I smell………….I have been flying for 8 hours…..I just got home and boy do I need a shower……all I need to do is to act rude and coupled with the stench emanating from my body I could walk around the streets of Paris and blend in with no
problem at all.

Good Evening. It’s 6 pm here in the U.K. and Heidi and I are home safe after a long trip. You know, every time I think to myself, I will have nothing to write about, things happen and once again our journey home was eventful to say the least.

The Passenger Service Director, Martin, had organized a van for us to take us to Barbados International Airport and after the cases were loaded in and poor Troy, our driver, strained his back from the super human effort needed to do so, we began what we thought was our journey to the airport ………………….wrong.

After just one minute’s journey we stopped and were told by Troy that we had to unload all the cases and present ourselves through Barbados customs.

Troy stopped the van and said he would go and fetch the Customs Officer which was just a ploy not to lift the 3 baby elephants that were camouflaged as suitcases. So that was me lifting the suitcases out of the van in temperatures hot enough to have George Hamilton in his thong soaking up the sun. It was sweltering. Miraculously, Troy appeared as soon as the last elephant had touched the sidewalk and told us we had to take the suitcases to Barbados Customs and Excise’s central office. This sounded very official, however, it turned out to be one very rotund lady sitting on a stool…………which didn’t look happy that she was.

I dragged the suitcases over to the Officer and wished her a good afternoon…….she looked as happy as the stool was to have her three bottoms perched on it.

My wishes that she had a good afternoon were rewarded by her telling me to open all the suitcases……….I couldn’t believe this and when she said that I thought Heidi was going to cry………….not because we had anything to hide…………the only thing I was smuggling was 15 pairs of my unwashed underwear and had she been an Environmental Officer I may have been concerned.

The reason both Heidi and I were upset was that it had taken every one of my 280 pounds (the equivalent of one of the Custom’s Ladies Buttocks) sitting on the cases that had enabled it to close.

So, there I was in the terminal building with hundreds of cruise ship passengers walking around……….I was hot……….I had Heidi about to turn into the Exorcist…………and now Mrs. Four Bottoms was rummaging through my underwear…………it couldn’t get any worse…………….of course it could and did as you will see.

Anyway, after my new best friend was comfortable that I was smuggling any health foods into the country we were allowed to go but not before once again I had to give the three Samsonites a lap dance.

We were back in the van and Troy had the sense not to offer to help load the suitcases back into the van………his tip drastically reduced in size at the same time.

Off we went to the airport. I have not been to Barbados since the Millenium cruise on the Carnival Triumph and I had forgotten how beautiful it’s coast and beaches are. It is still considered THE place to vacation by the rich and yuppie Brits and at the 5 star hotels are full of people called Biff and Wendy all talking like they have plums in their mouth…………or Bells Palsy.

Anyway, I enjoyed seeing Barbados even though due to my suitcase adventures my arm pits were doing their Niagara Falls impression. We arrived at the airport and I was looking forward some air conditioning……..we had some in the cab and I needed that to continue in the airport……….it didn’t…………..why…………because every check in desk is outside…………yep………..outside………in 3000 degrees of oppressive heat………..I was sweating so much and smelt so bad Heidi started calling me Jean Pierre.

We presented ourselves through Immigration and then through airport security who when they asked me to take my shoes off and looked perplexed as thy tried to discover why the area suddenly smelt of molding Brie cheese.

We waited for the flight to be called and amazingly it was on time and as I walked up the 300 stairs to the aircraft (no causeway here of course) I thought maybe Murphy had gotten bored and had decided to crap on someone else………………wrong.

I should start by saying that we were lucky to fly Business Class or Upper Class as only a British airline would call themselves and I will mention now that the service was brilliant and that everyone of the Cabin Attendants could have been models…….even the men………….one of the men could in fact have been a male of a female model …………anyway, as I sat in my big leather chair and looked at the way it turned into a flat bed………looked at the big TV and the 300 channels of movies and games etc I started to relax a little…………..and then that big sod Murphy returned.

The Captain announced that we would be shortly taking off but before we did he needed to apologize that due to “bad quality water ” there would be no hot drink service and that there was also no running water in the bathrooms and we would have to wash our hands with liquid hand gels.

