The Celebrity EDGE

Celebrity Cruises announced the EDGE, the new class of ships taking to the sea in 2018. Expanding on the lines distinctive ship design, Celebrity is making news especially for the addition of the Magic Carpet, a bar space which rises well above the pool deck, but also lowers all the way to the water line where it can function as a tender dock.

This reveal video takes you on a journey through the ship now under construction. 

 

A Talk with Sammi Conneen-Baker, Cruise Director.

In 1983 I had the chance to tour the Sitmar Line ship Fairsea.  That fateful tour of the former Cunard ship during her turn-around day at the Port of Los Angeles started a love for ships and cruising that lead directly to Cruise Aficionados.  Little did I know that at the time a young woman was making her start as a Cruise Director aboard the very same ship.  Nearly 34 years later I reached out to her to ask her for an interview for the CA Cruise Journal.  Now a well known Cruise Director aboard the ships of Princess Cruises concluding her final year on the fleet.  I hope you’ll enjoy meeting Sammi Conneen-Baker!

Sammi

What was your first year with Princess?  What was the first ship you were cruise director on?

The Fair Princess in 1992.  Prior to that I was a Guest Entertainer Cabaret artist with Carnival, Royal, Paquet, Epirotiki and Royal Viking.  Sitmar allowed me to make the transition from Guest Entertainer to Cruise Staff.  I know that is backwards, but I wanted a career.  Princess bought Sitmar in the later 80's and I "came over with the furniture"...I was on the Fairsea during the transition, and my first official "Princess" ship was the old Star Princess.

Which are your favorite Princess ships?

I must say that depending on the team and the itinerary, I love the ship I am on at that time.  I am proud of all of the new innovations that our newest ships have and can back them up in a thrilling way...but I also love trying to bring the guests that take an older (more than 5 years!) or smaller ship to appreciate what they are experiencing, the people they are "gluing" with. Most travelers favorite ship is where they have the discovery or the ah-ha moment on...and those times are my favorite ships.   Big versus Small....I love what we can produce in our theaters, the "Wow" we can do in the Piazzas... the pool deck fun, and getting them to go to anything new that we try on a back deck...the most forgotten place.  HOWEVER I love the connection, the personal touch of our small boutique ship.   The ability of being part of offering our guests the world and the friendship that sharing the event of traveling the world can elevate them to you just can't describe or beat that!  Honestly, I will enjoy wherever they send me, but I have asked to finish my career at sea on our boutique ship.

Have you been a cruise director for any other lines than Princess?

Dolphin and Majesty Cruises, Thompson and Premier, (fill in on Regal Empress at Shore ex for a minute) ResidenceSea, Renaissance, and Royal Olympic.  I love the old liners and wanted to work on as many as possible before the year 2000 with all the safety changes that would take them from the Cruise industry.

You are married, correct?

My husband's name is Ed Krout.  I met him in 1993 on the Royal Majesty.  We connected years later.  He is still a great musician and owns a successful recording studio in Orlando.

How many cruises do you work during an average year?

I seem to be on the longer, repositioning, world cruises (108+ days)....although I loved when I got to do 2 months of 7 dayers with first time cruisers.  The basic schedule is 4 months on, 2 months off.

How well do cruise directors know each other within the the industry?

Facebook and Instagram has made this easier for us and we do post, share and laugh.  I keep in touch with the people I have been mentoring or assisting to move on and up in the industry.

What made you want to be a cruise director?

Having someone tell me it would never be possible.  There were so few women CDs back then.  It has been the greatest challenge and I still love it.

In what ways do you think the work of a cruise director has changed the most in the last 20 years?

We have gone from being entertaining, to managing "Entertaining"- watching things get bigger, we have moved forward to help every aspect to do all they can to make our guests, and our entertainers enjoy their every moment with us in our venues.

How has scheduling entertainment changed over your time as a cruise director?

Quantity.  People want to do more and everything.  It's a lot more fast paced and the audience has changed. You have to be out and feel the crowd they are never the same and you can adjust some things for that reason.

