J.R. Heald

April 20, 2008 -

John Heald

Murphy buggered off and the result was the joyous rapture of the sight of my bruised and well traveled Samsonite suitcase making its way around the conveyor belt at Heathrow’s terminal 5……….I wanted to jump for joy and nearly hug the person standing next to me but it was old hairy ears so I decided to hold that thought……………all that stuff I had read about terminal 5 was stuff and nonsense ……oh except the escalators were not working and sighting a luggage trolley was as rare as seeing someone actually use a rock climbing wall.

Usually when I fly home I have someone pick me up as I live about 70 miles from both Gatwick and Heathrow. This is normally my mate Danny or even Alan sometimes. My Dad used to collect me but with the parking area being so far from the actual terminal now with all the security precautions I don’t want to have them come all that way. So, today I had a taxi booked and that turned out to be a big mistake.

When your body knows that some energetic, stressful activity is required it produces some sort of thing………..that keeps your body going but when it’s over it stops quicker than Brittney Spears career.

Today, my body told me enough was enough and after the miles of walking every day and the endless meetings etc as I sat on the plane it finally told me to bugger off………….I felt exhausted and just wanted to get home and put my feet up.

So, the last thing I wanted was a 1 and a half hour taxi ride with a man who could talk for Englandhis name was……….wait for itand no I am not making this up……….Dickyep………..I was about to suffer a 70 mile journey with the most annoying Dick I have met in a long time.

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I acknowledged myself to him when he proudly held my name on a piece of cardboard which looked like he had pulled from the bottom of a garbage can……….I walked over to him and introduced myself and his reaction was the same as if it was George Hamilton himself he was about to give a ride to………….shaking my hand and grabbing Mrs.Samsonite we started the walk to the car with him telling me how busy the roads were and how while he was waiting a passenger had been led off from departures in handcuffs…………by the time we reached the Taxi apart from the words ” I ‘m John ” I had not managed to say anything.

Now, when Heidi had booked me the car she had used a local company to where I live and the advert had read (and I will block out the name of the company)…….$%^&* Luxury Cars………and their moto was ” arrive in style “……….so imagine my amazement when we passed the Mercedes and the BMW’s and Dick stopped by……a Volvo estate………not one of the big XC90’s but an 4 year old Volvo estate with a huge dent in the wing. Now, I am a car snob……I will admit that but this thing looked like it should be driven by the Griswald family.

In the UK you can see how old a car is from the license plate (tag) and this showed a 03 plate. I think it was silver but that was hard to tell as Dick …….ok…….his name was Richard but I am using blog privileges and calling him Dick ………had decided to not wash his car ever and was probably able to grow potatoes on the hood in all the dirt that was caked in…………arrive in style………arrive where…………a pig farm…….an Amish community………..what a joke and this ride was costing me $100.

Anyway, as I took my seat in the back hoping that would be the clue that I wanted to close my eyes at let Dick do the driving………but Murphy had decided to return and that was me listening to Dick all the way home. He told me about his holidays, his family, his love of fishing and at one point he asked me what I did for a living……….now knowing that if I mentioned the world of cruising he was bound to have been on a cruise, known someone who has or worse used to be a Cruise Director himself I tried to think of something obscure to say that would give him to comeback……….normally in these situations I am quite good but as tired as I was the first thing that came into my mind was……………..I work on an oil rig………….on an oil rig………..where the heck did that come from……….anyway he paused……..and for a moment there was the beautiful sound of silence ………until Dick took my working on an oil rig as a chance to bullock me……..his paying passenger……….for the price of petrol in the UK……………I sat there for twenty minutes as I listened to him tell me that it was my fault he was driving a Volvo and not a Mercedes or a Range Rover as if I was J.R. Ewing and you know what…………I found myself apologizing to him. Eventually we arrived at my house and my journey was over………however as we pulled up my drive there was my darling black gleaming shining Range Rover and as I paid Dick his £50 I was told how could I drive a car like that that when people who drive cars for a living could not afford to………with that he drove off in his potato with four wheels attached leaving me promising myself to always tell the truth about my occupation.

