Julio and my Sister

May 6, 2008 -

John Heald

There are few things more beautiful than the English countryside ………maybe Cameron Diaz dressed as a cheerleader comes close but today as the sun shines it would be hard to imagine a more beautiful place. We are staying at a stunning hotel and arrived yesterday afternoon.

Unfortunately the rooms do not have internet access as they are designed to take guests away from the stress of everyday life which basically means they are too cheap to add this service. However the raspberry does work so I thought I would drop you a quick thingy.

As I write I am sitting in the terrace garden drinking a pot of tea and have just finished reading all the papers. As I write I realize that this is the first holiday Heidi and I have had for a few years. Usually when we get off the ship we just go home and relax and spend time with family…..however even though we are only here until Friday morning I am glad that we are taking some time for ourselves.

Heidi is as I write having a Spa day and after her massage she will be having something called an aromatherapy facial cucumber and mud wrap thingy……..which is just a posh name for having someone wash your face and squeezing the puss out of a few spots………..and it costs $100 …..Bloody hell………..I told her I would have done this for free but this was met by a large pillow hitting me over the head.

Honestly, I just don’t understand how being covered in a few slices of cucumber and some mud can be good for your skin……..now if they covered you in spare ribs and French fries and you were allowed to eat it all afterwards then barbecuetherapy will be something I will sign up for.

Oh, by the way……..I once was asked by a Spa manager on one of our ships what I used to wash with when I had a shower………..when I told her I used a bar of soap ……well……I received a huge bollocking as if I had told her I was using ketchup. Apparently the thing I have been using to remove the layers of dirt that cling to my body every day is bad for me and I must never use it again. Instead she told me I had to use a special skin-cleansing scrub containing lime and ginger and oh yes………my bar of Dove costs $1 while the lime and ginger thingy costs $18. ……she’s having a laugh especially considering the bottle is tiny and maybe good for three or four showers. ……no……..I am sticking to my bar of soap…….preferably on a rope so if I drop the soap I don’t have to bend over and pick it up, this is especially useful in a prison.

So, unlike George Hamilton who I am told has things called a four hand massage which is where two female masseuses built like Romanian shot putters pummel his body with their Shrek like hands………apparently he finds this relaxing……….me…..well give me a pot of tea, a cheese sandwich and my newspapers and I am a happy bunny.

Last night we had a wonderful dinner prepared by the Chef here at the hotel. All of the ingredients including strange green things called “vegetables” were grown in the grounds of the hotel. Heidi had Fillet of Scottish Angus Beef in a wild mushroom sauce while I had roast suckling pork complete with something we Brits call “crackling” which is where the skin is cooked so its hard and crispy. Now this is not something that is on the Heart Foundation’s healthy eating list but accompanied by bramley applesauce and roasted potatoes…….it was brilliant. In fact I noticed that many people in the restraunt had ordered this and their faces were all showing that like me they felt it was utterly delicious. The only person who was not happy with the pork was Percy the pig who many of us were now eating and who until a few hours ago was enjoying life rolling about in the mud that I am now paying. $100 for to be slapped on Heidi’s face.

I would like to say a big Thank You to our great friend Anita Dunham Potter for this wonderful article which proves why she is one of the top writers in the industry- http://www.expertcruiser.com/advice/carnivals-man-attraction/.

Thanks Anita and congratulations to everyone who reads the blog as this article is dedicated to all of you.

Ok, it seems many of you were instantly smitten with my sister’s comments ……..I have no idea why…..however since she is so popular I asked her to tell you a little about herself and life in Hong Kong…….so here then is Sue Drip…..my sister

Sure I’ll post a comment – and there it so innocently began…..  It starts with just one line and then before you know it you’re addicted………………………………….. to writing humiliating stories about your brother and the tales of you and him growing up in Essex circa 1982 !!! 
 
I’m a little nervous now – when I first wrote a comment on John’s blog a couple of months back, my reckoning was that only my brother and maybe 10 other people would read it. Now I’m writing as part of Johns blog I’ve moved up to the Premiership,  which if you are a soccer fan you’ll know exactly what that means and for those who are not, I am sorry,  the only thing I can tell you about soccer is what make of sunglasses Victoria Beckham wore to the last LA Galaxy match !!
 
