Gift Ideas

June 7, 2008 -

John Heald

As Britney once said in a rare moment of sobriety “whoops, I did it again.”………..just replace the whoops with the word bugger and you have the perfect quote to describe my morning. I did indeed do it again and once more dear friends goeth I into the doghouse.

Heidi had spent the yesterday evening completing the entertainment staff schedules for the 2-day and 8 day cruises and placing them on our new lap top dancer computer thingy. Well, this morning why Heidi was doing her starfish impression I turned Mr. Sony on and apparently as I did so it deleted Heidi’s work from the previous night. Now, I have no idea how I did this but the result is two hours of work is gone forever and I am in the doghouse yet again. I was going to mention that maybe she should have saved the work etc but it was difficult especially as I needed to concentrate on dodging the various objects that were being flung in my direction.

Anyway, I decided that even though this was not my fault I would make it up to Heidi by doing something I hate ……………go shopping to buy her a gift.

Now, for those newcomers to the blog who may not know I hate shopping. I would rather lick the inside of a Bulldogs nostril than shop. I love my wife though and to thank her for her help so far and to try and make up for giving Mr. Sony the Ebola virus which made her file get sick and die…………..I told her I was going to go out and buy a newspaper and a cigar and left her to start all over again with the schedules.

What to buy her though………..that was the question. There are certain rules that as men we must adhere to or risk having a close encounter with a high-heeled shoe.

Obviously I know you should never buy your wife anything that needs a plug so as I wandered the streets of Genoa I tried to think of something else.

Perfume, for example. Have you actually been into the perfume department of a shop recently? Not only do you have the traditional choice of about 10,000 from the well-known names such as Chanel etc but now you have celebrity-endorsed products as well.

Does your wife want to smell like Beeonsay or Celine Dion? Or would she like to spend her life strutting around with a whiff of Paris Hilton behind her ears? Horrified that you might buy the wrong scent and have your wife smelling like Lindsey Loohan’s new perfume “Absolute No.5″……….. you head for the clothes department, but this is an even bigger mistake because you’ll buy the wrong thing and if you are me you will buy the wrong thing………………………………… in the Wrong Size.

So, jewelry then. Well, my biggest problem with this is that for some strange reason Jewelry stores never advertise their prices, They are written on a small tag that not even a contortionist can see. Even if you do manage to see the tag the prices are written in code and unless you have an Enigma machine with you only the sales person will understand.

I hate buying jewelry. I once saw a necklace I wanted to buy Heidi and when the sales person showed it to me and had told me the price was $11,000 I nearly had a bowl movement. However, I was in a posh store and didn’t want to appear cheap and inferior to the rich and tanned that were spending trillions of dollars. Therefore, I spent the next few minutes explaining to the sales person that I didn’t like the clasp …………loved the necklace ……….but felt the clasp would not be what she wanted. It of course had nothing to do with the fact that the necklace was $11,000 and I had a budget of $99.99.

Personalised luggage or stationery is fine, but this needs to be ordered in March. And it’s much the same story with furniture. Plus, it’s hard to carry a new dining room table back to the ship, keep it on the ship and then take it home on the train.

This will be Heidi’s last few months on a ship. She has done 11 years and now it is time for her to live a normal life. Don’t worry……….I am not going anywhere but Heidi needs to be at home and do normal things…………..I can buy her a new dining room table then. Of course, the shop can deliver but this involves filling out a form, and then another. And then some more. And then the information has to be typed onto a computer, and by the time that’s been done the table you just bought has got woodworm.

Why can’t they just write your address down on a post it note and give it to the truck driver?

It is usually at this point that when I cannot think of anything else to get her that I buy her candles. We all know that girls like to spend hours having baths in semi-darkness and we cannot imagine what they might be doing in there……………and candles are not allowed on the ship. My wife does have a candle fetish though. Our house is covered in the bloody things. We can walk in to our house after a long hard day, it can be freezing cold and I could be starving hungry but before the heating goes on and before I get fed ……….the candles must be lit……………….it’s the law.

How about a book. Well, apart from the fact that I am in Italy and finding a menu in English is impossible without works of fiction being translated here> I also have a problem with my wife’s choice of books.

