As cruise director of the Carnival Miracle, I speak to lots of guests and enjoy every moment of doing so. Even when they are moaning about me, costumes, whales, leering looks, food, air, jokes, the weather or as yesterday a British guest saying that the ship was too “American,” I enjoy the challenge of finding something they are enjoying and concentrating on that. What is far more difficult and far more of a challenge is when you are talking with a guest who does not understand that there are others waiting in line for you and that they want to say hello and speak to you or ask a question. Such was the case last night at the Captain’s Celebration party in the lobby. Last cruise, it was the scene of “sexist pig gate” and, this time, it was the man who would not stop talking

 You see, being trapped in a conversation with someone over the phone is easy. There are plenty of viable reasons you might have to go. Someone could be at the door. Or, if you’re at work, you’ve just been called to an urgent meeting by someone with a beard. I’ve lost track of how many times I have, while talking on a phone to my colleagues in the office, had in the middle of a conversation, been told they’re being called to a meeting. Only after they’ve hung up it hits me: they’re at home. And it’s 8:45 pm.

 Talking to someone from a cell phone allows for many chances to sod off. The battery is dying. Or it’s too windy. Or, whoops – AT&T’s satellite was just blown up by a North Korean missile and the line dropped. When I had my previous Blackberry with the sensor touch screen, I accidently brushed the mute button with my cheek and used this as an excuse not to speak to someone for months. But when you’re face to face with someone on elegant night, in the lobby of the Carnival Miracle, it’s entirely different. It’s not like you can say, “Hello, hello, I have lost you……..can you hear me now?” Excuses are tricky because people can actually see you.

All you can do is hope that your phone rings and then say you have to take the call or my assistant Dee says I need help and tells me, “There is a problem back stage, one of the dancers needs help with their zipper on their costume. Please go and help him.” But this never happened so there I was, listening to this chap talk — and talk and talk and talk.

 He was very nice but insisted on telling me every detail of every one of the many Carnival cruises he had been on and what he liked and what changes he did not like. He was pleasant and a lot of what he said made sense but there was a line of maybe 10 guests or more forming behind him waiting and waiting for their turn. I couldn’t say, “Sorry to interrupt your story about how you miss the Beef Wellington we used to serve in 1994 but there are lots of people waiting.” He was an older guest, Diamond status, and traveling alone…………that would have been rude. But emergency action was needed so playing on the hope that his hearing may not have been the best I said that my phone was ringing even though it wasn’t. I reached into my pocket and then pretended to take a call. Then, I said it was an important call, and politely waddled away and spoke into it saying, “Yes, yes, of course, why not and as long as he agrees” to absolutely nobody.

 I turned around and made a purposeful stride to the rest of the guests who were waiting for me and, as I did, the guest stepped in front of me and, as though I had not been away he continued to talk about the menu changes. I am sure there are many things I could say and do to get myself out of these situations and, apart from it actually being my job to listen to the guests despite the topic of conversation, there is another problem. The problem is, I’m not good at managing the guilt. When I want to get out of speaking to someone, I don’t want the person to feel bad ……… so I don’t.

Eventually, after another five minutes of food talk, one of the other guests became impatient and stepped in and said, “Can we have some time with, John, please, we need a photo.” I went straight into my best Hugh Grant impression and made some oooh and giggle noises before shaking the guests’ hands and saying, “I am sure we will get to talk again” and turned to have my photo taken

 After that I went on with my evening and hosted the Generations show at 8:15 pm. As I introduced the cast and walked down off the stage through the audience to the back of the Phantom Theatre there he was………like one of my hemorrhoids ………. back again. The next 20 minutes were spent talking about his favourite cruise director, Risa Barnes, the placemats we used to give as gifts at the end of the cruise and how the Fantasy-class ships are the best. And as he spoke another couple stood and waited to talk to me and I was scared to look up in case like the part in the movie Airplane………….they had waited so long they had died and were mere skeletons.

 But help was on hand because standing a few feet away at the coffee shop was the hotel director and so I said, “Look, there is the hotel director, have you met him yet?” And without giving him chance to answer I grabbed his arm and propelled him towards the coffee shop, introduced them to each other and said, “Got to go backstage” and buggered off.

 It’s now three hours later and I would not be surprised if they are still there now

 Time for today’s Q and A…………….off we go

 Jason Enzminger asks:

 Sir, I am asking you to organize a special performance for my cruise. My family and I will be on the Carnival Conquest on June 1 with my fiancée, Lynn, as well. There are five cabins total booked. What I want to do is read a poem I have written for her to say thank you for putting up with the last eight months I have been deployed on active service in the USAF. She will have no idea that this is coming because this is definitely something that is out of my comfort zone. I really want to honor her. I get the medals and all the nice words but its Lynn that should be honored. Is there something you can do to help me please, John? I will be in full dress uniform on elegant night if that helps? Thank you, sir.

 John says:

 Hello Jason Enzminger

Thank you for your service and I think it is brilliant that you wish to honour Lynn like this. I will speak with Gary, the cruise director on the Carnival Conquest, and arrange a time and place to do this and he will be in touch secretly, of course, when you are on the ship. I wish you all a great cruise and many happy years together. Best wishes.


 Sidney Lussman asks:

 Kudos to the workers on the fair ship Carnival Freedom for an awesome time spent being pampered by them. Jewel, the lovely steward looking after room 6277, our waiters Ravi and Jigson, plus Alam, the best bar waiter ever, who served us in the restaraunt. There is a “but,” though, John, and that was the temperature in the cabin which was recorded at 72 degrees. This is far too hot for big people like my wife and I – something you can relate to if I may be so bold to mention. We spoke with the front desk people who did send an engineer but nothing changed. Is 72 degrees the normal? At home we have it set to 62 degrees at night so this was a shock and made sleeping impossible and we left the ship dog tired. This has made us hesitant about booking another Carnival cruise, John. Please answer

 John says:

 Hello Sidney Lussman

Firstly may I thank you for taking the time to write those words of praise for the people who served and looked after you, I will make sure they see them. In regard to the air conditioning 72 degrees is about normal under company standards but there is usually an opportunity to have it cooler and I will send this to the ship so they can see that you were somewhat uncomfortable. I apologise for this and hope that you will look back on the wonderful service you mentioned and will indeed join us again. Best wishes.


