Drinking To Success

July 13, 2008 -

John Heald

I know have a huge school boy crush on the Carnival Splendor’s Godmother Myleene Klass. She’s the screensaver on my computer and the wallpaper on my heart. I have decided when I go home to buy a hamster and name it Myleene in her honour.
I had a crush like this once before………..way before Myleene, Angelina, Catherine Zeta and Jessica Simpson there was……………..Kate Winslett. I had become smitten with her in the movie Enigma and of course in Titanic with the midget Leonardo De Crapio

Annoyingly, I knew we would never meet and that we have nothing in common. She reads books that don’t have Aston Martins and explosions on the cover, hobnobs with the rich and tanned.
She also has that China doll fragility which is part of her appeal, really. You want to bring her inside and give her a saucer of milk and wrap her in a think blanket. Well, I did.

So when I heard that she was due to appear on the London stage for the very first time I was asthmatic with excitement…………I had to go and see her…………and that excitement grew stronger until I found out what play she had selected for her debut.

Three Bloody Sisters by Anton Bloody Chekhov. For those not familiar with Chekhov’s work let me just say that he makes Shakespeare look like Quentin Tarantino. I had been forced to read two of his plays during English Lit at school…………I was so bored after page one I resorted to flicking boogers at Alison Sergeant who was sitting in front of me……………………… You may find this staggering but he’s even worse than Jane Austen.

And Three Sisters is Chekhov’s most boring play. Like the brilliant — 24 — it is set in real time. But unlike 24 it is set in real time over four years, and nobody has his head cut off by a helicopter’s rotary blades or a President that seems to spend his entire life in California rather than the White House.

There are no explosions either, and unusually for such a long play nobody has much to say. In act one somebody dances; in act two they have tea; in act three an old man trips over a chair. It’s about three sisters who want to go to Moscow and then spend the next 2,000 hours not going. By act three I wanted to stand on my chair and shout

“Oh, for God’s sake, just get on the f—— train.” ………………and don’t think Heidi would have stopped me as she was reading Hello magazine and was slowly loosing the will to live.

I don’t even like the theatre very much. Acting, on a stage, isn’t acting at all. It’s shouting. No, really. How can you possibly be tender or moving when you have to be heard by people at the back?

Furthermore, in a theatre it is impossible to blow up a skyscraper or shoot down a helicopter with a heat-seeking missile. Think about it. Chekhov takes three hours to say nothing. In the new Rambo movie, it took just 90 minutes to set up the characters, start a war, kill everyone who wasn’t Rambo, raise a difficult ethical dilemma and get you into the nearest pizza restaurant and home to bed by midnight

Think of it this way. If Shakespeare had never existed and someone wrote The Merchant of Venice today, I know exactly what the rejection slip would say: “Bugger off and don’t come back until you have at least two decapitations and some rumpy pumpy………………… Oh, and do you think it might be possible to write in English next time.”

As the first act dragged on, my gaze was fixed on my Kate but my mind, I fear, was beginning to wander. What, I thought, would happen if someone in this audience had caught Bird Flu? I could be dead by morning……………….. By morning I wished I was………………. And still it was only act three.

I hung in there, though, hanging on Miss Winslett’s every word until the final agonizing scene when her lover buggers off and leaves her.

The critics say this scene is moving. They talk about primeval passion of two lovers forced by circumstance to leave each other never to meet again. I’m afraid, however, I missed that. I sat through the long, passionate, saliva-swapping farewell song she shares with the male lead thinking, “You lucky, lucky bastard.”