Bad quality water?????………….what did that mean….had a pair of my underwear fallen into the tank……..was the water from Mexico………..had one of my Parisian friends swam in it?

We would never know………….all I knew was that I would not be getting my cup of tea.

Working in the service industry you learn to just accept things like this and apart from one very snobby Brit who was giving one of the supermodels a bollocking about why this was unacceptable etc for the most part everyone was ok.

So we took off and both Heidi and I were lost in our own private thoughts about the amazing time we had on the Emerald Princess. The flight was good with very little turbulence and although I had a flat bed and took two Tylenol PM tablets sleep ignored me like girls ignore my mate Alan.

Anyway, I passed the time by watching a complete series of an HBO series called Entourage which is brilliantly written and acted. Heidi meanwhile was fast asleep and I envied her for that……….she can sleep anywhere, anytime.

I have one more thing to tell you about the journey home but first the news.

Let’s start with a worry I have. I know that the real reason for my blog thingy was to write about the ship and my experiences. For the next two months the blogs will be about cruise news, my life on land and upcoming visits to some of our brand new corporation ships as well as a visit to say goodbye to an old friend. I will also be writing about my experiences in Europe when from the 4th to the 19th of April I will be setting up the tours and ports for the Carnival Splendor………….my worry is that during this time………..will you all continue to read or will you switch over to another channel…………I hope not.

Now, I will as promised from the end of April start to answer every comment once again………..I truly know how important this is to all of you and indeed to me so please keep the comments coming ……….I read each and every one.

One more addition to my travel schedule. On April 27th I fly to Los Angeles to film a segment for the USA channel. This will be part of their “live your dream” programming where upon the channel helps people live their dream jobs……….some want to be Lion tamers or NASCAR Drivers or Heart Surgeons and some actually wanted to be …………Cruise Directors.

Carnival agreed to help with this and I will be filming with this winner onboard the Carnival Paradise. I will let you know when the program airs so you can all watch…………it’s a 14 hour journey by plane but from London to California but if that journey helps someone realize a life long ambition to be a CD then I will be happy to help and ask for nothing in return…………..except 1st class……limo and a suite at the hotel.

Anyway, I will of course take you all along for the ride as well.

Heidi and I were waiting for our taxi to come and pick us up this morning at Gatwick when we saw a small crowd of about a dozen or so people all gathered round a car…………we both thought that someone famous was about to step out of it but after a while I realized it wasn’t someone famous getting in or out of the car that had caused an ever growing crowd to gather………….it was the car itself…………a Rolls Royce Phantom…………..probably the most exclusive and now famous car………………..in the world.

There are few things that generate excitement like this however one thing that will without a doubt cause a crowd to gather………….is………..the sight of a Cunard Smokestack on the horizon heading into port.

Back in November I wrote about the naming ceremony of the Queen Victoria and just after that amazing experience she sailed on her 1st ever world cruise.

So, I thought it would be super to catch up with her adventures and to discover if indeed the crowds had been gathering to welcome her. ……….who better then to tell us all about her then the Master of the Queen Victoria.

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1. Captain, I am sure you have had a wonderful journey which has led you to be the Master of the Queen Victoria. Please can you tell us about your life at sea.

My introduction to ships and the sea came very early in my early life was growing up in the great entrepot ports of Colombo and Singapore where my father had much to do with ships and some of the officers became family friends. Also traveling as a child with my family to and from was by sea. The liners of that period traveled between England and Australasia via ‘the East’. These great white liners represented to me the highest standards in seagoing professionalism and lifestyle. So anyway when the time came going to sea was almost predestined. Firstly as a cadet in a New Zealand shipping company from the age of 17 then, once I qualified as an deck officer, I joined my first liner, the SS Oronsay of the P&O Line, which was on voyages between Australia and Europe via North America with summer cruising seasons in both South Pacific and Europe. Since then I have remained with passenger cruise ships or liners ever since visiting almost every port to be seen on the itineraries of cruise ships and liners. Following promotion to captain I’ve had the privilege of command in nine vessels including all three Queens; Queen Elizabeth 2, Queen Mary 2 and the new Queen Victoria. To widen my professional experience I did serve with British Royal Navy’s Reserve for some years, ‘grey funnel line’.

