This time of year there are brackets for just about everything … but none nearly as popular as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament that will crown a champion next Monday.
I’ve got a dog in that hunt as my Buckeyes from THE Ohio State University ready for battle as one of the four best teams in America.
O – H … I – O!
As cruise ships set sail this weekend you can bet your last dollar that you’ll be able to watch the final three games of the season onboard.
If you’re lucky enough to be on one of those ships with the giant outdoor movie screens you will watch it in style as you sail across the Caribbean, relaxing poolside with a drink in one hand and a burger in the other.
Those screens are amazing. I watched the Buckeyes take down Gonzaga in third-round action March 17 as we sailed out of Ft. Lauderdale on Liberty of the Seas.
I imagine that next Monday night will find diminished numbers in the main dining rooms during second seating while the game is underway. Head to the buffet, load up and get ready to cheer on your favorite team. Grab a few slices of pizza at Sorrento’s on Deck 5, or burgers and dogs at Windjammer on Deck 11 and you’re ready to party.
As we prepare for college basketball’s Final Four … I’m down to my personal cruise ship Final Four.
The parameters are ships that I’ve sailed on but itineraries also play a role in advancement.
The cruise on Liberty of the Seas was my 36th sailing with six on two ships. That gets me down to 32 ships. We start with my 16 top cruises – eliminating the likes of Costa Atlantica (Northwestern), Carnival Valor (Texas Tech) and Pride of America (San Jose State).
We immediately pared our Sweet Sixteen to the Elite Eight, and finally to our Final Four.
That eliminates some good cruises: MSC Poasia … the cleanest ship I’ve sailed on and a different experience with it’s genuine Italian flair; Sapphire Princess … an elegant cruise ship and probably the best menu I’ve had on a seven-day cruise – every day; Adventure of the Seas … mostly because of the Southern Caribbean itinerary sailing from one of my favorite ports – San Juan, Puerto Rico; and both Radiance of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas … a class of ship that is basically 50 percent glass with spectacular views from just about anywhere, especially the glass elevators facing the sea.
The Final Four comes down to Oasis of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Celebrity Solstice Carnival Destiny. Oasis is the tournament’s No. 1 seed, Destiny the requisite Cinderella of the bunch.
Oasis of the Seas – the biggest, most spectacular cruise ship ever – takes on Carnival Destiny in the opener. This is a close call. Why? Destiny was my first cruise and jumpstarted my passion for sailing with John Heald as cruise director. If there was a Cruise Director Hall of Fame, not only would Heald be in it … it would be named for him. I’ve sailed on this ship three times. Alas, Oasis has too much power and innovation to overcome, with so many amenities that it’s nearly impossible to experience all of them on a seven night cruise. Goodbye Destiny … you had a good run.
In the second matchup, Celebrity Solstice wins going away. Liberty of the Seas is fantastic – evidenced by my three sailings on her. But Solstice is hands-down the most gorgeous ship I’ve ever sailed on. Let’s uppercase that EVER. Liberty is beautiful, but its five-night itinerary means you’ll usually want more when you leave this ship.
So we’re down to Oasis of the Seas vs. Celebrity Solstice.
Oasis has tons of weapons and goes on the offensive immediately. Rock climbing walls, ZipLines, floating bars, 32 cabin categories, two-story lofts, an outdoor park and the first carousel at sea are just a few of the amenities.
Solstice is smaller by more than 100,000 tons, but like Oasis it pays tribute to the outdoors with the Lawn Club, a golf-course quality field of green begging one to walk through in your bare feet as well as the only glass blowing exhibition on the seven seas. Add in a culinary expertise that borders on gourmet even at the buffet, and you’re in for a treat.
I get my second sailing on Solstice in 2013 when she sails for the first time to Alaska on round trips from Seattle.
Alas, Oasis going against Solstice is comparable to a John Wooden coached team versus just about anyone.
She’s a worthy champion to be sure.