Like most people, you will know of Howie Mandell, the host of Deal or No Deal, as a genial soul, with his jaunty humour and polished head. So you may be surprised to learn that I don’t like him and on my list of thing’s and people I don’t like he is just behind the ulcers you get in the inside of your mouth and higher up on the list then hemorrhoids.

This is because when he sailed on the Carnival Freedom last year I asked him for an autograph and he told me to “bugger off”.

Now, it should be noted that the request for his John Hancock on a bit of paper was not for me but for a lady guest who had been refused in person when she asked and had come to me for help…..I asked………….and he told me a sharp “no, I am on vacation” turned away and carried on being bald.

The indignity of it. People had made him a celebrity by watching his programmes so therefore it was his duty to drop everything, including the book on hair pieces he was holding at the time, and do as he was told.

I still remember the first time I was asked for an autograph. It was a middle-aged lady and I sank to my knees in a mixture of shock, deep pleasure and eternal gratitude. I wanted to bask for ever in the turbulence of her magnificence. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” I said, clinging onto her ankles with one hand and writing a veritable essay with the other.

As Georege Hamilton once said, “I love it when people ask for my autograph. It’s when they stop you have to worry.”

These days it seems that its kids that want my autograph. While beautiful ladies in bikinis ignore me it’s the kids who for some reason want my signature.

Even the lavatory fails to provide a safe haven. Only last night I emerged from a stall by the cigar bar airport to find a couple of kids waiting outside.

They must have been about eight years old and as the toilet flushed and the door opened there they were with pen and paper in hand………….” Can we have your autograph ” they asked in unison………….I said I would be happy to after I washed my hands and as I did and because I couldn’t think of anything else to say I lectured them on always washing their hands……………I then signed their pieces of paper with the usual Best Wishes to etc and their names………..I finished and as they left the men’s room one of them looked back and said……………..“Thank you Captain.”

Of course, I understand the autograph culture. I met a woman last week who paid $65,000 for a guitar that had been signed by Bono and Sir Cliff. And that made sense because I have a guitar signed by Jan Akkerman from the Dutch group Focus.

I thought about my collection.

I also have a $100 note signed by James Gandolfini, and my most prized possession is a signed photo of me and Dame Judy Dench on the bridge of the Carnival Legend.. In fact, come to think of it, the only autograph I don’t have is Howell Mandell – the rude bas%$rd.

Signatures bring us closer to fame and that’s great but I guess there have to be rules.

John Cleese said recently that he was asked for his autograph at his father’s funeral.

And when he said no he was subjected to a torrent of abuse.

I know how he feels. I was given both barrels once by a guest who said my signature was too much of a squiggle. I had sent her a signed photo ………not of me………….but of the ship for calling into the morning show and she told me that nobody would ever know who it was because my signature was unreadable……..and could I print my name please. As if someone would know…………….I mean, lets say Great Aunt Mary comes over for tea and looks at the photo of the Carnival Freedom and says” whose signature is that “………….she is told ” that’s John Heald the Cruise Director.”…………….” no ” says Great Aunt Mary…………that’s not his signature, the J looks to much like a Y and there is no flash of the pen under the D of Heald…………that’s a forgery.”

This morning though was the worst.

A guest sauntered over and said he really didn’t like me on television, that I wasn’t funny and that my accent was too strong and that I should grow up. “Still,” he concluded, “My son is doing a scavenger hunt for Camp Carnival I’d better have your autograph I suppose.”

And you know what? I’m so fearful of becoming Howie Mandell I agreed and signed his son’s scavenger hunt list.

Mind you, even this is better than the request for a quick picture, because the camera that’s produced is invariably a phone.

The person stands next to you with her arm round you..

You wait while a family member tries to turn it on.

Then you wait while it hooks up to the nearest satellite.

Then you wait a bit more while the family member fumbles around in the menu trying to find a camera setting.

Then you wait while they find the zoom and the brightness setting and you think, “Honestly, it would have been quicker to set up an easel and break out the oils.” While this is happening the guest tries to think of something to say as do I and the whole time their arm stays wrapped around you………this is ok if its a lady but not so good when its a bloke who has just drunk a vat of beer and decides that while his equally drunk mate is trying to figure out who the Nokia works wants to tell you a joke about a nun and a dwarf!

