The King Of Queens

September 5, 2007 -

John Heald

Good Morning from the Aegean Sea where the good ship Carnival Freedom is heading for Athens.

Let’s start this morning with this little beauty.

Guest: Mr %&%$ Owner: (FDHOTEL) Freedom Hotel Director
Cabin: %% Booking

____ – Unhappy With BalconyMr and Mrs. W came to the desk to say that they were unhappy with the balcony on their cabin. Purser asked why and was told that that it is too high up on the ship and they wanted a cabin further down as her husband does not like heights. Purser explained that there were no other decks lower than deck 6 with the balcony. Guest said that this was not good enough and they should have been told that the cabin was so high. Guest wanted to speak to Manager or Cruise Director. Purser told guest that someone would follow up. Message sent to CD and CP.

Good grief! Even though this really is not under my jurisdiction I called Mr and Mrs. W and listened to their comments. They alertly were told by their Travel Agent that the balcony they had would be on the lower decks but of course I explained that deck 6 was the lowest deck with a balcony. The word “refund ” reared its ugly head and then I new it was time to turn this one over to our Chief Purser. I did ask if they had been using the balcony and they both said they had not been on it once. I tried a bit of humour and said “having a balcony and never using it was the same as finding Angelina Jolie in your bed and sleeping on the couch”……………….OOPS……………..that comment resulted in silence……….not even the crickets were chirping. Anyway, the Chief Purser has offered them another cabin on deck 2, no balcony, just a window and they have refused it……….they are waiting for us to build a balcony on deck one …………..not a bad idea, they can fish, paddle and do their washing all at the same time.

Anyway, the cruise is going very well though and the audiences have been responding very well at the shows. Last night we had a young kid called Jamie Fraser perform the music of the Rat Pack and Bobby Darrin……………..he was brilliant and even after a long day in Istanbul the response and ovations to his show was terrific. How wonderful also to see someone so young perform the music of yesteryear…………maybe we just saw the new Harry Connick Jr and Michael Buble!

At my travel talk today I spent more time than usual reading out the latest news from the Tour Operator from Olympia. I though it was best to let the guests know what they would see and in fact sense during their tours. Here is what I read out.

Dear John

I’ll take this opportunity to just update you a bit concerning the big fire we had in the area of the county of Ilias, I should let you know that the fire reached Ancient Olympia and I’m afraid burnt a small part of the area inside the site. I went on Sunday to inspect it and it was all a bit sad I have to say.

So you have a clear picture, this is what I found when I went there: about 15 mins before arrival to Olympia the signs of the fire can be seen and smelt, when you reach the town of Olympia everything is fine but you can still get a faint smell of the burnt wood. The trees around the little river running behind the museum also got burnt which makes for a very sad picture and there are also some trees burnt in the area between the museum and the site.. When you reach the ancient stadium I’m afraid the green field around it is turned brown for the most part and the Kronio mountain up ahead is bare from its greenery. A lot of work is already going on however, the area has been cleaned and broken and burnt bits are being cleared away, so at least it s on the road to mending.

I’m telling you all this because I think you should have a clear picture of how the situation stands. If there is anything more you would like to know don’t hesitate to ask!

Best Regards

Emily Iliopoulos
Head of Operations
Travelway Tourism & Shipping
193, Kifisias Ave. & 24 Iereos Dousi Str.
151 24 Marousi , Athens, Greece

Actually, I have to say I am surprised because our tour counts are higher than ever. Now I do not want to say that this is because of the fires but I guess it is normal human reaction that we want to see things that have happened such as these humongous fires for ourselves. Let us see what the guests think when they return, I will let you know.

Here are some photos of Istanbul yesterday.

1. The Cathedral of Sophia

1. The Cathedral of Sophia

2. The suspension bridge at night – Europe on one side, Asia on the other

2.  The suspension bridge at night - Europe on one side, Asia on the other

3. Istanbul by night

3. Istanbul by night

4. From left to right Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque

4. From left to right Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque

Here is today’s letter from the In Their Own Words Section.

In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words

We have now offered the guest a Rotarian meeting every day including today…….only 3 people showed up but he was happy.

