June 18, 2015 -
If you had been reading my Facebook page the other day, you might remember someone writing to me and suggesting that, when people are late coming back to the ship in Cozumel that the staff should walk down the pier and check the bars to see if we could spot someone enjoying a bucket of margaritas, oblivious to the fact that big white thing is sailing away without them and their clean underwear.
Yep, Cozumel, Mexico – a favourite port for the cruise industry and the many tens of thousands of guests who disembark there each and every week. I have been going to Cozumel for many years on the Holiday, Jubilee and Celebration, both in the early days and then later and before the word “Carnival” was painted on the hull of Ecstasy and Sensation and then every other ship throughout the fleet. Cozumel has been a port I have got to know so very well.
There have been many changes over the years, though, and the one small shopping complex of maybe six or seven shops has grown into a hundreds of duty free stores, jewelry shops, silver emporiums and T-shirt stores where signs proclaim that “everything is nearly free.” There are also a number of drug stores that some of you may have even visited. There are huge signs that state that you can buy just about anything over the counter, even Viagra. These drug stores seem to be do great business every time I have passed by and I always wondered exactly what people were buying. Back on the Carnival Triumph some years ago I saw one man coming out the shop looking very pleased with himself and I guessed that he and hopefully his wife would be happy with his purchase later that night………..I saw him later that night on the ship and said to him, “What’s up”? Needless to say, he didn’t laugh.
Every time I return to Cozumel, passing by the old shops that have been there since the late 1980s memories came flooding back. In those days the ships would stay until 2am and after I had finished pretending to know about wine in the dining room, my friends and I would rush ashore, jump in a cab and pay $1 per person to go to a club called Neptunos where entrance was free to all the crew and Corona beer was 50 cents a bottle. I have to admit those were different days back then. The sad fact is that now in 2015 I have very few people left to remember those wild times with as most who shared them with me have left the company.
Then there are the taxis in Cozumel, the same ones that will ferry guests to the beaches and downtown this year as they did back in the 90s. I love all things cars and I like to think I know a bit about them, however, over the years I have tried to work out exactly what make of car they use for Cozumelian taxis. I mean, they have four doors, four wheels and make a sort of a car noise but it is as though they have been made by a factory that was too embarrassed to put its name on the vehicle.
One thing that so many Cozumel taxis have in common is the seat covers because the plastic vinyl in so many of these cars have been replaced with old-style Carnival towels……. circa early 1990s. Now, these were given to guests to go ashore and to use at the beach and remember, there was no charge if they didn’t bring them back. There was no inventory back then. I cannot imagine how much money we lost in beach towels back then because many of these, pale blue towels are still in the taxis of Cozumel.
There are guests who sometimes scoff at the fact that we charge $22 for non-returned towels but here these cabs still today is proof positive that we are right to do so. These towels were left in the back of Jose’s taxi many years ago by someone who had just drunk 12 margaritas and was never going to remember who he was and what ship he was on, let alone remember the towel that Jose’s passengers’ bottoms now sit on. It’s strange but today we still have the odd guest who may drink a barrel full of margaritas and, like our 1990’s friends, won’t remember their name or cabin number but you can rest assured they will have that towel with them clutching it as though it had been woven from pure gold, determined never to have to be charged for losing it.
Many people have a favourite restaurant in Cozumel. There is Pepe’s Grill and La Chosa downtown and then on the Puerta Maya pier there is Three Amigos. Of course, Carlos and Charlie’s and Senior Frogs remain very popular. My favourite was always Pancho’s Backyard which can be found inside a massive souvenir store called Los Cinco Soles (they also have one on the Puerto Maya pier too). Los Cinco Soles is of course Spanish for “made in China.”
I have been going to this restaurant for many years simply because it has the best guacamole on the island. The only thing that has changed is the price. The cruise industry has helped Cozumel become a vibrant island full of enterprise. They have lashings of Hard Rock Café and McDonald’s and big gleaming five-star hotels. But the days of having lunch at a restaurant there for under $10 and the days of a lobster dinner for $20 with wine have long gone. Cozumel, like it or love it, has certainly changed.
I have digressed completely from the question at the start of my blog about we should send people to check the bars? Obviously, we cannot do that — time, resources and quite honestly the fact that people should be responsible for their own actions, mean we won’t do this. But even at Carlos and Frogs Amigos things have changed. Margaritas were $2 back in the early 1990s and now they are much, much more. Oh, and one other change, back in the early 1990’s, the legal drinking age in Cozumel was………. I have no idea, could have been anything. It is a fun island and still a massive favourite but if there is one island more than any that has changed in my 29 years in the cruise industry, it is Cozumel. And, honestly, I am not totally sure it has changed for the better.
