Every now and then some glossy magazine produces a list of the best cities in the world, the places you’d most like to live.

Last year I remember the winner was beautiful Vancouver, with judges saying the quality of life is good and the threat of terrorism low. I can add more. The cafes around the harbour are lovely, there’s a good mountain backdrop and lots of lap dancing clubs……………….allegedly..

Other cities that have won……Vienna, Calgary, San Antonio, and the sleepy and somewhat boring city of Zzzzzurich and so on.

They even found a few kind words to say about Singapore, where you can be beaten and subjected to intimate body searches if you are found with chewing gum.

I was therefore interested to read last week that academics at Cambridge University had conducted a survey to find the place where people are most “happy and contented.” That seems a much better basis for discovering what’s what ……………rather than a survey conducted by a magazine that has a photo of David Beckham in his underpants on the front cover.

Canada came third, which isn’t surprising since they have so much space, diverse scenery, beautiful seasons and Celine Dion. Sweden was second, and again, I understand why. The women are all gorgeous and the men all look like Thor and they spend most days naked together, in a Sauna
But the winner I don’t get at all. Yes, a full eight places higher than Britain and eleven places higher than the USA…… the happiest, most contented place in all of the world is . . . Australia.

Now the UK and Australia have a very close relationship built on trust and honor and based on the fact that in the 19th century the UK sent all their most despicable criminals to the land down under to work.……we also never miss an opportunity to make fun of each other and when we play each other at sports……..well….winning is everything

Beating the Australians at rugby or cricket would be like beating the Americans at baseball or the Russians at ice hockey. Beating them is the single most deliriously joyful thing ever ……except when we beat the French………………at anything.

Why is Aussie such a good place to live? Well, they go to work in shorts and that’s a good enough reason to hate them. Also, they have cookers in their kitchens but choose to cook their shrimps in the garden. And the only invention to have come out of Australia, ever, is the rotary washing line.

But that aside I can fully understand why the people are so happy and content living down under and none more so than the lady I am about to introduce to you here.

Please meet Ann Sherry the Chief Executive of Carnival Australia………….strap yourself in for this one…………this brilliant lady is about to take you on a grand tour of her beautiful country and I think after reading her interview you will understand ……… why Aussies are so happy and content.

Here’s Ann.

1. G’day Ann……..didn’t know I could speak Aussie did you. Can we start by having you tell us a little something about yourself and your career so far? Who is Ann Sherry?

Aussie, formerly a banker (CEO Westpac NZ, CEO Bank of Melbourne), worked for Australian Government – adviser to Paul Keating when he was Prime Minister on the status of women in Australia. Described as having a big personality???? Passionate about what I do. Love getting businesses to really fire and believe you do that through your people. Believe great customer service is the key to word of mouth referral – the cheapest and best form of advertising.

Married (to the same guy forever) – one son, Nick, lots of fun. Have a farm we go to recharge and relax – love the beach and we are all surfers – although Michael and I have hung up our boards and now body surf.

Am up for an adventure – sailed in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race in 1995, trekked in Rwanda to visit the mountain gorillas in 2005 and in India to see the tigers in 2004. Traveled overland through Sudan and Ethiopia to find the source of the Blue Nile. Love travel.

Varied career – started my working life as a radiographer, retrained in economics and politics, postgraduate studies in Industrial Relations. Have worked in health, government, banking and now cruise shipping. Have worked and lived in Australia, UK and NZ.

Have also been on numerous Boards both commercial and not for profit – Monash University (Melbourne), Visa Asia Pacific, Special Olympics Australia, Catherine Freeman Foundation, Indigenous Enterprise Partnerships, Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, Wilson HTM. Working for many years with indigenous communities in Australia, building business capacity and funding raising for education scholarships.

2. Carnival Corporation’s operation in Australia is relatively new but expanding. Can you tell us all about our presence down under and which ships operate under your management?

Carnival Australia directly operates the P&O ships Pacific Dawn and Pacific Sun – we also look after the Princess ships – Sun Princess and from October, Dawn Princess. When the round-the-world ships are in our waters we look after them too – Cunard ships Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2, P&O UK ships. We sell to Australians all of the global brands – Seabourn, Costa, Princess, Cunard – Australians love to cruise and the numbers are growing rapidly.

The market has grown from having one ship based here for many years to now having nine ships here for all or part of the year. In 2007, more than 250,000 Aussies cruised – more than double the number in 2003. Our growth is over 17% per annum.

We mange the market and the contribution Australia/NZ pax make to the international company and all the global brands as well as manage our own ships.

3. Australia gives wonderful access to some amazing ports. Can you tell us about some of them?

Let’s start with Sydney – one of the world’s great harbours. Coming in through the Heads at dawn, the city is hidden from view until you enter the harbour, then as if by magic, it emerges from the dawn and the iconic buildings appear, the Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge framing the skyline. The ferries are staring to run, the sun shimmers on the harbour waters, and the harbourside homes have the sun reflecting from their picture windows – nothing like it anywhere else.