Here is today’s Q & A starting with the blog about the Carnival Liberty:

KEVIN – I am worried that the first person to notice my new haircut was you. Thank you for the information on the religious services on Princess, I guess at the end of the day we have all the same concerns. Wishing you all the best. Did you try my mum’s chicken curry?
GREG BALDASARRI – I am glad you enjoyed the interview with Captain D’Aita and yes, he clearly writes with a strong Italian accent and as you are Italian yourself, I am sure you can relate to this. You know, I have no idea what to make of my letter opener, let’s just say, I haven’t been using it much, although Heidi seems to enjoy it more than me. All the best and thanks mate for your constant support to your fellow bloggers.
DIANE – Diane, I am sorry to tell you that Costa Maya, as you will have seen from yesterday’s blog is out of action for some time I am sure. You asked which port you will call instead of Costa Maya during your November cruise and I understand that it will be Progreso or Roatan, Honduras. I am not certain yet which one but if you contact me via the blog-thingy at the beginning of October, I will be able to tell you. I am glad you are enjoying the blog-thingy and thank you for your nice comments for Heidi and I.
SEWING NUT – What a fantastic list of must do’s you slapped on today’s blog. I was particularly happy to see that you took evening romantic walks on the deck. As you heard, this is something I now promote every evening at the end of the show. This experience was taught to me by my mate Roger Blum who always does this with his wife, the lovely Marie and they always said how wonderful it was. I am glad that you and so many others do it. I also regret not shaking your hand and one thing is for certain, I am truly sorry about that. I am glad you enjoyed James, our Entertainment Staff member so much, he is truly going to be a star of the future. Heidi sends her best to you and thank you so much for your inspired words, we miss you here.
UNCLE DOUG – What a very interesting dream. It was especially fun to read your memories of some of the old activities from the Mardi Gras. I particularly enjoyed being reminded of the “stuff the fruit in the bikini” contest and the “beer drinking” competition. I have thought about bringing some of these activities back but unfortunately in the politically correct world we live in, I am not sure how it would be met. I totally understand how much you miss those activities though because, in a way, they got us to where we are today. The only one I do not think I could do again is the Mail Nightgown Contest. The thought of being chased around the stage by 30 Boston police officers dressed in lingerie as once happened, is ………..let’s just say, I would rather wait for Fatima to come out of a hot Turkish bath and be forced to lick her back dry. I hope that is descriptive enough. However, I do understand that some of these old activities are missed and maybe we will consider bringing some back.
I am working on ideas for a 2009 bloggers cruise which will not be the Western Caribbean, however, where we are actually going, I don’t know but I promise it would be another fun adventure which hopefully you can join us on.
SEWING NUT – Sorry for the delay, my fault. Your Alaska vote has been well noted.
BRYAN – I am glad you understand cricket, although I never see it taking off in the U.S. I am glad you enjoyed the story about the young man at MIT, it was very inspirational. Heidi and I find American Universities fascinating, in their size and in their structure. Thank you again for your kind comments I hope you enjoyed the blog-thingy today.
DAVID – Welcome home from your August 17th Carnival Freedom cruise which judging by your comments was wonderful and hearing that it was the best cruise you have ever had has made our day and I look forward to seeing your parents next year. All the best mate.
SOUTHERN DREAMS – Don’t be surprised by so many kind words from so many people. You are a wonderful person yourself as you have demonstrated so many times and you deserve nothing but health and happiness and a Spotted Dick. My best to Prince Charlie.
KATHY KROLL – I am glad the interview with Todd brought back so many happy memories of your cruise with Heidi and I on the Carnival Liberty and that new ones were created during your recent cruise here on the Carnival Freedom. Say hello to my bodyguard. Best wishes from us both.
CAPTAIN CHUCK – It was my pleasure Captain. Thank you for the kind report on Jason, the Acting Cruise Director. I do not know this young man but he seems like someone I should keep my eye on and being more natural on stage will something that will come with time. It seems like this cruise will be hard to beat but hopefully the next time will be even better, especially if I am there to share it with you.
NANETTE – Hello Nanni. I am not surprised you were impressed with Todd’s interview; he is truly at the highest rung of the Cruise Director ladder. He will be on this ship for the bloggers cruise, which means you will have the two best Cruise Directors at sea — Todd and Heidi. I am waiting to hear back from Bob to see how expensive my car hire will be and I am sure I will end up on the bus. Thank you also for your comments on the Sunday services and you are right, as my Dad taught me, God is everywhere. As normallo a grando huggo for youo from Heidi and I.