Time for today’s Q and A……………off we go.
John: We are sailing on the Carnival Breeze June 28. Do you know the movie line up? We were curious as to what will be playing? Thanks.
Not yet I am afraid as this will be the start of July’s movies and I do not have the list just yet. I will publish it on my facebook.com/johnheald page as soon as I do receive it. I wish you a wonderful cruise and loads of fun. Best wishes.
John Ryan Johnson asks:
I know it’s a long shot, but is there any way to get Robert Berhalter on Carnival Glory for the March 5, 2016, sailing? It would be awesome! Reunion cruise with several people who met on the Carnival Dream in March 2013 when it was stuck in St. Maarten. He played that week and we loved him.
Hello John Ryan Johnson
Obviously, moving crew around the fleet on the request of our guests is very difficult as I am sure you understand. However, I will be asking the entertainment schedulers to see if this is something they can consider. I don’t want to raise your hopes but we will try. I am glad to know that he made such a difference to your time on the ship and I do hope you get to sail with him again. If there is anything else I can do, please let me know. Best wishes.
David Mason asks:
On one level, I feel sorry for you, Heald. You are, obviously, going off the Carnival rails but mostly, I have disdain over your inflated ego. Case in point my request to you for a table for two on our cruise on the Carnival Imagination that was ignored. Maybe you did that because I did not stroke your ego enough, right? I will give you a chance to redeem yourself. My DW of eight years and I will be cruising on Carnival Magic in cabin **** on August 9. We do not want to eat with others so again I am asking for A PRIVATE TABLE FOR 2. Can you tell me who the maître d is and what time we can get a first tender to the shore as we have a private excursion at 9:15 am!!! How do we do this? I hope you will show me that you are able to help your customers like you always say you do.
Hello David Mason
I do apologise that I missed your request. I answer and help so many each week and, occasionally, some do slip through the cracks. I would ask that you remind me of your table request four days before your August cruise via my Facebook page and here on my blog so that this time I am sure to see it and I will do all I can for you to arrange your table. I wish you both a great cruise and my apologies for letting you down. Best wishes.
Hi John: I have a question for you regarding the new policy and the VIFP party. In September we will be sailing on the Carnival Breeze for an eight-day cruise. When we board we will have 69 days, so during the cruise, we will make platinum. Pending on the date of the party, will we be invited if it’s on or after our 75 day, or because we boarded as Gold, will we have to wait till our next cruise (on Carnival Vista)? Can you clarify that on your Facebook page so others can benefit, as well? Thanks.
Many congratulations. You will receive your Platinum card on the first day of the cruise and you will, indeed, be invited to our new VIFP party. Please let your friends know this and if you have any questions I will be here. Have a brilliant time. Best wishes.
Judith Shockley asks:
I wrote you two weeks ago and also to Carnival. I still have not got a reply! We were on Carnival Valor for eight days on April 17. I had an experience with another passenger who kept knocking on my door saying that his key fit my door while I was napping during the day because I don’t sleep well at night. This happened for a couple of days. I went to the service deck and their response was “Oh that must be Bobby.” So I guess I was not the only one he was bothering. They could not move my room and I wouldn’t anyway but there was no other offer of any compensation for the inconvenience.
Hello Judith Shockley
I apologise for the delay in writing back to you and I will investigate this with the ship and see what the story is from their side. It sounds to me (and this may be an assumption) that the guest may have had special needs or been a little confused. I will investigate and I apologise if you were disturbed. I do hope you had a wonderful cruise and if there is anything else I can do for you, please let me know. Best wishes.
Walter Carr asks:
I have a request/question. Can you ask the powers that be to start carrying spray starch in the gift shop along with the laundry powders? We plan our travel so that we can generally get to a CVS or Walgreens before we board the ship. If we want to fly in the same day as departure this becomes a chore. You are not allowed to fly with a can of spray starch in your luggage for a reason that makes no sense to me. I guess I may try to break into the cockpit and iron the pilot’s shirts if I have starch with me. I am one of those anal people who enjoys ironing (have ironed for drinks on a few cruises LOL) and always iron each morning for the day. This was just part of how I was raised. For non U.S. departures it can be a chore to find starch in a store, and often requires finding a supermarket. It would seem like this should be a natural to carry on the ship because of this. I wouldn’t even care if I had to pay $10 for a can of it. LOL
Hello Walter Carr
I agree, there are some items you can’t fly with that are understandable and some that are absolutely not. I will ask if we can add starch to the laundry rooms rather than the gift shops as it might be easier to get them added there. Leave this with me and enjoy your ironing. Can I send you some of my underpants to press? Best wishes.
