Friday Blog – Part 1- Don't Miss Part 2

June 20, 2008 -

John Heald

All men are created equal …………….so said some wise man who probably had a beard, wore sandals and listened to Frank Zappa…………..unfortunately he was talking bollocks.

You could give me the same ingredients that Gordon Ramsay uses and put me in the same kitchen with the same equipment, and even though we have exactly the same number of hands, fingers and the ability to swear every over word……. I can absolutely guarantee that I’d end up with a plate full of slop that even a rat would turn his nose up at.

Cooking is like painting………..I know this because I used to try at school.

I have a brush and some eyes but everything I tried to transpose onto paper ended up looking like a dwarf with a swollen head.

And, as Heidi will tell you it’s the same story with DIY. My Dad can create an Edwardian cabinet out of two bits of wood and a rusty nail while anytime I have attempted to build anything it ends up broken and on the floor……………….all men are created equal………….oh no they are not.

Ambition is no substitute for talent. A point I have been proving all day with my new printer. It arrived in my office today delivered by Derek, our brilliant I/S Manager. He asked “Do you want me to show you how it works?”

Being a man, I said no…………after all ………we are all created equal……………. It’s an HP thingy………………….and it doesn’t work.

I know this because I have been trying to print the same photo for the last three hours and if I had the strength and if I had a window that would open I would chuck it out and let it rot at the bottom of the Genoa Sea.

I selected a picture on the computer, hit print and it came out sideways on an upright piece of paper. So I turned the paper round and tried again. And then again. And then again. This was annoying since a piece of top quality A4 premium glossy photo paper costs more than diamonds.

Eventually, though, out came a lovely picture taken by a friend of Heidi and I eating dinner with some friends in Portofino ……….except………..it’s not lovely……….it looks good on the camera…….it looks good on the screen but when it’s printed it looks like it’s we are both auditioning for The Exorcist……….our red eyes matched only by our red faces……..we look like we have just been marinated in a barrel of boiling oil.

Now I know you can adjust this red eye sort of thing using your mouse and a bit of software they have slapped onto the computer called Corel Paint Shop Pro X version 3000 deluxe excel soft something or other. ……………… And it doesn’t work either.

All attempts to correct the redness of our faces resulted in more and more red blotches appearing and much more swearing until eventually Heidi came and read the instruction manual.

It turns out the procedure is simple. You tell the printer what sort of paper you’re using and how big it is. Then you give the information to the computer. Then you say whether you want “landscape” or “portrait,” then you choose the quality level you’re after, then you fix the red eyes, remove the blemishes, have a look at the preview and then, after just 55 minutes or so, out pops the finished product. Which is still crap. Really and truly, I’m not a bad photographer. Some of the pictures I’ve got back from my local Quick Snap shop over the years have not been bad at all. But the stuff that’s poured from my printer looks like it was taken by Stevie Wonder.

And there you have it. I have the tools. I have the basic ability. But I lack that certain something, which means I cannot produce the sort of top quality digital pictures that you get from a professional…………………………….all men are not created equal………….which is why God created women ………..or so Heidi tells me.

It seems that I have forgotten to tell you all about the 2-day cruise which starts on June 30…………..my mate and Super Spy PA 007 called me yesterday from his/her cubicle and said that I had admitted to do so…………………sorry about that ………….so, let me explain.

It’s not actually a cruise per se but a shakedown preview. It gives the crew a chance to do their thing while checking out all the ship’s systems and while doing so have a chance to show off our new ship to our international travel agents.

Also, we will be joined by a very special group of people. These gentlemen are retired Captains and Chief Engineers who served Carnival gently for many years. It will be wonderful to see them and of course I will be featuring more about them in forthcoming blogs.

The two-day shakedown will also be a special moment for our Captain Giorgio Pagano. He is from…………….hold on………….here is a copy of the e mail that he sent me explaining what we will be doing.

