Capital Jazz Super Cruise 2016 – Was the Third Time a Charm?

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I thought I’d get a head start on this post, so on October 6,  2016, I began taking notes. By that time, Hurricane Matthew had already reared its ugly eye, destroying any and everything in its path.  We were set to sail on Sunday, October 23rd and Matthew had affected the cruise’s route; we were informed a few days before sailing, that Nassau Bahamas would be our detour from Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas, where Jill Scott and Wanda Sykes were to perform on Norwegian’s private island, day 2.  It was to be a fun-filled day on the beach where we would have access to the beautiful sea along with laughs, good music, and lunch “on” Norwegian.  See Alaina Jenkins’ review.

We arrived at the host hotel the day before sailing so that we could attend the Meet and Greet.  I was super excited to be in Miami!  I looked forward to seeing my friends, what lie ahead for a week’s worth of music, sun/fun and that whole Capital Jazz Cruise vibe!

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Upon hotel registration at the Marriot, the day before sail off, we received a letter with two passes attached to inform us of our 1:00 pm shuttle appointment for the next day; at that point we decided 1 pm wouldn’t work for us. Other than that, things were on to a good start for the meet and greet. Everyone was pumped and ready for Sunday’s sailing to celebrate Capital Jazz’s 10th Anniversary!

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Folks mingling and having a good time. My gurl Laura and our friend, Reggie (top right). My heroes, Wes and James (bottom middle) who saved me last year with lending me the battery charger for my camera

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Pat Prescott, Jodine Dorce, Michael Colyar, Tony Richards and Donna Richardson, I think.

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NY homie, Lenny Green; me; and hubby. V is on the left who photo bombed us!

Day 1, sail off!  We took a cab to the port around 11:00 am, and it’s a good thing we did because when we arrived, the Norwegian Getaway had just returned from its previous trip, and those passengers were disembarking as the Capital Jazz cruisers were arriving to board the ship.   A long line had already formed to go through security.  Once inside, we had to wait in the terminal after registering and be called by groups to enter onto the ship.

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Wait, did she photo bomb us?!

In a nutshell, with permission from the following two cruisers, they totally covered the issues in their reviews; they appeared on the Capital Jazz Fest/SuperCruise FaceBook Page upon return from the cruise.

Jock TravelPlug Schofield
‘How The Capital Jazz Fest & SuperCruise F*cked Up and Ruined One of the Best Organized and Entertaining Themed Cruises’

Common Sense Rules 1 & 2 are as follows; 1. Don’t fix it if it’s not broke and 2. Keep it simple stupid. This is my sixth and definitely last year on the Capital Jazz Supercruise. My priors 5 times going have all been an awesome experience with incredible entertainment.  They were all on the Carnival cruise line and to attend a performance has been an effortless event. You choose an early or late dinnertime. Each guest performed for two shows and you went to the show based on your dinnertime. It was a pretty simple task to see a show and the only time you needed to arrive early was if you wanted close seats to the stage. Fast-forward this year to the 10th Anniversary of the Supercruise. The promoters of the cruise of changed the cruise line to the Norwegian Getaway. Let’s jump right to the issue.

Attending a show this year reminds me of my days as an undergrad student at Morgan State University. I attended Morgan State University at a time when you couldn’t register for classes online you had to show up early and wait in a long line that wrapped around the building and hoped that the classes you wanted would still be available by the time you got to enroll. At this year’s Capital Jazz Super Cruise in order to register for the main shows this year you have to register through Norwegian’s mobile app, a screen near the elevators on each floor or from the television in your cabin.  The video accompanied with this post shows you what most of the attendees experienced. Most of the shows were not available due to the size of these small venues. For shows that did not require registration you had to be there at least an hour before the show started in order to guarantee a sport in the small venues. Last night we waited in line for 90 minutes for the old school hip hop show before leaving when the show was supposed to start at 12:30. We left at 1:00am after getting in line at 11:30. They hadn’t let anyone in at 1:00am by the time we left. Yesterday, we waited an hour to see Kindred in the standby line, the line where if you didn’t get reservations for a show it was suggested you tried the Standby line. The show was held in a dinner theatre with the worst view (posted pic) of the stage for those that didn’t have a table in front of the stage. For those that didn’t make it to shows it caused an overflow and terrible wait times for bars and restaurants on the cruise. In attempt to make amends Capital Jazz has added additional shows for some of the artists.  However, in order to attend these added shows one must arrive at the venue at least an hour early and hope that you can get a seat. At this point, I’ve already chalked this cruise up as a loss and the worst vacation EVER. My legs are sore, my feet hurt and I’m tired or arriving at a venue over an hour early just to stand in line with the hopes of seeing an artist that I paid to see. If you know of any other well-organized music-themed cruises, please let me know.

