Seoul Sisters

April 9, 2008 -

John Heald

I looked at the plane and immediately knew it was not a good day to be my underwear………….the airline was called Comm Air and where normally you would have big powerful jet engines there were two little ceiling fans stuck to the wing.

It was only 8 am and in the darkness of the Finnish morning and as the rain lashed down it made the plane look smaller and more foreboding. We had to be bussed to the plane as the Finnish authorities were probably too embarrassed to put it close to the terminal. So, we started to board for our flight to Tallinn, Estonia, and it looked like I would be sharing the flight with a few businessmen who had a coffee in one hand and mobile phone tightly clutched in the other.

Also on the flight surprisingly was a big group of 20 something Korean girls. They all wore the same smart clothing including a jacket that proudly displayed that they were part of the Korean Volleyball Team. Now, not to get stereotypical here but where as some of them were reasonably tall others…. well….. were not.

Anyway, they, like the rest of us looked horrified when they saw the model aircraft we were about to fly on. So, we boarded and took our seats which I should point out half of which I took of the plane with me as it became embedded in me.

After the safety drill which consisted of a shockingly blonde and very pale cabin attendant had told us how to put on the seat belt we started to taxi down the runway. Now either the runway was full of potholes or the plane was running on the same tires I used to have on my old Triumph Spitfire.

However, the potholes were soon forgotten as the Captain revved up the mighty V.W. a runway and were overtaken by a rabbit with a prosthetic paw that I knew we were in trouble. It was at this point that I started to wish that the Oxygen Masks that Mr. Transparent the Cabin Attendant had told us about would rather than have Oxygen in them have helium…I wanted to go up when the plane went down.

As we took off the two Korean ladies in the seats on the opposite isle looked as though they were going to pass out with fear……………they were clinging on to each other for dear life and in fact as I looked down the plane I could see all the rest of the South Korean team doing the same……one was in absolute tears.

These tears turned into gasps and much closing of eyes as ten minutes into the flight we dropped into an air pocket the size of the Grand Canyon ……………. there were high pitched yelps like a small dog who just had Rosanne Barr stand on his foot…………..the girls were now in full panic mode and some cried some closed their eyes and one girl further down the plane shared her breakfast with the bag located in the seat pockets.

Even Heidi who like me is used to flying looked a little concerned but the little plane with the V.W. powered ceiling fans eventually began its approach into Tallinn and as its bicycle wheels touched the runway the entire group of girls from Seoul, Korea broke into rapturous applause.

So, here we were in Tallinn. We were met by the tour operators who had obviously miscalculated that the ten of us would have more than one suitcase between us as they brought a van smaller than my suitcase alone. Anyway, we somehow managed to squeeze the cases on and we were off to the hotel.

We finished at 10 pm last night and it was midnight by the time I had finished blogging and then 5 am when the alarm pissed me off…………at this point I have as much energy as an empty can of Red Bull as we begin our day of exploration.

What do we know of Estonia? Well, it declared its full independence from Russia in 1991 and is now a member of the European Union. I am sitting here on the bus and while it is obvious as I look out of the window that Estonia is economically improving each and every day through constant modernization, there are reminders of the days when the chap with the ink stain on his head ruled their land. Most of these reminders come through the stark, lifeless concrete apartment buildings built during Soviet times.

However, for the most part the capital, Tallinn, seems like any other big Eastern European city, fast paced and constantly trying to show the West that it wants to sit at the table with the grown ups.

The local currency here is called Krone. Most shops in the old town will take Euros but nobody wants the US Dollar. All major credit cards are accepted although American Express less so.

Please excuse my spelling by the way as the road was obviously made by the same company who drew up the flight path of our plane ride here. There are huge holes everywhere and it’s not was balancing a computer on your lap while Ivor Ernhardtov drives us to the ancient town of Rakvere.

We just returned from the castle of Rakvere. This 16th century fortress has seen many battles including it being used as a command center by the German forces during World War II. However, those dark times have been turned into times of fun as its medieval history is relived. Families will enjoy living in the past, learning the art of jousting, archery, sword play as well as lots of activities and fun for the kids. Lunch is served medieval style which means you get to wipe your mouth on your sleeve and treat the women as servants……………….just as it should be :))

After the castle visit we saw the beautiful national park and manor house called Palmse which featured a collection of Russian and German vintage motor cars and bikes. You know, it’s easy to forget that Estonia has been occupied and ruled by the Russians twice and the Germans and both these cultures have left a permanent impression on the country.

Tomorrow, we will visit the port and the old town which is the main attraction here. Heidi and I visited during the Carnival Leg-end’s trip of 2002 and we both felt that it was one of the highlights of that voyage. We cannot wait to see it again tomorrow.

