One of the things Heidi and I had talked about on the journey from Miami to Fort Lauderdale was the question of how long it would take before someone recognized me.

Heidi said within the first hour and I said not until the first sea day ………….. well……………. it took ………………35 minutes…………………….once again Heidi was right and I was wrong………..what a shocker………………..more about that later.

It’s a funny old world……………..one minute you are standing on stage with a patch over your eye on the Carnival Freedom……………..then you are in meetings in the office in Miami…………and now here I am sitting in cabin A734 (the A stands for Aloha) with the balcony doors open writing to all my friends.

Oh, just before I continue…………….it’s 64 degrees here today and the Miamians obviously feel that a new ice age has begun as they the leather jackets are out and I even saw someone wearing a scarf this morning……………………..what’s the point of living in Florida and owning a scarf?…………………anybody would think we were in Alaska rather than Fort Lauderdale…………

Oh, by the way ……………what’s the point of having a weatherman or weather lady in Alaska?…………..do you really need to pay someone to tell you it’s as cold as a penguin’s bottom? Anyway, here we are as I said, the balcony door is open, the breeze is blowing, Heidi is unpacking and swearing in Dutch, German and English and we are both amazed……….simply gobsmacked at the welcome we have received.

This welcome has come in two forms. The official welcome from a bottle of bubbly and some flowers from my friend Rai Caluori who is the Executive Vice President of Fleet Operations……………..Heidi was overjoyed with the flowers being from Holland and even told me the Latin names which are…………..the red ones are Smellius Stinkus and the yellow ones are Orchids Expensivus and are lovely.

We then received a call from the Passenger Services Director Martin Ford who is a fellow Brit and a true gentleman. He invited us to the bridge for sailing which is quite an honour. So, the official welcome has been amazing.

However, the welcome I was more interested in seeing was the one from the crew and all I can say so far …………it’s been brilliant…………………let me explain.

Once we had got passed the miserable security guards that work at all ship and airport terminals……………….ours was particularly rude and obviously someone had peed in her cornflakes that morning we were checked in quickly and boarded the Emerald Princess and immediately were cocooned in a world of happy and truly friendly crew. Now, having worked on a cruise ship for 20 years I can pretty much tell when a crew member is just in the robotic “here is a guest I must be nice and say hello” mode or the crew member that is as pleased to see you as he or she would be their own family and friends.

The welcome started as soon as we stood by the elevator waiting for it to arrive to take us to deck 12. The lobby area and the elevator its self was manned by two casino employees who welcomed us aboard, asked our deck and as the elevator started its journey the young lady from Hungary asked us where we were from and if this was our first cruise………….I told her we were both from Alabama which caused Heidi to punch me in the ribs and for Rajina our elevator pilot to have a good laugh.

We then met our Stateroom Steward whose name is Pairut from Thailand ………………………………..and who has a smile that would melt the ice on that penguin’s bottom I was just talking about.

You know………..I hope everyone reading the blog takes the time to learn about the crew the next time you cruise……………….I promise it will enhance the cruise so much more. Let me tell you about Pairut. He arrived today having flown in on Sunday and like me he spent three hours at the pleasure of Immigration. He is on his fourth contract with Princess and he loves…………and I mean …………..loves his job.

He misses his family very much and tomorrow he is going to show some photos to me…………………………he gave us a wonderful welcome and left us with the most endearing of welcomes in his own language …………….with hands together as if in prayer he said “sava decap”………………which is, no doubt, spelled incorrectly but who cares…………..it was a wonderful gesture and one that was to resonate around the vessel as we began our walk………………………..

I wonder though if Pairut will still be smiling when he has to pick my underwear up off the bathroom floor……………………..”sava de cap” may turn into………… “sava picup decrap”………………….but I doubt it.

We walked around the ship and of course I will be writing about all the areas later in the blog thingies but I want to concentrate on the crew just for now. Our first stop was……………….and I know this will come as a complete and utter shock ……………………..the Lido Deck Horizon Restaurant as it was 2 pm and time for my pill which I have to take with food……………..well, that’s my excuse anyway.

Heidi wanted to eat outside and there is a fabulous place for that over looking the aft part of the ship…………..more about that later. So, while Heidi went to get our lunch and I wandered outside looking for a vacant space. I was met by a very handsome young man whose name I have forgotten …………… bugger …………. that’s not his name…………….just bugger I cannot remember it.

What I do remember is that he was from Mexico and that is a place I cannot remember meeting many crew, if any, from before. he was a bar staff member and he asked me if I was looking for a table and directed me to a lovely spot over looking the aft pool. He asked me if I had been onboard the ship before and after a brief conversation where I discovered he was from Mexico City and on his second contract he left to get me a Diet Coke and Heidi a Heineken …………………………………………

Heidi wanted me to tell you that she had a glass of water but as she is currently making sure that my socks are folded correctly I shall take great pleasure in telling you that she had a beer………………at 2 pm. Heidi returned with two bowls of Pumpkin Soup and a plate of short ribs and vegetables……………………it was delicious. As we ate we overheard our first example that no matter what ship you sail on a passenger is a passenger……………………….”Morris, let’s go to complain …………I asked for early sitting and we got something else”…………….poor Morris looked like he would rather have tied a piece of my short rib around his neck and shoved his head in a lions mouth than follow Mrs. Battleaxe on her way to complain. She was a minority though as the ambiance started to take shape and the people looked as we did…………….amazed and impressed at this gorgeous ship and her outstandingly friendly crew.

After lunch I took the opportunity of being outside and as I stood up I let my wind break free and we continued our walk. We booked a table at Sabatini’s for tomorrow night and the Crown Grill for the following night. Each time we were met with smiles and hellos and more great smile

Heidi now wanted coffee so we headed for The Piazza. The last time I visited the ship time did not allow me to sit and take in the atmosphere but this time I had all the time in the world…………..or at least until boat drill.

