HISTORY OF THE JAZZ CRUISE
More than 40 years ago, Norwegian Cruise Line (“NCL”) sponsored an annual jazz cruise on the SS Norway. This program was a “group” cruise, meaning that the jazz program shared the ship with other passengers. Though this form of jazz cruise had its limitations, it was very successful for more than a decade and provided the foundation for the growth of The Jazz Cruise and, eventually, Entertainment Cruise Productions.
During those early years of NCL’s Jazz Cruise, Anita E. Berry quickly became the largest group leader in terms of the number of guests she produced for the cruise. Eventually her group was so large that NCL asked her to become involved in the production of the cruise, the selection of the musicians, the ports-of-call and other aspects of the cruise’s development.
But all of this came to a stop in 2000, when NCL decided to terminate its theme cruises. This setback did not stop Anita, who, though just turning 70 years old, decided that she had the resources (guest list, cruise expertise, relationships with musicians and finances) to go it on her own. More than that, she had always wanted the “holy grail” of theme cruises, a full-ship charter. What ensued was her creation of The Jazz Cruise, the first and still only full-ship charter in the world dedicated to “straight ahead” jazz.
The Jazz Cruise, as a full-ship charter cruise, will be celebrating its 20th anniversary when The Jazz Cruise ’20 sails from February 1 – 8, 2020. The program has sold out each year and the cruise now boasts an international guest list.
The Jazz Cruise has formed the basis of all the cruise programs of Entertainment Cruise Productions. Since that first sailing, Entertainment Cruise Productions has produced nearly 80 full-ship charters, all stemming from the original format of The Jazz Cruise.
SELECTION OF MUSICIANS
The ship has several amazing venues which we use based upon the size of the group performing and what type of venue is best for that performing group.
- Celebrity Theater – The main auditorium on the ship seats 1,000 guests. The theater is tiered, virtually free of obstructions and very comfortable. Our one-of-a-kind shows, Anita’s Big Band and other “gala” shows are presented in the Celebrity Theater.
- Constellation – Located on the top deck of the ship, Constellation provides a panoramic view as well as amazing sight lines and comfort. Between 500 and 600 people can fit (seated) in the lounge. High energy shows, significant interviews and other events requiring a larger space are held in Constellation.
- Rendezvous Lounge – The most jazz club looking venue on the ship is strategically located between the main dining room and The Celebrity Theater. As being amid the most trafficked area of the ship, we tend to present trios, interviews, and other events of a fun nature in the Rendezvous Lounge.
- Grand Foyer – Located in the center of the ship, the Grand Foyer is the focal point of three decks. Though not a traditional venue, the Grand Foyer provides a spectacular place for solo piano, duets and interviews.
- Birdland at The Trellis Restaurant – Our most unique venue is in The Trellis Restaurant, the main dining room. With its two levels of horseshoe shaped seating and huge glass backdrop, we convert The Trellis Restaurant into a very hip and classy music venue, where late-night shows and afternoon presentations are offered. Everyone loves performing and attending shows in this venue. The designation of Birdland is in deference to the Birdland Jazz Club in NYC. In fact, Gianni Valenti, owner of Birdland, serves as the host of the venue each night.
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, allowing 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.
TYPES OF MUSIC PRESENTED: “IN CONCERT” PROGRAMMING
As indicated in the Selection of Musicians section, the shows (typically 90-minute sets without an intermission) include performances by Performing Groups, All Stars, Big Band and Special Shows (see below). Each Performing Group presents 4 sets during the week, allowing guests to sample each of the performers at various times. All Stars and Big Band musicians usually perform 6 sets, distributed between those two configurations.
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.
All totaled, The Jazz Cruise offers around 225 hours of music in a week, which we label as our “In Concert” programming.
MORE THAN GREAT MUSIC: “LEARN” & “ENJOY”
In addition to our “In Concert” programming, The Jazz Cruise takes the opportunity of having so many amazing and interesting jazz musicians on board to present interview and Q&A sessions throughout the week. Our “Learn” program for The Jazz Cruise ’20 will include sessions led by Don Was, Eulis Cathey, Dick Golden and Christian McBride. All four are accomplished interviewers and have radio programs on SXM’s Real Jazz station. Their interview format may be a special one-on-one, or they may host a panel discussion. Regardless of the configuration of the show, guests will have the opportunity to learn about the musicians off the bandstand. Each session will include a question and answer opportunity and ample audience participation.
Not all the events on The Jazz Cruise are serious. Sometimes, we simply “Enjoy” the cruise, the camaraderie of our fellow guests or spending time with the musicians. “Enjoy” programming includes numerous Musician Hosted Events (dinners, wine tastings, excursions, Cigars Under The Stars), professionally hosted daily Bridge sessions, special exercise and health programs, trivia and Name That Tune sessions, and other events highlighting the less serious side of jazz. Musicians frequently interact with guests in informal settings during the cruise as well. In fact, most of the musicians freely spend time with the guests in the dining rooms, pool side and in the lounges.
Dancing is one of the most popular “Enjoy” events, and The Jazz Cruise offers several opportunities for dancing, especially the annual Houston Person Dance Party, reminiscent of the days when couples went out in the evening for music and dancing. We literally “roll up the carpet” and prepare a dance floor suitable for this event.
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.