I didn’t actually take a vacation with Shane Victorino, but I did go on a cruise with him, Charlie Manuel, John Mayberry Jr, the Phanatic and Rich Dubee. I was surprised with a Christmas gift by my parents with this vacation, booked through AAA. It was a group of almost 400 Phillies fans on a seven day trip to the Bahamas. The destinations were Grand Turk, San Juan Puerto Rico, St Thomas, and Holland America’s private island, Half Moon Cay.
I arrived Philadelphia International Airport a day before the cruise was set to embark. At the terminal, I was greeted by dozens of people wearing Phillies apparel.
After the plane ride, where I wasn’t even able to finish the movie I was watching, we arrived at the hotel, and it was just like the airport. Phillies clothes everywhere. And there is more than one hotel in Fort Lauderdale, too. So I imagine a lot of other hotels were similar.
The next day, we arrived at the dock terminal to the sight of a sea of red. And by sea of red I mean hundreds of people wearing Phillies jerseys, hats, jackets, and pants. Now, this was curious. Why would you wear a heavy jacket in Florida? I was sweating and I was wearing a Cliff Lee shirsey and khaki shorts! Furthermore, I spotted a Brewers shirsey, a Twins hat, and fair amount of Yankees apparel. Even some Cardinals shirts. Obviously not everyone was in the AAA group with the Phillies, but come on, these people had to have felt awkward. I imagine it felt like being a Marlins fan at a Phillies-Marlins game–in Florida. But I digress.
We all boarded the ship, and I was still seeing Phillies apparel everywhere. After everyone was on the ship, all the people in the Phillies group were to go down to pick up their credentials that would serve as tickets into the events. They resembled media credentials, on a red ‘AAA’ lanyard.
I had nothing to do, so I went down to the room early and sat down with a drink. Slowly, Phillies fans trickled into the hallway, and I overheard conversations about how this was someone’s 4th Phillies Phantastic Voyage, how Shane Victorino was on a US Air flight (actually the one directly after mine) with a bunch of Phillies fans, and how Charlie Manuel only agreed to do the cruise if Rich Dubee would go. I even saw a Phillies jersey that had tiny last names of past and present Phillies players and coaches, embroidered and scattered across the entire back of the jersey. It was actually a pretty neat piece of clothing, only there was what I hope was just a typo–the name ‘Halliday’. Sad face.
We eventually picked up our credentials and headed back to the room. After normal cruise procedures, we all made our way to the main show lounge for the first event–the introductory cocktail party. One by one, each player and coach was announced to the loud applause and cheers of the crowd, but nothing compared to the ovation that Charlie Manuel got. As soon as his name was announced, the whole crowd stood up and began chanting ‘Char-lie! Char-lie! Char-lie!’ over and over again. It was absolutely surreal. The cocktail party ended up being a just simple introduction, with the players and coaches saying a few words each. At the end, names were picked from a bucket to win door prizes. I didn’t win anything, which would become a trend.
After dinner that night I found myself in the nightclub chatting it up with Scott Palmer and other Phillies fans. Scott is a really cool guy, and easily the most social guest on the entire cruise. Before the cruise I wasn’t really a Scott Palmer fan, but I’ve changed my tune completely.
The next morning, there was an event called ‘Fun with the Phanatic’ (side note: Thank you, AAA, for not making it ‘Phun with the Phanatic) that was basically a long line to get your picture taken with the Phanatic. Sounds kind of boring, but as you guys know, nothing is boring with the Phanatic. He alone made the long wait in line worth it with his hilarious shenanigans. That day was a sea day, so afterward I headed to the pool to cook my skin until the next event.
Our pass gave us a specific time to show up at the show lounge that afternoon, meaning that all 400 Phillies fans wouldn’t show up at once. But when we got there, there was again an enormous, snake-y line outside the lounge. This event was a photo and Q & A session, and the line was for the photo part of it. Our given time was actually the last block for photos, but we still ended up being about 15 minutes behind schedule. I only got one photo–one with all the players and coaches–before sitting down. We were to go through the line a second time to get individual pictures with each guest, but I was so tired of lines I didn’t even do it. No biggie, that picture with everyone would come in handy later.
