The Piano Man

July 20, 2007 -

John Heald

Hello again from Katakolon Greece where the weather is again very, very hot. Many guests decided to stay onboard today, sleep in or just lay in the sun and relax although 1,000 people are touring the site of Olympia the home of the Olympic Games.Last night we had the brilliant Pete Fisher perform the show. He is a virtuoso violinist and although you may think that this may already be not your thing, I have to tell you that if you ever see this man’s name on a show marquee, go and see him. He plays the most beautiful music with such passion and skill that you are transfixed from the first to the last note.He received three standing ovations during each show and his version of “Danny Boy” left many in tears….sensational.

The other highlight last night was the movie on our Seaside Theatre on Lido Deck….Casino Royale which again brought in the crowds for both 7:45pm and 10:45pm showings of the movie. Every seat and spot was taken and I hope the lady who was upset at the National Lampoon movie I had shown was not there to see it although I had made sure the P.G. 13 rating was well promoted. Tonight’s movie by the way is Armageddon, which looks and sounds amazing on the giant screen.

Talking of popular things we now have Scrapbooks available on board with I guess scrap to put in them.

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Now, I am not sure if this is a phenomenon everywhere but it sure as heck is here as they are selling by the dozens. I have been asked if we will have Scrapbook classes onboard. Now, I may be a little thick but do you really need classes….don’t you just cut things up with scissors, stick glue on the back and stick it in the book?…………it’s not rocket science or am I missing something?Anyway, if I am, let me know as I don’t want this to be MAHJONG 2.

Lets talk about the Bloggers Cruise. I had a long, long, long conference call last night about this special cruise on January 19th and we arranged for a lot of special things to happen. The complimentary gifts will be AMAZING and the events will be so much fun. I will be posting a blog all about this next week (Tuesday or Wednesday) so look out for this special addition. If you have been thinking about booking, I suggest you do it soon, its going to be a sell out and I really hope you are all there to enjoy it. Anyway, I will reveal all next week…stay tuned.

Here are today’s photos and of course they are from the village of Katakolon where we are today….enjoy

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Just a quick follow up about the young boys I found on Lido Deck trying throw the younger brother in the pool even though he was in tears. I met with the parents who much to my amazement seemed unconcerned and even less so about the 14 year olds language used toward Heidi and Stephanie. Anyway, the parents were told they must keep their children in line but if I could sum up their reaction, it would be with word ” bothered ” ….I am not a parent (as far as I know) and therefore I cannot comment on how to bring up kids but I can say that I was really angry as Heidi’s husband that they seemed to not care less that my wife had been subjected to a barrage of abuse from someone so young….trust me, if he had been a few years older I may not have been so nice….Oh well, its not for me to judge I guess.

Here is my favorite kids joke.

WHY WAS TIGERS HEAD IN THE TOILET?HE WAS LOOKING FOR POOH

Now, on to the Supper Club. I am gladly taking bookings for the entire fleet. I think it is sensible to let me book if you can so you get the time and day you want before you get onboard. Anyway, the brilliant Roberto is designing me an online booking form so that all you will have to do is fill it in and then I will book for you and remember that’s not just for this ship but for every ship that has a Supper Club.

I hope you are enjoying (if that’s the right word) the IN THEIR OWN WORDS SECTION. I get so many letters and I will continue to share a few with you if that’s OK. Here are today’s selection.

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Roll Up, Roll Up for today’s Q and A.