 Cinzia Bertolami asks:

 Hello Dear John- I’m writing to you because I am a past guest, booked in a penthouse, but I haven’t succeeded in joining the VIFP Club. Can you help me? Where can I write to you, in private, all the things I need to provide (name, etc?). Excuse my imprecise American language. I hope in your help, because I’m ready to book! And I send you a big embrace!

 John says:

 Hello Cinzia Bertolami

Thank you for writing and please do not worry. I am going to see what I can find out and ask a colleague to help me do so and contact you if that’s OK. Thanks so much and I am here if you need me. Best wishes.


 Gail Gerard asks:

 Hi John!

Recently, I asked you if Jen Baxter was going to be the CD on our upcoming Carnival Triumph cruise in June. You replied (on your Facebook page) that she is. You have no idea how happy you’ve made my husband. When we sailed with her last summer, he had a couple of small issues which cropped up (“yanno”…as they do) and she took care of them right away. She pulled him on stage for the “Welcome Aboard” show and made him shake his moneymaker, which he delightfully indulged in for her. She asked all the guests to ask him to shake his moneymaker if they saw him in the corridors, etc. and he would sigh, roll his eyes, laugh and shake his groove thang every time somebody asked. Which was like at least 100 times a day. When we decided on which cruises we were going to take this summer, we knew the Carnival Triumph was a definite possibility and he REALLY wanted to sail with Jen again. When we thought the CD was going to be some guy named Willie Lee, he was miffed but also realized that unless she’s got some kind of magic super powers, Jen can’t be everywhere. When I found out (through you) that our CD was in fact going to be Jen after all, he cheered. Now he wants to make some kind of “We (heart) Jen Baxter” sign or something to take to the Welcome Aboard show. I’ve told him if he does that, I’m hiding under the seat because how embarrassing would that be? Not to mention sorta stalkerish and creepy, if you ask me. Anyway..thanks. Sail on, good buddy, sail on.

 John says:

 Hello Gail Gerard

Yes, indeed, the wonderful Jen Baxter is on the Carnival Triumph until July 14 and I know she will be thrilled when she reads this. I think it is great that you are taking an I Love Jen sign to the show, I won’t tell her that bit so it’s a surprise. There are people who say that a CD does not make a difference to a cruise but you have shown in this post that to you they really can. Have a brilliant time and please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. Best wishes.


 Beverly L. asks:

 Hi Mr. Heald: I sailed with the Carnival Sunshine on May 2, 2014. We talked about me being nervous and my first time as a solo cruiser. You told me to ask you if there was anything I needed. I did and you answered. You put me at a table with six other people – three were solo and three were a family. I had a great table thanks to YOU. We had a lot in common and the three solo cruisers became my cruising buddies. Two of them were from Florida and not too far from my home. Thank you again, I had a great cruise. All the staff were great and very kind to me. I made new friends and will cruise again with them. My cabin was huge and the window overlooking the sea was perfect. Not too far from my door was the door to the outside and it was nice. Like I had a balcony room without the price of one. This was my eighth cruise on Carnival but my first solo and there will be many more possibly. A cruise in June. I have one in Nov. with my friend. We LOVE Carnival and only sail with you guys. Have never had a bad cruise. Where I live there are smells and noise and kids, but, when on a cruise, you have 24-hour service and they cater to you like you are the king. So how could anyone not have a fun time? Thanks again to Carnival and all the hard-working crew that are there to see to my smallest wish and make my stay the best they can. It’s up to me to have a good, fun time and I do and have every time I sail with Carnival.

 John says:

 Hello Beverly L

It is always so uplifting to read posts like this. I know the challenges of solo cruising can be difficult but it is so great to read that you made friends and had such fun. If you do decide to take a cruise in June or at any time and you need my help again, please let me know. Best wishes.


 Ian Reading asks:

 When will you start talking about Carnival Vista? Is Carnival panicking because they have heard all the amazing stuff RCI is putting on their new class of ships and gone back to the drawing board. Come on, Heald, tell the truth and the truth shall set you free

  John says:

 Hello Ian Reading

I have no idea what other cruise lines are doing and certainly we do not decide what we will or will not place on our new ship, Carnival Vista, based on that either. As soon as I have any news I will, of course, share it with everyone. Best wishes.


 Cyndy asks:

 I much enjoyed reading your blog today. I laughed and agreed with you sometimes and sometimes with the guests. But all in all, it was very good. I recently returned from a Bahamas cruise on the Carnival Splendor from NYC (4/26/14). It was a strange cruise. The atmosphere on the Carnival Splendor was different. For example, some of the crew ate dinner with the guests in the dining room, some of the crew attended the shows at night with special reserved seating and some of the crew also attended and participated in some kind of activity in one of the lounges while having drinks. I had never experienced these kinds of crew activities. We always greatly enjoy our cruises on Carnival and will continue to be loyal cruisers on Carnival. I was just wondering if crew participation was something new. Have a blessed day,


 John says:

 Hello Cyndy

This is very strange and I have not heard of this before. If we do invite some of our employees who have been nominated for team members of the month we do allow them to see the show but never have seats reserved for them in prime areas. I can’t say what happened because I need to check on this with the ship, which I will, and thanks so much for bringing this to my attention. I do hope you had a wonderful cruise and that we see you again soon. Best wishes.


 Darleen Espinoza asks:

 I am platinum VIFP and will be diamond by years end. I think it should be part of Carnival’s loyalty program that Diamond passengers should be able to be escorted to the front of the line at any time dinning and the line at the Asian wok place because the lines there are always too big.

 John says:

 Hello Darleen Espinoza

Many congratulations on your fast approaching Diamond statues and thanks to you for that amazing loyalty. While we will not be able to give you what you suggested in your post I do know you will enjoy the Diamond benefits and, most importantly, I know you will continue to enjoy cruising with us. Best wishes.


