January 11, 2012 -
This has been one of the mildest winters for the last 50 years and today, the 10th of January as I sit here in my underpants, it’s 12 degrees C outside. This time last year snow lay thick on the ground and it was minus 4 outside. The fact that we have had no snow means that many of my fellow Brits seem upset and are heading for a winter break to Austria, France and even Vail, Colorado for a spot of skiing. Well, I won’t be joining them because I’d rather have my colon cleansed with Tabasco sauce than ever set foot in a ski resort. Or anywhere, in fact, where there is a chance of snow.
That’s not what I’d call a vacation. It’s what I’d call hell and about as relaxing as a fat man on an Herbal Life charter. When I get on a plane (which as you know already puts me in a piss arse mood), I at least want it to be heading somewhere warmer, where everybody doesn’t have snot dripping from their noses and temperatures colder than a welcome in a Paris hotel.
I know friends of mine who are reading this like my old mate Roger Blum and others will tell me I am missing out on an exhilarating experience. Exhilarating my arse. Going somewhere cold for your holiday is as pointless to me as vegetarian burgers and Kim Kardashian. Faced with the two options, either having fun on board a beautiful cruise ship surrounded by sun, entertainment, brilliant service and wonderful food choices or spending laughable amounts of money catching cold and knocking down trees with your face, there is no bloody contest. Smashed bones, stupid clothes, crusty red cheeks and a huge dollop of snot hanging permanently from your nose. You can achieve that effect by being the shopping trolley collector in a Publix parking lot in Alaska …..in January. The only difference is that the Publix trolley collector doesn’t bore everyone senseless with stories of their black slope accomplishments at Aspen.
I went skiing one time and one time only. It was many years ago with my friends Alan and Alison and my girlfriend of the time who was a brilliant dancer, super fit and had two airbags to cushion her should she fall, which she didn’t because she was brilliant at skiing as well. I wasn’t. I was crap. All I remember is the pain and the agony and the cold and the laughter of others as the fat sod tried to get up after falling over……..again. I hated the snobbery and the ridiculously good looking ski instructors whom unless you had breasts the size of the Alps like my girlfriend had bugger all interest in teaching you anything.
The reason I kept falling over though is not just because I have the balance and poise of Heather Mills…… It’s the ski boot! The first thing you must understand is the ski boot is specifically designed to be as heavy as possible and to ensure that if you fall over…. and you will …………. all the time ……..and your leg will break at its most painful point…. just above the ankle. Men …..The only way to prevent this from happening is to look at photos of Megan Fox’s bottom before you ski so you can cushion the fall with well, I don’t need to go there do I? Let’s just say it’s like having a third ski pole. As you can see I am a fervent anti-skier. This is partly because ski bores are the second worst of the vacation bore genre (just ahead of people who hate Carnival and write on cruise boards about just how much they hate Carnival even though they have never cruised with us) and partly because I cannot think of a single redeeming feature about snow.
Skiing is not a vacation. A vacation is when you go somewhere warm and relax, eat well, have fun and see interesting places like Europe, on the Carnival Breeze for instance. A cruise vacation is where you enjoy that lovely feeling of just putting on shorts every day and changing into some casual wear at night as you head to the dining room, see a show and have a pint of ThirstyFrog Red and maybe catch a movie. It is not mincing around wearing ridiculously expensive ski wear, eating fondue and spending all day gazing at ambulances ferrying people from the slopes across a picture postcard landscape.
For your next vacation, why don’t you take all your money and set it on fire? Then stand in a refrigerator for a week, beating yourself with a baseball bat until your arms and legs break. And then, after you’ve eaten some melted cheese, dislocate your shoulder — it’s the same process as going skiing. Or alternatively…………… you can sail on the Carnival Breeze.
Time for today’s Q and A…..here we go.
Judith Hodges asked:
My fiancé and I were on the Carnival Splendor and were met with a constant barrage of solicitations and advertisements for Carnival products and services. It gets old fast and it never stops. Royal Caribbean never uses the public speakers to advertise anything and you could learn a lot from them. We didn’t pay $600 to listen to some used car salesman tell me to go to the gift shops 20 times a day!
Hello Judith Hodges
First of all I hope you enjoyed your cruise and I agree that we as cruise directors do use the PA system to advertise revenue areas as well as shows and events and activities. We are currently evaluating the number of announcements but I can tell you that on a typical day CD’s make around four sales-oriented announcements and none are supposed to last more than three minutes. Believe it or not, many people find the announcements helpful as it supplements what’s included in the Fun Times newsletter. We do monitor the style and length of our cruise directors’ announcements and it is something that we will continue to evaluate. I do hope you both had fun and enjoyed your cruise.
