January 27, 2014 -
No, it’s not an illusion; this is indeed a new blog. Yep, here I am, back in my underpants, ready once again to give you another average blog. I had paused from writing the blogs while I was home thinking about my book about my life at sea. And then Dad passed away …………. and …………well……..you know. But the blog is as important to me as Facebook, if not more so, because it was the blog that got me on the social media thingy and thus connected with you. And it is the blog that our seven blogger’s cruises have been named after including the one in February of which we have 688 people registered for.
It is far easier to write these blogs when I am on the ship, not from a time point of view but for content because the blog was always about my life as a CD and the stories that happen every day on the brilliant ships of Carnival Cruise Lines. But it is my intention of getting back to writing at least two blogs a week while on land and then three a week minimum when I am back on the ocean waves. So unless I get asked to star in a Latvian rumpy pumpy movie or someone called D Clark and her mates from the Cruise Critic boards has me whacked for using the word “brilliant” then I will pledge my allegiance to this here blog.
So, what shall we start with today? Well, it has to be rock and roll…………doesn’t it? The announcement of our Carnival Live program is very exciting and we will chat about that some more shortly. But I will say now that having rock and roll bands performing on our stages will be sensational. And I wonder as STYX and Foreigner and REO Speedwagon, etc. rock the Seven Seas if they will or not behave like proper rock stars. It would be acceptable if you were a beard-wearing accountant or a tofu-eating professor of applied mathematics mind-numbingly dull. But in a pop star, dullness is not allowed and that brings me to everyone’s favourite Canadian ………..Justin Bieber and his alleged drag race with a model with breasts bigger than my head in a yellow Lamborghini through the streets of Miami.
I have been giving this a lot of thought and part of me is not surprised that an internationally famous worshipped God of rock, with groupies and millions of dollars in the bank did what he did. Maybe the reason so many are disgusted by his behaviour is because these days rock stars are, for the most part, so well behaved. I have in my role as CD and Brand Ambassador, met John Mayer, Jennifer Hudson and other performers whose abilities were just fantastic…….but bloody hell…….they were as incredibly engaging and nice as my Mum. I cruised with the New Kids On The Block on one of their special cruises and there were no signs of orgies in a lifeboat or finding one of them passed out in an elevator. Nope, they were so nice and very well behaved and had I been in their dressing room, I probably would have found some scented candles.
So Bieber, the boy wonder, was being a rock star, driving a sports car, drinking and having rumpy pumpy with supermodels. But then you have to worry for him as well because he could possibly be on the same road as Kurt Cobain or Amy Winehouse and, like both those much-loved performers, be dead by the age of 27? And who is to blame? Bieber, his agents and managers, his parents? It seems all of them but the easiest thing is surely to simply …………… blame Canada
Let’s chat then about Carnival Live. I will never forget the first time I bought a ticket to hear a band live. It was Black Sabbath with the incomparable Ozzy Osborne and, from there, I went on to buy tickets to see Queen, Jethro Tull, Meatloaf, Deep Purple and Barry Manilow…….don’t ask, please don’t ask. A good concert is a good night out. A brilliant live concert is a memory that stays with you forever and I am sure the memories of hearing these artists perform live on one of our ships will be just that, an everlasting memory.
We have to address a few things as we start to plan these. Seating is one of them. The front rows will be reserved for those who have paid extra to get them along with a meet the artist session etc. But the rest of the seating will be first come, first seated and that’s why it is my intention to make sure we have lots of staff on hand to police the no seat saving policy which we have to be strict about. This, I think, is very important. We will also have to have an area backstage for their dressing rooms which currently are used by the dancers. These areas will have to be dressed up for the concerts as I expect the artists will expect more than a cup of coffee from Lido deck.
We certainly have to work hard on board to make these concerts successful and we haven’t even spoken about the sound checks and bringing in all their equipment etc. But successful they will certainly be.
Now there may be some who are saying, “What does Carnival know about putting on concerts?” and that is a great question. The answer is twofold. Firstly, we have had lots of experience putting on shows, including with full-ship rock charters and, secondly, we have recently hired a new director of entertainment whose background is exactly this, large scale concerts featuring big name performers. So ….. on we go and wait……just wait……… we’re already looking at phase two of Carnival Live.
And just to reiterate, those who choose not to come to the concerts, you will be able to enjoy live music in all the lounges, the Punchliner Comedy Club shows, a deck party and, of course, extended time in the ports of Nassau and Cozumel. My most memorable concert was Queen at Wembley Stadium, an epic gig with Freddie Mercury’s ego and voice in full flight. I hope our concerts on board will give you such a memory and for those of you who haven’t seen how or where to book your tickets…………here is the answer.
