BLACKJACK 2011

October 20, 2011 -

John Heald

When I travel I am always guaranteed that someone somewhere is watching over me thinking “Let’s make sure John has something to write about for his blog” and what follows usually means I end up in the s**t. It started on Tuesday night when after a whole day of filming with Peter the Hair, Jay the Recently Married and my marvelous and very patient assistant Mel on board the Carnival Liberty we were tired and ready to go to the hotel. We could have stayed on board but the internet during a dry/wet dock is as reliable as the French army when the word attack is shouted and so to download the videos we had to go to a hotel.

Now I have to feel so sorry for the contractors and crew who are working hard to finish the Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades because ever since the Carnival Liberty arrived in Freeport the weather has been a total bastard. And on Tuesday night the rain fell and the wind howled and I thought seriously about doing my bedtime story. Anyway, while the ship continued working the four of us braved the elements and walked off the deck 0 gangway into near monsoon conditions. We had about 800 meters to walk to where the taxis were and we had to do so dragging our suitcases along an oily, greasy pier. Mother Nature saw that the fat bastard was out in the open and therefore decided to unleash even more rain and that was me soaked and knowing for sure I would get a cold. I was right because today I feel bloody awful.

We arrived at the taxi stand and there were two vans waiting hopefully for crew to come off and spend some money ashore. We threw the luggage in the back and off we went………..very slowly. We knew something wasn’t right when turning the van around to drive to the hotel the driver hit a huge bush. It made quite a sound and yet he seemed oblivious to the fact and kept on driving …………. very, very slowly. At one point I saw his head bowed as if he was falling asleep so I started to talk to him. This was a huge mistake as he know started to talk to me in what he thought was a British accent but it proved what we all knew. He was drunk or he had just smoked a palm tree.

During the next 20 minutes the driver never exceeded 30 miles an hour and he angered a total of five other cars that all blew their horns at him as he swerved into their lane. We were all scared. Honestly, we were really, really worried and then without warning he turned into a gas station telling us he needed some gas. And so we sat as the driver wound down his van window and ordered the pump attendant (no self service in Freeport) a grand total of $14 to put in the tank. While this was going on suddenly he started singing a song, loudly and with great gusto. The song was I think called “Oh Lord Help Me Cheat on My Girlfriend And Not get Caught.” I say this not because I know the song but that’s what he sang over and over and over again and as he did so his voice increased in volume.

Once the $14 worth of gas was in which by the way took all of 30 seconds we continued the drive to the hotel and he continued to swerve and continued to pray to the Lord God Almighty that he wouldn’t get caught having rumpy pumpy with some Bahama Mama. Eventually – 55 minutes after leaving the Carnival Liberty — we arrived. The same journey which we had done the week previous had taken 20 minutes. I paid the driver and asked for a receipt as I have to claim the money back from Carnival. The driver then rummaged around in the glove compartment, found his business card and handed it to me saying, “Call me when you want to go to the airport.” I smiled, gave him his $40 while secretly thinking that I would rather have Stevie Wonder drive me than him.

It was now 9 pm and we checked in at the hotel. Lots of little things happened that continue to prove Murphy was picking on me. It was a long walk to the hotel rooms where we were staying. Peter opened his door to find a cleaner sitting on his bed watching TV. I would have liked to open my door but the sodding electric key didn’t work and I had to wait 20 minutes for someone to come with a new one. I won’t mention the name of the hotel but I will say that this is a huge property and it was deserted and only one of the five restaurants was open. I can only say this that I can’t complain about the service there…….because there wasn’t any. It was awful, truly awful. My room had nylon sheets that made my hair look like it had been styled by a leaf blower.

That night we went to the one restaurant that was open and ordered mediocre food. My burger arrived and a Guy’s burger it wasn’t. Anyway, I asked the waiter for some mustard and mayonnaise and he looked at me with as though I had just requested that his wife come back to my hotel room with me. It was quite an experience but the worst as you will read at the end of today’s musings……….was yet to come.

So yesterday morning we took a taxi, with a normal taxi driver to the airport. And our travel fun and games continued. Jay the Recently Married who works with Peter the Hair on video and production had some toiletries in his bag. He had three little things of toothpaste, shampoo and genital wart cream. They were in the little plastic bag thing as they are supposed to be. He has traveled with these essentials in his carryon bag all over the Caribbean and Europe because that’s the law. But not in Freeport it isn’t. It had to be in a zip lock bag. A certain style of zip lock bag and unless Jay had one his toiletries would be confiscated by a woman the size of a Hummer.

How lucky for Jay then that the shop back outside of security area had zip lock bags for sale for $1 each and as Bahama Hummer insisted that each of the items be placed in a separate bag Jay had to go and buy three bags.

There was a lady in front of us who was really upset when she was told to the same thing and I suspect many more people are as well at this blatant way to make money from today’s sometimes ridiculous security measures. Freeport Airport…….you should be ashamed. I am surprised the security ladies didn’t offer to braid our hair while we
waited.

Now the one good thing about flying from Freeport is that you pass through US Immigration at the Freeport Airport and thus don’t have to face the horrendous lines that await you in Miami. Last week when I flew through there it was quick and easy and the inspector was charming and we even talked about cruising and the fact that when he discovered what I was in Freeport for he told me how he had enjoyed a cruise on the Carnival Valor last year. This time it was different. I had my passport and my US Customs card completed and approached the desk.

I guess while last week’s CBP officer was chosen for his charm and pleasant nature this inspector was selected for having no grace, no manners, no humour and no humanity. He scanned my form and noted there was no street number for the hotel at which I was staying in Miami. I had just written the name of the hotel and that it was in Miami. “I’m going to need a street number and address,” he said. “Ooh, I’m sorry,” I said, “I don’t know it.”

This didn’t seem to have any effect. “I’m going to need a number,” he said again, and then again, and then again. Each time I answered sounding more and more like Hugh Grant, terrified that I might be sent to into the little room with the men in latex gloves on or even worse back to Freeport. But I simply didn’t have an answer. “I’m going to need a number,” he said again, giving the distinct impression that he was a robot, and that this was a conversation he was prepared to endure until one of us died. So with a great deal of bravery I decided to give him one. I rummaged around in my carry on and said, “Ahhh here it is. 3655 NW 87th Avenue. This, it turned out, was fine and he wrote down the address of the Intercontinentalmarriotthyatt Hotel which actually was Carnival’s head office address.

I was now feeling very grumpy indeed and I know Peter and Jay were as well because back at the security check Bahama Hummer had insisted that they open all of their equipment and prove that they were carrying video equipment and that the steady cam jacket wasn’t body amour and the tripod wasn’t a grenade launcher.

Eventually I was on the plane or the Pringles tube as Peter the Hair correctly called our American Eagle flight. It was a bumpy ride as we flew through the bad weather. I was in seat 13D pressed against the window. Next to me was a man who said nothing the whole flight but instead read a book. He must have been very short sighted though because he did so by holding the book at arm’s length like a soiled pair of my underpants. It was an awful flight on an awful plane in awful weather. I have had it. I am never flying again unless I have a private plane with huge leather seats and lashings of plasma screens, with in flight food cooked onboard by Guy Fieri and served by Megan Fox…………naked.

And on that note let’s crack on with some Q and A

Suzanne Celentano asked:
Hi John,

I noticed on the CD schedule, that you are off starting 12/4/11. Are you off for the entire month of December? We were looking to sail on the Carnival Magic out of Galveston on 12/18, but we really want to sail with you. Can you please let me know if you will be our fabulous CD for this cruise? Thank you so much for responding.

Suzanne Celentano

John says:
Hello Suzanne Celentano,

I will indeed be leaving then and the ship will be in the capable hands of James Charlton who is the CD now in fact and will be for the trans-Atlantic crossing. I know you will have the best of times although I am very sorry I can’t be with you. Please let me know if there is anything you need before you cruise. Have a wonderful time.

Best wishes.

