June 26, 2013 -
I haven’t had much chance to write about my recent trip to Galveston to see the new and shiny Carnival Triumph. The flight from London seemed to go on forever and the 10 hours felt like so much more. And when we landed in Houston, I was tired, cramped and seriously grumpy. Anyway, I had listened to the flight attendant warn us that we must not use our cell phones until we were off the plane and off I ran with the other 300 passengers toward United States Customs and Border Protection. I reached the hall where this was taking place and swore immediately under my breath as the lines were exactly as they were in Miami…….long…… “Oh FFS,” I said. So I took my place wondering if I smelled as badly as the chap in front of me and started the long shuffle toward the inspectors.
So, I whipped out my raspberry and started to write an e-mail telling my wife that I had landed safely and that she could go to sleep safe in the knowledge that I was safe and sound. But there was a problem. The immigration line was being guarded by men and women in red jackets who, between them, had the all the charm of a dung beetle. “You can’t use your cell phone in here,” she said to me, pointing at a big sign that had a picture of a cell phone with a big red line through it. I said, “I am not using the phone, I am e-mailing my wife to tell her I landed safe.” Her reply was so rude: “Put it away – you have been warned.” I tried to ask why we could not e-mail but she would not even talk to me, she turned her back and went three steps down the line to tell someone else the same thing and I spent the next 50 minutes until I reached the inspector watching these red jacketed people bollocking men, women and children who dared to have their cell phones in their hands.
I can understand why we couldn’t talk on the cell phones, well, maybe sort of understand, but can anyone tell me why I could not write to my wife in the 50 minutes that I spent in line waiting for immigration? Maybe I am missing something but it seems to me that laws like this resides in the hands of people who do not have any compassion or indeed logic.
Houston Airport is not the only place we see this kind of thing. We spend our lives being bossed around by people who probably learned their management skills by watching Donald Trump on The Apprentice. I see it occasionally on board, as well. Why, for example, in Warnemunde on Monday did one of our security guards stop a guest from walking ashore with a cup of coffee in a paper cup that had been purchased from the Coffee Shop? I asked someone here and the answer was “ummmmm, ummmmm” and so because nobody could tell me why you couldn’t take a cup of coffee in a paper cup………. now you can.
We have many rules that we just accept in our everyday lives and most are there for a reason. But occasionally you come across one that makes you wonder why it’s there. Who or what is to blame for this sad state of affairs, and why it is seemingly tolerated by so many and accepted with resignation and a shrug of the shoulders?
Time for today’s Q and A…….here we go.
Sabrina Bertazzoni asks:
John, I am contacting you to express my anger that the one port of call that me and my family really were looking forward to was canceled. We were told that Half Moon Cay was too windy to go but then I heard from other passengers that we could have gone and that Carnival just wanted to open bars and the casino to make $$$$ from us. I have written to Carnival and received no reply yet and was told by GypsyWitch who writes on cruisecritic.com that I should write to you to get money back for this. Can you then tell me how this works because I am so angry and giving serious thought of canceling my next cruise on the Carnival Glory in November!!!!
I am so sorry that missing the port of Half Moon Cay has upset you so much. I can assure you that the reason the ship missed the port and spent the day at sea instead was, as you were told on board, was the result of weather. Tendering (using smaller boats to ferry guests ashore) in windy conditions can be very dangerous so that’s why the captain made that decision and it was a decision based only on your safety. I am afraid that you have been told two untruths and they are that we missed the port to make on board revenue and that I am able to offer you compensation. I am sorry that you were misinformed and I do hope that on your next cruise on the Carnival Glory that you have a wonderful time and that the weather is perfect for you. Please let me know if you have any other questions or I can help you further. Best wishes.
Can you please let the beards know that they should expand the Cheers program and make it fleetwide. I want it on the Carnival Fascination by September. The program is such a peace of mind!!!!! Do you have any idea when they will be expanding the program?
I certainly will and I know many more people feel the same. I will ask the beards if and when they decide to add more ships to the Cheers program, which is currently on 14 ships. I will let you know. Have a great cruise and please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. Best wishes.
Eddie Jackson asks:
Can you get me and my girlfriend a table for two as I intend to propose to her on the dress up night? This will be our third cruise with Carnival and this time it’s on the Carnival Victory. Can you also send us some goodies to help make this celebration more special? We cruise on July 4 and the proposal is the dress up night. Our cabin is 1391 and we don’t drink alcohol so when you send us goodies could you send something else except wine and champagne cause we don’t drink. Another question is about a talent show as I want to sing a song to my new wife so is there one on the Carnival Victory and if, yes, I need to get in it.