 James Boylan asks:

John: First of all, I enjoy reading your blog and Facebook page. I think they are both great. Now onto a matter I have been mulling over since my cruise back in January to ask you about. On the cruise, the NCAA Football National Championship Game was played. When I asked the CD why it was not being broadcast on the big screen by the pool, the answer was given that half the guests were from Canada and other foreign countries. He stated that it would be broadcast in the bar by the Casino and in the staterooms. Well it was never broadcast in the staterooms. I find it hard to believe that Carnival, being family-oriented as it is, would want underage children in the bar areas or casino in the evenings. I, myself, had my son with me on the cruise and the last place I would have had him with me to watch the game is in a bar at his young age. I would like to know why Carnival would not broadcast this in a more family friendly part of the ship?


James Boylan

 John says:

 Hello James Boylan

Thanks for writing and this is a good question indeed. You see the simple answer is that, if the games were on ESPN, we do not have the license from them to play this in staterooms, only in public areas such as the casino bar and sports bar. I do apologise that you were misled here and I will make sure the CD is aware of this. It is always the cruise director and hotel directors’ individual choice to show the games or movies and, in this case, they went, I guess, with the later. It is hard in this job to appease everyone with what content is shown on the big screen and sports are one that always divides opinion. In do understand your point, of course, and I will make sure the ship will see your comments. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Best wishes.


 And finally……………this one

Carla Raso asks:

 John Heald: your blog about a Carnival passenger who had paid to be on the cruise and had rightly called you out about staring at another passengers body parts was one big sorry excuse. Rather than stand behind what you did, you come up with a pathetic alibi. You might as well have used that terrible phrase “I misspoke,” like Mitt Romney did when he said he was “not concerned about the very poor.” If you were a real man and if you had any decency you would have written that what you did was an extraordinarily unprofessional thing and say sorry. Instead you use school boy humour to justify something that, if it happened in corporate America, you would be fired without question.

 John says:

 Hello Carla Raso

I am not sure in this case if I did use “school boy humour” to justify what happened. I have given this true and honest consideration and I believe that I did nothing wrong. Thank you though for your opinion, it is always welcome here on the blog. Best wishes.


 Sigh………….that’s all for today.

 It’s time to get the dead horse out and give him a dam good flogging because I am about to talk about everyone’s favourite subject, yep, rumpy pumpy…….bugger, I mean dress codes. You see I am being battered and bruised by a Platinum guest this week who was dismayed to see a variety of baseball caps and, indeed, a 10-gallon cowboy hat in the dining room. And when I spoke to her in person she also commented that on her past Carnival cruises, how dress codes were slipping more and more and that Carnival did not care. She was very adamant and very forceful in the way she put her message across to me and the captain.

 So just before I spout off some waffle on this subject, I want to share with you something that our senior maître d said on this subject some months ago. Here is Ken Byrne, who will be joining me here on the Carnival Miracle next week and his thoughts on dress code.

 Since the introduction of the relaxed dress code, while some of our guests do not read this, the vast majority follows and respects the policy for elegant evenings and other more casual evenings. We always have a maître d’ and/or hostess at the doors to welcome guests. We always approach those guests who are not dressed correctly in the most gracious way and explain the dress code for that evening. We inform them that this evening is Elegant Night, and that they need to be wearing long pants/shirt/jacket and proper footwear. We ask them to change and that they are welcome to return to the dining room and continue to enjoy their evening.

 As you can imagine there are some guests who are not happy at what they have just been told and will scream and shout and swear saying, “It’s my vacation and I paid for the cruise” and “What are you going to do to stop me?” There are times when you may miss a guest enter the dining room because you are busy talking or helping someone else which makes it more difficult to ask them to leave and change clothing once they are seated at the table.

 It is also important to remember in some cases guests may have lost their luggage and, of course, we make exceptions here. However, by not enforcing the dress code, dress shorts become beach shorts, collared sports shirts become beach shirts, and sandals become flip flops topped with a baseball cap! So there you go John, we do enforce it, and I totally agree that people should respect the dress code and comply with our policy, without the maître d’s having to tell guests they must dress up.

 So, here we go then. Looking back at Carnival’s history, I think it is safe to say that dress codes were supposed to make life easier for our guests, to offer helpful hints about what was expected of them. But times, it seems, are changing. Black tie, of course, has suffered the saddest fate of all dress codes. There was a time when our male guests always wore black tie for dinner. Those days, we can safely say, have long gone. Anyone who has walked along Promenade Deck at 6pm on elegant night on a beautiful Caribbean evening at sea will have observed the spectacle of people still dressed casually, enjoying each other’s company, playing cards, listening to music and enjoying the fun. And why not, it’s there vacation after all and, as we promote places like the RedFrog Pub as having the laid back atmosphere of the Caribbean, it is ludicrous to expect anyone to have to be there dressed like a sodding penguin.

 I think most of us accept that there will be those who just don’t want to dress formally and I think most of us are OK with that in the shows, lounges and bars. So why then does it spark so much controversy when the same people dare enter the dining room? I have never in my time as CD had another guest say that her enjoyment of the show was spoiled because the man next to her was in jeans and a T-shirt. But the number of times I have heard in person and read here and on Facebook that the same man in the same jeans and same T-shirt has spoiled their dinner. Why is that?

 The answer is I think an individual thing but whose fault is it? Ours, Carnival’s, mine? You see we have rules but, as Ken mentions above, it is honestly impossible to monitor every entrance to check what each guest is wearing. So why bother with dress codes at all? Yes, if someone walks in in a tank top with a full mane of hair under their arms then yes, send the buggers out and, if it’s a man, send him out, too. But jeans, T-shirts, cowboy hat……..are they really a problem in today’s world?

 Now there is an argument here, so hold on. There is no doubt that dress codes affect the atmosphere of an event and, generally, I would say, they do if that event is a wedding or a funeral or a night at the opera. But a group of 2,000 guests, on vacation, should we really still in 2014 be telling people on the vacation they have paid for………. what to wear?

 Choice, it’s all about choice but the question I ask today is, should we as a company change the elegant night to one of choice rather than pretend we enforce the rules when indeed it is virtually impossible to do so?

 And as we move forward, I ask this. We are a brilliant cruise line, yes, we really are. We have the most amazing group of young beards who have given us Guy’s Burgers, BlueIguana Cantina, Alchemy Bar, Epic Rock, Carnival Live, Cucina del Capitano and the RedFrog Pub. These are the now, and these are the light, fresh, family, fun ideas that are today’s Carnival and there is more, much more to come. So the question is — have Gerry and his beards been forced to drag something from yesterday’s Carnival into today’s Carnival? Smarter people than me may have the answer because at the moment, I most certainly do not.