Alaina Jenkins
I had heard SO MANY good things about this cruise! I was so incredibly excited to see the phenomenal line-up of artists that they advertised. And it was an impressive line-up! To make a very long and frustrating story short, I did not get to see 80% of the major headliners. This was for a variety of reasons, all stemming from piss-poor planning on the part of CJSC. The venues could not accommodate everyone on the cruise (approx. 3700 people) seeing all the acts throughout the week. If it was going to be logistically impossible to see ALL the major acts, then that should have been advertised as people were booking and paying for this cruise. Essentially, if they had said to me I would be only able to see 4 of the 20 major acts without hassle and frustration, I would not have booked this cruise at $2300! Conventional wisdom has stated that half of this price was for the Balcony room on Norwegian (I’ll get to them later), and the other half went to CJSC. Well, based on my calculations, CJSC owes me about $900 back in missed shows because of their inability to figure out how to get everybody into everything. I should not have to spend my vacation days standing in line after line after line, missing other activities and quality time with friends, for hours at a time just to “possibly” get into a show I could not get a reservation for. That’s right, on the first day of the cruise, once you were on the boat, you had to stand at a touch-screen on various walls and attempt to make your reservations for the shows you wanted. By the time we stood in line (well over an hour), there were only 3 shows (major headliners – Eric Benet / Angie Stone, BWB / Patti Austin, and OJays / Ledisi) left with seats for us to reserve. Out of 20 major headliners! And this is not even including the comedians (another issue). We were able to add a 4th major headliner (the Dance Theatre of Harlem) ONLY because they added a show, told us about it on a flyer left outside our rooms in the middle of the night (which I just happened to see) and we managed to get those reservations before the show “sold out.” Simply put, and pardon my language, but I have to be real here, it was a cluster-fuck, and very demoralizing and disappointing for those of us who really wanted to see and experience the other major acts. I missed out on Incognito, Ken Ford, Jose James, Kindred The Family Soul, Diane Schuur, Smokie Norful, Jazz Funk Soul, Bilal, Nick Colionne, Algebra Blessett, Lee Ritenour, Dwele, Howard Hewett, Regina Belle, Walter Beasley, and Frank McComb. If Eric Benet, Angie Stone, BWB, Patti Austin, the OJays, and Ledisi all came to the DMV area, I would not have paid collectively almost $1200 to see them in base ticket prices, so there is NO WAY CJSC can justify what I paid to see with what I received in actuality. Like I said, they owe me about $900.

Now, let’s talk about the other major headliner concert that, technically, everyone got to see because there was no requirement to reserve a seat; Wanda Sykes opening up for Jill Scott. Wanda was horrible; she was unfunny, admittedly not feeling well, and under the influence of mind-altering medication (Nyquil). Meanwhile, we were situated in the literal “backyard” of the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, in blistering heat, with no tents, not enough chairs for over 3000 guests (they advised us to bring our towels so we could sit on the ground), no First Aid station, and only 15 port-a-potties for over 3000 people! The whole event was a major public health hazard. What was supposed to be a complimentary, Norwegian-catered lunch for us during the concert, ended up being a buy your lunch from Atlantis employees who set up under their own tents and charged $4 for a bottle of water, and far more than that for food. Most of us didn’t see the entirety of Jill Scott’s performance because we had been out in that heat with no cover for over 2 hours and massive lines were forming for the shuttles that would get us back to the ship.