BRYAN – Thank you for your kind comments and I understand that the Q and A can take a lot of time to read….try typing it. I always try to give a hint of what the question that the person asked was but sometimes I forget so I understand also that makes reading it a little confusing. How nice of you to think about sending a card to us. Heidi loves receiving cards (it’s a Dutch thing and we must own shares in Hallmark by now) so she will love to receive one from you. I am glad you liked the interview with Captain Rassello and the engagement ring story. Thanks for all your support of the blog thingy and I wish you a great day.
DOUGNEWMANATSEA – Istanbul is such a great port and the city really is “alive.” Right now they are holding national elections and there is a big battle (verbal only) between the two parties. One wanting to continue with a secular government and the other wanting to follow a more traditional form of governing based with more focus being based on the Islamic way of life. The guests simply rave about Istanbul and I encourage everyone to visit this enchanting city. Yes, congratulations to Costa Cruises on the launch of the new Costa Pacifica. I wish their crew safe and happy voyages. The Q and A is popular I can see from the postings so it will be continued. Thanks Doug and hope you are well.
BARB FROM MN – I hope you get to see this before you leave for the ship. Please tell your daughters not to worry as I am sure there will be more young men wanting to meet them next cruise. I guess I owe you a ream of Paper as you had to print 72 pages to read the latest blog….sorry. Anyway, have a safe journey and please leave me a not sometime at the information desk so we can chat. See you soon.
BILL – ZYDECOCRUISER – Bill, you have got to stop talking about food. Every time I write your name all I can picture is a big rack of ribs turning slowly on the Rotisserie. The Q and A sessions will continue in the format to which we are all accustomed, as it appears to be very popular as is. It is also amazing to see that people from the U.S.A. are Googling (is that a word?) my local Fish and Chip shop….extraordinary. I hope they appreciate all the attention although they deserve it, their food is FANTASTIC and I wish they delivered to the Med….then again, no chips for me :(thanks for the link on the alcohol confiscation subject. I asked my colleagues and none of them had ever heard about this so that link will prove very useful.Right, no more food…unless it’s a Pep Boy Sandwich from New Orleans…mmmmmmmmmmmmm.
KATE – What did the Head Waiter say when he thought you were all wearing bathrobes?
DAWN – no problem on either count so just to confirm, please tell me the date, number of people and time and I will confirm your Supper Club booking. Hope all is well and you are ready for a great cruise.
NANCINURSE – Very Funny Joke. I wonder why you can’t get through to Harry’s I just tried and unfortunately I got through which means I have to take Heidi there, I wish my friends would come back and pay again. Anyway are you using this number….39 041 528 5777? Try again, you should get through, mention my name and try the Risotto…bring money…lots of it.
PAULETTE’S MUM – Welcome back from your trip to China. How was it? How are the girls? You have a lot of blogs to get caught up on so I will leave you in peace but not before I say thanks for reading the blog again and please send our best to everyone.
RUTH JAMISON – Ruth, knowing this blog thingy of mine is keeping you smiling, sometimes laughing and reminding you of your recent cruise means a lot to me and keeps my two gnarled fingers waltzing across the keyboard. I am glad you liked the photos and therefore they are a feature I will keep going. My best to you and your husband.
VIKKI AND MAT TILL – OK, just wondered because I had not heard from him for a while. If you let him out of the closet please have him say hello.
1ABLRN – Good questions. You asked about the garbage strike in Naples. This has only affected the residential areas and the tourist areas are cleaned every day and when we were there a few days ago there wer4e no obvious signs of rubbish waiting to be collected. I know that they are though having problems with this in the housing areas of Naples but you will not know it if you tour the regular areas. Now, I have asked the Maitre D Ken to check this and we will confirm your dinner seating in a few days once that voyage’s information is received. Good luck with your travel plans and I hope you arrive safely and with all your luggage.
EMF – Great ideas. There are certainly I am sure going to be times in the future when I won’t be able to answer all the questions as the blog thingy is growing everyday. I know the questions are important to many people and I will continue as best I can. Thank you for your ideas and I hope you are enjoying the recent blog….my flow has stopped but I put that down to eating no carbs.
DWA76 – We all miss the bridge tours and I hope that one day the doors will be flung wide open again and we can all see the wonders of modern day technology that assist our Captains and Navigators pilot our ships.You asked about THE WORLD cruise ship and how it is doing. I did once see it anchored of Stromboli back in May but I have no idea how business is going or if it is always sold out or who owns it….SO….IT’S TIME TO UNLEASH OUR UNTAMED SPY….SOME SAY HE SLEEPS WITH A WATER PISTOL UNDER HIS PILLOW….SOME SAY THE ONLY THING HE IS SACRED OF IS BEING PALE….ALL WE KNOW IS…HE’S CALLED PA 007.His report will follow and your boss can see if indeed he did the right thing by not purchasing a cabin. Hope you are doing well mate….stand by.
PEABODY – OH, well that’s very interesting that you don’t read the comments but of course I understand. My I ask what parts of the blog you enjoy the most. Many thanks for reading the blog from the start and I truly hope you continue to do so.
IRA????? – Thanks Ira. It is strange that two people in a row say they don’t read the comments…interesting …oh know, I am second-guessing myself again. No, I must keep going for now. I am happy that you love the life on board stories and there are many more of them to come I promise.
LISA – I think down the line I may add a separate link just for questions as we get more and more everyday. I want to keep answering them because I know so many people are depending on the answers. The banter will continue, in fact here is some more now with BIG ED.
BIG ED – were your ears burning yesterday mate. We were talking about you during the conference I posted all the things I promised plus there will be more…cabins are selling quickly…what else can I do.If you cruise you will be… in Anagram form.A Strap UserTom and Jane Rachford…What great news that you have booked the Bloggers Cruise. Later next week I will be letting you know some of the things you can expect so watch out for that. You asked about a waiter called JUDE STWEART who is now on the Carnival Destiny. If you send a letter to this address it will get to him.JUDE STWEARTTEAM WAITER – CARNIVAL DESTINYCARNIVAL CRUISE LINES3665 N.W.87TH AVENUEMIAMI FLORIDA33166I am sure he will appreciate it very much. So, please keep reading the blog and If you need anything else please let me know.
DAVE AND BARB – I will be my pleasure to make the Supper Club booking for you both but can you confirm the cruise you are sailing on to save me looking back at all the postings. Please just include the following on the next posting you make.
DATE
TABLE FOR?
TIME
CABIN
NAME
Many thanks and I promise that your meal at the Supper Club will be unforgettable. I send my best to you and everyone at Cruise Critic.

