March 14, 2009 -
Bugger………….I am really late writing this today and please forgive me as it’s not as big as it should be……….where have I heard that before………..I mean the blog isn’t as big as usual………………it’s been a very busy day.
Let’s start though at home.
Heidi is doing well but informed me that when I get home there is lots of work to be done around the house and in the garden.
And she is using her being pregnant as an excuse to not do it herself……..what a liberty. As we live in the country Heidi decided it was the law to plant vegetables and fruity stuff and now we are buggered as it all needs tending to.
As I have mentioned before I am crap at ………….. well ………………. everything …………… except maybe being a cruise director and holding my farts in for such a long time that when I finally release one it could blow Don King’s hair straight.
I guess I should have paid more attention to my Dad when I was growing up who could do everything around the house. Why did he grow the tomatoes out of polythene bags? How do you make a potato? What sort of fuel does the trimmer use?
I planted some bulbs before I came back to work. But I fear I may have put them in upside down. So, realistically, I’m going to have to find a gardener.
This is what we do. When the lavatory explodes, we call a plumber. When the car needs servicing, we take it to a garage. We let the experts do what they do best. And yet everyone thinks that when it comes to the tricky and specialized job of telling a story or public speaking, they can manage on their own.
Not necessarily. This morning I was called by the Guest Services Pursers Information Officers Associates Desk who said they had a guest “demanding to see me now” and that he would not leave until he had……..it was 8:45 am. And so as I had 30 minutes before my 9:15 am senior officers meeting I minced off to the lobby. I was introduced to a man who said he had commanded the forces that repelled the American invasion at the Bay of Pigs and wanted to have a lounge so he could “teach these young college people a lesson in history.”
I had to admit to him first of all that my American/Cuban history was pretty poor so I asked him what he would talk about and he said……..and I quote………“When the Americans came,” he said, “we fired at them and they fired back at us. Later Fidel arrived.
He stayed for a bit then he went away again. In the afternoon, he came back with a tank, so we moved the one we had a bit.” I know this quote is correct because he had it written out ready to tell the youth of today and gave me a copy of his intended speech ……………..obviously it was an important moment in history and one that meant a lot to so many but the way he was talking to me ………………well , lets just say it wasn’t riveting
What was I to do?
This older gentlemen really wanted to tell his story but I knew on this the last day of the cruise that nobody would come. All I could do was give him a chance. Now, I must say that usualy we require all would-be speakers to be pre-approved by Chris Prideaux in the Miami office. It’s not just the content we look at but if the speaker can hold and captivate an audience. Someone who’s capable of taking an enemy machine gun nest armed only with a coat hanger is not likely to be an entertaining speaker as well.
I have seen this at dinner parties before. Someone can have the table in stitches for an hour with stories that are generally funny Then someone else says: “Mmmm. That reminds me of the time when I was working as a simultaneous translator for special ops in Sierra Leone and I had to disarm the trembler switch on the nuclear bomb just after the terrorist had put a bucket load of man-eating ants down the back of my shirt.”
Eagerly we all gather ’round but by the time he’s finished, three of the party are asleep and six, to escape the tedium, have committed suicide by stabbing themselves with the steak knife.
Happily, however, I have an idea that can solve all this. You employ a personal trainer at home and a personal assistant at work.
So why not turn up at dinner parties with a personal anecdote-teller? This doesn’t need to be expensive. Call me or my friends Al Ernst or Lewis Nixon or any of the Carnival comedians. I’d bet they would be more than happy to be your storyteller at dinner for perhaps as little as $40……….Al would probably do it for a big bowl of grits and a Twinkie.
Anyway, I gave the guest a small lounge and at the debarkation talk mentioned he would be doing his lecture. I was a little concerned as I know there is a lot of mixed emotion involving Cuba and my biggest fear was that he would say something political that would upset another guest. This fear was unfounded though as he only had 11 people show up and the staff member who checked on the event told me that by the time his 40-minute lecture was over only 8 remained. I called him afterwards and he was thankful and happy but disappointed the audience was so small……I sent him some wine at dinner to say thank you.
