It's All About Family

May 6, 2007 -

John Heald

And it did……………………………………..come out………………………the sun woke up and said  ” OK, yesterday I lost out to Mr. Cloud and Mrs. Rain but today, I am going to give the people of the Carnival Freedom a sunny, blue skied, warm and happy day.”

All of the sudden, this blog has turned into a children’s book.

To put it another way, the sun turned into Mike Tyson in a bad mood and knocked the stuffing out of the clouds and rain especially the cloud that was shaped like an ear which Tyson (the sun) bit off and spit out! That’s better…………much more masculine!

Here are some photos from Venice Day 2.

Photos from Venice Photos from Venice

Once again I am sorry that the postings over the last two days have been a little slow but that is my fault as I mentioned it is extra busy for me at the moment on this our first Mediterranean cruise of the season.

We have just docked in Dubrovnik, Croatia and how wonderful it is to be back here. It looks like there is going to be another cloud vs. sun battle today but hopefully it will stay dry. The orange roofed houses stand defiant and proud as a reminder that the people of Croatia are united as one and at peace with the world, ready to welcome  our 3,000 guests to their beautiful country. We have 2,000 people taking a tour and I know already that the comments I will receive about the guides will be nothing but positive and full of praise.

Did you know that one of Carnival’s top executives, Natko Nincevic, one of our senior vice presidents is from Croatia? He is also another example of someone who started on the ships (he was a Food & Beverage Manager) and has made a very successful move to the corporate offices. Natko was one of the masterminds behind our very successful supper club concept and I am sure every guest that has and will eat in one of them will thank him for these great additions to our ships.

Natko is now one of the three most famous men in Croatia along with Goran Ivanisevic, the tennis player who won Wimbledon and the one Heidi drools over, the doctor guy from E.R., don’t know his name, you know, the ugly one. Seriously, all three are proud Croatians and I cannot wait to go ashore for an hour and enjoy some local food called CHEBAT CHEE CHEE (spelt wrong I am sure) but it is fantastic. Try some when you sail.

OK, make a cup of tea, sit down and let’s get on with today’s Q & A.