John

Rick asked:

My wife and I have sailed on the Carnival Paradise (2009) and the Carnival Splendor (2010) Halloween cruise. We are booked again on the Splendor Oct. 30, 2011. On the last two cruises my favorite part of the ship was closed, the piano bar. I would like to know if the piano bar will be open this time? On another issue, I really miss the Grand Buffet at midnight. Will this ever come back? That was worth booking a cruise just to tell my friends about! This will be cruise number six with Carnival and I would like to think Carnival would provide more to keep returning guests and not less. I have enjoyed all of my time on board and look forward to becoming a Platinum Member.

John says:
Hello Rick,

Thanks for booking this cruise and for your loyalty to Carnival. I am not sure I quite understand about the piano bar being closed, maybe the entertainer was ill when you last sailed? Anyway, I can confirm there is a great entertainer there now and that you will have a brilliant time there. The Gala Buffett as we used to call is indeed no more and hasn’t been for some five years I think. It looked great and was lots of work for the crew to prepare but at the end of the night most of the food went to waste as indeed it did most nights we held the late night buffets. With the 24-hour room service and 24-hour pizza plus the late night snacks we think we have the model just right. Thanks for the post and I wish you a brilliant Halloween cruise.

Best wishes.

John

Debbie James asked:

I just wanted to let you know what a wonderful cruise we had on the Carnival Ecstasy Aug 20, 2011. VIP embarkation was quick as usual and we only had to wait about five minutes for the rest of the family to complete regular check-in. The chair hogs must have been on vacation since we were able to find seats near the main pool or at the Serenity area with no problems. I requested that the balcony partition be opened between our two cabins. My son and I went to guest services and within five minutes someone from housekeeping opened the partition. I e-mailed the maitre d about a week before sailing asking for a table for six in a corner so that our grandkids did not bother anyone. He e-mailed me back that my request was granted and we could not have been happier with the table or the wait staff. Rudy from Peru and his assistants did a wonderful job as did our room stewardess, Mary Ann. Steve Cassel was brilliant – he’s quite a one-man entertainment center between the fiddling, classical violin and the juggling. We also had a nice conversation with Steve and Chantal from Marseilles after the farewell party. VIP disembarkation took place exactly at the time stated on our letter and we were off the ship and through customs in a matter of minutes. The food was good – still had the old menu so we all had shrimp cocktail every night just for you John. Thanks again to Carnival for another great vacation.

John says:
Hello Debbie James,

You know, I absolutely love it when I hear great things about Steve Cassel. He is our longest serving CD and he is, with respect to all the other cruise directors the one true entertainer we have. Thank you for writing this great review and Steve and all the people you mentioned will be thrilled when they see this. I am glad you got to experience the last of the shrimp cocktail and I truly hope you will be with us again very soon. Carnival Ecstasy is a great ship with a brilliant crew and I thank you again for highlighting these facts.

Best wishes.

John

Iain M asked:
John,

RCCL has no problem spending a few bucks and holding a ship sponsored meet and greet. It’s a great way to meet your fellow cruisers that you have been communicating with and we appreciate the way RCCL feels about Cruise Critic people. Carnival seems only interested in this if we are willing to pay. We have a Cruise Critic group cruise on Carnival Magic on 1/15/12 and yet Carnival doesn’t want to give us anything.

John says:
Hello Iain M,

As you may or may not know I recently made a decision here not to post anymore comments containing the words Cruise Critic or supplying links to various postings there. This was done because it was highlighting the negative few whose agenda was speculative at best and giving a terrible name to the many good people who frequent the site. Now the only exception to this was when I was asked to arrange meet and greet functions, something I have done a lot of recently. I have no idea what other lines offer and therefore I cannot comment. I do know that if you need me to I can offer to arrange a room to meet and a mention in our Fun Times so everyone knows where and when it is. Please let me know if I can help organise this for you.

Best wishes.

John

Carolyn Reddin asked:

I have a suggestion but I do not know the proper place to address it. I was looking on the net the other day and I saw some clear plastic luggage tags that you can put the paper tags into. I was thinking that Carnival should get some that said Carnival on them and give one to people on their first cruise and maybe another for their fifth cruise. I know that if I had that then I would not want to cruise on another cruise line because I couldn’t use them. If they raised the price of the cruise a dollar or two, no one would know the difference and it wouldn’t cost them anything. Oh, I am getting ready to take my sixth cruise with Carnival on Jan 1 on Carnival Magic.

John says:
Hello Carolyn Reddin,

I know that some have tremendous difficulty with our current paper tags and many come up with ingenious ways of making them stay on the bags. So thanks so much for telling me about this and I will make sure that I pass this excellent idea along to the right people. I see you are cruising on the Carnival Magic and if you need anything before you do please let me know. I wonder if one day you will see these tags on your bags?

Best wishes.

John

Jack Dey asked:
Mr. Heald,

As a platinum passenger with a grand total of 17 cruises with Carnival line, I am very disheartened by the way that Platinum guests do not get free internet and have to pay the same rate as non Platinum customers. This shows a lack of care on Carnivals part and unless this is changed it may become a deciding factor if there is a cruise number 18 for me. Platinum guests deserve better. Your response is expected sooner rather than later.

John says:
Hello Jack Dey,

I should apologise that my response to this came later rather than sooner as it’s just under a month ago since you posted this question. Carnival does not provide the internet service onboard as we work with a vendor called MTN which from what I understand services just about every major cruise line. Regarding your suggestion about free or discounted internet time, I will bring this up when I meet with the vice president who is responsible for what we are going to do with our new loyalty program. I hope there will be a cruise number 18 and may I personally thank you for your loyalty. Let’s see what the future holds.

Best wishes.

John

Marc Steiner asked:

Good evening. My name is Marc and my family just got back from our Carnival Legend August 21- 28 2011 cruise. We had a great time but we were very disappointed about the past guest party. We have now sailed with Carnival and Carnival only nine times and this past guest party was the worst or should I say we missed due to the poor schedule planning…. the party was held when we were in Belize (Wednesday) which was a tender port we were on a Carnival shore excursion (cave tubing—- which was fun) we did not get back on the ship until 5pm and we had to take showers and wash up because we were in the caves… the party was between 5:15 and 6 pm …. by the time we got to it was 5:45pm and they were only serving cheese and no bar service came around to us…. we voiced our opinion on the ship and was offered a bottle of wine which we turned down due to the fact no one in the party actually drinks… My dad can’t drink and I don’t drink and my mom has a social drink…. they told us they would see what they can do…. after two days (Friday August 26) we did not hear back from anyone that we went to guest services on the ship and was told that we would have some goodies waiting for us at the table it turned out the gift was the same bottle of wine that was offered at the time of the complaint…. we took the bottle and gave it to our table mates…. but this is not the way to treat a past guest when we told them that we did not want a bottle of wine in the first place…. all the ship had to do is offer a fruit basket or even a photo coupon to show appreciation of being a past guest…. I want to share this negative experience with you so you can speak to the beards to make sure this does not happen again to other past guests and to see what carnival can offer us to make the negative experience into a happy moment. Look forward in hearing back from you.

Thanks,

Marc

John says:
Hello Marc Steiner,

At last I have found your comment. I know we have been talking about this on Facebook and I feel bad that it’s taken this long for it to be posted here. It got overlooked and I am so sorry. I decided to post it again because this was one of those situations that we learn from and since you told me about this a change has been made accordingly on the Carnival Legend regarding their past guest party. I also hope that by now someone has contacted you and of course that you will tell me when you are ready to cruise again so I can send you a little something. Thanks so much and my apologies again for the lateness of my reply.

Best wishes.

John

Janice asked:

Recently returned from a Carnival Magic cruise that ended one day premature (missed Palma port). We were very disappointed and now I read that your current cruise missed the Monte Carlo port. We passengers select cruises based on the ports, how can Carnival skip the Monte Carlo port for lack of pier availability? Does this not have to be booked well in advance? For us we were told that Palma staff was on strike, but I have read more than a few times of Carnival missing ports. I did not think this could ever happen precisely because passengers pay for these ports when they book the cruise. Please explain.