CJSC should be as mortified as we are horrified that their brand has taken this hit. Until they correct the narrative of this hot mess of a cruise (IF they can), I can only assume that they are profit-driven and not people-driven, and they simply don’t care that this cruise was a complete waste of my hard-earned money. CJSC owes each of us a sincere apology that clearly acknowledges their miss-steps and the significant impact they had on their guests/clients/customers, and they owe each of us a refund based on a realistic analysis of how many headliner acts any one cruiser could have reasonably been expected to see given the timing of the various events (several major headliners overlapped each other each night) and the limited capacity of the venues. Try as I might, I didn’t even get to see one major headliner each night! I saw 3, and I was on that ship 7 days!

Speaking of that ship, the Getaway on Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). The food was disgusting! I’ve had better meals, more carefully prepared and presented, in my cafeteria at work! The majority of the food clearly came from frozen and was just re-heated, or were sloppily thrown together one-dish meals designed to feed an army (or should I say a plantation?) Toast came 10 minutes after our omelettes, and generally our salads came out after the main entrees. The open, dine whenever and wherever you choose model didn’t fit my expectations of luxury dining on the high seas. The places where we had a decent meal (sushi and Japanese teppenyaki) required us to pay additional charges. It was worth it, because the food was edible and properly presented, but after paying over $2000, I should not have to spend an additional $20-30 a night just to have a good meal. The foodie in me just had to die this week, because Norwegian screwed the pooch all over the place when it came to food and customer service. I would hate to think that because it was a boat full of black folks that their service was not up to snuff, but hearing from others that NCL is not normally “that bad” gives me pause. And apparently NCL could not WAIT to get our black asses off their boat, because they took our bags, categorized by only 3 colors, and tossed them into the Customs Holding Area with no rhyme or reason, and then called “all colors” to disembark at practically the same time. Imagine thousands of people with several thousands of pieces of luggage, with nothing but a color code to attempt to find your luggage in a sea of people and porters. A high-holy mess! And we were told several times that NCL doesn’t normally handle their disembarkation this poorly.

This is already too long, but needless to say, Royal Caribbean has earned a loyalist for LIFE after this experience on NCL!

So, while it was nice to get away with great travel buddies (we know how to make our own fun), and the artists were incredibly gracious and for the most part approachable for photos and quick chats, I do feel that I was cheated out of the vacation I was anticipating. And for that, CJSC must answer and respond tangibly. #FixItCapitalJazz

More reviews and comments at Eurweb.com

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My Two Cents

This was my third cruise with the Capital Jazz organization and the question is, “Was the third time a Charm?”  The above reviews are certainly detailed and convey that the celebration a major milestone anniversary calls for was not the momentous event it should have been.   Of the shows I attended, hardly any of the performers acknowledged or congratulated Capital Jazz on celebrating their 10th anniversary! With all the drama of having to reserve shows, long lines, etc., maybe this mention was remiss?  I’m not sure.

Once we boarded, we saw that lines had formed in front of the kiosk wall where we had to reserve our desired shows.  I stood on the line for two hours.  Individuals, as well as groups of friends/family, were standing at the screen for at least a half hour or more per group in order to reserve every single show they wanted to see.  The process was ridiculous, to say the least.

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This kiosk process was the devil!!

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This football party/viewing would have either been on the pool deck or in a designated venue, and DJ Frances Jaye would have been here playing music, welcoming the cruisers were it on a Carnival Cruise Line. While they’re watching football (not appearing too happy about it), the other half of us were at the kiosk reserving shows…

Cruisers were pissed and threatened to get their money back from the 2017 cruise.  Not me, I’d already paid a substantial amount of money and not sure by requesting a refund at this time would work since the regulation is when a refund request is not made by the 30 day deadline, the deposit is lost or only a portion of the deposit can be refunded, which I believe is pretty standard.

Clearly, Norwegian is not designed for a music-themed cruise.  Comparing Norwegian to Carnival, the “ghetto ship” as I have heard it referred to, is well equipped to comfortably accommodate a music event as such.

The main theater on Carnival holds about 1500 where Norwegian’s theater only holds around 700—losing over half of the seats; by the way, were really uncomfortable with a wooden bar going across the back of the seat, causing a real pain in the ass–literally!  On Carnival, there is a wide space between each row and a small table aside each seat for drinks, etc.  Additionally, there’s enough space on the pool deck to accommodate a band and it could get crowded depending on the artist.  The pool deck’s layout on The Norweigan Getaway could not properly accommodate a large crowd during the day where it would have otherwise taken place were it on Carnival.