We move up the coast to the Great Barrier Reef – sailing by some of the world heritage listed athols – white sand, crystal clear water, turquoise blue sea – towards Cairns – where you can either go to the Reef on small craft or trek to the rainforest where the canopy is so thick you see the sun as shafts of light penetrating through small gaps in the tree tops. Water so clear and cold you can drink from the streams.

Around the top end to Darwin. Tropical yet bounded by semi desert. Crocodiles in the water – giant turtles and Dugong (the sea cow – a giant mammal). Darwin is where Australia almost touches Asia – a very Asian city – yet filled with indigenous culture and heritage. Keep traveling around the top end and you get the Kimberley’s – ancient canyons, red ochre, blue sea – the remnants of the world most ancient continent – dramatic landscapes. Stop in Broome – home of the famous Australian Pearlers and the place to buy giant white pearls (every woman needs at least one set). Again, red cliffs, blue sea. Wild Australia just out of town.

Melbourne – elegant with the ships docked right inside the harbour. Visit some of Australia’s best arts institutions, eat some of the world’s great food, and walk around a city that is modern with great contemporary architecture yet fringed with elegant Victorian homes and buildings. A city where fashion is prominent and elegance is everywhere.

I could go on but think you will have to visit to see the rest……

4. Do you have a personal favorite and if so why?

Arriving in Sydney is my absolute favourite – but entering Milford Sound in NZ is the other – why? Sailing into a fiord with snow-covered peaks and lush forest meeting the water – in a pristine landscape takes your breath away. From the sea is the only way to fully appreciate the scale and grandeur of this landscape – you can’t get to it any other way.

5. How about Australians themselves and their love of cruising. I have seen many sail with me over the last few years with Carnival, do Australian’s love to cruise?

Oopps, I guess we have to include New Zealand as well. Aussies and Kiwis are learning to love to sail. Many love it already and are avid cruisers – we are now getting more and more people aboard (pardon the pun). We live by the sea so have taken it for granted I think – we have had so few options in the past – now we are being more innovative with itineraries, the ships are better equipped for a broader market, the word is getting out that this is the best way to holiday……

6. What are your hopes and dreams for the future of the industry in Australia?

We want to be the fastest growing cruise business in the world – that means getting more ships to our market and each year continuing our growth rate of at least 16 – 17 %. We will be a $1 billion industry by economic contribution in 2010 and potentially a $3billion by 2020. We are ambitious for the industry here and the opportunity!!!!

7. My wife refuses to visit your beautiful country because you have spiders the size of Hummers. However, I have been and like millions of visitors, I was enthralled by its diverse beauty. If someone had a one-week pre cruise stay in Aussie, what would be your recommendations of what to see?

Spiders the size of hummers and snakes that can kill elephants are part of the rustic charm – and adventure.

If you had a week pre-cruise I would recommend you go to the centre of Australia and visit Uluru, and the central desert for four days. Nothing like it anywhere else in the world. Stay in elegant tented sites in the midst of the desert. The traditional owners live nearby and are happy to share their knowledge of the land and its history. The scenery takes your breath away and is a lesson in ancient plant forms, as well as anthropology. Then I would come back to Sydney and travel to the Hunter Valley where some of the world’s best wine and food is grown and made. Spend a couple of days going from winery to winery tasting – spend the evenings in restaurants looking out over vineyards, eating great food and drinking more great wine. Have dinner at Tetsuya’s the night before you board. One of the Top 10 restaurants in the world.

8. I heard that the Queen Victoria received the most amazing welcome in Sydney early this year. Can you describe what happened?

Sydney loves the spectacle of the grand dames of Cunard – the city turns out in force. Thousands of pleasure craft met her as she came towards the Heads and escorted her in to the harbour. Tens of thousands lined the harbour foreshore to see her and greet the passengers. It was a welcome that made passengers weep.

When she left we had a passing of the Queens – QE2 on her final exit and Queen Victoria on her first, passed in the centre of the harbour – then Sydney really went off. A picture tells a thousand words – so the pic attached. It was a great day and one that people still refer to as the best event of the year.

9. Finally, for guests coming to take a cruise from Australia they will need to speak the language. Can you teach us a few good Aussie words?

A few words that you need to get by

G’day = hello
Howzitgoing = how are you today
Great mate = I am well thanks
Come over for a barbi = would you like to come to my house for lunch
Don’t come the raw prawn with me = please do not treat me like an idiot
Togs = swimsuit
Sangas = sandwiches
Bonza = fantastic
Sheila = woman
What do you do for a crust = where do you work?
Stuck up = pretentious
Up yourself = pretentious
Give us a break = don’t be silly

The rest you have to work out, it is part of the fun.

10. In the tradition of the blog time for some fun, you are throwing a barbi and can invite six famous guests, before you tell us who, what’s on the barbi?

