It’s Wednesday and in between preparing for next week, scheduling and meeting with various folks I thought I would drop you all a line.We are in St. Maarten today along with the usual gaggle of cruise ships of all shapes and sizes.  Even some of the private yachts that were with us in the Med last year have made it across to the Caribbean.  It is very strange being here…………….I have not been in the Caribbean for three years and as I sit here typing on my balcony using the laptop thingy I am getting used to the beats of the islands again.

Although I have no time to go ashore I my vantage point from cabin 7369 allows me to see the thousands of guests from the ships head out on tours and of course to go shopping.

These two groups are easy to spot. The families going snorkeling or on adventure tours seem happy and bright and full of excitement, indeed, they are virtually skipping down the pier…………………..and then there are the ones who are going shopping………………these families are also easy to spot.

Out in front is the lady…………..her step full of purpose and meaning as they march to the promised land where the world of diamonds, jewelry watches and 30 t-shirts for $10 awaits.

Behind Staff Sergeant Mrs. Shopper is Private Husband whose step is more subdued.  He has the look of someone marching into hell…………….and he is not alone.  He will at some point of the day meet up with other men who are suffering from the same affliction and they will all hug each other in a wonderful show of togetherness. Meanwhile, Staff Sergeant Mrs. Shopper is now spending the kids’ inheritance on a diamond the size of a baked potato on steroids.

I should point out that the Caribbean still has some of the best deals on diamonds and jewelry and watches in the world. Up until a few years ago the Carnival cruise directors were responsible for the shopping ashore program and many of these shop owners became my friends. One reason their prices are so good is quite simple. They are prepared to take less of a profit on each piece than the bigger stores. Some even buy direct from the diamond mines.

Nowadays, we have Shopping Specialists on our ships. These young men and women are dedicated to finding you the best price and I encourage you to visit their seminars and chat with them personally to find out where you should and should not shop.

I say should not because there are still pirates in the Caribbean and these pirates are called Shop Keepers. If someone offers you a 5 carat diamond for $1000……………….then it probably is made from……….well…………………carrot……………….use the cruise lines’ recommended shops.

A few people think that we own these stores.  Of course we do not, we do charge them a recommendation fee but the main reason we recommend them is that if you have any concerns or problems with your purchase the cruise line will stand alongside you and you will deal with them rather than try and contact the store which, by the time you do get hold of them has probably changed to a dry cleaning shop.

On the pier I can see three ladies offering something that has become somewhat of a tradition in the Caribbean…………………..having your hair braided. Now, I understand why this is so popular and I still remember my teenage years dreaming of Bo Derek running across the golden sands her huge beads bouncing up and down…………………………..her hair looked good as well.

The one thing I do not understand is that these ladies will braid dozens of people everyday using the same comb, the same braid stick thingy and the only form of sterilization they use is to hold the said braid stick thingy under their arms while they put on the beads hoping that the their body heat and sweat will kill Ivan the Insect and any other small creature who wants to live and feed on your head…………………….my advice…………………..take your own comb and stick thingy.

As I sit here I cannot help but admire what Carnival Corporation has done for St. Maarten and many other islands. I see guests from three of our brands ashore spending money and having fun………and of course the three thousand plus crewmembers who are also a huge source of revenue for the ports as well. The Caribbean is our bread and butter taking a cruise is surely the best way to experience the islands delight ………………… I love Europe………………but I have missed the Caribbean.

Last night after leaving St.Thomas Heidi and I walked the ship. More and more people stopped us who have read the blog and some who are sailing back to back ………..meaning this cruise and on the Bloggers cruise as well.

However, the majority of the guests just think I am a typical guest who has spent too much time grazing on Lido Deck ……………..oh, by the way……………before I continue I have to tell you about the new restaurant on Lido Deck here on the Carnival Freedom.

We have changed the Chinese section to a fantastic Mexican Cafe. This serves daily specials such as……..Fajitas, Enchiladas, Chips and Salsa, Jimmy Chungas and other Mexican delights. The Chinese selection was very similar to our very popular Mongolian selection and the change has been very well received.

Anyway, back to the subject of most guests not knowing me…………….. sorry I was distracted by food……….none of you are shocked I am sure……………..but here are three incidents that show what happens when a crew member is ingogneto ……….. incogneto ……….incogneato ……..bugger, I can’t spell that word………..so………….isn’t wearing any form of identification or uniform. Let’s start with a couple of negatives ………………………. how do you spell ingogneeto?

The first maybe just a small thing but worth telling, Heidi and I were in an elevator going from deck 10 to deck 4………..ok………..I know I should have taken the stairs…………..anyway, the elevator stopped on deck 9 and a couple got in………….they were probably in their early fifties.

The lady had obviously come straight from the pool and even though she had a towel wrapped round her waist she dripped water from her hair, her legs and other places all over the elevator floor………….she seemed not to understand my humour when I casually asked “Have you been swimming?”……………….I guess she had not thought of the hygiene issues and the poor sod who would have to clean the corridors and carpets as they follow her trail of water from the elevator back to her cabin.

Then, this morning at breakfast I was happily munching away on my bowl of fruit and muesli ……..yep………my diet has started three days ago and I am eating something called All Bran for breakfast…….it tastes of dried cardboard and this morning when I went to the toilet I noticed that the All Bran had formed itself into a long piece of rope ……………….. very strange.

Anyway, there I was eating my breakfast and listening to a conversation from the table behind me.  Now, my guess judging from their accents was that they were from the Tri State area. and they were being vocal………….very vocal……………with the people they were eating breakfast  with about a few things. the first, well maybe they have a point here. They were discussing San Juan and how they wished the ship had been in port earlier so they could see more in daylight………………true………..and if it were possible we would be there earlier but look at a map……………it is a long way from Miami and we are at full speed as it is.

Then, one of the ladies said something that nearly had me choking on my delicious spoonful of dried pomegranate…………………she said “Well, when we took a Princess cruise we left Miami and got to San Juan the next day at 9 am and we stayed overnight …………..”Carnival must be saving fuel because on Princess we left Miami and the following morning we were in San Juan.”……………….Now, I know I just repeated myself in the copying of her statement but that’s exactly what she did……………..repeated it and you know what………………..her friends believed her………………and returned statements like “Oh, that’s much better” and “We should have gone on the Princess ship.”

Now I love Princess Cruise lines, they are brilliant and when I visited the  Emerald Princess I was amazed at the ship and her crew…………………it was outstanding and I for one want to experience a cruise with our beautiful sister……………………however, I am not aware that any of the Princess ships have been fitted with warp drive and that Captain Kirk is at this moment docking the Emerald Princess in Jamaica while using his photon torpedoes at the Klingon of the Seas.

I really wanted to go over and say something but the look I got from Heidi told me to ignore them and to get on with eating my cow fodder.

The best however was reserved for a few moments ago when myself, Dave the Musical Director and Heidi were sitting in the lobby having a chat about next week. Three older ladies sat close by and this was how their conversation went

“I really miss the Entertainment Director we had on the Liberty.”

“Who was he?”

“I don’t remember his name but he was very funny and he had a big stomach and I think he was Australian.”

By now, Heidi and Dave are laughing hysterically especially with the reference to my washboard stomach and me being from Down Under.

Leaning across to the ladies I said “I am sorry to drop in on your conversation but the name of the man you are talking about is John Heald.”

“Ooooooooohhhhhhhh, said the lady, yes that’s him, he was great and so funny ……………….what ship is he on?”

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.