May 23, 2014 -
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.
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
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!
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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?
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.
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.