Here are today’s letters in their own words.

I realised today that with all the stuff going on here I have been very naughty in not saying a huge congratulations to Holland America Line on the hugely successful launch of the Eurodam. I heard from people who were there first hand that the ceremony, the fireworks, the concert, the banquet, the beautiful Opera Babes who stole the show and of course Queen Beatrix who was of course the perfect Godmother.

If you have not seen the photos or looked at the highlights then may I turn your attention to the following link thingy: www.hollandamerica.com.

Anyway, here are a few photos taken by two friends of Heidi’s who are travel agents and were invited to the ceremony.

Once again………..congratulations and I hope to have a chance to visit the ship soon.

Here is an interview with a young lady who I know is very busy and very excited. Lynn is Director of marketing for Carnival UK and has just returned from the Eurodam ceremony. She is now focused on a Carnival Cruise Line ship being in the UK which is a rare and mementos occasion. Here then is an interview with Lynn as she chats about the UK Carnival experience.

1. Lynn, can you tell us about yourself and your career so far.
A: After leaving university, I spent three years as a travel agent then worked for America Airlines in Switzerland, then British Airways Holidays. At ILG I was instrumental in launching one of the first-ever ‘cruise & stay’ programmes with popular tour operator Intasun – before joining the cruise industry “properly” in the 1990’s. In 1999 I became Managing Director of Carnival Cruise Lines’ UK office, now based in Gainsford Street, on the south side of Tower Bridge!

2. The UK is now embracing the world of cruising but it has not always been the case. What has changed over the past few years that has made cruise holidays so popular.

A: I think UK guests are now realizing the value that a cruise offers and how much the cruise price includes, when compared to other holiday types. Companies like Carnival have also attracted a whole new generation of younger cruisers by offering a more informal lifestyle with lots of innovative activities and amenities, and also appeal to families with young children by introducing excellent kids clubs and activities.

In the UK we still work very closely with Tour Operator partners who “package” Carnival cruises with flights a range of hotels in Florida, Barbados and the West Coast, and this is a really easy to book holiday option that attracts newcomers to cruise as part of a “Cruise & Stay” holiday.

3. Do the folks of the UK have a favourite Carnival ship and favourite ports of call that influence their bookings

A: Ex Florida cruises (for instance the Carnival Glory ex Port Canaveral) are always popular with UK guests as they can combine a stay at Disney with a leisurely 7-night cruise, usually via one of our tour operator partners. Barbados is a very popular holiday destination for UK travelers, and our “Cruise & Stay” Barbados package with the Carnival Destiny/Victory is always very popular. For 2008 of course the UK’s favourite ship will be Carnival Splendor sailing ex-Dover – and for 2009 it will be Carnival Liberty ex-UK!

4. So, how excited are you and your team about hosting Carnival Splendor

A: We are thrilled to have Carnival’s newest and biggest Super Liner cruising ex-UK from Dover this summer. A fantastic opportunity to showcase Carnival in the UK and increase our UK cruise business! We will have a mix of travel agents and potential clients visiting the ship in Dover over the summer – so it’s a great way to spread the word!

5. We are all looking forward to meeting our Godmother Myleene Klass. We have read the press release etc but wondered if you could tell us why this very talented young lady was chosen for this great honour.

A: Myleene Klass is a very talented musician who currently has a very high profile in the UK as a TV presenter and one of the “faces” of retail giant Marks & Spencers, as well as presenting the Classic FM radio show on a Sunday morning As a beautiful young mum with a great career she will appeal to today’s young professionals who haven’t yet considered a cruise. Myleene also comes from a Naval background which is perfect

6. After the ceremony the ship will sail to Amsterdam . During the voyage you will be holding some seminars for our travel agent partners. These seminars will include ways of promoting Carnival to their clients. So, what are the bullet points that you think sells our great product.
A: Carnival is the perfect way to sell “cruise” to customers who haven’t previously considered this type of holiday, but enjoy good resort amenities, high standards of service, quality dining and lots of different destinations while they are away. We ask agents to help their clients compare with their last land-based resort holiday to emphasize facilities and value, for instance:-

a) Was entertainment included in the holiday cost?
b) Were meals included in the holiday cost?
c) What were the sports and leisure amenities like?
d) How many destinations did they visit on their last holiday?