I AM GOING TO STOP THERE AS I NEED TO GET THIS POSTED.Roberto is going on the Carnival Fascination for a three-day break and I want him to post this before he sets sail. There will be no blogs on Saturday or Sunday but on Monday there will be three posted from the weekend. Have a great cruise mate.

Time for Today’s Interview. Let me introduce Kirk to you. Kirk and I delivered the Sensation together, he as Hotel manager and me as Cruise Director. Kirk has since left and is now a hugely successful Business Development Director…what is that I hear you ask…let’s find out.

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1. Kirk, you have had a very varied and successful career both on land and at sea. Please can you tell us about your life so far within the cruise industry.I began working with Carnival back in 1987 as a junior purser aboard the M/S Tropicale. My intentions were to work for three months and then go back to school. I immediately fell in love with working aboard ships and decided to forgo school a bit longer. Time went by and I was promoted through the ranks, became chief purser and ultimately hotel manager. While aboard the TSS Mardi Gras I met and fell in love with my wife, Rhonda, who was one of our onboard entertainers. We spent quite a few years working onboard the same ships together, but ultimately it was time to start a family. I knew it was time to get a job on land, but I knew I wanted to stay within the cruise industry. Carnival was fantastic. I had met many district sales managers during my time on board and I loved their energy and the passion they had for the business. It was a passion, I felt, that matched mine. I remember calling Maurice Zarmati on a high seas phone call expressing my interest. I later interviewed with Vicki Tomasino and knew I had found the job I was looking for.

2. You are now a B.D.M. For those readers who do not know what this job entails, please can you describe what your job is all about? B.D.M. stands for Business Development Director. That’s what I do? Develop business. My primary responsibility is to work with our travel agent partners in my local area of Northern California and Northern Nevada to develop their Carnival business. We do this through education, marketing plans and working with their group business. We also work with businesses and associations that are looking to create a great experience for their employees or attendees. It’s my goal to have a real relationship with the travel agents and businesses and to help them understand why Carnival will provide a great vacation for their clients and employees.

