A Fokker on the Runway

April 16, 2008 -

John Heald

I am sitting here in the departures lounge looking at one of the smallest Fokkers I have ever seen……………….I had no idea they made passenger planes this small and I have already been told that my carry on bag is too big and has to be checked into the Fokkers holding area.

Now, considering my carry on is a small laptop dancer bag you will understand this is one small Fokker and when I was a kid I had a bigger plane than this hanging over my bed on a piece of string.

However, here I sit waiting to board the flight from Hamburg to Amsterdam looking at a Fokker on the runway. Now it is a jet plane but the engine is small and looks like the sort of thing you see on a Subaru car and if it gets up in the air it will surprise me.

Murphy has decided to join us again as he has decided to delay this Fokker for 45 minutes…………..so here I sit waiting for the Fokker to take off.

While I wait and eat my ham and cheese sandwich which by the way has no right to call itself a ham and cheese sandwich as it has as much ham in it as a sheep…………..I suddenly realized I should be elsewhere………….I should be eating a wonderful 5 course dinner and hobnobbing with the rich and tanned having just witnessed Dame Helen Mirren break the bottle on the side of the newest cruise ship in the world the spectacular P & O ship………………….Ventura.

I should be eating lashings of caviar and a huge steak washed down with lashings of Diet Coke, not sitting here eating a stale ham and cheese airport sandwich trying to decide if I should call security as someone had stolen the ham.

Anyway, we wish the Captain and crew of the Ventura well and from one the professional press have been saying along with first hand reports coming from a friend of mine who is onboard now……………….the Ventura is one very special ship. Reports are that Dame Helen did a wonderful job and that she is as special in person as she is on the screen………………..congratulations Dame Helen and congratulations yet again to Carnival Corporation on another amazing success ………………………….wish I could have been here instead of waiting for a Fokker.

While I wait I would like to take you back a few weeks when Heidi and I sailed on the Emerald Princess. During this fantastic voyage we met the Cruise Director James who we became great friends with and who after a while we realised was the second best Cruise Director in the industry………………………just kidding James………………….your the third………………….kidding…………….anyway, James is brilliant and I had sent him a few questions to answer which he kindly did………………here they are.

1. Can you tell us how you started at Princess cruises and what your background is?

I started with Princess 10 years ago in 1998, I joined the original Crown Princess as Junior Assistant Cruise Director. I started my career in show business in the holiday centers in the UK. I was a world famous “Butlin’s Redcoat”, I have also been in several professional pantomimes,
taking the lead as varies different characters.

2. Although the title of Cruise Director is used on the majority of ships the job is different on every line. What are the responsibilities of a Princess CD?

I am responsible for the Entertainment and Passenger Programming, I also take a lead in the promotion of all the passenger services and revenue areas. It is important that I take an active role in the daytime activities and evening entertainment … truth is …. that is still my favorite part of the job, I love teaching the ballroom, talking to passengers and generally making sure everyone is having a quality experience.

3. One of the things I was impressed with when I sailed with you on the Emerald Princess was the way you scheduled different shows and events running at the same time. This must take a lot of planning…..can you explain the principles about your scheduling and how it works.

Emerald Princess is a BIG ship, with a SMALL ship feel. We offer multiple choices of dining and entertainment to give the passengers the maximum amount of choice. The schedule is a big job, but it gives me an incredible amount of job satisfaction when it all comes together.

4. How many people fall under your management and who are they?

I have 5 managers who all fall under my umbrella of responsibility.

Deputy Cruise Director (My # 2 … there is only one!!)
Senior Assistant Cruise Director (8 Cruise Staff)
Senior Production Manager (12 Production Staff)
Dance Captain (13 Dancers / 4 Vocalists)
Youth Director (Anywhere between 6 to 20 staff depending on the kid
Bandmaster (34 Musicians)

5. What is your favorite part about being a Cruise Director?

It is the BEST job I have ever had, it gives me a nice balance of entertaining, man management, scheduling and event management.

6. What is your least favorite part of the job?

Honestly ….. I can’t think of my least favorite part. I really enjoy all the different aspects of my job!

7. You were chosen to open the Emerald Princess as CD. How was that experience and can you describe how proud you were.

I love to take out the new ships in the fleet, this is the ultimate challenge. I have been involved in the last seven new Princess ships, five as Deputy Cruise Director and two as Cruise Director. Emerald Princess without doubt was the best experience, we went into service without any issues, the ship is beautiful and in my opinion we where went straight into the best itinerary in the world …. The Med!!! I love the Med! I very proud to be the Cruise Director on the latest ship in the fleet, we have a very strong product and an outstanding team.

8. What is your favorite part of the Emerald that you think offers guests something extra special?

Our Italian themed Piazza ….. I love this space, particularly when we are sailing in Europe …… if I was on vacation, I would be sat here all day ….. people watching, enjoying the street performers and indulging in everything the International Cafe and Vines Wine and Seafood Bar has to offer!

9. If you were invisible for a day onboard the Emerald Princess where you go and what would you do?

As above!!

10. Finally, if you could introduce and star act onboard who would that be and why?

Elton John, he would be the ultimate star to introduce, he is a legend world wide, his career has been such a success.

Now, the Emerald Princess has just started its trans-Atlantic crossing so I have asked James to send me a few reports as they sail Fort Lauderdale to Southampton. Here is what James has to say.

Hi John,

The weather is GREAT, so far so good ….. no problems the passengers are really fun and are really enjoying everything!

PS … I had over 100 couples at the Ballroom Dancing this morning the room was packed

Thanks mate, and we look forward to your next report soon and please send our best to the Captain and crew…………………I was joking before……………you are the best Cruise Director……………..in your price range.

So, I am about to board the Fokker and I will let you know what happens when I land………have I ever told you I hate flying?

I am now sitting on the bus and we are on our way to the hotel. The Fokker had the smallest interior of a plane I have ever seen and would have been more at home as one of Thomas the Tank Engine’s friends…………………we could call it Freddy the Fokker.

There were two seats on either side of the isle and even a leprechaun, who had lost both his legs in hunting for gold accident at the end of the rainbow, would have complained about the legroom.

Thank Goodness the Fokker was only in the air for 45 minutes during which I shouted its name many times.

The plane was full of city types in suits and clutching their BlackBerrys as though they were a life support system. I felt really out of place, dressed in my sweat pants and Miami Heat t-shirt, while every one else was wearing designer suits……………….I stuck out like Santa in the Congo.

I was really glad to get out of the Fokker and I hope that it’s the last time I ever meet one. I have one more flight with British Airways to London Heathrow on Saturday and with that in mind I have already bought my luggage a “I miss you ” card for when the buggers lose it.

Good Night,

Your friends,
John and Heidi Fokker


So here I am at the hotel and as promised, here are a few photos from today.
They include me and my Polizei friends. There was also later in the day a huge demonstration by the Greenpeace movement. They were protesting about the use of coal in some factories in Germany.

At one point, the deputy Prime Minister, a lady who looked like Anne Robinson (the original presenter of The Weakest Link) was surrounded by press and protestors. I managed to stand feet away from her as you can see from the photo.

Just before I go, I mentioned the naming ceremony of the Ventura. I thought some of you might like to look at this link to their website so you can see the ship for yourself. They all had a fabulous time without me.


Here are the photos and there will be more raspberry blogs tomorrow.


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.