For the night we will be staying off the Italian shoreline at a distance of about 15 miles (need to double check the required distance for the Casino, Gift Shops, etc, to be open). I believe that the Chief Engineer will request to carry out some additional tests, we have to do the same on the Bridge, and however it won’t interfere with Guests activities. Early in the morning we will be closer to the shore line (three miles required) and we will be starting to sail along the Ligurian Riviera (I will provide you with the names of the towns and villages we will be visiting, among them Camogli, hometown of Domenico Rognoni and many others at Carnival, Santa Margherita, Rapallo, Portofino, Chiavari, Sestri Levante, Cinque Terre, Portovenere, etc). Our navigation will take us to be in the Gulf of La Spezia, known also as the “Gulf of Poets,” and anchored in front of my hometown of Lerici at around 02:00 p.m. I am still finalizing with our Agency in Genova and Captain Tringale all the autocratic procedures; hopefully the process will be soon completed. As I have anticipated, the Mayor of my hometown will be boarding the “Carnival Splendor” via a Capitaneri di Porto (Italian Coast Guard) boat, escorted by a number of pleasure and fishing boats from the town. I have been told there will be a Fire Patrol Boat with water guns too. During a dedicated function, the Mayor will present the ship a token of appreciation for being at Lerici as its very first port of call. The sons of Lerici (about ten crewmembers, including myself and the Chief Engineer) will be proudly recognized. We will stay for about three hours, at around 17:00 hours we will be sailing back to Genova, where we should arrive early in the morning (04:00 at the Pilot Station) and be docked by 05:30 at the very latest.

Sounds great and how wonderful that the Captain will be honored off the coast of his hometown……………I am sure that will be a very proud moment. I will of course provide photos and video of that event as well as a full interview with the Captain.

So, what’s happening………………..well things have moved up a gear with the delivery date getting ever closer? There are still 200 or so workmen onboard and more supplies arrive each and every day. Today for example we receive all the coffee tables for the cabins and also joining us today will be the coffee machines which then have to be serviced and installed by a company called Scharf from Austria. Anyone who has had a coffee from one of our coffee shops onboard will know that this is some of the best coffee in the world. Interestingly enough the chap who is here to oversee the installation of the program is one of the company’s directors…………and an ex Carnival Employee. His name is Stefan Bollenberger who spent 11 years onboard including five as F&B Manager ……… he makes a great cup of coffee.

The most important article arriving today is my office chair. I cannot wait to sit on this big soft leather piece of luxury as for the past week or so I have been sitting on a Social Host……………..and Gary does not like that very much.

Talking of which ………….here are today’s photos. Now, rather than be random as before I am going to start focusing on the ship’s lounges and public areas etc. Some have yet to be signed over to us and as and when they are I will slap on the photos.

One area that is completed is the Casino……………..the Royal Flush Casino…………….here it is.

OK, just before I move on, here are a few Sunset photos from top photographer Gary Cannon.

Thanks for all the comments. I read a great range of them yesterday from a request to change the colour of the cabin couches (I will have to see what colour they are here and let you know) to my mate Mark Twain and a Half praising the work of the Finnish ship building industry and rightfully so.

Again, I urge you all to please make sure that you add “Please Reply Urgent” to your comments……………and I will.

The diet is going well and I look forward to being able to use the gym ………………………… yeah……………..like I look forward to having hemorrhoids.

One of the things I am most excited about is the huge variety of shore excursions we will offer during our Baltic cruising season. Here is the press release with more information.

NEARLY 100 SHORE EXCURSIONS AVAILABLE IN CONJUNCTION WITH CARNIVAL SPLENDOR’S 12-DAY NORTHERN EUROPE CRUISES

New Schedule Begins July 13 From London (Dover), With Visits to Historic Cities in Denmark, Germany, Finland, Russia, Estonia, and The Netherlands

MIAMI (June 20, 2008 ) – For its first-ever Northern Europe cruise program set to debut aboard the new Carnival Splendor July 13, Carnival Cruise Lines has assembled nearly 100 different shore excursion choices providing guests an opportunity to explore historic cities in Denmark, Germany, Finland, Russia, Estonia, and The Netherlands.