My point is that lectures have their place on a ship on the right cruise and on the right subject……….what would you if we had them like to hear about. I await your kind advice.
March 12, 2009
On board we have truly gotten to know a great deal of our guests after sailing together for such an extended period of time. This cruise is like no other. The guests on board the Splendor did something so incredibly special in celebration of Lauren and Owen’s birthday today. Upon their own volition, they chose to throw these two members of the entertainment staff an unforgettable birthday party. However this party was a complete surprise to the two celebrating individuals. Plus, it was so incredibly special that it could only happen toward to the conclusion of this type of 49-day adventure.
Dave, the Aussie, organized the whole thing. He gathered questions about himself and his fellow guests and when Lauren and Owen arrived at the trivia competition that they assumed they were hosting Dave took the microphone, dressed in his own cruise staff uniform and proceeded to ask them trivia questions that pertained to the lives of himself, his lovely wife Maureen as week as many of the other guests that are the “trivia groupies” of the cruise. There was only one team involved in the trivia – Lauren and Owen, and yes, spelling did count ::smile:: Lauren was almost in tears by the end of the trivia, when the bonus question finally arose. Question 21 as emceed by Dave was, “what is the most commonly sung song in the world?” The guests broke out into Happy Birthday (the American version) as they presented the delicious carrot cake from the coffee shop and merrily wished Lauren a happy 25th birthday and Owen a happy 30th.
Later in the evening the birthday festivities continued when Lauren was presented with her very favorite meal – barbeque chicken pizza (she is crazy, I realize.) My former roommate has a tendency to give bonus questions about herself during each of the trivias that she hosts, therefore allowing the guests to know about her favorites just enough so that they do have the ability to throw her the perfect birthday celebration! Therefore, making both Owen and herself feel loved, cared for and special when it is so incredibly difficult to be working on a ship, away from immediate family members during such a momentous occasion as a landmark birthday. On the Splendor, during this 49-day adventure, we have created a new family. Many of the guests on board at this time, are professional cruisers and I am confident that Lauren, Owen, Myself as well as so many of the other crew members will remember these faces and stories for years to come. We plan on creating so many new memories on future Carnival Cruises.
Another highlight of this beautiful day at sea was my opportunity to sit down with Susan, a member of the blogging family who sporadically posts as Kersplott. “Kersplott” allowed me to ask her about her recent life altering visit to one of the newly acclaimed wonders of the world Maccu Picchu. After hearing her stories about this amazing excursion, I know exactly how all of you feel living this South American adventure vicariously through my stories: simply longing for the opportunity to visit yourself =)!
Here is Susan’s recollection of her amazing trip:
“The tour was simply unforgettable. There were 36 guests who had the incredible opportunity to go on this excursion, as well as one guide from the ship – Emma, who had just as much fun as we did! We disembarked in Lima before the sun came up. Breakfast first, and then we were taken to the airport and flew straight to Cusco where we arrived slightly before 10 am. When we were taken down the terminal and met by our guides everyone was deeply sucking wind (I won’t go there…) We were at 11,000 feet when we landed. Although I didn’t feel light-headed! They immediately took us to our hotels which were simply gorgeous! After our hour and a half rest and a delicious lunch at the hotel the tour then began! Tours started off at the Bath of the Incas at a mere 13,000 feet above sea level!
The first stop was Sacsayhuaman – referred to by the naturalist Dirk as “Sexy Woman.” This is a large complex that the Incas built. They built everything out of stones, almost nothing out of mortar. The stones fit so carefully together that you can not even slip a piece of paper through them. The tour guide instructed us that we needed a virgin to sacrifice at Sexy Woman – unfortunately no one qualified so unfortunately, we did not have a sacrifice for the Gods.
After being at that elevation – we came back down into Cusco and toured the cathedrals. One place we visited was the Temple of the Sun which is actually within the Cathedral – Plaza de Armas.