These years at sea have shown me many wonderful experiences. Places, people and of the natural world.

2. Can you tell us about the Queen Victoria’s journey so far on this magnificent cruise so far. Where has she sailed and what’s still to come.

Queen Victoria is on her maiden season and maiden world voyage so every port of call is a first and of course accompanied by welcome ceremonies. Since departing Southampton, England, her home port, she has crossed the Atlantic to New York then gone south to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and up the west coast visiting Costa Rica and Mexico to complete the first segment of the voyage in Los Angeles. Next segment was across the Pacific via tropical island destinations to New Zealand and Australia were I took over from Captain Paul Wright for the second half.

This current segment of the voyage has taken us up to tropical Queensland and inside the Great Barrier Reef to Asia. We have recently visited Hong Kong, Singapore and several ports in Vietnam and Malaysia and ports around the coast of India and are now on route to Dubai. This time in Asia is in the season of the ‘North East Monsoon’ in which we enjoy the most marvelous weather of clear skies, light winds and slight seas for the weeks we are here and is one of my favourite sea routes for this reason to which is added exoticism of the East. The final segment of this ‘Pathways to the Explorers’ World Cruise (Cunard give a unique name to every World Voyage) will visit Oman, Egypt, transit the Suez Canal and then, via Mediterranean ports of call, return to Southampton on April 22nd for late spring.

3. How many guests are sailing for the entire voyage?

747 Guests are doing the whole world voyage. This is a high percentage and a number we have seen grow over the past five years in Cunard. Interestingly quite a number have chosen a world cruise for their first ever sea voyage, and love it. For them the expression “a civilized adventure” applies. However many others will recount to you the number of previous world voyages they have completed and go ashore with the confidence that belongs to travelers who know exactly what they want to do and where to go. “We always go for tea in the Taj when in Mumbai”

4. The sight of a Cunard smokestack causes emotion wherever it is seen. I understand that although welcomed warmly everywhere that she received a special welcome in Australia. What can you tell us about that moment?

The people of the City of Sydney, Australia, have a great affinity with their beautiful harbour and with these liners that visit once a year. They turn out in boats by the hundred and on the foreshores in their thousands and when it comes to an event such as this visit, a new Cunard liner in rendezvous with the Queen Elizabeth 2 on her final call, it makes for a spectacular event. These two liners passed in the harbour as if passing the baton of tradition in sea travel, one each side of a small island fort dwarfed by them both. Whistles were blown, one ship then the other, again and again and people waving celebrating the spectacle of it all. I should add that the famous ‘smoke stacks’ or funnels also have whistles or horns that are both deeper and louder than normally fitted to ships for just this sort of event. The sound is so evocative of another era of travel and is thrilling to all who hear them.

5. You must be so proud to be Master of this amazing vessel. What is it about her that makes her so popular already even though she is but 5 months old?

She is a modern liner but very much in the tradition of the great liners of the past in the interior design of her public spaces which are magnificent, in our service style which we call our ‘White Star’ service, and the lifestyle which our guests can enjoy here. Really all the things that make this the other Cunard ships a choice. Legacy & tradition, grandeur and elegance, British ‘signatures’ in all we do. And a sense of community, our passengers find themselves in like minded company or are repeaters and know many of our ship’s company or crew. Also these ‘legendary voyages’ such as we are on right now.

6. The Captain’s position on a Cunard ship requires a lot of social time with the guests. Do you enjoy this aspect and who are some of the more memorable people you have met?

The people aspect of Cunard liners is important as well as personally rewarding. Each day at sea I endeavor to walk round late morning and again late afternoon to see and hear how things are. Also in the crew and working areas, it is just as important to maintain that familiar contact.

Evening social events are approximately every second evening and are fully engaging social events in the company of fellow officers. On a voyage I will personally greet all the guests one or more times. The Captain’s Table is another feature on the formal nights, navigational duties permitting. Add this to all the management, planning, emergency exercises and navigation duties of a captain and you have a pretty busy life.

