The Green Green Grass of Home

July 31, 2008 -

John Heald

Good Morning from St.Petersburg, where things went a little smoother than last time. We had 2,300 on carnival tours today, with about 1000 on the evening shows and 2,000 plus again on tomorrows. Well, things started with a bit of a bump. We arrived at 7 am but the officials arrived a little later and by the time they had devoured to full trays of pastries the ship was not cleared until 7:35 am. By that time we had 600 people ready to disembark on the Grand Tour and about 500 people on private tours.

So, we started a little late.

Yes, there were longish lines at the huts used for Immigration but overall things went very well. The Carnival tours and the guests on private tours were allowed to disembark at the same time contrary to speculation on some of the boards. Once ashore, there are two lines…… for Carnival tours and one for “Independents “as they are called by the Russian officials.

Now, the independent line takes a little longer to go through and that’s got nothing to do with Carnival. This is because the guests on Carnival tours have tickets in their hands which the Immigration Officers recognize as their Visa as well. In the Independent line the officers have to read the letters and information of the group or individual on tour. They are checking to see if they are indeed with a reputable company who have also included visas for the guests. This takes time and again…….this is the same for every cruise line as I saw today with the same situation for guests on the MSC Opera and The Crystal Symphony docked alongside us.

The only guests who were refused entry today were a handful of people who had neither a Carnival Tour or a private excursion.

Here is one of them

Mr. ______ called the pursers office and wanted to speak to the cruise director. Purser inquired if there is a message that could be passed on to the cruise director. Mr. _______ said that he is upset with the information he received on St Petersburg before he came on the cruise. Mr._______ said that there was no information saying that guests needs a visa or that they have to be on a Carnival tour to get of the ship. Purser informed Mr. ______ that on the Carnival web site it does say that you require a Russian visa to go out in Russia or have a private tour booked or a Russian visa. Mr. _______ said that he wouldn’t be surprised if Carnival had talks with Russia and told them to make it impossible for guests to get off the ship unless they have a tour. Mr. ________ said that for a family of four it would be almost $_______ to go out. Mr. ______ said that the ship should have gone to Stockholm instead. Mr _________ said that a Russian visa costs $250 and takes 6 weeks to get it. Purser told Mr. ________ that Purser will document the comment and forward them to the relevant departments.

[7/30/2008 8:21:33 PM GUOL]
Mrs. __________ called back a few moments later and advised purser that he will write to the Florida attorney general, because they have a long standing against Carnival Cruise Lines. Purser again informed Mr. ________ about the information on the website, but that purser will document his comments and forward them to all relevant departments. Mr. __________ hung up the phone.

Purser sent file record to Hotel director, and Cruise director.

So, we had a chat. I explained that to suggest that Carnival was in high-level talks with Russia to make money was ludicrous…………..can you imagine?

(ring ring, ring ring)
Hello? Is that Mr.Putin
Oh, hello, Carnival Cruise Lines here
Oh, Hellov Mr.Chaillov……you are manov Fun Shipov and have many fishov in gardenov
Yes, that’s me. The reason I am calling is I have figured out a bit of a scam. You tell me that the guests on the Carnival Splendor can’t go ashore unless they have bought a tour. If you say “Da” to this I will give you a free four day cruise on the Carnival Imagination plus a free bottle of Vodka in your cabin and arrange a photo of you and Fun Ship Freddy to hang in the Kremlin.

Sbasiba Comrade Cahill………tellov your passengersov thatove theyove needov a visaov or a tourov toov getov the shipov otherwiseove theyov willov beove seeingov Siberia …………. Oh, Comrade…………willove Johnov healdove beov the Cruiseov Directorov whenove I amove onov the Imagination?

Well, the guest does have one point……..having a family of four onboard and paying for tours either privately of through the vessel is expensive……….is he right, do Russian visas really cost that amount of money? Anyway, I gave his kids some tokens for the arcade and a bottle of wine for Mum and Dad………….I felt a little sorry for them.

So, with sunny skies and 70-degree temperatures the guests are ashore. It’s now 8:20 pm and we have From Russia With Love playing on the big screen, trivias, game shows, music, dancing and karaoke going on for those onboard. Most guests are ashore enjoying the Ballet, Folkloric shows and more……..Heidi is at the Supper Club with the girls, and me…….well, I am here.

I want to thank you for all your support for me regarding my conversation with the Life Coach……….once again I am humbled by all those who took the time to write and said that they liked me just the way I am. He also it turns out had a conversation with other crew members including Ken the maitre d……….whom he said he could help “become a better person”…………….sorry Mr Life Coach but that is utter bollocks. Ken is a fantastic guy and anyone who has enjoyed his smile, his banter and his voice at dinner will tell you that they are a “better person” for having known him.

