Many of you who will be joining us here on the Carnival Splendor will be looking forward to spending a few days before or after the cruise in England’s capital…….London. So much so that I have been sent quite a few “Please Reply “comments regarding what to see and do there.

The problem is I don’t spend much time in London; in fact I had not been for nearly a year. However, a few weeks ago I went to London to conduct interviews for Entertainment Staff there, and do you know what…………….it had gone.

While sitting in a taxi near Trafalgar Square I noticed a huge queue (line) for one of those old-fashioned red phone boxes.

Why, I thought, are people queuing to use a phone box? Everyone has a cell phone these days. And why is the Japanese woman who’s actually using it not using it at all? She’s half in and half out, smiling and giving the V for victory sign with her two fingers.

It turned out she was a tourist posing for a photograph in the only slice of olde England she could find. And what’s more, all the people behind her were also tourists queuing to have their pictures taken with it as well. This made me rather sad.

How far have they traveled, I wondered? And how much have they spent on this once in a lifetime trip to the former capital of the free world? And this – this smelly old phone box – is the only evidence that they are in London and not New York, Toronto or Sydney.

The policemen have replaced their big light bulb looking helmets and happy to tell you the time attitude with Kevlar body amour and Heckler and Koch MP5 machine guns.

The major tourist attractions are unrecognizable as they have a ring of steel and concrete around them to stop Abdul and his mates driving three tons of C4 into Parliament. The pigeons that have been part of life in Trafalgar Square for years have all been shot because nobody wanted to clean up their poo anymore and the absolute last language you will hear spoken on any street is English.

There’s more, too. Today the beefeaters who stood proudly guarding the crown jewels the heritage of the British Empire are women. The Double Decker buses were all sold to Saudi Arabia by our mad as a rabid bat, Mayor……Ken Livingstone. He was voted out of office in May and replaced by Boris Johnson who is just as mad as Ken but who has vowed to give London back its Britishness…………………… He will have a lot to do.

The pubs that once served a pint of warm bitter and a slab of toad in the hole for lunch now serve a bottle of Corona and thinly sliced peacock’s wing drizzled with cold strawberry and essence of frog sauce.

Even the names of these establishments that have stood for over 100 years have had to change their name and appearance to meet the demands of the new London. The Horse and Hound a pub in the City near where I used to work is now a wine bar called Vines and where as these pubs used to have landlords called Dave and Arthur who would greet you with “Aw right sunshine……havin a pint are ya?”……..you now get greeted by someone called Pierre who probably won’t greet you at all.

Yep………it’s a new London………..even the Queen has changed her appearance to look like Helen Mirren.

No wonder then that the sight of one of only a few remaining red phone boxes had the Japanese so excited……..I can only imagine what would have happened if they had seen a chap dressed in a bowler hat and a pin stripped suit carrying the Financial Times and umbrella under his arm.

Tea Time, the once great and protected tradition of all Londoners has disappeared …………probably because you can’t find anywhere that sells a good old cup of rosey ……..that’s Rosey Lee………tea.

If you are in London and fancy the even older tradition of High Tea at one of the restaurants or hotels be prepared for a shock. I took Heidi to the Ritz a few years ago for High Tea……….something she always wanted to do. ………………. unfortunately we will not be repeating that experience as never again will I pay 70 pounds………$140………..for two cups of Earl Grey and a piece of cake. It’s not a surprise though because hotels like the Ritz and Claridges are the only establishments left serving this 3 pm piece of history…………..everyone else buggers off to one of the 3 million Starbucks for a cup of joe.

However, London is a multicultural city which has had to adapt to the world we live in. There are restrictions on carbon footprints, you have to pay to drive in the city and billboards advertising women’s fashion have been banned within a 5-mile radius of Mosques in case someone gets upset at seeing a naked toe.

This is all well and good but will all of this attract the much-needed tourist?

I mean, how many people sit down with the travel brochures every year and think, “This year, for our vacation, let’s go somewhere really multicultural and green”?

