Jaqui, J Pegs and Jaws

June 6, 2008 -

John Heald

While I find it relatively easy to sit here and blog each day to all of my mates out there, sending photos and video to Stephanie to post …….well that’s another matter.

The theory of a digital camera is really impressive. You take a photo and then download it into your computer. And once you’ve done that the world’s your oyster.

You can e-mail it to a friend, alter the size of your wife’s breasts, print it out, blow it up, cut it down. There is no end to the possibilities. However, there is no beginning either because the procedure is so bloody complicated . First, there’s the camera itself, which takes the shot either 10 seconds after you press the button or just after the subject has died of old age, whichever is sooner.

Then there’s the bowl of spaghetti-like wiring you need to make it have a conversation with your computer. And e-mail –   It takes hours and then when it’s finally installed you can’t look at it because the file’s joined the circus and become an acrobat and doesn’t begin with .pdf jpeg thingy.

Last night I send the video to Stephanie and had read War and Peace twice before it stuck to the e mail. I really miss the days when you took photos on something ancient called film to Walgreens and the excitement I felt picking them up. You would open the envelope and oohh and ahhh at the ones that had developed and said bugger at the ones that were crap…………but it was fun………….you pressed a button………..gave them to a spotty kid to develop and that was that.

But that avenue of pleasure has gone and so too has the trip to the music store to buy Abba’s new album because I was told that was not the way of the world.

So, Heidi bought me an eye pod…………….insisting that I become “hip” and “modern.”
I have had the thing for a few months and It sat there as unused as a can of Right Guard Deoderant in a Frenchman’s bathroom.

Yesterday, Heidi found it, and I was in the doghouse for not using her gift. “listening to music while you blog will help you relax” she said.

So, last night, I signed up to one of the internet’s music sites – it’s called something preposterous like Doctor Download or Poke Me in The Eye Tunes.

So, I choose what songs I’d like to record and they’re transferred over the course last night to the Eye Pod, which has enough space in its memory for 170 hours of music. That’s a week of solid, wall-to-wall listening pleasure…………….unfortunately it turns out that out of all the world’s music I only like 43 songs…………….that’s all I could think of……….14 of those were by Abba.
Let’s do the news.

I see many of you are asking who the Godmother of the Carnival Splendor will be.

Thanks to PA 007, I do know, however, to protect their identity and knowing that there is an official press release coming soon, I cannot tell you just yet. You know I would if I could.

I can tell you that she is beautiful, very talented and will make a fabulous Godmother for the ship and her 1200 crew. I promise to let you know as soon as the time is right.

The Naming Ceremony will be conducted in Dover on the 10th of July.

I replied to a question from my good mate Paul F. Pietrangelo who asked why the Naming Ceremonies are not held in the United States. I replied to Paul that the last three ships, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Splendor all began their cruising life in Europe, therefore, that is where they are named. Please let me know if any of you need anything at all. I have replied to every request so please know that I am happy to keep doing so. Please let Stephanie know you need me to reply. At the moment, time does not allow me to reply to every comment, however, I remain at your service.

I see many of you are rejoicing in the news that Carnival Pride will sail out of the beautiful city of Baltimore come 2009. However, I see some of you are disappointed that she was not deployed to New York. I asked PA 007 to investigate why this may be. Here is what he/she said:

In the winter, leaving New York City and after you pass under the Verrazano Bridge, you are in the open Atlantic Ocean where bad weather and rough seas can be a problem.

In Baltimore, you are in the Chesapeake Bay, where the sea conditions are likely to be very smooth. While there may be an issue for a few hours from the mouth of the Chesapeake to the Florida coast, we are likely to give guests a very pleasant first and last night, which on a 7-night cruise is very important.

Unfortunately, this is not the case sailing from New York City. I am sure all New Yorkers will know that we have ships sailing from their magnificent city from spring until the fall.

Thank you PA 007. If any of you have any other comments or concerns, please let me know.

Carnival continues to bring the ships closer to your home and with flying becoming more challenging, I congratulate our deployment team for trying to diversify the fleet as much as possible.

I hope you all enjoyed the video. The first of many which I will film during the next few weeks, even if downloading them takes nearly as long as building a ship. On yesterday’s video you saw Duncan, the Hotel Director. On any ship there are unsung heroes and they include the hard working Hotel Directors. Many of these are career sailors who have spent many years at sea, dedicating their lives to passenger satisfaction.

