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Sailing mostly smooth in Pittsburgh

January 11, 2009|By TIM SHEA

In this column, I take a look at two of my favorite things - cruise travel and Pittsburgh sports.

· I spent seven fun-filled nights on the high seas in December aboard the Carnival Valor.

Despite a dreary start as far as the weather, I would highly recommend cruising to anyone who wants to relax, spend money, be waited on hand and foot and hopes to gain 10 pounds in a week.

The ship left Miami on a Sunday night and arrived Monday morning in the Bahamas, where we spent seven hours getting rained on.

Thankfully, this was the one port of call where my fiance, Sherri, and I decided not to go to the beach and did something else instead.

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The weather in the other two ports, St. Thomas and St. Maarten, was very nice, which was good for the beach and snorkeling excursions we chose for those two days.

On the ship, it's all about spending money. By the time you play a few $10 games of bingo, purchase photos and buy merchandise, it adds up quickly.

Then there is the food, which is pretty much available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Valor's 24-hour pizzeria was about a one-minute walk from my stateroom, which was bad news.

They say that people spending a week on a cruise ship gain an average of 10 pounds and I can see how that happens. When I returned home, the first thing I did was get on the scale, which showed that I gained about five pounds. And I was showing restraint while I was on board.

I definitely want to do a cruise vacation again, maybe this year. If I can keep the weight gain to what I gained on this cruise and somehow win one of those $10 bingo games, I'll be more than happy.

· In Pittsburgh, three teams are making headlines right now.

The Steelers, who cruised to the AFC North Division title, play San Diego this afternoon in an AFC divisional playoff game.

The Chargers, who were way off course for a playoff berth in early December, all of a sudden look like Super Bowl contenders. Maybe after those years when San Diego was expected to do great things in the playoffs, the pressure is off the Chargers this year.

But two things to remember - Chargers running back LaDanian Tomlinson might not play today, and Norv Turner still is a head coach in the NFL.

Prediction: Steelers 17, Chargers 10. Beyond today, I'm not making any other predictions regarding the postseason.

The University of Pittsburgh basketball team docked at No. 1 in the polls for the first time ever this week.

It's good to see the Panthers finally making waves in the eyes of voters in the polls, but don't expect them to stay at the top for too long in the ultracompetitive Big East.

Prediction: After years of failing to get past the Sweet 16, Pitt finally gets to the Final Four, but will lose in the national semifinals.

The Penguins, on the other hand, seem to have struck a midseason iceberg.

Sidney Crosby isn't happy with his linemates and looks like he might need some anger management counseling after attacking a couple of unsuspecting opponents in recent weeks. And the Penguins are losing a lot right now and barely hanging onto a playoff spot.

Prediction: The Penguins will straighten things out and get into the playoffs, but won't be on board for long. Hopefully, I'll be wrong, but they might as well book a cruise in June because they won't be in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Tim Shea is a Herald-Mail copy editor. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2329, or by e-mail at tims@herald-mail.com.

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