None. What people want when they come to London is pomp and circumstance.

You can of course still find this if you look really hard. So, here we are eventually after all my grumbling with the list of must see places while you are in this great city.

-Take a tour of Buckingham Palace
-See the Tower of London – it hosts the Crown Jewels and the dungeons of the Bloody Tower are not to be missed.
-The London Eye – the views are stunning and you will get the best possible photos of Big Ben.
-Kew Gardens – the royal gardens just outside London are beautiful.
-St. Paul’s Cathedral
-Westminster Abbey

Remember, we have some fantastic pre and post shore excursions to London and to Windsor as well. Have a look at www.carnival.com/splendor for more information and please send in a Please Reply comment if you need further advice.

Finally………..if you want a traditional lunch served in a traditional restaurant with a traditional British flavor……….you must go to Simpsons on the Strand…………..the best Yorkshire pudding this side of my Mums.

London has changed and I guess out of all the major cities in the world it is probably the most unrecognizable from its past.

Coming to London now is a bit like tuning in to an episode of The Apprentice to find Donald Trump and his Savel Row suit has been replaced by Eva Longoria in a bright orange thong

It’s not wrong……………………………. It’s just not what anyone was expecting.

Let’s meet a good friend of mine and one of the most important people within Carnival Corporation……………Mike Kaczmarek who oversees all the Corporation’s shipbuilding and refits. As you will see from this interview Mike is a gentleman who truly loves everything about ships and the sea.

Sit back and enjoy.

1. Michael, I have mentioned your name on on few times before in various blogs but for those who don’t know you can you introduce yourself by telling us about your career so far and your current position. I also would like to highlight your military career which you should be very proud of so please tell us about your service.

I joined Carnival after a Navy career, the first part of which was in naval aviation, starting with operational time in Vietnam, Korea and Japan.  In the following years I spent time in the Pacific and Asia flying from aircraft carriers, and was stationed in Scotland with a Royal Navy squadron on HMS Ark Royal.  I had command of a carrier-based aircraft squadron in San Diego, was later captain of a ship in Seattle, and eventually commander of a group of ships on the east coast.  In between the operations was staff time in Washington DC and a tour in Italy as 6th Fleet operations officer. 

I wanted to continue with the shipping world after the Navy and was fortunate to land with Carnival, where I’ve been for almost 10 years.  I started as Director of Shipbuilding and with the delivery of Carnival Paradise, the last of the eight Fantasy-class ships, which was built in Helsinki, Finland by Kvaerner Masa Yards.  That yard went on to build the Spirit class ships for Carnival and the similar Atlantica class for sister company Costa Crociere in Italy as well, all excellent ships by a good builder in the industry at that time.  One of the other ships completed soon after I arrived was the spectacular Carnival Triumph, built in Monfalcone, Italy (near Trieste) by Fincantieri:  I remember hosting some of the builder’s senior management on the Inaugural cruise and the Cruise Director was —– John Heald!  We all watched fascinated on the first night as you offered some gentleman from Chicago the opportunity to win a necklace for his wife by just responding with a ridiculous dance — wherever he was, onboard or ashore, for seven days  — every time another guest spotted him and shouted  “Chicago!” This was highly amusing to the other guests and our Fincantieri friends and in the end the poor guy persevered and won.

After a few years and nine ship deliveries I transitioned for a time to VP of Carnival Ports, a port development operation which built or sponsored new cruise ports in Long Beach, Jacksonville and Grand Turk (Turks & Caicos), new cruise terminals in Brooklyn and Miami, and major terminal renovations in Galveston, New Orleans and Manhattan. 

In 1995, I returned to Shipbuilding and in a few short years have participated in the construction and delivery of 14 more ships for the Corporation.  Our corporate shipbuilding department has offices in Miami and Southampton, and in the latter resides most of the technical expertise and day-to-day oversight; in each shipyard we also have an inspection led by project and building managers, who act as our official routine contact with the yard and building process.

