August 29, 2011 -
Today’s blog is a little different and will concentrate mostly on how the storm affected some of the ships. So then, without further ado, let’s crack on with some Q and A.
Melanie Russell Asked:
I love your sense of humor, and your blogs. Just one thing, the word poop means to have a bowel movement, and pop means to go somewhere. For example, I am going to pop downstairs, which means you are going downstairs. If it is intentional, disregard this. I just didn’t know if you were aware of the word. Carry on, regardless!
Hello Melanie Russell
I guess I should explain because I really don’t want to offend anyone. I had been writing on my Facebook page that I would “pop downstairs (to the bottom of the page) and answer questions. Then one day and quite by accident I added an extra “o” so it became poop downstairs. Well, obviously everyone laughed and wrote and told me about my mistake and so I kept it in. I hope it doesn’t offend you or any of the readers but it has sort of become standard now on Facebook. Thanks for allowing me the chance to explain and thank you also for those very very kind words.
Rhonda Brookshire Asked:
I am fairly new to cruising, have only been on one cruise in 2008 (just my son and myself) and am about to board my second cruise on the Carnival Valor on October 2. I love Carnival and have researched several choices and come to the conclusion I can’t imagine choosing another cruise line. Anyway, I have just recently discovered your blog and Facebook page. I think you’re hilarious!!! I was wondering if you ever sail on any of the ships that dock out of California. I am in Arizona and Florida departures are a stretch for me (thus, the three years between cruises). I plan on many more cruises, but out of California, and I would love to have the experience of you as the director. Thank you for your time.
Hello Rhonda Brookshire
Thank you so very much for those kind words and how brilliant that you have found Carnival and that it is for you love at the first cruise. Thanks a lot for finding the blog and I hope it continues to give you much enjoyment. Last year I had some wonderful months on the Carnival Splendor which sails out of Long Beach and I hope to return there one day. I have no specific dates for this but I really loved the West Coast. I know you have a long way to travel to get to the Carnival Valor and I hope that you have the best of times and loads of fun and that we sail together one day soon.
We just came off a cruise to Alaska and I have to tell you of our disappointments. The dining room was really the worst. Not once was the table set correctly. On each occasion we were missing assorted silverware, bread plates or glasses. Even when we asked for the situation to be remedied, it was never quite right. For example, two bread plates and three butter knives missing ……… remedied with the arrival of one bread plate and two butter knives…although we had to ask twice for actual butter………and the bread basket contained four rolls, at a table set for six people.
This may seem petty, but it is a matter of training and attention to detail. Along the same lines …….waiters filling water glasses……..then reaching across to fill the next diner’s glass, dripping water and ice into my meal……..this happened several times. At our one breakfast visit I asked for grapefruit juice and another lady seated with us ordered orange juice. The waiter brought two glasses, placed them in front of us and we both took sips. We instantly realized that the glasses were the wrong way around and pointed this out to the waiter……..who calmly picked up both glasses………and switched them! He then seemed confused when we suggested that perhaps he could get us fresh juice as neither one of us wished to drink from a stranger’s glass. The waiters also seemed incapable of keeping track of orders and so stood at the table holding dishes until someone claimed them. This was especially bizarre when there were only four people at the table! What is there to say about a buffet that runs out of oatmeal at 9 in the morning on an “at sea” day? It also ran out of grapefruit although my husband managed to convince the “juice man” that perhaps he could let him have one. The coffee machines were constantly breaking down. The iced tea dispensers rarely worked and green tea was almost impossible to come by. We never met our steward! Our cabin was well tended in an unobtrusive and professional manner. There was a problem with a non-functioning toilet on our first full day at sea but this was quickly dealt with. Our “beach” towels were not replaced but this was not really an issue. We called housekeeping on our first night and asked for robes so that we could visit the hot tub and they were delivered to our cabin within 10 minutes. We had “towel animals” on 3 nights and enjoyed them very much. The beds are wonderful!!!! Very comfortable and we enjoyed having duvets as opposed to blankets. Lots of nice pillows as well. Overall a very disappointing cruise.
Thank you for this very frank and honest opinion of your cruise on the Carnival Spirit. I was though so very surprised about the dining room comments as this is a rare complaint but one that when I forward to the ship’s senior management they will take very seriously. One thing did confuse me was the comment about the bread as we don’t actually place bread baskets on the table but it is in fact a pass round service. Regardless it seems like we have some improving to do and I will make sure that the right people see this. I am glad you enjoyed the Carnival Comfort Bed though and I hope that you will accept my apology for what happened and my assurances that steps will be taken to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Gene Londergan Asked:
This should be an easy one to answer……..how do you pronounce your last name? I need to know so I say it right when I tell people about your great blog!! Is Heald as in “I held my tongue when the amazingly rude passenger asked another stupid question” or Heald as in “In my mind when I read the blog, it’s funnier if you imagine John with a very well-heeled British accent.” Just wondering….
