The Christmas Spirit

December 23, 2007 -

John Heald

I just returned from what can only be described as hell……………….a supermarket, two days before Christmas when apparently the entire country had decided to go shopping at the same time. Now obviously there was a rumor that France was going to invade and that that would soon be nothing in the shops because people had gone mad………..totally nuts……….”stunard” as they say in Naples.The whole place was a zoo………..and by that I mean people were behaving like animals. I watched bemused as people barged others out of the way to get that turkey before someone else, old ladies who had suddenly gone from sweet and innocent basket-weaving grandmas to members of the Hell’s Angels who used their shopping trolleys as battering rams in order to get to the Brussels sprouts.

I watched as Mums acted as drill sergeant major’s snapping instructions at dad and the kids to go and get various items, all that missing was a salute.

Heidi and I were shopping for just a few bits and pieces because we are having our Christmas Dinner at my Mum’s this year and we laughed at the comedy show that was unfolding.

However, our laughter turned to utter grumpiness (is that a word?) when we reached the checkouts. Sainsburys is a huge supermarket and there must have been 20-plus check outs available but each had a line longer than the Carnival Freedom and each person in line had bought enough food to feed every guest on the Carnival Freedom. The result of this was we stood in line with our small trolley of 2 dozen items for…………… hour…………….yep…………………one hour and of course just as we reached sight of the promised land Murphy dropped one of his laws on my head the complete and utter gift!

The couple in front of us had two full trolleys and were obviously going to be feeding Texas for dinner and as there huge pile got smaller and my piles started throbbing it was nearly our turn…………………..and then finally the last item was rung in and the young check out girl said “that will be £317″………..that’s about $700 by the way. Hearing this the man looked as though he had just been given the good news with a baseball bat to his Albert Halls (rhyming slang) and he went very red as he reached into his wallet and produced his credit card thingy…………………….all I cared about was that I just wanted to get out of this place and do something less disturbing like shoving a rattle snake that has not eaten down my trousers, or, telling Heidi her bottom looked HUGE in those jeans.

Anyway, as the man handed over his card I knew freedom was just around the corner…………but……………it was not………………………..the man’s credit card was declined…………….bugger. I felt sorry for him as he and his wife scrambled in their wallets and eventually they managed to split the charges on two cards ………….. Christmas it seemed had taken its tool on their bank balance and that of many of others I am sure around the world.

It is fair to say that when I left the supermarket I was feeling very un Christmassy……… fact I was in a rotten mood. However just as Murphy had dumped his law on me early the spirit of Christmas reminded me what it’s all about.

This reminder came as we left the store to the sounds of a Salvation Army Brass Band playing Silent Night. As the beautiful notes of the 40-piece band drifted into the crisp morning air I reached into my wallet and deposited a few notes into the bucket which the poster told me would go to help make this Christmas a special one for the many homeless people of the area.

I felt good about myself and this time of year again and as we wheeled our trolley back to the car all the war zone of the supermarket felt far, far away.

Now, this then feels like the perfect opportunity for me to chat with a special lady. You know, Carnival Corporation is the first to blow its trumpet loud and proud about our new ships and ventures that make us what we are today. However, there is one thing we don’t sing from the roof tops and to change that I need to chat with the lovely Linda Coll.

1. LINDA, PLEASE CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR CAREER SO FAR AND WHAT YOUR CURRENT POSITION INVOLVES? I have been with Carnival for 18 years and oversee the Carnival Foundation, which is at the Miami headquarters and coordinates the company’s various corporate giving and philanthropy efforts. In addition to overseeing a multi-million-dollar budget that provides monetary donations to a wide variety of charitable, social service and arts-related organizations, both locally here South Florida and throughout the country,. part of my job also  includes working with Carnival Cruise Lines employee volunteer service group, the “Friends Uniting Neighbors” (F.U.N.) Team. We have a three-person staff here that includes myself, Mitzi Capo and Lisa Marie Alvarez.  
FUN Team

Carnival Corporation & plc is the world’s largest cruise operator with a diverse portfolio of brands whose offices are located throughout North America and Europe. Our department primarily deals with our North American brands, which, in addition to Carnival Cruise Lines (based in Miami), includes Holland America (based in Seattle), Princess Cruises (based in Santa Clarita, Calif.), and Seabourn Cruise Line (based in Miami). The ships of these brands operate from homeports across the east and west Coasts of the U.S., as well as the Gulf of Mexico – not to mention calling at dozens of dozens of island destinations. 

As the world’s largest cruise operator, Carnival believes we have a duty to give  back to our communities we serve and thus we take our position as a corporate citizen very seriously. We want to make sure our communities continue to be a  great place to live and work.  