2. Can you tell how many ships are currently under construction for Carnival Corporation and where they are being?

There are 19 (after delivery of Holland America’s Eurodam this weekend) ships we currently have under construction or contract at five different locations in Europe — four in Italy and 1 in Germany.  Three of the Italian yards (near Trieste, Genoa and Venice) are Fincantieri, who is currently our primary builder.  Another Italian yard, also in Genoa, is Mariotti, who is building a series of three smaller luxury ships for Seabourn.

The fifth yard is Meyer Werft, in northern Germany, one of the oldest (and most modern) family-owned yards in the world, where we’re building a series of ships for Aida cruises in Germany.

3. It always amazes me how spot on the shipyards can be with their completion dates. Is there any secret to this and is there any particular stage of the process that is more important than most to achieving the completion date.

The shipyards are required by contract to deliver on a certain day and as the yards have matured as cruise ship builders they’ve gotten pretty good at doing so.  Having said that, competitive modern shipbuilding moves very quickly and all of these “newbuilds” are on a very tight schedule — less than two years from first steel cutting to delivery — and the yards are frequently challenged to get completely done on time.

4. I was honoured to tour the Seabourn Odyssey with you last week and the story of how the hull arrived was remarkable. I was going to try and explain this to our readers but thought it better to ask any expert………that’s you.

At about 31,000 tons, the Seabourn Odyssey is less than half the size of Carnival’s Fantasy class and a smaller ship than many of today’s newbuilds.  This size has enabled the builder, Mariotti, to take a unique approach at a time when most building docks are full and construct the hull on a land site next to a river north of Venice.  The ship’s hull was built in two sections, fore and aft, without the superstructure, and then each section was lifted by a group of multi-wheeled transporters and driven onto an adjacent barge in the river.  The barges were then towed down river and across the Adriatic to Viktor Lenac shipyard in Croatia and the two hull sections, still on the transporters, were driven onto the yard’s floating drydock.  Once the sections were joined and welded the floating dock was sunk and the Odyssey hull was towed out and then down the Adriatic and around Italy, arriving in Genoa a week later. It’s now in the Mariotti yard with the superstructure installed, and starting to look like an exciting cruise ship.  This was one for the Discovery Channel!

5. We also saw cabin mock-ups which again was wonderful to see. Is this process repeated for every ship and what are the benefits?

We definitely have the shipyards and their subcontractors do mockups of all the different categories of cabins as well as portions of the public rooms for all the ships we build.  This gives us and the interior architects a chance to see and tweak the layouts, color schemes and materials early in the building process.  Although we also often use artist and computer renderings the mockup is really the best way to visualize what will be built as they are accurate right down to the balcony.  Even though the mockup may be in a warehouse somewhere they’re fun to visit because you really get a sense of being onboard and, particularly on a prototype ship like Odyssey, everything is being seen and created for the first time.

6. Ship building is something that must have many different challenges. During your experience has there been any one challenge that you remember more than most.

There are daily challenges when you have this kind of dynamic building program, ranging from new design development with our various companies to shipyard selection to decisions about major changes.  But the most difficult times are always when a ship appears to be behind in production, because of the potential impact on the schedule of inaugural cruises and those many guests that are counting on it.  In these situations we work very closely with the building yard to find ways to get the ship properly finished and inspected on time.  I’ve been associated with several of these — such as Holland America’s Rotterdam, Costa  Serena and Aidadiva — and in the end they all were properly done and have been fine ships in service.

7. During the last ten years what do you think has been the greatest evolution in shipbuilding that has changed the industry?

There have been two clear major ship design trends over the last ten years — increasing ship size and the proliferation of cabin balconies.  However, behind the scenes there has also been a constant flow of technical improvements making every aspect of our operations safer, more people and energy efficient and more environmentally friendly than ever before……and we’re not through yet.

8. Carnival Corporation not only has ships already under construction but also ones planned for the future. What’s next Mike?