ERIC THOMAS – Thank you for your wonderful testimony of praise for the ship. I am glad you had clear skies for the whole five days and that as you traveled along in the sunshine that you and your wife enjoyed your celebration. I am sorry that we did not offer any fishing tours but as you suggested I will pass on your request for more of them across the fleet. Hope to see you soon.
SHEL – It must be so exciting that you are about to take your first ever cruise on the Sensation. A three-day cruise is a perfect way to get started. What advice can I give you? Well, simply, do not miss a thing, get up early, stay up late. Go to every show, every activity, find time to walk the decks at night and enjoy the hospitality, fun and friendliness of the Sensation’s great crew. As for Nassau, what to do ? Are you beach people, snorkeling your thing or do you prefer sight seeing? Let me know and I will be happy to point in the right direction. Hope to hear from you soon and thanks for reading this blog thingy.
CHRISTIAN – Me – Cool…………….if you really think I am, please let Angelina know
GACRUISER – Interesting that some people really like this idea from my friend and blogger Nina about choosing your photos direct from your cabin T.V. It is also interesting that some seem to prefer the “hunt for your photo method” that we currently use. Any other views on this?
VINKEVEEN – OK, John will now try and write in Dutch. Danke well fur lezzer mi Blog Thingy. In ein jaar compt das boat naar Amsterdam und ich bin zo blei. Kan ich hept from jai winkel: Fla mit slagroom und fur mi frinkyer Roger Blum can ich hept stropwaffles. Hartslecker bedankt und toot zins ich how von Angelina Jolie !
SHEREE – Wow, I think you have broken the record for the longest Blog thingy comment. Thanks for taking the time to write and I will now answer your questions in the order you asked them.
1.Your tour selections are excellent and they include two of our very best in the Sorrento, Pompeii and Capri and Colours ( you spelt it wrong:) of the French Riviera.The others are also fantastic, good picks.
2. You asked about private tours in Livorno. I do recommend that you take one of the ships tours or book a tour yourself on the internet through a private company. Please do not wait until you get here as taxis are so over priced – 200 euros for round trip transport to Florence and with no guide.
3. Bad news about the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum. It’s closed and has shut down for the foreseeable future. The owner has decide to sell the collection and, until this is resolved, the museum will remain closed. If this changes I will let you know.
4. What then to do in Florence? May I suggest the Florence and Pisa tour. You obviously want to see both places and rightfully so. When you get to Florence you have the choice of staying with the guides or exploring on your own…………..you might want to consider going to the Academia Museum and seeing the Statue of David and also the new statue created by master sculptor Michael De Angelo of me wearing only a fig leaf and a smile.
5. Now to Rome. Lets start with Viatours who apparently are a tour company. I have not personally hear of or dealt with them so I am sorry but I really cannot give you any further information about them. You also asked if Carnival offers tours to Rome on the day you disembark and YES we do. We offer tours to the Catacombs (which Dad is correct, are amazing), the Vatican with both private and exclusive tours and also a complete tour of Rome called The Best of Rome. If you decide to go straight to your hotel you can disembark as early as 6 am, however remember you will not be able to check into your hotel room until 3 pm. If you do decide to take a tour on the day of debarkation the ship can arrange transportation for you and your suitcases to your hotel.
6. Dress code in the churches is your next question. You are correct that ladies should have their shoulders covered and a crocheted (spelt correctly 🙂 shawl will be just fine. There are no rules for footwear as long as you have some on 🙂
So, in 57 days you ill be here with your newly graduated daughter. We will be celebrating July 4th and overall it will be a vacation you will never forget. Please let me know if I can be of any further help and please also keep reading the blog thingy.
BOB AND MARY – Tell you what, come and sail on the Splendor and a bottle of champagne and some chocolate covered strawberries will be waiting for you .As for this years cruise on the Carnival Freedom, please let me know  when you get your flight details and what you are thinking to do in Rome and I will be happy to help. See you soon.
BELLA – Please let me know your current e-mail address and the French maid outfit is ready and waiting.
ROBERT AND SUZAAN – Thank you for booking the Bloggers cruise. You will be part of what I am sure will be a memorable week of fun and laughter and a chance to meet great new friends. We both love the Taffy and all that’s missing is some Jersey root beer. We miss you both.
SOUTHERN DREAMS – The average age since March has been 45 – 50 but we have a whole cross section of ages. I will check on this cruise and get back to you later. PODUNK? Is that a real place name? What do you do all day in Podunk? Only 55 days to go until you take the first of your three Carnival Freedom but after a few weeks in PODUNK you may not want to leave. Please send me PODUNK information. Best to you and the Prince.
NANETTE – That’s another vote for Angelina for godmother of the Carnival Splendor. Sorry you did not get an upgrade but I promise you that your cruise will be very special. Please leave me a not when you board and a gift will magically appear in the cabin. Buenos Sombrero, your amigo, Juanito.
KERSPLOTT – Heidi is indeed going through her  I LOVE ITALIAN MEN stage. So not to get left out, I am also wearing things that don’t match, opening my shirt buttons all the way down, loads of jewelry round my neck and I now say “Ciao Bella ” every morning.  How do Captain’s get selected for a new ship was your question of the day. This is decided by a group of people in our Miami office and it is always a different captain for a each new ship. The Carnival Freedom’s Captain is Orazio D’Aita who is from Sicily and a man I have worked with as a first officer, staff captain (second in command) and now captain of our newest “Fun Ship.”  I will include him in our guest blog section soon. I will try and order that special sunset but instead of Andrea Bocelli singing on the big screen I have chosen a Pavarotti concert at the Acropolis……..it’s amazing. So, that’s one vote for Heidi as Godmother…………………….Angelina is still way out front.
BIG ED – A day with out a blog comment from you is like a day with out sunshine, eggs without bacon, a garden without flowers and a bedroom floor with no underwear scattered around. Mrs. Ed was not the one who gave you the nickname Eddie the Elephant in fat it was Alan Adkins who you seem to be have become a role model for, goodness knows he needs one. So, once again a new title is added to your repertoire. ALAN’S ROLE MODEL POTRAYING INTELIGENT TENDENCIES ( A.R.M.P.I.T.) Heidi sends her best to you and Mrs. Big Ed and says that you and I are two peas in a pod…………..BIG POD.
PAUL F PIETRANGELO – Ah, the old problem of the suit not fitting after three days of the cruise. I have suffered with this problem before many times and I think the only solution is…….take a nude cruise. On a more serious note getting married onboard one of our ships is very easy. We have a special department who will take care of everything and I mean everything. The number to call is 1 305 599 2600 and ask for the bon voyage department or ask your travel agent if you wish. It would be a beautiful ceremony and I am sure your son will be proud to have his Mum and Dad by his side.What role models you are as well after 33 years together through the ups and downs of life. I am sorry to hear about your stroke and how lucky you are to have your wife to get you through those tough times. I can only hope that Heidi and I are together for many years as well as without her I would be nothing. Please drop me a line when you are onboard and I will make sure we have a photo together and I will make sure your wife has something special to thank her for being your rock of ages. Thanks for reading the blog thingy and see you soon.
MYREEN – The ships are now “cell friendly” on all of our 22 ships. No special modulation of your phone is required however it might be worth checking with your service provider as to the rates, etc…………………..CAN YOU HEAR ME KNOW?
CARL AND BARB THE BEAR – What a cute sounding couple. Please let me know when you have booked the Carnival Splendor and I know that it will be a very special cruise for you and the Bear. Thank you so very much for the wonderful comments and that’s another vote for my Mum