Carnival Splendor will operate a series five 12-day Northern Europe cruises from London (Dover) July 13 to Aug. 30, 2008. Featured ports on these voyages include Copenhagen, Denmark; Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia (two-day call); Tallin, Estonia; and Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Included among the Carnival Splendor’s nearly 100 different Northern European shore excursion choices are:

    •Amalie Palace (Copenhagen) – The winter home of the Danish Royal Family, Amalie Palace was built in 1794 for four different noble families, thus the complex consists of four identical palaces surrounding an octagonal courtyard. The three-hour tour also includes time for sightseeing opportunities throughout Copenhagen’s legendary cobblestone streets and centuries-old homes and museums.

    •Suomenlinna Island Fortress (Helsinki) – Following a 20-minute ferry ride, guests arrive at the Suomenlinna Island Fortress, the largest fortification in Finland which is surrounded by a variety of elegant shops and museums. Built in 1748 and located on a bastion of six rocky islands near Helsinki harbor, the historic fortress has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991.

    •Rostock by Land and Sea (Warnemunde) – On this four-and-a-half-hour tour, guests have an opportunity to marvel at the magnificent architecture of this 800-year-old city, including Europe’s oldest university, the University of Rostock, which was founded in 1419 and distinguished by its ornate Italian Renaissance design. The day also includes a leisurely cruise down the Warnow River and an opportunity to enjoy some traditional German cuisine.

    •Hermitage Museum and Gold Room (St. Petersburg) – Originally founded as a private museum to Catherine the Great in 1764, the Hermitage now houses Russia’s largest art collection with more than three million individual pieces, including original works by Da Vinci, Raphael and Titian. Also included in the tour is a visit to the recently restored Gold Room which features Russian, European and Oriental jewelry dating back to the 17th century.

    •Rijksmuseum & Sightseeing (Amsterdam) – This historic museum offers one of the finest collection of Dutch paintings in the world, including several classic works by Rembrandt. Following the museum visit, guests can tour Amsterdam’s famed architectural sites, including the 550-year-old New Church, the Mint Tower, built in 1618, and the 15th century Weepers Tower.

    •Medieval Old Town Walking Tour (Tallinn) – Offering one of the finest collections of medieval architecture in Europe, Tallinn features a variety of preserved structures, some dating back to the 13th century. A highlight of this four-hour tour is a visit to Katarina’s Passage and Müürivahe Lane, a marketplace where guests can purchase hand-made crafts, linens and other items.

Following its Northern Europe cruises, Carnival Splendor will operate a special 12-day western Mediterranean cruise from London (Dover) to Rome (Civitavecchia) Sept. 11-23, 2008, with visits to Le Havre (Paris), France; Vigo, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Malaga and Barcelona, Spain; Cannes, France; and Livorno, Italy.

From Rome (Civitavecchia), the ship will sail on a 12-day Grand Mediterranean cruise featuring Naples and Venice (two-day call), Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Messina, Sicily; Barcelona, Spain; Cannes, France; and Livorno, Italy. Carnival Splendor will then operate two Mediterranean, Greece & Turkey cruises round-trip from Rome (Civitavecchia) Oct. 5 and 17, 2008. These cruises include visits to Naples, Italy; Marmaris, Izmir (Ephesus) and Istanbul, Turkey, Athens (Piraeus) and Katakolon, Greece; and Livorno, Italy, and an overnight call at Rome (Civitavecchia).
Each of these ports offers stunning architecture, interesting historical sites and attractions, and a diversity of shopping, dining and sightseeing opportunities.

On the 12-day Grand Mediterranean cruise guests can visit the fabled Montserrat Monastery in Barcelona; Monaco and Monte Carlo in Cannes; the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Livorno; and the village of Fatima in Lisbon. Highlights from the 12-day Mediterranean, Greece and Turkey cruises include the Acropolis in Athens; the Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque in Istanbul; and the Olympia museum and archeological site in Katakolon.

The 110,000-ton Carnival Freedom is also deployed in Europe this summer, operating a schedule of 12-day Grand Mediterranean and Mediterranean, Greece & Turkey cruises round-trip from Rome (Civitavecchia) now through October 25, 2008.