I wonder………..what was the best concert you have ever been to? Share yours here, please, for us all to enjoy. At this moment (thanks to me being away from the blog for so long), I have over 1,500 questions in my in box. Obviously, Facebook remains the quickest way for me to get back to you but, meanwhile, here are 10 questions from the blog………………….off we go.
Scott Izzet asks:
We’re Platinum with Carnival!!!!!!! I need a table for two by a window; we have YTD, and eat at 7:30pm each evening. Our cruise is 2/23 on Carnival Magic with booking ******. This will be our anniversary cruise as well just for your information!!!!!!
Hello Scott Izzet,
I want to thank you for your loyalty, first of all, and secondly, mention that I cannot reserve seats for anyone at your time dining. While I am happy to try for guests on assigned seating, it is not possible to reserve tables at a specific time on our anytime option because it would take away the principles of this choice. However, I am sure that if you ask the hostess as and when you enter the dining room, that she will do her best to seat you at a table for two. But assigning a specific time and reserve tables is not something we can do, I am afraid. Please let me know if you have any other questions and I wish you a brilliant cruise and many more happy years together.
Rose Marie asks:
CONGRATULATIONS! I am very happy to see that you finally stood up to someone (initials were G.K.) and told them how you feel about comparing one cruise line against Carnival when it comes to Meet and Mingles. I belong to Cruise Critic, sail on Carnival and attend each Meet and Mingle that I can and never once have I expected the captain, cruise director, executive chef or head of housekeeping to show up. I attend Meet and Mingles to meet the people I have been chatting with on Cruise Critic and Facebook. People who love cruising on Carnival do so for so many more reasons than what is being served at an hour or two long social to meet people they met on-line. And just once, I would like to tell them that if they don’t want to sail on Carnival, then leave and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I only have one more thing to say about this, “What took you so long?”
Hello Rose Marie,
Thank you for your kind words. I think meet and greets are a good way for people to make new friends and making new friends on a cruise is something that I encourage which in turn is why I am glad to help arrange these meetings. I think I learned to differentiate between the wonderful writers from Cruise Critic (I met the new editor in New York last week and she was so delightful and she and her team are to be congratulated on their reporting) the people who ask me for these meetings and the one or two people whose agenda is simply to persuade anyone who will listen that Carnival is the devil incarnate. These people are as pointless to me as a dull pencil and outside of me using them for a bit of comic relief, they mean bugger all to me or any of the Carnival beards. I have a duty of care to those who write to me here or on my Facebook and to those who cruise with me as CD. So I am glad to help with the organisation of these meetings and supply raffle prizes as and when needed. I hope we will see you on board soon and making many new friends so if there is anything I can do for you, please let me know. Best wishes.
Hi John, I’m not writing to have you arrange anything for me or send me free gifts such as a 24 karat ship on a stick or strawberry tuxedos or champagne, nope none of that at all. I just
wanted to give you a BIG FAT THANK YOU to you and all the carnival staff for making dream vacations come true. Hats off to all. Again, thank you P.S. I can’t wait till my February 23 cruise on the Carnival Legend and I hope you are my CD.
What a wonderful post. Even though I am not going to be your CD for the cruise, I do know that you will have a wonderful time with the cruise director, Willie Lee, who is very, very funny. The ship will also have had her upgrade so you will get to see a new Carnival Legend. Have a brilliant time and, please, do ask me if you need anything. Best wishes.
Winona Wentworth asks:
Not sure if I am supposed to ask a question here or not so here goes: I’m sharing a cabin with someone I met on a “find a cabin mate” page on Facebook. I want early dining because when you have late dining, you miss a LOT of stuff I like (karaoke, for instance. My last two cruises I had a choice of eating or doing the things I wanted to do.) She, however, wants late dining because she likes to take a nap before supper. I don’t want any time because I want to get to know my dinner mates by spending each night with them. Is there ANYTHING that can be done? My last cruise was HORRIBLE and Carnival ignored my complaints for months and then said it is “too late to do anything to make up for it because it is outside our 30-day period.” I had sent you a message about that also a while back but I know you are busy so I haven’t heard back from you about it either. I’m really hoping I hear from you about either my LAST message or this one!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hello Winona Wentworth,
I am so very sorry that I have not answered you so far and I hope that your cruise has yet to happen. I had no idea about the Facebook page you mentioned and it is fascinating that people are meeting this way to share a cabin on board. As you are a Facebook member please can you send me your details there and include your sailing date and cabin and I will certainly do all I can for you. I hope to hear from you soon and apologise once again for the delay in getting back to you. Best wishes.