Georgie Marino asked:
Thanks so much for responding to my question about if you were going to be the CD on Carnival Breeze’s June 3 inaugural cruise. We are psyched and are booking our cruise this week. We were on the August 14-26 Magic Mediterranean cruise and loved it. Can’t wait to see you, Calvyn and hopefully Ken Byrne. Also, we are happy you increased the gratuities – it’s about time!
Love and kisses,
Hello Georgie Marino
It is great to hear from you too and I hope you have been reading more about the Carnival Breeze yesterday here and on Facebook. She is going to be a brilliant ship and I can’t wait to show her to you. Please let me know if you need anything.
Best wishes and see you soon.
John Lennon asked:
I just got off the phone with a very nice lady whom was very helpful…. yet the comment came up to ask or receive a specific question, that going through you was the best way … so here it is.
Carnival values the web site Cruise Critic opinion when it comes to cruising, so why is it Carnival does not do an Official Meet & Mingle? Actually offering a little get together for the cruisers which whom they are trying to get as return guests. As earlier said, I spoke with a very nice person whom said they would set us a section aside for an hour at the Ivory Piano Bar on an upcoming cruise but could do no more than that… no refreshments or appetizers?
So the question is why will Carnival do it for a singles meet and mingle? Put out food, have refreshments, drinks, yet not for a group of individuals whom chat about Carnival every day? I am not just saying for this upcoming cruise we are going on. Guess you could say I am wondering why Carnival does not do it companywide and I realize from cruising on other cruise lines there needs to be a certain amount of people attending. So now what I do know? Carnival has never truly done me wrong, so I have nothing bad so say and as far as John Heald goes, I have nothing bad to say either, some may like/some may dislike. I will see what happens with this post before passing judgment.
Hello John Lennon
As you know I won’t usually post any mention of the Cruise Critic boards outside of requests for meet and greets. This decision was made by the many genuine people who go there to get good information and who need help and want someone to hold their hand through various aspects of cruising. I can tell you that I am happy to organise meet and greets but please understand that we don’t offer complimentary drinks or food as Cruise Critic readers book as individuals not as a group. We don’t do this for a singles meet or greet either by the way and I had a standard meet and greet set up on every ship but there were problems with different CC groups wanting different times so we thought it best to arrange on request which we continue to do. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you though and I wish you a brilliant cruise.
Martha Delingpole asked:
Going on the Dream ship booking is ******. I just found your blog and absolutely love it. My husband and I will have been married 58 years and will celebrate our anniversary on the Carnival Dream on 2/4/12 and I have a huge request John. My husband was in the United States Navy for 29 years and he would love a chance to meet and say hello to the head engineer as Ed, my husband, was the chief engineer on a Navy destroyer. Is this something that can be arranged John, if not I understand but thought I would ask as you seem so willing to help people. Thank you and we are so excited to be on our first-ever cruise.
Hello Martha Delingpole
Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I saw this question yesterday and so I have had the chance to email the chief engineer on the Carnival Dream. His name is Giuseppe Seccia and I have arranged for your husband to meet him on board. Gary, the cruise director, will be making the arrangements and will be in touch while you are on board and you can expect a little something from me and the blog readers to wish you happy anniversary and to thank your husband for his service. I wish you a brilliant time and many more cruises in the future.
Mel Cohen asked:
I am looking at the excursions in Dubrovnik for when we cruise the Carnival Breeze with you and wondered if you can tell me something about the Best of Dubrovnik as far as pax like me with walking challenges. I don’t have to use a wheelchair but my 77-year-old knees don’t allow me the mobility I used to have. Can I do this tour?
Hello Mel Cohen.
Thanks for getting in touch with me. The Best of Dubrovnik tour is an excellent excursion and our most popular in this beautiful port of call. There is some walking around the old town at the end of the excursion but it is flat and you don’t have to climb the ramparts at all. I have seen many people with walking challenges take this excursion and I have absolutely no problem recommending it to you. I will see you soon and please let me know if you have any other questions.
Lynne Cody asked:
First I would like to say you are a fantastic writer. You are very entertaining and informative. We have sailed with CCL 18 times. Our first sailing with CCL was on the Mardi Gras. What a trip!! There were 20 family members sailing as a group and we still laugh about some of the crazy things that happened on that ship. We will be sailing April 1 on the Carnival Glory. There are six of us sailing in three cabins. Five of us are Platinum members. This is the first time that I am allowing my 15 year old daughter to take a friend. Her friend is also 15 but has never sailed. I was wondering if I would have a problem taking her friend with us to the past passenger party or any other functions for past guests? Another question (from my mother), this will be “Holy Week,” the week prior to Easter Sunday. Will there be any Easter services held on the ship? Since we disembark on Easter Sunday we were wondering if there would be an Easter Vigil mass Saturday evening. We are very excited to sail in April!
