May 12, 2014 -
I often talk about how much I miss my wife and my daughter and my mum and my family and friends but rarely do I say how much I miss my dog, a massive flesh-eating German shepherd called Breeze. He is almost two years old and I never thought I would be writing a blog about how much I miss him. I have never been a dog person. In fact, when Heidi, my wife, was trying to persuade me to get one, I was totally against it. A dog requires almost constant attention. It raids your garbage bin, bites the mailman, eats the sofa, craps on the carpet, wants a walk when it’s raining, barks in the night for sod all reason and costs a fortune when it’s time to have its bollocks snipped off to stop it humping your vacuum cleaner. But despite all this, Breeze is much more satisfying than a feed-and-forget cat and, yep, I miss him a lot and from what Heidi tells me……….he misses me too.
I am compelled to write about Breeze because we have three service dogs on the Carnival Miracle this cruise and, obviously, seeing them around the ship has me thinking of my own dog. These three service dogs are amazing creatures, of course. One helps a guest with sleep apnea, not totally sure how and the other two are seeing eye dogs. Now before I get a bollocking about calling Cassie (the dog), a seeing eye dog, I can tell you that is what its owner, Michael, told me to call it during one of the shows when I gave the dog a trophy for being so quiet during the flashes and bangs of the Generations production show.
I was talking with Michael during our time at Glacier Bay and it was fascinating to listen to him talk about his relationship with Cassie. He was telling me how he takes a daily train with Cassie to work in Boston and how other passengers often ask Michael how his dog knows which stop he wants to get off at. He says he gets asked this a lot and always says that he had recently had Cassie micro chipped with a GPS. Michael went on to tell me that, instead of laughter, his comment is often met with sounds of awe and words like “amazing” and murmurs of awe.
Michael and Cassie have been on many adventures together, along with Michael’s wife, Glenda. This is their third Carnival cruise but it is also a sad one. You see, Michael told me something I had not known before and that is because Cassie is eight years old later this year, she has to retire and so in, July, Michael will say goodbye to Cassie who has given him seven years of safety, companionship and love.
As Michael told me about this, I could see how upset he was getting and so I tried to change the subject but it seemed that he wanted to talk about it. I asked him what would happen to Cassie and was relieved to hear that she would be located in a loving home where she will be rewarded for her hard work over the years and would be pampered in her old age.
It was an emotional meeting and, even now as I sit here writing this for you, I can feel myself getting watery eyes. Michael will obviously remember all the hard work which Cassie has done for him these past seven years and one of his enduring memories will be of her swimming alongside him on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman. Michael has been blind since he was two years old. Cassie is his third service seeing eye dog and soon he will say goodbye to her and another dog will become part of his life. Meeting Michael and listening to his story was very poignant, but, at the same time, uplifting ………. and I thank him for allowing me to share it with you here. I will do all I can to make their cruise special and, of course, I wish Cassie the most wonderful retirement.
Time for today’s Q and A……away we go.
Lyndsey Boston Jackson asks:
Hi John! Thanks you very much for the treats sent to our room last week on Sunshine! We had sailed twice before on Carnival Destiny and found the changes to be very nice on Carnival Sunshine! We had a great cruise with great staff! Marco, the guest service manager, was the best yet and took great care of our family. He even got us up to the bridge with my nephew who is a nine year old Carnival prodigy. I have one more big favour to ask of you. On our previous three cruises with Carnival, we have purchased the ship models for our kids. This was their first cruise ever and all we heard about before leaving was how they would get to buy their own ship… The gift shop sold out night one of the cruise (the night we didn’t make it to the shop) of the models of the ships. We even tried to get them to sell us the two display models but they couldn’t. Is there any way, if I give you a credit card number, that you could send me two Carnival Sunshine models? Hope you are enjoying Alaska and I can’t wait til the fall to cruise again! Thanks.
Hello Lyndsey Boston Jackson
I am so glad to see that you had such fun on the Carnival Sunshine and well done to the crew there for all their hard work. I wish I could help you with this but I am afraid, once I open that door, I will become the Heald Shopping Network. I am sorry about that and I hope you can maybe find one on eBay or somewhere. Thanks so much for the kind words and I hope I get to sail with you very soon. Best wishes.
Bill Cheatham asks:
John, I am cruising on Carnival Freedom June 1, and have a question regarding the Cheers beverage program. I like to purchase drinks with friends I cruise with. I am hearing that if I purchase the Cheers beverage package, I either cannot purchase drinks for others at all, or that even though I purchase the drinks, they will count against my daily limit. I also like to buy a bottle of wine and share with tablemates. I enjoy sharing with others, and, aside from that, think the Cheers package would be a great value on my upcoming cruise. Can you give me some clarification?