Hello Eddie Jackson,
Many congratulations in advance and I hope this is a very special cruise for you. I have asked the maître d to assist you with a table for two and I know he will do his best for you. There is indeed a talent show and I have also written to Goose the CD and while I cannot promise that you can get in the show I have asked him to speak to you when you’re on board. Have a great time and I wish you both many happy years together. Best wishes.
Ken DeRoche asks:
Hi John, I got off the Carnival Paradise yesterday after a brilliant five-day cruise. One of the many things that I enjoyed while on board was the live entertainment. I especially liked the Filipino Band “Blood Power”! Even the captain enjoyed their playing while he was out mingling. I gave my two thumbs up to both CD Steve Cassel and the captain and would like to do so with you as well. Please ask the beards to renew Blood Power’s contract, they are great guys who enjoy talking with the guests in between sets and remember my name. Best regards.
Hello Ken DeRoche,
I am so glad you had fun on the Carnival Paradise and I, too, am a huge fan of Blood Power. I will make sure the beards see your words of praise and I am sure they will have a great future with us. Thanks so much for taking the time to write and I hope we see you on board again very soon. Best wishes.
Katie Eberstark asks:
My cruise on the Carnival Ecstasy was blighted by the theft of my iPhone. I had left it on a table at breakfast on the Lido. I started the walk back to my cabin and then, within just a minute or less, I realized I did not have it. I ran fast back to the table and my phone was gone. It was obviously a worker that stole it as the plate I had eaten from was gone, as well. I asked and asked at the front desk but nothing was done and no investigation made and my partner and I will be taking this further you can bet
Hello Katie Eberstark,
I am so sorry to read this and I can totally understand how frustrated you are about losing your phone and all the information it has on it. I hope your insurance will cover a replacement. I have to say that any crew member who finds anything, is duty bound to hand it straight to a supervisor or take it directly to the lost and found which is at the guest services desk. Failure to do this has severe consequences so I think it is unlikely that a crew member found it. We always hope that when a guest loses something and another guest finds it, that they do the right thing and turn it in. I do hope you have a new phone now and if there is anything you think I can do for you, please let me know. Best wishes.
Benjamin Mayer asks:
We are just off the Carnival Valor which we just returned from. I have two large complaints that you should be embarrassed to read. First, is the outrageous markup in the shops. During the cruise, my wife developed a nasty cough from germs on the ship. I went to the ships shops and was forced to pay $18 for cough suppressant which, at a CVS in Florida, would cost $5. It looks to me like you never get past the candy section when you go on the shops but maybe you should and do something about this!!!! The second complaint is that speaking to the people we sat at dinner with we realised we paid close to double what they had paid. We booked our cruise through _______ travel agency and for the same balcony cabin, we paid $305 more than another family did with their travel agent. I felt totally ripped off and after speaking with my travel agent I was informed that Carnival gives better rates to some travel agents more than others. These two factors spoiled what was mostly a nice cruise for me and my wife and I wish you would spend more time taking care of your product and less time with stories that have zero substance. I hope you will respond to this!!!!
Hello Benjamin Mayer,
I am sorry to read that your wife was taken ill during the cruise and I hope that she is well now. I know that on some items such as medicine products we do have a mark-up and I have forwarded your e-mail to the people who run the shops. Please also remember that we have a medical center that would have been able to help and if you had insurance this would have most likely been covered. Then to your second comment and I did as you see hide the name of both the travel agency you used and the name of the people you ate dinner with as I felt that this was necessary to do. Anyway, on ever cruise and on every ship, you will find many different prices that our guests have paid. There are different price plans for past guests and something called Early Saver which many of our guests use and truly appreciate. I am sure that your travel agent explained this to you and if not then please address this with them because they should have discussed all your options. Most importantly, I hope that despite these concerns that you both had fun and enjoyed the service, food and entertainment and that we will see you both again very soon. Best wishes to you both.
PS – Just FYI, I can’t eat candy, I am afraid, as I am diabetic.
Tamara Boroda asks:
John, I have a phobia about using towels that other people have used so I want to bring my own. I did this last cruise on another cruise line and the cabin steward told me that I was not allowed and she seemed very offended. I am going on my first Carnival cruise on the Sensation and want to know if I am allowed to do this. Please, would you let me know what to do? Thank you lots.