John says:
Hello Janice,

I hope you had fun on your cruise but I must admit I am baffled by your comments. I was on the ship for both those incidents. We missed Monte Carlo because of high winds and it was nothing to do with lack of pier space but for the safety of the ship. Then as for Palma, well there was as you said a strike which would have meant no ground transportation for our guests so we went to Barcelona and gave our guests a full day and overnight experience there. I realise that guests book to see the ports of call but sometimes things like weather and other situations way out of our control mean we have to make changes. I do hope you had fun though and thanks for taking the time to write.

Best wishes.

John

Georgie Marino asked:
John,

I’m embarrassed, this is my third message to you since I returned from the Carnival Magic Aug. 14-26 cruise! If we book the cruise next year on the new ship which goes to the Mediterranean including Greece and Turkey do you think you will be covering the cruise director duties? Please let me know before we book it.

John says:
Hello Georgie Marino
It should be me that’s embarrassed as it’s taken me nearly a month to reply to you since this last post and I am so sorry that I have only done so now. It is great to hear from you and yes, I will be the CD for the Carnival Breeze and her journey to Greece and Turkey and I hope that I will have the honour of seeing you there.

Best wishes.

John

Tanya Ferguson asked:

Can you please ask the beards to do something about the automated phone calls?? For the last three days, I have gotten three automated calls from Carnival…and when I answer, I get a message that says “We are sorry, there are no PVPs available at this time”…then quit calling me, please?! I am being stalked by a cruise, LOL! I am sailing in less than three weeks on the Carnival Victory, and I have no idea why they keep calling me!

John says:
Hello Tanya Ferguson
I have never heard of this before and I am so sorry that it is as I can imagine frustrating. Let me pass this on and please let me know if you continue to get these calls.

Best wishes.

John

Does anyone else get those calls? Let me know if you do and if you have a comment about it. And on that note that’s all the Q&A today here but there will be much more on my Facebook page………..oh……….hold on, there is one more. As I have been traveling so much these past few years since I have become brand ambassador I have found myself asking why we do all travel so much. It’s time consuming and it’s bloody boring. In the olden days, no one wasted their lives by traveling from A to B, because B was too far away. Now, though, people are quite happy to spend 10 hours in a Pringle tube, watching all their veins clog up and to breathe in the gaseous remains of other people’s lunch. When you are on a plane you are achieving nothing and you are not enjoying yourself, so you are wasting the most precious commodity you have: time.

If you’re middle-aged now you only have 200,000 hours left, and are you prepared to spend 20 of those being squashed next to a hemorrhoid cream salesman from Michigan plus another 45 minutes while someone at airport security removes your shoes and makes you pay $3 for a zip lock bag. This is why I love ships — they may be slower than a plane but you can never be bored, never squashed and if you do meet the hemorrhoid cream salesman from Michigan you can buy him a drink.
I wish I could fly first class. Flying in the front of an airplane does not make the journey pass any more quickly but at least you don’t have to spend 10 hours with your face in someone’s armpit. The jump in price from economy to club is vast but there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s worth every penny. So does this apply to a cruise experience, I wonder? Is it worth spending that extra amount of money for a suite? Good question…………..as you will see here.

Laurie Barton asked:
John,

I am thinking very seriously of booking our second cruise with Carnival on the Carnival Breeze with my husband. We have always wanted to see Europe and having had such a fantastic experience on the Carnival Dream in July what better way to see Europe than on a Carnival ship. My question John is about the cabin. We are thin king of splashing out and booking the grand suite but then I find myself thinking is it worth the extra money from a regular balcony cabin because we will be in port a lot and won’t appreciate it. Not sure what to do so any advice you can give me would be welcome. We love the blog and always read it together and we always laugh out loud.
Thanks John.

John says:
Hello Laurie Barton,

Well obviously I am honoured that you are thinking of joining me on the Carnival Breeze and certainly the penthouse suites or grand suites are amazing places to watch the ship sail into port from and to call home after an exciting day exploring one. Now this is a great question you ask and as I have never stayed in a suite on the ships I think I am going to do something different with your question so stand by for that in a moment. I will then answer you again next week and if you have any follow ups please let me know. I am so glad you enjoyed the cruise on the Carnival Dream and I hope we shall see each other on the Carnival Breeze. Best wishes to you both and thanks for the kind words.

John

So bloggers. Should she book the suite? Here is one for you to answer so …………..off you go.

I want to chat about the casino in a moment but first let’s talk TV. We have had some concerns with our CBS provider last month with many of the ships not receiving that channel. They got all the other networks but CBS was scrambled during the month of September and some of October. I asked the beard in charge about this and he told me today that we now have the CBS feed from Buffalo, NY and it’s available on all the ships except Carnival Magic since she is in Europe. We continue to have more network TV coverage than any other cruise line and we will only be getting even better as you will see in the weeks ahead.

And now to the casino. Two days ago I was asked on my Facebook page if Carnival was replacing the live blackjack dealers with automated electronic tables with no human dealer. I said that this was not going to happen. However, my information source I used for that was a little off…………well………sort of and regardless I need to start with an apology for giving out some incorrect information which when I do makes me very upset with myself.

So, what is happening? Well I spoke yesterday to the senior vice president beard and the vice president beard of casino operations. These gents are great people and good mates and truly have an understanding I think of what the guests want. I showed them the 400-plus comments posted on my Facebook page in answer to my question about what you enjoyed about our casinos and any suggestions you had. It was a fascinating read and apart from the usual suspects of smoking and drinks etc there was genuine praise for the On Us program and the casino hosts and dealers and how friendly they were. So it was understandable that some had some questions about automated blackjack tables. Well I asked that question to the people in charge…..here is their reply;

“Hello John’s Bloggers. Thanks for asking about this and let me tell you what is happening.

We currently have three tables each on Carnival Conquest, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Valor and Carnival Triumph and will likely have installed another four ships with similar tables within the next four months. The results from the initial four ships are very promising and we’re expanding the trial to see if they are indicative of the broader fleet. We have a maximum of three tables and reports tell us a lot of guests like them because the minimums are lower and they don’t feel intimidated by the other players if they do something wrong nobody gets upset and shouts “You took my 10.” It’s also worth mentioning that we often have a casino host at the tables, and because they don’t have to worry about actually dealing the game they are able to focus exclusively on interacting with the guests. And of course these tables can stay open 24 hours while the ship is at sea.”

Thanks Rodney and thanks Paul for taking the time to talk to us. It seems to me that with these additional tables offering lower minimums and help from the casino host that we have the best of both worlds with the live dealer action at the rest of the blackjack tables. It would be fascinating to hear from anyone who has used these new tables and to hear your thoughts.

Can I say a quick hello to Heidi’s aunty and uncle who are staying with Heidi and Kye at our house in the UK for a few days? They are wonderful people and I know Heidi loves having them there very much. Heidi’s uncle is her Dad’s brother. Heidi lost her Dad when he was just 62 and just a few weeks after he retired. His brother (Heidi’s uncle) is the spitting image of her Dad and has many of the same mannerisms that her father had.

Holland is a brilliant country and I know I have some faithful Dutch blog readers as well. As I mentioned the other day, the language is as confusing as to why one of those poor singers who Simon Cowell berates hasn’t punched him in the face yet. You see, in Dutch the “a” is pronounced “I” and the “e” pronounced “a” and don’t get me started on the “j.”

Then there is breakfast which is as important to the Dutch as any nation on earth. Yet it’s a boring breakfast. When I visit Heidi’s family my choices are bread, three kinds of cheese and some cold ham …….. Where was the eggs, bacon, pancakes, cereal, fruit…….even some Herring would have been nice. Instead of breakfast the Dutch have what is called Elef or Elevensees as we say in the UK. This is a snack consisting of a cream cake or sausage roll with coffee and this keeps you going until lunch.