Hello Gene Londergan
Thanks for the great question. I sometimes get called John Head, John Herald or Fat Bastard. The name is actually pronounced Heald as in heeled or his injuries have healed. Thanks for asking and I hope we meet one day very soon. Best wishes.
Naomi Willet Asked:
Didn’t get an acknowledgement of my earlier posting so trying AGAIN! My family will be cruising with carnival and on the Pride 11/21/11 and I have some questions and a request. One of the ports is Canaveral and I have seen that you have tours to the theme parks. Why doesn’t Carnival have free transportation to Disney and Universal like RCCL and Disney cruise lines have? I will be with my wife and three kids and it becomes too expensive and is cheaper for me to actually rent a car and drive there then take tours. I also want to make sure that we have a private table for 5 as we have very strict rules at supper time that are nobody else’s business so can you make sure that we have a private table. This is our booking number ******!
Hello Naomi Willet
I am very sorry that I missed this the first time you posted it and I am glad I got to see it now. Thank you for booking the Carnival Pride and I know you will love the ship and her crew. We do indeed offer excellent excursions to the theme parks but you’re correct that we do not offer free transportation. I haven’t done a price comparison with excursions that include park admission and car hire but I would point out that the car needs to be collected and returned and that takes time of course. The benefit of our excursions is that you get on, go, enjoy and come back without any hassle. I realize that with five people it can get expensive but we hope you enjoy your time aboard the Carnival Pride and your excursions to the theme park or anywhere else for that matter. I will certainly ask the maitre d to assist you with your table request and I am sure he will be able to help you. Best wishes to you all and have a great cruise.
Cassie R Asked:
We will be sailing with you on the Carnival Breeze next year and wondered if the ship will have a RedFrog Pub like magic. My husband is originally from Trinidad and is very excited to see that you have a Caribbean pub. Can’t wait to see you and the ship.
Hello Cassie R
The good news is that yes indeed, just like her sister ship the Carnival Magic our new ship Carnival Breeze will have the massively popular RedFrog Pub in which your husband can enjoy the Caribbean vibes that I am sure he misses. I really look forward to seeing you next year.
Best wishes to you both.
4×4 Cruiser Asked:
Tom and Cheryl are well known on Cruise Critic and your blog today was most unfair to them. They are respected members of the Cruise Critic community and if they say they had a bad experience at The Chef’s Table then trust me, mister, they did. I am sure some will have canceled their Chef’s Table reservation based on their review and rather than ridicule them you should have been professional and apologized and refunded their money.
Hello 4 x 4 Cruiser
I understand that you are referring to an answer I gave some weeks ago about The Chef’s Table experience as encountered by Cruise Critic members Tom and Cheryl. I remember this well but what I don’t remember is that I ridiculed them in any way and if that’s how it came across then I truly apologise. The Chef’s Table remains very popular and in fact I just sent 108 reservations made this week here on the blog to the fleet. Once again I apologise to them for the experience which if I remember was a negative one not because of the food or the service but because of the guests they shared the table with.
Doug Saunders Asked:
We are celebrating our 10-year wedding anniversary on the Carnival Liberty’s November 19, 2011 sailing and was hoping you could surprise my wife with a small gift. We are big fans of yours and it will be our fifth Carnival cruise.
Hello Doug Saunders
I will be happy to do this so please can you remind me here in a month’s time or one week before on Facebook. Either way I will do my best to help and wish you a brilliant anniversary cruise.
John G Asked:
My son was so upset that he wasn’t allowed to go down the big slides on the Carnival Dream. He was told he was too small and I offered to sign a waiver but was told that this would not be possible. This meant I had a crying 4 year old for seven days.
Hello John G
I am so sorry that your son was upset, I really am but I am sure you can understand that we have very strict rules which are designed only to protect those who use the water park. Regardless of if you signed a waiver or not the fact that he is smaller than the designated height could mean that he could have injured himself. I do hope that despite this you had fun together.
Lynda Grantham Asked:
Is there any chance that I could ask you for a very big personal favor? I am legally blind in my right eye and have limited vision in my left eye. I will be cruising again with Carnival this time on the Freedom going to Panama and Costa Rica departing on September the 24 in cabin 7298. I need to have seats reserved for the shows that go on as I cannot see anything unless I am on the front row. I am being joined on the cruise by my husband and another couple Jason and Ruth Green in cabin 6355. Please reserve seating for me and they will join me as well. How will I know when this is done?
