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History Of The Jazz Cruise

The origins of The Jazz Cruise started more than 30 years ago, when Norwegian Cruise Line (“NCL”) sponsored an annual jazz cruise on the old 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 artists, 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, her creation of The Jazz Cruise, the first and still only full ship charter in the world dedicated to “straight ahead” jazz, just completed its Crystal Anniversary (15th) Sailing, all sell outs.

The Jazz Cruise has formed the basis of all of the cruise programs of Entertainment Cruise Productions.

Selection of Musicians

The Jazz Cruise prides itself on the selection of the finest jazz musicians in the world. Musicians are selected as either part of a Performing Group or as an All Star/Big Band Musician. The Performing Groups are comprised of set players who regularly tour together and perform sets on the ship from their repertoire of tunes. The All Star/Big Band Musicians are assigned places in our own Big Band or in various All Star sessions which typically include a rhythm section (piano, bass, drums) and some variation of horns, reeds and vocals. Some musicians perform in both the Big Band and as an All Star and some perform just in one of the two categories. The total number of musicians and vocalists on any given cruise ranges from 90 – 100.

Festival Style Presentation

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 Shows Presented

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 (currently Shelly Berg).

All totaled The Jazz Cruise offers around 225 hours of music in a week.

Non-Music Events

In addition to the abundance of music presentations during the week, The Jazz Cruise takes the opportunity of having so many amazing and interesting jazz musicians onboard to feature interview and Q & A sessions throughout the week. There are three sessions of Marcus Miller’s Conversations with the Stars, where Marcus interviews groups of performers who share a common thread (i.e., The Legends, The Vocalists, etc.) and there are other folks who host and participate in one on one conversation, typically delving into both interesting jazz topics and the careers of our prominent players.

The events are not always serious, as Name That Tune games and other events highlighting the less serious side of jazz are also presented. Musicians frequently interact with guests in informal settings during the cruise as well. In fact, virtually all of the musicians freely spend time with the guests in the dining rooms, pool side and at events like our Cigars Under The Stars.