 I tend to ramble so I apologise now. I am sitting at work on the 35th floor overlooking the Hong Kong harbour and today the pollution is not too bad and you can actually see across the water to Kowloon roughly just under a mile . Ironically,  Hong Kong means Fragrant Harbour  in Cantonese,  which as you may have read from one of my earlier posts left authorities a little red faced when it was reported that  Batman may have a body of steel, but the caped crusader was no match for the pollution in Hong Kong’s iconic harbor. The latest installment of the Batman series was due to start filming in the territory, but already had hit several snags. A scene in which Batman was to drop from a plane into the harbor had to be axed after the movie’s producers found the water quality could pose a potential health risk. They checked a water sample, they found all sorts of things; salmonella and tuberculosis, so it was cancelled. Stunt men these days hey – no commitment to the job!!!
 
 I have been here for a year now, almost to the day, it’s the first time I have ever worked abroad (I am 39) and it took a huge leap of faith for me to uproot the family (my husband Paul, 2 kids, Isabelle 5, Luke 7 and 45 pairs of shoes ) to start a new life here. Twenty or more years ago my brother left to join Carnival and if it hadn’t been for my new boyfriend whom I later married, I have no doubt at all I would have joined the Carnival family. I have been lucky enough to have cruised with my brother many times and probably sat along side some of you guys in the past as well, we have always had the best times and my kids are now firm cruise devotees !
 
 So, what can I tell you,  Hong Kong is a mad city. More than 6.9 mio people live here and it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world – that’s 6,250 people per square kilometer and most of them were in the taxi queue ahead of me when it was raining last week ! It ‘was’ the city with the most Rolls Royce’s per capita in the world but all that has changed now – to Ferrari’s !! It also has to be the biggest ‘fake-designer name ‘  center in the world where the Rolex’s are so real that even Donald Trump’s hair looks convincing. What is the collective noun for a group Rolex’s ?? Is it Rolexi ?? I should really know, as a group of them found their way into my suitcase at Christmas and now are living very happily amongst my friends and family back home in the UK.  But all I can say is I love it, the place is mesmerizing in the daytime and even more at night where there are so many neon signs it’s like daylight on the streets. Every single person has a mobile phone and people are always eating or standing in line to eat …. yet they are all stick-thin ! I have an apartment overlooking the beach – bet you didn’t expect that – and the kids have an independence that would be unheard of in the UK and I am sure most parts of the world.
 
We flew in from a vacation in Beijing, China last night. Since arriving here we are making the most of our ability to visit as many places in the region as we can. We are so very lucky and have managed to visit Australia, China, Singapore and we are off to New Zealand and Thailand soon. Now alot of this traveling is through my work in the financial markets and my family get’s to join me for weekends which is wonderful  but hotel food and service does make me yearn to be cruising again, or perhaps I am just being English ?? You be the judge.

Take for example buffet dining…. how does this work ?

You tell the waitress you require a table for 4 people and she walks you past the buffet counter to your table. Now what to do next   ?? …. she pulls the chair out for you all to sit down … so you do …  and then she announces “please help yourself to the buffet when you are ready” Now my dilemma is this …  what IS the polite amount of time to sit and wait before you run over to the pile of hot wet plates and start leaning over the elderly, using small children as leverage, to commandeer the buffet tongs and get to the last 8 shrimp (of which you HAVE to take them all including garnish) because that maybe the end of the seafood supply ??…. Or,  do you not sit down at all and do a shuffling sort of dance with the waitress as she tries to get past and you then use the chair as a pummel horse to jump straight onto the roast beef carvery counter ?? I hate to look greedy or starving so we all have to sit down and then I use my MI5 training to spot when the waitress is out of sight and then we pounce happy in the knowledge she can’t see how gluttonous we all are …  ok I know … terribly English … 
 
So how about a Beijing progress report on how the city is shaping up for the Olympics ?? 93 days to go … we took a look at the Olympic Village and the amazing ‘Birdsnest’ Stadium where the athletics and soccer will be held.  The National Aquatics Center or Watercube was out of this world as you can see … we were unable to get very close so I found the pictures below to show you how spectacular it is. The people of Beijing are incredibly proud that they are hosting the Olympics and I have to say that most of them are involved in the unbelievable amount of construction work that is going on … but I am sorry to report the air quality was quite dreadful.  I am hoping this was due to so much building work going on and the dust in the air but even so I sadly feel the athletes will certainly have their work cut out.  
 
