
This month's Smooth Jazz News is a special cruise edition
and features reviews of the smooth jazz-themed cruises that
sailed this past year. Subscribe today and receive 11 issues
of Smooth Jazz News, including this special jazz cruise edition.