NAME : Ken Bryne

DEPARTMENT AND POSITION Food & Beverage – Sr. Maitre’D

18 years

Full supervision of all restaurant service areas and guest satisfaction


Meeting new people, both guest and crew, and I love singing

My wife of 20 years Esther is a retail manager and my 24 year old daughter Kellie is a beautician for Clinique

Driving to the country, walking my dogs and football.


Shawshank Redemption

Sinatra and Buble

All kinds.

Has to be Sinatra


Be a singer with the big band, cos I love to sing.

Following my disastrous massage that ended up with a Hazmat team being called to the Spa I have pondered on other ways to follow doctor’s orders and relax, and my thoughts turned to home and something that always relaxed me cutting the grass.

As I may have mentioned before in a previous blog thingy I have not exactly been blessed with green. However, cutting or mowing the grass as we say across the pond is something I can do…………….and something that is totally relaxing.

When we bought our little barn the owner also sold us his “Lawnmaster” riding lawn mower. It’s wonderful, all you have to worry about is driving in a straight line and not running over the flowers or a rabbit. With the sun on your back, a Monte Cristo #2 in your mouth and Jethro Tull playing on my Eye Pod thingy my aches and pains would disappear and my muscles went floppier than a sumo wrestler’s bottom.

When I finish a show or indeed a blog there is no time to admire your work, you walk of stage or press send and then say “right, what’s next?” However, when you cut the grass you have time to stand back with your hands on your hips and admire your work and praise yourself for having created a picture perfect lawn worthy of holding the World Croquet Championships on.

This is something I got from my Dad. Not only is he a master wood craftsman he is also a lawn master………….or when we were kids he was the Chief Inspector of the Lawn Police. My Dad is calmness personified but when we were kids playing on the lawn was as forbidden as setting fire to the cat and if we darted to walk on it or even think about playing on it we would see calm Dad turn into a Tasmanian Lawn Devil.

I often thought he was a bit over the top but having had a lawn of my own now I understand. The fact that I am not there at home now and Dad is cutting the grass for me makes me very jealous.

I love my lawn and have morphed into my Dad. Just before I left for the ship I discovered a patch of thistles and I was so angry if I had had a gun, I would have shot it. It was ugliness in a garden of beauty………… was like having a photo of the world’s top 50 super models with Judge Judy in the middle of the front row……….naked.

You see, the Doctor wants me to relax and if I had a Lawn Mower I could go up and cut the astro turf on the mini golf course or use it to cut the beard off the life coach who told me I was an ugly, bent-toothed fat git last night.

I also think that gardening may be the answer. For years I watched Dad escape among the Rhododendrons but he was good at it………..I’m crap. I secretly want to be good though. I want a shed, I want Homes and Gardens of The Rich and Tanned to come over to my house and write a 30-page feature on my garden but as I said, everything else I have ever done in the garden has led to disaster and often death for the plant or flower involved.

Apparently Prince Charles is an avid gardener and says in his autobiography that all gardeners should talk to their plants. This is something that I have found most unrewarding. If I talk to them…….they die…….and if I ignore them………they die. It may work for His Royal Highness prince Jug Ears but it doesn’t for me and anyway….why should I listen to someone who has always been a bit “weird” in my book…..I mean it has to be said…he left one of the world’s most beautiful and sexy ladies for someone who is only just better looking than me.

Heidi has been discussing planting an oak tree but again I don’t understand the point. You plant it; stand back and bugger all happens. OK, if the thing doesn’t commit suicide then maybe your great, great, great, great granddaughter may see something larger than a twig………….you do all the work and spend all the money and see nothing.

Anyway, while I may love sitting on my little Honda mowing the lawn listening to Ian Andersen sing Thick as a Brick and Aqualung while puffing on Cuba’s finest the gardening thing is too much like hard work. You spend your entire life wearing crap clothes, smelling of horse poo with your head between your ankles, you end up with a bad back which means you will go to the doctor who will recommend you have to have a massage so you do and as she pummels your back you fart and the massage therapists chokes from the smell of a double egg and onion omelet and says she wont tell anyone but does so that wherever you walk people will make farting noises and giggle.

I miss my lawn mower.

Here are some photos from this morning:

The Immigration Building

The Immigration Building

The Russian Customs Officials Labeled Carnival/Non-Carnival Tours

The Russian Customs Officials Labeled Carnival/Non-Carnival Tours



The German band that was playing


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.