With that in mind, the Carnival Foundation coordinates millions of dollars in donations – which support such wide-ranging organizations, with a particular emphasis on those that help children and support the arts. In addition to being one of the of the largest corporate contributors of the United Way, we lend our support to such organizations as March of Dimes, Junior Achievement, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, American Cancer Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the New World Symphony and National Association for Advancement in the Arts, which  provides hundreds of scholarships for talented singers, dancers, and other artists.  
FUN Team
During times of crisis, our department also works closely with the American Red  Cross, coordinating corporate and employee donations for such emergencies as the tsunami in Asia and hurricane relief efforts throughout the U.S. and Caribbean. All told, over the past five years, Carnival has donated upwards of $30 million  
to a variety of charitable endeavors.  

The efforts of the Carnival Foundation, of course, complement the many charitable initiatives coordinated by the individual brands themselves – and their employees — in their respective local communities. Shipboard personnel also do their part to help our communities, participating in beach clean ups and donating their time and talent to various orphanages and children’s charities throughout the Caribbean and other regions.  
3. ALTHOUGH CARNIVAL CORPORATION ASSISTS DOZENS OF ORGANIZATIONS, IS THERE ONE PROJECT THAT HAS TOUCHED YOUR HEART THAT YOU COULD SHARE WITH US? Yes, we assist lots of different groups and organizations. If I were to name one that we’re particularly proud of, it would have to be our most recent initiative with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Miami HEAT as it impacts the lives of children who are so important to the future of our community.  

Through Big Brothers/Big Sisters, approximately 50 members of Carnival’s management team are serving as mentors to high school students as part of an innovative in-the-workplace mentoring program. The students previously attended the HEAT Academy, an after-school program in downtown Miami for at-risk youth (30 of the students will be receiving college scholarships that have been purchased by Carnival). 
FUN Team

After a comprehensive evaluation and interview process coordinated by Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the students were partnered up with a member of Carnival management according to their interests and aptitude – students who are interested in becoming lawyers are paired up with our legal department, etc. The students then shadow their Carnival “big” throughout the day and watch them interact in an office environment. We’ve just finished the second session and the response has been excellent, both from the students and Carnival employees.  

Another project that we’re very excited about is the renovation of the pediatric intensive care unit and medical unit at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami. Carnival, along with the Miami HEAT, pledged $2.5 million toward this initiative which will benefit hundreds of children each year.  

Renovations to the 30,000-square-foot facility are ongoing and include 30 special oversized rooms to allow family members to remain with their critically ill children, medical isolation rooms for those most susceptible to germs and infections, a sophisticated new monitoring system enabling nurses to more easily monitor patients, and a comfortable lounge where families can relax during long days at the hospital.   
Carnival employees participate in Junior Achievement

Following the renovation, the facility will be renamed the “Carnival Cares for Kids Center.” A Pediatric Medical Unit on the same floor will be named the “Miami HEAT Home Court for Kids.”  

We’re very proud and honored to lend our support to the Jackson Memorial Hospital Foundation, whose tireless efforts in providing life-saving medical treatment to thousands of individuals, particularly children, has made a tremendously positive impact on our community. 

4. ONBOARD THE CARNIVAL FREEDOM WE RECENTLY RAISED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FOR BREAST CANCER RESEARCH. ARE THERE ANY PLANS WHERE IN THE FUTURE EVERY SHIP IN THE CARNIVAL FLEET COULD HOST EVENTS FOR THIS ORGANIZATION?…….CAN WE DO THIS? Carnival’s On Deck for the Cure program – a series of one-mile fundraising walks currently being offered on all ships operating voyages of seven days or longer as well as four- and five-day  
cruises on the Elation from San Diego – has been an overwhelming success.  

John, as you can attest from your time on the Carnival Freedom this summer, our guests truly appreciate the opportunity to support such a worthwhile organization as Susan G. Komen for the Cure – the global leader in breast cancer research — even while on vacation. Modeled after a highly successful program introduced by Holland America, the program was rolled out to other Carnival Corporation & plc brands that operate in North America, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises, and Seabourn Cruise Line.  

Carnival Cruise Lines initially launched the program on ships from Miami earlier this year and expanded to other ships a few months later, including the Carnival Freedom in Europe, which as you can attest was extremely well received.  

Right now, the program has been on Carnival Corporation & plc ships for about four months and we are extremely pleased with the support both by guests and crew thus far. Since this project is still in the early stages, we’re concentrating our efforts on those ships that currently host On Deck for the Cure activities but perhaps one day we may extend the program to other ships and hopefully other brands.  

John, I would like to personally thank you (and the readers of your blog) for your incredible support of the On Deck for the Cure program, which has not only raised thousands and thousands of dollars for breast cancer research and education but much-needed awareness, as well. Thanks again and happy holidays! 

Thank you Linda for allowing us all to know the wonderful work that is undertaken by Carnival Corporation. We are all proud to help and I am looking forward to much more “giving “this coming year.

So, all that’s left then is to wish all of you a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful Holiday Season. I hope Santa brings you the gifts you want and I hope he saw my letter where I asked for an Aston Martin and a sun tan like George Hamilton’s…………who I see from the Entertainment News is in St.Martin.topping up his tan…………lucky sod.
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.