The Splendor and The Queen

June 3, 2008 -

John Heald

The hardest part of a diet is starting ……but I have and I admit I have found it as difficult as Paris Hilton would taking part in a 7th grade spelling test.

However, as I ignored the gorgeous looking Italian bread and instead ate a bowl of muesli I knew that I was not alone as many of you are joining me. Therefore, knowing that you are all suffering along with me makes me feel better……….actually, that’s bollocks because as much as I love you all our friendship is not as strong as my desire to munch on a huge bowl of Gnocchi at lunchtime………..instead, I ate green stuff which was as satisfying as eating a bowl of air.

Seriously, I know dozens of you have started a diet with me and many of you are donating money to your favorite charity and that……………..is more important than anything.

So, what’s happening? Well, we spent a few hours on the Carnival Splendor getting to know the new layout of the open deck areas and then spent some time meeting the cast and technicians.

It was strange being on the ship yesterday as it was a public holiday in Italy and nobody was working………..the ship was deserted. I am not sure what the Italian public holiday was for but it probably was to celebrate hair, fashion or the invention of pasta.

Most countries give people a national holiday to celebrate a victory in a war, the brave action of men and women or that their country has something to be proud of …………strangely the country with the fewest public holidays in Europe ….is France.

The ship truly is spectacular and even though there is still work to be done, all signs point  to an on-time delivery. For those of you who have sailed previously on a Conquest class ship you will see a few minor differences along the Promenade deck including a new configuration of seating and staging in the aft lounge which is called The Moroccan Lounge.

While the differences along decks 4 and 5 are slight the changes on the open decks are immense. The mid ship pool now has a dome that at the press of a button can cover the deck area. The pool and big screen are still as on the Conquest class but placed differently and the whirlpools have been moved up one deck and have been placed against floor to deck glass giving you amazing views from the hot tub.

The aft pool no longer has the dome and now you have unprecedented views from the aft pool of the wake of the vessel and miles and miles of deep blue sea.

The Supper Club has been designed in a more open style and now you have views of the sea and directly down onto the decks below while enjoying that Porterhouse steak. Once I am onboard I am going to highlight a different lounge and guest area each day and will take many, many photos along the way.

For now, here are the photos we managed to take yesterday…………..I say managed because at one point we were told by the shipyard security that photos were not allowed. That’s because it’s not our ship yet ……………I will explain more about that in a moment…………but first here are some Heidi snaps.

Carnival’s Site Office in the ship yard, note the Carnival flag


Our New Home

 

Our new home


The Tower of Terror – the elevator to deck 11, John used the stairs

 

Lido deck mid-ship – note the space for the big screen

Lido deck mid-ship

Lido deck mid-ship

“Cloud 9” Spa Reception

“Cloud 9” Jacuzzi

“Cloud 9” Jacuzzi

 Main showroom “Spectacular Spectacular”

 Main showroom “Spectacular Spectacular”

Main showroom “Spectacular Spectacular”

Rehearsals begin

The Splendor Atrium (it was very dark when we took the photo)

The Splendor Atrium

Promenade in front of “Royal Flush” Casino

Promenade in front of “Royal Flush” Casino

“California Roll” Sushi Bar

“Red Carpet” Dance Club

“El Morocco” lounge chairs with protective covering

 

“El Morocco” Lounge

“The Cool” Lounge

“The Cool” Lounge

Seats in the “Robusto” restaurant

“The Gold Pearl” Restaurant

“The Gold Pearl” Restaurant

 

Corridor art work

Deck 9 aft

Deck 9 aft

Deck 9 aft

The view from the “Pinnacle” Supper Club

View from deck 12, facing aft

John on the Supper Club dancefloor (the only time you will see him there)

 

John e-mailing PA007 on his raspberry

The most famous cruise ship smoke stack in the world

Carnival Water Works

View of the slide

View of the slide

The most famous ship smoke stack

Heidi on deck

When I say it’s not our ship yet obviously this means we have not taken delivery. That will happen soon but for now we are able to do little onboard. For example, the bridge and engine department are working with their colleagues from Fincantieri and the dancers and technicians are allowed to rehearse in the theatre (which is beautiful by the way) but that’s about it for now. On the June 9 essential staff will move onboard to set up the galleys, load provisions, and prepare the vessel for occupation of 1,200 crew plus many more visiting technicians etc.

As of now nobody is living onboard and the hotels of Genoa are full of Carnival employees. I am here at one of the best in the city; it’s called the Star Presidente. It’s a big hotel and I hope if the Presidente does come and stay he will receive a better greeting than the one I got from the grumpy old sod behind the front desk.

Carnival has a “site office” in the shipyard but here everyone is fighting for desk space and time on the computer. It is full of people coming and going and trying to get work done is pretty much impossible…………….so, here I sit in the lobby of El Presidente …………..it’s not a bad hotel really……………you can’t complain about the service because there isn’t any.