 So, brilliant news for the West Coast, Carnival Miracle is coming home to Long Beach year-round and we can once again give you seven days of cruising on a ship that will have so much to offer and will have had a dry dock and get all sorts of fantastic upgrades, information on which I will pass along as soon as Gerry and the beards tell me.

It is my Mum’s birthday on Monday, the first one in 56 years she will have spent without my Dad. I worry about her and yet the more and more I miss my Dad, the more and more I give thanks that he passed away in his sleep, in no pain, silently being promoted to glory. He always joked how he would never want to go into a care home but, behind that casual conversation, I think he had a morbid fear of ending there with his Parkinson’s slowly leading him down that path. He would have hated ending his days in a care home sucking on a Werther’s Original. So the more I examine this the more I realise how he would have hated sitting in a chair, in a care home, wearing a stranger’s underpants and how if given the choice, he would have gone the way he did. I just wish he had waited just a few more years.

 Your friend,


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58 Responses to What Would Mitt Romney Wear……..On Elegant Night?

  1. Daniel Fisher says:

    What about a reward of some type for those who genuinely participate in elegant night? Don’t read that as me looking for something for nothing, but in today’s society and the ‘air of entitlement’ that seems to prevail amoung the masses, maybe a reward would go over better than something they would feel deprived of. Maybe something as simple as a complimentary portrait for those who ‘play along’?

    Just a thought from the one guy who will be in his tuxedo, even if he is the last one on the boat to be doing so.

  2. Kelly Lawrence says:

    Regarding dress code.
    You are correct in that what one wears is a choice. You are also correct in that where one chooses to dine is a choice.
    There is a difference between eating and dining. On Elegant Nights, the MDR is a place for dining. The Lido would be a place to eat.
    The establishment has requested that their guests wear a certain attire while dining in the MDR on Elegant Night. As a guest, I now have a choice. I can respect your request and dress accordingly. Or, I can choose to not respect your request. If I choose to not respect your request and still show up dressed casually, I’m basically showing disrespect to you, your establishment, and to my fellow guests.

  3. Ward says:

    John – Great Blog! Looking forward to BC8! In response to the lady who was upset at dinner attire (or lack there of) You made a point about how people are not offended by the dress code of another in the show lounge, but are offended by people at dinner in attire that does not fit the rules…. The breaking of the rules I believe is what upset her more than the attire itself. Some people adhere to the letter of the law, and expect any deviance from that line to be swiftly punished. You just cant help these people, there gonna make themselves miserable. I know it s a logistical nightmare, but one thought would be for elegant night have the ships with two dining rooms have one with strict rules and the other a more relaxed dining… again I know its would be close to impossible to pull off, just a crazy idea. I got plenty more do you have about 3.5 hours to talk?

  4. Angela says:

    In answer to your question of dress code and should it be changed to “choice”, I will say I for one would be disappointed. Elegant night allows many of us an opportunity we very rarely get, to dress up and have a unique dining experience. Although having someone sit next to me with a baseball hat or flip flops on would not ruin my cruise or cause me to complain, it does take away from the ambiance created on Elegant Night and other dinner nights. I’ve always believed that Carnival does it right by offering those that want to be more casual places to dine and also those that want to be more dressy a venue to do it in. There are evenings where I don’t feel like dressing up and we eat elsewhere because I don’t want to change out of my tank top and flip flops after a long day in port. So I love having the various choices to do both.

  5. Marlene Forbes says:

    My sympathies regarding your father….I have often thought to myself that those who go in their sleep are the most blessed of all, but since we’ve started cruising, I’m starting to think the most blessed way to go would be staring out at the beautiful blue yonder in a clam shell 🙂 ((hugs))

  6. Lynn Richardson says:

    Hi John, I am responding to the dress code information and Ken Byrne’s (by the way, we loved him on the Carnival Splendor) explanation. Maybe only in America is the appearance of a hat of any kind inside considered socially unacceptable. And on formal night, it would be even more noticeable. It is considered polite to remove your hat when you enter anywhere inside. Too many people have forgotten that it is about everyone, not just about them. Perhaps Carnival needs to have a small sign during those nights, although I find it hard to believe it is really necessary. No Hats,
    not a suggestion, a rule. It makes no sense to have rules if they cannot be enforced. Yes, everyone pays for their vacation, yet everyone has plenty of opportunity to dress the way they like and still get a great meal, on the Lido, or room service. Most fine dining establishments would speak to a guest, provide a jacket for them, ask them to remove their hat, at least here in the U.S. I stand behind Carnival’s desire to have a fine dining experience, particularly on elegant night. Elegant means elegant. Describe it anyway you like, then stick to it! Thanks for all you do, love your blog.

  7. Ron Gabucci says:

    John…RE: dress code.
    Perhaps it’s time for Carnival to move to a “resort casual” dress code, as people can still look good without the tux & gown thingy. Easier to pack and much more comfortable, especially on Caribbean cruises. Why not give it a try on select sailings, with plenty of advertising from travel agents and on your blog, Facebook page and Carnival website. Ask for feedback from guests on those cruises and go from there.
    Ron Gabucci

  8. Joyce Dingman says:

    First, so sorry about your dad. Lost my mom and dad within 11 months of each other. I don’t think my dad could live without mom. Second, I think there are two issues about the dress code. One is simply those of us who like to play by the rules do not think the others should be allowed to ignore them. The second part is many of us have no occasions to really get dressed up and go out to dinner, so when it’s Elegant Night we want the atmosphere to be, well, Elegant. We can’t have that if there are those obviously under dressed. I know you don’t think it should be an issue, but I for one, think it should be.

  9. Stephen H Worden says:

    Submariner Friend here…. I have things to say about the Elegant Wear Code thing…but you know what, I think you said it all. So for once Mate … I’ll leave it at that!

  10. Sherylyn Davis says:

    John, one of the things I most look forward to on a cruise is Elegant Night. It makes this particular evening of the cruise a “special occasion” for me where I can wear some of the lovely jewelry I have purchased on previous cruises with nice clothing and a well-set table (with a tablecloth!!) It is all about the ambiance of the evening. Said ambiance is definitely ruined by baseball caps, shorts, hairy armpits, and holey jeans. Is it too much to ask for? Hey, do whatever on the other nights and I will deal with my own dressing dislikes, but leave those of us who appreciate such things alone. If I can deal with overly casual clothing on the other nights then those who don’t want to dress have other venues they can choose for a night. John, it’s MY cruise too.