And so I’ll sign off. I have decided that using my own brothers forum to tell tales about his dating antics and adolescent faux pas would be very very indiscreet so I end this by saying  – John … I promise that this stays between you and the 10 other people that read this blog thingy  … I still have your mask and cape and if you ever think that ‘Judo-Master’ the super hero who beat the cr@p out of me between the ages of 6 and 16, needs to come back for an airing then I’ll pop it in the laundry along with your Elmo underpants and dust off the  Chuck Conners Tin Can Alley for your return – fancy a dip in the Hong Kong Harbour ????

The Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau, Hong Kong, the tallest outdoor buddha statue in the world


Suzanne where she belongs


Hong Kong Race Course Happy Valley


The ‘Birds Nest’ Beijing


Celebrations for Chinese New Year


Night shopping in Mong Kok – Kowloon


Southend-on-Sea where John and I grew up


View at night from Victoria Peak


A panoramic view of northern Hong Kong Island between North Point in the east (left) and Central in the west (right).


Luke and Paul climbing The Great Wall

This is what people in Beijing do … Under the blue covers on the back of
this bike are bird cages … People walk their birds !!! … Then place the
cages in trees … then all the birds sing in a dawn chorus together …
Bizarre and quite beautiful


The Forbidden City in Beijing where The Last Emperor was filmed

 Your sister

Ahhh, Judo Master……..there’s a story for another day. I am very proud though of my sister who at school was only interested in short skirts and George Michael who she had plastered all over her bedroom wall…….I always tried to tell her that when he sang Wake Me Up Before You Go Go ……he was talking to someone called Bob.

Anyway, despite her average school days she has become someone very successful in the global financial markets. If you would like her to blog again let me know and I am sure she will be happy to do so. Thanks Suedrip I am very proud of you even if you did date a man who wore leg warmers.

I mentioned yesterday that I had met the very talented Regis and Kathy Lee during my time as a Carnival Cruise Director.

They were however not the first superstars I met as that honor goes to the one and only Julio Iglasias……is that how you spell it?

Anyway, this was back in 1991 onboard the Carnival Fantasy where IBM Latin America had chartered the entire vessel which back then cost about $500…….anyway they had paid for Julio to perform one special show for their top people and the great one arrived while the ship was docked in Nassau, Bahamas.

I met him at the gangway with Chief Purser Francine, a great friend and one of the best  Chief Pursers I have ever worked with………..hello to Francine, who reads the blog every  day and she did with my Carnival Capers she is still correcting my blog spelling.

Julio arrived in a blaze of glory. We were hoping that he would take a few minutes to say hello to some of our crew, especially the ones from Latin American countries where he is worshipped as a demi-God.

However, he hardly said a word and went straight to his rehearsal. I think someone had taken the jam out of his doughnut because he was not in a good mood and during the rehearsal he threw a stool at his bandleader. Introducing Julio was a huge honor for a young 20 something Cruise Director and something I will never forget. The performance was private and only for the top 200 performers from IBM. I do not think anyone had told Julio this as when he walked on stage his first words were: “I don’t care how many of you are out there, I get paid the same anyway”………..it was also strange that throughout the show he refused to speak Spanish. His bad mood was noticed by the audience and the main lounge which was used to seeing standing ovations and hearing vibrant cheers for our Carnival shows, heard nothing but polite applause for this mega star.

I think Julio was bored and reverted to touching his groin area whenever he sang a song. I have tried this a few time on stage myself which has resulted in many guests being sick. Julio left the same way as he arrived without saying a word. I remember the big bosses of IBM were not happy.

Tomorrow I will tell you about my next encounter with fame which is a happy one.

Now, I would never dream of including myself in a blog with Mr Julio Groinias however yesterday I had my own slice of fame at a Motorway rest stop restaurant.

Heidi and I were on our way to our hotel and stopped for lunch and it was as we were eating our baked potato with Tuna filling that we were approached by two ladies. At first I thought they may want to borrow the ketchup but as they approached one said “Pardon me (very English) but are you John who writes the blog?”……..I couldn’t believe it ….. Here we were in the heart of England at a Motorway restaurant and someone had recognized me.

Anyway, a big hello to Mrs. Perry and Mrs. Redwood who are avid readers of my thingy which they say they love. They have never cruised on Carnival before but are loyal Cunarders and will be sailing on the Queen Victoria this summer having just cruised on the Queen Elizabeth 2 many times……I left the restaurant feeling pretty good and just…….just a little bit famous.

OK, time for another cup of tea and I wish I could have one of the scones and jam with lashings of clotted cream.

Heidi has just returned from her three hours of pampering and says she feels as light as a feather……..funny that……..so does my wallet.

I will write later to say goodnight

Cheers
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.