Before I continue I would like to wish all my blog friends of the Jewish faith a happy Passover which started last night.

Last week while I was in Germany I was given a wonderful gift by the President of Aida Cruises Michael Tamm. The gift was off a beautiful model of the soon to be christened Aida Bella.

Here it is

You know, Aida is one of the unsung heroes of Carnival Corporation. This is probably due to the fact that it mostly caters to European guests but make no mistake………this cruise line is right at the top and has become one of the most successful brands in the industry.

Well, on Wednesday the Aida Bella will be christened in Warnemunde, Germany and when that happens there will be no prouder man than her Captain who I am proud to say kindly took the time to give an exclusive interview to this humble blog thingy………….here it is.

1. Can you please tell us about your career at sea so far?
My career is quite simple and easy. I grew up in a seafaring family on my father’s ship. I am working on cruise ships for 19 years now, 5 of them with AIDA Cruises. I have been Captain on all AIDA vessels, AIDAcara, vita, aura, diva and now bella. I have been around the whole world.

2. What has your involvement been so far with the building of the ship?
The last 3 month I worked in the Meyer shipyard in Papenburg, which is close to my hometown. I was able to go home after work in the evening, which is very unusual for a seaman. The Meyer shipyard is a well known builder of cruise ships. In 1965, my father built his first own coaster in this shipyard, and it was the first time in my life that I passed the river Ems, where I was born, by ship to the North sea. It was a very special moment for me to repeat this trip after 43 years as captain on a newly built cruise ship.

3. Can you tell us where the ship will be sailing to and is there any one port that you are really looking forward to navigating the ship to?

During the summer season, we will be staying in the Baltic Sea. Our destinations are Tallinn, St Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Gdynia and the Isle of Rügen. Turn-around port is Warnemünde. You can eat very good rolls with Bismarck herring over there! Starting in Fall 2008 until Spring 2009, AIDAbella will be cruising the Canaries – the isles of eternal spring.

4. I just saw the pier and the AIDA terminal being prepared for the naming ceremony. Can you tell us who the ship’s godmother will be and any of the traditions that are involved in the christening of an AIDA vessel?
A beautiful lady called Eva Padberg will throw the champagne bottle onto the bow of my beautiful ship and give her the name AIDAbella. Eva Padgberg is a successful young German Top model.

5. What can you tell us about the new ship’s guest areas that make this ship so exciting?

AIDAbella is the second vessel of the new AIDA generation and already the fifth club ship in the big AIDA family. She has the same great proportions like her sister ship AIDAdiva, which was christened in 2007. But she has her very own character. AIDAbella is a harmonic beauty in soft shades. She is very sophisticated.

The Theatrium is the center of activities. Bars, boutiques, the casino and galleries are located around an atrium, which is open over 3 decks. In the center is the stage of the theater, where colorful shows, music and acrobatic art are presented. There are high-tech features, like the modern digital iTV, all over the vessel. You can watch videos and TV, listen to radio, book excursions, use email and Internet, watch the ship’s position and a lot more. The 4D cinema with amazing effects is the first on cruise ships ever. 7 restaurant with worldwide themes provide culinaric highlights all day long. During the opening hours, table wine and beer are for free. 11 bars offer all kinds of drinks like cocktails, spirits, champagne, wine or German beer. And – AIDAbella has the biggest swimming wellness and fitness area worldwide.

6. The service aboard an AIDA ship has a wonderful reputation. What can you tell us about your crew? Where are they from and can you introduce us to you senior officers?
AIDA has German officers, most of the ratings are Filipinos, Indonesians or Indians. At the moment, there are all-together 19 different nations on board AIDAbella, living in mutual respect and supporting each other.

7. A ship’s Captain has many responsibilities including many social ones. What social events do you attend onboard and do you enjoy them.

At the moment there are a lot of receptions for port authorities, important customers, press and photographers. The new AIDAbella is, of course, an attraction for everyone. Mickey Arrison visited us 2 weeks ago, and it was a big honor for me to have dinner with him, his wife, Michael Thamm, our president from AIDA Cruises, and Bernhard Meyer, the owner of the Meyer shipyard. It really was a great evening that I will never forget.