  11. Ron says:


    Taking our 3rd cruise with Carnival, this time on Glory (July 12th). I’ve read your blog sporadically over the years, but, as I writer, I’m now totally enthralled by you wit, humor and the ease in which you seem to let things roll off your shoulders. People need to stop sweating the small stuff – maybe the woman was mad that you weren’t gawking at her attractiveness and that’s what she took offense of. And the “platinum” cruiser with the Cowboy/Baseball hat issues, should maybe take one of those Boutique River Cruises to cater to her sense of prim and proper.
    Keep up the good work!

    Ron from N.J.

    PS: Do you know who the cruise director is on Glory July 12th-19th and anything we should know about him (hopefully humorous) so we can be prepared to mention it when we meet?

  12. James Bell says:

    Although my wife and I enjoy dressing up, I think that as long as clothes are in good repair, fit the wearer, or, don’t contain vulgarity, I can’t see them affecting my experience. Of course, that’s just me. I think that there will never be a way to handle dress codes that pleases everyone, I would keep it relaxed and simple and do everything you can to encourage people to dress up.

    To me, bathing suits in the Lido are a bigger issue than jeans in the dining room, but again, that’s just me.

  13. John, It looks like there’s an unspoken shift from mandatory formal dress to more casual dress on elegant nights. When it becomes that more than half of the passengers decide to go casual, perhaps there should be a separate elegant dining section (like an exclusive upper level or a separated dining room) for those who want enforced elegance and a totally satisfying experience.

  14. Dotti Curl says:

    Just read your blog “at work, don’t tell” and was wondering where Jen Baxter was headed after July 14. We sailed with her last year and loved her dearly. She was the best, reminded my of Bette Midler the actress! We will be on the Dream this summer and hope our cruise director is as fun.

  15. Jeanie McCully says:

    My fiance and I love getting dressed up for dinner on cruise elegant evenings. In today’s society, it’s rare for us to get the opportunity to do so, as we aren’t wealthy people who can drop hundreds of dollars on dinner at a fine restaurant. So, we enjoy having a chance to get all spiffed up and have formal service, etc, when we cruise. I don’t recall ever eating dinner on Lido deck, in fact. It’s only required that people try to at least not look like beach bums a couple of nights out of the week, and I think Carnival should keep it that way. If we want to dress up on a cruise casual night, we just go to the steakhouse, (even though it’s extra $)so we can still enjoy a fancier evening. And likewise, if some guests are so put out by the idea of dressing up nicely, then they can still get something to eat, just (please!) not in the MDR on elegant evenings. Dress like you’re going to McDonalds, and why should you ,b>expect steak and a waiter?

  16. John says:

    I suggest that the next time there is a passenger remembering the Old Times either a Male or Female just introduce the passenger to another passenger with the same memories and let them remember together.
    As for Formal Night We still enjoy it. f there is a problem then separate those passengers for that evening at a different area of the dining room, But let all be aware that this would happen.
    Hope Facebook gets fixed and You chill, Watch the Cowboy Hat and Ceiling Fans.

  17. Dotti Curl says:

    I just posted a question/comment about Jen the cruise director on the Triumph. And asked who was on the Dream. Well we will be on the Magic not the Dream July 28. Who will the cruise director be????

  18. Stephanie Murray says:

    We really enjoy dressing up, my bf bought a tuxedo just for cruising, we’re both platinum cruisers and I look forward to seeing him in his tux! We live in Florida, so it’s shorts and t shirts every day, even in most restaurants at night, it’s dress shorts and shirts. So the chance to get our “vogue” on really makes us feel like we’re on “VACATION”. Also, we enjoy people watching, seeing everyone dressed in their best, so please tell the beards not to relax the dress code any further, it just wouldn’t be elegant night if they do.
    In a more serious vein, I’m sorry for your loss, it’s hard to lose a loved one, I lost my older sister at 52 from lymphoma, it took her 13 months to go after she was 1st diagnosised, John, it’s the hardest thing in the world to handle , you feel helpless and hopeless, since there’s really nothing you can do to save them. So,, in a way , it’s a blessing in disguise when they go quickly, even though it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
    Don’t feel guilty for not being with your mom for her birthday, you’re her loving son and she knows you would be there if you could. You have a beautiful daughter and she has your dad as part of her, so he lives on in her, you have blessed her mom with having her, I’m sure she is the apple of grandma’s eye and a “present” every day.
    Thank you for continuing to let us into your life, love the blog and the facebook page, in a world of soulless corporations, you are the heart and soul of Carnival and we all love you!
    Stephanie Murray
    Going on a B2B on the Freedom in late Sept, do you know if Brad will be the CD? Loved him when we sailed with him 2 years ago.

  19. Lisa McCarry says:

    John, a question . . . Has your mum every cruised with you? I really wished my mom had tried cruising before she passed. By the time Joe and I got so addicted to cruising, her alzheimers had become too bad to take her on such a trip. Mom loved Atlantic City and the casinos and met friends everywhere. I know she would have loved cruising. Best to you and your mom.

  20. Diana Santos says:

    Regarding elegant night dress, we always dress up, tux-gown. I am so tired of people saying”I paid for this vacation”, did they not read about the cruise before they booked it. Information always tells you how many elegant nights are scheduled for the cruise. It is part of the cruise just like the boat drill. If you don’t want to participate, take a different vacation, elegant nights are always a favorite part of the cruise for many, go to a dude ranch and wear your Stetson, go to a ball game and wear your baseball cap. IT IS RUDE TO DO THIS INMIXED COMPAY AT DINNER, JUST BAD MANNERS. These are probably the same people who fart in the elevators and think its funny. Stay home and don’t ruin the vacation I paid for also.