Some snags, a prawn or two, a beautiful big delicious angus beef steak, a couple of spuds roasting away and of course there is beer, wine and waiting on the table is some large fresh green gourmet salads.

Now, let’s see who you invite:

Someone from the cruise industry: Micky – to get him to OZ

Someone to make you laugh: Ruby Wax – fave comedian and irreverent

A handsome famous actor: Hugh Jackman – local but international – can sing, dance and act – a rare combo – a looker!

A musician: Andrea Bocelli and KD Lang – voices of angels – contemporary and opera

A sports person: Cathy Freeman – great human, an Aussie icon after her Sydney Olympics win, philanthropist (and godmother of Pacific Dawn)

A cruise director (I love a barbi): Guess that would be you as you are now the best known cruise director in the world and I will need some help with this lot

What a vibrant interview and let’s all thank Ann for putting her heart and soul into the interview and thank her also for those beautiful photos. Congratulations Ann and I know I speak for many when I say that I hope one day to sail on a ship in and around Australia……………………….we are still better than you at cricket though!

More news………….and another Carnival award to proudly announce.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES EARNS ‘BEST CONTEMPORARY CRUISE LINE’ HONORS IN TRAVELAGE WEST’S ‘WAVE AWARDS’

MIAMI (June 16, 2008 ) – Carnival Cruise Lines was named the “top contemporary cruise line” at the recent WAVE (Western Agents Votes of Excellence) Awards presented by TravelAge West Magazine.

The annual awards, which recognize travel companies in a wide range of product- and service-related categories, are based on feedback from TravelAge West readers, which include travel agents from 14 western U.S. states, as well as information gleaned from the publication’s editors.

Carnival – the West Coast’s number one cruise line with four ships based within the region on a year-round or seasonal basis – was recognized for providing guests with memorable, high quality vacations at affordable prices. Its “Fun Ship” fleet offers guests a variety of on-board facilities and features – a diversity of full-service and casual dining options, expansive spa and children’s facilities, spacious accommodations, and fun-filled activities for guests of all ages.

Pictured here at the WAVE awards ceremony held earlier this week in Beverly Hills, Calif., are (from left): Carnival’s Vice President of Sales – Western Region Vicki Tomasino; TravelAge West Editor Michele Rosenberg; and Carnival’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Guest Services Lynn C. Torrent, and Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships Edie Bornstein.

Carnival’s West Coast-based ships include the Carnival Pride and Carnival Paradise based in Long Beach, Calif., and Carnival Elation and Carnival Spirit in San Diego. In March 2009, Carnival will continue is West Coast expansion when the 3,006-passenger Carnival Splendor – the largest “Fun Ship” to date – replaces the Carnival Pride on year-round seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach.

These four ships are part of the line’s 22-vessel fleet which operates three- to 18-day voyages to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Alaska, Europe and other popular destinations.
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Here are today’s random photos.

I was hoping to pass on the exciting news about the Carnival Dream and her itinerary today but I cannot.  I understand from PA that the press release will be issued in the very near future and might even be able to get you an update over the weekend right here on the blog thingy……stay tuned.

Last night the crew all had to leave the ship for a blackout test. The power is cut and the emergency procedures are put into place with the closing of watertight doors etc. At least this means that today all the tests are over and they have finally turned the air conditioning on again. Not only was it hot but 800 Carnival Crew and 1,000 Fincantieri staff all working in a metal box with no air……………..well lets just say there was a pong in the air……….we were the M/S Carnival Paris.

The crew lounge opened last night. This is a place where the crew can relax and amongst the leisure opportunities is the use of a dartboard……….I hate darts.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m not very good at it… Mostly, I fail to hit the board at all, or the dart bounces back and pierces my shoe.

I also hate Math and am not very good at that either…….so there I am standing there, with my foot nailed to the floor, trying through a fog of pain to deduct 23 from 259.

As I speak they are testing the PA system with music so loud my ears are bleeding. I have no idea what the music is but it seems to be Italian country music about a man called  Ricardo Bob and his wife Bettino Sue who he has just discovered is actually his sister and he know intends to drive his Fiat pick up truck up off a cliff in Naples.

The diet is going well. I have given up all red meat and eat lots of veggies and chicken and fish. I will feel much better when the gym opens and I can start some light exercise. I really miss bread…..thick crusty bread…….and steak……and French fries and……well everything really.

Yesterday 200 more crew arrived and amongst them my buddy Ken Byrne the Maitre’D. By Thursday we will have a full complement of crew here. The next big date is the 28th and the hand over ceremony. This is when we take charge of the vessel and then maybe we can turn off this bloody music. Right now some chap is howling like he is having hot needles inserted in his nostrils….There is never a big hammer around when you need one.

I don’t think there is anything else to say. Let me know what you all thought of the wonderful Ann’s interview.

The air is off again.

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.