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The Banjo Cruise 2016 - Reviews

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Testimonials from Previous Cruises

  1. Read an article about the Banjo Cruise written by Peter McKay of London's Newspaper, The Daily Mail

    Hi Ross.,
    I write to thank you for the effort you put into teaching at the recent Caribbean Banjo Cruise.  For me, it was spot on.  The emphasis on basics is exactly what I needed.  I was almost ready to give up trying to improve given the non-stop frustration of being unable to get through a memorized tab as soon as anybody was listening even though I had played it hundreds of times.  So the emphasis on the process of improving technique and having a rational approach to learning new material has already made a significant difference in my playing.  Also a new look at rolls.  i had always counted them as 12312312- now it is 1+2+3+4+.  This explains why I had so much trouble with chord changes or melody changes in mid-measure.
    Charles Hodge

    .....My wife and I had a great time on the cruise and the classes / instructors were the best. This was our second Banjo Guitar Cruise and they just get better. I must commend you for doing an outstanding job organizing the workshops you guys covered about everything It was a great experience. I am looking forward to the next one already even though I have a lot to work on between now and next Feb.
    Thanks again and keep me posted.
    Buddy Berry

    .....Thanks for all your effort in getting the cruise together. It was wonderful and very inspiring! I don't think I ever heard ANYONE pick faster than Ross did in the concert...amazing. It was a lot of fun...but I'm still worn out.Anyway, thanks again,
    Steve & Pat Streeper
    Arco, ID

    ....Hi Ross, Just a quick note on how much I enjoyed the banjo cruise. It was just the ticket to get me started on some different ideas. All the instructors were very helpful, and although I don't ask too many questions and don't like to talk much, I picked up a lot of very helpful information. Thanks for all your help, Klaus 2010

    .......Just a quick note to say how much we enjoyed the Banjo Cruise.
    We will be booking up (using ETA!) for next year as soon as it is available which I think Steve said was on or around 21st Feb. I believe that The Liberty of the Seas is docking in Southampton in April so we may take a trip down there to check it out.
    I found the workshops very interesting. I enjoyed the practical aspect, but was particularly interested in the theory. It was fascinating to hear yourself, Ian, Ned and Tom talk about the importance of learning the different chord positions and how to practice constructively.
    I have come away with a lot of ideas and thoughts and more importantly a direction for my practicing, ie, to learn the chords to songs rather than just trying to learn the melody.

    .......Thanks to All of You for a wonderful cruise experience, learning experience and an overall good time. We're looking forward to next year.
    See you then,
    Mike Green

    .... The cruise exceeded all expectations. I was particuarly impressed with your informal yet no nonsense style. I am planning to return!

    .....Driving home (to a snow and ice covered driveway) I was thinking that the trick is to try to keep that "cruise" or "vacation" frame of mind well within reach - readily available throughout everyday-life stuff - to lighten-up and enjoy!!

    Thanks again to you and everyone who made the cruise workshops such a success! I can't wait to hear what your next idea will be!!

    Thanks for everything. Good job!! Everyone I talked to, or overheard, was thrilled with everything.
    Happy trails to you.
    Kathy Morikawa
    Lexington, VA

    ......Just thought I would send a note saying that the cruise was fantatstic. The banjo workshops were great and the interaction with the instructors was priceless. A great event. Hope we have another one next year.

    Tell Ross that he, along with you and Regina, did it all first class. Still on a high from the cruise. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to associate with such a wonderful group of people.

    ......You're bound to get well over a hundred of these... Congratulations on the great success of a wonderful idea!!
    The cruise was SO much fun and I learned SO much, mostly in the form of pearls gathered here and there. I can't wait to assemble them and put what I've learned to use. Many times I'd hear one thing that would make me think "that in itself is worth the entire trip"... and there were a whole bunch of 'em! I'm looking forward to making great progress.