  21. Christy says:

    I think what you may not be considering as you talk about the dress code, at least from my perspective, is that it’s about following the rules that are set forth. Yes, it is vacation but people going should abide by the rules set in place for everyone’s enjoyment. It doesn’t ruin my dinner or my cruise, but it does irritate me that people have no respect for the rules. I then liken that to having no manners, class, etiquette, etc… I would bet you anything, if you were to observe the manners of some one dressed appropriately for the setting versus someone dressed casual, their mannerisms would be completely different. I would be further willing to bet that those that complain about the dress are in reality frustrated with the lack of manners or etiquette more so then what the person is dressed in.
    We absolutely love dressing up, myself in a gown, my husband in a tux because we do not get to do these things at home. We go to the dining room for a 1st rate experience and dressing up as we do makes us feel even better. We love the staff being decked out and looking professional as they do their jobs to make a most enjoyable evening. Do I think that would change if it was more lax. Yes, I do. Proven time and again, the more casual the dress, the more casual the attitude. That goes for passengers and staff. If you observe the teams on the ship and really pay attention to how they are dressed in shorts running around lido versus dressed in nice slacks, vest, etc… in the dining room, you’ll be able to see what I’m talking about.
    I would hate to have to be dressed up every minute of the day, but for an evening, I sure hope Carnival doesn’t take it away. It is indeed a part of what makes cruising what it is for us. A chance to be in more of a dream state versus the hum drum of every day reality.

  22. Shana says:

    Hi John, I am commenting on the dress code Carnival and most other cruise lines have. Yes even the easiest of lines have a dress code. Maybe if you put signs outside the dining rooms to remind people of the dress code, many would think about it. Many people do not honestly think about what they have on when they go to dinner, and if it is right in front of them are more likely to have the correct outfit on. On another note, I do have to say I so missed the elegant night on Carnival our last cruise. We had to use another line and they have dress up or not night. Hardly anyone dressed up and I really missed seeing so many people in their best clothes. I can’t wait to be back with Carnival in February and I hope you will not take away the dress up night as well as all the other special things that makes Carnival the best cruise line. Thank you.

  23. Margot H Knight says:

    For future reference. . . the protocol of cowboy hats. . .

  24. Stan says:

    I think people’s imaginations get the best of them when they are planning for elegant night. Their expectations have to be of people dressed “to the nines” and us all looking brilliant. Reality is that when we pay for vacation, if we are not dreaming of us all being so dressed up, it becomes our choice of dressy casual or less than dressy, but you are correct John, someone else’s attire should have nothing to do with our happiness.
    It truly is not my business what someone else wears or anything anyone else does. The more I keep my business forefront and the less I worry about what others are doing, makes my vacation better algebraicly.

  25. Sue says:

    Oh, please do NOT require tie and/or jackets in the MDR on any night… it will RUIN my vacation!
    My favorite night on the ship is when I can order lobster…. but my DH does not dress up as that would make him uncomfortable. The more relaxed acceptable dress has been such a blessing to us.

  26. Kevin McCarthy says:

    There already are choices. The person who doesn’t want to participate in Cruise Elegant Night has got other places to go for dinner, or could be really casual and enjoy room service. What you’re really talking about is doing away with a tradition that many veteran cruisers enjoy, and an opportunity to take some terrific family or couples pictures with Carnival’s outstanding photographers. Do you really think that eliminating the dress codes is about choice? It’s really more about catering to the lowest common denominator or oiling the squeaking wheel.

  27. First of all, I believe that one elegant should suffice not two but the one elegant night should be ELEGANT. Whether the guest has paid for his cruises or not, they should be able to agree with the arrangement or have dinner on the Lido where they can wear what ever they wish within rights. Personally, I love the elegant evening.
    Second I agree with you John what you said regarding about your father. It’s unfortunate when a loved one passes away but having to watch your love one slowly die in a home with people who really didn’t care about them bothers you greatly. Such was what happened to my mother. In a span of 4 months she had fallen 7 times and it seemed that no one called. They even drugged her to the point that she couldn’t even talk to me. Anger sets in but you can’t do a thing about it. Finally God decided that my mom had had enough and she passed away. John, your dad went in a respectful manner. Though hard for all of you, it was easier then the way my mother passed.
    Say hi to your mother John and you my friend give her your love and devotion. I wish I could still see and talk with my mom. All I have now of her is memories.

    Paul F. Pietrangelo

  28. Janiece Collins says:

    Please do not change dress code on elegant night. It is one night and surely people can dress approlriately one night. I really enjoy dressing ul a bit as this is one of the few times a year I have the opportunity. If on this night they don’t want to dress up the lido is available.

  29. Dave Myerly says:

    John – Concerning the Dining Dress Code for Elegant Nights…. I suggest that the Capers(Fun Times) always contain this statement concerning the allowed dress for the evening saying specific things about what will be allowed and tolerated to eat in the dining rooms. THIS GOES FOR MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN. Hats must be removed during dinner, Jackets are preferred but not mandatory, a tasteful long or short sleve dress shirt would be acceptable, Ties/scarfs are at the guests discression, NO Shorts, NO Flip Flops, Sandals are ONLY acceptable if they have an enclosed toe. Lomg Pants for men and Pants or dresses at knee length for the ladies. Children must be kept quiet and under control during meals and removed if they become unruly or loud. They must be properly dressed and not in diapers.

  30. Debbi Walker says:

    Your posts have gotten me and my husband talking. He wears a fedora hat to dinner and is usually complimented on it. Now we are wondering if this type of hat would also be considered ok or against code? What is the dress code for hats?

  31. Rick Williamson says:

    John we just got off Sensation yesterday 5-22-14, Our Maiter d did a very good job letting everyone know the night before what to ware and what not to ware like ball caps. So the word is now reaching the crew from you. Thanks

  32. Gail Gerard says:


    The guest who was upset about the cowboy hat clearly has never been to the southern part of the United States, nor to Texas where we wear our cowboy hats with everything. We also know the difference between ‘normal’ or everyday jeans and “church” jeans. Every day jeans might be clean but they usually look pretty worn out and beat up. Church jeans are different. Those are your best pair of jeans in a very dark wash and they’re usually starched so stiff they could stand up by themselves.

    On our last cruise on the Triumph, on Elegant Night many of the men in the main dining room had on “church” jeans, nice button down shirts and nice ties. And cowboy hats of course. Nice straw ones or expensive felt ones. Because you see down here, cowboy hats and jeans are indeed formal wear. I’m sure the woman who threw a fit about the cowboy hat in the dining room would’ve had a heart attack and died if she’d seen so many men in cowboy hats and jeans at dinner.