If I ever get caught looking at a film or a magazine with photos of women in an undressed state I get a bollocking. However, my wife is currently reading a book by Jackie Collins about some woman called Lucky. The other day I grabbed the book on my way into the bathroom and was horrified to discover my wife reads pornography. During my quick flick through the pages it became obvious that the plot involved around sex, martinis, sex, film stars, sex, rock stars and sex…………… was disgusting………………I wish she would hurry up and finish it ……….I had just got to the bit when Lucky had stabbed the mad old billionairess Miss Bee in the eye with a tooth pick and then slept with a rap star called Lay Z………………..when I had to flush and give Heidi her book back.

Do you remember the blog I wrote (I think it was yesterday) about my lack of knowledge and understanding about the digital world……………..well………….it appears I am not alone and it was perfect timing therefore that our friends at Holland America released this gem.

Holland America Line and Microsoft Introduce Onboard Digital Workshops

Guests Learn Digital Photography and Video Editing, Blogging and Web Skills While Cruising

Seattle, June 6, 2008 – Guests on Holland America Line ships will be able to “show and tell” their vacation memories when the companies launch Holland America Line Digital Workshop powered by Microsoft Windows on the ms Amsterdam and the ms Oosterdam, followed by the ms Westerdam in June and the line’s new Signature-class, 2,104-passenger ship, the ms Eurodam, in July, expanding fleet wide within 18 months. Free workshops led by Microsoft-trained “techsperts” will show even the most novice camera or computer user how to take better vacation photos, make movies, edit pictures and create scrapbooks using a variety of Microsoft Windows and Windows Live services. Guests will learn how to share all their digital memories through email, blogging and social networking – so friends and family can see where they’ve been cruising even before they return home.

“Holland America Line is constantly looking for ways to enhance our enrichment offerings to our guests,” says Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. “It was a natural fit to team up with the world’s software leader to provide this interactive ‘edutainment.’ Not only will guests have fun learning how to document and share their memories, they’ll take home new knowledge and confidence in technology.”

“We are excited to be working with the Holland America Line, the highest-rated premium cruise line in the world, to provide this innovative and immersive program,” said Debbie Anderson, Director of Windows Consumer Marketing, Microsoft Corporation. “With the Holland America Digital Workshop, cruise guests will be able to use Microsoft Windows and Windows Live to share their experiences with friends and family in a relaxed setting as they sail to exotic destinations around the world. It’s thrilling to see that even in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Windows can help people make memories and stay in touch in fun new ways.”

The program, which is complimentary and has its own dedicated space on each ship, kicks off with a 50-minute session. Called “Just Shoot Me,” the session provides tips and tricks on how to take the best pictures, and introduces passengers to onboard editing and movie-making resources available on the cruise, including Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Movie Maker.

The “Just Shoot Me” session will be followed by jargon-free interactive sessions, also 50 minutes in length, designed for smaller groups to try out the technologies themselves in a hands-on environment. These workshops include:

·On the Download – How to move images between a digital camera and a Windows-based personal computer, with basic instruction.

·Put Your Best Face Forward – How to crop and color-correct digital photos and easily create panoramic pictures by stitching photos together using Windows Live Photo Gallery.

·Your “Home Away From Home” Movie – How to add music, special effects and titles to your videos and publish to a DVD using Windows Movie Maker.

·Show and Tell – How to create and upload photos to a personal Web page, invite friends to view the Web page and email photos using a variety of Windows Live services.

·Your 15 Minutes of Fame – How to turn your vacation journal into a blog by creating a basic Web page and blog entries using Windows Live Spaces and Windows Live Writer.

·A Click Ahead – How to design a photo card and a basic scrapbook, as well as how to order notepads, stickers, posters and other photo-related items from the Internet using Windows Live Photo Gallery.

The digital workshop showcases state of the art technology provided and maintained by Microsoft – including Windows Vista-certified computers, servers, printers, scanners and a wireless network. The workshops will also feature flat screen TVs for easy viewing of videos and “techspert” demonstrations.