Audrey Batts Watson, Capital Jazz’s former Fun Director wasn’t part of the organization this year and personally, I sorely missed her presence.  There was a vast disconnect between the Capital Jazz staff and cruisers because folks were so upset.  The staff wasn’t as friendly as they have been in the past because they took the brunt of the cruisers’ frustration.  However, I along with the entire list of CJ cruisers (I am guessing) received an email from her stating she was with another company and it seems like Audrey will be organizing a music-themed cruise or more, sometime next year.  There was a survey link included in the email that asked questions about what folks would like to see based on their prior cruising experience.

I want to believe that the Capital Jazz Organization, had good intent by upgrading to approximately 1500 cabins above what Carnival could accommodate for the 10th anniversary, but the compromise they made in order to do that failed.  I am not sure of how the CJO spent 18 months planning for the 10th anniversary and did not foresee a problem with the layout of the ship’s venues and having to make reservations.  The Getaway, yes, is a bigger ship but unable to entertain CJ cruisers as a cohesive unit.  In addition to that, there were more venues to accommodate more artists (over 50 acts) but spaced out, and some acts were not even advertised.  I thought this was too many artists given the fact that a host of good acts was simultaneously scheduled. Likewise, not advertised was Ingrid B. out of Miami with her group of Erotic Spoken Word Artists.  I was excited about this because I discovered Ingrid B. on Myspace, and you know how long ago that was!.  I had the chance to meet her and I really wanted to see the poets and managed to see two performances.  As I said there were so many conflicting performances, my energy was high and I couldn’t sit there for longer than I did.  The Soul Sessions was going on at the same time and that is one of my favorite events!

I didn’t see any of the six comedians—usually, three including Michael Colyear would perform in one night on Carnival’s main stage and that way, there was more of an opportunity to see all of their performances.  A full band performed at the atrium every night which was a nice touch but again conflicted with other shows.

I am curious to see how the CJO is going to physically fix it this year.  They offered each 2016 cruiser $300 off of 2017 and 2018 depending on which year they cruise to make amends, and also have cruisers make show reservations before the trip so that CJO can see just how many shows they will have to schedule.  This was an exceptional gesture!  Whether it came from Norwegian or Capital Jazz, I don’t care! I’m happy to say, that $600 discount off my balance came in handy!

Change is sometimes hard for folks, but I hope Capital Jazz Organization will consider everyone’s feedback and get back to the SuperCruise vibe the CJ cruisers have become accustomed to experiencing.

There’s my two cents!  After reservation culture shock, I still had a great time!! And as you will see on the CJ highlights video at the end of this post, I wasn’t the only one!! On with the show…

Day 1
Sunday, Oct 23, 2016
Depart Miami, Florida

As many of you know, Incognito is tops of my favorite bands and there was no way I was going to miss them no matter how many times I’ve seen them perform!  What was a sweet surprise and funny at the same time was that Chris Ballin joined Incognito on this tour and as Bluey set up introducing him, folks thought it was Maysa. If anyone knows Incognito’s Beneath the Surface, they would know that Bluey would not use this album to introduce her.  As a matter of fact, Maysa needs no introduction.  She simply walks onto the stage and there you have her!! So it was funny when Chris walks out onto the stage and to the audience’s surprise, it was not her. The people sitting close to us were truly disappointed!  HA HA!!

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Bluey, the band, Chris Ballin, Deborah Bond, and Vanessa Haynes

I hadn’t seen Jose James since the first time some years ago at BAM/MetroTech , Brooklyn. I’m overjoyed I saw his show! Jose sang and rapped a song by Gil Scott-Heron, I don’t know what the title was but he did a fantastic job on it and I’m mad at myself for not recording it. He blew the audience and me away with his tribute to Bill Withers. This one I got—check him out!!

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Two bad musicians right here! Bassman, Stanley and guitarist, WaWa played for Jose James; caught them after the show.

It was a really big surprise to meet James Bing on the ship, assisting with cd sales from Mood’s Music out of Atlanta! And Brooklyn’s own DJ Spinna was delightful! I’m sure he gained plenty of new followers after his sets!

Day 2

Monday, Oct 24, 2016
Nassau, Bahamas

Shots of the early risers from the ship at breakfast

 

On the way over to the show

Jill Scott

A two for one; a show outside in the sun, getting my tan on (which by the way, burnt the mess out of my forehead!)