Hazel Geering asks:
I sent an email to the maitre d’ on Carnival Valor back in April to make a special request for my large group of 10, but have yet to get a response. I’m a Cruise Critic member with over 5,000 posts!! My request involves a large group, and our plans are on hold. I was told that they respond immediately but nothing has been returned after three e mailings to him. Is this the kind of service we can expect on the ship on our cruise? The booking is linked with ******.
Hello Hazel Geering
I am sorry that you are disappointed by this but as I have said here a few times now the maitre d is under no obligation to respond to e mails from guests and, with our spam system, there is a good chance that your emails may have gone into his spam box. The maître d gets a very complicated reservation file three days before the start of the cruise and he or she has to fit it all in so getting lots of emails from guests each voyage is not something they need and that’s why the company’s position is one where they are not expected to reply. I am sure having read this that you understand. Now, as you are sailing in September we have lots of time anyway so please on September 18, send me your request and the cabin numbers to my Facebook.com/johnheald page and I will speak with the maître d on your behalf and see what we can do for you. Thanks again for your understanding and I wish you a brilliant cruise. Best wishes.
I am looking at booking a cruise for my mom and myself sailing on October 31. She asked if there was going to be a costume party. I have no clue since I have never travelled on Halloween so I figured I should ask.
Yes indeed there is and I am sure it will be the best Halloween you have both ever had. Please let me know if you have any questions. Best wishes and have loads of fun together.
Lee Shelvey asks:
I think Carnival is letting all the veterans down because your meetings are now badly organized, badly advertised and this leads to a pitiful turnout. My last cruise was on Carnival Breeze. No attendance from the cruise staff member, cruise director or captain. On the Equinox we had free drinks for one hour and the captain gave all veterans a signed copy of the cruise map plus we got a cruise t shirt. I did two tours of Vietnam with the 1st Marine Division. Do I and other veterans not deserve better? Why are we not given the VIP offerings that we deserve on Carnival? I will answer my own question and say no according to what I experienced
Hello Lee Shelvey
The obvious starting point for my reply is to say a huge thank you to you for your service and the dedication to our country. While we will not be offering free drinks I do think that some of our ships organise this better than others, so very soon there will be a fleet directive issued to all the ships with standardized policies to follow. It is important that we recognise those who have served and are serving so I am sure on your next cruise you will see just that. Best wishes
Scott Shipley asks:
I turned Platinum about a year and a half ago before you changed the program. When I got my boarding pass and saw that I was demoted to gold it really upset me. After a few days on the boat I went and said something at the pursers’ desk. And they said they could note it in the computer. Still kinda sucks my wife gets all the benefits and I don’t and when I take my next cruise without her, I won’t even be able to into the VIP lounge to check in
Hello Scott Shipley
I am very sorry about this. I checked with a colleague and she said that your email address is not on file and we have a few guests who travel with the same name. Please, then, can you send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can get this sorted out. Apologies once again and hope we see you very soon. Best wishes.
Kim O’Neal asks:
Thank you for all of the laughs you send out. I am looking at Carnival Vista. Are the Lido balconies covered? Thank you and have a great day!
Hello Kim O’Neal
Yes, they are covered and I will be writing about your new Carnival Vista in just a moment. Hope to see you on board and thanks for the kind words. Best wishes.
Elenaor Delmege asks:
This fall my youngest daughter will be attending the International Culinary Center in California. This is a wonderful achievement. To celebrate we have booked the whole family on a cruise. We chose Carnival Miracle and our cruise date is July 11. There will be eight of us. I would ask that my daughter, Anabella, visit with the chef and then use the ship’s kitchens to cook her famous crispy parmesan chicken dish. What a thrill to have her cook for her whole family. We come from the four corners of the United States and it is very rare for us all to be together. The ingredients she will need are there. Thank you for making this important experience happen. Maybe the captain could join us. I bet he would love her crispy parmesan chicken. LOL.