Once everyone was done with the pictures and found seats in the lounge, the Q&A session began. This was pretty cool–Scott Palmer, Charlie Manuel, Shane Victorino, John Mayberry Jr, Rich Dubee, and the Phanatic sans costume fielded questions from the audience. One funny thing that Scott Palmer said was that “The questions from [the audience] were probably going to be more intelligent than those by the general media.” Anyway, the questions began, ranging from picking Charlie’s mind about what he thought about the 2011 season to what the players do behind the scenes. All in all, it was a very interesting session.
Tom, the guy who is the man behind the green fur of the Phanatic, had some interesting insight on how much his job means not only to him, but to other players, and not just Phillies players. He explained how he goes about doing some of his shenanigans with players or umpires, and how most of the time it is unplanned and made up on the fly. He also said how the reason the Phanatic is so popular is because of visiting players. They love it.
The following day was Grand Turk day, and for those of you who have never been to Grand Turk, the most popular spot there is Margaritaville. I was sitting at the bar, enjoying the most delicious Pina Colada I’ve ever had when I saw John Mayberry Jr and his girlfriend walk by and sit down and enjoy the festivities, which included a beer chugging contest and a dance contest, among other things.
Back on the ship, the event of the day was a viewing of the 2011 season highlight film, narrated by Cliff Lee, where Tom and Scott kicked it off stumbling on stage pretending to be members of the Rat Pack with their singing and acting. Again, these two guys–especially Scott–were hilariously entertaining, and made the cruise as fun as it was, more so than any of the coaches or players. I think that says a lot about these two men.
The next event was a first-time event by AAA–a “pajama dance party”. It was at 10:00 PM on the same day of the highlight film and was held up in the adult lounge all the way forward of the ship. I was excited for the dance party but it fell way short of my expectations. It turned out to be simply a gathering of all the people in the Phillies group, with AAA’s “DJ” using his iPod for the music. Weak.
The next day was an event called “Game Show”. We soon learned that this would be a “Battle of the Sexes” themed game. As with some of the other events, Scott Palmer, who played the role of host and MC, really made the show hilarious as I found myself laughing throughout the entire thing. The last round had special surprise team captains–Charlie Manuel and his wife, Missy. This was awesome, as the team members of each team–picked in the same fashion as the door prizes at the end of each event–got to talk with Charlie (the guys team) and his wife (the girls team). In fact, Charlie and Missy did this on their own, as they were not scheduled to be a part of the event. Very cool.
We took a day off from events, and returned Thursday morning in the same adult lounge at the front of the ship for the autograph session. Now, the autograph session was easily the worst event on the entire cruise. They were doing it in 15 minute blocks, so a certain amount of people showed up at 11:00 AM, 11:15 AM, etc. However, there must have been some major delays because when I showed up at 11:15 AM, there were still people in line that did not even enter yet from the 10:00 AM group. So the wait began. And continued. And continued. It wasn’t until about 12:20 PM-ish that I began getting stuff signed. By that time I was drenched in sweat, as were many other people, because it was extremely hot up there. Remember that group picture I had? I got it signed by each guest.
The events themselves were obviously very cool, but what was even more cool to me was just seeing the players and coaches and talking with them. There were many times I would see Charlie in the casino–I even played video poker with him once. John Mayberry Jr enjoyed blackjack, Rich Dubee enjoyed just hanging out with everyone, whether it be the pool, the casino, or the buffet. I didn’t really see Shane Victorino outside of the events, but he had 12 people with him, he probably didn’t have much time to be out hanging with the fans. The one guy who I saw everywhere was Scott Palmer. As I said above, I saw him at the night club, the casino, the pool, on the islands, at breakfast, at the bar, and I’m sure other places as well. And he wasn’t just “around” either, he was chatting with anyone who wanted to listen, telling stories, and having a good time. He was definitely my MVP for the cruise.
AAA’s gift to each person who was part of the group was a ‘Phillies Phantastic Voyage’ pool bag, and in the bag was the 2011 highlight film, a Phillies Phantastic Voyage towel, and some papers that would serve as souvenirs of the cruise (itinerary, etc). We got one of our bags signed by each guest.
The cruise is definitely something I would recommend doing for anyone who calls themselves a Phillies fan. In fact, I’ll be going on it again next year, as the ports of call are places I’ve never been to. Charlie Manuel has confirmed that he will go next year, and at the last cocktail party, Shane hinted that he will go again next year, although it may be out of his control as his contract is up after next year. He definitely made it sound like he plans to go on the cruise next year and not only be a Phillie, but be a Phillie for the rest of his career.
This cruise was definitely a top 5 Phillies related things I’ve done, and something I will remember for a long time. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on it.