    You all did a wonderful job, there were bumps in the road, but the thing that made an impression on me that was most important was the way that everyone in your crew made the utmost effort to accomodate all of us. I certainly hope to make next years cruise. It was fantastical!
    Was there a survey for the cruise? I have been to two of Steve Kaufman's camps before, but I really think that yours was better. Mainly because you chose to allow us to jam each night at 8pm instead of having a mandatory two hour concert to attend each night like Steve's camp does. Jamming there never started before 10pm.
    Martin Mahler

    The only problem is - Now I have to make my own coffee, turn down my own blankets, cook my own food. Woe is me!

    ..........Just wanted to say thanks for all you did to make that happen. It was a lot of fun. I know you worked your tail off to to it. I heard a lot of good things from a lot of people,and some really good ideas for the next
    one. I'm sure you heard the same. Take care. Lori

    .........., just a note to say thanks for such a wonderful trip. zband I enjoyed each minute of it. The workshop was a success.

    Louis Champagne

    ........The instructors were a great mix of approaches, from the philosophical to the technical and everything in between.
    I learned something from every one of them. What worked really well was that (at least in my group) everybody was very close in skill level. Ross did a great job in getting that right. The classes were the right size and the right length. And I did not see one bit of ego showing anywhere. The jams were great, even though for the most part I only watched, listened, and learned. And the final night concert was super.
    The only 'complaint' I have is that you really had to choose between, "am I cruising or am I banjoing" - there wasn't enough time in the day to fully appreciate both - I chose banjoing, of course.
    The biggest concern that I had prior to the cruise was the whole "will the airline let me carry my banjo on board'' issue - well I'm glad to report that on Southwest it was not an issue at all, not even one eye was batted over my carrying my hard case and stowing it in the overhead. Southwest lets you print your boarding pass after midnight on the day of departure - so I had done that from home before we left, and from the ship's Internet Cafe on the morning we came home - this put us in the "A" group - which means we were in the first group to board. The overheads on these planes (737's I think) are about 6 feet long so no sweat fitting a banjo case. One thing I hadn't thought of was whether the flight we were boarding was originating in Philadelphia or not - I had a moment of panic when I realized that there were already 60 people on the plane who had gotten on in Providence - but there was still plenty of room. I can't speak for other airlines because I know at least two of the other pickers I spoke to were NOT allowed to bring their jo's onto the plane.
    I'm sure we'll be discussing the cruise in greater detail and sharing all our experiences over the next days, weeks....
    -willie g. (still adjusting to being back on land).

    Hi, We had a wonderful time, and I am positive everyone else thought you and Ross and zbstarted something really great! One person said he felt so fortunate to have been with this first group.
    Thank you so much for all you did throughout.

    Jim and I will definitely let you know if we are in the DC area. We have heard fine comments and compliments concerning you opening your home for the concerts, too.
    Likewise, if you are to be in Arkansas, please let us know!
    I look forward to seeing you again and hearing you play!
    Thanks again!
    Janet Davis (& Jim)

    .........I agree the Banjo Cruise was a great experience. It was the first cruise for me and my wife and we will be back for the cruise next year. It was wonderful to meet so many people that love the banjo and to get great workshops, lessons, jams, etc. and enjoy the cruise at the same time. Ross and his staff arranged classes so that we got the benefit of having each of the instructors at least once but most of them taught our class more than once during the cruise. Got to meet a lot of pickers from all over the USA + from UK (including Bob, the "Golden Ear"), Ireland, Canada, Australia, Germany and I know I am leaving out a few in that list. One of my goals was to harass everybody I could find who would let me play their banjo since I was looking for my "lifetime banjo". Well, we had four instructors that were playing the Huber Lexington - yesterday I called John Lawless and ordered a Lexington - can't wait for that delivery. (John, is it on the way yet?) The Faculty Concert on Sunday night was quite a show and was open to students and spouses / family and to the general public on the cruise. If you get a chance to go on the cruise - don't miss the Faculty Concert. Ross and his staff and faculty and all the coordinators did an excellent job putting the cruise together. I am looking forward to the next one.

