So, yesterday I had everyone have the photo copy of their passport stamped because that’s what we had been told to do. This morning the Russian Immigration Officials changed their minds and said that a stamp wouldn’t be needed…….. and if hadn’t been for the fact they he was armed to the teeth and that I didn’t want to spend 20 years sharing a Siberian prison cell with a man called Boris the Butcher ………I would have punched him in the face.

This meant that yesterday we spent hours and hours stamping everyone’s photocopy and this meant wasted time for the guests and the staff…………and this was only part of the fun this morning. It started at 6:45am when the officials came onboard. Usually this means a few Immigration officers, one from Customs and maybe the Port Manager accompanied by a representative of the Agency who we pay to look after us…………so maybe ten at most. Today, in St.Petersburg we had a few more than usual……………..28 to be precise. I have no idea what they all did or who they were but I do know they were hungry as they devoured the huge tray of pastries we had prepared for them…………one man………….who had a green uniform and a hat the size of a massive frying pan on his head took half a dozen pastries, wrapped them in tissue and put them in his briefcase.

Eventually………after breakfast………..they gave permission for guests to disembark the ship. It was very smooth from our side but the lines to Immigration were awful ……………… the guests have to walk through what is nothing more than a hut where more frying pan heads checked the passports. Have a look at the lines this caused.

I used the PA system to apologize to guests and most of them understood that they definitely were not in Kansas anymore………….so far the staff reported all the guests were happy and certainly the ones I spoke to understood patience would definitely be something they needed.

However, some guests were not happy. These were the ones who booked private tours but whom Immigration refused entrance to because they either did not have the required paper work showing proof of visa. So far we have a group of 80 who all said that they had private tours booked but because they had no copy of the visa they were refused……………they are not happy and for some reason they seem to think this is our fault. Anyway, we are trying to arrange a Carnival tour for them. I therefore remind everyone that if you book a private tour in St. Petersburg please make sure you have a copy of the visa…………….and if I were you……….I would take a ship tour and not have to worry about anything.

In situations like this you flood the area with as many staff as you can, make lots of announcements and keep people informed as much as possible……..this really seemed to have helped today.
Its now 10:35 am and we have only 288 people left onboard……………the 80 people who had a private tour but no proof are on an afternoon tour but are not happy…………….and there is nothing I can do for them. We will have to change one or two things but overall operationally ………it went well……….but there is little we can do about Immigration ……………except use one of their hats to cook some bacon and eggs in.

Tonight we have many guests on tour as well with some amazing options to the Ballet and a show at the Imperial Palace.

Here are some of the most popular tours with some brief descriptions. Heidi made this so if you find this useful we could do for other ports.

TITLE LENGTH BRIEF DESCRIPTION FOOD SERVED

Alexander Nevsky Lavra
& St. Isaac’s Cathedral
3½ hours

Alexander Nevsky LavraTikhvin cemetery, Trinity Cathedral, St Isaac’s Cathedral .
No

An Imperial Evening at the Catherine Palace
5½ hours

Catherine Palace Staterooms, concert at the Throne Room, cocktail reception, performance at the yard; Carriage Museum; Dinner at the restaurant in Pushkin
Lunch
Catherine Palace & Hermitage
8 hours

Catherine Palace and Park; Lunch at the restaurant; Tour of the Hermitage Museum.
Lunch
Catherine Palace in Pushkin
4 hours

Catherine Palace and Park
No
City Tour & Catherine Palace
9 hours

Catherine Palace and Park, Lunch at the restaurant, City tour /photo stops.
Three course lunch
City Tour, Neva Cruise & Folkloric Performance
9 hours

City Tour / several photo stops; Neva Cruise; Dinner at the restaurant; Folkloric performance at the concert hall.
Dinner
Evening of Russian Ballet
3½ hours

Ballet performance at the theatre
A glass of champagne
Grand Tour of St. Petersburg
8½ -9½ hours each day

Day 1: Visit to Peter & Paul Fortress inside visit; City tour with photo stops and drive to the Hermitage; Tour of the Hermitage Museum; Lunch at the restaurant; Drive to Spilled Blood Cathedral, photo stop there; Time for shopping at the souvenir market. Day 2: Grand Palace and Lower Gardens at Peterhof. Lunch at the restaurant, Drive to the boat pier, canal boat ride; Drive to Yusupov Palace and inside visit of the palace.
Three course lunch
Hermitage Museum
3½ hours

Hermitage Museum
No
Hermitage Museum
& Gold Room
4 hours

Hermitage Museum & Visit to the Gold Room
No
Life of St. Petersburg’s
Jewish Community
3 hours

Great Choral Synagogue, Meeting with the rabbi; Concert of cantor music; Visit to the small Synagogue.
No
Musical Evening at the Hermitage
3½ hours