SCORE SO FAR
MUM   2
HEIDI 1
ANGELINA JOLIE 3

ESSEXMAN – I understood the joke mate, do not worry and so did Bill Ericky 🙂
KICKIASKI – Is that Polish for kicking someone in the ____?  I am sure that we will be organizing a second Blogers Cruise and a third very soon due to the success of the first which is selling like hot doughnuts. (That’s a reference for Big Ed and I ). Here are your questions answered.
1. Thank you for asking about extra tips for the crew. If you feel they deserve more than the standard amount which is taken automatically off your sail and sign card then U.S. dollars would be the most welcome however euros are fine as well. Thank you for your kindness.
2.The ship dock’s at 2 pm approximately in Venice so the earliest you will be in St Marks Square will be 3 pm.
3. The Carnival Splendor is mostly the same in terms of deck plans as the Carnival Freedom except the public areas are different. This means that you can indeed look a the cabin layout as being more or less the same the same. May 10 will soon be here and you can book away. Looking forward to meeting you in five weeks time here on the Carnival Freedom.
BILL AND SUE – I have stuck, glued or taped (whatever the correct term is) your question here so everyone can understand my answer.

Just read ‘cruise critic’ review by ‘weatherman’ on the Freedom and he goes for 3 out of 5 overall rating. More concerning to us is his rating of 2 out of 5 for the food and same rating for the entertainment,
Why do you think he gives such poor marks?
Good Question. I could spend hours defending these ratings but I will not, instead let me just say this. By its nature and it’s name Cruise Critic is an opinion site, that’s it, pure and simple. It allows people to express their own opinion and in this case WEATHERMAN’S opinion was that he thought the food and entertainment was average. That is his choice and his right to an opinion. On the same sites are reviews that give the food and entertainment 5 out 5 and also 1 out of 5, again, all varying opinions.
Please come and make up your own mind, do not be influenced by others BEFORE YOU CRUISE.
Cruise Critic, Cruise Mates and other related sights are wonderful tools for us onboard as well as passengers and I salute them for bringing this concept to the cruise industry. Keep reading them and then after your cruise post your own opinion. It may be the same as WEATHERMAN …………..but somehow, I think not.

JEAN – I am so glad you enjoyed your Carnival Liberty cruise last year. I am very excited about the Carnival Splendor and I will be there from her delivery in July as I hope will you be. Thanks for reading the blog thingy.
THE WONDERFUL BLOGGER SISTERS – It was great to have you onboard and your kind and gracious comments have brought a HUGE smile to my face. I read with much despair your comments about the guide you had on the Athens tour. We did indeed receive a few negative comments about the guides and that is something we take very seriously and have addressed this with the tour operator we use there so your constructive comments were very useful. I hope because the cruise is now over that you will not stop reading the blog thingy and it won’t be long before we get to sail together again.
MISSINGTHESMOKEFREEPARADISE – Thank you for recognizing Carnival’s wonderful crew. They are indeed the best. Here are two more crew who both work in the Sun King supper club. Thanks as always for your stick on, glue, thingy comment and I hope to see you soon.

NAME: ANDREI TIKHONOV
NATIONALITY: BELARUS
ANDREI TIKHONOV

NAME: VERONIKA PIATRIKOVA
NATIONALITY: SLOVAKIAN
VERONIKA PIATRIKOVA

JIM – It feels like ages since we have seen you mate and I hope that will be rectified soon. Can you post a link to your site Jim as I am sure Bloggers would find it very informative and lots of fun. Hope to see you soon.
MARCIA014 – David Fee, now there is a name from the past. He, like Gary Hunter was one of the Legends of Carnival Cruise Directors. I remember the cabin stewards making animals out of your nightdress and sometimes they use to wear them as well!  I would love to see your old photos sometime, hopefully when we cruise together. Please keep reading.
ANNMARIE KATOSH – Heidi and I send you our deepest sympathies. We both know how it is lose someone so unexpectedly. I am sure you are correct when you say that Dad would have wanted you and Mum to cruise and Heidi and I will do everything we can to make sure that we bring some happiness and laughter back to your lives. Please send me a note when you are onboard and see you all soon.
JAMES EMM – I have good and bad news mate. I do have a DVD of the ship being built. The bad news is that as it was made by the shipyard it’s in Italian. If you would still like a copy let me know and I will arrange it for you.
LEE TIP – I am happy to hear that you and Sally will be getting back together for another try together. The cruise ship a perfect place to mount a recovery and hopefully we can bring the romance back into your lives. Send me a note when you get onboard and I will see what I can do to help. See you soon.

TODAY’S HIGHLIGTED EMPLOYEE IS………………………………MR.KEN BYRNE…………………..MAITRE D.

