‘Soul Mates Cruise Notes’ Series



The “magic” of music is amazing. The biographies and roads traveled by Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle could not be more different. Their gender and ethnicity Profiles are polar opposites. Their paths to the top of the music world do not overlap. Yet, they found each other years ago and are working together to produce one of the most heralded and anticipated cruise programs in recent years.

Various travel articles and national periodicals, in listing the Top Theme Cruises in ’24, have called out the McDonald – LaBelle Cruise as being one of the few “don’t miss” programs! Jazz Cruises, LLC., the producer of the cruise, is working hard to make the cruise a spectacular getaway for our guests.

We are not finished, not by a long shot, but take a peek below and you will see the beginning of a very special event. For those who have secured their reservations, be ready to enjoy. For those who have not done so, yet, staterooms do remain, but the program is more than 70% reserved.


Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle aren’t the only two performers on this cruise who are soul mates. The professional and personal relationship between comedians George Wallace and Alonzo Bodden goes back more than 30 years. The two first met when George was performing in the early ‘90s at the Laugh Factory where Alonzo, who was just starting his career as a comedian, was working as a doorman. “He would watch me come in every night and he'd see me on TV and the next day he’d be right up in my face,” George says. “He was learning how to become a comedian.”

Alonzo admits that he truly went to school on George back in the day. “I know more of George Wallace's jokes from the ‘90s than he remembers,” Alonzo says, laughing. “And I’m still using them and they still work.” He’s kidding. Alonzo says he could never do George’s material. Their relationship began as one between a veteran and a newcomer, but it evolved over the years. “It started out with me just seeing him and then talking to him a little,” Alonzo explains. “It really went from a mentorship to a friendship over the years. That's the best way I could describe it.”

In time, they would each come to appreciate the other’s unique talents. And they would learn from each other. For Alonzo, there was obviously so much to take in. “The biggest thing I learned from George is ‘Write all the time,’” Alonzo says. “He carries that yellow pad with him at all times. And he’s always filling that yellow pad. He just won’t put it down.” Despite their strong affinity, Alonzo appreciates their differences in comic style. “Well, we're both joke guys,” he explains. “I think George is like your cousin who's funny. Like your uncle, like the guy at the barbershop. And I'm a more observational, Carlin-esque type person. So I think that's the big difference between us.”

Alonzo, the guy who hosts a podcast called Who’s Paying Attention and appears regularly as a panelist on the popular NPR show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, admits that he’s evolved differently. “I tend to do more topical stuff,” he says. “What happened with me was somewhere along the line, I just started realizing the world was funnier than I am. So I started talking more about the world than my place in it.”

However, just because he’s taken a slightly different path than his mentor, Alonzo still has the ultimate respect for George. “Legendary almost doesn't describe George, just for having been around so long,” Alonzo says, with real admiration. “George has been in this game for what, coming up on 50 years? It's crazy. And he's still funny. He's not a guy who's doing jokes from the 70s. Some comics as they age, their act doesn't age. No, George is still out here making fun.” In turn, George is quick to point out something Alonzo does even better than himself. “He's got that voice,” George says. “He's so good with his speech patterns. With Alonzo you will understand every word, as opposed to some other comedians. I watch that, too. Because I said, I want to be like him. Oh, he's really good.” Told of his mentor’s observation, Alonzo says that: “I think in comedy it helps if they can understand the joke. There are definitely comics who mumble, who drop the end of the sentence, which is the punchline. You’re like, what the hell?”

A hallmark of Alonzo’s appearances on the many sailings of our cruises is his gift for crowd work, meaning talking with and making fun of the audience, and more impressively the musicians too. Will he and George do the same on the McDonald-LaBelle Cruise? “I'll still do crowd work, and joke on the musicians and people in the crowd,” Alonzo says. “But George and I, we’ll have different takes. But with his takes, it's hard to explain the difference. George is just super quick for one thing.” He says they agree on one subject that is hands off. “I don't care who you are, you will not disrespect Patti LaBelle,” Alonzo explains. “Are you kidding? That's royalty.” But the real story is the friendship between these two great comedians of different generations. “He's a fantastic guy,” says George about Alonzo.” He's one of the nicest guys in the world. And one of my friends still today. You don't meet many people that you're still friends with 30 years later. And funny as hell.”