Angie Stone and Eric Benet

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Angie Stone

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Eric Benet

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Our man, Troy “Sol” Edler on background vocals!

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Check Spur of the Moment’s Wayne Bruce on guitar and Tim Steele on drums

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Outfit of the Night! Couldn’t stay in these shoes, uh uh, too high but loved they way they made my muscle-esk legs stand out!

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Donnie so soulful-filling, how good it makes him and any other artist feel when the audience simply applauds for them!

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Steve Smith, Lysette, and Donnie

Me and Donnie after he sweated himself out for the people…

Ok, so maybe not Donnie for the first 12 minutes or so, but I promise, you will love what comes before him!

Day 3
Tuesday, Oct 25, 2016
Fun Day At Sea!

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All of this in one night!!  I’m a trooper if I do say so myself!  Four of the five below were going on around the same time!

Bilal

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Cunninglinguist Erotic Poetry hosted by Ingrid B

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The Soul Sessions hosted by Eric Roberson

I missed the Legends of Hip Hop Concert but was able to swing by the Kid Capri after party

Day 4
Wednesday, Oct 26, 2016
San Juan, Puerto Rico

The hubster and me upon arrival in Puerto Rico for a little shopping and authentic, salty Puerto Rican cuisine

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Later on that evening we returned to the ship for a grand performance by these four superstars!

Patti Austin

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BWB Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum, and Rick Braun

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Nicole Henry and Hill St Soul

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Nicole Henry

Hil St. Soul

Black and White night photo shoot

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Laura and Reggie

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Day 5
Thursday, Oct 27, 2016
St. Kitts

What a day, what a day–and so much fun!!

I can get really complacent when it comes to venturing out to explore.  Well, thank goodness for Laura and Linda for talking me into playing with the dolphins! 

 Afterward, we shopped a bit and hung around the bar until it was time to board. 

Caught up with Jodine and Ingrid B. later on that evening

Karaoke

Dwele

Marcus Johnson

Soul Understated


Day 6
Friday, Oct 28, 2016
Fun Day At Sea!
Today, the last of my memory cards ran out (I had 5 cards: three 32 GB and two 16GB) and I needed a computer to transfer files from the storage card to my flash drive.  ERRO came to the rescue and saved the day!  Last year it was the battery and charger drama, this year the storage cards.  Another lesson learned…

Sometime during the day…

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D Maurice is finally standing in the front and the light is shining on him! I was so happy for DMo!

 

This band is the pure TRUTH!! Dre King, Samir Moulay, Chris Bynum, Antone “Chooky” Caldwell, Oweleo Lysette, and Steve Smith

Moonchild

Ledisi

The Mighty O’Jays

Day 7
Saturday, Oct 29, 2016
Fun Day At Sea!

Quite a bit was going this last full day on the ship, and for me, a bit of downtime since it rained–last day of sun spoiler!

Here’s the rundown:

I was determined to learn how to use the interval shooting feature on my camera!  This feature allows you to be in the shot if you so choose…

So I chose to be in it!

Howard Hewitt

A performance of a band I do not recall at  The Sugarcane Mojito Bar where Howard Hewett couldn’t help but get in on the action!

 

“Flight of Six” pretty mojitos for around $20 at the Sugarcane Mojito Bar

 

The Kid Capri

Kid Capri caused a major uproar, and people put a dent in that ship!

Marcus Johnson (bottom left) got his groove on too!

 

Here’s an overused phrase you will not hear from me, but “At the end of the day” it’s really all about the music and people having a great time.   I sure did…

Here’s a quick look back!

Check out more performance videos and interviews by Jodine; hosts, Pat Prescott, Tony Richards and Lenny Green with the artists, provided by either Capital Jazz, the artists and or other cruisers.

By the way, Jodine Dorce has one of the best jobs on the cruise!

Kindred The Family Soul

Eric Roberson

Joey Sommerville

Regina Belle

Walter Beasley

Ken Ford

Brotherhood of Renowned Artists discussion featuring
Larry Poncho Brown, Leroy Campbell, & Charles Bibbs

Smokie Norful

Algebra

George Wallace

BOOTCAMP!