Ken is one of the most famous and certainly one of the finest in the cruise industry and I posed a few questions to him. Here are his answers.

Heidi and I decided to have a walk this afternoon for an hour or so. Even two hours in the fresh air and sun is really important. Heidi makes me do this as when I am not carrying out my duties as a cruise director both on and off stage I am blogging. Therefore, Heidi makes me get off the ship which is something I probably would not do if she was not here.

1. How many years have you been at sea and what your first job was and on what ship? My first ship was the QE2 as a commis waiter in 1976, one contract and then back to hotels in Dublin to complete my training as a Chef De Rang. In 1982 I worked for Poseidon Services on the Big Red boats, Oceanic, Atlantic, Majestic, then went to RCCL in 1986 which was under Poseidon umbrella, working as a busboy, waiter and Head Waiter. I then had another brief spell on the QE2 then changed over to Carnival Cruse Lines in 1990. I worked on The Holiday again starting as a busboy, worked on the Festivale, Tropicale, Celebration, Ecstasy as a waiter, went to the start up of the Fascination in 1992/3 season as assistant head waiter, was promoted to maitre’d in 1996 on Destiny  If I’m remembering correctly, Carnival Freedom is my 15th new ship.

2. What do you enjoy the most about being a Maitre D? Meeting many different cultures working on board and discovering their policies of work ethics back in their countries, meeting 3,000+ guests every cruise, which certainly takes the boredom out of cruising. Love guests to have ‘The Big Picture Attitude” and come on a cruise to have fun, which is what Carnival offers.

3. What is the strangest request you have ever had from a carnival Guest in the dining room? I have had many in my years, hard to pick one, its very difficult, one that pops up at least once a cruise, when a guest enters the dining room wearing flip flops and short pants for dinner, I will politely approach the guest and request that they wear pants and shoes. I once had a guest ask if she could cook her own food because she was “allergic to everyone in the world.” My other favorite was a passenger on the Carnival Triumph who complained to me before the first meal had ever been served that he hated French food and wanted to eat elsewhere. I told him I had no idea what he meant and he stated that he was eating in the Paris dining room and he wanted to move to the London dining room because he liked British food better than French!

4. If you were a guest on one of our ships, what time would you want to eat dinner, early or late sitting? I would prefer late seating, gives me more time in ports, and time to prepare for dinner and enjoy the shows and entertainment late into the night.

5. From all of our dining room menus, please choose your Ultimate Dinner.

APPETIZER…..New England Lobster Crab Cake…..always Gazpacho..

SALAD…Greek salad tops them all for me..

MAIN COURSE….Osso Bucco (your favorite, John)

DESSERT….Tiramisu & Crème Brule and of course the warm chocolate pudding available every night.

6. You have become known as the ” Singing Maitre D.” How did you discover your singing voice and can you tell us your three favorite all time Sinatra tunes?  One guest on The Triumph asked me to sing “Acapulco” one night, and a waiter picked up on it and approached me to provide him with some of my favorite karaoke music, which is Sinatra off course, and we took it from there, started to sing one song a cruise, now they cant shut me up….my favorite Sinatra tunes…My Way….Nice and Easy…All or Nothing At All….amongst many of his collection of 600+ songs.

7. Your Choice…Maitre D at one of the following.

THE WALDORF ASTORIA HOTEL…………..NEW YORK

THE SAVOY HOTEL……………….LONDON

BUCKINGHAM PALACE

A LADIES PRISON

Would have to be The Waldorf Astoria…the home of the famous Waldorf salad. Having said that, Carnival have allowed me to be a Fun Ship maitre’d, which suits me fine, as having fun with great staff and guests is the epitome of life itself.

Here is Ken in action singing ” No Surrender ”
Mr. Ken Byrne

Now, as we were back to the vessel today Heidi and I saw a young crew member crying, I mean really sobbing her heart out. I asked her if she was OK and could I help. I recognized her as one of our assistant waitresses from the dining room. She told me that her parents who live in Croatia had been to visit her today and she had just said goodbye. I took it that she was sad to see them go but that was not the case. Helena told me that never in their wildest dreams had they thought that they would ever get to see where her daughter worked until today. She said they had been so happy to visit the ship and the fact that she would be seeing them twice a month had made her happy, so happy that (as women often do), she was crying.

It made me think just how far Carnival has come. Each crew member can bring family onboard for a complimentary cruise but this is not always possible for many of them. By visiting these ports in Europe and next year in the Baltic many family members will have the chance to proudly see where their sons, daughters, husbands and wives work, something that maybe with cost of flying and visa concerns they would never have had the chance to do.

So this blog is dedicated to all the families of cruise ship employs who wait for that twice a week phone call or the daily e-mail and for that chance to see the magnificent ship the one they miss calls home for eight months a year.

Goodnight

Your friends

John and Heidi

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.