Of course, Carnival Cruise Lines is accepting delivery of your own Carnival Splendor in less than two weeks — but in 2009 will come Carnival Dream! A very interesting ship with unique design concepts that I think will be very well received.  We are continuing to build post-panamax (too big for the Panama Canal) ships for our Italian friends at Costa, each one different than the other, as well as a new, smaller Luminosa class, the first of which is finished next year.  We are continuing with the extremely popular German “Sphinx” class ships for Aida Cruises, and the big “Ventura” class ships for P&O Cruises and a “Grand” class for Princess Cruises.  And as a British subject I’m sure you’re aware that in 2010 there will be a new ship bearing the name Queen Elizabeth for Cunard Lines, a sister to the recent Queen Victoria which I know you have visited. Of course while continuing to evolve existing design we are also continually considering and developing new concepts and approaches for the future, which I can only say will be very interesting.

9. So, the ship is built, she is ready to except passengers……you stand back…..take on look……….how do you feel.

You feel tired, relieved, and mostly always amazed at how quickly and beautifully these ships come together at the end.  It’s very humbling to stand back and watch this complex vessel start operating as a complete, synchronized machine and literally come to life as the stores and art and crew and, finally, the guests come onboard.  It’s fun to watch the excitement of new crew and first guests and see each ship take on its own personality

10. Looking back at history there have been many important ships. We have been listing the top five on the blog. So, what ships do you think have the right to be on the top five most important ships and why?

I would defer to your blog and to Carnival’s top shipbuilder (Micky Arison) on this one.  Clearly, though, several generations of Carnival Cruise Lines ships set the course of the modern cruise industry.

Thanks, Mike. Isn’t it simply brilliant to find someone who has served their country and now serves this great industry we all love? Please join me in thanking Mike for this behind the scenes look at his life and his passion.

The air came on yesterday at 10 pm and there was much rejoicing……………then it went off again at 8 am this morning and there was much sweating……………I have nothing else to say on this subject.

Heidi has been working very hard preparing the Capers and schedules, etc. I do not know how I would find the time to blog everyday without her.

The crew seems very excited and that’s a good sign. They are also now starting to prepare for the Coast Guard inspections and safety training has now started. This, of course, remains our priority…………not just to provide a fun vacation but a safe one as well.

Today, I have a meeting to discuss Life Boat drill for the two-day cruise to nowhere. This will involve many different nationalities sailing with us and we need to make sure we have all the information in all the languages needed. This will include English, Italian, Spanish etc………..hold on…………have a look at these figures and you will see what I mean.

Italy- 1155 guests
Germany- 300 guests
France- 135 guests
Netherlands- 125 guests
Russia- 76 guests
Spain- 34 guests
Belgium- 24 guests
Malta- 20 guests
Portugal- 18 guests
Slovenia & Poland- 18 guests
Australia- 12 guests
Sweden- 17 guests
Finland- 10 guests
Turkey- 4 guests
Greece- 4 guests

One area I do have a lot to say about is Camp Carnival. Sometime next week I will conduct an interview with the Youth Director so she can highlight the amazing facilities we have here on the Carnival Splendor for the lucky children who will be sailing with us. Here though are some random photos of the preparation.

Don’t forget that tonight (Thursday) to watch the Travel Channel as the brilliant Sam Brown reports from the Carnival Inspiration. Here is a preview, press release and link thingy and don’t forget that I will be posting an interview with her very, very soon.

“Samantha Brown: Great Cruise Weekend” Courtesy of the Travel Channel

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES FEATURED ON TRAVEL CHANNEL’S ‘SAMANTHA BROWN: GREAT CRUISE WEEKEND’ DEBUTING THURSDAY, JUNE 19

Host Samantha Brown Showcases Carnival Inspiration’s‘Evolutions of Fun’ Amenities in Hour-Long Show

MIAMI (June 19, 2008 ) – Carnival Inspiration – the first “Fun Ship” to feature the line’s hugely popular “Evolutions of Fun” enhancements – will be showcased on Travel Channel’s “Samantha Brown:  Great Cruise Weekend” which premiers Thursday, June 19 at 10 p.m. (ET/PT). 