LYNN AND MIKE SAGARA – Thank you for commenting on the concern of providing religious services for guests. It was interesting to hear from the Commodore on the Queen Mary 2 that he conducts a Sunday service on board. This must be something he is very comfortable in doing and I think it is wonderful that he does. We do supply a list of services available in each port of call; however, the days at sea are a different story. Next cruise, we have Father Mahoney sailing and he will conduct two Mass Services on board. However, this will not help our friends of the Jewish faith and I am now checking to make sure that our list of services ashore does indeed include Synagogues. Meanwhile, we will carry on trying to help as best we can and this is definitely an area we can improve on. Thank you both.
BIG ED – Thank you for the translation of ROFLM*AO….I am PYAMSTIABT.
LINDA – You are correct Linda, in saying that both Todd and Chris Jefferson are going to be great Cruise Directors, in fact, they already are. Although, I am not sure I can agree with your comments that Todd has good looks and charm. Personally, I think he has been hit by the ugly stick too many times, but that’s just me. Thank you for the great posting and all the best.
CINDY 56 – As you will see from my comments above, here in Europe we do in fact offer a list of services, although finding a Catholic church this Sunday in Turkey was very difficult, if not impossible. I realize though that attending church or temple is very important to so many people, even on vacation, so I will continue to work hard to make this a better service for our guests. I am glad you enjoyed the two blogs over the weekend and I hope you enjoy tonight’s as well.
LEASA – We are both well. Thank you for asking and thank you also for enjoying the interview with Todd. Thank you for worrying about me and my health and I would be silly not to admit that yes, I am tired after 7 months and I promise you all, Heidi will make me stop when she sees that it would be detrimental to carry on. The sugar free Jelly Beans are breathing new life into me, although the breathing for Heidi is not so enjoyable. …………She mentioned the words “the cabin smells like cabbage” today. Oops! The Cure For Breast Cancer Walks will continue as long as needed and that means, I am sure it will be there in February on the Carnival Liberty. Please say hello to your mum and congratulate her from all of us on her 25-year anniversary of winning her own battle with breast cancer.
JANE AND TOM – You will be happy to know that I forwarded your comments and wishes to Jude Stewart on the Carnival Destiny. He was thrilled to hear from you and the Maitre ‘D told me he would be e-mailing you back very soon via this blog. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to publish his own e-mail address, however, you will be hearing from him shortly and then you can both correspond directly. I am glad to have helped.
LFTTNSFCF – Hello mate, it’s great to hear from you and your lovely wife. The Exclusive View of the Vatican does allow photos throughout the tour, however, the use of flash is not allowed in certain areas including the Chapel. It’s a fantastic tour and one you will never forget. The Carnival representative will meet you at the airport which will mark the beginning of a fantastic 14-day cruise. See you in 55 days.
THE BEARS BARB AND CARL – Congratulations on making your own Spotted Dick. I am glad you loved it so much and I will be slapping on another one of mum’s recipes soon. I am so sorry Barb to hear that you have been diagnosed with Melanoma and that you have to have surgery on September the 12th. Heidi has marked that date on the calendar and it will be a day where you will be constantly in our thoughts. Your grandmother’s words of starting each day with a smile are familiar to me as it’s something my mum taught me and Heidi’s dad taught her. My dad taught me “In church and chapel, let it rattle – wherever you be, let your wind blow free”. All of these words mean so much and I know they will get you through the roller coaster ride that may be ahead. Thinking of you always, John and Heidi.
CRUISIN SUE – I am glad you appreciated the information on the Noro virus. I have taken it upon myself to educate the guests of ways of avoiding this horrible 24 hours of praying to the God of porcelain. Thank you also for mentioning Todd as a great Cruise Director which he truly is. I looked up the waitress you are trying to find and I have three possibilities. Do you know where she was from as it would be much easier for me to find her whereabouts for you? I look forward to hearing from you soon and all the best.
POPCORN GAL – I am glad that you found my mum’s Yorkshire pudding recipe so useful and by the end of the year we will have our own little John’s Mum’s Cookbook. Thank you for reading the blog-thingy and all the best.
SEWING NUT – I think it would be a great idea to have a contest to name the Spas on the next two ships. Let me put this forward and I will let you know what is said.
MARILYN – We are having fun and so will you on your cruise next year. Do you need help with anything? If so, I am here at your service.
LOIS BOW THRUSTERSKI – Thank you for the support of me telling the guest each and every day to wash your hands. The medical professionals still say that this is the best way to avoid getting the terrible NV. There is nothing worse………………………well, getting NV and lockjaw at the same time, that’s worse. Heidi always sings the Happy Birthday Song twice when brushing her teeth, so I guess that we should, as you suggest apply that to washing your hands as well. Thank you Lois and today you are Lois Public Healthski.
KAYENTA JANE – It was the thought that counts. Just describe each mouthful of sticky toffee pudding ice cream for my wife. Looking forward to reading it.