Hello Lynda Grantham
I am glad you were able to contact me and of course we are more than happy to help you. I am going to have our special needs team contact you and they will just need to see medical proof which I am sure you have that states your condition. They will then ask if there is anything else we can do to make you more comfortable during your time onboard. They will then contact the ship and the staff will reserve two seats accordingly so that you can enjoy the shows in the company of your husband. I will though unfortunately not be able to reserve seats for the Greens. Thank you then for getting in touch and someone will be in contact soon. Best wishes and have a brilliant time.
That’s all for today.
Well I hope you are OK. And of course I am speaking to those readers in the Caribbean and in the United States who may have been affected by Hurricane Bastard…..I refuse to call her Irene ………..I had a Great Aunt Irene. She used to give me money to buy candy and a new football (sacccceer) boots and even though I spent the money on magazines called Penthouse and Big Jugs she was a very sweet lady unlike the bastard that ripped through so many places these past 24 hours.
In a way, we have felt a bit disconnected from everything that has happened as in The Med we have been blessed with sunshine and mostly calm seas. I made sure the TV’s had the news on and certainly guests from the areas affected gathered together to watch Andersen Blister and his CNN colleagues describe what was happening. It was I am sure a very stressful time for those who were in the storm’s path and I know many of the thousands of blog readers are from areas that Hurricane Bastard passed through and I hope that you, your families and your property are all OK.
It has of course been a challenging time for some of the ships in the Carnival fleet and over the past 48 hours I did my best to keep everyone updated on Facebook. Let’s stop by and visit a few of the ships and hear what their cruise directors have to say. We will start with Butch on the Carnival Dream.
Before I tell you about the seas last night, I have to say that the Carnival Dream was truly blessed with an amazing voyage despite the crazy tropical weather out there. We started the week not knowing if our itinerary would be OK due to Tropical Strom Harvey, and not sure of our path home due to Hurricane Irene. We didn’t have a drop of rain, barely a cloud in the sky and had smooth sailing all cruise until about 8 pm last night…….we had a pretty bumpy ride home with swells well over 20 feet, what really made the situation interesting is the direction they were coming and the path of the ship. It was a perfect mix to make direct contact causing some huge sea sprays. In almost eight years of cruising I can say that it really wasn’t that bad, mediocre at best, we still were able to do the shows and the only guest service that was compromised is that we had to close the pools early for safety reasons and to avoid deck flooding…..I have been in much worse during the Caribbean winters when the wind causes huge swells. I have vivid memories of Hurricane Jeanne (2004) on the Carnival Glory……….and the cruise director on that ship ….. none other than the great John Heald! I remember the hurricane was headed toward Florida and we were coming from the Eastern Caribbean behind it……it took a turn to go out to sea and all looked good until she decided to take another U-turn and head right toward the coast of Florida……we turned back around and got the hell out of dodge, but not before being caught in crazy 50 mph wind and 40-foot swells……our seven-day voyage turned into a nine-day cruise as we waited it out….in eight years it’s the only time I have ever been sea sick!
Now we go to Risa Barnes and the Carnival Fantasy. Remember she was supposed to go to Bermuda and probably had the most dramatic of the itinerary changes. This report was received from Risa at 2:15pm on Sunday, Aug. 28
Here’s the update:
Around 5pm on the first sea day the seas calmed and we had a lovely evening of elegance with shows, music and fun. The next sea day Saturday was absolutely BEAUTIFUL…smooth sailing and sunshine all day! Today we are in Cozumel and unfortunately the previous forecast for sunshine was taken away from us and we have had overcast skies and slight drizzle all day, but still the guests are able to get off and explore the shore! So far all is well I will know better what the mood is at 5pm when we have our past guest reception with 1,437 repeat guests onboard!
And here is Malcolm in the Middle on Carnival Miracle which was sent on Saturday, August 27, at 9 am EST.
We have just heard from the captain. Half Moon Cay has sustained some minor damage due to the storm, and will not be ready for our guests in two days. There are no other ports for us to go to. I would imagine many ships have switched itineraries and taking what’s available before we get there. We now have an additional day at sea. The sea swells have kicked up a bit, so we are experiencing some good rocking right now, with considerable splashing along side. We are currently east of the storm now heading south to Grand Turk.
xxoo J (two more cruises till vacation, Woo Hoo!)
