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A Baseball Guy Who Loved To Cruise

It's on days like this that the lines of my life cross. A Hall of Fame baseball manager died on a cruise ship this weekend.

As an old (?) baseball writer, I was captivated by the news of Earl Weaver's sudden passing at the age of 82. As a cruise writer, I was struck by how it happened in his stateroom on the Celebrity Silhouette.

I never met Earl Weaver but felt like I knew him since first watching him as a "player-manager" — now that's dating yourself — in the minor leagues. He was in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and many of the players he managed there went on to become, like him, the nucleus of the best Baltimore Orioles teams in history.

His 17 seasons as a big-league manager were, besides successful (his Orioles were 528 games over .500), engaging. He was known for legendary disputes with umpires, colorful language with reporters and on his own radio show, and unyielding loyalty to the people who made him a major leaguer.

Life is often six degrees of separation, they say. Weaver apparently loved cruising. In addition to a love of baseball, that gave us something else in common. Okay, maybe that's much more than six degrees.

Years ago, we had a friend who went on to play for Weaver's Orioles before becoming a career bullpen coach (28 years) for the tempestuous native of St. Louis. Elrod Hendricks, who died seven years ago, made us feel like we knew Weaver, even though we didn't.

Today, so does the Celebrity Silhouette.

Photo credit: Keith Allison's photostream

Holland America Volendam
14 nights
March 4, 2013
Kobe, Nagasaki, Busan, Dalian, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong
Inside: $829
Cost per day: $59


Cruise Tour Guide — This 'Senor' is Best


It's easy to find a good tour guide when you buy a shore excursion from a cruise line. These are professionals at what they do, and if they didn't do it well they just wouldn't last.

Sometimes you just know when you've found one who is special.

That was Sandy Cuadrado to us.

The photo op above is Sandy (second from left) and three crew members from the Island Princess. The reason for the photo op is that Sandy was chosen Tour Guide of the Year in Cartagena by Princess passengers, for going above and beyond what was expected, and he was recognized when the Island Princess was in port.

Here's how part of his citation read: "Specifically, you were cited for your positive, friendly approach; knowledgeable and informative presentation; in essence, your mastery of the Moment of Truth, the instant a princess passenger…forms a first impression."

Sounds like Sandy to us.

We met him on the docks of a city we were visiting with some trepidation, like many cruise passengers who hear only about Colombian drug lords. We'd bought a shore excursion to visit a Spanish galleon, and he was the tour guide. When it ended, this enterprising and engaging man offered to take anyone interested on a quick tour of his city.

It was a no-brainer for us. We had planned to take a cab from the port, to wander around a part of a city we'd never seen. It would have cost more than going on Sandy's bus, and we'd have missed getting a real insight into Cartagena and Colombia.

And we'd have missed Sandy.

By the way, our cruise wasn't on Princess, it was a Celebrity cruise, on the Millennium. That speaks volumes about what all cruise passengers think of Senor Cuadrado.

Celebrity Millennium
7 nights
June 29, 2012
Vancouver to Seward: Inside Passage, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

Classic Celebrities Cruise Celebrity

You don't have to be old to like this theme cruise…you just have to like old movies. And if you know who Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz are, you probably qualify.

For those who don't, Osborne (prime time) and Mankiewicz (daytime weekends) are the hosts of Turner Classic Movies, the cable channel that caters to movie lovers who aren't impressed with special effects and salty language. Now, they have a chance to enjoy the hosts and the movies on the salty seas of the Caribbean.

It's the second TCM cruise, so obviously the first one was a success. Its announcement was made this month, and the cruise comes along in January, on the Celebrity Constellation. For the record and in keeping with the theme, it's being billed as the TCM Classic Cruise, leaving Miami on January 21. In between movies, behind-the-scenes stories and movie trivia sessions, it makes stops in Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

For five days, Osborne (left) and Mankiewicz (right) will endear TCM buffs with theme-related events and actors from the past. Last year, Ernest Borgnine and Eva Marie Saint were among the aging stars on the ship. It would be interesting to know how many of those passengers are going back for more.