One such person is a lady who you are about to meet, who as you will see, is a shining example of not only a great Hotel Manager but someone who truly has grown up in the industry. So I invite you now to sit back, grab a mug of hot chocolate and meet the Hotel Manager of Cunard’s newest ship, the Queen Victoria, Jacqui Hodgson.

1. Jaqui, please can you tell us about your career so far.

I started with Cunard in July of 1978 and as you can see from the information below  I have been lucky enough to have gained experience on many vessels which strengthens your knowledge of course and gives you the opportunity to work with a wide range of crew as well as the opportunity to meet many, many different nationalities of guests. In this industry, as in no other, you have such opportunities to meet people from many diverse cultures, backgrounds and experiences which is all part of the joy of travel.

In July 1978 Jacqui joined the ‘Queen Elizabeth 2’ in the Pursers Office, intending to stay at sea for between 1 and 2 years.  However that did not happen and this year she will have completed 30 years at sea.  The majority of this time being with Cunard with a 4 years secondment to Princess.

Prior to coming to sea Jacqui qualified as a teacher and then gained an honours degree in Economics and Business Organization.  She then worked in the City of London and the U.A.E. in various personnel roles.

Jacqui  has worked in a variety of positions at sea including the Front Desk and accounting, the Public Rooms Department and Housekeeping and also in the roles of Manifest Officer, Berthing Officer and Chief Purser before, some 12 years ago, achieving her ambition of being promoted to Hotel Manager.  Jacqui has worked on the Cunard Countess, the Cunard Princess, the Cunard Dynasty and the Caronia and actually served in the role of Hotel Manager on the Sea Goddess I and II, QE2, the Queen Mary 2, the Tahitian Princess, the Pacific Princess, the Coral Princess and the Island Princess;  and then returning to Cunard to join Queen Victoria in April 2008.

In 1982, during the Falklands War, Jacqui served onboard the QE2 and sailed south when the ship was requisitioned.  In fact Jacqui spent 16 continuous years onboard the QE2 and of course has very special and fond memories of her.

When not at sea Jacqui returns to her home, on the edge of the New Forest, which she shares with her husband whom she met onboard the QE2.

Jacqui is excited to be back in the Cunard fleet at this time of expansion and on behalf of the Hotel Department and the entire ship’s complement she sincerely hopes that you have a legendary, elegant and memorable voyage with us.  She looks forward to seeing you all back onboard in the near future.       

2. The position of Hotel Director is one of the most important onboard yet one that does not get the limelight. So, let’s put you in the limelight by telling us what you do.

My job is very varied and covers liaising and communicating with all departments within the passenger service side of the hotel from accommodation to bars; from accounting to provisions; from entertainment to restaurants; from galley to spas and salons and so on.  In running a 24 hour a day service to our guests we need to plan accordingly and occasionally to react quickly to things that need adjusting in order to exceed our guests expectations.  It is extremely varied and one that keeps me on my toes. The Hotel Department of any vessel always has the largest number of crew and on Queen Victoria this amounts to approximately 850 crew members of the 1000 crew assigned.

The social aspect of the role involves attending cocktail parties, hosting tables and generally getting to know the passengers as I move around the vessel on my ’rounds’.

Although we have a Personnel and Training Manager onboard there are always issues to discuss with reference to the crew be it social activities for the crew; career path transfers; inductions for new crew members, White Star (our service standards programme) inductions, crew boat drills and so on.  As the crew members are so important to the ship, being the heart of any vessel, it is important to support them in their daily work by being seen around the vessel and stopping to speak with them whenever time allows.

3. It must be an incredible feeling being the HD of the Queen Victoria. What are your favorite areas of the ship.

It is a very special feeling to head up the hotel side of this luxurious vessel and it is a prestigious role which I hold with pride. All areas of Queen Victoria are very elegant and graceful with a lot of art decor features but my favorite areas are the Grand Lobby – with its 3 levels overlooking the central atrium, the Queens Room with its double height ceiling and its superb chandeliers, which is the largest ballroom at sea, and the Royal Court Theatre which is the only Theatre at sea with traditional theatre boxes from which the guests can watch the shows.

4. Of course as we all know there are always challenges at sea and from a hotel side what are some of the challenges you face each day.

As Cunard has been operating for many years and my own experience spans some 30 years we always aim to plan for the expected and the unexpected however it is always challenging when nearly 1000 passengers leave a cocktail party, almost at the same time, and proceed to dinner and would like to be served in sufficient time to allow them to go to the production shows.  Also, having just visited St. Petersburg, we often have to dispatch in the order of  800 passengers on tour within the space of 1 hour and that can take some planning to ensure it runs smoothly and all guests get onto the right buses at the right time in order to enjoy the port and its surroundings.