    I briefly spoke with zb as I was departing the ship, but I also wanted to personally thank you for all that you did to put on a great workshop cruise. I can appreciate all the hard work you and your troops put in to make it such a success. I came home with lots of good stuff to practice and hopefully move forward with my banjo playing. If you ever get a workshop scheduled closer to Wyoming I hope you will let me know. Again, thanks so much for a fun and rewarding experience.
    Jackie Bly

    Hey listers!!

    WOW...I don't even know where to start with the cruise details!! So I'll just start, and post more (and more) as I remember things! The ship was beautiful...BEAUTIFUL...I don't care if it is a little 'worn', it's getting refitted this April and will be better than ever for next year...including a new 11th deck Bungee Trampoline station!

    I only felt the boat moving one time...and that was in open waters Sat night, I think it was..we did rock a bit, but it was a nice slow roll...I was pickin with a young man and we were rolling back and forth towards each other as if keeping slow time! It was pretty funny! But it also put me to sleep instantly when bedtime came!! (after just watching that 'students at sea' Alaskan cruise ship that was hit by 60 foot waves on tv, I really have to say our boat was
    almost STILL! LOL)

    Key West is pretty much as I remembered it from trips down there while growing up in FL. Bought Craig & myself a bunch of shirts!! And of course, had to have a beer in Sloppy Joe's! :)

    We started off with a meeting (what a kewl looking group, when we were all together!!) and awards! MOI received the award for "Most/Longest Email Questions", or something like that! LOLOL I had this strange feeling when zbstarted that little speech that it was coming my way! LOL I also won a prize, and I chose the Janet Davis gift certificate! I had to LOOK for it and since we were all coming forward at once, I actually had to grab it back from Keith S., who was called up right after me! LOLOL It was really funny watching several people perusing the prize table at once,
    trying to grab what you wanted before 'that guy' got it! ;)

    Ross DID do a great job in putting us in classes. I started out in Intermediate A, but did both that and Int. B classes. I think next year I'll start out in Int. B! Learned a TON of stuff, met a TON of new people, put faces with nicknames (that was hilarious in the hotel lobby..."what's your name" and so..."who?"...give the nickname..."OH! I know you now!" LOL) and jammed into the wee hours of the nights most every night. Like zbsaid, the ship gave us pretty much free reign as to where to pick...shoot, Keith S., Rick and I even picked in the kids tv room at one point!! At least no 8
    year olds kicked us out! How humiliating would THAT have been! LOL

    Time was crunched, but the way the classes were laid out (subject wise), it was pretty easy to decide if you could play hookie and jump off the boat for a few! I'd bet anything that next year, all those kinks will be worked out and class time AND port time will be at an optimum!! ALL the instructors were just great...I learned something from each of those that I sat in with, and then learned more from other pickers! All the teachers welcomed us to approach
    them at ANY time on the cruise with questions, comments, or just to say hey!

    The bluegrassers and old time folks had separate jams for the most part, but you could hop from one to the other at will! EVERYONE seemed to be welcoming in the 'free' jams, but the beginners had a harder time finding each other to jam slowly. I did find a few and got together one night and had fun. I also got to sit with Phil Mathers (hey Beaver!) one evening for hours and shared John Boulding's & Julio's chord information with him. What a darned nice guy!! I understand he was SO very inspired with all this banjo stuff that he has since called and ordered a Huber banjo!! Now THAT'S commitment! LOL And he was just a great guy too! Aw shoot...I didn't meet ONE person who wasn't nice and excited to just BE there!! What a great venue for this learning thing!!!

    The faculty concert on Sunday night...WOW!! Between the sheer amout of TALENT on that stage, and Ned's part time comedian antics, as well as he and Tony T. picking on their own banjos with their right hands while chording the OTHER'S banjo with their left hands, and Bob Carlin's TOTALLY funny self, it was just a HUGE time!! It don't get any better than that folks!! From the individual acts to the group finale...I was in the front row and just FLOORED...STILL
    smilin from that too! :)

    Oh...and the Disco group on board, and the dance groups...they all LOVED our banjos! Many regular cruisers sought us out in the evenings just to listen...THAT was very knewl!!

Watch a video and learn more about the cruise

Check out these pictures from past cruises!

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Ross Nickerson

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