In a few hours, several Jazz Cruises’ staff will be boarding Celebrity Summit for a 5-day cruise during which we will be preparing for our four 7-day programs that begin on January 18, 2024, with The Jazz Cruise ’24. The next four editions of The Weekender will be delivered while we are “At Sea.” Each edition, starting with the January 20 note, will highlight the activities of the cruise then in progress. Hopefully, we can share some of the excitement of the cruises with everyone.

I have mentioned before that we call the sailing before our cruises the “Pre-Cruise” and that those few days are excruciatingly boring. I stand by that statement, but the time is more well spent than I may have suggested. Being on the ship allows us to tend to the details of the cruise that we cannot address from our office and we are able to spend some time with the key members of the cruise staff.

Celebrity Cruises works with us to assign a cadre of senior staff that have sailed with us before. The Hotel Director and the Celebrity Cruises liaison for our cruises have been part of our team for several years now. The Chief Housekeeper, Food & Beverage Manager and other important roles are also being manned by folks familiar with our programs. There are 900 crew members and staff on our Celebrity Cruises, and they are rotated from ship to ship, so getting to know as many staff members as possible during the Pre-Cruise is an important undertaking for us.

We also take this time to address last minute changes in Talent. Over the four sailings, there are more than 225 performers scheduled to join us. Invariably, there are changes, additions, and, unfortunately, some subtractions.

In the past few days, we learned that Houston Person would not be able to sail on The Jazz Cruise ’24. This will be the first sailing of that program that he will miss. Now, only John Clayton has sailed every year. Houston is being treated for exhaustion and related symptoms. Being nearly 90, you would expect him to slow down a bit, but, if anything, his recent schedule of performances has increased. Had the issue been simply more gigs, that would not have stopped this amazing man and performer. The culprit in this case is the arduous travel schedule that he undertook.

I have chronicled the special relationship between Houston and Jazz Cruises, as well as with my entire family, particularly my mother, Anita E. Berry, the founder of The Jazz Cruise. He never forgot her birthday, Valentine’s Day or Christmas. There was always a card and a box of pralines to her from him. And, of course, there were the monthly phone calls. Houston has supported the cruise and assisted us with many, many of its programs. He remains one of the very few performers that will provide the music for our dancing events on the cruise. As he has said to me many times, “dancing is what made jazz popular in the first place.”

Our adoration for Houston goes beyond a personal connection. Without a doubt he is one of the most talented and revered performers in the genre. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, in the course of jazz history never has one person provided so much music with so few notes. One of my pet peeves has always been judging musicians by their ability to fill the void with a large number of notes. Some find that trait to be admired. I find that it often blurs the music and the impact of the tune. Houston shares notes the way you would share a $100 bill. Carefully and with purpose.

It will be strange, if not very difficult, to sail on The Jazz Cruise ’24 without Houston Person being there to perform, provide guidance and make fun of just about everything I do. I am sure that there will be ample volunteers for that last role, but no one ever did it with as much love and heart as Houston.

Always happy and fun to be with, I can see that twinkle in his eye right now. Get well soon, my man!

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].

Photo Credit: Anna Yatskevich


Botti at Sea II (’25) will soon be announced. On Monday January 15, 2024, you will receive an important email notification that will have all the information about the cruise, including how guests on Botti at Sea ’24 may rebook for Botti at Sea II and how everyone else may establish their priority status to reserve a stateroom. Required actions will be time sensitive.

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.


  • Starting on January 16, 2024, guests on Botti at Sea ’24 have the exclusive right to rebook their current staterooms for Botti at Sea II. That privilege will extend through the first half of Botti at Sea ’24.
  • Also starting on January 16, 2024, those not sailing on Botti at Sea ‘24 may establish their priority for selecting a stateroom Botti at Sea II by completing a Pre-Sale Reservation.
  • Details and instructions for Rebooking or a Pre-Sale Reservation will be provided in the email notification you will receive on Monday, January 15, 2024.

The January 15, 2024 notification will include the announcement of another amazing lineup. Please know that a few performers are still clearing schedules before we can make their participation public. The final lineup will be announced as soon as possible.


Noted author Judith Tick has just published a new biography on vocal jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald.

Titled Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song, the book lives up to its name with in-depth research and testimony about how a shy singing (and dancing) kid from Yonkers, N.Y. became one of the greatest singers of the 20th Century. One theme that echoes throughout this well-written book is Ella’s love for the audience. “She understood that music could bring people together,” the author told our own Lee Mergner. “She understood that she could reach out right across the generations. You know what Ray Brown Jr., her son, said to me? ‘My mother was all about the audience.’ And he meant that in the highest way, a compliment, not that she was just out to please people in a kind of trivial sense, but that she understood that music could.”


We’re looking forward to our upcoming sailings and one of our favorite aspects are the interviews with the artists usually held during the day. As you may know, we tape all of the conversations on the various programs from Jazz Cruises and release them later as episodes of the Jazz Cruises Conversations podcast, available on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. To date, there are more than 80 episodes with interviews with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to Michael McDonald, done by our hosts including Marcus Miller, Shelly Berg, Alonzo Bodden, Christian McBride and Eric Marienthal, to name a few, who reveal the stories behind the music and artists we love. Give a listen on iTunes or Spotify


Mike K. & Jackie W. – New Jersey
Roxanne 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]


The Jazz Cruise ’24, both sailings of The Smooth Jazz Cruise ’24 and Botti at Sea ’24 have been fully reserved for months. However, with over 8,000 guests signed up for those sailings, cancellations for various reasons are inevitable. As of today, there are between 1 and 6 staterooms open for each sailing. Most of the time they are filled from our Wait List, but, if you want to sign up now for ’24, call the office during normal business hours and ask what might be available for the ’24 Cruise of your choice.

McDonald & LaBelle Cruise ’24

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

Jazz Cruises’ ’25 Programs

The Jazz Cruise ’25
Celebrating its 25th Anniversary

The Jazz Cruise ’25 is 82% reserved and is currently in “Open Booking,” where anyone may reserve any available stateroom. You may view current stateroom availability and start your reservation on the website now.

The Smooth Jazz Cruise ‘25.1 & ‘25.2
Starting its 3rd Decade

With both sailings being fully reserved, guests wishing to sail on a ’25 sailing of The Smooth Jazz Cruise should JOIN WAITLIST now. Cancellations will be filled exclusively from the WAITLIST.

Botti at Sea II
(’25 Sailing)

Botti at Sea II began “Open Booking” on March 5, 2024 and is over 50% reserved. Anyone may reserve any available stateroom either by calling the office during regular business hours or doing so online.

Journey of Jazz ’25
Jazz Life at Sea & On Land 
West Coast Style 

Jazz Cruises’ newest program, Journey of Jazz ’25, hosted by Marcus Miller & Gregory Porter is currently in the stateroom Selection Process for Pre-Sale Reservation holders. “Open Booking” will begin on April 30, 2024.

For more information about the cruise, the lineup of musicians (as of today), full itinerary, pricing and reservation process, go to www.journeyofjazz.com.

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