But too funny? “Now when I do a show with him, I’m like, ‘Can I follow this guy?’” George says. “He’s really good. But I’m not going to tell him that to his face.” Sorry, George, we just did. For his part, Alonzo makes things crystal clear. “Tell everyone coming to the show, this is going to be mutual admiration,” says Alonzo. “I'm going to open for him, but I ain't following George Wallace. You've heard of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, right? When Seinfeld did the episode with Eddie Murphy, him and Eddie Murphy said the same thing: ‘I'm gonna tell you right now. I ain't following George Wallace. No.’ Think about that level of respect in the business when Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy said, ‘Nah, we ain't following George Wallace.’”

George makes his love for Alonzo very clear. “I can’t wait to work with Alonzo and get on that ship,” he says. “It's gonna be a great show and we’ll have some fun. I’m just happy to be on the cruise with him and Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald. It’s going to be great. You know, jazz cruises are the best cruises in the world. They're the smartest people.” We’re looking forward to seeing those two smart people on the Michael McDonald – Patti LaBelle Cruise April 10-13 on the Norwegian Pearl.


 While the music is the entrée of the McDonald – LaBelle Cruise, the Norwegian Pearl is home to a variety of Food and Beverage options that put the cherry on top. Well known for their flexible dining and plethora of restaurants onboard, the Norwegian Pearl truly has an option for everyone. With a perfect blend of complimentary dining and Specialty Restaurants, you can dine somewhere different each evening and still not come close to experiencing all the wonderful dining choices onboard.

Complimentary Dining:

  • Summer Palace: One of the two main dining rooms onboard, experience a different culinary adventure with every visit, offering a wide variety of cuisine, a menu that changes daily and Chef’s signature dishes carefully paired with the perfect wine.
  • Indigo: The second Main Dining Room onboard, Indigo balances classic favorites with unique new dishes, making dining there a must.
  • Garden Café: This complimentary, buffet style restaurant serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the floor to ceiling windows provide picturesque ocean views. Whatever you are craving, chances are you will find it at the Garden Café.
  • O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill: Casual dining to suit every taste from salads to wings to burgers, O’Sheehan’s is great for grabbing a quick bite to eat when in a hurry. Open 24/7, it’s the perfect place for your last stop of the night after attending one of our shows or late-night parties.
  • Room Service: Choose from an extensive menu with complimentary and a la carte items. Available 24 hours a day. (Delivery of $9.95 per order)

Specialty Dining (upcharge applies):

  • Le Bistro: French cuisine at its finest. Surround yourself in classic decor and plates of rich cuisine such as escargot, bouillabaisse, and Coq Au Vin. An experience not to miss!
  • Cagney’s Steakhouse: An authentic American Steakhouse where choice cuts of Angus Beef are perfectly prepared. La Cucina: Buona Sera! Enjoy the freshest ingredients and dine on classics from Italy like osso bucco or seafood fettuccine.
  • Moderno Churrascaria: A Brazilian Steakhouse boasting an impressive salad bar, cured meats and cheeses. Be sure to save room for skewers of slow roasted meats carved tableside.
  • Sushi: If you’re in the mood for sushi, pull up a stool at this contemporary sushi, sashimi and yakitori bar for traditional Japanese bites.
  • Teppanyaki: Sit at a lively shared table as a skilled chef perfectly prepares Japanese hibachi shrimp, steak, chicken and fried rice on large steel grill.


If you’re old enough, your first introduction to Patti LaBelle was in the 60s a member of the girl group Labelle (originally the Bluebelles). Or maybe you heard her disco hits like “Lady Marmalade” with a refashioned version of that group in the 70s. You probably heard her remarkable singing as a solo act in the 80s with tunes like “On My Own” or “You Are My Friend” or “New Attitude.” But one thing for certain, you’ve known her as a singular vocalist with incredible range and emotionality, and with an unparalleled stage presence.