Hello Tamara Boroda,
I have no idea why the other cruise line you were on would tell you that this is not allowed. Anyway, that doesn’t matter because, of course, you can bring your own towels and the stateroom steward will certainly not mind. Just explain to him or her when you get on the ship and the towels will be removed for you. Please let me know if you have any other questions and I hope this will be the first of many cruises with Carnival. Have a brilliant time. Best wishes.
Juliet Rosenthal asks:
When will we start to know what features will be on the big new ship Carnival has ordered? I am excited to know as we did the inaugurals on Carnival Magic and Carnival Breeze with you and want to do the new ship. We will reach platinum on our next cruise in July when we go back to Carnival Magic again and love Carnival.
Hello Juliet Rosenthal,
Many congratulations on your Platinum status and huge thanks to you for your loyalty. We will have much more on the new ship very soon and I already know her name and some of the things we will feature there and, I can tell you, it is all very exciting indeed. Watch this space and my Facebook page and, of course, Carnival’s Facebook page too and the news will be here soon. Have a brilliant cruise on the Carnival Magic and, again, thanks for all the kind words. Best wishes.
And that’s all for today. Many thanks to everyone for all their comments and questions.
Well so far we have had a successful cruise. There were a few last minute changes we needed to make in Germany but overall it has gone really well but tomorrow is the real test as we arrive in St. Petersburg, Russia. Getting off the ship here is very different and I have been trying my best to educate the guests as best I can both verbally in my talk and announcements and also with this flyer that we placed in everyone’s cabin this morning.
VERY IMPORTANT – ALL GUESTS MUST READ
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA
Russian Immigration Authorities follow very strict rules and regulations. This is not a port where any cruise ship guest can simply walk ashore and take a taxi into the city. Therefore, it is vital that every guest, regardless of nationality, read the following information.
ALL GUESTS ON CARNIVAL EXCURSIONS MUST HAVE:
Completed Russian Immigration Form (1 per person)
ALL GUESTS ON INDEPENDENT TOURS MUST HAVE:
Official Invitation from Recognized Tour Company
Competed Russian Immigration Form (1 per person)
IMPORTANT! YOU WILL NOT BE PERMITTED ASHORE IF YOU:
Are Not on a Carnival Excursion
Do Not Have an Official Invitation
Do Not Have a Russian Visa or Russian Passport
Please Note: The Russian Immigration Form has two parts. To avoid delays, it is necessary that each member of your family complete both sides of the form before disembarking the ship. In accordance with the Russian Authorities, priority going ashore will be given to guests on early Carnival shore excursions. A general announcement will be made approximately 45 minutes after arrival, clearing guests on independent tours to go ashore. Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding in this incomparable port.
This flyer, along with the immigration forms, will hopefully give guests all the information they need. So far we have 2,647 guests booked on excursions over the next two days and that is a big operation for the staff here as we sticker each guest as they enter the lounge before transferring them to their coaches. But it will be a very smooth operation from our side, however, the challenge will be with the Russian immigration inspectors who will want to see every single guest and we expect a thorough immigration check for each. There are 20 booths, so let’s hope it goes quickly. I will let you know.
Yesterday the Carnival Legend came home to Helsinki, Finland, and for the benefit of those soon to be cruising here and hopefully for many more who wish to, here is my take on Finland.
Finland is beautiful and, yet, not of this earth. You are apparently in the normal world with your cell phone and your gorgeous blond wife but you spend all winter being frozen to death and all summer realizing that you live in one of the most jaw droppingly awesome places on earth. Travel outside of Helsinki and you will have no reminders of the civilization you left behind. The countryside is beautiful, yet weird, the people are mad, the weather defies belief and some of their laws and customs leave you scratching your head.
You pay $90 for a bottle of house wine to accompany your plate of moose, reindeer or elk, which will be served to you by a lady who has completely see-through skin. However, you will not be bothered by any of this because you will be too baffled that, unlike the rest of the world, night does not follow day.
In the world we live in, there are many uncertainties, but one thing we all relay on is that without fail, the sun will set and day will become night. But here, from the end of April to the middle of September night is like turning your living room dimmer switch down a wee bit……and in the month of June it doesn’t happen at all. It was the most bizarre feeling yesterday to have it as bright at midnight as it was at 4 pm that afternoon. Then, in the winter …well…….blink and you will miss daylight which lasts just two hours.
In the summer months, people from Finland rarely sleep and on Friday and Saturday nights they do bugger all. They finish (pardon the pun) work, go home, have a few drinks, get showered, have a few drinks, change, have a few drinks, and then around 10 pm, they all go out ……. I mean ……..they ALL go out.