Hello Bill Cheatham
That’s correct, because we have no way of knowing who those drinks are for, the Cheers program is limited to 15 drinks per 24 hours plus unlimited non-alcoholic beverages. During this time, you cannot use your Sail & Sign card for any other beverage purchases. I hope that helps clarify the rules and should you have any other questions or need my help with anything, please do let me know. Have a great cruise. Best wishes.
Hello John: We first sailed with you on the Carnival Liberty in the Mediterranean many years ago and we really enjoyed you as our cruise director. We have been back to the Mediterranean since but would like to cruise Carnival again this summer. I don’t see any Carnival cruises in the Med this summer. Why? Thank you.
That’s right – because the airfare prices for North Americans is so high across to Europe, we were concerned that the airfare would impact our ability to attract folks to take these wonderful cruises. I am hopeful, however, that this situation will change in the future and we’ll return to Europe one day. Thanks for the kind words and I hope to see you soon. Best wishes.
Vince Tyers asks:
On the Carnival Breeze, there were so many people on electric mobility scooters that they were a menace to other passengers. I noticed that most of the passengers using them were obese and used them without care and attention of others. One hag drove into my legs, bruising me badly. If you are disabled, I understand, but Carnival allowing these on their boats without a proper rule of use is crazy. These people had no problem walking the buffet line I am sure.
Hello Vince Tyers
I think that this is a bit of an unfounded statement, however, I am sorry that you were injured. I know many guests who use these scooters and they do so with much care and attention to others around them. I do hope you are OK and not too badly hurt and hope you had a great time. Best wishes.
Christian Ward asks:
Just got off the Carnival Sunshine– what a wonderful ship. Hope they model more after this one. Cruise Director Jaime was awesome, wish CS staff had her personality. The only down fall on this cruise was that our room the air did not work so we were moved from the mid-ship room to a smaller room at the back of the ship and no help, like promise to help move, and the fact we paid for an upgrade and was downgraded. And we also had a bad tour and staff did not seem to
care. But over all a good cruise.
Hello Christian Ward
Thanks so much for the kind words for Jaime and I will pass this along to her so she can continue to help her staff improve. I am sorry about the air conditioning concerns you had and I will again pass on your comments. I am glad to see that you had a great time, for the most part, and I do hope that we see you soon. Best wishes.
Charles Black asks:
I want to thank you and CD Jason Apps for making our cruise aboard the Carnival Inspiration April 28 a wonderful experience. The strawberries and 24kt gold solid plastic cruise ship on a stick was great. Emily had a super first cruise and having only been home a couple days, she is begging me to book another cruise soon. Jason is a wonderful CD. Thank you again.
Hello Charles Black
Jason is one of our new CDs and this is his time to show that he can do the job well so it’s great to see that you enjoyed him so much. I will make sure he sees this and I know he will be thrilled. I hope we see you both again very soon. Best wishes.
Mikey Brown asks:
CARNIVAL SUNSHINE – 2/23/14 sailing. I must say it was great to see the completed transformation from Carnival Destiny to Carnival Sunshine. Truly amazing. Our time on board was brilliant. All the new eateries and bars on board were great – especially like JiJi’s and Guy’s burgers. The new SportSquare, ropes course, and water park are fantastic – in my opinion, the water park on Carnival Sunshine is the best in the fleet (my opinion) and the water slides are the fastest. Serenity deck on Carnival Sunshine was great – the wate fall was amazing. In fact there is not much that I don’t like on Carnival Sunshine. I do have to say though that I miss the theater and the LIVE show bands. I also have to say that, for the first time on any Carnival ship, I felt crowded as the additional cabins, I do believe put a strain on the public spaces. Case in point – if you did not already have a seat in the Punchliner Comedy Club or were in line for at least 30-45 mins before, you would be hard pressed to find standing room only. I had YTD dining, and if you were not in the MDR for YTD by 5:30ish, you may not find a seat until 7:30ish. Serenity deck was always PACKED with chair hogs and non-chair hogs which was a first to see Serenity DECKS PACKED. I am not whining here, John. It’s just that with the additional cabins that were added (100+) that I counted, it added just enough people that it felt cramped whilst on the ship. Sunshine is a brilliant ship and has some great venues. But because of the cramped feeling I felt, the likelihood of my sailing on Sunshine is pretty slim. But as I say to all, you need to cruise Sunshine at least once – she is a beaut.
Hello Mikey Brown
As always, it is great to hear from you and I am thrilled that you had a great time. And, yes, you’re correct there is limited seating at the Punchliner and I know that the ship’s managers and the beards are looking at what can be done here to improve. You made some great points and they will, I assure you, be passed on. Thanks again, hope to see you soon. Best wishes.