Anyway, poor old Kate has been replaced by Miss Klass and I am sure you read all the wonderful press about her and the ceremony. I should also congratulate the Royal navy who I made sure to mention in my speech. I said it then and I will say it now…………those two words Royal Navy mean so much to so many people …………… heroes ………….. protector of the realm………..and if you are a bad guy……………it means you are about to be in a world of hurt. Anyway, thanks to them and especially the chap who climbed the rope to smash the bottle…………..although I should have done it……………..and if they made a rubber suit in my size………….I would have.
So, its 9:45am and Debarkation just finished and it was one of the most challenging debarkations I can remember. This had nothing to do with moody Immigration officers or long lines of people but with the fact that everyone …………….ok, not everyone …………….but most people were this morning nursing Herculean-sized hangovers.
This was thanks to the wonderful hospitality of Carnival Cruise Lines and a piece of magic that each Travel Agent partner was given……………..it’s called…………”an open bar card.” This means that all the beverages were free………….and this means three awful long nights for the poor bar staff. While some of the agents treated the card with respect by ordering just one drink at a time others looked upon it as though they had just been given use of Bill Gates’ Black American Express card for 3 days and therefore …………….they were going to get absolutely hammered ……………….and they did.
I saw things the last three nights that made me so not proud to British as the Brit Travel industry let loose. I actually ventured into the dance club last night just to see the DJ and discovered Dante’s hell. People were ordering three drinks at a time or more and the once polite country I knew and loved so much seemed to have given birth to young people who had not been taught words like “please” and “thank you” and “No, I have had enough to drink, I am going to bed…………alone.”
This morning they limped off with memories of free beer, wine and sex on the beach. Let’s hope they have a memory not just of hurling vast amounts of alcohol and food into the toilet this morning and remember to sell the heck out of Carnival Cruise Lines.
Of course, I am talking about a very small few of the hundreds of agents who sailed with us and who were brilliantly behaved and professional………….I know they had a wonderful time and their experience will be one they remember and pass on to their clients………….our future guests
So, eventually and with the help of lots of very loud “get out of bed” announcements from me, they have all left and so the third of our inaugural cruises starts today……………. this time to the Baltic. Here are the demographics.
GUESTS – 3,288
JAPAN – 90
CHILDREN CIRCLE C (12 – 14) – 103
CAMP CARNIVAL (2 – 11) – 98
CLUB O2 (15 – 17) – 117
So, away we go. I have my travel talk this afternoon. This will include the welcome aboard information and everything about our first port of call Copenhagen, Denmark. I am always worried about the first talk especially with a port I have only been to once before on the FAM trip. However, Denmark is easy compared to the complexities of St.Petersbug which comes up later in the week.
Anyway, talking of ports I had better go and write one for today………….I will be back soon.
Here I am.
Just got back from my travel talk……………It seemed to go well. The theatre was very busy however the audience seemed tired. I now start to remember just how hard the first day is in Europe. Many landed today in London and then have the two-hour drive to the ship. Therefore it was no surprise that the room had about as much energy as someone who has just run a marathon dressed in a suit of armor and concrete Nikes while carrying a baby Yak under each arm.
The information was well received and hopefully the fun we had will encourage them to come to the show tonight. Oh…………did I tell you………….probably not. ………..well, I have decided to do my show tonight at 7:45pm. During last season when we had four sitting dinners the show was at 10:30pm which is very late for a tired audience.
Hopefully, running the show at this time and activities afterwards will allow more guests to come…………….we shall see.
Here are some photos of the famous White Cliffs of Dover.

I read with some horror that some Cruise Critic members cruised on the eight-day voyage and felt upset that I did not visit them at the gatherings. I actually didn’t know about them as I had not been asked to put in the Caper and the second party was a “shared” event and listed as such. Anyway, I sincerely apologize to those I offended and please accept my apologies. ……………also in my own defense I was working 16 hours a day everyday ……………remember, when I prepared the Carnival Freedom I wasn’t blogging straight away …………………regardless, I apologize to the those I upset and hope I have another chance to spend time with them soon.
I want to return to the “drinking ” habits of my friends with the open bar cards last cruise. I guess it’s hard to understand these days how people get themselves so drunk ………… especially as I have never been a big drinker……………or have drunk anything at all these past 12 years……………….it wasn’t always the case…………as you will see ……………… oh ……………and you may further come to understand why the French are not on my Christmas card list.
It was 1990 and while home on vacation my mate Alan and I went on a cheap weekend to France. We dined at a cheap French bistro somewhere in Paris when (and I kid you not) I found a beetle crawling through my lettuce. “Regardez,” I said to the proprietor Monsieur Pepe Le Pew, “J’ai trouvez une er . . . um, une Paul Macartney dans mon salade.”

