The cruise set sail the following day on board the supership Carnival Conquest, with Marion Meadows and Nick Colionne setting the tone for the rest of the cruise - Marion was his usual smooth melodic self, and Nick knocked everyone over with his showmanship as usual. From then on each headliner picked up the gauntlet thrown down by those two and the shows were incredible every evening. Nick hosted the jam sessions which were once again THE hot event, but this time around the jam sessions were held in the main showroom and everyone could attend - what an amazing experience to see so many incredible artists seamlessly performing night after night totally spontaneously.
The featured headliners read like a who's who of jazz - host Brian Culbertson, jam session host Nick Colionne, Boney James, Marion Meadows, Gerald Albright, Norman Brown, Candy Dulfer (gorgeous and can she blow!), Craig Chaquico, Paul Taylor, Pamela Williams, Down to the Bone, Maysa, Alan Hewitt, Eric Darius and Gerald Veasley. But the "surprise" guests were amazing as well - imagine seeing Warren Hill, Michael Lington, Bobby Lyle, Chieli Minnuci, Michael Manson, Ray Parker Jr., Althea Renee and Terry Steele all performing during various shows as guests and on stage joining in the jams without knowing you were going to ahead of time....the cruisers on this amazing musical journey got more than their money's worth! Although he came on the cruise with Candy Dulfer as her keyboardist, Chance Howard's singing during her show and the jam sessions was a crowd favorite, and newcomer and sax player Shannon Kennedy showed that there's plenty of talent among the younger set.
The PRO/AM was an audience favorite, as well. There were certainly a lot of talented cruisers in the audience and they all sounded like pro's, that's how good they were. Sax player Skinny Williams from Chicago, who was on board, wound up playing during several of the jam sessions as well - everyone knows talent when they hear it. The sidemen on the cruise were all world class, and it was great to see Lenny Castro in the "house" band. He has played on just about every headliner's CDs and/or in their shows and it was a treat to see him "Live". And then there were the poolside sets, notably Chieli Minucci, Michael Lington and Shilts from Down To The Bone...these were open to everyone on board and lots of new fans lined up to hear the great music. There were a lot of impromptu sessions in the ship's jazz bar, and in the grand lobby which were also open to any lucky person who happened by!
The final evening began with a two hour show by Brian which most of the headliners joined in, with Ray Parker Jr. doing his "Ghostbusters" as a sing-along...what fun! And then the grand finale - Brian directed as Chance Howard sang "Fantastic Voyage" and was joined on stage by all the remaining headliners and guests, and at the very end Nick Colionne came on stage to thunderous applause, which continued as the song came to an end and embraced all the performers on stage.
Oh yes - the weather was great and everyone had fun in the ports of Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Cozumel, but this cruise was about the music, no doubt about it. Can't wait for the 2008 cruise!