Rhonda Melancon asks:
We leave in 29 days and I would LOVE to know why no one can help resolve the PROBLEM with our online check in. I have been on the phone daily with someone for over a week now. Still no answer. How are we gonna get the security at the terminal without our boarding pass? I am a Platinum guest and have about 90 other guests traveling with us. We all are having this problem. Seems to be with our group but, again, Carnival technical support has not come up with an answer. PLEASE HELP
Hello Rhonda Melancon
I am sorry for the frustration you have felt with this, so let’s try and get it sorted. Can you send the details and booking to email@example.com? My colleague, Mischelle, is standing by to assist you and I have made her aware that you will be writing. I am sure all will be well and I am here if you need anything. Best wishes.
John W. Redman asks:
It seems remarkable to me that your cruise line allows people to wear whatever they choose to dinner. Our first cruise experience was Carnival Miracle’s cruise to Hawaii and on what was laughingly called, “formal night,” I saw people wearing whatever they wanted. We had anytime dining and the tables are close together. On formal night, a man right by the table we were eating at came in wearing scruffy jeans and a T-shirt. What a shmendrik he was!! Carnival needs to enforce its laws, yes, laws, because I read the dress code and nobody cared. Trudy and I were looking forward to an elegant dinner but it was spoiled.
Hello John W.Redman
I am very sorry to see that you had such a bad experience with what happened at dinner. I guess I have never really understood how what others are wearing can affect my enjoyment of the food and the dining experience but this is not about me. It is very difficult for the dining staff to monitor and check what 2,200 people are wearing here on the Carnival Miracle but I will make sure that I pass this along to them so they are aware. I do hope that you enjoyed the cruise and, despite this problem, you had a great time and that we see you again soon. Best wishes.
Alison Sams asks:
Hello John, I am gonna make this short and sweet. My fiancé and I leave out of Charleston, SC, on May 11. This will be my ninth cruise!! It will be his first (I’m trying to convince him cruising is the way to go for our honeymoon). I can’t remember or find in the FAQ’s, so maybe you can
help. Does our credit card get hit separately for charges or all at once when we are done? We are just trying to decide between debit and credit. To be honest, I can’t remember my charges from the last cruise. Thanks for your help.
Hello Alison Sams
This is a very good question and here is the answer in full for you. During embarkation, when your credit card is swiped, there is an initial hold of $100 (for cruises five days or less) or $200 (for cruises six days or more). Then, throughout the voyage, incremental holds will be obtained as needed. You should know, this will reduce the amount of available credit on the credit card or restrict the availability of cash in the checking/debit account. Authorization hold releases to your account are entirely up to your issuing bank. All charges will be automatically billed at the end of the voyage. On the final morning of the cruise, a statement detailing all purchases made with your Sail & Sign card will be delivered to your stateroom. If you made cash deposit and there is an overpayment at the end of the cruise, you can cash-out at the onboard Sail & Sign Kiosk or with the Guest Services team – otherwise, you will receive the overpayment in the form of a refund check mailed directly to the address on file within seven days of your cruise.
U.S. currency and Traveler’s Checks may be used to open your Sail & Sign account. Once on board, please visit our Guest Services Desk who will gladly assist you in opening your account. Throughout the cruise, as you approach the deposit limit, our Guest Services Desk will notify you that additional money must be deposited.
“Recommended” deposits per sailing duration:
2-4 day cruises: $100 USD deposit pp
5-8 day cruises: $200 USD deposit pp
9+ day cruises: $350 USD deposit pp
I do hope that this helps and, if you have any questions, you can contact me quickly through Facebook at facebook.com/johnheald. I wish you both a brilliant cruise. Best wishes
Alice Wintour asks:
I am the chosen group leader of the Cruise Critic meet and greet which sets sail on the Carnival Liberty on 6/7. We have a roll call now of 50-plus experienced cruisers and have our meet and greet organised on June 8 at 2pm in the piano bar. This experienced cruise group cruised last year on the Norwegian Gem and Captain Roger Gustavsen spent an hour with us and so did the hotel manager, cruise director and the chef who treated us to a question and answer session and listened intently to our feedback. They obviously realised how influential this group of experienced cruisers were and how our reviews are read by many thousands of people who may be future customers. I hope then that the Carnival Liberty captain will show us the same treatment. I will be sending them personal invitations and would like the names, please, of the captain, cruise director, hotel manager and the chef of the Liberty. NCL also provided us with a variety of door prizes and snacks. Can Carnival do this please? As I said, we are all experienced cruises and some are on Carnival for the first time. Thanks.