All this talk of Sticky Toffee Pudding………I just can’t take it anymore. Here then is my Mum’s recipe.
Serves 6
Ready in 1 hour, 40 minutes

  • 175g stoned dates, chopped
  • 0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tbsp coffee essence
  • 75g butter, softened
  • 200g light brown soft sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 175g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 75g pecan nuts, finely chopped
  • To make the sauce:
  • 175g light brown soft sugar
  • 115g butter
  • 6tbsp double cream
  • 50g pecan nuts, chopped

1 Put the dates, bicarbonate of soda and coffee essence in a bowl. Pour over 175ml boiling water and leave to cool.
2 Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and line the base of a 1-litre pudding basin with nonstick baking paper. Put the butter and the sugar in a large bowl and beat until well combined, using an electric whisk or wooden spoon. Beat in the eggs a little at a time until smooth.
3 Fold in the flour, dates mixture and pecans. Pour into the basin and cover with greased foil. Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes until cooked – an inserted skewer should come out clean.
4 Around 10 minutes from the end of cooking, put the sauce ingredients in a pan and heat gently, stirring until it’s smooth. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Turn the pudding out and serve with the sauce.

I hope you enjoy this and I am surprised John has made me a Celebrity Chef, watch out Jamie Oliver.

FREDDY BEACH – I am looking forward to seeing you in October and to prepare please let me answer your questions. The Exclusive View Of The Vatican is running on the day you disembark. It is does exactly what it says and gives you a view of the Vatican after it closes. You will visit the Sistine Chapel which is usually full of people but when you will be there, it will just be you and eight others. You will also visit the private chambers, the pope mobiles and the private art collections…….it is expensive at $550 but there are few things in life that truly worth every penny but this is indeed one of them…….I cannot recommend this enough. After the tour the bus will return you to FCO Airport from where a complimentary shuttle bus will take you to the Marriott Hotel. Please don’t apologize for the questions as answering them is one of the prime reasons I continue to write this blog thingy. Please let me know if you have any more.
MICHELLE BEGIN – hello and yes, I will be here for your cruise in October. I have confirmed with the Maitre D that you will all be together at dinner and if you slap on a posting seven days before you sail I will be able to tell you your table number. Heidi loves collecting MUGS, it is her favorite thing to collect and any Starbucks or Tim Hortons mugs would be appreciated…is that cheeky to ask? Anyway, remind me about your table and I will make sure all is well. See you soon.

OK< I have to stop there as its Showtime and I want to get this posted before the end of the day. We will continue tomorrow with Mille S and then some from the Blog featuring the Carnival Fascination.

During the last few days I have been communicating with someone on probably (once the Queen Elizabeth 2 retires) the most famous liner in the world. The Queen Mary 2. I have already interviewed Commodore Warner and I was therefore curious as to what the Cruise Director of this incomparable Lady does and how different his job is to mine. If you talk to anyone in the industry and ask them who is the most famous cruise director and probably the best Cruise Director at sea it will be Mr. Ray Rouse. Ray is the ultimate professional and here is an interview with the great man.