  33. God bless you and your mother, John. He surely has given you a kind and generous heart and a delicious sense of humor that is surely to your advantage in serving the thankless public. I do so enjoy reading your messages and often chuckle at your observations. I’m a fan.

  34. Kimberly Walker says:

    First, I’m still very sorry for your loss. No words or actions can heal that pain. Happy Birthday to your mother. Please don’t worry so much..we mom’s are stronger than we let on.

    Now, as for the dress code. Personally I do think it should be a choice not a rule. There are so very many reasons why on a cruise vacation people would rather be in Jeans and tshirts. Maybe they’ve been battling a horrible illness and the cruise us a way of letting the stresses go. (Yes, I think of elegant night as a stress) maybe it’s just too Flippin hot to be so dressed up (unless of course your super model status and in a very skimpy dress) or maybe you’ve scrimped and scraped, and eeked out just enough to be able to take a cruise vacation, but because you work 80 hrs a week just to live paycheck to paycheck, you don’t have the extra to buy fancy clothes you may never wear again. Yes, I am of the area of the country where we have “funeral clothes” meaning we have one fancy outfit that is only worn for funerals or job interviews. But because these people don’t have the extra, does that mean they shouldnt cruise? Or if they do, should be excluded from dinner in the MDR 1 or 2 days? Are they less of a customer because of their threads? I think not. Honestly, I feel intimidated on elegant night. Im not an elegant, miss etiquette type of person, and Im fine with that because I know Im a good person who is good to others….thats what matters..not what threads were woven together by Dion Von Nose in the air opposed to Levi …..You can put a cow in sequins, but it’s still a cow. Let me be a cow

  35. Brian R. Fey Sr. says:

    Hi John,

    With the announcement of the repositioning of both the Miracle and Legend 3 of 4 Spirit class ships will now be on the west coast with Spirit remaining in Australia. This leaves Tampa with just one ship – the Paradise (who has seen better days). Unfortunately only Fantasy and Spirit class ship will fit underneath Tampa’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge and for those of us who are Guest Logistic Agents for Carnival are concerned that when only BIG ships remain in the fleet that Tampa will lose Carnival here too.

  36. Linda (Mom of DJ) says:


    As long as folks are neat, clean and sufficiently covered (especially men’s underarms)….then we are good to go.

    As for the “crew” being in guest areas like the Main Dining Room….we have Carnival staff that have become cruise friends over the years and Carnival has been gracious enough to allow them to have dinner with us from time to time if their schedule permits.

    We always tip our wait staff extra in cash on the rare occasion that we get to enjoy this privilege.

    Sorry you got a “chatty cathy” (name of a talking American doll) ….but remember, you do not have to say the phone “rang”….just say my phone is on vibrate so if I have to break away to answer it, I know you will understand.

    Hugs to your Mom…. the love of her family will be her source of strength and comfort as she moves forward….

    Linda (Mom of your friend ~ thrilled with our move back home~ DJ)

  37. Clark Bearden says:

    Dress code – John, I agree discussing dress code can like be opening a can of worms; however, please throw into your mix of individuality noted in blog above that humans are social creatures. This said, there are some situations in which with respect for yourself AND others you observe certain social norms. That’s the reason on formal nights you wear something other than tank top, shorts, and flip flops to main dining room! However, I am certainly not going to allow someone else’s lack of social grace ruin my meal! But be assured we will talk about them as they pass in beach attire!;-)

  38. Dress code:the dress code needs to be enforced .it is a policy if carnival we know it before we get on the ship so if someone gives the dining room management a difficult time about it tell him they do have options of other places to eat I am so tired of this conversation could it be the young beards are the problem the new generation does not have the respect and accountability of those before them.recently cruise princess which carnival own and elegant night was awesome with the majority of men in tuxedos dress code was strictly enforced in all dining roomcustomers who don’t adhere to the policy making themselves look like a jerkand it doesn’t help when John Heald makes fun of these people .he is an employee of Carnivalwe are platinum on Carnival but I choose other cruise lineswhose values match those of ours thank you

  39. William (Bill) Geick says:

    John, Happy Birthday to your mom. She will be in our thoughts and prayers.

  40. Dennis says:

    John, How can we send you a private email message?

  41. Tammy guess says:

    Our family of 2 daughters and son in laws, and 6 grandchildren are platinum guest, we so enjoy dressing up for dinner black tie elegant on formal night and even on regular nights we alway abide by changing for dinner no jeans or shorts in the dinning room. Course that is why we always pick late dining. This is something we love and hope you so not do away with. But even if you do we will always dress for dinner. Even our youngest love it. Thanks

  42. Douglas Jones says:

    I really enjoy your blog John. You are so gracious to your complaining guests. I wonder sometimes about people. How they can be so unhappy over such trivial matters? Well, I have to say, I am guilty too. Whatever the case, you handle it with grace, charm and humor. We have never had a bad cruise with Carnival and I have never seen a crew member that wasn’t smiling despite the difficulty of their jobs. Best wishes and keep the faith.

    Douglas Jones

  43. Ron Whetsten says:

    John, it is indeed a sad world we live in when one or two complainers can end up dictating what in their opinion is best for everyone else. This dress code thing is getting completely out of hand. My food tastes the same if I am sitting next to someone in a tux or someone in shorts and a T shirt. If the complainer didn’t have this they would just find something else to gripe about, because they are just unhappy people looking to blame it on someone or something else. You and the beards are obviously much smarter then I, but if it was up to me every night would be cruise casual with a night or two designated as “optional” cruise elegant. This way the people who want to dress up can and everyone else can relax and enjoy their vacation without the fear of someone telling them they aren’t good enough to eat next to.

  44. Jodi Fussell says:

    Good Day, Not sure if this is the correct area to ask a question which I could not find an answer to on the FAQ pages. I see where it is possible to place an order with the fun shops to have liqueur delivered to our cabin. I don’t see the mix I use in the fun shop web site. Would I be able to bring on a bottle of mix? I don’t see how it would be any different than bringing on soda.

    Thanks So Much!