Did you also know that she has a second career as a chef? For years, the music community has talked about her reputation as a first class cook of soul food. Stories about her cooking on the road for her band, crew and colleagues have spread around for years. Such that even fellow Philadelphia musician Questlove tells a funny story about creating beats in a trade (unsuccessful) for her cooking for him.

Her most famous dish (and recipe) is for sweet potato pie and for more than a decade, she’s been selling her delicious version of that dessert for only $4 each at Walmart. Make no mistake about where Patti stands on the debate about sweet potato pie vs. pumpkin pie as the preferred dessert of the holidays. After all, Walmart sells thousands of her pies every day. During the Thanksgiving season, Walmart reports that it sells about 36,000 of her pies per day.

The biggest promotion or boost for this unique product came from a singer named James Wright Chanel who posted a short Tik Tok like video in 2015 in which he opens the package and tastes the pie, all the while praising Patti and singing snippets of her songs, like a cross between Luther Vandross and Patti herself. As of this date, that video has been viewed more than 8 million times. The effect was such that even Patti herself took notice and invited James to sit in with her for a duet on “Lady Marmalade” during one of her concerts.
As part of this second career, Patti has hosted her own cooking show, Over the Top With Patti LaBelle, and she’s authored cookbooks. She’s shared her recipes on Walmart’s “Cookshop” website, including this one for
Crazy Peach Cobbler.

For Patti, cooking is a lifelong love. “I knew that I could throw down when I was around 12,” Patti told BET. “I learned by watching my parents and then experimenting on my own. I used to make my own hot sauces in the garage.” She explained that her recipes, like so many of our own favorite recipes, were handed down through the family. “My pies are homegrown and from the heart,” she explained. “They're from my mother's and aunt's recipes and were created with love. I think people can feel and taste that!”

Indeed, we can verify that her sweet potato pie is truly delicious. Sweet, but not too sweet. Best of all, Patti has been generous in sharing her recipe for this dessert and other dishes through her appearances on TV and on that Walmart Cookshop website, as well as her many cookbooks. “I wanted to show people my love for cooking and my way of cooking,” she said. “And it was so fun being able to show new and interesting ways to prepare some of my recipes!”

And, yes, you can try out her recipe, thanks to her including it in her book LaBelle Cuisine and being featured on The Today Show here.

From now, when you hear that Patti LaBelle is “cooking”, you must ask a follow up question to determine if the means she is killing it on stage or making it happen in the kitchen? For the upcoming April 10 – 13, 2024 sailing of the Michael McDonald / Patti LaBelle Cruise, it will be a little bit of both! Now we can’t give away all the information now, but stay tuned to learn more.

One thing for sure, now is the time to reserve your stateroom for that sailing. The cruise is over 80% reserved, with only Inside and Balcony Staterooms remaining. We would say that these are the “INs” and “OUTs” of the cruise program, but, as Patti LaBelle would say, “don’t waste cheesy words like that… put them on something good to eat.”


Are you booked on the McDonald LaBelle Cruise? It is right around the corner and time to plan your travel. Jazz Cruises highly recommends that guests arrive the day before embarkation in order to alleviate stress from any potential travel delays or issues. Though many of our guests stay that night in the Miami area with friends and family, most secure hotel accommodations. We recommend perusing our "Booked Guests" page for answers to your travel questions and more information.


The rooms under Jazz Cruises' block at the Hilton Miami Airport Blue Lagoon are fully reserved. However, you may still be able to book outside of the Jazz Cruises block or at one of the other  hotels in the area. Click below to learn more about local hotel accommodations and ground transportation.

You may elect to purchase Jazz Cruises’ exclusive coach transportation to the Pier on Embarkation Day. The coaches will leave from the Hilton Miami Airport Blue Lagoon at designated times with the goal of having the guests arrive at the Pier no later than 1:00pm.

Find Out More


The closest airport to the port is the Miami International Airport. However, if you reside in Florida, Jazz Cruises is providing complimentary round-trip coach transportation originating in Tampa and The Villages from select locations. Reserve your spot by registering here.

Jazz Cruises Coach will be departing from:
The Villages
West Palm Beach

Spots are limited and on a first-come, first-served basis.

Register Here

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