He was horrified and whisked the plate away, saying that by way of recompense we could drink as much wine as we liked. On the house.

And that was that…………..I don’t remember much else about the evening except the next thing I knew I was being dragged from the back of a car by several angry French policemen, who handcuffed my arms behind my back and then threw me to the ground. “Aargh,” I exclaimed, as I plunged, nose first, into the road.

It became apparent that we had gotten into a taxi but unfortunately due to the fact that Le Vino De maison had taken our bodies to a new level Alan had decided to tell the taxi driver to bugger off and attempted to use his shoes and socks as payment for the cab ride. The driver had called this in and unfortunately because he had been driving with his back to us he had no idea which one of use had told him to go forth and multiply.

Obviously, being completely spineless, I’d have told on Alan straight away but I was also completely drunk and as a result had no clue who it might have been. So I was hit. “Aargh,” I said again.

In fact, I said “Aargh” quite a lot in the course of the next few hours, mostly though when my escape attempt went all wrong.

For some reason that never did become clear we were taken to a hospital where the cunning plan was hatched. Having no spoons to hand, I ruled out the tunneling option and began to wonder if it might be possible to go to the attic and build a glider out of some stretchers while no one was looking. And then the idea hit me. I decided that this being a hospital, the window in the lavatory would not be fitted with bars.

I was right, and so — with the policeman waiting outside the cubicle — I made lots of, I thought, rather convincing being-sick noises and eased it open. It was not a big window but I was almost completely out when I felt the policeman’s burly hands on my ankles.

Have you ever been dragged backwards through a small window, while wearing handcuffs? Well don’t try it, because it hurts. It hurts nearly as much as being thrown to the floor again.

Perhaps this is why they’d taken us to the hospital. Because by the time they’d finished with us it’s almost certainly where we’d end up anyway.

But no. We were bundled back in the van, taken to the police station and ordered to strip. I was then searched thoroughly although they did stop short of going where no man has gone before.

The cells were. . . well to begin with, it was hard to say what they were like since the only light came through a 3 inch peephole in the door. For all I knew there was an IKEA cabinet and a leather sofa.
Sadly, as my eyes became accustomed to the gloom, it became apparent that this wasn’t so. In fact, there was nothing but a bed made from stone, a mattress made from bubble wrap and a hole in the floor where several previous occupants had tried relieved themselves and like the French Air Force had been completely off target.

Boredom set in within about five minutes. The solution was sleep, but this was impossible because if I used my jacket as a pillow it was freezing, and if I kept it on I got a crooked neck.

Sleep was also impossible because Alan in the next cell had decided to relive his school history classes, shouting out a list of battles in which the English had beaten the French. Sadly, he ran out of ideas after Agincourt, so he started top pretend he was an auctioneer declaring at the top of his voice that the first bid was a World War II French Army rifle that had never been fired.

At around seven in the morning — though because they had taken my watch as well, it might have been four — I decided to order breakfast. So I waded through the excrement and through the small hole in the door said I’d like eggs Benedict, a double espresso and some toilet paper. What I got instead was a burly French finger in my eye.

Eventually, though, the door was unlocked, where we were given a massive bollocking ………fined 200 francs and were made to sign some papers, we paid and buggered off as quickly as we could, leaving my French police friends to wonder if they really had had Starsky and Hutch in the cells all night.

So did the painful and humiliating experience cure my occasional twenty something need to drink? Well, probably not…………in fact Alan and I were to get into many more scrapes where alcohol was to blame.

What did cure me is what will most of the youngsters that drink today……………..I got old.
So, on that note I go to the show hoping to make people laugh and hoping to get back into some sort of routine after the last few weeks. Hopefully that routine will include the daily blogs which I enjoy presenting to you and which I hope you enjoy reading.

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.