And here is the view from Malcolm’s balcony……..yes, senior officers have balconies on Spirit class ships.
And now we go off to Brent, the CD of the Carnival Pride. This was sent on Sunday August 28, at 1:30pm EST, after the ship debarked its guests and was waiting for the storm to pass before taking on more guests on Monday.
Made it!! Well it’s been a long 24hrs mostly for the captain and his officers as he’s been living on the bridge during all this with an espresso being his best friend I imagine. We made it to our anchor point yesterday about 4 pm (with only the crew on board – no guests) and shortly after the weather really came in. The area we’re in is in Chesapeake Bay and about 2 miles from land where it’s only about 25 meters deep which helped cut down on any large waves or swells. We got the full force of it this morning at about 1:30am. Being night time I really couldn’t get any pictures but I can assure you it was seriously windy!! Walking around today everything looks to be in good shape and no damage. Today the wind is still strong but only a few clouds and SUN! Have to really commend Captain Giacalone for keeping us all safe as going through this can’t be easy for any captain!! Not to mention today is also his birthday………poor guy. Here are a few photos of when it just started to hit us (trust me it doesn’t do it justice) and also of Lido where we pulled everything inside and one I took just now showing how close we are to land and how nice it is outside!
And finally the Carnival Glory and her Cruise Director Josh aka “Big Sexy.” Here is his honest report which I received at 2:45pm Sunday, Aug. 28.
Hey John –
I know you’ve been at sea for a long time, but in my seven and a half years with this company and 17 different ships, this is probably some of the worst sea conditions I’ve encountered. As of right now, the ship is experiencing large swells which basically feels like you’re in a constant roller coaster while sporting a nasty hangover from cheap tequila… It sure takes me back to my old college days….
Yesterday was an adventure in itself too. First off, New York City was eerily calm as the Glory sat at Pier 88 in lower west side Manhattan. There was a mandatory citywide evacuation and all mass transit was shut down by 12 noon (the city felt like something out of the Will Smith flick, “I Am Legend”). Last night’s Welcome Show was also quite interesting, to say the least as it needed to be done without the dancer section given the rough seas. So, I walked out on stage with an awkward feeling of nausea, jacked up on three Dramamine and feeling like I was kicked in the head by a mule about 139 times, and proceeded (along with the Glory Show band, E-Staff Team and comedian Lenny Marcus) to give a solid 35-minute performance to a crowd who was so drugged up and comatose that a Phish concert would be jealous….
On another note, the New Yorkers sure are tough and seem to be in relatively good spirits (those that are actually out of their cabins), and my Fun Ashore presentation this morning was quite busy (I’m assuming due to wanting to find out more about the weather and our revised itinerary). The guests are a slowly getting their sea legs but ultimately they are all OK.
Thanks to all my colleagues for sending me updates and more importantly for their continuing hard work and dedication in turning a difficult situation into the most fun possible. Well done to them and of course to the captain and crew of all the ships that have been affected by big old Hurricane Bastard.
While many of the 24-hour news channels played their Armageddon is coming pieces over and over again, there was one area that many thought would not survive and that indeed it would be a catastrophe and that place was paradise or as it is also called……….Half Moon Cay.
And here to tell us how what is for many Carnival and Holland America guests their favourite Caribbean destination. What follows is an interview with Matt Sams, a gentleman whom I have had the honour of knowing for many years. We worked together for some years and I can honestly say that he was and continues to be a great ambassador for cruising. He joined Carnival Cruise Lines in 1985 as an operations supervisor and eventually was named director of port operations before heading over to Holland America.
During his time at CCL, Matt was in charge of all port operations, interior dry dock repairs, major refurbishments and interior designs of existing vessels, shore excursion operations, new buildings of Jubilee, Celebration, and on board revenue. He joined Holland America Line in May 1997, as vice president of Caribbean relations. And he truly is Half Moon Cay. He has nurtured and developed the island and who better than to tell us about what happened. So I sent him a few questions and he responded immediately. Here is what he had to say:
Matt, what preparations on the island were made for the hurricane’s arrival?
Due to an itinerary change, courtesy of Irene, Carnival Miracle called at Half Moon Cay on Aug 23. During the same day, the storm rapidly grew in and became a major hurricane. The staff did a great job installing hurricane shutters, storing lounge chairs, furniture, decorations, etc. The electrical and water plants required shutter protection and shut down. The smaller boats were taken out of the marina and filled with water for weight to avoid them from hitting other vessels or the sides of the marina. The larger boats were roped off in the middle of the Marina so they were free of other vessels and the floating docks. The Half Moon Clipper and the three large passenger tenders were taken to Davis Harbor in Eleuthera as it is much larger than Half Moon Cay and is better protected. The entire crew worked very hard to accomplish all of these tasks. The crew departed at 9 pm. Some of the employees did not get home until after midnight.
