When you buy a washing machine, does it ever cross your mind that the water could be injected into the drum a little more quickly, or that the spin cycle could be turbocharged in some way? No? Well what about your lawn mower? Ever thought of chrome plating the blades or supercharging the engine and adding a spoiler on the back?

There is a very good reason why you leave your household goods alone; because you have a sense that they’ve been designed to be as good as possible, and that if you start tinkering you’re going to make them worse.

I bet, therefore, that your George Forman Grill maker is exactly as it was when it came from the shop — still in the box.

Therefore, when someone gives you a cruise ship that has proven successful for 22 years then you may be forgiven for just painting over the old logo and adding yours and off you go quoting the old “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” line.

However, while adding a Hemi V8 to your Fiat Panda or customizing your vacuum cleaner to look like the A Team’s van would be ridiculous, I have to say what Ibero Cruises have done with the old and trusted Celebration is quite extraordinary.

The ship is docked here in Genoa and today I was privileged to visit the new Celebration or as she is now called the “Grand Celebration.”

Just before I talk about the future let’s go back to 1988. I was a gorgeous and sexy Assistant Bar Manager…………….OK……………I was an Assistant Bar Manager.

I never got to be Cruise Director on the Cele as she was known but I do remember the ship always having a great spirit and a wonderful feel about her. So, 1988 was the last time I was onboard and until today I had never returned. I did though have many clear memories about how the ship looked and was excited to see the old girl.

I didn’t though……………because the old girl is a new girl and the designers and ship builders have done quite an extraordinary job turning a 20-year-old veteran of the seas into something current and offering all of today’s modern facilities and more.

They have opened the ship’s entertainment decks up by simply taking away doors and divides which have left the ship with a beautiful light and airy feel about it. There are new lounges and where once stood the aft lounge there now stands a fully equipped and quite stunning gymnasium and spa. This, along with the gorgeous pavilion bar on the aft open deck, stole the show for me.

I had gone onboard hoping that more memories of the old days would come flooding back but I was so impressed by the “new Celebration” that they never did.

The ship sails for Barcelona tomorrow where it will begin its cruising season carrying all Spanish-speaking guests. Then, in the winter she will go to Rio De Jiniero …….. Jenerio ….. Jinerio………….it goes to Rio where I am told the party really starts. The Captain of the vessel told me that during the Carnival week that people party onboard for seven straight days in various forms of undress……………….I intend to spend a week’s blogging during that time…………….without Heidi.

During the tour I did learn one extraordinary fact. The main theatre hosted a very special party for the cast of Miami Vice who were celebrating their successful 1st season. That must have been a sight to see Don Johnson and friends having fun onboard.

It was while we were walking through the dining room that I heard my name being shouted from the other side of the room. I have to admit I did not recognize the crewmember until he was up close. There stood Raul Xavi whom remembered me from the M.S. Holiday in 1987. He was a wine steward and I was a bar waiter. I had to admit that I would never have remembered him but I was so honored that he remembered me. We shook hands and I wish I could have spent more time chatting with him.

So, the Grand Celebration departs tomorrow and I wish her, the Captain and his crew good fortune. She looks amazing and her future is surely bright. She will also be taking with her the memories of thousands of passengers and crew for whom Carnival Cruise Line’s M/S Celebration was simply ……………the best.

John with a crew member who remembers him from 20 years ago

John outside his old assistant bar manager office

A first look at the Seaborn Oddessey

One last thing about the Grand Celebration. As I stood on the aft deck I saw something shimmering in the distance…………..it was breathtaking…………….and even though it’s very early in construction the Seabourn Odyssey is already something that dreams are made of. I am going to try and sneak a closer look tomorrow and my camera will be coming with me.

OK, you are building a new house. You see the plans the architect has drawn up ………..you say “yes, that’s what I want” you give them a few thousand dollars and you wait…………..nervously…………..hoping the house will be as you wanted it to be.

Now, imagine that and then imagine that as a ship owner you have reached into your safe located behind the picture of dogs playing poker, pulled out $700 million and change and said to Corrado the Ship Builder…………”OK mate……….here you are…………see you in 18 months.”

Well, 18 months later Mr. Arison arrived to see how his and my money has been spent ………when I say mine I don’t mean I loaned him a few dollars for a light bulb, but as a stockholder I guess it’s a little bit my money.

As apprehensive as Mr. Arison may have been can you imagine the poor project manager who had to show him around…….I noticed he was dressed from head to foot…..in brown!

So, they began their tour with Mr. Arison leading the way followed by Mr. Foschi the President of Costa Cruises. He is the most dapper of men and always looks as he has just leapt of the cover of GQ magazine. Behind these two men of biblical importance came the project managers, shipbuilders, designers, engineers, the Captain, The Chief Engineer, The Hotel Director, various crew members, security guards, and at the very end ………. Heidi and I. Honestly, Michael Jackson has a smaller entourage. At one point Mr Arison came to an unexpected and sudden stop and we all rear-ended each other……it wasn’t pretty.
We toured the vessel for two hours and by the end two things became clear. One ………….. like me, Mr. Arison was delighted with the ship ……….and two……I needed the toilet really badly.

Seriously, the ship looks amazing and although I was not privileged to hear discussions afterwards as they all left for a five-course lunch I could see by the smile on Mr. Arison’s face that he knew that once again Corrado the Ship Builder and the incomparable people at Fincantieri had built another brilliant addition to the fleet of Carnival …….the most popular cruise operator……………….in the world.

Oh, also a clue that all was well was the fact that the project manager didn’t need the small bottle of cyanide that he had brought with him and he left a happy man ……………. and alive to help build the next one.

A few years ago I remember visiting my mate Danny. He had a Ferrari, a Bentley and a big Mercedes…………….at the time I was driving an old Jeep Cherokee. I remember feeling how wonderful it must be to look out on your driveway and see those three cars.

I wonder then how Mr. Arison felt today. Looking out on his drive, he sees the Carnival Splendor, The Costa Pacifica, the Grand Celebration and the soon-to-be most luxurious ship in the world………..The Seabourn Odyssey. I don’t know Mr. Arison outside of a quick hello and the pleasant conversations we have when we meet……………but…………..I can only imagine that he must be bursting with pride and what he has accomplished and the permanent and ever lasting impression he has made on this great industry……..we should thank him………..I know you all will.

My Dad tells me every day how proud he is of me…………..I can only imagine how proud Mr. Ted Arison would have been of his son………………….and although I stood at the back of the entourage today a small fish in a very big pond………………….I was proud of him to.

Tune in tomorrow for some videos.  Until then, here are some photos.


Couples Spa Suite

The Entourage

John meets Mr. Arison

John, Mr. Arison and Mr. Foschi

John with Captain Pagano, Chief Engineer Galotti and Hotel Director Puttock

Your friends
John, Heidi and Micky

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.