Only then do they find out they are being sold a cruise!

7. What about the future……the Carnival Liberty will be sailing out of Dover next year. Let’s remind our readers about the great ports she will be calling at.

A: The highlight of the 12-night itinerary has to be St Petersburg, where the ship spends two full days; combined with fantastic opportunities to explore Copenhagen, Berlin (from Warnemunde in Germany), Helsinki, Tallinn in Estonia and Amsterdam.

8. I have heard many British guests say that they love meeting Americans and Canadians on cruise and visa versa. What in your opinion are some of the common ways in which to spot on on Brit on cruise ship.

A: British guests onboard Carnival enjoy the very high standards of service that our American counterparts demand, as well as the fantastic activities and entertainment on offer. I think we probably stand out for our fondness for afternoon tea (from a tea pot)!

9. I understand that our friends from Sing Live will be returning this year. This was such a massive hit on the Carnival Liberty and I wondered if you would take the time to tell our readers all about them

A; Sing Live is a group of amateur singers, living all over the UK whose motto is “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things in exciting places”. They have performed on many different Carnival ships as well as in such amazing places as St Paul’s Cathedral in London, Ground Zero in New York and opening Epcot in Orlando. Two hundred of these highly enthusiastic and talented individuals will be singing on Carnival Splendor 18th August cruise from Dover!

10. Finally, as is tradition its time for you to choose your table mates and menu for your ultimate ship table.

One of my tablemates would have to be our Carnival godmother, Myleene Class who is a classical pianist!

First, the menu based on your favourite British food.

Aperitif: Kier Royal – our favourite family drink (and Pimm’s in the summer, of course!)

Appetizer: Yorkshire Pudding – what else could it be – as I am a Yorkshire lass from Sheffield!

Main course: Roast Turkey lunch (reminds me of Christmas which I love. My husband queues up at the Butcher’s shop in Barnes on Christmas Eve for our turkey – when all the customers receive a welcome tot of whisky to keep them warm while they wait!)

Dessert: Strawberries and Cream – remind me of Wimbledon.

Now your table mates

Someone to make you laugh: the comedian Rowan Atkinson
Someone from the music world: Our godmother Myleene Klass – as she is a classical pianist!
Someone from the past who you wished you had met: My Fathers’ parents and brother who all died in the Blitz during WW2
Someone from the cruise industry: Johny Depp, alias Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean!!!
Someone handsome and sexy: Our very own John Heald of course!

What a wonderful interview. Lynn has one of those personalities that just reaches out and grabs you and after a few minutes you realise you want to be her friend. I look forward to seeing her soon and trying some of that Yorkshire pudding.

Talking of that I guess I had better start writing my speech for our naming ceremony which is just 4 days away. It’s coming around really fast and quite honestly I have written bugger all so far. I have been given pretty clear parameters by the PR team which of course I will completely ignore. Seriously, I have to be quick as the ceremony should must not go on too long as we have to sail directly after. So, I will have to start thinking what to say………….do I go for humour, serious or a mixture of both……anyway, regardless I have to get going. Stephanie arrived today accompanied by Tom another chap from Marketing whose expertise will ensure you get to see live pictures and comment via my blog thingy of the ceremony……………please don’t ask me how they do this…………..but they will. Stephanie asked me to mention that this will all depend on something to do with the Internet speed and something or other…………basically………….if it doesn’t work………….just blame them not me. I will give you more details tomorrow. Obviously the fact that Stephanie was flying to Portugal yesterday meant that the video that went with the blog called Proud to be an American was posted late………sorry about that. It’s up now though and I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks so much for the comments. I will continue to answer everyone’s so please remember to mark them JOHN PLEASE REPLY and I will………Stephanie will make sure she sends them to me. I continue to read them all though and everyday I realize how lucky I am that 40 – 60 thousand people a week read the blog…………thank you all.