The next morning, we left hotel at 6 am and drove 20 minutes to the train. We took a 3.5-hour train ride to the small town of Quillabamba. At this time, we traveled down in elevation from 11,000 to 8,000 feet. This train is part of the Orient Express trains and provided first class service all the way. The train included a Vista dome car so you could look out as you were going through this valley. The people who surrounded the train provided an opportunity to see authentic Peruvian dress – this is not just for show, they were hauling animals out to the fields with the same clothes on that one would typically expect. It was total emersion into the Peruvian culture! During our tour we realized that the authorities control how many people have the amazing opportunity of visiting Maccu Picchu. These buses, with a 30-person capacity, travel down a dirt rode that weaves back and forth for a five- to seven-mile winding trip to the top to this beautiful mountain.
It was scary but also so terribly exciting that I didn’t remember to get scared that I don’t like heights. You get off the bus at the visitors center, walk up the trail. Start walking up an awful lot of stairs. You climb up the stairs and you don’t ever think you are going to get to the top… you get up and look up above seeing the people so far ahead who have not even come close to reaching their final destination.
By the time you reach the top, you finally realize that the view is the exact same that you expect to see on in movies, post cards and magnets. All of a sudden… lose your breath again and can not help but smile!
Before we left, we were advised that only two days per week can you expect clear weather in Cusco. If you are fortunate enough to get to Maccu Picchu you are lucky if the clouds clear for even a short period of time… From the time we left the ship to the time we returned in Manta – there was nothing but sunshine. No clouds. Perfectly clear skies throughout each minute of this amazing experience.
Before the trip was cancelled and rescheduled we would have been there on Sunday. From what we understand, on Sunday the clouds were low and it rained all day. The day we had the chance to visit, the weather could not have been more perfect. Since we have completed this excursion, we have all come to the conclusion that no one needs a stress test to find out if their hearts are OK! We all feel wonderful! Our knees might be a little bit sore, but our hearts are just fine. It can only be described as an experience of a lifetime. We can all go home and brag that we had our passports stamped at Maccu Picchu.
The next morning, we faced another 5 am wake up call. We flew from Cusco to Lima, then Lima to Quito (2.75-hour flight). During our long layover in Quito – the company was amazing enough to arrange another tour. We had a very nice lunch, and went to the equator. We stood on either side of the equator at the same time! After receiving certificates to remember this experience and another unique passport stamp it was finally time to return to the airport and catch the flight to Manta. By this time it was already dark. As we walked along the terminal and looked over in the harbor and we could see the Carnival Splendor gleaming in the moonlight. All of us applauded when they landed in Manta. This was undoubtedly the most fantastic shore tour I have ever been on.”
Thank you to Susan… I wish I could have been there too! Susan was kind enough to bring me a magnet, so it is practically like I went!! Is there anyone else in favor of organizing a trip?
Beautiful view of the mountainside
Lauren and Owens surprise birthday trivia
She was right, it’s just like the postcard!
Cusco wow thank you Susan
At the equator, the water isn’t sure which way to drain silly water
All the best to you,
Hopefully one day you will get to see Massapeachchew and thanks Jaime………….we owe you a big vote of gratitude ………..but no money.
As Carnival’s fleet sails the seas and the every day life of this wonderful company is laid bare on web sites and in the press, quietly behind the scenes the executives and employees have been and continue to work diligently to help those less fortunate. Finally, we have decided to tell everyone all about that exceptional work and that is done through the following website which I hope you take the time to read.
Now, for those who have offered to host a Carnival Funday Sunday party here is the welcome video shot post haste by yours truly
Here is today’s photo from Geo………..further words are not necessary.
So, it’s been a hectic and busy day. I made sure the rematch of our University Challenged match went well and I am happy to say that Student Brainbox and his team…………..lost by five points and so far apart from looking like someone had pissed in his cornflakes ………….. I have heard nothing further. I also held the debarkation talk during which the staff and crew received a standing ovation and as you will read later I performed the marriage show which was very funny.