Hermitage Museum
A glass of champagne, mineral water
Neva Cruise, City Tour
& Ballet Performance
9 hours

City Tour / several photo stops: Neva Cruise, Dinner at the restaurant, Ballet at the theatre.
Three course dinner; 1 shot of Russian vodka, 2 glasses of wine, 0.5 liter of mineral water, tea or coffee
Panoramic St. Petersburg
3¼ hours

City tour /photo stops: St. Isaac’s Square, pass by: Palace Square, Winter Palace, Spit of Vasilievsky Island
No
Peterhof:
Grand Palace & Fountains
4 hours

Grand Palace and Lower Garden
No
Peterhof & Hermitage
9 hours

Grand Palace and Lower Park; Lunch at the restaurant; Tour of the Hermitage Museum.
Three course dinner; 1 shot of Russian vodka, 1 glass of champagne, 0.5 liter of mineral water, tea or coffee
Russian Folkloric Evening
3¼ hours

Concert Hall
Folkloric Performance

A glass of champagne at the intermission
Russian Museum &
Spilled Blood Cathedral
4 hours

Russian Museum; Spilled Blood Cathedral; Shopping at the neighboring souvenir market.
No
St. Petersburg City Tour
& Hermitage
7 hours

City tour/ photo stops: Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, pass by: Palace Square, Baroque Winter Palace, Neva River, Spit of Vasilievsky Island, Artillery Museum, photo
opportunity of the Church of Resurrection on the Spilled Blood; Lunch at the restaurant; Tour of the Hermitage Museum
Three course dinner; 1 shot of Russian vodka, 1 glass of champagne, 0.5 liter of mineral water, tea or coffee
The Fountains of Peterhof
3½ hours

Lower Garden of Peterhof, Hydrofoil ride.
No
White Nights Neva River Cruise
2½ hours

Neva Cruise
A glass of champagne at the boat
Yusupov Palace, Peter & Paul
Fortress, Canal Cruise & City Tour
8 hours

City tour / several photo stops Inside visit to Peter & Paul Fortress; Lunch at the restaurant; Boat Pier Canal boat ride; Yusupov Palace
Three course dinner; 1 shot of Russian vodka, 1 glass of champagne, 0.5 liter of mineral water, tea or coffee

I am off to try and get a tour of the Eurodam which is sitting in front of our bow. I am taking my camera with me so we can all have a look at what I hear is an amazing vessel.

Here I am………….and what a fiasco that was. I got through the border of our ship but when I reached the area in front of the Eurodam I was stopped by another frying pan head who gave me two choices………..bugger off…………or bugger off…………….I buggered off.

I am really upset, not only am I really desperate to see the ship but the way I was spoken to…………..honestly, if he hadn’t been 6 foot and carrying a machine gun and I had had the 101st Airborne Division with me I would have kicked his bottom.

Anyway, I thought that I could call the agent and make arrangements to see the ship tomorrow…………but she sails at 7 p.m. tonight………I am destined it seems never to visit the Eurodam.

Here are a few photos for you to enjoy of Heidi and I and one of the brilliant cast of dancers, musicians and singers.

Here is today’s comment of the day.

Guest: Mrs _______: 002801330A Owner: (LAEP) Laszlo Pergel
Cabin: ________ Booking#: ___________ Added-Changed: 07/18/08 – 07/18/08

_____ – NEIGHBOR MAKES NOISE DURING THE NIGHT

Ms_________ called the pursers desk and told purser that the guest in the next cabin was sitting on the balcony chanting very loudly and ringing a bell. Guest stated she could not sleep. Security was asked to go to the cabin where the guest who is a Budhist was asked to kindly please not ring the bell and chant softer. Guest apologized. No further action.

Yesterday we featured the Casino Manager Gareth in the first of our series of interviews with Department Heads. Today, we feature another in Chief Purser Lui. I feature him this morning because he has been up all night preparing the vast amount of paperwork needed to comply with the ever changing Russian rules and regulations…………he is also upset today as the officials ate all the pastries and left him with nothing for breakfast.

Here then is Lui.

NAME Lui Toro

DEPARTMENT AND POSITION Pursers information desk, Chief Purser

HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED FOR CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES
13 Years

WHAT DOES YOUR JOB INVOLVE
Guest relations manager, Liase between immigration, customs, and port authorities.

WHERE ARE YOU FROM
Puerto Rico

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB
Talking to guests

TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY BACK HOME
Close to family, miss them a lot!

WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT BEING IN YOUR HOME COUNTRY APART FROM FAMILY
The nightlife!!

FAVORITE THINGS

MOVIE – Shining through, Madagascar

MUSIC – Dance music, I love to dance!

FOOD – Italian, Chinese

IF YOU COULD MEET ANY FAMOUS PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO WOULD IT BE
Madonna, she is fab!