Hello Lynne C
Thanks for the kind words and I am so glad you enjoy the blog. First of all let me thank you for your loyalty and I wish you had some photos from your time on the Mardi Gras. How things have changed and I see it was that ship that spurned your amazing loyalty to us and I am very thankful to you for cruising with us so often. You can indeed bring your daughter’s friend, that’s no problem and I will send a note to the ship for you so she can enter the past guest party. The sad news is that I am afraid that we won’t have religious services during Easter as Carnival does not have a religious program at the moment. We will ask the guests if there is someone who wants to hold one and maybe there will be someone on your cruise who will volunteer to lead mass. I wish you all a brilliant time and of course if there is anything I can do to for you please let me know.
Steve Wright asked:
What are the next ships scheduled to get the new 2.0 update and when would the first cruise dates be after those upgrades are completed.
Hello Steve Wright
Here is the link for you to read when the ships will receive the exciting 2.0 upgrades.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Simon Taylor asked:
I am British like your good self and wondered if Carnival will ever have a ship sail from Southampton or another British port. My wife and I are retired and don’t like to fly these days and so have cruised with Celebrity and three times on the Independence of the Seas. Our friends Norman and Paulette Lawrence who I understand you met on the Carnival Magic said that they had a lovely time and how Carnival was better than other cruises they had been on. We would love to cruise with you so please give me some good news. Thank you John and we enjoy your writing and can see from your humour that you haven’t lost your British roots.
Hello Simon Taylor
I can understand why you and your wife don’t like to fly. I really wish my parents who are also retired could cruise with me more but the hassle of today’s airports and sometimes long walks to the gate and waiting time means they haven’t cruised with me since the Carnival Splendor sailed out of Dover. I am afraid that I really haven’t heard anything about UK cruises one way or the other but hopefully we will meet one day and enjoy a plate of spotted dick. Please give my best wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence.
Best wishes to you both.
Lynn Adrionous asked:
Very disappointed in your new menu which let’s face it looks as though it was designed by children. Back to Silversea for us unless you can tell me it’s being changed.
Hello Lynn Adrionous.
I am sorry to read this and I have to say that while some folks such as yourself don’t appreciate our new menus the vast majority of our guests really like them, particularly given the wide range of different types of food offerd. We are always looking at our menus for guest feedback so your comments are appreciated. It would be wrong of me not to say that comparing the food from Silversea, which advertises itself as a luxury cruise line and charges much more for its cruises, to Carnival’s mass market and brilliantly affordable cruises is like comparing Megan Fox’s bottom with Judge Judy’s or my inner thigh to Johnny Depp’s. But seriously though we are listening to comments both positive and negative and will work hard as always to have choices on our menu that everyone will appreciate.
Best wishes and I truly hope we see you soon.
Keith Wilkins asked:
My wife and I will be on the Carnival Magic first cruise out of Galveston. The reason I am writing is I wanted you to know what a fantastic experience that I had with Carnival’s early saver plan. Our fare has been reduced three times and everything went smooth on the first two adjustments and the third not so smooth. And if it ended there it would have been a just OK experience. I want to commend David, Maria and several other ladies who I’m almost sure their names ended in A for their dedication to customer service. Although it took some time to get straightened out, it was more than I expected. Thanks again to a brilliant staff at Carnival.
Hello Keith Wilkins
This is so brilliant. Thank you for taking the time to write about our customer service teams and what they are doing to help. There has been a huge improvement recently and although we still have hard work ahead there is no doubt that Gerry Cahill’s focus on vastly improving our customer service pre- and post-cruise is paying off. Thanks for writing and I hope you had a wonderful time on the Carnival Magic.
That’s all for today and thanks for your continuing support of the blog thingy.
So in just two weeks time I have to head over to the States again starting with a couple of days in Miami and then back to what I love the most, being a cruise director again and as much as I truly enjoy and am proud to be the brand ambassador, it’s cruise directing that remains the part of the job I love the most. I have some special projects to work on before then including re-writing some of the language as it pertains to the life boat drill or safety briefing as we call it today. It needs tightening up, plus I am going to leave room for the CD’s to add, if they wish, a little bit of humour which in 2012 I think there is a place for. It can’t replace the message of course that safety is the most important aspect of the cruise but there is room I believe for a little bit of mirth.
