January 28, 2013
When we won our bid on the Smooth Jazz Cruise package at SARDAA’s live auction during the fundraising gala last October, we really didn’t have a clear idea of what was involved. We assumed that it would be like other cruises we’d been on, with shows by various artists in the evening and the remainder of the day left to normal cruise activities.
While we enjoy smooth jazz, and listen to it occasionally, we were by no means ardent fans. We hadn’t been to a live music show of any type for more than five years.
Russ and Linda Stalters are true smooth jazz aficionados and have been on the cruise several times in the past. Through them, we had learned a little about the genre, and had even met Tom Braxton and Peter White on previous occasions. Russ and Linda tried to tell us what to expect on the cruise, but it didn’t really register.
When we arrived in Fort Lauderdale and boarded the ship, our first stop was Russ’s and Linda’s stateroom, where they were having some friends gather to toast the beginning of the voyage. About fifteen of us were in their suite and on their veranda drinking champagne, when Tom Braxton joined us, wearing his SARDAA T‐shirt, and serenaded us as we left the dock. And that was just the start!
From then on, it was a non‐stop adventure, truly “The Greatest Party at Sea!” At the concert the first night, we were entertained by some of the smooth jazz greats, including Marcus Miller, David Sanborn, Tom Braxton, Brian Culbertson, Richard Elliott, Rick Braun, Brian Simpson and Candy Dulfer, among others. There was so much talent, we were truly inundated. So many memorable events … Jonathan Butler’s Gospel Show, the first live presentation of the album “Double Vision,” the fantastic all‐star opening and closing shows, Brian Culbertson’s high energy keyboarding, the incomparable George Benson! And the experiences continued for the entire week, with concerts every night focusing on these artists, as well as many others including Bob James, Raul Midon, Jeff Golub and jazz violinist Ken Ford. We routinely sat in the second row in order not to miss anything! These concerts were supplemented by smaller afternoon sessions that focused on really getting to know individual artists, giving the audience a chance to hear interviews and ask questions. And then there were the midnight concerts, featuring these same artists, plus raucous routines with comedian Alonzo Bodden.
(Check out www.thesmoothjazzcruise.com to see all the great performers and events there wasn’t room to list here.)
The cruise aspects of this trip were also great, with impressive accommodations and an over‐abundance of good food. Part of the experience is setting up a table of ten or more friends for dinner every night and enjoying meeting people who have followed smooth jazz for a long time. We learned so much! The most remarkable thing noticed was the mood we all found ourselves in: everyone on the cruise, all of us from many different walks of life, found ourselves happy and mellow. It was an extremely friendly place to be.
In addition, the opportunities for onshore excursions in Cozumel, Belize, and Key West were numerous and varied, fun and interesting, although they couldn’t really compare to the fun we had on board.
Whether you are a smooth jazz fan, or a music lover who might like to be, we can highly recommend this cruise. What a unique opportunity to be surrounded by and immersed in smooth jazz music, its artists, and its fans, while sailing the sea. For us as well as our fellow cruisers, it was truly an unforgettable, and addicting, experience!
Christian and Pam Liipfert