There's no mention yet of which classic movies will be shown…maybe to TCM lovers it doesn't matter.

Hmm…how many old movies can you watch in five days?

Queen Mary 2
7 nights
May 29, 2012
New York to Southampton
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $142

Dream Cruise for Wine Aficionados

As consumers — a word not to be confused with connoisseurs — of wine, we are familiar with Vinopolis. In case you aren’t, this is an organization in the heart of London that specializes in wine and food pairings.

In the fall, Vinopolis is pairing with Celebrity, the most progressive cruise line anywhere when it comes to wine. A cruise leaves Southampton on October 13, destined for some of the great wine regions of Europe during the harvest season.

Can you say Bordeaux, for starters?

For people who are wine consumers — a word not to be confused with connoisseurs — it’s a dream cruise. A whole week of being immersed (hmm, wrong word?) in wine and the food that best enhances it, while visiting not only the most famous wine country in France, but also the best of Spain and Portugal.

While Celebrity boasts the most extensive collection of sommeliers we’ve ever seen on a cruise, the experts for this one come from “telly” land (TV personality and wine connoisseur Oz Clarke)…and from Vinopolis.

Ah, Vinopolis.

Our experience there was less than extraordinary, through no fault of Vinopolis. The night before our afternoon appointment at the unique and unusual wine facility, we had stayed with friends named Charlie and Anne in North London. The two males in the foursome were a match when it came to laughter and wine consumption, and the next day, the last place the visiting male felt like visiting was a place connected to wine.

Even after an extensive ride on the top of a double-decker bus.

Ever since, he’s been blaming Charlie.

Norwegian Epic
7 nights
April 7, 2012
Miami (return): St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Nassau
Inside  $599
Cost per day: $86

Space Ships…or Space on Ships

So much is made of the sizes of cruise ships, isn’t it? Some cruisers think biggest is best. Some think smaller is better because of its intimacy. There is, naturally, no correct answer.

In reading about cruise ships, we came across an interesting measurement. Take the size of the ship (measured in “gross tonnage”) and divide it by the number of passengers, and you have a ranking for how much space there is for each passenger.

It’s called Passenger Space Ratio (PSR).

Basically, whether the ship you think “feels” most spacious actually is the most spacious.

The Wise One on our team agreed to rank the seven ships we’ve been on most recently, 1 to 7, according to how spacious they felt. Here’s what she came up with…
1. Celebrity Eclipse
2. Coral Princess
3. Celebrity Millennium
4. Norwegian Epic
5. Norwegian Sky
6. Royal Caribbean Navigator
of the Seas

7. Carnival Ecstasy

The team statistician did the calculations we’d read about and, anticipating PSR and its scores would refute her judgment, came up with this:
1. Coral Princess (46.51)
2. Celebrity Millennium (44.74)
3. Royal Caribbean Navigator
of the Seas (44.41)
4. Celebrity Eclipse (42.81)
5. Norwegian Sky (38.48)
6. Norwegian Epic (38.02)
7. Carnival Ecstasy (34.23)

So, if you buy into the statistical wisdom, the Wise One felt the Eclipse was more spacious than it is, and that the Navigator was less spacious than it is. Somewhat surprising is that Norwegian’s Epic, one of the biggest ships around, was in the middle of the pack for both. And what about Allure of the Seas, the grand-daddy of cruise ships?

The stats are confusing. Allure’s capacity is either 5,400 or 6,300, depending on whether you fill “lower berths” or “all berths.” Most people say the Allure will carry 6,000 passengers, so using that figure the Allure would be next-to-last of the ships ranked here.

Conclusion: Big is not always most spacious.

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
7 nights
May 13, 2012
Port Canaveral (return): Labadee (Haiti), Falmouth (Jamaica), Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside $789

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