Reservations are currently being accepted for all of Carnival’s various European departures. Special rates for third and fourth guests sailing in the same stateroom, as well as round-trip air supplements from a variety of North American gateways, are also available.
For additional information and reservations, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com.
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I want to write about my art collection. Hanging above my desk at home there is an original photo from series one of the Sopranos signed by James Gandolfini and includes a signature from Big Pussy Bompensaro. In the hall way is a painting of an Aston Martin Vanquish and in the bedroom hangs a framed drawing by my Nephew Luke of a spaceship piloted by a three-headed purple alien.

It could, therefore, be argued that I’m not the most qualified person in the world to talk about Vincent van Gogh…………yet as I write my notes for my travel talk on Amsterdam …………for the people who will be cruising with us and touring Amsterdam………….I will have to be.

So let’s talk about Vincent van Gogh. Unlike pretty well all of the other great painters, old Vinny never achieved any notoriety in his lifetime. Except in the village of Arles where he lived, and only there because he used to walk about in the streets abusing people, catching diseases and cutting his ear off.

He spent months on each of his paintings and it’s hard to see why. All of them were sent to his brother Theo who managed to sell only one. And that wasn’t the blossoming yellow tree which even I’m able to recognize is pretty good. “Very realistic,” as the artistically backward are prone to say.

God knows what possessed Theo and his wife Jo to preserve these paintings when Vince finally shot himself in the chest. But they did and now they’re worth, oh, about the same as Iowa…………….and that’s my travel talk for the Van Gogh museum……..pretty good eh?

Now I want to take a second as I am proud to present a video that needs no other introduction except to say, here is the president on the board, Gerry Cahill.

Last night Heidi and I relaxed after a hard days work watching The Discovery Channel…………who wants to watch Germany vs. Portugal in the quarter final of the European Championships when you can watch insects having rumpy pumpy and how an oil rig is made.

Anyway, as I did some late night e-mailing I watched an intrepid explorer report from some far-flung corner of the planet where he was learning to live on a diet of beetles and mud. I ignored much of the program but my as it came to an end I heard him say that we in the West have much to learn from the indigenous tribes he has lived with.

Really? What exactly do I have to learn from a man wearing lizard skin underpants? Except that we can’t really call them underpants since he doesn’t wear them under anything.

OK, it could be argued that he could show me how to make some twigs into a bow and arrow …but think of what I could show him. A cell phone, for starters. I think if you’d been brought up in the jungle you’d be pretty damn impressed with a Blackberry …………. especially the new version with built in video camera and that allows e mailing capability from your private jet.

And what about an Eye Pod, a Cappuccino maker or a Browning 9mm Pistol with laser sighting? I’m sorry but the world’s remote tribes have a lot more to learn from us than we have from them.

This is not a fashionable view I am sure… It is an unwritten law for all TV journalists and broadcasters that the people of the Third World are somehow better and cleverer than us. We’re always being told how the Ing tribe who live in the Amazon can build a house from leaves and mud. Great………….But that’s only because they haven’t heard of cement.

I live in hope that these tribes do have a plant that can cure disease and I don’t mean to make fun of them in any way……….it’s just that looking at the poor kids on the program last night made me sad………… their eyes lit up like a Christmas tree when the camera crew gave them some candy and after eating it had to return to school………which for them meant sitting on a log while the man in the lizard skin underpants taught them which bits of a beetle………. tastes like chicken.

Now, to finish with today two very important things

PA 007 will be breaking the news on Carnival Dream one day before the official press release…………….I advise you to check in here on the blog thingy.

Finally – I need to show you something special……………….very …………….very special………………..quite possibly the best onboard video I have ever seen. I am working on the link to this Cunard attraction that I promise will have everyone agreeing with me when I say……………” It’s Brilliant!”

The video will be accompanied by an in depth interview with Peter Shanks who wrote that marvelous account of Her Majesty the Queen saying a fond farewell to the Queen Elizabeth 2nd.

Stop back after 5:00pm……………….I promise……………it will be well worth the visit.

Cheers
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.