Written by Hany Rambod as told to Ron Harris
30 October 2006

Cruising with Number One

Part 2

Last month we began the tale of Hany Rambod's epic journey across the Caribbean with his friend, Ronnie Coleman. While perhaps not as fraught with danger and high drama as other seafaring adventures like "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Moby Dick," or even "Master and Commander," it does provide an intimate glance at a side of Ronnie Coleman most of us will never get to see. Far from the stage where he fiercely defends his Mr. Olympia title and away from the gym where he pushes the limits of the human body with tons of cold iron, there is another Ronnie. This Ronnie is like anyone else who works hard all year and goes on vacation- his mission is simply to relax and have a good time. But Ronnie isn't like anyone else. He is the world's greatest bodybuilder, and even throwing on a pair of dark sunglasses can't hide his 320-pound off-season physique. Thus, by being so physically extraordinary, it was impossible for Big Ron to have an "ordinary" vacation. MD's Pro Creator Hany Rambod was along for the ride as Ronnie cruised around the Caribbean on the Carnival Paradise. And now, we bring you the conclusion of his account.


Dinner with Captain Stubing

Upon returning from our dolphin encounter at Roatan Island off Honduras, we found invitations requesting our presence that night for dinner at the Captain's table. This is a rare honor, indeed. The Captain knew who Ronnie was and wanted him and his friends to join him and his officers for dinner. It happened to be Formal Night on the ship, for which the men wear suits or tuxedos and the women usually wear cocktail gowns. As we dressed, I pondered who I would be in relation to Ronnie on this particular night.  Depending on where we were and whom we were speaking to, I was at various times his bodyguard (that always got a laugh), sports agent, or his legal counsel. I think I went with sports agent this time.

            Captain Vincenzo was from the Tuscany region of Italy, and needless to say, the man knew his wine. The Tuscan wine flowed freely and I estimate the bottles probably retailed at around $150 each, if you had to pay for them onboard. Our table of the ship's officers and guests went through at least a case of this wine, but Ronnie missed out. Not a big wine drinker, the only alcoholic beverages I have seem him drink are Mike's Hard Lemonade (which is based on lemonade, his favorite drink) and Smirnoff Ice. Ronnie is known for his "loud" suits, which are usually in bright primary colors, but tonight he wore a more subdued navy blue suit. He was quiet during dinner as the Captain entertained us with various stories.

One story was about the time he and his girlfriend, who also worked onboard, got off on one of the islands and tried to rent a car for a romantic picnic at a secluded beach far from the beaten path of tourists. The rental car agency denied him, saying he didn't have adequate insurance coverage to rent a vehicle from them. Captain Vincenzo explained that he was insured to drive the $300-million cruise ship docked in their harbor, so he didn't understand why they were so hesitant to turn over the keys to a $12,000  Chevy Cavalier.  Eventually, he got the car.

            The Captain also asked Ronnie about the Mr. Olympia title and how many he had won compared to Arnold. At this time Ronnie had six titles and was getting ready that fall to tie Arnold's record of seven Mr. Olympias. Finally, he encouraged all of us to take the time to fill out the comment cards in our rooms. If we had a great time, he asked us to praise Captain Vincenzo and his staff. If we had any complaints, he requested that we admonish the lackluster service of Captain Stubing, Gopher, Julie and Isaac- the staff of ABC's fictional "Love Boat." Seeing as the show had been cancelled back in the ‘80s, they made perfect scapegoats. I think Gopher became a Congressman or something.


            The Midnight "Meet Mr. Olympia" VIP Buffet

Our final meal of the day was always the midnight buffet, a cruise ship tradition that's probably responsible for five of the average 10 pounds gained on these trips. The dining room staff was made up mainly of guys from Hungary, the Czech Republic and Russia- I called them the Eastern Bloc.  And wouldn't you know it, many of them happened to be big bodybuilding fans and knew exactly who Ronnie was. By the third or fourth night, they collectively worked up the courage to ask him for autographs. At one point, I thought Ronnie should have set up a booth to sell pictures, T-shirts and videos.

By the fifth night, the waiters were also taking any chance to snap a photo with Big Ron, and having him autograph everything from dinner napkins to covers of magazines they had brought from their rooms. They even started asking for workout and nutrition advice, and Ronnie pawned the Eastern European brigade off on me. "He's the Pro Creator, man, he's an expert on all that stuff," he assured them, while putting down his twentieth chocolate-covered crepe.  Thanks a lot, Ronnie. Most of you know that any buffet is self-serve, but Ronnie got special treatment. There was a team constantly hovering over him, asking in broken English, "Mr. O-leem-pee-ah, can I get you more water, more Diet Pepsi, more bread pudding?" Yes, sometimes it's good to be The Man.


            Don't Rock the Sub, Ronnie

The next morning we docked at Grand Cayman Island and our planned excursion was to visit Stingray City. This is a beach with hundreds of stingrays, ranging in size from a dinner plate to a king-size mattress, that come to be petted and fed. Tourists flocked to it for the chance to get some photos with these amazing sea creatures. I wanted to find one with a back as wide as Ronnie's and have a pose-down of man versus fish. Unfortunately, we arrived late and the excursion left without us. 

