I am sitting on a bus, the computer on the tray table which is making a permanent indentation on my stomach, blogging on a bus is as difficult as translating the words “personal hygiene”…into French.

It’s 9 am and for the last hour and a half we have been on and off the bus at all of Helsinki’s top sites. These include the gorgeous Cathedral in Senate Square, the Houses of Parliament and the stunning Rock Church which has been carved out of granite rock…………….the clue was in its name. We also have just visited a monument to Sibelius the great Finnish composer and now we are on our way somewhere else…………..I have no idea where but I will let you know when we get there.

Unfortunately the weather is awful and it has been raining since we awoke at 6 am and every time I film a segment for the travel video I remind people that they will be here in the summer and hopefully the weather will be sunny. It really is a cold, damp, grey day and as we drive now the streets are quiet and there are few cars on the road. This may be that Finland only has a population of 5 million and they are spread out all over the country with just 550,000 here in the capital.

Out of the 550,000 people I have seen only 11 today……………maybe everyone woke up, saw the weather and thought sod this, I am going back to work………………..maybe they are all having a sauna.

It is so interesting to see what people from different lands eat for breakfast. This morning the Finnish people seemed to be munching on a salad …………..this included peppers, onions, lettuce and cheese with bread that looked like it still had big lumps of chocolate in it. I am sure it wasn’t chocolate and was probably some healthy seed thingy but it looked like bread with lumps of Godiva in it.

I didn’t fancy a lettuce and chocolate sandwich at 7 am so I asked the waitress for a fried egg…………..she gave me a look as though I had just asked for Fried Hippopotamus in a sauce made of baboon urine ………..I smiled and thought maybe she didn’t speak English and turning into a tourist I asked again only this time louder and slower……………can………..I …………..have………….a……………..fried egg …………. please.

Turns out that Helga did indeed speak perfect English as she said……….no…………..sorry…………….no eggs.

So, that was me nibbling on lettuce and onions while Heidi enjoyed yogurt and some cereal thing ………. bugger.

Here is the news.

I have been invited to drive to Southampton to visit the Queen Mary 2 on April 22. Also there will be the Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth 2 ……………. Southampton hasn’t seen this many Queens since Cher held a concert in the city.

Seriously, it is an honour to be invited for the day and I will be sure to take you all along with me for the ride. I also hope to take Alan with me. He may never get to cruise again but if I can I would love to be able to let him see this mighty ship. Anyway, my thanks in advance to Cunard for allowing me this great privilege.

Oh, turns out that Carnival thought my humble musings here on the blog worthy of another press release………..what an honor.

Here it is:

BLOG OF CARNIVAL’S SENIOR CRUISE DIRECTOR JOHN HEALD APPROACHING TWO MILLION VISITOR MARK

Daily Traffic to Site Has Increased 55 Percent Over Past Month

MIAMI (April 8, 2008) – The blog of Carnival Cruise Lines’ Senior Cruise Director John Heald continues to set new milestones, with the number of total hits approaching two million and daily visitors increasing 55 percent over the past month. Heald’s blog can be accessed via www.carnival.com or www.johnhealdsblog.com.

The dramatic increase in traffic can be attributed to interesting and entertaining new postings focusing on Carnival’s upcoming European and Alaska cruise seasons, as well as additional exposure through various cross-promotional opportunities.

The new content includes Heald’s humorous account of his recent trips to Denmark and Finland to research shore excursion choices for the new Carnival Splendor’s inaugural Northern Europe cruises this summer, and a daily journal from Chris Roberts, cruise director aboard the Carnival Spirit, who offers his own unique perspective in preparing for the vessel’s Alaska program that kicks off in May.

Through their on-line postings, Heald and Roberts not only provide readers with valuable information on two highly attractive and popular “Fun Ship” cruise destinations but also keen insight into the countless hours of work that takes place behind the scenes in creating fun and exciting landside experiences for Carnival guests.