5. Cunard has a huge band of loyal passengers. What is it that makes these people so loyal to Cunard.

Cunard has a tremendous history, 168 years in fact, and this coupled with the nostalgia, elegance, formality, links with stars of stage and screen and of course members of the royal family all contribute to making Cunard truly unique. Seeing a Cunard ship in port with its red and black livery is certainly a statement. It is this combined with our white star service standards that ensure our loyal guests continue to sail with us and of course to enjoy all that Cunard stands for.  They also enjoy getting to know many of the Cunard crew members who have been at sea for 10 and 20 years – after all we are in the hospitality industry and our people skills are vitally important.

We are also the only company to operate regular Transatlantic voyages and this really is ‘The Only Way To Go’ if you wish to be relaxed and ready to explore in either New York or Southampton.  These voyages are of course offered by the Queen Mary 2.

6. The hotel cannot run without the great crew. Can you tell us how many work within the hotel department and how many different countries they represent

Over 850 crew members work in the hotel side of the ship and they come from 45 different nationalities.

7. As you walk the property you must be aware of the history that comes with working aboard a Cunard liner. What are some of your proudest moments so far?

For me 3 of my proudest moments were meeting and speaking with the Queen at the naming ceremony of the Queen Mary 2 and returning to Southampton onboard the QE2 when we returned from the Falklands War.  The reception that we were given was superb and to know that we, namely QE2, had assisted in the outcome of the war was a true sense of achievement.  During the Falklands War I was one of only 12 female crew members to sail with the QE2 to the South Atlantic and I believe I am the only female from this group still serving at sea with Cunard.  In addition I had the opportunity to show George Bush Senior around the Queen Mary 2 whilst the vessel was chartered for the Athens Olympics which was a great honour.

The Royal Yacht Brittania welcomes the Queen Elizabeth 2 home after her active service in the Falklands.

8. You have I am sure met some wonderful characters onboard. Can you tell us about some of the Cunarders who have left a great impression on you.

Two of the most memorable characters, for different reasons, are Jimmy Saville and Terry Waite.  Mr Saville has sailed with me many times onboard the QE2 and he is an extremely well known personality who does a great deal of good for various charities and yet has a constant outgoing and friendly personality.  Mr Waite, who I had at my table on the QE2, spoke very calmly about his ordeal and how he had ‘suffered’ during his many years of captivity and it was amazing that he could talk about it with no apparent anger.

9. For those reading this interview who have never sailed with Cunard before could you describe the different dining options onboard……..and………tell us your own personal favorite dishes.

There are 3 main dining areas and these are linked with the category of cabins that our guests book.  There is the very elegant Queens and Princess Grills (a unique feature of the Cunard vessels) and the 2 storey, magnificently appointed Britannia Restaurant which operates a 2 sitting service for dinner.  Then we have the Lido Cafe and Lido Grill which serves a selection of foods across 24 hours and in the evening a section of this restaurant offers themed dinners eg Indian, Fondue, Italian, English and Chefs dinner.  

In addition we have our Golden Lion pub which serves traditional British fare at lunch time in a pub atmosphere and is extremely popular. We are also privileged to have a Todd English restaurant onboard which although having a cover charge is extremely good value for such fine dining in a very intimate environment.

Having such diverse dining areas onboard and a wide range of different cuisines means that I am very lucky to have choices but some of my favourite dishes are fish dishes including salmon; vegetarian dishes such as quiches and crepes; Indian dishes (not too spicy!!!); pasta dishes and occasionally a beef wellington!!

10. Finally, as is usual with these blogs we need to find out more about you.
Please fill in the blanks.

Favorite lounge on the Queen Victoria

The Commodore Club for its location at the front of the ship, its ambiance and a pianist playing during the day/evening.

Your favorite:

Drink – I am sure you will smile when I say I am rather partial to  ‘hot water’ but this does not assist the Bar Revenue at all so occasionally  I will have a Martini Bianco with a mixer or a very small glass of wine.

Naughty snack – I have a very sweet tooth so I do like good quality chocolate but luckily I have sufficient self control so I can eat 1 or 2 chocolates from a box and leave the rest for another day.

Movie – I am a romantic so movies that entertain with the good feel factor are my favourite.  Sleepless in Seattle, 27 Dresses etc are all my preferred choices together with animated movies such as Shrek.

