Who Needs Rambo When You Have Sergeant Pete

August 3, 2008 -

John Heald

I met a lady tonight who said the most remarkable thing……..she told me that she couldn’t tell one cruise ship from another because ” they’re all the same.”

Good Morning from our day at sea and as I sit here at 5:55pm I have to tell you its been a very interesting day.

It started with The Morning Show of which i will write more later and then the debarkation/Amsterdam talk and Q and A. Now, just to remind you of the Q and A format that I use here which is rather than have everyone stand in line waiting for me I have the staff walk around the room. If someone has a question they are handed the mic so everyone hears the question and answer. Experience has taught me that most peoples questions are exactly the same so this helps elevate the waiting.

Anyway, the second or third question was not about debarkation or the tours or port information on Amsterdam it was a ” comment.”. No problem there…….the ladies comment was that she had cruised on all the major lines and that she was very happy with everything here except the library which she said was too small. ………..I agree…………….and she is not the first nor will she be the last to make that comment…………certainly on longer European cruises we need more choice in the book department. Anyway, she said that she had been on a ship recently that had ” Audio Books “………..books that come on CD or MP3 players. I thought this was a great idea and asked her what ship she had seen this great idea on………….it was then that she replied ” I don’t know, all the cruise ships these days look a like “………..now, I guess I should have left it there but my mouth ran away with me and I said ” no they don’t” out loud………..this upset the lady because she shouted down the mic that ” yes they do, they are all the same.”…………….I said that I was sorry, thanked her for the idea and moved on…………in full automatic mode. I was answering questions on train service to London and canal boat rides in Amsterdam but all the time I was thinking about Mrs. Audio books statement.

Right. I see. So because all books have words in them and are made from paper they’re all the same, too. Nonsense. Even someone who can’t read and only speaks French would be able to tell the difference between Shakespeare’s The Tempest and The Cat In The Hat.

I roared onwards in my mind, thinking that that even the biggest dunderhead would be able to tell at a glance that a Carnival ship is not the same as a Seabourn yacht or a Cunard liner. Yes, all ships are gleaming hunks of steel…….rather like myself……….but each and everyone has their own identity…….their own soul.

She had really gotten under my skin and I wanted to drag her up to my office and show her photos to see if she could spot the difference between a The Queen Mary 2 and the Pacific Princess……………and look how far we have come.

Nope, today’s ships have similar amenities and all have a bow and a stern. But, the similarities stop there. Each has there own beauty, passion and soul and just as many men with beards can tell you what airplane or train it is that you are looking at, so are there hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who can see a ship on the horizon and tell you which line, the ships name, the ports it has been to and who the Cruise Director is……………long may that continue.

Oh, by the way……….audio books………….good idea?

A day at sea and with one hour back at the end of the night will be just right for the guests after three heavy days in port. All in all everything continues to be going well. I read some negative comment cards from last week including a couple that thought my humour was unsuitable for families…………..that always makes me feel bad……………….one that said I talk too much………….probably true…………..and three comments that said that my jokes were the same as last year. This is always a tough one. On one hand you have the scenario of if something is working don’t fix it. If you go to see a Broadway show its going to be the same show if you go back next year. However, I understand that hearing a joke twice either on stage or in person is not funny and while the majority of the audience may not have heard it before there is always someone who is going to be annoyed.

However, I only have one real repeated show and that’s the Bedtime Story. i know this is similar every week but its also different every week as well. The idea is to make the guests famous and indeed for those who have seen it you will know that’s exactly what they become. Yes, the base is the same and I even stopped doing it for a few weeks last year but then guests were disappointed when I didn’t.

I think the obvious answer here is you cant please all the people all the time and I apologize to anyone who has had to sit through a joke or sketch that they have seen before.

Some comments though are quite nasty………..I know Cruise Directors take these to heart so I hope people remember that when they write personal comments down. It can be most disheartening.
Oh, I met the most wonderful group of people today. There were all from Vancouver BC and were all first time Carnival cruisers. The reason I mention them is that they were all traveling with one special lady. Her name is Muriel Colear who was a teacher…………at the same school for 36 years……………but that’s not all…………because Muriel is sight impaired and has taught brail for all those years to thousands of children. Muriel was joined by her husband and three children and 5 grand children for this cruise and this morning after the debarkation talk I took a photo with the group. I also presented Muriel with some gifts including two bottles of champagne for them to take to dinner so they could toast this remarkable lady.