Hello Alice Wintour
It sounds like you all are ready for what I am sure will be a great cruise and, for the first-time Carnival cruisers, it will be the first of many cruises with us. Now I will give you the names as you requested but did want to mention that their schedule may not permit them to attend as they have a ship to run and 3,000 other guests to look after. But, if they are able, I am sure they will stop by. Their names are Captain Giusa, Hotel Director Jose Pisa, Cruise Director Brittany Boyd and Chef Santosh Gawai. I will ask my colleagues to provide you with four raffle prizes, which I hope you enjoy, and I am sorry but we do not provide snacks. But I am sure you will all have a brilliant time together on this great ship.
Hope Bonner asks:
Hi John! Let me start off by saying I love reading your Facebook page! Now I know many do that already but being a 17 year old, I don’t see many others my age giving input on what you say! (Not that I mind!) I have been on four cruises (and loved all of the Carnival ones!) And I am going on my fifth one on June 1 (the Carnival Magic!)! To get to the real question at hand, I was wondering how did you get to where you are today? When I think of my dream job, I think of your job! Even though I am going to college to become an educator, I know cruising will always be in my life and would love to know how you got to this amazing job you currently have! I dream big but one day maybe I will see myself in shoes similar to yours!
Hello Hope Bonner
That is very kind of you, Hope, and you are very welcome to this page and to my Facebook page too. My journey started as a bar waiter and I was not very good. A set of circumstances moved me to become a social host or entertainment staff as they are called now. I had no acting, entertainment or microphone skills and, indeed, today we look for people with such a vibrant personality that they connect with our guests. May I suggest that you look at www.carnivalentertainment.com as that will give you a great idea of what life on our ships is all about? I wish you the very best of luck and please let me know if I can help further. Best wishes.
And that’s all for today.
So that was almost the week that was and, overall, I think our first Alaskan cruise was a huge success and for the very most part, the guests have told me they have had the very best of times. I made a few mistakes with the scheduling of some of the music and a couple of the comedy shows but the attendance at the main shows was much improved than when they were doing the 6:30pm show so I am happy with that.
The shore excursions went well and my knowledge of Alaska is improving but the assistance of the naturalist, Michelle, has been invaluable. I think we need to work on Lido Deck and provide some extra management there as with so much to see, so much of the time the Lido is very busy all of the time. But the crew is superb and I have no doubts that this ship can head to the number one spot as per the guests that complete the review cards and knock the Carnival Magic off the number one spot.
We did have to cancel our four-hour stop in Victoria today though as the ship could not make the speed required because of strong currents which were definitely against us. The captain gave the guests extra time in Ketchikan which was much appreciated though and, of course, we refunded the port charges. And while next cruise, we may have the same concerns, the rest of the cruises this Alaskan season will be, as we informed the guests of recently, and there are no other changes to Victoria and all our other calls will be as advertised.
To summarise, I think my first Alaskan cruise as cruise director went very well. I have lots of ways I can improve the scheduling and I am still learning of course. I already know that like cruising in the Mediterranean, Alaskan cruising is all about the destinations and what I have to do is make sure that we complement that fact with the best shows, events and music along with the traditional and very generous helping of Carnival fun.
Obviously the lady who is leaving the ship tomorrow thinking of me as sexist for enjoying the beauty of another guest will never wish to sail with me again and despite the fact that I really do not understand why she is so upset, it makes me feel sad to know she literally “can’t stand the sight of me”…………..those I am afraid, we her own words
Right, as I mentioned, I miss my dog but, obviously, I miss Kye, my daughter, more than words can ever express. Just before I flew to Vancouver to join the ship I sat with Kye and watched the movie Frozen on DVD, not once but three times. It is her “favourite thing ever” and I agree it’s a very well made Disney movie and indeed we are showing it on our Lido big screens this month. But, there is one thing about that movie……………..that sodding song.
Kye sings it in the mornings and in the evenings. She sings it in the bath and she sings it on the way to and way from school and every time I call her (which is every day), she sings it to me down the phone ………………and I have to sing it with her.
“Snow glows white on the mountain tonight,” …………………….here it comes
“Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymoooooooooooooooooooooore.”
Yep, that song that Princess Elsa sings after bullying and freezing her sister, Anna, has taken over my life. At odd moments, as I sit here typing away in my underpants on the Blog or on Facebook, I suddenly start singing the song
“Let it goooooooo, let it goooo. Turn awaaay and sla-aam the-e dooooooooo-oor. I don’t care what they’re going to say. The cold never bothered me anyway.”
This is a song sung by an ice princess and by kids my daughter’s age, not some fat 49-year-old man with a flaccid arse and hemorrhoids……………God, I feel so ashamed. If you have no idea what this song is, please I beg you, do not ask Uncle Google because once you have heard it, there will be no going back and it will consume your life as it has done mine.
Let It Go………………oh FFS………………..Let it Go.