Shooting The Breeze with Colonel Brad

May 8, 2008 -

John Heald

Giving me a gun is the same as handing a man from Paris a bar of soap. We both have no idea how what it’s for, what it does and how we are supposed to use it.

So, when the hotel’s instructor handed me the shotgun, I, like Jean Claude holding a bar of soap, had no idea what to do with it.

Heidi had seen that our hotel was offering clay pigeon shooting and insisted that we have a go. So, yesterday evening before dinner we headed out to the field behind the hotel to shoot clay pigeons.

I knew this activity was not for me even before we got there as this involved a walk in the countryside across a field. This for Heidi is heaven as she loves the countryside which is why we live where we do. She loves walking in the fields and looking at the wildlife and the mere site of a deer will have her as excited as I would be if I saw a brand new Aston Martin on my drive.

So, across the field we walked dodging large mounds of cow and horse poo along the way…… worries me that Heidi knows the difference………I wondered if she could tell the difference if me and George Hamilton went into a field and…………..never mind.

Arriving in a tree-lined gully Heidi and I and seven other hotel guests were handed earphones and introduced to Tristan our instructor. He started by asking for a show of hands of who had handled a gun before and participated in the sport…………everyone except Heidi and I raised their hands. I should have guessed this would be the case as they were all dressed in tweed the uniform of the countryside and a sign that they probably had double barrel names, had horses from which they hunted foxes and at the weekend popped next door for a cup of tea with Charles and Camilla…………..

I looked at them and then looked at Heidi and I……..they were in tweed and country attire and even though Heidi had a pair of fashion jeans and a summer blouse on she still looked out of place as she was tweed free.

As for me, well my sweat pants and Miami Heat shirt and baseball cap made me feel as ridiculous as Paris Hilton singing “like a virgin.”

So, back to Tristan asking who had done this before and Heidi and I not raising our hands had the rest of the guests looking at us as if we were aliens. I felt like saying “Who here is not married to their own cousin?” as they do in the countryside …….but instead I found myself doing what I always do when I feel uncomfortable………I revert to comedy. So, I said “I had a gun lesson from Dick Cheney”……….but either the people with me had no idea who he was or had heard about his unfortunate shooting story or they just thought I was an idiot……..because my attempt at some countryside humor was met with complete silence………..bugger.

Anyway, Penelope Pemberton-Smythe and her friends all had their turn and most were excellent and shot the clay disks out of the sky. Each time they did hit the target it was met with polite applause and encouraging words such as “jolly good” and “top hole” …… lady who seemed to find it necessary to wear a diamond watch and a huge diamond ring for this activity kept shouting “good show” every time a target was hit. These words were followed by an upper class cackle which had me looking for her broomstick and black cat……what a bunch of snobs.

It was Heidi’s turn and as she shouted “pull” she didn’t squeeze the trigger hard enough and nothing happened…….this was met by a tutting noise from the Witch …….this really upset me and I think she understood the look I gave her as she and her two friends buggered off in case the big thug in the basketball shirt brought her a closer look at the piles of cow poo.

Heidi had another go and even though she had six shots and hit the target just once …….she really enjoyed it although I think that this had something to do with Tristan the blonde haired Prince William look-alike showing her where the butt of the shotgun goes………it wasn’t the butt of the rifle that Heidi was interested in though.

We will chat about how I faired on my first “shoot “in a moment.

Dinner last night was wonderful yet again at the hotel. Heidi had Icelandic Cod and garden vegetables while I enjoyed Lamb Chops with fresh mint sauce……sorry lambknuckles.

After dinner we went to the beautiful lounge where after dinner drinks are served and where I would have enjoyed a cigar until the smoking ban took effect here. Anyway, Heidi enjoyed a Baileys and I sipped on my Diet Coke. All was well. We had changed for dinner and unlike our dress for the shooting thingy we did not look out of place. It was while I slumbered in my Oxford leather chair that I noticed that a couple having drinks on a huge sofa near us were obviously from America……..and my CD button automatically turned on and I engaged them in conversation and, unlike Penelope the Witch and their snobby friends, they were a charming couple.

