October 15, 2007 -
Hello everyone and welcome to a special blog. Let me start by saying hello to some of you who may be reading this for the first time………..”hello.”
You are in great company, in fact 785,000 people have slapped on this blog thingy of mine since I started writing it (with two fingers) back in March.
What is the blog? ………….I have no idea.
It started out as a diary of my life as Cruise Director on the new Carnival Freedom and was supposed to last a week or so but here we are eight months later. The blog has become a community of people who love life, like a good laugh and most importantly, like me they love cruising.
Each day (except Thursdays………..you will have to read back a few blogs to discover why) a new post will be slapped on. These posts include a look at what has been happening onboard the Carnival Freedom, real stories of guests comments and concerns as well as your questions and comments answered.
I write these blogs as honestly as I can which means I tell everyone when things go well and when they do not. Also, I feature ship reviews and guest interviews with everyone from the fantastic Carnival crew members to senior executives and cruise line presidents………..I even got to interview John Cleese.
Wherever possible I try and use the blog for “breaking news” thanks to a deeply embedded spy called PA 007………if you want to know what is happening in the industry………..read the blog thingy.
Let’s chat more in a moment but first let me hand over to a mate of mine Ron Ness. Ron and I have known each other for many years as we started with Carnival Cruise Lines at roughly the same time although I was better looking…….still am actually.
Anyway, Ron is currently the Hotel Director on the Carnival Inspiration part of the Fantasy-class of ships which are all about to be ……reborn……………… as you will see from this guest interview with Ron.
FIRST OF ALL, TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AS WELL AS THE PROCESS FOR THIS HUGE REFURBISHMENT THE CARNIVAL INSPIRATION HAS RECEIVED. MANY FOLKS DON’T REALIZE WHAT AN UNDERTAKING IT IS. HOW LONG WAS IT AND WHAT SORT OF ORGANIZATION WAS REQUIRED TO GET THIS HUGE AMOUNT OF WORK COMPLETED?
I just celebrated my 20th year with Carnival. During the second part of my Carnival years, I met my wife onboard, Glenda Tayko, who was a purser and has since retired. We have been blessed with a beautiful baby girl Jordan Faith Ness, she just turned one year old. Because of the dry dock I missed her first birthday – yep not a good start. My “other family” of 56 nationalities is the Carnival Inspiration team onboard. I’m still sailing due to their dedication and support. Without our team members we are nothing. Incidentally, the first bartender that served me when I joined the company was……. yes the one and only John Heald on the Tropicale.
The Carnival Inspiration’s renovation – which of course included the Evolutions of Fun upgrades such as Carnival WaterWorks, Serenity adults-only area and the new redesigned pool area — was a huge undertaking but the results speak for themselves.
Teamwork is the key to the success of any wet/dry dock; every department shoreside to shipboard had to flawlessly work together to achieve such a grand scale of work within the 33-day wet/drydock, which took place in Freeport, Bahamas, and Charleston, S.C. We had over 1,000 Carnival employees and 900-plus contractors on board for the upgrade. You can imagine the importance of taking care of the essentials that we all take for granted in our everyday lives — daily showers, culinary delights (hot food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snacks) and, of course, air conditioning most of the time.
By ensuring we had these items covered everyone on board was rested and ready for each day’s challenges and work schedule. The service staff in the hotel department accounted for 300 of the labor to support the contractors on board the vessel. It was a sight to see the first morning with 300 team members lined up on the Lido deck not knowing what to expect for the next 33 days, ready to be handed their assignments to help the contractors for the duration of the dry dock.
Imagine having to rebuild the cabins and corridors simultaneously, while berthing the contractors in guest cabins. While the aft cabins were being demolished, the forward guest corridors were being demolished. At some point we all knew they would meet in the middle and then the fun would start by moving the contractors to the cabins that were completed, while protecting the corridors to ensure when demolishing the cabins we did not destroy the new corridors. It is a wonder what cardboard and tape can protect. We had day and night teams cleaning the vessel and even though we were in wet/dry dock mode, we had to ensure the cleaning went on to ensure the ship was ready for our guests on the first cruise. Everyone kept asking why we cleaned the brass hand railings, my answer was because we can. In actuality, if we didn’t it would take an enormous amount of work to rub out the tarnish that would have set in.