IF YOU HAD TO DO ANOTHER JOB ON THE SHIP WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO AND WHY
Cruise director, I imagine it being a fun job!!

It seems that the cigar bar issue raised lots of thoughts from you out there. One comment came from PA 007 who started with the company just about the time the Carnival Destiny was delivered (there’s a clue)……..here is what he or she has to say.

I don’t believe the cigar bar was originally designed for that purpose. On the Carnival Destiny it was an upper and lower disco connected by an open dance floor. The upper for loud music the lower where people can talk. It didn’t work and it was around the time when cigars became chic, so Carnival began searching for cigar bar location and….Voila (that’s French).

PA 007 is of course correct. ……………….except using the word Voila which he or she did just to annoy me of course……………The Destiny class ships up until the Carnival Triumph I believe or it may have been the Carnival Victory. Anyway, eventually the stairs separating the disco and the lower level were filled in thus as PA 007 mentioned we created a cigar bar. Back in the late nineties the cigar became much a symbol of success as driving a Bentley or flying 1st class. Such was the success that an affluent magazine celebrating life and cigars was born. It was called Cigar Aficionado edited by Marvin R Shankin and full of 100 plus pages all about cigars and the people that smoked them. Celebrities and politicians were splashed on the front cover all smoking cigars. These A list celebs included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jordan, John Heald and Kevin Costner.

These days the magazine has changed with only a few pages given to Cigars and the rest to features about Golf, Wine and celebrity interviews. Certainly, as an occasional cigar smoker myself I have seen less people smoke them these days. However, when I do, they are usually smoking with people they have never met as nothing strikes up conversation and new friendship like a cigar.

Last night I met a football player, apparently he is quite famous and plays for a team from New York called the Giants…………….I won’t mention his name now but will after the cruise has finished. He is a one heck of a big lad and unlike that miserable git Howie Mandell he has had no problem signing autographs and taking photos.

He and I had a nice chat and he said he and his family were having a wonderful time. He is also a cigar lover and I gave him one from my collection. It was a huge Cohiba Siglo 6, which in any normal persons hands would look massive but considering he has hands the size of shovels it looked like he was holding a toothpick.

I like American football very much and I have many opinions about who should do what and when, but never having played I do not have the first bloody clue what’s going on. I have no idea why it’s called football when only one man uses his feet and I have no idea how the heck any player understands the Enigma codes that the quarterback shouts out to the rest of the players. Just when I think I understand what’s happened and what’s going to happen next the game stops to allow for 7 hours of advertising for Budweiser, Depends and Anti Acid pills which may stop your stomach feeling like you have eaten a bowl of chilies coated in chili sauce with chilies on the top but side effects may include uncontrollable diarrhea, headaches and bed wetting.

And Football makes even less sense when 140 tons of all American beef lands in a big muddy lump on top of the ball and you have no idea what on earth is going on in there. Not until the referee blows his whistle, does some signing for the deaf and decides that the running back person at the bottom of the pile has fumbled the ball which is not surprising as something the size of a fully stocked refrigerator just fell on him. Of course he fumbled the ball……..he probably dropped it to free his hands which he needs to use to remove a helmet which is now lodged up his bottom.

Despite all this, though, you have to love the collisions, the moments when someone with thighs made from oak and a chest the size of a tugboat smashes into a runner back thingy with such ferocity that you wonder how his skeleton hasn’t just disintegrated into a million pieces.

That and the fights, those cherished moments when a man mountain smashes his fist, which is the size of a Christmas ham, into someone else’s helmet and all hell breaks loose…………………. Brilliant.

And that brings us on to the referees who are usually old and have the physical build of Pee Wee Herman yet are expected to stand in between two man mountains and ask them to calm down.

At least Football is played by real men. I am ashamed to say that soccer is now played by a bunch of big girls who cry when the win, cry when they lose and if they score they run around the pitch as though they have just discovered the meaning of life waving and blowing extravagant kisses to their girlfriends, wives or both. Then, if they are tackled they roll on the floor as though they have just been hit in the back by a wrecking ball. If they are good enough actors (the Italians are the best) and the performance is strong you can guarantee the referee will dismiss the player who made the tackle.

Nope, American football referees are fantastic and I admire their courage.

Compare this attitude with the slightly feminine refereeing nonsense we see in basketball………… Flick someone’s earlobe in a game of basketball and some jumped-up little gnome, will mince over and give you a technical foul or throw you out of the game.

It’s a contact sport after all and viewing figures would certainly go up if Kobe and Dwyane were allowed to have 2 minutes Kung Fuing in the fourth quarter. …………….come on referees……. I was going to say that they are the most important feature in all sports. But obviously that’s not true. The most important thing in sport, of course, is watching the Miami Heat win………..which they will.
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.