Tonight I will hand the department over to the new Cruise Director David ………. sorry …………Charlie…………..and that will be that. Oh by the way……….there will be no blog on Sunday if that’s OK but Stephanie is coming to visit and bringing the flip video thing so I will record a quick video message which hopefully she will slap on the blog late Sunday. Even though I will not be CD I will be posting everyday next week as I watch David ……. sorry……..Charlie and continue to talk about life onboard. Then on Thursday I catch a tender from the ship to Belize City, a taxi to the airport and then a flight to Houston. I have a one hour 30 minute lay over and then it’s of to San Francisco. I have a day of rest and then a radio interview at 6 am……..oh joy.
Anyway, here is a photo of David………….sorry…….Charlie……….the CD as of tomorrow here on the Carnival Valor
Oh, talking of cruise directors my pal Wee Jimmy is now on the Carnival Victory and here is the latest photo he sent me which shows him pulling a slightly worried smile ………….. that’s probably because a rabbit is nibbling on his Thingy
Anyway, let’s talk about the Marriage Show.
Sometimes there are people who make your day just by being themselves. I had such a person on stage with me for the Marriage Show this afternoon. I asked her where she was from and she told myself and the audience she was from “Thunder Bay” Canada.
“Sounds a romantic and mysterious place to live,” I said
“No, I hate it,” she replied
“Well, why don’t you live somewhere else?” I asked.
“My house is there,” was her completely serious reply.
Now at this point the audience is laughing and I could have kept going but considering she honestly look bewildered at why the audience was laughing and considering the color of her hair ………………….I left her alone and moved on.
And what a funny show it was……………not because of me but because of the people I had on stage. Something new I have started is halfway through the Marriage Show I take a break and invite any guest to tell us over the microphone a funny, special or embarrassing moment from this cruise. These usually range from stories about marriage proposals, getting lost and the usual suspects. I already knew that this week was going to be good. I mean………..we have had people miss the ship, people missing from their cabins all night (soon to be appearing on Divorce Court) and a lot of great characters have graced us here on the Carnival Valor.
Anyway, I said I would take three stories and the first was a nice one about a couple who had met some people at dinner who used to live opposite them when they used to live in Arizona. The couple moved to Chicago 18 years ago and here they are not only on the same ship but sitting with each other at dinner.
However………..as wonderful as that story was nothing could top the story 81 year old Harold Chambers from Flint, Michigan, told.
I wish I could have taken a photo of him. Harold is five foot and a bit and has bright white shiny hair. Harold said that he had gone into Costa Maya with his daughter and son-in-law and they had eaten Mexican food for lunch. Well, later that night during dinner Harold said, “The Mexican food had gone straight through him” so he walked as quick as he could to the toilets just outside the Washington dining room……….the audience of 600 are already giggling and some, including myself, had started to look worried as to just how descriptive old Harold was going to be.
He continued by saying he locked himself in a cubicle, but in the unseemly haste to pull his pants down, a load of coins, his pipe cleaning tool and his spare hearing aid batteries fell out of his pockets and clattered on the floor, causing a right old racket followed by a resounding silence, which in turn was broken said Harold by a voice from the next cubicle saying. “Good heavens, man! What have you been eating?”
The audience and I are now in hysterics and Harold received a standing ovation. Was it a true story……………..who cares?
This weeks blog’s have been dominated by spring breakers yet it is fitting that we end the week talking about an 81-year-old man whose story brought the house down …….. that’s Carnival…………and as I finish my last day of being a cruise director for a while I remind myself yet again that I have the BEST job………….in the world …………… Apart from the man who test drives all the new Aston Martins………….. and the chief photographer for Playboy Magazine…………and oh yes…………..and the judge who got to sentence that greedy bastard Bernard Madoff to 150 years in prison ……….. apart from them………..I have the best job…………in the world…….and I shall miss it very much.
John, Heidi and The Thingy