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Happy Valley Cruise Prepares to Set Sail in March

by and on October 30, 2019 6:00 AM

Franco Harris, Sue Paterno, Jordan Norwood and at least 11 more Penn State sports legends, along with a group of enthusiastic Penn State fans, will take to the sea in March on the second annual Happy Valley Cruise. The five-day cruise takes place during Penn State’s Spring Break from March 9-14 on board the Celebrity Infinity, sailing out of Miami and stopping in Key West and Cozumel.

The cruise is the brainchild of Eileen Miner, owner of Thompson Tours in Scranton, who has been planning Penn State bowl trips since the 1987 Fiesta Bowl.

“The idea started about seven years ago,” Miner said. “I did not know at the time that Ohio State did a cruise like this, too. I approached someone in the alumni office and we started having meetings. Eventually, we spoke to Sue Paterno and asked if she’d like to do it as a fundraiser for Special Olympics, and she said yes.”

Paterno is a board member of Special Olympics Pennsylvania. A portion of the sales of each booked cabin will be donated to Special Olympics, and an auction featuring Penn State memorabilia adds to the proceeds.

“The cruise benefits a great cause, a cause that my mother and father have been involved with for decades,” said Jay Paterno. “My mother has always believed that we stand tallest when we reach down to help others, and her life is a constant example of that. Special Olympics is athletics in its purest form, people playing for the thrill of challenging themselves and the thrill of competing to do the best that they can possibly do. Being part of that is a reward to everyone involved.”

Miner said last year’s cruise drew about 175 fans. In 2020, 70 percent of those fans are returning, and Miner expects to draw a total of about 300 people.

During the cruise, participating passengers can attend special events, including Q&A sessions with the former athletes, a Football 101 session and other clinics. Several of the excursions at Key West and Cozumel will feature the Penn State “legends,” whom, in addition to Harris, Paterno and Norwood, include Levi Brown, Chafie Fields, Jeff Hartings, Brian Masella, O.J. McDuffie, Jay Paterno, Stephen Pitts, Brandon Short, Blair Thomas, Coach Ron Vanderlinden and Leo Wisniewski.

While the fans who attend can count on having a good time, the sports legends on board the ship also get a lot out of it, according to Paterno, who handles the logistics of getting Penn State lettermen to sign on to the Cruise.

“The cruise is a lot of fun for the former players who go on it. They spend a ton of time with so many of the people who make the trip and share great memories while making new memories as the days of the trip unfold. Some of the activities involve questions from the fans on the trip that get these players to share inside stories behind great moments and seasons that most of them have never shared before,” he said.

According to Miner, the vacation is designed to be family-friendly.

“Celebrity offers an amazing children’s program. They have scavenger hunts and all kind of activities. It’s educational and it’s fun for them. So it’s definitely something families can enjoy together,” she said.

Rachel Lopez believes the trip could be college student-friendly, as well. Lopez is a Penn State student intern with SURGE Business Development who is working with Miner on promoting the cruise.

“I think there’s a good possibility students would go on this cruise,” Lopez said. “Traditional spring breaks run $1,500 to $2,000, and this is a lot cheaper. It’s also all-inclusive, so I think that can be very appealing to students.”

Prices for the cruise start at $1,295, including airfare, pre-cruise hotel, and the cruise itself, Miner said, but she is expecting Celebrity to raise its rates starting the week of Oct. 20. The package includes flights in and out of 50 US cities.

For more information, visit or call (866) 484-6677.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Karen Walker
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