There are many things I love about Holland though. The people are friendly and amazingly most all speak English. They have a superb economy and it’s become my second home. However, the Dutch t always say what they mean and never, ever exert themselves with expression. If you hear a Dutch person use the word “OK” it is used on the same level as we would use fantastic or I would use brilliant. This can be quite disconcerting especially when fishing for compliments. When I first met Heidi I remember asking her a very personal question to which she answered “OK” …..I did not feel like a man for days until she explained “OK” meant I was a stud. I hope Carnival returns to Baltic cruising and that we include Amsterdam in our itinerary again. Amsterdam is “OK.”

So here I sit in my hotel room in my underpants. I still have no idea what the address is and as far as the immigration inspector is concerned I am sleeping under Gerry Cahill’s desk. The hotel I am in is nice enough. It should be at $200 a night and I am staying here for quite a few nights so I am bloody glad I am not paying. But as nice as it is it is still a business hotel. Businessmen’s hotels are the most miserable, soul destroying, soulless places in the entire travel industry. Apart from a certain hotel in Freeport, obviously.

Last night I braved the table for one and went down to the hotel’s restaurant. The menu was written in both English and Spanish and there was much talk of jus and things being drizzled onto other things. And it all sounds lovely. I went for the lamb chop with wasabi mashed potato and vegetables. I ordered from the waitress. “No, lamb. Lamb,” I said to the Spanish speaking lady. I was back in Wal Mart again and nearly started bleating like a sheep but instead wearily pointed to the item on the menu. I was expecting something awful, something the colour of a camel’s scrotum and with the texture of Judge Judy’s thighs. But you know what? It was absolutely brilliant.

Despite the language barrier here I am actually starting to feel like coming back to this hotel is sort of like coming home. I will be on the Carnival Liberty for a week and then back here for 10 days before I head to the Carnival Magic and compared to where I stayed in Freeport this is luxury …………..bloody luxury. I can’t mention the name of the hotel but honestly I wish I could. I am not making this up and have my three colleagues as witnesses. The service and cleanliness of a supposed four-star resort was simply horrific. Our room keys said we had been upgraded to business class. Business class my arse. Being charged $170 a night for a “luxury” hotel room in Freeport that comprised one ratty bathrobe, no mini-bar or bottled water and two single beds of slightly differing heights shoved together is not business class or any sodding class.

And if you do stay there take my advice and before you go to sleep check the bed sheets for pubic shrubbery………..because I think whoever was sleeping in the bed before me was either molting……… or gave themselves a Brazilian.

Goodnight.

Your friend,

John

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77 Responses to BLACKJACK 2011

  1. Steve B says:

    Hi John!

    I’ve often been… entertained… by the quirkiness of the taxi/van drivers one encounters at various ports. Nassau and Cozumel have provided many… interesting… journeys similar to yours.

    On the other hand, every once in a while you find a driver who proves to be a true gem, who not only knows the obscure, out of the way restaurant or store you wanted to go to, but when you get there actually knows the people at said restaurant or store, can advise you on the best things to get there, can help you translate what they’re saying, and will patiently wait for you to drive you back to your ship, all without charging you a ridiculous amount of money. But you have to be lucky to get one of those…

    @Jack Dey: John’s response to your question above is, in fact, understating the issue. MTN is a satellite internet provider, and satellite internet is *not* cheap. It’s very expensive, in fact. Carnival marks it up, yes, but not by as much as you may think.

    I seriously doubt you could find any cruise line which provides free internet as a perk – it would be extremely costly to the cruise line. Even a discounted rate would be a very significant perk. (I’d love to see a perk like that – but I wouldn’t hold my breath…) In fact, on a recent Behind the Fun tour, I learned that even the crew has to pay quite a bit for internet access.

    • StanF says:

      Steve – If you stay in a suite on Princess you get free internet. Princess is a sister company of Carnival’s.

      • Steve B says:

        That *is* a significant perk for buying a suite on Princess. I suspect they get away with it by assuming the people likely to get a suite aren’t as likely to use a LOT of internet access. (I know people who, if given the chance, would be on the Net for hours and hours on a cruise and use Gigabytes of bandwidth, even at the slow speeds you get with the satellite access. Get one of those in a suite, and Princess probably would pay several hundred dollars in net access fees across a seven day cruise…)

      • Ducky says:

        You really think internet usage isn’t factored into the costing of the suite?

        • Linda (Mom of DJ) says:

          That was what I was going to add….compared the price of a Princess Suite to a Carnival suite???

          Nothing is free….

          that is why I have said for years that the “perks” for Platinum are in line with the price of a Carnival cruise.

          Now when they change it to DAYS instead of number of cruises….my opinion may change somewhat…

          Linda

    • Bob says:

      On RCCL after 10 cruises, or now the equivalent days, you receive a coupon book that has 1/2 hour of free internet time. You may get something after 5 cruises and I know the amount of time increases at diamond plus (175 days).

      • Steve B says:

        Half an hour (or any fixed amount) of free time is very different from free access. That’s a perk of predictable cost to the cruise line. Free Internet with no time limits is an unpredictable cost, and could be quite a huge cost at that.

      • Maria & Juan Santana says:

        Bob,you are correct,on Royal Caribbean once you reached the 10th cruise or the equivalent points, you get 1/2 hr. of free internet. You get a coupon book at the beginning of the tour & there you can find the internet coupon that you take to guest services so they can credit your acct. for the free 1/2 hr. internet time. I believe that if you have less than 10 cruises or the equivalent points, you get 9 mins. of free internet. I believe it’s about time for Carnival to start something similar.

    • Aaron says:

      Actually, Princess includes free internet as a suite perk, and for Platinum and Elite Captain’s Circle members, a certain number of minutes is included (varies by length of the cruise). So it is a perk that can be included, if so chosen.

    • Crystal Q says:

      I agree – and in fact, if the internet was offered free, the service would be slower as there would be more users, and on top of it – the internet cafe would be constantly full as not everyone brings their laptops.

      Then everyone would complain there wasn’t enough computers. :)

  2. Sarge1 says:

    John, it looks like Cruise Critic people have learned other ways to bash Carnival and not say who they are. a lot of these complaints are false and really laughable. the one biddy who blames Carnival for the weather has no right even typing. the one that says respond here and now is another loser. It doesnt matter if someone has cruised once or 100 times, all should be treated the same in my eyes. the cockiness of the rich show when

    they expect you to bow down to them

  3. Laura says:

    Just wanted to say, LOVE the BLOGGY thing! Cruise number 8 is in March…I can’t wait!

  4. Lisa Mc says:

    I would only stay in the grand suite if the price was rock bottom. Don’t spend enough time in the room to justify it.

    Didn’t realize why we didn’t get CBS on our B2B Miracle in September, now I know why and glad to know it’ll be available on my October Destiny, January Valor, and February Liberty cruises . . .

  5. Darlene says:

    John, remind me to never go through customs with you! lol Regarding Holland, I loved my visit to Amsterdam. I loved that most spoke English, however, they laughed at my attempt to speak Dutch! I explained that I spoke Texas Dutch! Looking forward to seeing you in Galveston and more information on the 2.0 upgrades!

  6. Judy Sharum says:

    JOHN! I think we stayed at that hotel on Freeport !!! Terrible!!!
    The question of the suite! We decided to try one when they upgraded us to one and paid the difference and weren’t really that impressed. Yes theres more room around the bed and in the bathroom. We never used the spa tub-and didn’t need a dressing room. It was nice for a one time but wouldn’t spend that kind of money again. Satisfied with reg balcony room! Use the money for shore excursions! Greece is FAB!! BEAUTIFUL!!! Enjoy!!!

  7. Michelle says:

    Hi John,
    Regarding Tanya’s phones calls from “Carnival”… it’s more likely a coincidence that she has a cruise booked and that is a telemarketing company call vs. Carnival actually reaching out, if you are not aware of it as a normal practice.