Compared with what we used to say a couple of years ago the drills of 2012 are a lot different. In addition to important information regarding the actual lifeboat drill, there is information about environmental procedures, taking care when walking around a moving ship and much, much more. It always infuriates me when after making announcements that the drill is mandatory that when I look down from the bridge I always see a few people who somehow evaded the drill and are sitting on their balconies with a Fun Ship special and a couldn’t-care-less attitude. We then send the stateroom steward or in some cases security to inform the guests that they must attend. You have no idea how many give the staff a hard time and are really rude, refusing to attend. Anyway, look out for a few changes in the safety briefing and if you have any suggestions please let me know here on the blog thingy.
OK, it’s off to San Francisco we go and the latest update from Stuart the cruise director of the Carnival Spirit which as you know is in dry dock. Stu………over to you.
Day 2 started with the safety briefing to inform the contractors on board of the emergency procedures, like the guests must do every voyage. There were many meetings amongst the CCL management and the supervisors to the contractors to get acquainted and to discuss the projects underway. Much of the work being carried out at this early stage is existing areas being torn down and so there are rubbish piles everywhere. The place looks like a construction zone however anyone who has done a home renovation can relate. As always safety is priority and everyone is wearing personal safety equipment relevant to their job. What is very interesting to see is the female staff who normally wears the white uniforms, wearing coveralls. Admittedly they are not needed, but they look cute nonetheless. We had some really strong heads winds in excess of 50kts while sailing north to San Francisco so the contractors working on the open decks really had their work cut out for them. The busiest location is certainly the new Serenity project where I counted 35 contractors there at once, all working. Unlike me, who was offering shore excursion advice in San Francisco and drinking a café latte.
Day 3 — Just after midnight we were very excited to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge as we entered San Francisco. Many team members who have never seen it before were on deck 9 fwd to watch and take photos. We arrived into the dock at approximately 3am and I was awoken by a call from the hotel director at 6:30am. He said to get the camera crew ready as the “Green Thunder” water slide was alongside the ship on a crane barge and they were getting ready for the big lift. When I saw it I realized for the first time actually how high this slide is. I am a pure thrill seeker and I am stoked to have this on board my ship. The crane team had little room for error as the crane lifted the slide onto the highest deck and at times I am sure I was not the only one who thought the ship was going to be too high for the crane. During the lift the ship was still in the water, and had not been lifted so the ship could not go any lower. An hour later welders were fixing it to the steel deck. Several more lifts had to be made to piece the entire slide together, and now we have the Green Thunder on board, the steepest and fastest waterslide at sea.
Meanwhile, teams of housekeeping staff were busy tearing up the carpets in all the guests corridors, Technicians were pulling apart slot machines, and work was full speed ahead on the Serenity area. We are a floating construction zone of hundreds of specialist contractors and Carnival Spirit team members stepping up to assist with whatever they can. Later in the day I got the call to make the announcement from the bridge to inform everyone on board about what dry docks are known for — periods of time with no water, electricity, air conditioning, computers or shipboard cell phones. And maybe no flushing toilets. Reality kicked in when I found myself walking along corridors in darkness lighted only by the emergency strip lighting on the floor. But she is going to look fantastic when all is done. Time for some vegemite.
Thanks mate, another “bonza” report mate and we look forward to more from you soon.
It’s going to be very interesting to see what the atmosphere is like on the Carnival Spirit once she arrives in Australia. Now you may not know many Australians but I do and of course some of the population is made up of British ex-pats including my friend David who for many years worked on the ships with me. David was the ship’s doctor and we worked on the Carnival Triumph and Carnival Glory together and a few years ago he and his wife Susie immigrated to Melbourne, where he is a family doctor. I spoke to David over Christmas and he told me how he loves living in Australia and the thing he loves most about his adopted country is how down to earth it is. “I can even wear flip-flops to work and nobody cares,” he told me. The local attitude that lets him wear them in his surgery where he sees his patients is an example of a country that is so laid back. I have a feeling that we will have to think twice about how we do elegant night. I mean, will the Aussies want to dress up on their cruise vacation? I may be wrong here but I suspect the vast majority will say “No way mate.”
Australia is a dangerous place to live — and not because of the crocodiles, huge poisonous snakes and spiders the size of Rosanne Barr but because once you have been there and seen their way of life you won’t want to leave. Australians bounce when they walk and smile at strangers and say “g’day” on their way to an after work spot of surfing. Also, they have cookers in their kitchens but choose to cook their prawns in the garden. Those of you who may have seen Aussies on board our ships know how much fun they are and imagine then the atmosphere with 2,200 of them on the Carnival Spirit. I am sure it’s going to take the fun level to an even higher setting.
My only concern is……..will we have enough beer on board? And of course watch out for the famous Australian kiss which the Aussies love to give strangers and if you meet an Aussie on Promenade deck they are likely to want to give you the famous Aussie kiss which is like a French kiss…………..except it’s….. “Down under.”