This can be quite a shock if you are not from Finland. When I was in the shipyard for the delivery of this ship (Carnival Legend) back in 2002, I remember going out to dinner on a Friday night with Heidi and others, it was 9 pm. I remember thinking “Bugger, I bet we are too late to get a table.”
But the streets and the restaurants were deserted and, as I sat with my plate of freshly roasted reindeer and potatoes, I noticed that as the night wore on, the restaurant became busier and busier. By 11:30 pm there were lines outside the restaurant I was in and outside every other one as well. So, I asked for the bill, which without the tip, came to the same price as we were paying for the Carnival Legend……… and left. When I did, I entered a world like nothing else. It was a huge street party ………. they were celebrating something special…….Friday night. I had seen nothing like it. If Wayne Gretzky, LeBron James and a naked Megan Fox all arrived at the same time, it would be nothing like Friday night in Helsinki.
To put it mildly……everyone was totally and utterly smashed, soused, hammered, blotto, out-of-their-white-faces drunk. Their motto seemed to be that it was no use drinking the odd glass of beer now and then, it was too expensive and a waste of time ……..So why not wait until the weekend and drink 30 beers and two bottles of vodka?…And that is exactly what they do.
It was the same with the shipyard workers who built the beautiful Spirit-class ships. Their work was faultless, the men and women who built the hull and welded the decks were the nicest most professional people in the world, and they built stunning vessels but come the weekend man do they like to hoist a pint or three……and that was to drink on the bicycle ride home. The Friday night gathering in Helsinki lasts until late Sunday night where people go straight from the bar to work. It’s amazing. If any country is thinking of invading Finland, I would suggest they do so between November and February because no bugger is awake………….although you could also invade in June as well because everyone will be too drunk to care. In fact, last year Finland came second only to Iceland as the city with the least crime and the highest standard of living. The crime thing is easy to understand as it’s either too light to steal anything and in the winter it’s too sodding cold……even now you can find men frozen to the spot with a stolen flat screen TV in their arms.
Our most popular excursions took guests to Senate Square upon which stands the huge cathedral with its green domes and Herculean-sized pillars. Guests also loved the Rock Church and the harbor tours which featured a look at the huge fleet of icebreaker vessels ready to break open the ice which will, for sure, cover the harbor by the end of November.
Then, you must see Porvoo which is the second oldest town in Finland. It dates back older than some cruise directors’ jokes……….1346. How often can you say you walked through a village that dates back to 1346 and that really has not changed since then? The houses built on stilts that are embedded in the river are still there as well as the many handicraft shops that are full of real bargains. The most popular purchase from here is the handmade woolen sweaters. They are made in the same style no as they were hundreds of years ago and judging by the smiles on the Carnival guests’ faces …….the prices haven’t changed much either.
To get to Porvoo you travel through the Christmas tree forests and stop for some traditional food and drink…… which is anything with alcohol in it. There are tours to Finnish horse farms, people’s homes and the UNESCO World Heritage fortress that sits off the harbour. It’s beautiful, barren, cold and hot with days of no daylight and nights with no night. The place is absolutely crazy and in my opinion ………is one of God’s finest hours.
Here are some photos taken today by Mr Radu:
OK, almost time to go but I want to finish with some news from a senior beard. I know that many of you are anxious and excited to book your 2014/15 cruise. Plus some have written on my blog and Facebook page saying said they are frustrated that we haven’t released the dates yet. Obviously there are very good reasons why we have yet to do this and I apologise that we have gone over the dates originally stated. I will let you know the moment I have any solid information and, again, my apologies for the delay
In Monday’s blog I mentioned that I now wear glasses when sitting here in my underpants writing this blog and it has been on my mind that I am probably only a few months away from the next step of getting old……..taking Viagra. As a sailor, I am all for a pill that helps me keep my mast up in the storm and stops me from rolling out of bed when the ship is in rough seas. Seriously, if it helps then I should be happy right and I am sure there are many male readers here who would like to give the inventor of Viagra……a standing ovation.
Oh, and I bet there are some female readers, including my wife, who are thinking, “Why can’t they invent a pill that makes a man more compassionate and understanding?” Well, why can’t there be a Viagra-type pill for women? I want my wife to take one and within one hour of doing so see her change into that Samantha woman from Sex in the City who only wears knickers to keep her ankles warm.
Actually, thinking about it there was a Viagra for women many years ago when I was young free and single. It was it called Bacardi and Coke. But even that never really worked because the girl I was interested in — forgetting that I was as ugly as inside-out baboon – would sober up once she saw me naked and run away screaming in terror. So Viagra it is but I already know Heidi has antidote for it …..…. it’s called a headache.