    I’ll skip the how’s and why’s but it is VERY common for 3rd parties to use the name of another business when they are marketing a product – and legitimately so. In this case it could be an authorized business partner of Carnival, a reseller or some offering involving a Carnival offer (timeshare w/ cruise tickets as the ‘prize’) or some other unauthorized party.

    I recommend to Tanya that she Google the toll free number associated with the caller id reference. there are hundred “who called me” type blogs where people post their experience. If the majority indicate they arne’t scheduled for any cruise, its a sales pitch. If the majority indicate they DO have an upcoming past cruise, it could be a follow up survey or other official Carnival business.

    Hope that helps!
    Michelle

    • Laura says:

      Earlier this year I was looking at cruises on the Carnival website (signed in). When I went to looked at prices it “tripped” something that I was looking to book now…I was called with in 2 days about my recent looking at cruises through the website and they wanted to help me book. So every time I went on the Carnival site 2 days later I would be getting a call. This happened several times. I finally had to tell the lady, please don’t call, I will call you when I am ready to book.

  8. Peggy Dunbar says:

    John, you are one of the most amazing writers out there, I just wish you knew it. But you are so humble and most of all so kind to even those that berate you for something that they have no clue what they are talking about. I love your humour and nobody can make me laugh like you do. I have my own funny stories to tell you about Paris before we boarded the Carnival Magic. I want to put it here but I think I have annoyed some of your “friends” as they do not give you any of my “Ask John” posts but maybe this time they will.

    I am trying to get back to some kind of normal since getting home from my fabulous Carnival Magic cruise. I am still so tired and came down with a bloody cold. Of course it is not as bad as yours ;), but bad enough to drain me. I promise I will give you my brilliant and I do mean brilliant review of my cruise soon. No complaints from this cruiser, it truly was fantastic.

    Just a shout out to your good friend and mine, Calvyn. I just adore him and he is looking forward to seeing you again when the Carnival Magic gets to her home port Galveston.

    Keep smiling John; you truly are one of the good guys.

    My best to Heidi and Kye, you must be so excited that they are coming to Texas.

  9. Rayburn says:

    Carolyn Reddin was asking about clear plastic luggage tags. I bought them here:

    http://tinyurl.com/3zb6cm7

  10. Martha says:

    We just got off the Valor – stayed in a grand suite. I don’t know if the layout is the same on the Breeze, but it really is a big room. We had our two boys with us, and it was plenty of room for all of us to be in there, doing our own thing, all at the same time. The balcony is longer, so having all of us out there at one time wasn’t an issue, but it is the same depth as the other balcony cabins, so no lounge chair out there. For us, having the extra room in the cabin also meant that we spent more time there. Usually, we would head to one of the other decks to relax, but with all the chairs, sofa and tables in the suite, we were very comfortable. I certainly don’t have any complaints about the suite. The bathroom was large and had double sinks and a jetted tub. There was also more closet space and a nice sitting/dressing area for getting ready and doing hair and make up. It was really a treat. That said, if it is just two people, I wonder if it would even be a little too big – you may only need the space of a regular balcony cabin. The only “extra” that you get with the suite is VIP boarding, which really didn’t do much for us – we had to wait in the VIP area which was full, so we stood while we waited. It would be nice if Carnival added a little something since these suites are twice the price. I understand that they are twice the space, as well, but if the beards are listening, you should send a little something to make it special – strawberries, a Carnival tote bag – anything really, just to add a nice perk. While on the Dream, we stayed in the new family cabin – it holds up to 5 and is very comfortable. People also enjoy the cove balconies – we saw one on a cabin crawl and they are quite nice.

  11. Cathy W says:

    As to the suite, I think she should save that for a trip when there are fewer port days. I was on the Magic in May and have since lamented the fact that I was unable to really enjoy the ship itself as I was in port most of the time. Get the balcony for sure, but splurge on the suite when there’s more time to enjoy that bit of luxury. My two cents’. :-)

  12. Linda (Mom of DJ) says:

    Lain M:

    Perhaps you would like to have the FACTS before spouting such ignorance.

    Yes, RCCL spends advertising money to host Meet and Greets for forums like Cruise Critic…BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO.

    At last report, RCCL runs at 93% capacity.

    Carnival runs as high as 125%.

    So Carnival does not have to spend their money on this kind of advertising, which keeps my cruising cost LOW.

    And to top it off, John does his best to handle this for those who say they need it.

    But seriously, how hard is it to go to a Roll Call and say :

    “Meet after the Muster Drill at ________ (fill in the black) ”

    You can select the Adult Serenity Area, the Aft Pool, the coffee shop on the Promenade just to name a few locations.

    We have managed to arrange some 30 Meet and Greets without anyone’s assistance….

    imagine that….

    • Dwayne says:

      Thank You!

      These peeps spout off about something they know nothing about. Then it is taken as Gospel.

    • Dutchman says:

      And if CCers want free stuff or drinks, have CC pay for it. They want the advertisement for the site.

  13. Len Susman says:

    Your Freeport experience is nothing new.

    Was there the weekend they gained indepence and they celebrated by totally ignoring service in every hotel, resturant and business. Was looking at property to build a boatyard and quickly went back to FL.

  14. Linda (Mom of DJ) says:

    John:

    Your description of the “business hotel” was spot on.

    David travels every week…and when Josh, DJ and I were at the Courtyard Marriott last month the night before we boarded the Elation, I saw all these business folks.

    It was the oddest thing. (like a secret society) I got a brief glimpse of David’s life on the road. (or in the air)

    Btw, I think the “perks” for Platinum are just about right for the price we pay for a Carnival cruise.

    If someone wants free internet after 10 cruises, they are going to pay for it in the price of the cruise.

    Linda (Mom of your friend DJ)

  15. April S says:

    about the suite… We love suites but I wouldn’t waste the huge amount of money on the Grand Suite for just a bit more room and a bidet. We usually get an Ocean Suite.
    Here’s my take…. the extra room is nice, the bathroom/vanity is what really makes it though.

    A side note for the person that asked about suites… Carnival is way behind on suite perks. Aside from a little extra space in a room that is somewhat bigger, and a tub, the only other perk is VIP boarding. NCL has some amazing suite perks that make it worth it for people that don’t mind paying a little extra money for a nicer time. Actually, every other mass cruise line has better suite perks and incentives to book a higher category then just bigger rooms.

    We love Carnival and we will continue to book with you, but I have thought more then once about booking that amazingly ugly on the outside ship because the suites look amazing on the inside….

  16. Jo Ann P says:

    We played the BJ tables on the Triumph. There was a Lady Dealer at the blackjack tables with no dealers. She went out of her way to help us all enjoy playing these new tables. Plus it was nice because it was always they dealer. You realy enjoyed talking with her. It is nice to be able to play when you want to.
    I enjoyed playing them. They dont rate you are count like the slot do for points. That is the only draw back for me anyway.

  17. Sage56 says:

    My experience – If one already has a balcony cabin, switching to a Grand Suite does not offer a whole lot more. More room, but nothing else that really makes it stand out a cut above already having a balcony. The crew still treats you great, the rest of the ship is still there, the ports of call are the same…
    So, basically the overall cruise experience is the same, the cabin is just larger. The saved money can go for an excursion(or two) and drinks..

  18. Michele says:

    I also have received phone calls from carnival, and am sailing on Victory Nov. 6. However, I have not been home to answer and they leave no message. My husband answered the last one and there was a person, she would not, however, speak to him about what ever she called for.? Weird. They have not called back.

  19. kimberly Walker says:

    Oh my goodness John, when I read your blogs I make everyone think Im nuts by bursting out with laughter.

    Casino- I like the idea of the auto tables…now I can try my hand without being afraid of ridicule.