Each day more and more crew arrive to the vessel. The entertainment staff will be here next week and Ken the Maitre D will also be arriving soon. For now though, there is little for anyone to do onboard except allow our talented friends from Fincantieri to complete their work.

I on the other hand have lots to do and for the next 7 days this will be my timetable.

 7 AM – alarm sounds, I swear and the argument of who uses the shower first begins

 7 AM – I have lost the argument, Heidi gets more time in bed.

 7:15 AM – I have showered, cleaned my teeth and am dressed and ready to go…………normally I would have added something else but because of my diet my poo clock is all over the place.

 7:15 PM – GOD KNOWS WHEN  – I wait for Heidi to get ready.

 8:15PM – APPROX – Breakfast in the hotel.

 9 am – 1 pm – Work in the lobby with the new laptop dancer computer thingy.

 1 pm – 2 pm – lunch

 2 pm – 5 pm – more work

 5 pm – 7 pm – blog

 7 pm – midnight – raspberry e-mails to answer with dinner

 Midnight – bed

What are we working on? Well we have 29 different Capers to design along with entertainment, meals, activities to schedule. Then I have to write the bullet points for my port information talks and so much more. Thank goodness for Heidi.

Yesterday Queen Elizabeth very kindly agreed to break off from her busy schedule of waving to strangers to say goodbye to a dear old friend………….more on that in a moment.

A few years ago Heidi insisted that we take advantage of being in London and off and went to Buckingham Palace. I really did not want to go but I did, and this look at the palace and staterooms provided a rare insight into the life of the royals.

First of all, I’ve never really understood why the richest and most powerful of the world’s royal families has to live behind a Motel 6, working-class veil of net curtains. There are no nets at The White House or Versailles! However, as our guide explained it turns out they are weighted at the bottom and designed to catch flying glass should someone set off a bomb.

That’s something you and I don’t have to worry about, and nor do we have to share our house with 300 staff, most of whom, it seems, will one day call the National Enquirer with revelations on Prince Philip’s toilet habits.

Then there’s the bothersome business of guests. Last week the new President of Uzbekistan was scheduled to make a visit. Imagine what that must be like, having to shake hands and smile and  have a conversation with a president of a country who she knows was elected because he had the most guns………….yet, she does this with such professionalism and I guarantee that President Borat got the same welcome as the president of France……………..well………….maybe better.

Just as difficult must be meeting people like me.  Every day a bunch of normal people goes to the palace for an official function of some kind, and every single one of them, no matter how worthy they are, will feel an almost uncontrollable urge to steal something.

I have never stolen or had the urge to steal anything in my life…………..except when I toured Buckingham Palace.

Over the years I have been to friends houses and eaten and some amazing restaurants and have never once felt the need to steal a piece of cutlery

However, Buck Palace was a different story. After the tour you can pay extra for high tea in the palace’s music room and it was here that I was overcome with the urge to steal. I had my eye on the Steinway Piano but anything would have done. A cup. A saucer. A Corgi…anything………………however, I resisted the temptation and contended myself with the knowledge that I had gently farted on one of the royal sofas.

The worst thing, though, for the Queen must be the decor… The Queen is the only person alive who has to live in the past and can’t just pop down to IKEA and add a bit of Swedish flair to the place.

The palace is awash with depressing portraits of unsmiling ancestors who look like they are about to be beheaded. In the main corridor pink and gold  sofas clash violently with the bright red carpets…………..that works on a cruise ship when you are dancing to Hot Hot Hot and drinking your twelth Fun Ship Special but when you are sipping on a glass of sherry listening to Brahms well that’s a different story.

The Queen can’t watch an episode of This Old House and think: “Right. I’ll knock through here, fit a new marble floor, some Turkish-style scatter cushions and top it all off with a 50 inch plasma screen with surround sound.” She’s stuck with what she has.

She’s stuck with her job, too.  Of course, theoretically, she still has the power to start a war, though the world seems to be doing that ok without her needing to. She can also still dissolve parliament. Have you ever seen the Prime Ministers Question Time on CSPAN? Well, if you have, you will know what I mean when I say if I was Queen….sorry…..King and I had the power to dissolve those idiots I would have done so many, many times.

Imagine having the power to send that lot home………..but she never has.

Not even for a bit of fun, during a party after her fifth glass of sherry.

You may argue that these hardships are eased by her vast fortune. This may be true. But what can the poor dear spend it on? A Yacht? An Aston Martin? She’s not Madonna.

Some say she should be replaced with a president. But who, at a cost to the nation of just 82p per person per year, is going to live in what amounts to Liberace’s wardrobe, and spend their days making small talk with hundreds of strangers each and every day ………….nobody.

Well, yesterday, the Queen got to do something that I am sure gave her a feeling of mixed emotion. She enjoyed her day but at the end of it she must have been quite sad. Many years ago Queen Elizabeth named a ship after herself and yesterday she had to say goodbye to the world’s most famous ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2. This was her last visit to the vessel before the ship retires to pastures new in Dubai.  Here is a firsthand account of what took place written by my good friend Mr. Peter Shanks. As you will see it was something very special here’s Peter in his own words. 