“Over the past few months I have tried to include new features such as Chris Roberts’ unique and colorful insights into Alaska, which has been very well received by readers. I am flabbergasted by the continued popularity of the blog and plan on writing for a long time to come. Thanks to everyone who takes their valuable time to have a look at my thingy every day,” Heald said.

Originally launched as part of the Carnival Freedom’s inaugural European cruise season, Heald’s engaging personality and candid commentary proved so popular that he continued writing the blog, which celebrated its one-year anniversary last month.

Heald has posted near-daily reports while traveling through Europe in preparation of the arrival of the Carnival Splendor. He will serve as that ship’s senior cruise director throughout its Northern Europe, Mediterranean and Caribbean programs.

Within the blog, Heald regales readers with entertaining and often poignant stories about the people and places he comes in contact with on a daily basis, all with his offbeat wit and deadpan humor.

The popularity of the blog has led to the second annual “John Heald’s Bloggers Cruise” aboard the Carnival Fantasy from New Orleans Feb. 7-12, 2009, which looks to match the success of the first Bloggers Cruise earlier this year that attracted more than 800 of Heald’s most ardent fans.
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Carnival Cruise Lines, a unit of Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE/LSE: CCL; NYSE: CUK), is a proud member of the exclusive World’s Leading Cruise Lines. Our exclusive alliance also includes Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Cunard Line, Costa Cruises, and The Yachts of Seabourn. Sharing a passion to please each guest, and a commitment to quality and value, our member lines appeal to a wide range of lifestyles and budgets. Together, we offer exciting and enriching cruise vacations to the world’s most desirable destinations.

This is a very modern coach that I am sitting in and like George Hamilton’s Bentley it has heated seats. You press a button on the arm rest and your seat heats up………….Heidi thought it would be hilarious to switch mine on and for the last 5 minutes I have had a very uncomfortable feeling and eventually Heidi’s giggling gave the game away………thanks to her I know have steamed hemorrhoids.

I have to say that the Finnish countryside is, even in the rain………….simply splendid and now we are pulling up at another manor house that has the unfortunate name of Krapi Manor ……………. good…………because after the heated seat that’s exactly what I need.

BACK SOON.

In the meantime here is the latest from our friend Bubba.

Alaska Fam 2008 – The Halfway Point

Well up early yet again to sounds of the Clash playing out of my cell phone…Should I stay or should I go now? Packed up and checked out of another hotel. There are few hotels in Skagway. This one reminded me of an old truckers roadside lodge. The outside did not look too impressive but the inside was very nice. I had a pretty good night’s sleep but woke up at 6am. Sun comes up early here, but stayed in the bed till the cell phone told me it was time to get up.

We were off to Broadway….yes Broadway, but not the Great White Way. It is the main street in Skagway. The strip, the miracle mile….well not quite a mile. Walking down the roads the sidewalks are made from wood, so as you walk you feel like you have been flashed back in time to the days of the gold rush. We stopped for breakfast in a place called the Sweet Tooth Café. A mom and pop type restaurant where I got a huge helping of biscuits and gravy and a side of hash browns. The place was jumping with lots of activity. Guess all the locals in having breakfast before they head to work.

This morning we were on the Ghosts & Goodtime Girls tour. Where we learn the history of Skagway through the help of one of the ladies of the night. Our guide was Madam Ivanna Mountie….she’s Canadian. In this walking tour you learn the highlights of the history of Skagway about some of the known haunted areas and see where the red light districts were. The tour is filled with funny innuendo and is very interactive with your guide. Most people start out a bit shy around the Madam, but using her super powers; she draws you into the story and will have you in stitches. The tour ends up in the Red Onion Saloon which was an actual brothel during the gold rush days. You will walk through each of the rooms which are filled with items that were found in the Red Onion many years ago. Here’s some pics from today’s walk….

This is our stop down one of the alleys in town. The building behind is to be a brothel during the gold rush days. Here your Madam will tell you how the origin of the Red Light District came to be in Skagway and how this particular brothel worked. The house is now a residence so don’t expect anyone to be hanging a red light in their window.