    SUITE? Well I am staying n the grand suite on Imagination on Nov 4th sailing, and I stayed in a Ocean Suite on Splendor. I have stayed in a balcony room on Valor and an ocean view on Miracle and Imagination. The difference? The suites have a lot more room, and are pretty…the balconies allow you to step out in the AM to feel the breeze/ exam the temperature…without changing from pajamas.The ocean views are cheaper (means more cruises or more spending money) and you can still see whats going on. IF you aren’t one to procrastinate in your jammies, want to be alone but outside, spend much time in your room, or care what temp might be then an ocean view is fine. (Although on a European cruise I would want a non obstructed (dirty window) view
    If money wasn’t an issue, I would book the suite and enjoy it. If money was a deciding factor (Or I wanted more spending money) I would book the Balcony. The only difference I have found besides Size, is that our Splendor suite had very comfy beds..all the rest have been like bricks….maybe they just changed what mattresses they use??

  20. Edvado says:

    Sorry, John, but the only reason the beards are going to the automated Blackjack machines is that they are cheaper (you don’t have to pay the dealer) and they keep more money since the randomizer the manufacturer uses to “shuffle” the cards is – shall we say less than honest. It’s a real shame they decided to cut or even limit one thing that screams of “Service.”

    • StanF says:

      I agree that the machines may be cheaper over the long haul but I doubt Carnival is using them in any dishonest way. I trust Carnival Casino’s just like any Las Vegas casino and they would lose more business if they were doing anything shady. I like the interaction of the dealers, its a part of the gambling experience and just like I dont use the video poker machines I wont use blackjack machines.

    • Kathy M says:

      I agree, which is a shame. When I lived in Reno NV I worked at a place that builds the slot machines, video poker and the Blackjack machines were on the drawing board at the time, Has anyone has ever noticed that these machines do not play with a single deck of cards. For example, let’s say you see the Queen of Hearts being played, in a normal game with a dealer you will not see that card again until all the cards have been used, but with the Poker and BJ machines you will. I also learned that the owner of the machines can set how often and how much the machine will pay out, so you will not see big wins like you can with a human dealer. Maybe they could still have human dealers and have the machines as well, like have 3 machines and 3 tables. Myself, I like playing with a human dealer because I like the 50/50 chance when I start playing BJ or Poker, instead of the 90/10 in favor of the machine when playing on the machine.

    • As John has said there are X amount of berths for crew on each ship. So if this means less dealers that opens up those berths for other departments to use. More entertainers, waitstaff, bar staff and maybe security to arrest those chairhogs, LOL.

    • Michele Love says:

      Totally agree!!!

  21. Lori Drew says:

    John

    I mentioned this in another place so forgive me if it is repeated. My husband will be celebrating his birthday on Nov. 27 on our cruise on the Dream. It would mean so much to him if he could receive something from you. It can just be a hand written note. He served eight years in the military and now works all the time to support his family. I am taking him on this cruise to relax and enjoy his birthday. Thank you John. we will be in cabin 2210. His name is Michael Drew.

    • Kathy M says:

      Hi Lori,

      John man never see this, so I would recommend that a week before you sail, post this to his FaceBook page and he will answer you. In the future, when you ask him something on the blog, you need to put on the top “Please Reply” so the request is sent directly to him. Hope this helps and I wish you have a great and wonderful cruise.

    • Marcel says:

      Hoi John,
      I just found your blog recently but must say, as a Dutch guy, it’s not just OK.
      I think it is ERG GOED. :-)
      I’ll keep coming back.
      Groeten aan Heidi, Kye en de rest van de famile.

    • MichaelC (formaly know as just Michael) says:

      Lori, The BonVoyage dept has a whole line of products that YOU can purchase for YOUR husbands birthday.

    • Linda (Mom of DJ) says:

      Lori:

      Please repost this note under ASK JOHN to make sure he gets it in time.

      Linda

  22. Mary Van Nurden says:

    in response to lain M. I would like to know where the “group” is posting, I too am on that cruise and am a poster on that site, and I have yet to see where there has been any attempt to set up an “official” meet and greet. I do see where a new cruiser mentioned having one set for 1/8/12 and wondered if everyone on 1/15/12 would be interested, but the name does not match with yours, so I am just wondering is this real or another attempt to run down John and Carnival?

  23. Dwayne says:

    Iain M, This is simply not true. I recently contacted Risa the CD of the Fantasy. I only asked if a time would be automatically posted in the Fun Times for the CC Meet and Greet. She offered to reserve a place without us even asking for it. I grow tired of this rubbish.

  24. John Grubbs says:

    Howdy John,

    As always, I love your “blog thingy”. I wish I could say I am sitting in a nice room in my underpants, but alas, I am sitting at my plywood desk, working logistics issues, eating an MRE and reading your blog thingy during my lunch break and hoping I finish both before the next rocket heads our way, the alarms sound off and send us ducking for cover. I saw that you pinged our fellow bloggers with the question Are the Penthouse and Grand Suites worth the cost? My humble opinion is a resounding “bet your ass they are worth it” Please excuse my French. You can check my past guest # 9157617078 or my upcoming booking # for my Jan 5th cruise 468MF3. This will be my third stay in one of Carnival’s Grand Suites. One stay was on Carnival Conquest, the second was aboard Carnival Miracle and I can’t wait until January for #3 on Carnival Miracle once again. I will brief you on our trip last January. The VIP embarkation was wonderful, we dropped our luggage at the regular spot, the attendant saw the special VIP luggage tags, she signaled a Carnival Team Member and the special treatment began. We were escorted right up, treated wonderfully and boarded the vessel in short order. Having been regular passengers we were overwhelmed and very, very impressed. Carnival is top notch, but the VIP treatment is off the charts. We were asked not to enter the rooms until 1300, so we headed up to the Lido deck for a burger and beer. My wife flew in from Dallas and met me in Ft. L, I had just flown in from Afghanistan and my tail was dragging after a 16 hour joy ride in the extended range Pringles tube. We headed to our room waaaay early, met our cabin steward and asked if I could please lay down, I told him I had been up for 36 hours. He was awesome, made us feel like rock stars and said welcome home. I laid down and slept until the fire drill, which is way better than rocket attacks!. There is so much room, you have to see it to believe it! The rooms are HUGE and they have Jacuzzi tubs. We don’t have bath tubs in war zones and OMG are they awesome. I am just a dumbass Texan & Soldier, I wish you guy’s had a manual on how to use the bidet. Coming from the land of sand, port a john’s and wag bags the restrooms are amazing!

    The Casino sent us wine and a fruit basket, chocolate dipped strawberries and two hours with Megan Fox, okay, they sent everything but MF. My wife and I are not rich, we work hard, raised our kids, paid (paying) for their college and we are on VACATION. We splurge, we earned it and we love Carnival’s Majestic Grand Suites.

    The only thing I would suggest would be to finish the cruise off on a higher note. Neither my wife or I are Platinum Guests. Our cabin steward told us to wait in our room since we were self assist and wait for our zone to be called, I have no problem following orders. We were the second group called and when the elevator door opened the lobby was packed, I have a banged up shoulder from something that happened August 2010. It took us a while to get off the ship and down to Customs. We made it to the airport with about 45 minutes to spare, but I was worried. I am not complaining, we love Carnival and will only sail Carnival. My wife and I sent our daughter and son-in-law on a Carnival cruise (Conquest)when he returned from Afghanistan as well, Carnival is becoming a real family thing for us. We are about to be “Grand”(excuse the pun) Parents again in December, I can’t blame Carnival for that, but it is tied to the dang cruise we bought for our daughter and SIL (go figure). Sorry if this is TMI, we do love Carnival, you treat us like family

    You posted my last email a few weeks ago, I was just joking with you when I had asked about an upgrade. Unless you have something better, we already booked and paid for the best. Grand Suite BEST, Carnival BEST, Carnival Team Members MEGA BEST (just like MEGAN F) I hope my wife does not read this or else I will be sleeping on the Mega Balcony of our Grand Suite. Stay safe and thanks for all you do.

    John Grubbs

    Kandahar Army Air Field

    • Phil Hale says:

      HUA! Which in my case stands for Honored Unworthy American. If it were in my power I would fill those suites with heroes like you my friend. My prayer is that you achieve Platinum status soon. Why? It takes 10 cruises to get there and that means you’ll be safe. Look forward to having you join me in the retirement from our services. Stay Safe and God Bless. Hope to see you soon under a whale tail.