Over the last two years for example I have had the enjoyment of meeting Lenny Kravitz, Uma Thurman, Baroness Deech, British Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, to name a few.. presently onboard eminent scientist Lord Robert Winston, here as an enrichment lecturer, a most interesting and thought provoking speaker.

It is a job you must enjoy in order to do it, and fortunately this is so.

7. How if at all do you find time to relax while onboard……………..and………..I recently visited New Zealand and I have to say it was simply stunning. Can you tell us why new Zealand in your opinion is so popular now with tourists?

Relaxing on board… I actually have to exercise some discipline to ensure this otherwise there will always be more things to do. The essential thing is to get enough exercise and enough sleep to keep up the energy to do the job and be productive. Whilst I have a television, a new flat screen type, and I am sure there is a lot worth viewing, it is seldom more than something to fall asleep in front of. Click on the remote and suddenly I am out of it. Better just to read in bed after a busy day, and read something that is totally different from the world of work. I seldom see the evening entertainment. Now I know to the Entertainment Director that may seem unappreciative but I just have to rely on others to tell me how it is.

I try to get to the gym every other day, not too much excuse here, the gym is one deck up from the bridge. My wife announces quite firmly ‘today is a gym day’ often just as I am thinking of taking a break for lunch. So lunch is deferred.

As for the attractions of New Zealand; it is a young, clean and green country with a small population and a British/Maori heritage. It offers different things to different people. For some peace and uncrowded quiet connects them to a less complex or busy age. For others its the adventure sports. The scenery is a major feature for both. Mountains, volcanoes, wonderful rivers, fiords and sea coast. It is an excellent cruising destination with all the main cities set on the shores of beautiful harbours so those who visit by sea are in the centre of the scene. And there are the wilderness areas that can be seen best only by sea, the fiords and sounds of the South Island.

8. When I visited the vessel one of the areas that I thought was just spectacular was the Queens Room. Can you describe how the atmosphere is here on a formal evening and are there any other areas of the ship that are your favorites?

The Queens Room is about elegance and style and on a formal evening guests match this in their dress and the company of like minded people. There is a big band, a singer, various themed balls that fill the room with people. One couple the other day told me they choose to travel Cunard for the ballroom dancing.

Ten gentlemen hosts ensure single ladies have partners.

An area of the ship that is my favourite is the Cafe Carinthia. Comfortable and rich furnishings in the style of the a Cunarder early last century, subdued colours, intimate atmosphere, views of the sea between velvet curtains. To immerse yourself in this room is to be transported back in time, and of course good coffee and pastries amongst the offerings. I often call by on my morning walkabout on sea days. French style deckhead design also dates from this period.

9 . Working at sea myself I know that everyone misses home. Are there any particular things outside of your family that you miss or indeed miss doing during your time away?

Wonderful as sea life is what I most miss is the natural environment of forest and seashore away from people and man made things and sounds.

We find this environment in New Zealand and in the national parks that border harbours of my wife’s home city of Sydney Australia.

Very much enjoy sailing and messing around in boats, a different sort of sailoring. A simpler lifestyle.

10. OK, as is tradition here on the blog thingy, please can you fill in the blanks. The scenario is that you are hosting a Captain’s Table on the Queen Victoria and you get to choose your guests and menu.

The food should include all your own personal favorites as it is after all your table.

HERE WE GO

APPETIZER – Symphony of Seafood with Marinated Jumbo Shrimp, Salmon Tartare, Salmon Mousse with Caviar

SOUP – Tomato Soup with Fresh Basil.

FISH COURSE OR PASTA COURSE – Grilled Dover Sole with Chive Lemon Butter.

MAIN COURSE – Lamb with mint sauce, roast parsnip, pumpkin and peas. Also roast potatoes cooked in such a way as the outside is crispy,(My wife knows how to do this and may have to advise the chef).

DESERT – Bread and Butter: Pudding with Sultanas

TABLE GUESTS

SOMEONE FROM THE WORLD OF SPORT

Grant Dalton. International yachtsman from New Zealand. Met him way once back at the time Australia was defending the Americas Cup in Western Australia, I was on a cruise ship chartered by New Zealand interests.

