Happy New Year! I trust the each of you had a lovely holiday season and are ready to take on a new year. 24 years ago, we were awaiting Armageddon at this time as the threat of worldwide shutdown and chaos loomed due to concerns about the impact of Y2K. Fortunately, that anxiety was quickly squelched in sharp contrast to the various concerns facing our world today. Most of these issues will not be resolved for a while.

What we can somewhat monitor and control is our love of music and our ability to enjoy live productions. Attendance at live music shows is at an all time high. In this era where so many people interact primarily by electronic device, the rush to see and hear live music is particularly encouraging. Even the staunchest gamer or device demon needs some kind of stimulus with people. If live music is the choice for doing so, that is even better.

The world of Jazz Cruises reflects the growing interest in live music. The upcoming ’24 Cruises are fully subscribed, and the readership of The Weekender and Jazz Notes is larger than ever. After a one-week holiday, The Weekender returns in its rightful place as the first email you receive on Saturday mornings. Be sure to check out our special 1.20/1.27/2.3/2.10 “at sea” editions which will feature updates from the cruises. The next issue of Jazz Notes will be issued on 2.21 (Wednesday) and will continue its every other Wednesday publication cycle for the rest of the year.

Being only 12 days away from the start of The Jazz Cruise ’24, the first of four weeks at sea, we are deep into the final preparations for that cruise. With 100 musicians and over 220 hours of music, The Jazz Cruise ’24 requires lots of lists and detailed organization. The Smooth Jazz Cruise and Botti at Sea require the same amount of time and dedication, but the “festival style” format of The Jazz Cruise with its constant overlap of shows in various venues is very challenging.

On The Smooth Jazz Cruise and Botti at Sea, with their BLUE/RED nightly main show format, from just after 5 pm until just after 10:30 pm each night, guests are either having dinner or attending that evening’s main show. Events and shows are presented in Rendezvous and Sky Lounges as well during this time, but they do not overlap. Once we hit 10:30 pm, Jazz Cruises’ famous Cruising After Dark programming is launched and every venue on the ship is filled with activities. Afternoons at sea reflect that same degree of programming.

Admittedly, I am very excited about the upcoming cruises and cannot wait to get started. As many of you know a small landing party of Jazz Cruises’ folks will be boarding our ship on 1.13 for a five-day cruise during which time, we will be meeting with Celebrity Cruises’ staff and preparing for our sailings. We call this our “Pre-Cruise”. Believe me, those five days are among the most boring days of the year, if not of my life.

Why? Because we are on a regularly scheduled cruise with all the usual entertainment that such a cruise provides. Secondly, knowing that our cruises are just days away is like being a kid waiting for Christmas. Those last few days can seem like an eternity.

For us, the excitement of the talent arriving, boarding the ship, and preparing to perform coupled with the anticipation of our guests, many of whom we have known for years, joining us for this amazing experience are the most intoxicating, emotional, and rewarding days of the season. Watching it come together. Seeing the smiling faces. No better feeling, ever.

Folks keep asking me if there are particular upcoming cruise shows that I cannot wait to see and hear. I could say “all of them”, which would be both accurate and an artful dodge. At the risk of upsetting many of my performer close friends and idols, here is my list of “must see (hear) shows” for the upcoming ’24 Cruises:

The Jazz Cruise ‘24
Chucho Valdes and Paquito D’Rivera Reunion
John Clayton directing Anita’s Big Band
– Any time Randy Brecker performs

The Smooth Jazz Cruise ’24.1 & ’24.2
– Welcome Show Opening Song
Marcus Miller’s History of Jazz
– All Game Shows

Botti at Sea ‘24
– Another vote for the Welcome Show
– Every Nightly Main Show in the Celebrity Theatre (all new shows)
– Mentalist Lior Suchard

And, for all the cruises, any time Alonzo Bodden performs. Watching him weave his material in and out is fascinating.