Hello Elenaor Delmege
Many congratulations to your daughter and thank you for bringing the family on the Carnival Miracle to celebrate. I am very sorry, for insurance reasons, I cannot give permission to Anabella to cook in our galley but I will ask the chef to stop by the table one night and say hello. I wish you all a brilliant reunion cruise. Best wishes.
And that’s all for today. I will be back with more next week so please post a question or a comment and I will help you as quickly as I can. For a faster response you can contact me through my facebook.com/johnheald page. And now news on your Carnival Vista.
NEW VIDEO SERIES FROM CARNIVAL OFFERS FUN BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT CONSTRUCTION OF CARNIVAL VISTA
Largest and Most Innovative ‘Fun Ship’ Set to Debut May 1, 2016, from Europe
MIAMI (June 18, 2015) – Carnival Cruise Line is taking a fun and engaging approach to showcase the construction of its newest “Fun Ship,” Carnival Vista, creating a series of monthly behind-the-scenes videos shot at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy, where the 3,954-passenger vessel is being built. The video can be viewed here (insert YouTube link).
Host Peter Gonzalez – who has traveled to 30 countries to create videos showcasing the “Fun Ship” fleet – takes viewers on his 5,132-mile journey from Miami to Monfalcone, Italy, to document Carnival Vista’s 26-month construction.
In the first video, “Birds’ Eye View,” Gonzalez dons a hard hat and ventures high above the Fincantieri shipyard to demonstrate the incredible size of Carnival Vista while highlighting the painstaking process for cutting and assembling the 150,000 tons of steel needed to build the massive 1,055-foot-long vessel – the largest in the Carnival fleet.
Gonzalez visits Fincantieri’s fabrication bunker where he follows workers as they cut, with expert precision, six-ton steel panels that are conjoined into 1,000-ton sections positioned via crane to form Carnival Vista’s superstructure. Once the exterior build-out is completed, workers will begin installing innovations such as SkyRide, a one-of-a-kind suspended cycling experience, a new 455-foot-long tube slide called Kaleid-o-Slide, and more.
Future segments in the series include preparations, both on board and ashore, to create the line’s first on-board brewery, a below-deck look at the ship’s technical spaces, and the logistics of installing the three-deck-high IMAX Theater, the first on a cruise ship.
Carnival Vista is scheduled to enter service from Europe May 1, 2016, then reposition to New York for a series of voyages in November 2016 followed by the launch of year-round Caribbean service from Miami later that month.
Cruise fans, those new to cruising and travel partners can get a preview of Carnival Vista at www.carnival.com/carnivalvista and follow @CarnivalVista for regular Twitter updates.
For additional information, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com.
And I will be there next week and will have more videos of this incomparable Carnival ship. You know, I have been in the shipyards many, many times and seen the ships at various state of readiness but, even after all these years, I have no idea how these brilliant ship builders manage to construct something like your Carnival Vista.
All men are created equal so said some wise man who probably had a beard, wore sandals and meditated while sitting on a spike…………unfortunately, he was talking bollocks. You could give me the same ingredients our celebrity chef Guy Fieri uses and put me in the same kitchen with the same equipment and even though we have exactly the same number of hands, fingers and dangly bits, I can absolutely guarantee that I’d end up with a plate full of inedible crap that even a yak that hasn’t eaten in 17 days would turn his nose up at. Cooking is like painting. I know this because I used to try it at school. I would have a brush and some eyes but everything I tried to transpose onto paper ended up looking like a big ugly blob of coloured vomit And, as Heidi will tell you it’s the same story with DIY. My wonderful and much missed father could create an Edwardian cabinet out of two bits of wood and a rusty nail while anytime I have attempted to build anything, it ends up broken and on the floor.
So with just eight months or so to go before the Carnival Vista is ours and, indeed, yours, I salute the men and women who have and will continue to use their brains and their talents to design your Carnival Vista.
You know me, I don’t like to get all “corporatey” and yet I have to tell you this. Carnival Vista will be our best ship yet. Everyone from our President Christine Duffy on down feels that this is the case. There is a certain……..something….. that tells us she will be.
Yes, there will be some teething problems along the way; my experience of delivering so many ships for Carnival tells me that it would be ridiculous to think otherwise. But this ship and her sparkling new features check all the right boxes and when you’ve finished your cruise around the Med or the Caribbean and are back on dry land, you can look back and think to yourself, “That is the most brilliant fun I have ever had.”
Carnival Vista……………..have you booked yet?