Angela Powis asks:
I called Carnival to see who the piano entertainer in the 88 bar on Carnival Breeze on March 15 cruise would be and I waited forever only to be told that nobody knew. How ridiculous is that. customer service at Carnival is non-existent and you should take a lesson from Southwest Airlines and Papa Johns, both of who I have complained to and both who resolved my issues immediately. The piano bar is our favorite place to hang out. I was told you have the answers.
Hello Angela Powis,
I apologise that our customer service team were not able to help you with this particular question. I think also it is important for me to defend our superb team who help hundreds of people each day. But they do not have all the answers and do not have access to the crew schedules like I do. So, then, I am glad that you asked me and the answer is that Ben Gentry will be the piano bar entertainer from late February until late June. From what I have heard he does a brilliant job so I am sure you will have fun. Please let me know of you have any other questions.
Leon Joiner asks:
John, love your blog and FB page. We’ve sailed with Carnival six times and love it. We’re sailing again on Apr 20 on Carnival Legend. The wife and I are both over 50 and will graduate from college for the first time in May. I would like to surprise her with something nice in the cabin. This will be like a graduation present to ourselves. Any suggestion? Thanks mate.
Hello Leon Joiner,
How fantastic is that, many congratulations to you both. Please remind me here on April 1 or, preferably, on Facebook the day before you sail and include your cabin number. I would be glad to send you a little something to wish you all the best. Thanks again and I wish you both a brilliant cruise. Best wishes.
Lynn Pavia asks:
Hey. Why is the Miracle not getting any upgrades?
Hello Lynn Pavia,
Thanks. To be honest, haven’t heard anything from the beards on the Carnival Miracle’s dry dock one way or the other but as soon as I do, you and the other readers will be the first to know.
Kevin Shah asks:
Hi John, my family just returned from a cruise to Progreso and Cozumel on Carnival Triumph. I’ve been on one other cruise before on another cruise line. I was told by people on the cruise boards that Carnival would be a step down or two from other cruise lines…that is NOT the case. The embarkation went perfectly! The muster drill went smoothly. The food….AMAZING! Can’t complain about one single thing. I’m now a huge Guy’s burgers fan. The dining room service was perfect and everything was delicious. The dining room service was FAR superior than another cruise line I’ve been on and kudos to Iza, our waitress, and her assistants, Damir and Ionuts. They were funny and service was just perfect. My room was awesome….on spa deck and like all the staff on the ship Wayan from Indonesia, was a gem. We had such a great time that we booked again, this time for the Carnival Breeze. Way to go Carnival.
Hello Kevin Shah,
I want you to know what a joy it was to read this and I can tell you that there will be some very happy crew and very proud senior managers when they read this. I am so glad that despite what others may have told you, you went with an open mind ready to have fun because that is exactly what you will have. I am so pleased to see that you will be sailing with us again and if there is anything I can do for you, please let me know. Best wishes to you all.
Laura & Mike Davies asks:
Hi John: We were on the Carnival Legend with you we had a great time and wanted to know even disembarkation in New York was great as far as we are concerned. Thanks to you and all the crew we had a blast hope to see you soon.
Hello Laura and Mike Davies,
I am so sorry that I am delayed in writing back but when I saw this, I felt I needed to reply even though it is much after the fact. I am so glad you enjoyed the cruise and that debark in New York went well as I know that it does not always go that way. I also hope you had a great time and that we will see you again very soon. Best wishes to you both.
Stacy Leo asks:
Hi John: Let me first start off by saying how much I enjoy your blogs. They are very fun and entertaining. We are planning our seventh Carnival cruise and fourth on Carnival Liberty. We have always had Karl Bird as our cruise director and think he is the best!!!! I noticed the 2014
cruise director schedule is out and I don’t see his name at all on there. Is he no longer going to be with Carnival? My kids are going to be so bummed. Most of the cruise director names in 2014 I don’t even recognize. Can you please tell me if you know anything about James Dunn? Also, please let me know if you know anything about Karl. Thank you.