Right now Ivor is driving as though he is been chased by the KGB and I am really glad that the lady from Korea is not it the bus with us as I am sure she would have shared another meal with everybody.

One thing about today, it has been colder than I can remember for a long time. The temperature plummeted to below zero and with the wind it felt like something was bound to fall off………..I was colder than I have been in years…………..and remember, I come with insulation as standard.

Let’s do the news.

Firstly, its time to give a huge standing ovation to Carnival Cruise Lines and the Arison family …………. here’s why.


MIAMI (April 9, 2008) — A new comprehensive pediatric intensive care unit at Miami’s Holtz Children’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial Hospital – made possible by a $2.5 million donation from Carnival Cruise Lines and the NBA’s Miami HEAT – was dedicated yesterday at a ceremony attended by officials from the various organizations.

Pictured here with hospital representatives at the event are Micky Arison, chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation & plc and managing general partner of the Miami HEAT, and his wife, Madeleine, who serves as a Guardian Angel for the Jackson Memorial Hospital Foundation.

The new “Carnival Cares for Kids Center” encompasses 30 private oversized rooms, which allow families to stay overnight with their ill child, along with two operating rooms and a host of new life-saving technology and equipment, including a cardiac catheterization lab specifically designed for pediatric patients. A pediatric medical unit on the same floor will be named the “Miami HEAT Home Court for Kids.”

Hospital officials note that the renovated “Carnival Cares for Kids Center” not only will provide a more family-centered environment but also improve the pace at which care is delivered.

How wonderful must it be to know that you have given children the gift of life …………that’s exactly what the Arison family have done…………………we salute them.

As we all know this is the last year the most famous cruise liner in the world will sail the world’s oceans and seas. We all wish we could grab one more sight of the Queen Elizabeth 2 just to say thank you and good-bye. It seems that one special person wants to do jus that as you will see from this press release.

Her Majesty The Queen to Bid Farewell to QE2

VALENCIA, Calif., April 9, 2008 — Cunard Line is honoured to announce that Her Majesty The Queen will make a farewell visit to Queen Elizabeth 2 in Southampton on Monday June 2, 2008.

QE2, the most famous ship in the world, and for 35 years the flagship of the Cunard fleet, was launched by Her Majesty at Clydebank on September 20, 1967 — forty years ago last year.

Since then QE2 has travelled over 5.6 million nautical miles, more than any ship ever; has carried over 2.5 million guests; has completed 25 World Cruises; and has crossed the Atlantic 802 times. She leaves Cunard’s service in November 2008.

Her Majesty The Queen has visited QE2 twice since the launch — on May 1, 1969, immediately prior the Maiden Voyage, and on July 27, 1990 to mark Cunard Line’s 150th anniversary.
Details of the visit on June 2 will be announced shortly, but Cunard’s President and Managing Director, Carol Marlow, comments:

“We are delighted and honoured that The Queen has chosen to visit QE2 to wish her farewell. Her Majesty has taken a close interest in the ship over the last forty years, and I am certain this will be a memorable occasion for all involved.”

About Cunard Line
Cunard Line, operator of the luxury ocean liners Queen Mary 2, QE2 and Queen Victoria has long been synonymous with the quest for new discoveries and the epitome of British refinement since the company’s first paddle-wheeled steamer, Britannia, crossed the Atlantic in 1840. Cunard voyages bring together like- minded travelers who relish the Cunard hallmarks of impeccable White Star Service(TM), fine dining, sophisticated adventure, the legacy of historic voyages and transatlantic travel.

Now, I see that one or two doubters have posted comments saying that my sister’s posts are in fact written by me. Well, just to displace that conspiracy theory here is a photo of my sister.

As you can see Sue Drip was not blessed with the same good looks as me and has in fact fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down…………..still, she has put her Shrek-like looks to one side and has in fact done very well for herself in Honk Kong doing something with stocks and stuff …………anyway, watch out for more postings from my sis soon.

Here is Bubba with another brilliant report on the world of Alaska.

Alaska Fam 2008 – Back to Juneau

Well the four hour ferry did take four hours. It would have taken less time, but I did not know we would make a stop over in Haines. Speaking to one of the locals about the marine ferry, it is a way of life for those who live in southeast Alaska. It is part of you through your whole like. Imagine, being in high school, Juneau has to play Sitka in Basketball; the whole school would load up to the ferry and make it a weekend. It seemed pretty interesting. Here’s what the majority of our fam team did while we were on the ferry.

As John said in his blog the other day about these trips, they are quite tiring. Yes you get to see all sorts of stuff, but you have it coming at you at a million miles per hour. Our itinerary is planned down to the minute so we have to stay on schedule in order to see everything. The ferry as you can see was very comfortable…very nicely decorated on the inside.