Guests can choose to attend all or just some of the workshops, each which will be offered at various times and days throughout each cruise. Multiple workshops will be held every day. In addition, one-on-one coaching, called “Techspert Time”, will also be available for over 20 hours each week.

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This is super………………congratulations and please sign me up………I need help.

Can someone please explain what a scart lead is for? Designed to not quite fit in the socket, its prime function, so far as I can see, is to work itself loose and then fall into that unreachable vat of spaghetti that lives behind your television set. When I was home a man came over to fix some aspect of my television and he found the last bloke I’d called two weeks earlier still round the back, still pushing wires into other wires in the vague hope that some kind of picture could be restored.

As you know I am crap at anything that involves wires, plugs and instruction books, but now I am utterly at a loss. It is impossible to tune a modern-day television and if your Sky+ box (Tebo) breaks, which it will, every 15 minutes, you cannot hope to affect a repair yourself. You call a 1800 local number from the UK and eventually its answered by Satish from Bombay who cannot understand you and whose answer to you watching static is to take your viewing card out of the box and rub it with a cloth……………..and when that doesn’t work he tells me that its the scarp lead and yet another man will need to come over. by this time you have lost the will to ever watch TV again and end up reading a Jackie Collins book on the toilet.

Oh, and I nearly forgot. In case the Sky+(TEVO) thingy goes wrong again we now have a DVD recorder to go with the normal DVD player, the amp, the VCR, the surround sound and the CD Player. That’s six remotes, each of which has a minimum of 30 buttons. Fine. But if your arse accidentally sits on one of them you have no clue which one it was and what you should press to make everything work again.

Of course you stab away, going into menus and endless sub-menus until eventually you are so completely baffled by the electronic maze you have no option but to summon the man, who by this stage is so rich from the previous times me and poor sods like me have used his skills will arrive in a Bentley

Worse than the TV hell though are chargers. We have chargers for cameras, cell phones, video cameras, raspberrys and then they come with European to American, American to European, British to European, British to American and by the time you know it we need a suitcase just for chargers……………….why is then that by 2:00pm my raspberry has as much strength as Samson with no hair and when I look for a charger Heidi is using it to power up twin turbo hair dryer.

Let’s do the news.

Now, following on from the news about the Carnival Pride making the people of Maryland and the surrounding area very happy comes another release again from PA 007 – this time about the Carnival Freedom. PA sent me this late last night and I wanted you to see it today.


MIAMI (June 6, 2008 ) – Carnival Cruise Lines’ 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom, which was originally scheduled to operate six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on a seasonal basis, will now operate the program year-round, following the conclusion of its 2008 Mediterranean program in October.

Carnival Freedom’s year-round schedule from Fort Lauderdale begins November 22, 2008, with six-day cruises departing Sundays and visiting Key West, Fla., George Town, Grand Cayman; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica, while eight-day voyages departing Saturdays alternate to the eastern and western Caribbean.

Eight-day eastern Caribbean voyages visit five ports: San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas/St. John, U.S.V.I.; Antigua, Lesser Antilles; Tortola/Virgin Gorda, B.V.I.; and Nassau, The Bahamas. Western Caribbean cruises include Cozumel, Mexico; Limon, Costa Rica; and Colon, Panama.

According to Lynn C. Torrent, Carnival’s senior vice president of sales and guest services, “The Caribbean is, by far, the most popular cruising region for North Americans. It is easily accessible and affordable, and when combined with attractive, destination-rich itineraries such as these, a Caribbean cruise represents the ideal vacation choice for consumers.”

Torrent noted that while the plan had been for Carnival Freedom to return to Europe in 2009, the strong performance of the line’s entire Caribbean fleet made the new six- and eight-day deployment a compelling choice.

Exciting Six- and Eight-Day Cruises
On Carnival Freedom’s six-day cruises, guests can enjoy three distinctly different island experiences – Key West, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios – each of which offers excellent shopping and dining opportunities, along with a variety of “fun in the sun” activities, including magnificent beaches and watersports.