Mr. Ray Rouse

1. Ray, you are without doubt the most famous Cruise Director sailing the seven seas so can you tell us how you started in the business and your career path so far.

Answer: My wife and I started as a dance team in 1973 performing cabaret acts in dance sport and teaching dance lessons on Cunard’s QE2 and Cunard Adventurer and Ambassador. After that we joined Holland America Line as dance team and made several round the world cruises on their flagship, the SS Rotterdam. During this period I was promoted to cruise director and my wife Lise as Hostess for Holland America Line and continued in these positions until 1981 when we joined Royal Caribbean Cruises in Miami. I remained with Royal Caribbean for many years and supervised the introduction of the first mega-sized cruise ships from 1987 onwards, which included the Sovereign of the Seas, the first of that size. This brought the industry firmly into the 21st century and I was thrilled 16 years later to be selected by Cunard Line and return to St. Nazaire, the same shipyard where the Sovereign of the Seas was built, to become Cruise Director of the world’s largest and grandest Ocean Liner, the Queen Mary 2.

2. I understand that you used to be a “bobby” ….Police Officer back in the U.K. Are there any attributes from that job that you still find useful as a Cruise Director?

Answer: Yes, I was a police officer in the Metropolitan Police Force in London for several years before turning to the dance and cruise industry. During the period in the police force I served in the protection unit at 10 Downing Street, the resident of the British Prime Minister and was constantly guarding high-ranking politicians and royalty from all over the world. The attributes I learned from the police force was discipline, communication and decision making. They are all tools that I use in my position as Cruise Director on Queen Mary 2.

3. So now you are the Cruise Director of arguably the most famous cruise ship in the world. How does that feel and what is it about the Queen Mary 2 that makes him so incomparable and where by the way is the ship now.

Answer: At this moment we are on a voyage celebrating the Labor Day weekend to Halifax, Nova Scotia, the homeland of our founder Sir Samuel Cunard. It was the highest accolade of my career when I was appointed Cruise Director of the Queen Mary 2 and it feels wonderful to be on the greatest ocean liner ever built. The sheer size, pomp and circumstance and formality of the ship is what makes the overall experience fantastic. The Queen Mary 2 is one of a kind, the greatest ocean liner ever built.

4. I am sure that like me you have had some “interesting requests from guests ” are there any you can share with us that come to mind.

Answer: Yes, like you John I’ve had hundreds of requests that are sometimes humorous, bizarre and adventurous and could probably list thousands. The one that really stands in my mind most recently was from last year on the QM2. Celebrity Entertainer Rod Stewart was traveling with his partner Penny Lancester on a transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York and we became quite friendly during the voyage. They were in one of our duplex apartments, the largest at sea at 2,500 sq feet of space with the bedrooms on the upper level above the living area. Rod and Penny were celebrating their 6th anniversary together during the middle of the crossing and he wanted to do something special for Penny to celebrate. I arranged for the onboard Florist to cover the whole of the lower level of the duplex with flowers, so that no part of the lower level of furnishing was visible. So when she walked down the spiral staircase in the morning, she was surrounded by flowers and the anniversary greeting from Rod. This was a very special request and occasion.

5. As much for my benefit as anyone can you describe Day at Sea on the Queen Mary 2 from your own involvement. How is your day spent?

Answer: The day consists of about 12 to 14 hours of duties including recording of the Cruise Directors daily TV programme, meetings with the Commodore and Executive Committee members and scheduling of the total voyage programme of activities, music and entertainment. Also supervising my own managers of the children’s programme, the computer guest services programme including the Cyber Centre, the two theatres including Illuminations – the only planetarium at sea and the guest entertainers, lecturers and the RADA acting company. Also hosting of several cocktail receptions with the Commodore, general inspections and safety meetings and introducing of many shows.

6. Being British on the Queen Mary 2 must be exhilarating for you. Commodore Warner told us of some of the traditions onboard. What are your favorites?