Hello Stacy Leo,
Yes indeed, we said farewell to Karl who has retired as of late in 2013 and he is much missed. James Dunn is from the UK and is a fantastic CD full of life and energy and has a true passion for his work. He has a big following and I am sure that after you sail with him that you will be writing to me telling me how much you enjoyed him. Please let me know if you have any other questions and thanks so much for the very kind words. Best wishes.
Larry Bayliss asks:
We are cruising on the Carnival Dream Feb 1 because, amongst other things, my daughter won the State of Idaho High School Honoree for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award. I would like to have her recognized for this in some way on stage possibly. Do you have any suggestions on what can be done and given to her and how she can be rewarded for this awesome achievement? Our booking details are ******
Hello Larry Bayliss,
Many congratulations to your daughter who I am sure you are very proud of. May I suggest you write a letter to the cruise director on the ship once you are on board? Leave this at the Guest Services Desk and mention her achievements and I know he will be read this out loud in his live Morning Show. I will also ask him to send her a little something. I wish you all a brilliant cruise. Best wishes.
We are booked for B2B on the Carnival Breeze for Feb 9 and 15 – very excited!!! – and would like to sign up for Faster To The Fun on 9th. I check daily, sometimes more than once per day, and it is sold out. I have read on some discussion boards that it is often reopened for a few more slots, so just wonder if you know about that possibility? I emailed you a while back about the lack of response to my emails about the Chef’s Table and within hours of my email, I got two responses, so thank you for that! Hoping you can get us info for FTTF because we are ready to cruise. February can’t come soon enough!
I can see how excited you are for your cruise and again I have to apologise for the lateness of my reply. FTTF is capacity controlled so if it’s sold out, the only way it will re-open is if someone cancels it. We obviously have no way of predicting when that may or may not happen. Please do not let that worry you and if there is anything else I can do please drop me a line on facebook.com/johnheald and I will do all I can for you. Best wishes.
And that’s all for now and I will be back with more mid-week. Thanks for your understanding with my lack of replies and, while I do not think I will ever catch up, I will work as hard as I can to do so. As I mentioned above to Angela Powis in today’s Q&A, the customer service team that work so hard and do such an outstanding job for hundreds of our guests do not have access to the crew schedules as I do. I should also point out that it is only since I started writing my pages that our customers have access to this kind of information. I don’t say this because I want a massive pat on the back but because as far as I know, Carnival is the only cruise line that publishes its CD schedule and answers in advance who a comedian will be or what waiter is where etc. Anyway, as we are talking about live music today, let me share the current piano bar schedule with you. Here it is;
Ben Gentry 2/26/2014 – 6/15/2014
Jordan Heppner 6/15/2014 – 8/16/2014
Martin Aucoin 10/27/2013 – 3/30/2014
Gustavo Garcia 3/30/2014 – 6/15/2014
Robert Berhalter 11/9/2013 – 5/4/2014
Andrew Pobjoy 5/4/2014 – 6/15/2014
Hailey Morgan Wiebe 28/12/2013 – TBA
Martyn Lucas 1/16/2014 – 4/5/2014
Susan Erwin 4/5/2014 – 7/26/2014
Robert Crucilla 9/16/2013 – 2/16/2014
Keith Channer 2/16/2014 – 8/18/2014
Larry Maconaghy 11/24/2013 – 3/30/2014
Jonathan Thompson 3/30/2014 – 4/19/2014
Jim Morris 1/16/2014 – 5/19/2014
Jonathan Thompson 5/19/2014 – 9/18/2014
David Filsinger 8/10/2013 – 3/30/2014
Jordan Heppner 3/30/2014 – 6/14/2014
Kyle Bronsdon 6/14/2014 – 9/13/2014
Marty Gast 1/10/2014 – 7/10/2014
William Reid Zimmer 1/31/2014 – 4/21/2014
TJ Kuenster 4/21/2014- 8/29/2014
Kyle Bronsdon 10/10/2013 – 2/2/2014
Roger Concepcion 2/20/2014 – 8/17/2014
Jonathan Thompson 12/28/2013 – 3/8/2014
Seth Gibson 3/8/2014 – 8/1/2014
Derrek Wayne Robert 1/19/2014 – 3/2/2014
Steve Burks 3/2/2014 – 6/8/2014
Frank Golden 2/7/2013 3/1/2014
Barry Meijer 2/3/2014 – 2/17/2014
Alan Sheppard 2/17/2014 – 3/31/2014
Robert Cozma 3/31/2014 – 10/27/2014
Tom Grable 1/19/2014 – 8/3/2014
Gary Mumford 11/21/2013 – 4/13/2014
James Carter Stringfe 4/13/2014 – 7/13/2014
Mike McCabe 7/13/2014 – 10/9/2014
Gary Pickus 11/17/2013 – 2/16/2014
Barry Meijer 2/23/2014 – 4/19/2014
Ben Gentry 2/16/2014 – 2/23/2104 (bloggers cruise)
Tonya Scott 12/11/2013 – 3/17/2014
Dana Honey 3/17/2014 – 10/16/2014
Trevor Jones 12/21/2013 – 2/10/2014
Natalie Carboni 2/10/2014 – 6/25/2014
Michael Geier 12/2/2013- 2/1/2014
Agustin Villarin 2/1/2014 – 8/16/2014
Carlos Marquez 12/29/2013 – 2/16/2014
Walter Boik 2/16/2014 – 5/11/2014
Angela Johnson 10/19/2013 – 4/14/2014
Robert Crucilla 4/14/2014 – 9/25/2014
And my thanks to each and every one of the above entertainers who remain such an important part of our entertainment. My thanks also to Laura — aka Divetrash — who manages a Facebook page dedicated to them and the promotion of these wonderful performers.