    • Fern says:

      Hi Jodi, you can bring on a “reasonable” amount of non-alcoholic mix, just as you can bring on soda. Have a wonderful cruise!

  45. Gary says:

    It was once considered good manners to bow and curtsy or to kiss a ladies proffered hand. Times change. While I myself do not wear a hat, you may wear one in my house or even at my table if you wish. I will not regard you any different if you do or do not. Times change.

  46. Steven says:

    While shorts and baseball caps don’t “ruin” my dinner or make the food taste any different they do effect the ambiance of the dining experience. There is still a little mystique in cruising left over from bygone days and people still want to feel that and the dining room is one of the last places left for that. The dining room is more elegant than where most people eat out, the table setting is more elegant (witness the table cloth discussion), the food is a few steps up from Ryans or Longhorns, the waiters are dressed more elegantly than back home, you are dressed more elegantly…. then the person at the next table has on shorts and a baseball cap and the whole ambiance and dining experience is brought down some. I like relaxing and having fun on a cruise but I like the dining to be special, feel more than ordinary, and above what I normally do. If it looks and feels like Applebee’s what’s the point?

  47. Stephan says:

    Honestly on vacation i am looking forward to not wear a suit or dinner jacket …
    Please change to casual every day like NCL does .

  48. Gail Gerard says:

    Hi John!!!!!

    Thanks for the lovely response. I do have another question for you. I’ve heard/read so much about this whole new “American Table” thing. Is something we will have on the Triumph this summer or no? I’m genuinely curious to try it.

    Thanks again.

    Sail on, good buddy. Sail on.

  49. I am posting this hear instead of on facebook. I am so upset that you decided to give the lady the refund. I hate it when people think that they deserve everything.

    • Barb says:

      I am an occasional reader of your blog and have yet to write a response.

      Your discussion on dining room attire was thought provoking for sure. As platinum cruisers we have seen the dress code relax over the years. For the most part, it doesn’t bother me. Now, I have no interest in seeing any hairy armpits, or butt cheeks show either above or below shorts in the dining room. Otherwise each to their own.

      But the thing that drew me in to respond was how you speak of your parents. The fact that you have such feelings about your mums first birthday without your dad and the completely unselfish view of your fathers passing…. It tells volumes of the man you are due to the blessings of having loved and been loved.

  50. Carole says:

    If someone doesn’t dress “appropriately” in the MDR, it doesn’t affect my vacation. There were several people on cruise casual night that did where tank tops, shorts, and flip flops. It didn’t bother me. Some nights it would be nice not to have to worry about dressing for dinner and be able to go to the MDR. We always follow the rules. Sometimes I have to wear my Rainbow flip flops on cruise casual nights(I’m very flat footed and wearing dress shoes isn’t the best for me) I’m always scared when I go to dinner in MDR that someone is going to say something to me. I always wear dress shoes on cruise elegant and by the time I get to the MDR my feet hurt so bad, I can barely walk but I don’t want to “offend” someone by wearing something the podiatrist told me I needed to wear.

  51. Diane W. says:

    I have been on many cruises, all of them with friends or family members, but never my husband. After many years of marriage, he has finally agreed to an Alaskan cruise on the Miracle in July. I am beyond thrilled, however the dress code has been a huge issue for him. He is a farmer and wears overalls. He has work overalls and “dress overalls”. After months of discussion I managed to get him to a store and buy a pair of jeans for formal night. Make no mistake – this IS formal for him. I would hope that people in the MDR on elegant night would have some understanding and compassion for my wonderful and hardworking husband. Oh, and when you see him on deck on the July 8 cruise from Seattle be sure to compliment him on his new “dress overalls”.

  52. My dear John, as to the formal night, my 9 year old will be on the legend, next week. I was going to hunt the world over for him to be fitted for a suit. But sadly he is much to large to wear kid cloths. So I personally will have him dress respectively in nice khakis, short leave dress shirts with a tie, nice dress shoes. But if offends anyone I apologize now. But as far as the rest in the group, my 18 year old will be in a nice suit, my 19 year old will be in his dress navy whites. My 13 year old will dress asif she will be going to prom. Mine will be formal, husband nice suit, sister formal as in today’s standards. So sorry times are changing to what is considered, the new formal. But my son is well behaved. But I can assure you this he acts up. We will escort him out as to not spoil the guest dinners.

  53. mary mcdougal says:

    John, I just found your site and really enjoyed it. After reading some of the comments, I see that some people just take themselves too seriously.
    I am looking forward to our Aug 5th cruise to Alaska and hope to meet you. Keep up the wonderful attitude. Mary

  54. Ethan Link says:

    I believe on elegant night you should be required to dress elegantly. If someone does not comply but is hungry you can go to the other casual dining options. Some people enjoy the upscale dining options but don’t follow the dress code, in my opinion you should not be allowed to ruin other people’s evening (ambience) by wearing casual on elegant night. I just got off a cruise on the carnival dream and they unforced the dress code marvelously no one on elegant night in the dining room wore casual on that night.

  55. Thank you for not being a jerk to the gentleman who wouldn’t stop talking. Might I suggest if you can fit it in your schedule that when that happens you tell the person you would love to discuss things further but you have to speak to the other people waiting or get in trouble with your supervisor and then arrange a time/place to speak with them for a specified period. It would mean more to that person than you or anyone who has never been completely alone can comprehend. Can you imagine a day of waking up, watching TV or working in your yard, meals for one at a table that never seats more than one, and then to bed alone only to wake up alone and start it all again. You may go days or weeks without hearing another live human voice. A few people may choose to sail alone as a break from being depended on by too many people, but some will sail with the desperate hope that in a confined space with thousands maybe at least one will have time for them. As a caregiver, I rarely leave the house, I watch my husband sleep most of the day and he has no energy for conversation a lot of the time if he is awake and what else is there to discuss when life narrows to one room other than things like “looks like rain today”. My most stimulating conversation may be when picking up prescriptions or groceries. My main outside connection is on a Karaoke app/forum, a cancer caregiver forum, and a Glioblastoma caregiver forum. Those minutes where you felt trapped may be the best memory the person has of the cruise as you may have been the only person to really speak with them. For someone who basically lives where he works and has a family on shore I know alone time is rare for you, but can you imagine if your life was literally the polar opposite of that?

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