The CD Conference Begins….You Gotta Lovett

February 5, 2008 -

John Heald

It was around 5 am that the spicy sauce from the previous night’s chicken wings decided to return in a gaseous form and I woke wondering if someone had hidden an AK 47 under the blankets. After discovering that the sounds of automatic gun fire were in fact coming from my bottom, I tried to get back to sleep but it eluded me> I tried counting sheep, narrating the boat drill and even resorted to doing top ten lists………..you know……….cars……ports of call………fantasy women……….fantasy men………….fantasy sheep…………but alas I was wide awake.

I considered waking Heidi to tell her that I couldn’t sleep but that would have been a huge mistake and it would have been safer to be trapped in an elevator with a lion who has eaten nothing for a week than to wake Sleeping Beauty…………………so I laid there…………..alone……………in the darkness…………listening to the occasional sound of gunfire.

Later that morning at 7 am the alarm sounded. Heidi sets the alarm to a different tune on her Eye Pod thingy and this morning she awoke to George Michael singing Wake Me Up Before You Go Go………….I sat there listening to it thinking what a shame it was that nobody told George’s girlfriend to wake up and realize that unless she changed her name to Bob she was never going to make him happy.
Heidi has now become a packing Goddess and although I have fun with her on this blog thingy I know that without her I really could not do what I do and I mean that in so many ways. Anyway, this morning we awoke to a new challenge…………….The Cruise Directors Conference.

We had breakfast at the Intercontinental where we had been staying and to my utter joy I was told they had no All Bran…………what a shame………..I had a bagel and cream cheese and me and my digestive system were therefore in heaven. Then it was time to go downstairs where a bus was going to pick us and all the other CD’s up from various Miami hotels.

Now, I admit…………..I hate buses……………..I never get car, boat, ship, plane or train sick but for some reason I always feel queasy on a bus. I was therefore hoping it would be a new coach with hydraulic air suspension and all the trimmings but my hopes were slashed when it arrived. The bus looked old…………….they had tried to cover up its decay with a lick of paint here and there but none the less ………….it looked like it had just returned from a war zone. Anyway, we boarded and I decided to sit in the middle of the bus and hope for the best ……………… well …………….. it started OK but toward the middle of the journey there were moments I wondered if I would be re decorating the tired old beige seats with a new orange and green colour.

Of course the journey was made easier because of the folks onboard. The problem with working at sea for such a successful company is that some of the people you are friends with are friends you rarely see. This is the case with my fellow Cruise Directors some of which I trained and when it was time for them to leave the breast and go off to the big wide world I would never see them again.

So, it was wonderful to see friends and make new ones. I know many of you have cruised with these ladies and gents and many of you have told me how important they have been in making your cruise so special. I will slap on some photos later this week but here are the folks who are here………….see how many you recognize.

Steve Cassel
Lenny Haliday
Chris Roberts
George ( Hor Hay ) Solano
Todd Wittmer
Mark Price
Chris Jefferson
Wee Jimmy
Risa Barnes
Shawn Bussey
Goose Numan
Big Tex
Matt Ross
Steve Knisley
Tina Noble
Ryan Fitzgerald
Malcolm In The Middle
Brent Mitchell
Stuart Dunn
Jeff Bronson
Trevor Block

These people have been joined by Roger Blum, Chris Prideaux, Kerry Stables and many more folks from our Miami office. Putting all these people in one room will we hope lead to great things and of course means a lot of fun and joking is assured.

This afternoon’s session was chaired by Carnival’s Executive Vice President of Marketing and Guest Experience Ruben Rodriguez and our Senior Vice President of Air/Sea and Corporate Training Roberta Jacoby. They unveiled some of the new and exciting strategies that will I am sure continue to keep Carnival ahead of this very completive industry. We spoke about many topics but the one I want to share with you and ask for your opinion on is something called ……………………Icons.

Now, obviously I have to keep some secrets but I can tell you that we discussed if having whether an Icon onboard was really important to guests in deciding what cruise line to spend their valuable vacation time with. Let’s clarify the word Icon………….for some ships it a wave machine or a wall with bits of rock sticking out of it. For some ships it’s a bowling alley and for some it’s wild adventure sports. …………….the question therefore is…………….do we at Carnival need our own ……………… Icons?………………….well………………………….do we?

I personally have always felt the crew and the Fun Ship experience have been our Icons, however are we living in the past? ……………..Should we start thinking about such things? Certainly, the addition of the hugely successful Carnival Water Works, Seaside Theatre Big Screens and Mini Golf Courses have become fantastic…………..but do we we need more.

