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What you need to know for 01/21/2018

Dean's List: The 'k' isn't silent when you're at sea

Dean's List: The 'k' isn't silent when you're at sea

Last week, we returned from seven days in the Caribbean aboard the ms Westerdam for the 2012 Jazz Cr

I was drifting off to sleep when Beverly, who’d been monitoring our ship’s progress on our stateroom’s TV, commented, “We’re moving at 18 knots now.”

I roused myself enough to say, “You mean ‘ka-nots.’”

“Knots,” she repeated. Our speed right now is 18 KNOTS.”

“I knew what you meant,” I said. “But the ‘k’ is not silent when you’re at sea.”

She laughed heartily before she once again called me an idiot. (I’ve come to regard these exchanges as our version of whispering sweet nothings.)

From the first day at sea to the last, the Westerdam’s 1,800 guests could hear a variety of top-notch entertainers at different hours at different locations on the ship, ranging from intimate piano bar to full-fledged theater.

The cast was impressive, including such luminaries as Kurt Elling, Ann Hampton Callaway, John Pizzarelli, Benny Golson, Freddy Cole, Ken Peplowski, Randy Brecker, Gary Smulyan, Shelly Berg, Wycliffe Gordon and Anat Cohen, to name just a few.

There are a half-dozen different venues and, if you choose, you can do nothing all day and all night but listen to the music. The cruise also offers various options for dining round the clock so nobody goes hungry, even the most rabid of music fans, some of whom find it difficult to take time off from the music to eat.

For passengers who are also musicians, there’s a separate jam session every day.

There are a lot of diversions for those who do not want to hear every concert — playing bridge, visiting the Internet café, sunning on the decks, swimming in the pools, a day ashore in Aruba, a half-day in Curacao and a barbecue on a beautiful beach on Half Moon Cay, a private island in the Bahamas.

Some memorable moments for me:

• Watching Shelly Berg sway and joyously bounce up and down on his seat as he played the piano, lost in the ecstasy of the music.

• Listening to the gifted singer-songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway perform and draw the audience into the show in delightful ways. (One hapless man sitting in the front row was assailed tongue-in-cheek by Hampton Callaway who claimed he was her ex-husband with his new thin wife.)

• Listening to the singing, guitar playing and gentle wit of John Pizzarelli.

• Dining nightly with fellow Capital Region residents Al and Ruth Sabo, great tablemates who are now part-time residents of Florida.

• Making new friends of Harvey and Leslie from Portland, Ore., who became our daily cocktail hour mates at the less populated Pinnacle Bar.

• Eating spicy seafood soup and fried plantains at a place called Spanglish on the waterfront in Oranjestad, Aruba.

• Swimming with Beverly in the turquoise water off Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas and sunning ourselves on the white sand beach there.

• Having breakfast on our veranda with nothing but ocean and the occasionally distant island as our personal panorama.

• Slaking our thirst on a sunny day with a Dutch beer in the Willemstad harbor in Curacao at a place called Iguana Joe’s.

• Sitting with Jazz Cruise founder Anita E. Berry at the 2012 Jazz Cruise Hall of Fame inductions. (The latest inductees were musicians John and Jeff Clayton and Cathy and Howard Stone, who founded the Vail Jazz Festival).

• Listening to Freddy Cole sing, “I’m Not My Brother, I’m Me.” (His brother was Nat King Cole).

• Attending a jazz class led by Berg, some of which I understood. (Besides serving as music director of the Jazz Cruise and one of its inexhaustible performers, Shelly Berg is dean of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.)

The cruise was my first, but lucky for me, Beverly is a seasoned sailor and able guide.

It was a rarefied seven days, during which we spent little time relaxing so we told ourselves we were ready when it was time to return to February in Schenectady.

It was a lie.

Irv Dean is the Gazette’s city editor. Reach him by email to

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