Some cruise directors play the part of host, others become mix being an entertainer themselves into their work.  Do you mix any signing or dancing of your own into being a cruise director?

As a vocalist, I usually do a show on the longer cruises (when a GENT doesn't make it and they've seen everyone else).  I will sit in with a trio on occasion.

You have managed and coordinated large charters.  How long in advance to major companies start to plan charters?  

There are some charters that have a great plan and you assist them in any way to help their ideas and intentions stay in tact.  There are some that have an idea but not much else that is when you gracefully jump in and offer do-able suggestions.  Most Charters book at least a year in advance.  Titanic Recovery for Discovery was ever changing, Delbert's Blues cruises were scheduled well, and we (Princess) planned the WWII Pacific Theater cruises well in advance to set up events and get the speakers we needed.

How often in an average cruise does The Love Boat get mentioned? (there had to be at least one Love Boat question there someplace.)

It gets mentioned it's a great part of our history.   We had a Love Boat Deck Party that was a real hit I like to bring it up occasionally as it was a great book that became a great TV series that changed the industry.

I had the privilege of doing the 50 Year Anniversary cruise with the Love Boat cast...Jack Jones sang the song as we left LA.  It was such a great throwback cruise with some of the best times.  The cast will eternally be great spokespersons for passengers and crew.

I am approaching 20 years with Princess, I am part time, and this should be my final year.  I have 33 wonderful years under my belt and I can't believe how time flies when you love what you are doing!

 

The Captain's Table - Chef Justen Riley

One of the founding ideas behind Cruise Aficionados is that cruising is something best enjoyed when you know something about the things you experience ahead of time. Likewise, when you come home, you are able to dive into learning about the things you ate, drank, experienced and made part of your cruise. When dining aboard ship I am always impressed with the presentation of meals but still find myself wondering how to judge it in comparison to who it might be done elsewhere. How do I, how would you know what to expect from a meal?

I invited Chef Justen Riley to share some insights on a random selection from Royal Caribbean’s past menus from cruises I’ve taken.

Chef Riley brings you Beef Wellington:

“Traditional beef wellington is wrapped in a flaky pastry , on the inside of the pastry there will be a filet that is wrapped in bacon and around that will be a mushroom mixture of either button or crimini most times. In modern cooking it is normal to find beef wellington in a loaf style that is normally made up of a shell of puff pastry with a mixture of either beef tips or extra bits of tender beef sections that have been combined with sliced or diced mushrooms and bacon, this style is normally found in a more relaxed environment such as a self serve buffet or served buffet with the attending chef slicing into it as a wow factor of sorts.

At a plated meal normally it will be a single serving done in a traditional fashion and served with either a thickened jus or a beef gravy made from stock, the gravy should complement the pastry and meat inside instead of overwhelming it to the point of tasting nothing but the gravy. If it overwhelms the main part of the dish then likely the meat inside is scraps from other cuts that were not as desirable but needed to be put to use rather than wasted.”

When you can’t be onboard, be online with us here at CruiseAficionados.com.

Twilight of the Gods: 747s Begin Final Exits From U.S. Fleets

747 SP
Photo Credit: Christian Volpati

United has set the date to retire their last 747s. Delta is close behind. It is not an exaggeration to say it is the end of an end of an era. The 747 was a monument to classic American aviation design and construction. The spacious frame allowed designers to gave rise to lasting changes in what was possible in passenger travel. the aircraft became an icon of popular culture and fiction. It became the flagship aircraft of a nation. Variations studied the stars and the atmosphere. One carried the first airborne laser weapon system. It's extended body carried whole fuselages of new airliners-some of which will ironically be why the type is retired. And the 747s status as a powerful cargo hauler is unmatched.

Read more: Twilight of the Gods: 747s Begin Final Exits From U.S. Fleets

The Belly Flop Competition!

At some point on almost any cruise there a belly-flop competition will occur.  This time honored tradition draws a crowd without fail and provides those in attendance the bohemian rapture of seeing adult men embarrass themselves for entertainments sake.  This competition took place aboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas.  No bellies were injured in the making of this video....

Belly Flop Competitions at Sea