The one-hour show is hosted by Travel Channel personality Samantha Brown who takes viewers on a tour of the many new features aboard the 2,052-passenger SuperLiner, including its expansive Carnival WaterWorks aqua park, Serenity adults-only retreat and the redesigned main pool. 

A highlight of the show is Brown’s exhilarating ride down the 300-foot-long tube water slide which serves as the centerpiece of the Carnival Inspiration’s massive water park.  

During the show, Brown also takes time to play a hand of blackjack in the casino, indulges in a relaxing treatment in the renovated Spa Carnival facility, and even takes a turn as the featured singer in the ship’s piano bar.

Other areas showcased within the program include Carnival Inspiration’s myriad full-service and casual dining options and wide variety of entertainment and live music venues, including an elegant multi-level theatre showcasing lavish revues.

Cameras also followed Brown as she participated in a dune buggy excursion in Cozumel, one of the featured ports on Carnival Inspiration’s year-round four- and five-day western Caribbean cruises from Tampa.

Following its premier episode June 19, “Samantha Brown: Great Cruise Weekend” will have an encore airing June 27 at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) on Travel Channel.

Carnival Inspiration is among the line’s 22-vessel “Fun Ship” fleet which operates three- to 18-day voyages to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, Canada, New England, Bermuda, Europe, and South America.  The line has three new ships scheduled for delivery between now and 2011.  The first of those, the 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor, is slated to debut in Europe July 2, 2008.

For additional information on Carnival’s “Fun Ship” vacations, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com.
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Heidi and I had a bit of a row last night. She showed me this article in a magazine that had an interview with a Professor Debbie Cohen who said that all men are untrustworthy and warmongers, and that a boy brought up by women is bound to become a better-balanced human being.

While I consider myself to be someone who respects everyone’s right to choose what they do with their lives I am also old fashioned and this statement had me turning green and doing my Incredible Bulk bit.

Maybe Professor Cohen is correct. But the boy is also bound to spend too much time on the telephone talking about nothing in particular. What’s more, he will be late for the start of all TV programs and talk all the way through them and will therefore have no clue what’s going on. He will read books in which nothing ever happens, he may well turn out to be a teensy bit feminine and ponder on what it may be like to wear lipstick, and worst of all he will grow up never having wanted to own an Aston Martin and be James Bond.

I shared these comments with Heidi and you don’t need me to tell you where I am now.

Last week I wrote about my Heidi’s desire for a designer dog. I have not had the chance to thank you all for your suggestions on which make and model dog she should buy. Some suggested a puppy that starts of small but in eight weeks, will grow to the size of a Fiat Panda and will cost $100 a minute in food and satellite tracking devices.

I had joked that I was going to ignore heid’s plea for a dog and buy her a fish instead but she has told me to bugger off… Her reasons are they don’t come when they’re called, they don’t bark at strangers, they won’t fetch sticks, and they are not cute………ahhh, I said……….but if there is a food shortage or we forget to go to the shops……. We can eat it.

When I was a kid we had a tortoise called Timmy, which came with a bulletproof outer shell and a life expectancy of 1,000 years.

Sadly, however, and for reasons I don’t fully understand, given that they have a top speed of one mile a year, he managed to escape into a field of wheat that was then harvested by one of those big harvester machines.

My Mum told my sister that Timmy had gone to live with other tortoises in the sunshine near a stream with all the lettuce he could ever want. and while my sister Suedrip beloved that Timmy had gone to a better place I knew that he had been decapitated by a combine harvester in the wheat field and somewhere in the world someone was going to get a nasty and somewhat crunchy surprise at breakfast when they opened their box of Shredded Wheat.

Goodnight
Your friends
John, Heidi and Timmy the Tortoise

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.