8. How do you relax while onboard Captain?
I like to play golf sometimes. It is a good way to free the mind. I love to sit outside on my balcony, listen to good music and enjoy the sun. I like simple things – just living.

9. The AIDA brand has an amazing reputation and having been in Germany these last few days I can see how excited everyone is about your new vessel. Can you describe how proud you are to be the Captain of your new flagship?

Of course you can imagine that I am very proud to be captain on board AIDAbella. It is a big honor for me to have been chosen for the responsible job by the company. I will do my very best to bring the ship to the company’s’ top ratings. Keep your fingers crossed and support us on our way to success!

10. You are hosting a Captain’s table on the ship so please tell us your favorite menu using truly German choices.
In 1996, AIDA heralded a new chapter in the history of cruise with the club-ship concept. AIDA stands for the casual cruise – no dress code, no seating order, no fixed mealtimes. There is no such thing as the classic Captain’s dinner. But I love to talk to our guests in a comfortable atmosphere. There are plenty of occasions – not only in the restaurants.

My tip for savorers: Go to the gourmet restaurant Rossini and enjoy an excellent menu, recommended by the chef, with a good bottle of red wine. You are invited to join me!

Thank you Captain. I think we can all see how proud you are to be the Master of the Aida Bella and hopefully we will be able to view a few photos of you and the vessel at the naming ceremony.
Congratulations from us all.

I have at certain times on this blog criticized certain ships from Herring Cruise Lines who have allowed a few chimpanzees with paint brushes to decorate their ships bow……..I personally don’t like it. Aida also has a decorated Bow but for some reason it seems to have been done not by Charlie the Chimp but by Andy Warhol or Pablo Picasso.

I decided to ask someone at Aida ‘s boardroom level their concept as to the ship’s hull decoration. Here is what I learned.

They wanted me to understand that the original concept was for AIDA to stand out; to be different from traditional cruise lines and in fact be……. CLUB SHIP.

The hull design has become their brand statement- their logo. It’s the same on all ships and shouts AIDA. On other ship’s it looks like graffiti with no meaning other then to scream look at me but its different on all ships and makes no statement about the brand.

So Aida is indeed a brand you cannot ignore and one and one I hope to experience for myself one day soon.

So, I have unpacked and just returned from a dinner at my Mum and Dads……….we had home made chicken curry……….it was divine. I had bought my Mum a few gifts from the various ports to soften the request to do my laundry…….my underwear is currently spinning around in her Hoover as we speak.

Now I am home alone……..and once again not having Heidi here is very strange especially having been around so many people the last two weeks. It’s only 9:00 pm but I am about to turn my TV off and go to bed. I just watched a soccer match featuring Manchester United who are the richest team in the soccer world. I miss football when I am traveling or on the ships and to watch a live match is a treat. However, today as I watched I got quite mad. The stars of the team are paid outrageous sums of money with some earning $200,000 a week……….yep……….a week. Yet here they were today, running around for a few minutes and then they scored a goal…………and that was it……..the rest of the 70 minutes they just run around the pitch not wanting to mess up their hair dreaming of what colour Bentley to buy tomorrow…….I sat there alone and thinking I wonder what would happen in professional sport if the teams were only paid if they won or paid on the amount of dedication they gave for the entire time they were on the field……..maybe we should go back to Roman times and any player who does not give 100% gets fed to the lions.

I am very excited about Tuesday and my visit to the Queen Mary 2…………this vessel saved the Iconic name of Cunard and I cannot wait to find out what makes her quite simply the most important and most spectacular Ocean Liner …………….in the world.

Time for a cup of tea and then off to bed…………it’s a trying life working on an oilrig. You know, I used to love Dallas and to me and many Brits it symbolized America in the eighties. We all loved the program until an entire series full of twists and turns, life and death had when Bobby Ewing stepped out of that shower saying he had a bad dream………I never watched Dallas gain and turned my loyalties to the Carrington family and that wonderful series Dysentery.

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.