3. Can you describe a typical day in the life of a BDM? It begins at 3 am every morning … just kidding. There is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a BDM, which is one reason I love this job so much, but I’ll do my best to give you a look. A real benefit of my position is that my office is home based. I typically start out like a lot of folks these days, in my PJs answering email and finalizing a game plan for the day. I’m an early riser, so I love the fact that I’m on the West Coast and can communicate with our headquarters starting at 5:30 am Pacific Time handling any issues and booking groups. Then I spend the next hour or so replying to email. I take a little break early morning jump on my bike and do quick spin around the local lake. It clears my head, and gets the blood really pumping for the day. Back in my office I will clear my desk of any follow up needed and then will hit the road in my mobile office and connect with a number of my clients. We might discuss what is new with Carnival, set up training for their employees so they are up to speed about the most current promotions and product changes and also work on any marketing efforts we can jointly create. Sales calls with travel agents is vital to this job, as travel agents are a huge part of our distribution system. Relationships and visibility are key to this business. I like to get home before I hit traffic, and also so I have a couple good hours to spend with my kids Kylie and Reece before dinner and bedtime.My favorite days come when I’m able to escort my travel agents and group leaders aboard our ships for what we call in the travel industry FAM Trips. This is where our clients become more intimately familiar (FAM) with our product. I will host approximately 6 to 8 of these a year and it’s when I get to puff out the chest a little bit and show with a lot of pride why I love the company I work for.

4. How useful are your years at sea to the job you do now and are there times when you miss working onboard. I’ll tell you what I miss the most. My white officers uniform. One, I didn’tt have to give much thought as to what I was going to wear each day, but more importantly I don’t think I would have ever been that appealing to Rhonda if I hadn’t been wearing that when we first met :-). . As far as missing working on board … I do at times. I especially miss the very close friendships that are built on board —- that is the hardest of all things, really quite impossible, to replicate on land. My years at sea allowed me to jump into this position with quite a bit more knowledge and credibility. I think the single greatest advantage was the relationships that I had already built with onboard and also shore side employees. There were many people, and still to this day, that will help me out of a jam or really take the time to help me understand a situation because of a relationship we had when I worked aboard our ships

5. If a travel agent were to say to you ” I know nothing about Carnival, what kind of cruise line is it and what demographic of passengers should I be selling it to ” what would your answer be. This is easy! We’re for anyone that likes to have FUN! I say if you can leave your stiff shirts at home, loosen up a bit, you can have a great time onboard a Carnival “Fun Ship” cruise. We are a cruise line for all ages and all demographics. We deliver a high quality product at a fantastic price, so as long as you are looking for the type of vacation that is fun, friendly and relaxing we’ve got a ship for you!

6.You have recently collected an award, what can you tell us about that. I recently won the TravelAge West (a Travel Industry Magazine) WAVE award for “Favorite Cruise Line Representative.” This award especially means a lot to me as it was a write-in ballot and my customers wrote and voted me in as their favorite. That is a very great honor indeed.

7. Traveling so much must be pretty tiring. What’s the most frustrating thing about air travel for you? You might think I’m crazy, but I actually love air travel. I love to read and the flights I take enable to really power through a good novel. It’s like anything else in life? You can’t sweat the things out of your control. If a flight is delayed, I get more time to read one of my favorite authors like John Sanford, Michael Connelly or Robert B. Parker. I’ve also learned pretty quickly how to make it through security easily — carry very little with you. I almost always check my bags these days.

8. You are from California so I know you have an I Pod because it’s the law. What’s on yours. I’m a bit schizo here. I have a little bit of everything on my iPod. I also like to put my iPod on shuffle so that I get the wide range of songs. Some of these songs include Dire Straits, Moody Blues, Creed, Newsboys, Third Day, Cock Robin, Gnarls Barkley, Oasis … and even a little Johnny Cash.