Having put so much personal dedication into HMC yourself; you must have been so concerned about what Irene would do. What were your biggest fears?
My biggest fear was the potential damage to the storm was a strong category 3. We were obviously concerned that the storm could close the island for an extended period and also that the marina would be obstructed due to heavy boulders falling into the water. If this were to happen, the Half Moon Clipper and the tenders would not be able to enter the marina to disembark employees, guests, and supplies. Major damage to the floating docks, would also not allow safe passage of passengers and supplies. All of the major mechanical areas were in good shape. If the water plant or electrical generator plant would have been seriously damaged, the delay in reopening the island would have been seriously affected.
So, now you have seen the island what can you tell us about the damage?
As inspections continue, it becomes more and more obvious that we dodged a huge bullet. The south east beach (which is not used) has eroded to bed rock which means approximately nine feet vertically by 40-foot from the shore line by over a mile in length. We are finding isolated electrical shorts due to distribution panels being flooded. There are several small water leaks that are also being dealt with. There is evidence that the island experienced at least one tornado. The ocean is still very rough and erosion is continuing. A beach refurbishment contractor will be here tomorrow (he has rebuilt this beach seven times over the years). Employee housing will need a lot of work. Doors are swollen, a lot of roof leaks, ceiling tile damage. Half Moon Cay marina is clear and Davis Harbor is being inspected today for some damage to the floating docks. A large water main break also occurred by the Welcome Center. The Marina at Davis Harbor has been inspected and found to be clear of obstructions. We will be dispatching a boat with 23 more staff, bringing the staffing level to 32.
And as you know many were concerned about the horses. Can you confirm they are OK?
All 47 horses were found in great shape.
I know at this early stage it’s probably difficult to estimate but when do you see HMC being ready to welcome Carnival Corp guests?
The island will reopen on September 4.
As I mentioned, the number of people who asked me about HMC on the blog and on Facebook was extraordinary and shows just how much Holland America and Carnival guests love the island. Why is Half Moon Cay loved by so many?
Half Moon Cay is exactly what passengers think of when they think of the Caribbean. Our beautiful beaches, friendly staff, and unique excursions only add to this experience.
And finally, what does the future hold for this slice of paradise?
We get a lot of requests for additional shopping venues. We are looking into this. We are also in the final stages of opening a state-of-the-art spa complex that will be done with an island theme. Stay tuned for further details
Thanks Matt for that personal look at what could have happened, what did happen and for telling us that paradise re-opens on September 4. We are all very grateful.
Let’s change the subject and talk about my daughter for a moment, if we can. Kye was crying yesterday. She wanted her Dadda and kept saying “Dadda gone, Dadda gone” and Heidi sent me an email asking me to call and console her. So I did and said that I would be home with her very, very soon. But actually its 22 days until I am home so therefore I lied to her. Yes, she stopped crying and yes I made her laugh but in order for this to happen I had lied to my 2-year-old daughter. I guess though it’s not the only lie I will be telling her and when she is old she will realise that Mama and Dadda talk total bollocks.
There is no tooth fairy; that strange, obese bloke with a beard does not creep into your house under the cloak of darkness to leave you gifts once a year because he does not exist and, furthermore, his image, as we know it, was entirely created by a corporate fat cat as a means to sell more toys. The fat bastard she may have caught a glimpse of on December 25 was in fact her Dad pooping down to the refrigerator at 2 am for something to munch on.
Also, Kye will eventually learn that she was not delivered into this world by a kindly stork who delivered her to our house. You will not be marrying a prince. The cat that she liked to play with in the garden did not get taken to live on a farm (in the sky) he was sent away for continuing to drop fresh turds on my doorstep and is buried behind the garden shed. As sure as I know that Kye will one day realise these to be not true I also know that anti-aging face creams don’t really do what they say they do yet my wife spends ages putting these creams on and I won’t mention that each pot costs the same as caviar. I also know that despite how strongly I wish for it that there will always be at least one negative comment on the list of 10 questions I answer here on the blog. I also know that I will never own an Aston Martin or ever get to drive one, that Megan Fox’s bottom will never be something I will see up close and personal.
I also know, as now do many thousands of people, that all cruise lines are not created equal …….. especially if your ships sailed and you are left behind in San Juan.
P.S. Here are today’s Fun Times, from your Carnival Miracle.