Music / band – I like a mixture of music but Celine Dion, Karen Carpenter, Tina Turner, Take That etc cover the styles that I enjoy.

Celebrity you would most like to meet – I am intrigued by individuals that have made an impact in the world or who entertain and so I would love to meet either Nelson Mandela or Julia Roberts.

And…….if you were invisible for a day onboard the Queen Victoria how would you use your special powers.

I think it would be interesting to be a ‘fly on the wall’ in one of the passenger laundrettes onboard to hear the comments that our passengers share with each other.

Today, we received more containers with provisions and supplies, which are being slowly loaded on board. We had a setback within the Entertainment Dept. when the container vessel with our costumes and scenery was delayed due to rough seas. It was supposed to be here today but will now arrive on Monday. This may not sound too much of a problem, however, when you are working on a tight schedule as we are to have the shows ready, this was something we didn’t need.

However, spirits remain high and Heidi and I continue to put the programmes together. Tomorrow, the Entertainment Staff arrive and we will put them on camera very soon.

Also next week, I will be saying goodbye to an old friend……………………the Celebration.

She is here in Genoa being refitted and sporting her new colours. I never worked as a Cruise Director on the “Cele” as she was affectionately known, however, I was a Wine Steward there in 1988. On June the 11th, I have been invited to board her one last time and I will take my camera with me and report back to you.

I watched CNN International this morning, the only non Italian TV station in the hotel Star Presidente every morning while Heidi spends the day doing her hair. Anyway, this morning I was reminded of a gag I used to use when talking about our shore excursions and in particular our snorkel tours. I used to say that in the Caribbean you could snorkel at any depth of water and still see dozens of variety of sharks………..sorry……………fish. This would get a small laugh from the audience however watching the news this morning I realised that Sharks are no laughing matter.

On Thursday an 18-year-old Australian surfer boy was attacked by two great white sharks which, according to onlookers, tore at his body and then spent a few minutes arguing over who’d get which bit. ……………..he lost his left leg but lived to tell the story.

As usual, various wildlife experts were interviewed and they all said the sharks in question should be let off with a “Time Out” and a period of contemplation on the “naughty wave,” partly because they’re protected and partly because such attacks are extremely rare.

But they’re not. In fact, not even a week had passed since another surfer had been eaten on exactly the same piece of coastline. Meanwhile reported CNN, in California the surfing community has reported that shark attacks have doubled in recent years and it’s a similar story in South Africa.

Why is this happening……………..Well, some say the Great White has developed a taste for humans because we’ve eaten all their usual prey — tuna, Snapper, Grouper, Big Macs etc

Others argue that it’s because surf boards look like seals from underneath. Or it could be these shark attacks are simply God’s way of telling surfers to get a real job.

But I think I’ve worked out exactly who’s to blame . . . Disney style TV channels.

When David Attenborough or National Geographic does a wildlife show on the television, we see nature as it is………untamed and violent. We see the little thing’s big brown eyes and its wobbly legs when it’s born. We see it finding a mate, and relaxing in the sun after spending an hour frolicking and playing with its friends before nibbling on some grass and lapping water up from a gentle stream………. And then we see it being eaten by a lion.

Do you remember the penguin in The Blue Planet? He’d gone off to find food for his wife and been attacked, in blood thirsty close-up detail, by a leopard seal. Terribly wounded, he tried his hardest to make it home but the journey was too long, and the cliff was  too steep. So he died, pitching beak first into the ice waters below.

Now, if Disney had made this program, Mr Penguin would have found lots of food, all of it organic, successfully swam past the waiting leopard seals on the back of a Dolphin and made it back home.  He and Mrs. Penguin would have opened a tap dancing school and starred in Penguin Idol where Simon the Cow would have judged them to be the greatest talent he had ever seen since Lassie.
Today, great white sharks are always called “magnificent” and men and women scientists with lots of letters after their names and beards tell us that the Great White is not a killing machine but is fragile and vulnerable.

One can only guess, of course, but I bet the 18-year-old who was pulled in half by sharks this week didn’t think, as those teeth sank into his thighs, that the shark was magnificent or fragile.

Why then do we not treat the mosquito the same way. I bet the same Scientists who say we must learn to love and hug the Great White Shark has run around his bedroom at night with a rolled-up newspaper and a can of mosquito death spray, shouting: “I’ll get you, you little bastard.”

A great white is no different. It’s a 23ft aquatic mozzie, an underwater monster with razor wire teeth, and it should be treated as such………….Surfers just need to swap the rolled up newspaper for a rocket propelled grenade launcher.
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.