This was the topic of conversation for today and the Cruise Directors who more than most have the pulse of what guests want put forward their ideas. For now, I will have to keep these suggestions quiet as I know that the opposition read this blog thingy on occasions but I can tell you some of the ideas were excellent, some were not ………………. so…………………………what do you think?…………………I really would appreciate your input………………as would the Carnival executives. ………………………….let us know.

Then we spoke about something that I can tell you all about and that is Carnival’s investment in family cruising and in particular the brilliant new kids and teens programming. We used to know this as Camp Carnival but now it has become so much more. Here are the age breakdowns.

2 -4 – Camp Carnival
5 – 8 – Camp Carnival
9 – 11 Camp Carnival
12 – 14 – Circle C
15 – 17 – Club O2

This means we have dedicated areas for all ages. Before, we would have kids aged 12 in with the six year olds and while the younger kids wanted to decorate cookies and play with Barbie and Ken the 12year- olds wanted to watch Transformers and play wee video games where you can behead aliens from the planet Zog.

Now, they are separated and the teens in Circle C and Club O2 will have dedicated areas with cool furniture and a program specifically designed to their needs…………………For Mums and Dads the comfort of knowing the kids are having a safe and fun time is so important and now they can relax in the knowledge that this is certainly so and their kids will be part of the coolest program at sea………..It’s brilliant.

So, it was a very productive afternoon and Roger & Chris I know are very happy with the input the CD’s gave and so to I think were Ruben and Roberta. In the past, the folks in the office forgot to talk to the people at the sharp end……………..us here onboard……………however the new guard seems to have taken this to heart and it really is great to feel part of the future.

Talking of the future I spoke to you yesterday about our New Senior Vice President of Sales and Guest Services Lynn Torrent and how excited we are to welcome her aboard. I am excited to say that she has granted her first ever interview in her new position to our humble blog thingy………….so…………here she is.

lynn-torrent-1-16-08.jpg

JOHN HEALD’S BLOG – LYNN TORRENT ANSWERS

1. Lynn, we are all excited here at Carnival Cruise Lines as are all the millions of people who have sailed and who will sail with us that you are joining our family. What can you tell us about your experience in the industry we all love.

First, I can tell you that I, too, love the cruise industry. I have been in the industry for approximately 13 years. During that time, I have learned a great deal about how best to help and assist our travel agent partners to grow their businesses. Whether the focus is on how best to sell a cruise, how to develop joint marketing programs, or how we can best support our partners by providing better and more efficient service to them.

2. When you hear the words Carnival Cruise Lines what thoughts immediately come to mind.

Fun, family, friends…great times.

3. In your new position you will have projects coming at you thick and fast. What are your priorities and what challenge are you looking forward to the most.

My priorities will be to immediately visit many of our travel agent partners, along with our sales team. Getting to know partners, and to truly understand their needs, will help us identify opportunities for the future.

4. Carnival has a relationship with Travel Agents that is the envy of all. Do you have a message to our travel agent friends many of whom read this blog thingy?

My message to our travel agent partners is twofold – first, I am honored and thrilled to be part of the Carnival Sales team, who are here to support you. Secondly—I look forward to getting to know you, and to understanding your businesses and how we at Carnival can help you grow them.

5. I see your title also contains the words Guest Services. What will this involve an what in your opinion represent the core values of guest service?

Guest Services includes all of our call centers, our embarkation teams, as well as our CARE teams. Guest service is all about treating people RIGHT. Isn’t that how we all like to be treated? So, what does that mean? Treating people with respect, in a courteous and professional manner. In short, helping our travel agent partners and guests to have the very best experience with us!

6. Our company statement proudly states ” let the fun begin.” What plans do you have to make this happen?

We have a great sales team at Carnival. We will continue to work hard to support our travel agent partners, and we will certainly have fun along the way. This is a “people” business, in a fun and exciting industry. I am really looking forward to begin meeting, and really getting to know, all of our team members and partners and working together to help our travel agent partners grow their businesses. Who wouldn’t find that fun?

7. How does Lynn Torrent like to have fun?

Well, for me, work is truly fun!! I tend to work a lot, because I love what I do. I’m lucky to have found a career that makes me so happy. I also enjoy time with my husband of nearly 22 years, as well as through various forms of exercise, especially pilates. I believe there’s a true mind-body connection, and exercise keeps me focused and ready for whatever the day brings.