Carnival Freedom’s eight-day eastern Caribbean cruises feature five ports – San Juan, St. Thomas (optional shore excursion to St. John), Antigua, Tortola (optional shore excursion to Virgin Gorda) and Nassau – providing consumers a diversity of landside experiences, along with a variety of restaurants, shops and boutiques. A wide range of shore excursions are also offered, including horseback riding, scuba diving, hiking and kayaking. During an extended evening stay in San Juan, guests can also sample that city’s legendary nightlife.

In addition to historical sites and attractions, including centuries-old ruins, the eight-day western Caribbean cruises to Cozumel, Limon and Colon offer a multitude of dining, shopping and watersports experiences. A number of “adventure-type” tours, including canoeing, and white-water rafting, are featured, as well. From Colon, guests can experience all the wonders of the Panama Canal and even a unique bi-coastal railroad adventure.

Both of these eight-day cruises offer visits to ports that are usually available only on cruises of 10 days or longer. In addition, these cruises depart on Saturdays and return on Sundays, which allow them to fit into the consumer’s traditional one-week vacation pattern.

Variety of ‘Fun Ship’ Amenities
Spanning a length of 952 feet, Carnival Freedom offers a variety of on-board amenities and facilities: a 14,500-square-foot health and wellness facility, a jogging track, a duty-free shopping mall, full casino gambling, and 22 lounges and bars, including a multi-level theater showcasing lavish revues.

Dining options include two two-level main dining rooms offering extensive menus and wine lists, a 1,200-seat poolside eatery with full breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets and a 24-hour pizzeria, and an elegant reservations-only supper club.

Family friendly amenities include children’s programs for three different age groups – “Camp Carnival” for kids ages 2-11, “Circle C” for ’tweens, and “Club O2” for older teens – with facilities and activities for each.

Carnival Freedom also offers a variety of accommodations including a wide selection of balcony staterooms and suites – perfect for scenic cruising. All Carnival Freedom accommodations feature the Carnival Comfort Bed sleep system with plush mattresses, luxurious duvets and high quality linens and pillows. Carnival Freedom also houses an Internet Café, along with ship-wide Wi-Fi access and cell phone service.

Reservations are currently being accepted for the Carnival Freedom’s year-round six- and eight-day voyages from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Special rates for third and fourth guests sailing in the same stateroom, along with round-trip air supplements from a variety of North American gateways and pre- and post-cruise South Florida land stays, are also available.


So, next year the Carnival Liberty will return to Europe and I hope to be able to share her complete itinerary with you very soon. Also, look out for news on the Carnival Dream next week……………you will here it first right here on the blog……………PA is on the case and I think you will all be excited when you hear his/her news …………..make sure you check in every day.

Meanwhile, the carnival Freedom continues to sail the waters of the Caribbean on those wonderful 6 and 8 day adventures.

Talking of which…………………..I have been asked to reply to many e mails via Stephanie with people asking where I will be in 2009. Well, as yet I have no idea. I am truly honoured that many of you are deciding to try and book a cruise on the ship that I will be on and as soon as I know what I am doing I promise to let you know.

I thank you again for all the comments especially from those regulars who write each and every day………………thank you so much…………….I remain at your service.

Finally from today’s news section. On Monday the press release will be issued detailing the Carnival Splendor’s Godmother and the ceremony. However, thanks to PA 007 I already have a copy of the release which he/she scanned to me this morning. I will release the ummm…release tomorrow………….one day before the national press. I will no doubt receive a major bollocking from my friends in PR …………….oh well……..small price to pay for keeping all of you informed before anyone else…………….also………………..I apologize for the stain on the scanned copy of the press release…………….PA spilt their fish head soup over it………………bugger.

Anyway, tune in tomorrow and find out who she is…………..not PA………………….the Godmother.

Back to Heidi’s gift……………So, I returned to the somewhat safe bet of perfume. I realise I should know what she wears but I am afraid I do not. Our bathroom looks like a chemical factory with dozens of creams and lotions jostling for space while my soap on a rope sits alone with no friends.

I ended up not buying a ” celebrity ” issue perfume but went with the safe bet of something by Cartier. However, knowing my luck Heidi will not like its pong and return it to the shop and exchange it for ” La Fromage “………the great new scent by Jean Paul Gautier.


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.