Once we arrived in Juneau it was back to the hotel, and then on to meet with Gastineau Guiding. They are the tour company who run some of the hiking trips in the port of Juneau. They hosted a nice meal and went over the 3 different tour packages that they offer. One of the ones I found most interesting is the Photo Safari, which is great for both novice and skilled photographers. You are placed in a small group with a guide who is both professional photographer and naturalist.

You get to hike out by the Mendenhall Glacier as well as to do some whale watching. You guide will work with you on different photo techniques for shooting the Alaskan wildlife and make you rethink on how and why you take pictures. Being a shutterbug myself, I thought this tour was pretty well put together. I actually started on ships working as a photographer, and I though the way the guide put together the program was excellent.

Our group near the visitor’s center with the Mendenhall behind us.

The next day we went out on one of the trails that they run. This was one of the easier hikes that they offer, where you can learn all about the different types of flora and fauna in the temperate rainforest.

On the trail.

The trail leads out to the waterfront. Where we saw some eagles less then 50 yards away.

Our final meeting in Juneau took place in the afternoon with a company called Allen Marine Tours who run many of the different whale watching and nature viewing tours. Today we did a version of their Evening Whale Watch Tour. We loaded up in a beautiful 70-foot catamaran, which had great indoor sections as well as some outdoor viewing platforms. They had binoculars available to use as well as maps to follow along with our route. You have a naturalist on board which gives narration about some of the wild life that you see. Of course you can never guarantee when you go on a nature sightseeing tour that you are going to see wildlife, but that’s not the case when it comes to this tour operator. They actually have a guarantee for their tour that you will see whales. In fact they are so confident that you will see whales, they will pay $100 to every adult and $50 to every child in cash if you do not see whales. But don’t expect it to happen. They have had this guarantee in place for 10 years and have only had to pay it out 3 times. Pretty good odds on their tours, you are going to see whales. And we were really put on a show today. Even though it is not quite the season for whale watching, within about 30 minutes of beginning our cruise we saw a humpback whale.

Then just a few minutes later we were in a whole pod of Killer Whales. We counted about 6, plus one baby.

But it wasn’t over just yet; we also got to see a huge group of sea lions making all sort of noise as they sat out on some rocks.

And the highlight of the trip was a whole group of dolphins. Not the kind in the Caribbean. These ones are from up north and look black with a white spot began to dance around in front of the boat. It was very exciting, even for the folks who run the tour. All and all and excellent day. A great way to get out there and see some of the wildlife that Alaska is famous for.

Tonight we’ll have to pack up again as we will be heading back to the airport. Still two more ports to go. Tomorrow we’ll be flying to Sitka. I am sure it will be another action packed day. Look forward to bringing you the story tomorrow.

Thanks again for reading, and now back to John….

Thanks Bubba……………we have one more report from the last frontier to look forward to.

So, we have just finished an exhausting day of sightseeing and in 30 minutes we will be heading for dinner with the ship’s agents who told me Tallinn has become quite the place to be. It seems the stars have made this a hot spot with Madonna, Bono from You Two and even………….yes…………….George Hamilton was seen at the Hotel Telegraf drinking Imperial Vodka and eating Iranian Caviar with a beautiful brunette obeying his every command. I have a feeling I won’t see the sun tanned god this evening considering the artic temperatures outside.

Please forgive the shortness of the blog tonight as it’s been a long, long day and I need an early night. Tomorrow night I fly to St. Petersburg so I do not think I will be able to blog again until Friday…………..I will try but as I have a night flight I am not sure what will happen…………..especially as we are flying Aeroflop.

Heidi will not be joining me as her passport runs out in May and therefore they would not give her a Russian Visa…… she has to fly home to Holland leaving me alone in Russia………she will join me again in Germany the following day.

Before I go I want to mention my friends from Seoul, Korea. These ladies were so scared and I felt it right that I should lean across the aisle and tell the two nearest me that dropping like a stone at ten thousand feet was normal………..I was not sure how much English they spoke but at the end of the flight they both said “thank you” in perfect English. They told me that they were playing a series of games against Estonia in preparation for the Olympic Games ………………..some of them may represent their country they beamed. They asked me what I was doing in Estonia…………..telling them I was on a business trip one of the ladies asked what I did…………as good as their English was I didn’t think they would know what a Cruise Director was ……………therefore I said………..”I am British TV Star making a program” (well, I am British and I am making a video for the cabin TV’s)…………”Ooohhhh,” cried the girls……………they then said something in Korean and before I knew it I was standing on the runway, surrounded by a dozen Korean Volleyball ladies……………….having my photo taken.

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.