8. I am sure you must have cruised with Costa to many exciting ports of call. Looking at our ships which one would you be most excited about seeing for yourself?

Actually, there are several! However, Recife, Brazil comes to mind first. I’ve heard such great things about this destination.

9. Have you ever written a blog and do you read any on a regular basis?

I have never written a blog, but I’ll certainly be reading yours on a regular basis!

10. Finally, and in tradition with this blog, please can you fill in the blanks.

Favorite Movie

Tough question…there are so many! When Harry Met Sally is one of my favorites.

I love to read…The Agony and the Ecstasy has always been a favorite.

Favorite Food

Those who know me well might laugh at this because I eat pretty healthy, but I must say I do love Italian food, especially il formaggio!

Who makes you laugh?

Another tough one…there are many things that make me laugh! My husband, myself, great comedians like Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

If you could be invisible for 24 hours what would you do?

Get lost in the mountains with my husband…however, a good masseuse would need to be waiting in the hills.

Thank you Lynn. Those were not easy questions to answer at this early stage but it is obvious straight away that we have great things to look forward to together and I know that we all wish her well in her new position…………….cheers Linda and welcome aboard.

Oh, just before I move on I want to tell you about The Queen ……………well……………….not the real Queen but someone who played her in a movie………played her so well in fact that the real Queen Elizabeth invited her to tea at Buckingham Palace. We are of course talking about Dame Helen Mirren who has been chosen to be the Godmother of one of the most eagerly anticipated new ship launches this year ………….P & O’s Ventura. She will be christened in April and in Dame Helen Mirren the ship has a Godmother who will do the ship and her crew proud. Congratulations Dame Helen……………………I hope to be invited to the ceremony and share the experience with you all.

Usually we have our CD conference on land however we are able to come here to the Carnival Victory thanks to a few open cabins and the cooperation of one particular man who has chartered this vessel ……………………..his name is Andy Levine. Before we talk about him I should tell you that Charters are rare things these days.

This is where one company or organization will pay a huge amount of money for the entire ship. They can chose the itinerary, the entertainment and what happens in general onboard…………….it is in fact………….their ship. I remember the days when Charters were commonplace with companies like State Farm, IBM, MTV, Coca Cola etc regularly chartering the ships.

Andy Levine is an incomparable business man and he has put some great charters together. Tell you what, rather than me waffle on about this have a look at what he does on www.sixthman.net.

While I sit here in a deserted cigar bar blogging away my fellow CD’s and all the guests are in the main lounge watching a live performance by Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt. In recent weeks guests have enjoyed performances by Lynyrd Skynyrd and even Motley Crue. I expect Mr.Lovett is “rocking the house”……………meanwhile I am here with just a cold cappuccino and Heidi for company. Heidi by the way is taking the minutes for the conference and is on another lap dance top computer typing away………………….can we have some sympathy please.

Anyway, it will be a very interesting cruise and through the blog I hope to share it all with each and every one of you. It seems that the blogs about our trip on the Carnival Imagination were very popular with thousands of you reading them every day…………..50,000 plus actually in one week.

Seeing all my old friends means of course that some of us who have been around a long time are bound to talk about the “good old days.” I was talking to Lenny Haliday this evening and he reminded me of an old Cruise Director called Kenny Day. The incident I am about to share with you happened in 1985 aboard the Mardi Gras. Kenny was a great guy and his vocal/comedy act was legendary. Anyway, following his introduction Kenny always came on stage singing the same song……………….Take The Ribbons From My Hair……………….oh yes………………I forgot to mention Kenny was bald…………….he had not one hair on his head. This alone had the audience laughing as he stood on the stage, the spotlight focused tight on his shiny head as he sang about wanting someone to remove the ribbons.

Now, the Mardi Gras stage was one of those proper theatrical ones built very high so the audience could see. Well, on this occasion Kenny came out on stage and walked forward, the band played ……………Kenny walked on to the stage…………….waiting for the spotlight to pick him up………….unfortunately the spot light bulb had blown……………Kenny kept walking……………..the stage was dark ………………..he sang Take The Ribbons From My Haiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr and fell of the stage…….landing on the guests four feet below………………….he was now lying half on the floor and half on one of the tables…………….he was covered in beer and other cocktails………………..but like a true professional ………….. he kept on singing.

There are many more of these stories from the old days and I will share as many as I can with you all.

For now though it is time to rest my two fingers and go for dinner and then bed………………….tomorrow should be another productive day.

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.