Though my selections were heartfelt, I must admit that I was trying to avoid the land mines clearly there if I made certain choices. On the other hand, there is the distinct possibility, even probability, that each of you sailing on the ’24 Cruises will follow your own thoughts and ideas as to what is a “must see (hear) cruise event.”

One final thought, if I missed every show, but could spend some time with each guest sailing, that would more than suffice. Missing the shows would hurt, but there is no YouTube alternative to talking to the 8,000 guests that would be sailing with us on the ’24 cruises.

By Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director of The Jazz Cruise, The Smooth Jazz Cruise, Chris Botti at Sea and The McDonald & LaBelle Cruise. Feel free to express your views or pose questions to him at [email protected].


Our friends at the Berks Jazz Fest have announced the lineup for their 10-day festival to be held April 5-14 at various venues in and around Reading, Pa. Among the headliners are many favorites of Jazz Cruises guests, including: Marcus Miller & Jonathan Butler; Christian McBride; Keiko Matsui; Brian Culbertson; Rick Braun, Richard Elliot and Peter White; Lee Ritenour & Dave Grusin; Kirk Whalum; Eric Darius & Rebecca Jade; and Joey Alexander. Among the other performers are Pat Metheny, Tuck & Patti, and Lakecia Benjamin, as well as a tribute to Grover Washington, Jr., the Chuck Loeb Memorial All-Star Jam and Chris “Big Dog” Davis’ “Celebrating Women in Jazz” concert with Melba Moore, Nicole Henry, Paulette McWilliams and others.“The goal each year is to program and present artists who represent the diversity of musical styles that make up the jazz genre,” said John Ernesto, Berks Jazz Fest artistic director. “This lineup will provide fans the opportunity to experience and enjoy traditional jazz, contemporary jazz, fusion jazz, big band, blues, R&B and more.”



Botti at Sea ’24 has been fully reserved for months and will set sail in 33 days. More good news, Botti at Sea II, the ’25 Sailing is ready to launch! Be sure to check your email on January 15, 2024, to learn the full details of the encore sailing of this highly anticipated cruise.

What we can tell you now is that the cruise will sail from February 4 – 11, 2025, on Celebrity Summit. Ft. Lauderdale will be the embarkation & disembarkation port and the ports-of-call will include Cozumel and the Cayman Islands. The full (amazing) lineup will be shared in the launch announcement as well as the procedure for reserving a stateroom. Starting on January 16, 2024, guests on Botti at Sea ’24 may start to rebook their current staterooms for the ’25 sailings and those not sailing in ’24 may establish their priority for selecting a stateroom by completing a Pre-Sale Reservation.

If you are sailing on Botti at Sea ’24, you know how exciting Chris Botti’s sailing program will be and if you are not sailing in ’24, you do not want to miss the opportunity to do so in ’25.


All the details of The Jazz Cruise ’25 have been announced and can be reviewed on the website. The lineup is stellar as always with the right combination of familiar musicians, new musicians, and legends. The Jazz Cruise has been called “Straight-Ahead Jazz Heaven” and the 25th Anniversary edition lives up to that billing and more!

From now through January 21, the third full day of The Jazz Cruise ’24, guests on the ‘24 sailing (’24 Guests) have the exclusive right to rebook their current stateroom. During the last few days of the cruise, ’24 Guests may reserve a different stateroom from the remaining inventory.

Not a ’24 Guest? From now through January 17, 2024, anyone not sailing on The Jazz Cruise ’24 may establish their priority for selecting a stateroom for The Jazz Cruise ’25 by completing a Pre-Sale Reservation.

In early February, those who have completed a Pre-Sale Reservation will be able to select any available stateroom and complete a reservation. More than 200 guests completed that process at this time. Open Booking will not start until every Pre-Sale Reservation holder has had a chance to select a stateroom.

The path is simple.

  • If you are a ’24 Guest, you have the exclusive right to rebook your current stateroom or choose a different stateroom from now through January 25, 2024, the last day of The Jazz Cruise ’24.
  • If you are not a ’24 Guest, you may complete a Pre-Sale Reservation to lock in your spot to select a stateroom sometime in early February.