  25. Alan says:

    Regarding Tanya’s automated phones calls from “Carnival”, my guess is that somebody is playing a pratical joke on her. She has probably mentioned to her friends that she is going on a cruise. On the Carnival web site there is a place where you can enter “your” phone number and a Carnival PVP will call you back. I’ve used this to get help with a booking before and you get an immediate automated phone call and are placed in a queue to talk with a PVP.

    I really enjoy reading your blog and absolutely love your sense of humour. I look forward to sailing with you on the Magic on 11/14/2011. This will be my third cruise with Carnival but my first time in a Carnival suite. I’ve done suites on another cruise line and for me it was worth the extra money.

  26. JohnD says:

    Hi John I take it you will be CD for the European cruises for Breeze in 2012 not just the Greece and Turkey bits as I am booking the 12 day from Barcelone on the 9th July and would like to say hello and buy you a coke.

  27. Bill Heck says:

    Hello John:

    I am keeping an eye on Carnival Magic for you, and Captain Cutugno is living up to his image. He keeps the ship moving. This morning we came to a stop between Sicily and Italy, right where the impact will take place when the boot kicks, and transferred a passenger to the Coasta Guarda, then someone else had a problem, so the Coasta Guarda boat was called back, and another party was transferred. Hope they are alright, sad way to end a fine cruise.

    The food onboard continues to amaze. We had filet mignon last night, perfect. Tonight is elegant, so prime rib and lobster. Tried out the barbeque on the lanai today, the sliders were great, and the other things were tasty, my wife says.

    We walked by the Tandoor grille and will try that later on, looked authentic, had that flat bread and all. The cheese cakes are the best you can get, had some banana creme version, wow. The shrimp cocktails are great, have had one every night but one, when we were late back from Rome and ate upstairs.

    The interior decorations are quieter than Fargas. At first seems a little too calm, but soon grows on you. I even like the Showtime Theater.

    We have anytime dining and we saw a waiter we first enjoyed on the Liberty Med inaugural in 2006 ( I think). His name is Vitali, or however it is spelled in Ukraine. He is tops in my book, so we have asked for him every night. He remembered us, knew the cruise and ship, and we also were with him on the Freedom Med in 2007, and the Splendor in 2008 in the Baltic. He remembered all three. How can you explain that?

    Having a great time, WYWH. The Carnival Magic is quite a ship and the crew as always is tops. We are now going 21 knots, there is a little motion as she makes her way. Sleep like a baby.

    Your Friend

    Bill Heck

  28. Maribeth Kring says:

    RE: automated gaming tables

    I prefer tables with real dealers, real cards and other real equipment. It’s part of the whole casino atmosphere. Also, if you have a question about anything, the dealers can help you on the spot. It doesn’t even have to be about the game….just a general question about the ship, entertainment, etc. A machine can’t do that.

    Perhaps I’m a bit biased though as I’ve spent 16 years of my life working in casinos.

    • Esther Wooten says:

      I am concerned about all of the gambling you seem to do on cruises. Do they have 12 step meetings on board for people addicted to gambling? Do you share with your fellow cruisebuds, family and friends how much money you have lost in your lifetime due to your gambling addiction? I am just curious because I am going on a cruise over Thanksgiving with my sister who had a gambling problem years back and I don’t want to see the problem resurface when she is surrounded by casinos.

      • susan bauer says:

        I don’t know if you directed this at me but I feel compelled to reply. Relax, there is only one casion and you have to find it. i personally love to gamble, that’s one of the reasons I love to cruise; the casino is there whenever I am in the mood for an entire week! But for your sister, there are many, many activities on the ship for you and her. There is literally something for everyone. I will be in the casino most of the time. I save my gambling money like most people save their shopping money. I am primarily a poker tournament player. Some argue this game is more a skill than a gamble. I don’t expect you to understand. My two daughters and I cruise together most of the time, they are both avid poker players; one is a dealer in a well known establishment. I love to gamble, most of the time I lose, sometimes I take more money off the ship than I brought with me. Either way I have a wonderful time. The casino is one of two ways the line makes a profit. The other is alcohol. I also partake in that adventure. It’s people like me that make people like look so wonderful! You can thank me anytime!

  29. Susan Del Monte says:

    I used to get the calls –always from the great Carnival PVP Paul Saunders, who was always so polite and left me a very nice message. His calls would usuallly come within a day or so of my having done a search on Carnival’s website. (I like to go there to browse for my next cruise.) Then, I changed my settings on carnival.com, to uncheck the box to contact me with specials, and voila, the calls have stopped.

  30. Mary Smith says:

    Hi John – When we were arriving in Miami for our cruise on the Liberty last year we had quite a cab adventure. The driver was about 85 and as we approached our hotel he slowed down, opened his door and jumped out without putting the van in PARK!!! My husband reacted quickly and got into the drivers seat and stopped the van before we crashed into the hotel lobby. You’re not alone in these adventures.

  31. Cyndi says:

    Just got off the Carnival Splendor on the 16h of October. We stayed in a Grand Suite and I would not cruise any other way. We felt spoiled and pampered. The room had more closets than we could put clothes in, the bathroom was large enough to host a party and the balcony was divine and we watched the sunrise and sunset every morning. The Suites are the only way to go.

    • Jodi says:

      Cyndi-you must have indeed had a Grand Suite if you had both sunrise and sunset in the morning, lol. Seriously tho I think your way of thinking is superb! My hubby and I are taking the suite life under advisement! Thank you. Jodi

  32. Uncle Doug says:

    RE: Video Blackjack in the casino. Having just returned from the Carnival Conquest I can say that the video blackjack is not the big hit that the casino beards spin doctors make it out to be. There were a lot of players the first sea day when the min was $2 but that was soon jacked up to $3. People continued to play but the newness wore off quickly as there very few winners and distrust of a computer driven dealer sat in. I would thought that after playing video blackjack for hours that I would of at least built up some comp points for the free drinks. An inquiry with the video blackjack host soon found out that they do not track the player action on the video blackjack, so what is the point of going to a computer based game. The only other option for a live blackjack table was the other 2 remaining over crowded tables with much higher table stakes.

    Having spent many hours at blackjack tables in Carnival casino over the years I guess I will be saving money on my next cruise as I will not be playing video blackjack.

    • Jas says:

      Well Doug, there ya go. I understand the mistrust in the computer driven game as well. I haven’t experienced the machines on a cruise but can’t see them being any different than the one’s I have seen in New Mexico casinos(hate them). I was wondering if they had replace live dealer tables with the automated and it sound from your post that they have. This saddens me and will be saving some money from not spending much time in the casino from here on.

  33. Loretta says:

    Rick,
    We just got off the Carnival Splendor on October 9 and the piano bar was in full swing!

  34. Michael S says:

    I understand that people who are loyal to Carnival come to believe they should receive premium perks. I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t expect the same once I reach “Platinum” status. However, do you people have to be so rude about your demands? Honestly, you catch more flies with honey.

  35. The Cruzin2some says:

    Dear Laura Benton,
    You should definitely buy the Grand Suite Penthouse thiniy, but leave the husband at home and take me instead. LOL
    You only get one chance to do things right so go ahead and spend a little more for the best and treat yourself and husband to something you will remember always.
    The Cruzin2some

  36. Becky S says:

    John– regarding the motel in Freeport, as a travel agent, I would like to know what that property was so I will most definitely avoid it for my clients. AND I have to say, that of all of the ports of call in the Caribbean/Bahama areas, Freeport is almost to the bottom of the barrel in my book anyhow.
    As for suite vs non-suite — I have stayed in almost every category of cabin on Carnival’s fleet… except the captain’s suite (for the Liberty or Valor). I will be in an ocean suite on the Liberty this spring. It is nice to have the extra room in the suites, but for the vast majority of folks, an ocean view cabin has enough space to not be crowded while at least giving you a full window so you can see what is going on outside. Most passengers are not in the cabin that much, so save the $$$ from the difference of a balcony or suite cabin and put it towards a nice excursion and do an ocean view cabin.