            Disappointed, we quickly went with plan B- a submarine ride we had also been interested in. Since the next excursion for that didn't leave for a couple of hours, we killed time by shopping. Grand Cayman Island is known for two things- the offshore banks where shady Americans have been known to stash their money far from the prying eyes of the IRS, and great prices on luxury items like diamonds, gold and silver jewelry and watches. Since the shops are all registered dealers of companies like Rolex, Tag Heuer and Movado, and thus guaranteed authentic, you know you're getting deals on these items you can't get back home. I actually went to get some cigars, while Ronnie and Alti went to- care to guess? They went to eat.

            We met up and headed to the "Atlantis City Tour." We were really looking forward to this submarine ride because the water that day was the clearest turquoise any of us had ever seen. It was so clear, in fact, that before the submarine dived, we were about 120 feet above the sea floor, yet could see the bottom in detail. The submarine sat 40 passengers and each passenger had his own porthole. As soon as Ronnie sat down, the vessel tilted to the side, and immediately the crew was on the case. Knowing that everyone on his side was only going to see the bottom of the ocean floor unless they acted, the crew had several passengers move to the side across from Ronnie until the weight was more evenly distributed. If I recall correctly, it took two adults and two children to accomplish that. Ronnie just watched, amused, all 320 pounds of him. The ride itself was fantastic, as we saw a sunken ship with divers exploring it, sea turtles and all manner of fish and other marine life.


Thou Shalt Not Gamble or Sing Karaoke

            I'm a big fan of Texas Hold ‘Em, but onboard the ship's casino, the closest game they had to it was something called Three Card Poker. Ronnie knew I had won $300 the night before, so he wandered into the casino the next night when I was up $500. I invited him to sit down and play and briefly tried to explain the rules to him. Ronnie only replied, "Hell no, dude, I don't like to gamble." I find this odd because Ronnie's mom comes to the Olympia every year and is known as the Queen of the Slots. She usually leaves Las Vegas with more money than she arrived with, which is no easy task. Apparently, none of her gambling genes got passed on to Ronnie, because he was determined to leave all the poker playing to me.

            That was one thing I was hoping to get Ronnie to try. Another was singing. I had seen him dance before once at an Arnold Classic after-party where he was out there doing the Electric Slide with over two-dozen others. And as large as Big Ron is, he was getting down with the best of them. The ship had a karaoke bar and my plan was to get Ronnie to drink enough Smirnoff Ices to get up there and belt out "Like a Virgin," just like Chris Cook did once at a karaoake bar in Monterey- but that's a story for another time. Again I was met with "Hell, no!" when I tried to drag him over, but I haven't given up. On our next cruise I'm determined not only to get him to sing, but to document it on video. I think it would make for some hilarious bonus footage on his next DVD, don't you?


            The Price is Right

What do you think Ronnie's favorite TV show is? Easy guesses would be fare like "Monday Night Football," "Cops," or maybe even "WWE Smackdown."  But all those would be wrong. On this trip, I found out Ronnie's tastes run more toward a show you would expect a grandma to love, not Mr. Olympia. Every morning before we could leave for the breakfast buffet, Ronnie had to watch "The Price is Right" with Bob Barker. At first I thought he was joking with me, but he wasn't. Ronnie really gets into this show, yelling out his guesses on the prices of the items and getting really excited when it's time for the Showcase Showdown. 

"Man, I gotta get on that show one of these days, dude," he told me.  Don't think it can't happen- Ronnie loves Leno and he managed to get on that a couple of years ago. I can just see it now, the announcer (actually he passed away in late 2003) Rod Roddy's booming voice, "Ronnie Coleman, Come on down!" And Ronnie would come bounding down the steps to the stage, hopping and clapping his hands with glee. Of course, they will have to come up with a pretty cool vehicle to win, since he already has a Benz, a Hummer and an Escalade.


The Aztec Warrior Loses the Challenge Round

            Our final port on this cruise was Cozumel, Mexico. Typically, when you get off the gangway, there's a stand to take photos. It will have a big life preserver with the name of your ship, the year, and perhaps something else with the name of the location. Many times there's also a local dressed in some traditional garb to add color to the scene. When we got there, a diminutive man decked out like an ancient Aztec warrior met us and immediately hustled over to Ronnie. The guy was probably about five feet tall and a 110 pounds, but he proceeded to pose-down Ronnie for the picture. Big Ron, wearing a sleeveless shirt exposing his 24-inch guns, gave the thumbs-up, while the bantamweight Mr. Mexico struck a front double biceps. In this Challenge Round, the score was Mr. Olympia one, Aztec warrior zero. Maybe he needs to eat a few human hearts and pack some muscle on before he tries that again.


            Ronnie Gets an "F" in Boating Safety, Hany a D-Minus

Cozumel was actually the port the ship stayed docked in the longest.  Usually, we were sailing away by 5 or 6 p.m., but because there was so much to do in Cozumel, we weren't scheduled to depart until 10 p.m. The excursion we had chosen for this port was the one I was looking forward to most and it didn't disappoint; it was the speedboat tour. We ended turning it into our own aquatic version of "The Fast and the Freaky."