Answer:The Queen Mary 2 is a great ocean liner carrying international guests from all over the world and sailing the great sea journeys of the past, notably the round the world voyage and the transatlantic crossing. The number one tradition maintained and my personal favourite is to see the Queens Ballroom filled with Gentlemen in tuxedos and ladies in gowns at our cocktail receptions and our famous royal event themed balls. Two of the highlights of the royal balls is the Black & White nights where everyone is dressed in black and/or white and the Royal Ascot Ball where hundreds of ladies wear hats as if attending ladies day at Royal Ascot. These are truly gala evenings onboard the Queen Mary 2.

7. You have been at sea for a long time. What are the major changes you have seen in your job as Cruise Director and are there any old favorites that you miss.

Answer: The major changes are definitely in the daily work duties of the Cruise Director. With the size of the ships increasing each year, you have more staff to supervise and more administrative duties. This is the number one issue that has changed over the passed 30 years. It is very difficult with the number guests carried to interact with guests on a personal one-to-one basis. You can only meet a small percentage of the total guests carried on a personal basis, because of the size of the vessels and the number of people onboard. I miss the personal touch more than anything in the industry. In the old days there was much more guest participation evenings, which has not totally disappeared, but certainly with the number of entertainment offerings now available, those grand old passenger participation evenings have nearly all disappeared.

8. I have been reading about the Cunard Insight program which sounds terrific. What can you tell us about it?

Answer: The Cunard Insights programme consists of enrichment lectures of many different subjects given by people of academic and entertainment knowledge. It’s the most famous lecture programme at sea and attracts many celebrity guest speakers such as Dr. Ruth Westheimer, John Cleese, Angela Bassett and Courtney Vance, Victoria Tennant, Tina Brown and Sir Harald Evans, Jennie Bond, Art Linkletter, David and Helen Gurly-Brown, Mary Higgins Clark, PD James, Dick Francis, Jimmy Saville, Patricia Neil, Carrie Fisher, Richard Dreyfuss, Rita Moreno, Carroll Thatcher, Jane Russell, Carly Simon and many others.

9.I see that one of the guest speakers for this program is Mr. John Cleese who is a personal hero of mine and that of many of the 630,000 bloggers. I hope this is not too cheeky but do you think he may grace this humble blog with an interview? I would be very grateful and

Answer: John Cleese is traveling from the 4 to 10 September on a transatlantic crossing to Southampton. I am sure John will be only too pleased to give an interview as he has traveled and given lectures and Q & A session with myself onboard for our traveling guests.

10. OK, pick one lounge or public area on the Queen Mary 2……..which lounge and why and then invite 5 famous people from today and yesterday who you would like to share your evening with…………and invite me please

Answer: The Queens Room would be my choice, as it is the largest ballroom at sea and has the elegance of the great liners of the past. When you are in this room at the famous Royal Big Band Ball with the 13-piece orchestra and vocalist you realise what a legendary, memorable and elegant experience a journey on the Queen Mary 2 is all about. My five famous guests to spend an evening of dinner and conversation would be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Winston Churchill, J R R Tolkien (author of my favourite book “The Lord of the Rings”), Tiger Woods and Marilyn Monroe.

Mr. Ray Rouse
What a fantastic interview and is it no wonder that Ray is at the very top of our profession and I thank him for allowing us into his world and the world of the Queen Mary 2.

Did you read what he said? He is going to ask my idol John Cleese to grace us with an interview for this humble blog……I have not been so excited since I woke up from a dream about Catherine Zeta Jones, an Aston Martin and a swimming pool full of Jell-O….sorry!

Anyway, an interview with Mr. Cleese will allow me to chat about his life, his work and of course to highlight this astonishing Insight program which Cunard is offering and another example of what makes Cunard line so unique.

Thank again Ray and one day I hope to sail with you and watch you work, I am sure I could learn a lot. Please bloggers, can you send in your thank to Ray for taking his valuable time to talk to us.

I do have to say one thing, did you see his signature and the crest…………….I want one………I want a crest………..I want one based on my career.

So, I guess that means two massive Turkish women holding a Mahjong board with a photo of me on it with a hose pipe sticking out of me and across the top the words “Spermius Devilius ” ………………….bugger !


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.