Brad and Mandy are from Pasadena, California and Brad is a Colonel in the US Army based here in the UK. After a few moments of conversation about the hotel and the wonderful food the conversation turned to cigars and the Colonel said how he missed smoking them both here and back home in California. So, a few minutes later the Colonel and I walked the grounds of the hotel smoking two Monte Cristo Edmundos which I had retrieved from our room.

Cigar smoking is not good for you, I know that but cigar smoking brings out the best in people and is a wonderful conduit for people with nothing in common to get together and enjoy sparkling conversation. Here then the cigar had led to a Colonel in the US Army who had been to Afghanistan and Iraq three times and now worked with NATO talking politics and world affairs with a simple Cruise Director from Essex…… was a wonderful experience and one that came from a love of cigars.

Bubba likes cigars but while I enjoy a good Cuban cigar Bubba prefers a White Owl after a meal at the Waffle House

Here is another great Bubba Blog

The second cruise has begun……

Well the second Hawaii cruise starts out a little strange for a cruise vacation….well it may not be strange to our guests, but I sure do find it strange.  You see after the people who were on the first cruise debarked in Honolulu, we had our new batch of people get on that same day…now that’s normal.

What’s strange is that we don’t sail that same day.  We stay overnight in Honolulu as that is the new guests’ first port of call.  Now it’s strange because people pretty much come on and then go back out again.  The ship is pretty empty that first evening.  The casino and gift shop can’t open because of it.  The lounges are open and we do a show that night, but attendance is pretty bare.  Most of that I think is from people being tired of having to fly from wherever all the way out to Hawaii.

Then we do the Hawaii cruise in reverse with the exception of Maui in which we go to Lahaina, instead of Kahului.


Lahaina, Maui
Lahaina, Maui
Then 5 days at sea,
Then Vancouver

So the next day we sailed from Honolulu and did the usual boat drill and had the welcome aboard show, but again attendance at the shows was pretty light.  It’s tough being in port every day for a week…people need a vacation from their vacation after getting up early everyday to go out and explore, that not many are staying out late.  Thankfully they will have the sea days at the end of the cruise to unwind and we’ll all get a better chance to get to know each other.

So far this cruise I have managed to get out in Hilo.  Today Julie and I went into town to see the Lilokalani Park, which is a Japanese style garden right on the waterfront near the port.  It was beautiful.  We both loved to see all of the volcanic rock that forms most of the soil around the area.

Also right along the main strip is a road called Banyan Drive.  All along this road are these beautiful Banyan Trees that were all planted in the 1930’s by famous people of the time.  Now these trees are massive.  They are so interesting because of their root system and how they grow.    There’s one picture I took of the roots crawling along the volcanic rock which I thought was very interesting.

As we are going down the road looking at the signs of the people who planted the trees, you could see Shirley Temple, Humphrey Bogart, FDR and some other big names.  There were quite a few that I had no idea who they were, but we get to one that say “George Herman Babe Ruth” and Julie says to me….”Who’s that?”

My head whips around as to say “what?” but then I forget, she’s from the Czech Republic and does not know.  I explain to her who he is, and her response was “Oh.”  It was a funny moment for me.

I saw on the blog someone was asking about the demographics of the Hawaii cruise.  Generally it’s an older crowd.  Not too many singles, all though saying that we did have a singles group on for the first cruise, but that was a one-off type of thing, I think.  Not many kids.  Most of the people have cruised before.  Both cruises have had over 100 platinum guests.  This cruise we have over 350 Australians sailing with us.  So you never really know what you are going to get.  But I would not expect a late night scene if you are doing these longer cruises.  People come more for the ports of call.

Well I will probably be able to give you one more update before we leave the islands.  Tomorrow I will be doing something I have wanted to do since I knew I was coming out here.  TOMORROW is the LUAU!!!!!  Mmmmmm…..Hawaiian BBQ!