A close up of our Madam. She was giving me the eye during the whole trip.  You’ll see on her arm she has garters. Everyone on the walking tour will get one of these.

This building was a one room “crib” or “house of negotiable affection.” Much like in Amsterdam the large window would be where the lady would stand to try and attract business. Of course now it has become something else…a rental car company…where you can still get a ride for a few bucks.

You’ll also see some interesting sight along the way…the log cabin above was the first building in Skagway, the home of William Moore who discovered the area, and below that is the Saloon once owned by the famous outlaw Soapy Smith.

Inside the Red Onion your Madam will take you upstairs and show you a good time, plus there is plenty of good photo ops along the way.

Of course they don’t only glamorize the time of the brothel and the gold rush. They will also tell you about some of the hard times that people would put themselves through. Plus some great stories about some of the Famous Ladies of the Gold Rush Days.

There is an age restriction on this tour because of the content. But if you want a nice walk around town filled with some colorful history….Ghost & Goodtime Girls is the way to go.

After we parted from the Red Onion we headed down to the docks as we must say good bye to Skagway. I am sad to go because I have really found a liking for this town and the people who keep the history alive here. We said our goodbyes to our hosts and boarded the ferry for the Alaska Marine Highway. We are on the “fast ferry” which is going to get us to Juneau in about 4 hours. I’d hate to see what the “slow ferry” does. But we’ll find some quiet time to reflect on the last few days and prepare for another day in Juneau before heading to Sitka.

James and I are planning to spend some of the time to go over the travel talk to make sure I am remembering all of the details that I have seen along our travels. I am really looking forward to doing the talk when we get to the Alaska season so I can relay some of my passion for this itinerary. We’ll see you tomorrow!

Ciao for now, Chris

What a wonderful lunch at the Krapi Manor we had. The Finnish certainly know how to eat and today’s lunch which is the same menu we feature on one of our tours consisted of elk, which tastes like ……….. well, elk and lots of fresh fish. The Finns also love potatoes and prepare them in many different and tasty ways.

After lunch we spent the afternoon in pouring rain exploring the birthplace and country home of Finland’s most famous composer, Sibelius, and then it was off to an open-air museum where the guests can see Finland of the past and how they used to live. These sights are all part of our Architecture, Music and the Arts tours and if those three things are subjects you enjoy then these are tours you really must take. We also saw a powerboat thrill ride to a private island as well as the rest of what exciting Helsinki has to offer.

As I mentioned, it has been raining very hard and I have been soaked to the skin but happy. Finland is a beautiful country and it is a shame that I do not have a head that can rotate 360 degrees as there is so much to see. The countryside is especially gorgeous and any tour that includes a trip outside of Helsinki as well as the countryside would be the tours for me. .

I have been learning today about the rivalry between Finland and Sweden. Every country has another country that they make fun of. In England it’s the Irish and in Holland it’s the Belgians.

There is the same sense of fun between the Finns and the Swedes. Example: how do you sink a Swedish submarine? Answer…………………knock on the hatch………….thanks to our guide and tour company owner for that joke and for the brilliant time we have all had.

Finland is a beautiful country and it’s hard to say what I would recommend. Certainly Helsinki is a great town but for me……….the Finnish countryside stole the show. The tours we have are varied and my advice is to pack as much into your day as you can…………..this is one port you will not want to miss a moment of.

Tomorrow we have a 5 am wake up call for an 8 am flight to Tallinn Estonia………why not come along for the ride?

Here are today’s photos:

One last thing…………the last few days I have eaten Herring, Elk, Herring, Reindeer, Herring and tonight I was asked to try bear ………………….. yep ……………….. bear……………..I refused as Heidi would have placed me in the doghouse forever. I have loved Finland and Denmark but at this point I am desperate for some normal food.

If I was offered a choice between spending a week in Tahiti with Jessica Simpson or Cheeseburger and Fries, Jessica would be traveling alone.

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.