9. Your lovely wife was also famous onboard not just because of her beauty but because she won “The Price Is Right.” What did she win and do you still have any of the prizes. Thank God for that! We got off the ships with very little personal belongings. That helped a great deal. She won a GMC Pick-Up, a Reclining Sofa, Washer and Dryer, an all expense paid trip to DC, a great big American Flag & some cash. Oh yeah, and a lot of Little Tike Toys, which came in very handy since we left the ships with a bun in the oven! We still proudly hang the American Flag and the washer and dryer still work well… unfortunately they do not press my boxers and T’s like the Chinese laundry on board the ship…oh, I miss that too!

10. Do you have any funny stories to share with us about your experiences with Travel Agents. That would be cruel, I shouldn’t go there …but I will. During a fam trip early in my BDM career, one of my favorite agents who is extremely professional got a little too caught up in the fun …she doesn’t remember most of the evening, but it ended with me and a few other agents having to wheel her up to her hotel room in a luggage cart. It just shows you that even the very best can get a little too caught up in the pulse of the evening!

Kirk, thanks mate. The people of California and Nevada are very lucky to have you as are we here at Carnival. The only problem…I hardly ever see you.Thanks again on behalf of us all.

Tonight. It is the Talent Show and a show where anything can happen and indeed has over the many years I have been hosting them.Back in 1997 I was on the Carnival Destiny and hosting the show. One of the performers was a man I will never forget, his name….Howard. He was in his eighties and from New York. He became famous around the fleet for doing what I am about to tell you. He played the Piano…harmless you may think but you would be wrong.When we do the sign ups for the show we instruct the performers they can sing one song, or play an instrument for no more than five minutes. So, we told this to Howard who just nodded. We asked him if he wanted to rehearse but he said no. It’s now 10:30pm and showtime. Howard was the 2nd of 6 acts and I introduced him saying what he had told us he was going to do ” American Music”…now, I took this to mean a bit of patriotic music.Anyway, I helped him on to the bandstand and the Musical Director got him comfortable. Then he started. His first piece was a good old hand clapping number which contained more wrong notes that right ones — but what the heck… he was in his eighties… he was cute… the audience applauded. He finished the song and I walked out saying thank you and asking for applause but was interrupted by more music from the Piano…He was oblivious….his head was down and he kept playing. OK, I thought, one more won’t hurt so I walked of stage to giggles from the audience. He had now been playing for eight minutes and I was getting worried… he finished the song and this time I ran on stage but again before I could get a word out he started playing ” Amazing Grace”….head down, playing the piano with as many fingers as I type with. Now, the audience is laughing hysterically but although it was funny my concern was at this rate the show would last forever. This time as what I think was Amazing Grace filled the room I stood by the piano and whispered ” this is the last one” …which he ignored… because now he segued into what can only be described as some sort of classical music with elements of Chopsticks. Now, the audience is laughing out loud, some are even BOOING and I knew I had to take action as he had now been treating us to his interpretation of music for 17 minutes and enough was enough. I looked to the band for help but most were laughing too hard to offer any assistance. Therefore, I had no choice but to cut the power to the electric piano by turning it off…I leaned across and I did…Howard kept playing, the only sound was the gentle thumping of the keys. I asked for a big round of applause for Howard and then I said that let’s save the rest for the end of the show. I gently eased his hands away, helped him of the bandstand, gave him his prizes, the audience gave him a standing ovation and he sat down in his seat. At the end of the show I was hoping that he would have forgotten that I had said he could play some more…nope…as I tried to say goodnight he calmly walked onto the stage, waved the band’s piano player away and forced himself on to the stool…. and started playing….”You are my Sunshine.”TWENT MINUTES LATER – HE FINISHED – about 100 people out of 1,600 had stayed….out of sympathy I guess and once again we applauded for him and he sat down oblivious to what had just happened.

The next morning at 11 am it was the Debarkation Talk. A staff member introduced me, the curtain came up…and there he was, Howard….playing Sweet Caroline… the audience roared… a star was born.He later did the same on many of our other ships he sailed on….haven’t seem or heard from him in years… but many of us will never forget him.

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.