I will have the latest CD schedule for you very soon.
May I take this one last opportunity to thank you all for the messages and cards of sympathy after my father’s sudden passing. I realise the last think you tune into this blog here is for sad tidings of sorrow from me but it would be amiss of me not to say something. It truly was a sudden passing. Yes, Dad had health issues, including Parkinson’s disease, but at 79 years of age, he was strong and determined and so when he passed in his sleep the morning of December 18 it was totally unexpected and nothing that my Mum or my sister or I or any of the family were prepared for.
You see looking back, I am astounded by my ignorance, but my only reference point to Parkinson’s was Michael J Fox and the odd visit to the E.R. I knew the disease made my Dad’s hands shake and not allow him to walk so freely but I had never bothered to ask Uncle Google or his doctors what Parkinson’s actually meant. And I think the reason for this was Dad was still at home, still being my Dad.
And while the disease did not allow him to make his beloved furniture or put together his model trains he could still drive, still talk, still hug my daughter Kye and play with her and well ……….. just be Dad. Yes he was older, smaller even but because he was not in the hospital but at home I never realised just how serious Parkinson’s really was.
There are times these past few weeks when I dream about him and talk to him. I talk to him and we laugh. I have a vision of him and how he would be in my life today. Then I wake up and remember. I need a few minutes to gather myself. It is in those moments that I let myself stop and think about what I’ve lost… Like many of you reading this, I am forced to cope with his loss, there is little else I can do. I have also learnt that when I sit with Mum and my sister Suzanne and talk about Dad that laughing is sometimes as important as crying. My Mum is being strong and although she can’t drive she is amazingly resolute and we will all support her as she starts her life living alone after 54 years of being with Dad
All this has made me think about……..well, me. I hope I poop off before Heidi because without her, there is no way I could look after myself. I don’t know how to cook, clean, iron, operate a washing machine, change a fuse or where the new roll of toilet paper comes from. I am glad that Dad didn’t suffer and that he never had to spend years in a home. While I’m sure there are lots of wonderful care facilities out there, I don’t want to go to the type of retirement home where you’re left to marinate in your own urine, while the “helpers” stand around texting their boyfriends, waiting for you to pass on but preferably not on their shift.
I am sure everyone here dreads ending their days in a home for the nearly dead wearing someone else’s false teeth. If I am lucky enough to reach 79 years of age like Dad, I think I may want to go the same way. Because if Kye says “Dad, we have found you a nice spot at The Lucinda Lace Retirement Home,” I will start drinking again, smoking 30 cigars a day and eating nothing but animal fat. Maybe we should have a have a happy hour for only those over age 75 where with pints of ThirstyFrog for 50 cents and let them smoke and have an hour of Frank Sinatra karaoke. You may spend the rest of the cruise in bed but that’s better than ending your days wasting away wearing a diaper.
I am proud of my family for the way in which we have managed to rebuild our lives amid the ruins and eventually we will learn to cope without a husband and a father. This will be my last mention of what has happened because this blog needs to get back to whence it came. But if I may say this before I go. My Dad was the most wonderful and, at times, infuriating man I have ever met. He influenced me, cared for me, bollocked me from time to time, but, ultimately, he taught vital truths and built a foundation for my life. Dad was inspirational and loving, passionately loving in a subtle understated way and absolutely, utterly deserving of my never ending love.