So, today the sun is shining and the guests are ashore here in Lisbon, Portugal. We arrived at noon passing under a big bridge designed by the same person who constructed the Eifel Tower in Pongville, France. Standing on the bridge passing under a bridge is always a strange feeling and as you get closer you can’t help but think……………bloody hell……..that’s going to be close. I made an announcement asking the people on the top deck to duck and that we were going to stop under the bridge for a few hours as we had been asked by the Portuguese government to paint it.

So, then we arrived. I had told the guests that we would be disembarking them from deck 0 as normal but as we got closer to the pier I realized that unless we were going to provide scuba equipment for them that this would not be possible. It was then a quick scramble to have the port place their gangway to deck 3 by crane. This took an extra ten minutes so when we were eventually ready to disembark guests it was 12:20pm……………..we had advertised a noon arrival. Everyone understood………apart from the usual suspects who had fun telling the staff that Carnival was disorganized etc etc.

Anyway, by 1:30pm we only had 130 people onboard and everyone was ashore having fun………………..except me. I have not touched dry land for 2 weeks now I think and with a ceremony in each port on the 12 day it looks like I won’t be for some time.

Anyway, Lauren went ashore and I asked her to snap a few photos…………..here they are…………..thanks Lauren.

Tomorrow, I am going to weigh myself……………I look forward to this about as much as I would having to kiss skunks bottom…………I hope I have lost some weight………I really have been trying.

The concerns with the TV system are slowly being corrected and I hope by tomorrow we will have a fully working system. I guess my frustration comes from the fact that the system we had on the Carnival Freedom was perfect. Apparently the system we have here is more up-to-date and has new gimmicks and gadgets………….it’s the same old story…………if it isn’t broken………..etc etc. Hopefully as I said men and women much smarter than me will figure out what’s wrong and fix it…………..if they don’t then I shall be over there with a large hammer.

It appears we have a thief onboard………………….or do we.

Guest: Mrs &^%$ Ref: 002800447A Owner: (NATI) Nataliya Mitko
Cabin: 6^&^% Booking#: Added-Changed: 07/05/08 – 07/06/08

6376 – LAUNDRY STOLEN

A telephone call was received from MRS ^&%$ stating that she had placed laundry in the washing machine on deck 6 and when she returned everything had been stolen. Guest was very upset. Purser called security to accompany gust to the laundry. Security called back 5 minutes later saying that the laundry was still in the washing machine and guest had been to the laundry on deck 7. No further action.

Oops

Nobody likes to talk more about the weather than the British. This is especially revelant as we are hoping to hold the naming ceremony on the open deck and not have to close the roof…………….but this is England and rain is as common as sun is in Dubai. So, we will all be looking at the weather forecast to see what will happen. The problem is ……….will the forecast be accurate.

Weather forecasts used to be rubbish, mere works of fiction that may as well have been written by Tom Clancy. And now they aren’t.

We are told that a heatwave will end at 7:07am next Thursday, and it does. When I woke up on Thursday, without opening the curtains I knew to put on a thick shirt because they had been saying for days that it would be wet, cold and windy.

It is not just 24-hour predictions, either. Now you are told with alarming accuracy what the weather will be like in two or even three days’ time. So how are they doing this?

I once googled this question and with words like Doppler and troposphere, if I am honest, it could have been his mother’s recipe for meatloaf.

Then you have people who say you can tell when rain is coming because the cows are lying down. Not so………….cows lie down because they are tired.

The British are known throughout the world for moaning about the weather. It is one of our defining national characteristics. It is not the variety we hate, though. That is a good thing. It’s the unpredictability. When you turn up at a garden party at Buckingham Palace in a pair of wellingtons and amacintosh and the sun shines all day, it is annoying.

That’s why I have decided to make sure we have the correct weather forecast for the naming ceremony. I will therefore be glued to the TV watching the weather forecaster.
Here she is.

It’s always hot when lovely Lisa reads the weather.

And on that note I head to the doghouse

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.