He went on compete with success in the grueling Round the World Yacht Race known as the Whitbread then the Volvo Ocean Race and most recently managed the New Zealand challenger for the Americas Cup. In the grueling environment of ocean yacht racing the pressures of international match racing, both of which require the highest level of team building and team work, he is a man I would like to talk to and hear something of the drama that accompanies such fierce competitions. In the America’s Cup last year ‘Emirates Team New Zealand’ yacht lost the series to the Alighi in Barcelona by just one second. That must have been tough. A fellow sailor but, you could say, for the other end of the spectrum.

SOMEONE TO MAKE YOU LAUGH

Michael Pallin, English comedian, actor writer and traveller and television presenter. Like many of my generation Monty Python was a cult in its original years and I love revisiting some of those skits but Pallin is a great travel presenter and the humour he elicits is a delight. In the TV series, ‘Pole to Pole’, I think, an Egyptian camel driver, keen to ingratiate himself and win custom, tells Pallin that he is also called Michael and so is the camel. The scene is then set where the ‘three Michaels’ set off for the pyramids.

SOMEONE FROM THE CRUISE INDUSTRY

Bob Dickinson, recently retired and hopefully has time to relax and no doubt have a few anecdotes to tell. Also believe he is an expert on wine so I would pass the wine list his way to make the choice for my guests that complements the dinner.

SOMEONE TO ENGAGE YOU IN WONDERFUL CONVERSATION

Cunard ships’ engage wonderful guest lecturers and I often invite one of these to join the table. A recent one who would be great stimulus to dinner table conversation is Sir Harold Evans; journalist, writer and editor. Amongst his many achievements he was founding editor of Conde Naste Traveller and author of the history ‘American Century’. Notwithstanding his British origins he could very ably represent America in his views.

A FAMOUS ACTOR

Helen Mirren. Recently had the lead role in ‘The Queen’. A very appropriate person to have aboard a ship which has associations with royalty. However in an interview I read not long ago she presented as lively and somewhat controversial and this would further stimulate the table conversation

A BEAUTIFUL LADY

My wife. She is my companion on board full time these days and co-hosts the Captain’s Table. She mixes very well and is a wonderful asset in the all the social environments on board.

We sit at opposite ends of the table and she and I have a practice of changing seats prior to dessert to allow us to better engage all our guests in conversation.

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Captain, thank you so very much for sharing in those brilliant moments of this now famous Ocean Liner’s life. I hope we can catch up with you again soon and I hope to maybe shake your hand personally when I hope to visit you in Southampton. Bon Voyage Captain and thank you on behalf of the thousands of daily readers of this humble blog thingy.

So, it’s time for a shower and to unpack but before I do all that I wanted to make sure I wrote to you all. Heidi is unpacking and opening all the windows as our house has not been lived in for two months.

One last thing then before I go. The flight home was good and as we landed I felt sure that we had left Murphy in Barbados……………wrong.

There we stood……….watching the carousel finally stop………and yes……….you have guessed it….one of our suitcases is missing and guess whose it is……….yep………….mine….you couldn’t make stuff like this up.

So, me and about 20 other passengers walked to the service desk where we were told that unfortunately one of the baggage trolleys had not been loaded on the aircraft and was still in Barbados and that it would arrive on Thursday morning as their is no flight tomorrow.

We did no laundry on the Emerald Princess……they already smelt bad……….now my underwear and socks are sitting on the runway in Barbados in a suitcase………can you imagine how that case will smell by Thursday…………Viva La France.

So, it’s been another eventful day and now jet lag has set in and I can hardly see the key board. We are going to Mum and Dads tonight for dinner and I have a feeling I may fall asleep with my head in the Yorkshire Pudding. Tomorrow I drive back to the airport so Heidi can take a short flight to Amsterdam so she can see Mum…………….who misses her very much as I do my Mum and Dad.

After my trip to the airport bits off to a shop called High and Mighty to find some XXL underpants……..bugger!

Goodnight and a special thank you in advance for continuing to read the blog thingy

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.