The Piazza is so well designed as it is simply an area of entertainment and relaxation. There are no desks to purchase tours or for Mrs. Battleaxe to moan about her dining time. What the Piazza does is provide a coffee bar, complimentary daily deserts ………………yes, that’s right …………..complimentary and by the way you can pay $3 for a toffee apple………..there are days when you want to beat yourself up for being diabetic and seeing that toffee apple today was one of them.

Also in the Piazza you will find a wine bar, an internet cafe and most importantly of all…………………seating that is comfortable and inviting as a sign that says “come on in, there is free beer served by Jessica Simpson.”

You know, that’s half the secret right there……………not having Jessica Simpson serve beer but comfortable seating…………….if you have this then people will want to sit, buy a coffee or a glass of wine which is exactly what the Piazza is designed to do. If you have chairs (which some ships and many restaurants on land have) that feel like you have just sat on a porcupine then all the plans and amenities you have won’t be used.

The Piazza also has wonderful and unique live entertainment including street performers, jugglers, lions and performing seals…………….OK………………..I am joking of course…………there are no jugglers.

The young lady who served our coffee was from the Ukraine and I when I spoke to her in Russian she hit me with her tray…………….apparently instead of saying “May I have two cappuccinos, please” I actually said “May I pass gas in your shoe “………………………kidding………………..

I did speak to her using the little Russian I know and she was very grateful. Again, you are going to have to forgive me because like Paris Hilton taking a third grade test I failed miserably by not writing her name down. However this tall beautiful young lady did not just serve the coffees she stood and chatted with us. When she said thank you and started to leave I tried my Russian again this time saying “spasiba, dosvadania,” which I thought meant “thank you and good afternoon.” Apparently though it meant “you smell of rotten caviar ” and she gave me the good news with the tray.

Seriously though this young lady was yet another shining example of the crew who were making such an impression on me………………and as I looked around the Piazza I could see they were making the same impression on all the passengers.

It was while I was sitting in the Piazza and enjoying a cappuccino that I looked up and found I was suddenly surrounded by four passengers who had used stealth technology and without warning appeared by our table. They were Bob and Susan Grigsby and Adrienne and John Logan who are blog readers and cruised with me in Europe on the Carnival Liberty. We hugged and had photos taken and a great chat. Just after they left another couple came over and I went through the same process with Dennis and Margaret Evans………..the only difference was that Margaret was screaming at the top of her voice “Oh my God, oh my God, it’s John, it’s John” as though it was George Clooney sitting there drinking a cappuccino…………….naked.

After I had untangled myself from Mrs. Evans arms and our conversation ended with photos and hugs I sat down again. Heidi looked at me non-plussed as she is used to this by now………….however a couple who were seated at the next table lent across and said “I am sorry to bother you but are you famous?”…………………

I know……………I shouldn’t have……………..but I couldn’t help myself …………….. “yes” I said…………….I have my own sitcom on BBC America…………….What is it called,”asked the passenger……………after a quick pause I said “My Little Thingy” ……………”Oooh,” she said, I will have to watch it when I get home ………………..”Can I take your photo?”…………….”Yes,” I said…………….so she did!

I was invited to the bridge for sailing and met the charming Captain Giorgio Pomata whose interview we featured on yesterday’s blog. He is one of those Captains who you feel immediately at home with and who you know has the huge responsibility of this incredible ship resting on his shoulders. I also met Passenger Services Director Martin Ford and if you want to know the reason the crew are so friendly………………it’s him.

Friendliness has to start at the top and as we said goodbye to the Captain we walked together back into the guest areas and there was Martin saying hello to every passenger and just as importantly……………..every crewmember as well…………………….bravo Martin.

Joining us for the walk back was the ship’s Cruise Director James Lay. James was born to be a CD………………..that’s the best compliment I can give him……………there is nothing false…………..nothing pretentious…………….he is just James and once again there he was saying hello to every passenger many of which had obviously sailed with him before and were obviously so very happy to see him again……………….that’s an amazing testament.

We went to see the sail away party which had a Jamaican feel to it and as the calypso band played a song called “The Big Bamboo” the passengers danced and had a wonderful time. The happiest man on the ship must have been the bar manager as the waiters and bartenders probably wished they were Octopuses (is that a word?) so they could serve seven people at a time…………….I know it should be eight but they need one to carry the tray.

James and I chatted about the job and I hope he got as much out of our meeting as I did……..he is a great guy and I am immensely looking forward to seeing his show tonight.

Well, its now 7:15pm and time for me to get ready and send this first blog thingy. I will pick up the story from dinner onwards later tonight. However, enjoy the photos and I have to say that today I understand already why this company and this ship are so highly thought of……………………I am honoured to be here.

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Gifts Galore

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Heidi at lunch

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The British Ensign

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Friendly Crew and Tasty Pastries

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John’s coffee

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The Gingsbys and the Logans

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The Piazza

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The Piazza

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Vines, the wine bar

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Vines, the wine bar

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The Maasdam sailing away

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Guests having fun

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Guests having fun

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Blogging in the cabin

I have one complaint………………..and you are going to think I am making this up……………….I promise and swear on all I love I really am not……………………In the cabin next to us and the in the next five are all occupied by people from……………………….France………………………..yep ……………………………Murphy has crapped on me yet again……………………..France.

Heidi thought this was hysterical………………..I, on the other hand, find nothing funny and have already warned Pairut to wear a surgical mask when he cleans the cabin…………………Frenchmen next door…………………..Le Bugger.

Goodnight from a FANTASTIC SHIP

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.