John

We were together in April for the ‘Three Cunard Queens in Southampton’ and I remember saying to you – ‘it does not get much better than this’. Well it just did – yesterday in Southampton we had another very special day with Her Majesty The Queen coming to add her personal farewell to the QE2.

We had 300 guests at the event onboard QE2 yesterday, a mix of past members of the ship’s company, travel agent partners, dignitaries, friends and, of course, the press.

Another very special guest was the much-admired former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher. Most companies dream of having a visit from royalty or a former Prime Minister – the QE2 attracted them both.

Mingling with the guests in the Terminal it was clear we were set for a special day. Everybody turned up on time – in fact, mostly early – to enjoy the champagne and orange juice. The string quartet was playing and we found ourselves surrounded by famous personalities and by past QE2 Captains and Crew warmly embracing each other at such a special reunion. Former Beirut Hostage and long time friend of Cunard Terry Waite said he thought it would be a sad occasion, but he was quickly reminded that this is a ‘Farewell Celebration’ year for QE2 and there was no time for sadness.

Soon our guests were spirited onboard to the famous Queens Room to await the arrival of Her Majesty. In the Mid-Ship’s Lobby the ship’s company applauded and cheered Her Majesty’s arrival and she arrived wearing a beautiful lilac outfit and a lovely smile as she was introduced to the ship’s company by our President and Managing Director Carol Marlow. For me it was the second time I had the honour of meeting The Queen, the first being the day she became Godmother of Queen Mary 2. I have to say the second time was every bit as spine tingling and special as the first.

The real objective of the visit was for the Her Majesty to meet as many of the ship’s company as possible. She toured the ship, spent time in the famous QE2 wardroom, met many of our long serving staff and every step of the way showed real interest and enthusiasm for what is after all – her ship. It was her fourth visit to QE2, the first being at her christening in 1967. Onto the bridge – and a pleasant surprise for her to see that her ‘other ship’ Queen Mary 2 was also in town. Now you know that when you have famous whistles it is good to sound them at every opportunity. Sure enough, Her Majesty sounded the QE2 whistle and in the distance Queen Mary 2 responded. Or rather we think and hope she did – but the wind direction meant that we were not really sure – so the party moved on. It was important for Her Majesty to see Queen Mary 2 – she will very much take on the mantle and lead the Cunard Fleet once QE2 has finally departed for Dubai.

Next stop was a photo opportunity for Her Majesty and nine current and former Captains of QE2. The group included Captain Peter Jackson who famously took QE2 down to the Falklands. And the Lady who requisitioned her for that famous voyage, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was with us as well. The atmosphere in the Queens Room as first Baroness Thatcher entered, and then to a trumpet fanfare Her Majesty, was something very special indeed. What better than The Queen – in ‘The Queens Room’? After taking time to meet more of our colleagues and guests, past and present, Her Majesty unveiled a final portrait of QE2 by the famous artist Robert Lloyd – it was time for lunch.

As you would expect, the Chef and restaurant team surpassed themselves. It had to be smoked salmon with caviar followed by beef and an awesome pudding. But only on the QE2, in such wonderful company, could it be the best salmon, caviar, beef and pudding our guests had ever experienced. It was and they certainly won’t forget it in a hurry.

Her Majesty was having such a good time, she stayed 20 minutes longer over lunch than we had expected. But when she wants to go she goes. As she stood up, The Caronia Restaurant resounded to a loud ‘Three Cheers for the Queen’. Only in Britain, only on QE2 – and there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

Just to make it really special – as The Queen disembarked she was handed 55 red roses – it was the 55th anniversary of her coronation. And for her to spend such a special day with us made it all the more poignant.

The real heroes of the day have to be our very special crew on QE2. How is it that a ship in its 41st year can deliver such excellence? It’s easy – the wonderful crew onboard QE2.

Later last night and this morning – pictures and footage of the day were jumping out of our TV screens – and we made the front page of the Daily Telegraph. Why – because us Brits love our Queen – and we love QE2. It’s no wonder that we describe our brand as ‘The most famous ocean liners in the world’ – today was one of those days that bring the brand to life. I can guarantee that all of our guests, just like I did, will have gone home bursting with pride and eager to tell their families and friends every detail of the day.

So John – another special day for Cunard. Sorry you were not here to share in the fun, but don’t worry we have lot’s more planned for the future.

Best Regards

Peter Shanks
Chief Commercial Office
Carnival UK

Just one last thing, I am a staunch royalist and although at times the Windsors have seemed more like the Ewings at the end of the day there is nobody like The Queen ………. she named the ship……………….the ship gave thousands of people the voyage of their lives……………the ship is tired and needs a rest …………..Queen Elizabeth at 81 yeas of age is still going strong, doing what she does each and every day and like the ship that carries her name, people who have experienced meeting her will never ever forget it.

God save the Queens

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.