The procedure for rebooking or for completing a Pre-Sale Reservation may be found on The Jazz Cruise website. Click on ‘25 Booking Procedures and follow the prompts.


The Smooth Jazz Cruise ’25.1 & ’25.2 were announced to the public on September 26, 2023. Since that time, Guests on the ’24 Sailings (’24 Guests) have been rebooking their current staterooms or selecting other available staterooms. Over 1,200 Pre-Sale Reservations have been submitted by non-’24 Guests. As a result, 85% of the staterooms are now reserved.

The ’24 Guest Rebooking and non-’24 Guest Pre-Sale Reservation process has ended and Open Booking begins on Monday, January 8, 2024. That means, starting Monday, anyone may select any available stateroom and complete a reservation. You may complete this process online or by calling the office.

Over the years, many guests have used those weeks at sea to complete their reservations for the next year. Typically, the inventory of staterooms allows for that approach. The current levels of inventory, however, are lower than ever.

We urge anyone who would like to sail on a ’25 Sailing to take advantage of the time between the start of Open Booking and the sailings of The Smooth Jazz Cruise ’24 (1.25.24 – 2.8.24). The inventory of staterooms continues to deplete, and it is unlikely that there will be any staterooms once the ’24 Sailings are completed.


Jeanne C. – Florida
John W. – Maryland

Each guest on the cruises received The Weekender mug, which we hope you will use with your Saturday morning coffee while you read the latest edition.

Please share a picture of yourself & your mug with us so that we can include it for the 100,000+ folks who receive The Weekender each Saturday. 

Tag us @thejazzcruise @bottiatsea @thesmoothjazzcruise #jazzcruises and #theweekender. Email your photo to [email protected].


Individuals of several of The Divine Nine Sororities and Fraternities have asked The Smooth Jazz Cruise to issue the following challenge to each member organization of the National Pan Hellenic Council. How many members of your organization can you assemble, in your colors, for a group photo on the 5th evening of The Smooth Jazz Cruise ’24.1 and The Smooth Jazz Cruise ’24.2?

The winning organization, each week, will be awarded $1,000 for their scholarship funds. How you assemble your group is up to you. We do encourage each organization to nominate one guest to be their representative for the challenge. That person should contact us at [email protected] for more information.

You assemble the group. We take the photos. One organization wins $1,000 each week.


As part of the Get Ready series, we hosted Live Webinars just for guests on each of Jazz Cruises ‘24 sailings. We enjoyed hearing your questions and I hope that our answers were helpful. If you missed the webinars or wish to have a second look, you can access them through the Booked Guests page on each cruise website. Click the cruise below to access the past webinars:

The Jazz Cruise ’24
Webinar #1 recorded on November 16, 2023.
Webinar #2 (focused on Celebrity’s Online Check-In and Pre-Cruise Planner) recorded on December 7, 2023.

The Smooth Jazz Cruise ’24.1 & ‘24.2
Webinar #1 recorded on November 2, 2023.
Webinar #2 (focused on Celebrity’s Online Check-In and Pre-Cruise Planner) recorded on December 19, 2023.

Botti at Sea ’24
Webinar #1 Recorded on October 19, 2023.


With the opening of Celebrity’s Online Check-In and the requests for assistance in using the Pre-Cruise Planner, we have one last Pre-Cruise Webinars scheduled so that we can share some thoughts and recommendations:

Botti at Sea ‘24
DATE: Tuesday, January 9, 2024
TIME: 3:00 PM ET
Sign-Up for Webinar

McDonald & LaBelle Cruise ’24

The cruise sails in nearly four months, the program is nearly 85% reserved. If you wish to join us for this One-Time Only Cruise Getaway, we urge you to act now. 

The Jazz Cruise ’24

Botti at Sea ’24

The Smooth Jazz Cruise
‘24.1 & ‘24.2

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