  37. Richard Hoefs says:

    Hello John,

    My stunningly beautiful young wife and I are on our 10th Carnival cruise on the Carnival Destiny at this very minute. Due to health issues, we tend to spend more time in the cabin than many cruisers, so the extra room of a Grand Suite works well for us. Of our 10 Carnival cruises, 6 have been in Grand Suites and one was in a Captain’s Suite on the Carnival Liberty (now that is a great cabin!) Our 11th and 12th Carnival cruises are already booked, and they are also in Grand Suites. For us, the suites are worth every penny.

    We are having a wonderful time, and especially enjoy sailing with Noonan, our favorite Cruise Director. We chose this cruise because it gave us an opportunity to sail with Noonan again.

    The weather yesterday at Half Moon Cay was not what would be described as “Chamber of Commerce weather.” It was rainy, windy and the sea was choppy. In the interst of safety the Captain wisely halted tendering. Noonan and his interpid crew immediatly sprang into action, arranging numerous activites for the guests on the ship. We had a great time despite the weather.

    Our 10th and 11th cruises are back to back, because 5 days of Noonan’s wit and humor is just not enough. I am tempted to stand in the lobby on debarkation day chanting “I don’t have to get off the ship,” but will restrain myself as this will make some (all?) of the departing guests sad at the end of their brilliant vacation.

    Thank you for your blog. My stunningly beautiful young wife and I read it daily, and we are looking forward to meeting you in February when we cruise with you on the Carnival Magic.

    All the best,

    Richard

  38. Mike says:

    I understand the Bearded answer for computerized blackjack (24hr, no intimidation), but I don’t like that they take up space that could be filled with real tables. If they were pulling out some existing slot machines for them, fine, but there are already too few table games going sometimes!

  39. i just heard that maroon 5′s lead singer is getting politico. he’s tweeting to fox news telling then to stop playing his music, and they are tweeting back. seems to me that maybe he should just stick to singing and not politics. what say you john, now that carnival has them as their star group in texas. not everyone is a democrat or republican, and maybe we want our singers to be just that. what say you john???

  40. richstowe says:

    John stop mentioning Cruise Critic. I love you both but you don’t play well together.Stop it. Please!

  41. Maria & Juan Santana says:

    Hi John! It’s us again directly from the MAGIC. Today we were in Dubrovnick, Croatia…when we arrived it was rainy but it cleared up by mid morning and the day turned beautiful. We were here 21 yrs. ago (Nov. 1990)on a trip we took to celebrate our 25 wedding anniversary.
    Among other countries, the trip included a whole wk. in the former Yugoeslavia. A few months after we left, the civil war started and we were very concerned about the damage the bombs were doing to this beautiful city. Fortunately, Dubrovnik survived and here we are again and the city is just as beautiful as it was then!

    Last night was the 1st elegant night and we were able to meet James the CD up close and personal. He is very nice and he’s doing a great job replacing you here on the MAGIC…but we told him that you were the “God” of the CD’s!

    Tomorrow we’ll be in Venice. Great! We were here a few months ago (in May) when we were traveling for 2 months touring and cruising.

    Again, regards to you and Heidi & a big kiss to Princess Kye.

    The Santanas of Miami Beach

  42. Ann Marie says:

    John, I have to tell you we were on Oct 2nd sailing of the Carnival Freedom. It was cruise #15 for me, but #1 for my son, daughter in law and grandson . They were not even off the ship yet and can’t wait for the next one. The funniest part is today is Oct 22nd and my 6 yr old grandson Kyle still has his muster drill bracelet and refuses to take it off. Until next time, bonvoyage!!

  43. mike hart says:

    Dear John,

    Thanks a million to you & Jen !!!!!!!
    Best to Heidi, You, and Kye.

    Mike from VA

  44. wil-da-beast says:

    Hi John, Just a short note to let you know that we just got off the Carnival Magic and had a great time. We had the pleasure of meeting the famous Calvyn. He was just like you described him. I can’t add to anything you have already said about him. We even found him in our hallway one evening and I asked if he was stalking me. Now we can’t wait to be back on the Carnival Magic out of Galveston. See you soon…A&W

  45. Steve Worden says:

    First — Ya gotta get that ASK JOHN form fixed. A week or two ago in I wanted to ask a question, but the form required an VERIFICATION CODE. And you could not send ASK A QUESTION without it. NO IDEA WHAT THAT WAS. So I wrote you or somebody about it.

    It appears that, perhaps, someone read my input on that. Now the Space for verification code is gone. BUTTTT — if I try and ASK A QUESTION it still gives an error because it still want the verfication code!

    And Speaking of ATTENTION TO DETAIL .. The following is what I attempted to “ASK JOHN!”

    Carnival Dream .. 10/23/2011 .. Room Service Menu.

    It’s great that you can order room service 24 hours day by just reading the menu on the TV Screen and using your remote to make selection and order.

    BUTTT – Someone has to take a look at the choices.

    If I wanted to mess with (that means fool with not eat with) the Rooms Service Division here is what I would order as per TV ROOM SERVICE OPTIONS:

    a. Fork Only
    b. Knife Only
    c. Misc
    d. Spoon Only

    And this only the beginning the laughs we got wondering what would happen.

    What would I get if I order a Knife Only, Spoon Only, Fork only and MISC.

    Trying to fill that order is what Psychologist say cause Environmentally Induced Schizophrenia.

    And for me …. Psychotic Hyena Laughing Syndrome.

    Seriously. This is only the tip of the Ice Berg Lettuce .. Someone needs to check this out.

    Steve

  46. Susan Nespoli says:

    Hi John,

    Are you the CD for the TA on the Magic leaving Barcelona the end of October?

    Thanks,
    Susan

  47. Jodi says:

    Oh My! I thought the publico drivers in the Dominican Republic were a hazard to your health, but John, I am so sorry you had the AA dropout of the century for your driver. I can imagine, seeing your life pass before your eyes and no doubt wishing you had held Heidi and Kye just a few more minutes. Wow!

    And as for the Pringles tube, I am with you. Flying any thing but First Class is horrendous. My husband and I take the train when we are going to a cruise. We there fore will probably have to wait for retirement to do any thing but the mexico, alaska, the west coast or hawaii. I am simply spoiled for an airplane ride. Would need to save up big time for first class.

    Oh and as for first class, for Laurie, I have never experienced either a balcony or suite cabin, yet, but my advice is treat yourself well, life is short. You don’t know if you will have the opportunity again and if you can afford it now, why not? Life is full of unpredictability.

    Keep up the fantastic blogs John, and don’t feel too bad about the blackjack tables we’re big boys and girls here.

    Always, Jodi

  48. susan bauer says:

    I have played on a number of the video type poker tables on the elation and a few other ships. Once you play the first hand you are an expert on how it works. They work literally the same way as with a live dealer. The minimums i played were 1 and 3 dollar blinds. i think this is low enough. I don’t know what the other ships blinds are. I like playing them very much and am looking forward to playing on the Conquest in March. I have no complaints but I would like to see more regular tournaments. 1 or 2 a day. They don’t take that long to play when the blinds go up,
    and it beats the grind of just another cash game. It doesn’t matter how much it costs to buy in to a regular tournament, you will fill up the table.

  49. chunyanuch says:

    I’am Thai women 30 year olds . I need a new job at . Now I’m work at The government my position is dental assistant. The Carnival cruise is my big dream .I hope you read my information
    .

    • chunyanuch says:

      I’am Thai women 30 year olds . I need a new job at The Carnival cruise. Now I’m work at The government my position is dental assistant. is my big dream .I hope you read my information
      .

  50. Alex19 says:

    Current book of Fair’s Grownup Cruise Filmmaker. Includes rhythmic updates and advice for making the most of a Funfair cruise.

    Troy Stratos

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