Well, this morning I mentioned in my talk the new arrival and departure times for Amsterdam, Holland. For this cruise and all remaining voyages we will arrive in Amsterdam at 10:00am with all guests back onboard at 5:30pm.

We have changed the times of our excursions to allow for this and if anyone reading this has a private tour booked I suggest you change your excursion to allow for this. So, just to repeat………the old time was Noon arrival – 6:30pm onboard………….the new time is 10:00am arrival……….5:30pm onboard.

The next big challenge is Tallinn……..more on that soon.

Lets have a look at some letters in today’s ” In Their Own Words Section.”

And a few photos

Captain and Senior Officers Introduction on Cruise Elegant night

Chocolate Truck in Tallinn

Chocolate Truck in Tallinn

Chocolate Truck in Tallinn

A busy day in Tallinn

Racing a ferry on its way to Denmark

Last night I hosted the Talent Show which went very well as did the Bedtime Story. However, the evening was made more difficult by something all Cruise Directors fear as much as a missed port…………………the dreaded stage mum !
have a look at this.

Sent: Saturday, August 02, 2008 5:38 PM

Good Evening,

Please see below crs report.

2nd Purser


Mrs ____________ came to the information desk stating that she was very angry that her 12 year old daughter had been refused entrance to the talent show. Guest said that her daughter was more talented than any of the performers and that she had been allowed to take part on her NCL cruise last year. Guest said she would not leave the desk until she had spoken to someone in charge.
Guest remained at the desk. Her daughter was crying so Purser called Cruise Director

Let me take up the story from here. So, realising that it would be better to talk to her now I dragged myself down to the lobby where i was confronted by a lady with smoke coming out of her ears and a daughter with puffy eyes and a tear stained face. These were not the first things I noticed though………….both Mum and daughter looked exactly a like. Both had blonder than blond hair tied back in the same style………….and .both had the same pink style jogging suit on .

Well, Mum didn’t even let me say hello before she told me that her daughter had won Miss Michigan kids show and in the town of Flint where she was from that she was a star. She was a singer who had performed the national anthem at a baseball game and ” was going to be a superstar by the time she was 15.”……….these words were said with such venom that all i could think about was the poor kid who looked like all she wanted to do was put some normal clothes on, mess up her hair and go and play guitar hero with her friends.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the conversation except to say that I explained that there was a Camp carnival and Circle C talent show and that I was sure she would enjoy performing in that…………..but Mum refused……………stormed off saying that she would be telling all her friends of my ” brutality ” and that she would never cruise Carnival again………………….all I could think about was the kid……………I wonder if she was happy……………probably not…………….I hope I am wrong but Stage Mum seemed to have her kids life mapped out already………….it will only end in more tears.

However, the highlight of the day for me was receiving this letter which i shared with everyone on The Morning Show.

Once again, a letter to keep and treasure and a letter full of mixed emotion. What a shame that this brave bloke feels that what he does is not appreciated until he came onboard. I am not a soldier………….I am as far away from that world as you can get but I guess it must be so frustrating to do his job and not understand why you are doing it. we met for a coffee and a cigar this afternoon and for me it was amazingly rewarding experience.

We spoke for some time and for some reason he really opened up and afterwards I asked if I could write about our hour together for the blog……..he agreed providing I remove his last name.

Pete is an aircraft mechanic for the US Air Force and as you saw in the letter he has felt that the support for what he and his colleagues are doing has wavered the past year or so especially when people hear that he is not ” a frontline soldier.”

I want therefore today to pay tribute to the thousands of backroom ladies and gents like Pete . Their life, far from the fighting, behind the blast-proof walls and the razor wire and the guard dogs and the sentries, is about as horrible as it’s possible to imagine………….. Unless you work in the French sewers.

