It Was A Very Good Year

December 30, 2007 -

John Heald

Goeie avond………………….as they say in Dutch which translates to …….good evening, which means of course that we are in Holland for the New Year. We took the over night ferry yesterday from Harwich which is in the south east of the UK and arrived at the Hoek van Holland this morning. The ferry which is called the Stena Britannica is a remarkable vessel. She carries up to 350 cars and 100 huge juggernauts as she powers her way across the English Channel.

        Once you drive you car onboard and have made sure the brake is firmly on, you make your way up to your suite. Now, I use the word suite in the same way you would call KFC gourmet food. The cabin was only called a suite because instead of bunk beds we had a double bed and wait for it…………………….a chair…………….yep a chair. Now, you are only onboard for six hours but calling it a suite is like calling me a prime athlete………….it’s just bollocks.

        Anyway, we explored the vessel and I must say there is little difference between their Promenade Deck and that of your 1990’s cruise ship. There are restaurants, bars, cinemas and the place most populated especially by the truckers was of course………..the casino.

          
        As we walked around I realized that I was with out doubt, a proper cruise nerd…………..I looked at this and that and thought that’s good or that’s not and why don’t they do this or that’s a good idea and this was highlighted more than ever by the safety announcement. We are so used to long and specific instructions on what to do, what not to do and what you should do if you did in fact do something that you were not supposed to do. For all of us that have taken part in these drills we expect them to take anywhere from 20 – 30 minutes………..and of course they need to be………………….or do they?

         On the Stena Britanica the 600 passengers were told what to do ……………..and the announcement took………3 minutes. There was no drill………………no trying on of life jackets…………..no list of rules ……………….it was just…………..this is the signal……………… put on your life jacket………………..go to the muster station……………….all other rules and regulations are written on your cabin door and posted around the vessel…………………make sure you read them as they can save your life…………………………That was it, and you know what…………I did read the notice and even though the announcement lasted just 3 minutes I was safe in the knowledge that I new exactly what to do in an emergency.

        Now, I am not suggesting that the industry change their out look on the way we hold our boat drills but isn’t it interesting that Stena (under the strict laws of British and Dutch Coastguard I am sure) managed to get the point across in just 3 minutes and 600 guests did not have to do anything except listen and read.

        There will be arguments for and against this from all of you and it will be interesting to hear your views for and against.

         One more thing about the ship and this is some what embarrassing. I couldn’t fit in the shower……………….I could stand in it but only my left side got wet and as for soaping myself down, that was impossible. This of course led to much giggling from the Mrs. and led me to having a good wash in the sink………………..bugger.

          
        So, here I am getting ready to celebrate New Years Eve in Holland where this tiny country of 16 million spend 8 million euros on …………………..fireworks. You have to see it. Every house………..I mean every house lets off a huge firework display at midnight and its something very, very special. Tonight, I took Heidi to her favorite Chinese restaurant called Dynasty as a preview to the New Year celebrations and I had something called Beggars Chicken. This is chicken that has been cooked in clay at high temperatures and then the clay is chipped off leaving the most tender meat I have ever tasted………………..it was truly historic and a wonderful night………………………..until the bill came ……………. please can someone do something with the US Dollar which is lower than a snakes thingy.

        The reason I mention Heidi is I know New Year is always a difficult time for her as her dad loved the celebrations and always hosted a big party. It is therefore only right that I bring her home so she can look up at the host of fireworks that will illuminate the sky as far as the eye can see………………….and she can remember those wonderful times ……….. with Dad.

          
        So, how are you spending New Year? I saw on the news today that the rich and tanned are all at the Caribbean Island of St. Barts eating octopus and soaking up those sundancer rays. …………………….I bet George Hamilton is there and has been in the Caribbean so long he probably has dreadlocks and is as we speak…………lying on a beach, drinking a Red Stripe and smoking a palm tree ( allegedly )………………………..lucky sod.

          
        So, as I sit here in the Amstel Hotel typing away with just my underpants for company……..once again the bathrobe does not fit everyone…………I start to reflect on the last 12 months. There have been so many highlights. The delivery of the Carnival Freedom and sailing her to the Greek Islands and into Istanbul. Being invited to the naming ceremony of the now famous Queen Victoria and witnessing the most jaw dropping and emotional naming ceremony……………..in the world…………….ever. I got to meet Presidents of nearly all our sister companies and of course I got to interview one of my idols in Mr. John Cleese. However none of the above can compare to something simple……………at least it was when I started this blog thingy and here we are celebrating the birth of the new year having had close to 1.5 million slaps…………………who would have thunk it?

          
        As 2008 heads our way I promise you that I will dedicate my spare time to keep blogging, to keep you informed of the daily happenings onboard and ashore and to show you the often good, the occasionally bad and of course with me here typing in my underpants………the ugly side of this wonderful world of life and cruising. The blog will develop further I am sure  in many new ways such as more video streaming and using this forum to help all our sister companies in anyway I can.

        However the substance of the blog will not change. I will tell you when I mess up and what we can do better and of course I will keep you laughing if I can. Once back onboard the daily answers to each and every comment and question will return and I hope by this time in 2008 we will be celebrating 3 million readers………….that’s my goal.

        I also hope that once we announce the 2009 bloggers cruise that all of you will come and join me……….maybe we will even do two…………..let’s see.

          
        Right now plans on all the corporation’s vessels for a huge New Years Eve celebration are at their final stages and as the champagne corks pop and the bands play and people celebrate the chance of a new beginning I ask that you do me a favor………………….please remember just for a second the thousands of crew who have planned that party, are pouring the champagne and providing the music. Think of the officer on the bridge, the chef in the kitchen and the team who after you all go to bed exhausted from the celebrations of a new 365 days will clean up the discarded corks and the crumpled party hats so that when you wake the next morning the ship will be shiny and new once again. What do all these crew have in common?……………Well, they will not be with their families and the ones they love and although they will never show it ……………… they will miss them more than ever at midnight on December 31st ……………..so think of them ……….I will be.

          
        I will also be thinking of my friends and bloggers who I know have sons and daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan and people like Sherriff Coltrane who on New Years Eve will be keeping the town safe…let’s remember them.

        I will be thinking of all my colleagues and mates, PA 007, Roger, Chris, and of course, Roberto and his team who have made this year such an incomparable one……………..cheers.

        ………….I will be thinking of Alan and hoping that his remarkable recovery continues. I will be thinking of my Mum and Dad who have been such wonderful role models and who have read and saved every one of the blogs I have written.

         Of course Heidi and I will be thinking of you all, the faithful readers of this blog thingy. Whether you read it once a week, once a year or everyday, Heidi and I wish you and those you love a wonderful, peaceful and fun 2008.

        It’s been one I will never forget and one that as I look back on I realize how lucky I am……………………….not because of the blog, not because I am married to a gorgeous blond ………….I am so lucky…………..simply…………..because……………………….I am not French.

          
HAPPY NEW YEAR  
          
see you in 2008  
          
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.