Till next time.


Continuing my look back at some of the famous people I have met onboard the Carnival ships I want to tell you about two incomparable stars I met on one cruise.

These days the word star is used so often especially in the age of reality TV. However back in 2001 I met some true superstars. The ship had been chartered by a radio station and its star DJ Tom Joyner.

The cruise had its problems and concerns which included a speech by a well-known Reverend which left me and many of the ship’s personnel very uncomfortable. However, the highlight was a chance for me to meet and present on stage two megastars.

The radio station had brought on their own entertainment including the brilliant Boys 2 Men, the comedian Sinbad as well as guest speakers which included Magic Johnson whose talk was both inspirational and passionate…….he was a true gentleman.

However for me the two highlights were two men who are simply brilliant. The first was George Benson……….in the days of electrical gadgets that can disguise the defects in a persons voice Mr Benson performed a three hour concert …….just him……a jazz trio……….and it was amazing. After the concert George came to the front of the stage and stayed there for over an hour shaking hands and meeting the fans. Mr Benson also took the time to give me a signed CD and a note saying a huge thank you for the great introduction…….the CD is safe and sound at home and is something I will cherish always.

The following night I met and introduced another superstar……….Isaac Hayes who played a concert with the GAP band. The highlight of the concert was when Isaac came back on for an encore and was now dressed head to toe in a flowing white silk suit with a white silk cape and together with the GAP band they played a twenty minute version of the Theme From Shaft……… was a stunning show and as I brought him back for another bow the place went mad when they did yet another reprieve of this worldwide hit …………. what a night. Both these singing sensations were true gentlemen and proved that even if you are famous you can still be polite and friendly.

There will be more star struck stories over the next few days.

Today is our last day at the hotel and tomorrow we will head home. Next week I will start work on schedules, etc. for the Carnival Splendor to get as much done before we go to the ship on June 2. Heidi will return to Holland for the weekend on the 16th just for a few days and then we have a trip to Dover on the 24th to look at the port facilities.

I wanted to say thanks to all those people who have come to the blog via Anita Dunham Potter’s article on MSNBC…….over 750 of you and we here in blog thingy land welcome you all.

Thanks also to all the bloggers who have in turn visited Anita’s site as well…….she is a wonderful journalist and a great supporter of the blog………and red wine!

I am trying to encourage others within the Corporation to blog as well. The Captain of the Eurodam and Veendam are writing great blogs already and I am hoping that someone on the Ventura will do so as well. In the days to come you will see guest blogs and even one from my mate Alan who has promised to tell you his side of our troubled younger years.

So, back to my shooting experience. I have read many books written by people who have had a military or police background but thinking that means I am a good shot is like saying you can be an astronaut because you have a Star Trek T shirt……that’s bollocks Jim but not as we know it.

Anyway, I can tell you that out if my six shots I hit 4 targets and as I walked back to the hotel I felt pretty good about myself and didn’t even care when I walked through a huge pile of something Colin the Cow had deposited in the field.

If I am honest I found shooting quite therapeutic and for reasons that only Freud could comprehend ………I really enjoyed it. However, I wouldn’t ever want to own a gun……’s illegal in the UK and getting a license to own one is as unlikely as ever seeing me on The Tonight Show.

However, maybe I could borrow one. I only need two bullets……one to shoot Peter the Pigeon who wakes me up every morning and then cluster bombs my car ……The second bullet would be for the Burmese General President chap who is holding up the foreign aid that is waiting to pour in to stop thousands of people dying.

The Colonel and I spoke about this while puffing on our stogies.

It’s believe that there are 100,000 dead with a million left homeless without food and water. The Generals are dithering…….and their dithering is costing lives. The world is ready to help…but until the Burmese military authorities seem reluctant to allow the aid in……………all I can say is……………….give me the shot gun.

I will write more later to say goodnight

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.