Excuse the play on words, but it was too tempting to resist. The first of our “Vine” inspirations is by far the most important. The Divine Nine is the nickname of a group of nine historically Black Greek-letter organizations called the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). For years, on an informal basis, many of the member groups have gathered on the sailings of The Smooth Jazz Cruise for a photo and a meet and greet. Jazz Cruises has admired the energy, camaraderie, and dedication of that group and, for our ’24 Sailings, we wanted to participate and support this undertaking.

From that starting point came the Divine Nine Challenge, a contest for each of The Smooth Jazz Cruises as to which member organization would have the largest number of participants. The prize for each sailing was a $1,000 contribution to the scholarship fund of the winner. Participation far exceeded even our wildest dreams. In each case more than 200 guests attended the event and participated in the photograph sessions. You can see some of these amazing photos below.

Which organization was the winner? The “Deltas” (Delta Sigma Theta) smoked the competition on both sailings. A check for $2,000 has been sent and received by their national office. Supporting education in any way we can has been a priority of Jazz Cruises since our inception in 2001. That commitment will continue to grow as the width and breadth of our cruise programs, land-based programs, and other pursuits expand. We are working on a broader plan for our Divine Nine guests and will be unveiling that very soon. Besides doing good, the event was so much fun. Watching the happy guests in their “colors” proudly representing their organization and the spirit of NPHC in general, was inspirational.

Devine + 2 is also about college and fraternal organizations. Only this time, the focus is personal. On Botti at Sea ’24 were my two best friends and fraternity brothers from college. Graduating in 1972, this was our 52-year graduation reunion. Though we have gathered in groups of two recently, we have been together as a trio only twice during that period. The first was to attend a Yankee game (NYC) and the second was to gather in Cooperstown for the induction of our very own Eric Nadel into the Ford Frick wing of The National Baseball Hall of Fame. Eric has been the longtime voice of the Texas Rangers and is enjoying their first ever World Series victory as well as indulging his love of music.

The third member of the group is Jay Devine, hence the play on words. Jay was the President of our fraternity, a great athlete, and a top attorney in the Norwalk, Connecticut area. Jay’s primary job was to always ridicule Eric and me (mainly me) making sure that our insecurities and frailties would continue through graduation. As those who know me well would attest, he was very successful in his mission. Jay brought his very lovely and smart daughter Kim along for the reunion. Eric and I surmised that she was there to keep Jay “in check”.

My third “Vine” of the day is a bit of a stretch, but the story is so good that I wanted to share it regardless of how I shoehorned it into this note. Years ago, Jazz Cruises produced the Signature Jazz Cruises, elegant jazz programs that sailed in the Mediterranean on Seabourn ships and featured some spectacular ports of call and activities. For those sailings, we retained the services of Michael Bauer, the top food critic of the San Francisco Chronicle. He selected the restaurants that we would visit in Portofino, Florence, etc. He accompanied the groups, assisted the local chefs with a presentation and made the dining experience even more exciting.

Recently, Michael retired. His retirement was noted in an article which called him the most feared food critic in San Francisco. Famous for his disguises which cloaked his identity when reviewing an eatery, I remember trying to find him at a table in a Dim Sum Restaurant (Chinatown) where we met to discuss the cruises. His work on the cruises was without costume which made him very approachable and engaging. A few days ago, I took a flyer and called him to discuss whether he would help us curate the two full days (one night) that our Journey of Jazz Cruise (stay tuned for the announcement on March 22) would enjoy.

If you have not read this before, we will be creating day trips to Napa, Sonoma and other points of interest. There will be special dining opportunities in those locales as well as in San Francisco proper. Michael has agreed to rejoin us for this venture and be our guide! By the way, for those who wish to expand their musical experience, we are presenting shows at SFJAZZ each day, just for our guests. If you have not been to that facility, it is one of the most beautiful and technically brilliant jazz venues in the world.
If you have not guessed already, Michael is a wine expert, so the “De – Vine” reference is intended to capture that notion as well. I can hear the groans from the readers loud and clear. Please be kind, we have not been home from the cruises that long. A trio of vine references seemed like a good idea at the time.

I understand that “vine” is also a social media term for a very short silly video clip that loops incessantly. Next time you see me, feel free to call me a vine! That would be vine with me.

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


We don’t think of Alonzo Bodden as a comedian. No, we think of him as OUR comedian. That’s because he’s sailed with us more than 50 times and has become a favorite of our guests, not only for his stand-up sets, but also for his interviews and for his hilarious hosting of Band Feuds and other events. But his time with us on the ship is only for four weeks. During the other 48 weeks of the year, he’s out there performing on NPR’s hit show “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” as well as touring with his own stand-up show. Coming up later this month are shows at the Den Theater in Chicago (Mar. 21) and Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco (Mar. 27). 

Check out Alonzo’s complete touring schedule below.


The cruise sails in less than two months and there are only 40 Inside staterooms remaining.

We are extending the Jazz Cruises Pop Up sale for all Inside Staterooms until March 18, 2024. Your Cruise Fare will be only $875/person(*)! Call the office and tell them that you want the Pop Up price! If you complete your reservation online, POPUP will be your promo code.

(*) The POPUP offer is for new reservations only and may not be combined with any other offer or discounts. Pricing is per person based on double occupancy and does not include pass through charges.


2-Day Tickets are now available on Ticketmaster for STL JAZZ FEST. 1-Day Tickets will go on sale Friday, May 31. For details about the festival and how to purchase tickets, see below:

Produced by Jazz Cruises
The Factory – Chesterfield (St. Louis) Missouri

Eric Marienthal Quintet, featuring Niki Haris
The Comedy of Alonzo Bodden

Mindi Abair with Eric Marienthal & Friends
The Comedy of Alonzo Bodden
  Doors 6 pm / Showtime 7 pm


The Jazz Cruise ’25
Celebrating its 25th Anniversary

The plans for the 25th Anniversary sailing of The Jazz Cruise ’25 are spectacular. The cruise is over 87% reserved and is currently in Open Booking, which means that now anyone may reserve any available stateroom. Staterooms with Verandas remain in inventory along with Ocean View and Inside Staterooms.

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. WAITLIST guests qualify for special terms when reserving a stateroom on The Jazz Cruise ’25 or Botti at Sea II.

Botti at Sea II
Every Night is a Night on the Town

Botti at Sea II is in the Open Booking stage and is over 60% reserved. Anyone may reserve any available stateroom either by calling the office during regular business hours or doing so online. It was this time last year that there was a “run” on staterooms, so act now! 

Journey of Jazz ’25
Jazz Life at Sea & On Land 

Jazz Cruises’ newest program, Journey of Jazz ’25, hosted by Marcus Miller & Gregory Porter, has completed the Pre-Sale process and began Open Booking on April 30, 2024. Like a race care, this program as gone from 0 – 60(%) sold in the blink of an eye. 


Apryl – New Jersey
Richard & Yoli – Florida

Guests on the ’24 jazz 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].

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