            The boats were two-passenger models that looked a lot like scaled-down versions of the Sea Scarab made famous in the TV show "Miami Vice." These were about the size of a Honda Civic. The company had 15 of these boats and Carnival passengers rented all of them. We were all shuttled over to a beach, shown how to drive the boats and instructed in proper safety procedures. None of these would actually be followed by Ronnie and me.

            The weather was partly cloudy and 80 degrees and the water was about the same temperature. We got into the boats and followed our guide in single file formation. Sara and I were second to last in line and Ronnie and Alti were at the very back of it. This would allow us to engage in mischief without being detected and reprimanded by our guide, who was a good quarter mile ahead.  We kept our speed low and allowed the rest of the boats to get ahead of us, then Ronnie decided to turn this outing into a race. Actually, his dual mission was to stay ahead of me and to get me as wet as possible. Ronnie would come flying up and turn away sharply, creating a mini-tsunami wave that washed over my girlfriend and me. The water was choppy, but even more so because we were following in the wake of 13 other boats. 

            The entire time, Ronnie was screaming "Yip, yip, yip, yeah buddy!" at the top of his lungs over the high-pitched whine of the 80-horsepower engines screaming at full throttle. We came within inches of colliding and nearly killed each other at least a dozen different times. Safety was not high on our list of priorities, I'm sorry to say, and the Pro Creator does not condone or support such reckless antics on watercraft. As for the racing, it was a back and forth battle. Whenever we hit flat water, my boat was able to jump ahead, as our combined weight was about 340 pounds versus the 470 pounds weighing down the Coleman and Bautista vessel. Ronnie's shouting had me laughing over the entire eight-mile ride over, but every time I opened my mouth I got a big gush of salt water down my throat. 

            We got to the beach where they had prepared a barbecue for us and had beach chairs, umbrellas and towels ready. We enjoyed the breathtaking scenery, lay out in the sun and took a little nap before the return journey. When it was time to go back, it was clear the races and horseplay were over. Alti had not appreciated Ronnie's driving and she insisted on piloting their boat back.  Sara wasn't as confident in her boating abilities and continued to let me drive, but without Ronnie to race, it was no fun. I kept looking over at Ronnie in the passenger seat, sullen and getting pummeled by salty waves the whole time.

            We hung around Cozumel and got back on the boat at the last minute.  As it turned out, a party of about eight of the ship's guests showed up at the dock after the Carnival Paradise had left and unfortunately had to find their own way back to Miami somehow. That's why I say, drink all you want, but make sure you get back to your ship on time!


320-Pound Walking Lunges by Big Booty Bautista

            Not long before our cruise was over, I bore witness to one of the most impressive feats of strength I have ever seen. Forget the World's Strongest Man, weightlifting at the Olympics, this was better than all that. We were all returning to our rooms after lunch and Ronnie started in making fun of Alti's rather large derriere. I believe he was chanting "Big Booty Bautista," in a sing-song, nursery rhyme style. Fed up with the ridicule, she fired back, "Oh yeah?  This here's the strongest butt you ever saw!" She then challenged Ronnie to get on her back for a piggyback ride. He was laughing, but she was dead serious. As Ronnie started to get on, I begged of her: "Don't do it Alti, you're gonna break your back with that big moose on you!" 

Sara couldn't look, expecting Alti's spine to go flying out of her back and down the hall like a rocket under Big Ron's ponderous bulk.  "You so good at lunges, Ronnie, huh? I'll show you lunges." And with that, Alti began taking deep steps, lunging down the narrow hallway with 320 pounds of Mr. Olympia on her back. "OK, you proved your point!" I yelled, and she at last squatted down and let Ronnie off. "Again, again!" Ronnie laughed. 


Hany's "Guess the Gang Sign" Contest

Before we got to port in Florida, Alti was in my room harassing Sara and me. She often did this when Ronnie was off checking his e-mail. On this particular occasion, Alti was feeling very ghetto. When she wants to, she can be as ghetto as any girl from the ‘hood, a fact pointed out here in MD many times by the Ramblin' Freak, Gregg Valentino. This time, she was throwing gang signs, some real and some made up. Finally she came up with the one in this photo and asked us to try to figure out what it symbolized. Now, I have seen my share of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg videos, but I was stumped. Once Sara and I had given up, she explained it. If you think you know what it is, send in your guess to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The winner could be eligible for a limited edition Pro Creator coffee mug, suitable for drinking coffee, protein shakes, or whatever beverage you prefer. It's also dishwasher safe, so get your entries in today.



I wondered what would happen when Ronnie went through Customs and Immigration. Due to his enormous size, I would imagine most Customs officials might think he was smuggling in illegal aliens in his thighs. But the most dramatic thing was that he was once again asked to sign an autograph. The cruise went so well that we're already planning another one for 2005, when the Pro Creator hits the big 3-0. Next time, I'll be sure to get better photos, as the ones used in this account were just my own personal vacation pics and never meant for publication. I hope I was able to give you a little taste of what it's like to travel and relax with the world's greatest bodybuilder.  I know it was a vacation I'll never forget.