Pot Luck

April 17, 2008 -

John Heald

OK, let’s talk about the red light district and the coffee shops which are, let’s face it, probably and unfortunately on everyone’s top ten list of what they want to think of when talking about Amsterdam.

First the Coffee Houses…….which actually do sell coffee but that’s not what people go there for. There is some misunderstanding that drugs are legal in Amsterdam but that is absolutely incorrect. Marijuana is available legally to purchase and smoke in the Coffee Houses however it is illegal to purchase it and walk onto the street with it. If the police catch you it’s a huge fine or worse if you have an amount that could in the laws eyes make you a dealer.

Think of it as a McDonalds. If you are buying a McSpliff you must consume it on the premises…..there is no “to go.”

All the Coffee Houses must display a sign outside with their name and the words “coffee house” and then a picture of a Marijuana leaf.

I have to tell you about coffee and this will lead me into a funny story.

The Netherlands are great coffee drinkers………they love their coffee; however, with the exception of Amsterdam Schiphol airport you will never see a Starbucks. Unlike the rest of Europe, the Dutch refuse to pay €700 for a cup of coffee. Therefore, they prefer local cafes where the coffee is fantastic and they pay €2

However, when the average tourist is looking for a cup of coffee and they can’t find a Starbucks, the Coffee Shop can be misleading. This was the case when my parent’s friends, Mr. and Mrs. Smith came to Amsterdam for our wedding.

Walking around the town, they fancied a cup of coffee and without knowing went to one of the famous Coffee Shops.

They did get a cup of good coffee but came away with the munchies and saying they had seen Elvis on a canal boat.

I have done many naughty things in my time but I can proudly say that I have never tried any kind of non-prescription drug.

However, a few years ago for my stag night some of the lads wanted to go to one of the coffee shops. The smell of marijuana, to me, is disgusting. So, as one or two of my friends puffed on a palm tree I lit up an expensive Cuban cigar.

I was immediately told by some scruffy zit ridden youth to leave as my cigar was spoiling the ambiance of his shop.

So, if you are in Amsterdam and you fancy a coffee and walking in, you hear Bob Marley playing and the room looks at you as though you are naked and yet they are still smiling……leave.

As for the Red Light district there is little to tell. We do offer a walking tour of this area as we are told by our sister companies that it’s a must.

I know very little about it except the oldest profession in the world is legal in this one area. The ladies and men and the ones who haven’t made their minds up which they are all pay tax to the Dutch Government. The area is well policed and therefore is very safe…………..that’s all I know and anyone who says otherwise is a liar!

Do you remember my thingy about the Queen Victoria’s’ naming ceremony and how fantastic it was, well I wanted to share a report about the naming ceremony of P and O’s spectacular new vessel Ventura.

“Ventura’s licence to thrill”

The programme handed out to guests last night in Southampton on board P&O Cruises new flagship said: ‘You might not be shaken, but Ventura’s naming celebration will definitely leave you stirred’.

With pre-dinner vodka martinis in full flow it came as no surprise to the top secret special guests (who included Carnival executives Micky Arison, Howard Frank, Pier Luigi Foschi, Peter Ratcliffe, David Dingle and Peter Shanks, to name a few) that the Bond theme was in strong evidence and why not such a British icon for the largest ship ever built and designed for Britain?

What guests were not expecting was a highly amusing spoof ‘Bond’ movie shown on a huge poolside screen with interspersed live action on the stage below.

The screen drama unfolded showing how earlier in the day some ‘baddies’ had got on board and stolen the device which would have sent the champagne bottle smashing against the side of the ship.

The film showed the villains on a power boat escaping down the Solent. A ‘Bond’ was sought for the dangerous mission to get the instrument back in time for godmother Dame Helen Mirren to proceed with the naming.

In the end a crack team of Royal Marine commandos came to the rescue, chasing the villain’s boat down the river and securing the device before bringing it back onto the ship to hand over ‘live’ to the radiant godmother as she appeared on stage at poolside.

With the device safely back in the hands of the ‘goodies’ and having named the ship in traditional style, Mirren proceeded to instruct a pair of commandos to abseil over the side of Ventura and smash the champagne bottles with their bare hands.

The round of applause and cheers that followed were only drowned by the noise of a massive fireworks display quayside that signalled the end of a very entertaining and novel naming.

I would like to thank Seatrade Insider for allowing me to share that with you all.

What an amazing experience that must have been for the invited guests to see and congratulations to those at P&O for coming up with this great idea. How the heck are we going to match that for the Carnival Splendor’s’ ceremony…….probably we can’t ………..unless I wear my Dolly Parton dress.

We are off on a canal boat cruise

More from me later

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.