There was the meeting of the minds each morning, held in at the Café Along The Way, with everyone enjoying their morning burst of espresso. During the breaks you always knew you could fall back on a kick of the coffee bean, perfect to jump start you for the second half. When the water was turned off and the black gold was no longer available, the look on the Italians’ faces was priceless, as was the swinging of their arms and the loud verbal rhetoric in the Italian language which was drowned out by the jack hammers and pounding.
All told, in addition to installing the “Evolutions of Fun” upgrades, just about every other area of the ship was renovated and refurbished in one form or another.
These included updated main dining rooms, a totally redesigned “Spa Carnival facility,” and a new and expanded 1,600-square-foot children’s play area, part of our top-rated “Camp Carnival” program. We also updated other public rooms and areas throughout the ship, with new tile work, carpeting and wall coverings and more.
The upgrades even extended to our shipboard entertainment options. We incorporated an elaborate new revue and revamped the other show presented in the main show lounge which also received a host of upgraded sound and lighting equipment. In fact, new equipment was added to just about every venue on board, even out on deck.
It was a truly a challenge and an exciting time, believe me, and it was simply amazing to see the ship essentially taken apart and put back together in just over a month. Everyone really came together and the end result is unbelievable!
CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE RENOVATION HIGHLIGHTS?
As I said, I’ve been with Carnival for 20 years and have served as hotel director on many of our ships and the new “Evolutions of Fun” spaces are some of the most amazing facilities that have ever been incorporated into a Carnival “Fun Ship.” They really add a whole new dimension to the outdoor facilities on our ship. The new features include Carnival WaterWorks – a spray park with different areas for splashing and fun, a dual-lane racing water slide and the piece de resistance – a massive 300-foot-long water slide that is the longest, most elaborate slide ever placed on a cruise ship. You’ll have to see it to believe it!
The redesigned main pool area is just as cool, with blue and yellow umbrellas, a tiled “beach” surrounding the pool, colorful new tiles, tropical-style thatched roofs covering the whirlpools, faux palm trees, etc. Very neat.
And, finally, there’s the new Serenity adults-only retreat, which really is designed to serve as a relaxing getaway. The area is located aft (where the kiddie pool used to be, ironically) in a secluded area that provides a fantastic view of the passing ocean. Within this area, there are plush chaise lounges along with a shaded area for relaxation and two whirlpools. We’re offering bar service in this area and our Brasserie casual restaurant is just a few steps away.
All of these areas look fantastic. Like everyone else, I had seen the “Evolutions of Fun” renderings (which were awesome) and the real thing is so much better!
I KNOW THIS IS THE VERY FIRST SHIP TO GET THE SPECTACULAR NEW CARNIVAL WATERWORKS PARK. ARE THE KIDS ENJOYING IT? OR ARE THEY BEING OUTNUMBERED BY THE ADULTS WANTING TO GO DOWN THE BIG SLIDES?
The Carnival WaterWorks area is definitely being put to good use, by both adults and kids alike! Although the area is extremely popular, the lines move at a very good clip and everyone seems to be having a great time. I’ve spoken to lots and lots of guests about this and everyone agrees that this new area is simply spectacular. It looks like we’ve got a tremendous hit on our hands.
HAVE YOU GONE DOWN ONE THE SLIDES? TELL THE TRUTH.
John, you know as well as I do that as Carnival employees, we must test out the product so we can speak knowledgably to our guests. So, yes, I’ve gone down the slide a few times – all in the name of work, of course!
SPEAKING OF ADULTS, TELL US ABOUT THE SERENITY ADULTS-ONLY AREA WHICH IS THE VERY FIRST OF ITS KIND FOR CARNIVAL. IS IT AS WONDERFUL AND PEACEFUL AS IT SOUNDS?
Yes, it’s great. Serenity is definitely the right word for this area. It’s really a great getaway for our adult guests who are taking full advantage of this terrific new area. I have been back to Serenity quite a few times and the guests are really enjoying the peaceful and relaxing setting that this area provides.
HOW DO ALL THE NEW CABINS LOOK? WHAT KIND OF GUEST FEEDBACK ARE YOU GETTING?
The cabins look awesome, with new wall coverings, furniture, and bathrooms, along with an entirely updated décor. All of this, of course, and the award-winning Carnival Comfort Beds- which provide the best night of sleep in cruising with our comfortable mattresses, plush duvets and soft fluffy pillows.
On a cruise your cabin is really the guests’ home away from home and with these upgrades we believe that we’ve created really comfortable surroundings for guests to enjoy.
I invite all of your blog readers to see for themselves all the fantastic new features on the Carnival Inspiration!