Pete says he is based in the dessert. The view is gray. I imagine from what I have seen on TV that you look over a vast gray camp with gray buildings to the grey concrete walls and beyond to the gray desert that blends into the dust-choked gray sky. There is no green. There is no yellow. ……..just gray………..I cannot tell you how he loved being on the ship amid its blaze of colours

And at night it’s cold he said. Bitterly, numbingly cold. So cold that even the troops from Alaska roll their sleeves down.

Happily the tents have heaters, which sounds lovely. But annoyingly the heaters in question have only two settings: “off” and so “on”, you could bake a bloody potato in there.

Pete laughed as he told me I should mention the lavatory doors, which someone erected four inches from the bowl. This is fine if you 5 foot or under, but everyone else has to leave the door open. And I’m sorry said Pete but doing your number twos in plain view of everyone is only all right if you are camel. …….we both had a giggle at the image of Pete and those doors.

Then you step into the showers, which are great. Except for one tiny detail. Water is in short supply so your allowance wouldn’t be enough even to baptize a baby. …..Pete told me that you just get used to the smell of body odor both on yourself and on others………..I told him to just close his eyes and pretend that he is in Paris……….we giggled again.

At night there is nothing to do. There is no gym, no cinema, no bar, no pool, no tennis court. There is, however, a shop where you can buy orange juice and coffee. Beer? Nope. It’s dry, even on Christmas Day.

So a typical day for the soldiers who keep the frontline troops fed, watered and armed is: get up. Chisel ice from your nose. Defecate in front of your mates. have a shower for thirty seconds which is just enough time to wash your left nipple . Walk to work. Do work. Walk to cookhouse. Walk to tent when tired. Repeat seven days a week.

And it’s not as if you’re out there for a couple of weeks. The tour of duty is six months, broken only by 14 days’ … theoretically. Sadly, Pete has this 12 day cruise plus three weeks at home in Richmond Virginia at then its straight back out again

Still, said Pete there was some cheery news when a General dropped in for a 40-minute pat on the back the other day. He said simply that the forces would be in Afghanistan for another 10 years. And then he got on a plane and buggered off home.

Pete then turned the subject to George Bush.

Now, hold on……..Before you get your Dear John letters out and lace them with Bird Flu I am not going to do any Bush bashing………… but what I am going to say is that one thing about George Bush was that finding Bin Laden was always going to be impossible.

He had a good look round Afghanistan and a quick mince over to the border of Pakistan but he found nothing. So does this mean that Ozzie is off the hook? No, not a bit of it, because he is now to be hunted down by the world’s most fearless and monosyllabic soldier.

Yes, the CIA with its sophisticated spies in the sky failed to find him. And even though they blew up every cave from Iran to Ohio, the air force failed to kill him. So now it’s time to wheel out the human nuke.

Enter, with a fireball in the background and his long hair flowing in the wind, Sylvester Stallone, (who I watched, as had the Doc recently) as Rambo, the 1980s superhero

And guess what? This time he was in Afghanistan ready to stab some Taliban and mastermind a plot which brings Bin Laden to justice by firing a crossbow up his bottom.

We spoke about the movie and then the Doc said something which astounded me. He had watched the previous Rambo 3 movie which was made back in 1988.

Then Rambo was fighting WITH the mujaheddin against the Russians in a film that was dedicated, and I quote, “to the gallant people of Afghanistan”.

I came back to the cabin and looked up this movie on Google and IMDB and found this quote as part of the story line given by Rambo to the Russians: “Every day your war machine loses ground to a bunch of poorly armed and poorly equipped freedom fighters.

So, come full circle to Afghanistan today and it is therefore no surprise that ” Pete” is a little frustrated and confused. However, this last 12 days he has been enjoying a wonderful vacation with his family and as the letter says…………for the first time in many months he has realized that what he is doing is indeed appreciated by many and the wonderful people who have shared his cruise vacation with him have made him feel exactly what he is………a very special man. He is proud to serve his country and although he is not on the front line, without him the planes would not fly and the war on terror would not be won.

This blog is therefore a tribute to all the backroom lads and lassies…………….we salute you all

Your friends
John, Heidi and Sergeant Pete

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.