The first thing I had to take care of this morning was to put people’s minds at ease. Good afternoon from Tallinn, Estonia where it’s cool but dry and guests are already ashore. However, this morning it became apparent that passports, photo copies and most other concerns seemed to have been put on the backburner as Russia took center stage. It seems that during the night the Pursers Office and other staff had many guests enquiring about if the ship would still be calling at St.Petersburg and if so… was safe to do so? I also had a dozen letters asking me to address this on the Morning Show.

Obviously the Russian troops crossing the boarder of Georgia should be a concern for the entire world and hopefully Mr. Putin will take a breath and things will cool down. However, guests are concerned and so this morning I made an announcement that Georgia is 1800 miles to the south of St.Petersburg. There are no “red flags” from either the Russians or the State Departments of the USA, UK etc. Carnival will always put the safety of their guests first and we will keep a very careful eye on the situation.

That aside the biggest concern we have at the moment is the satellite service. We and most cruise ships use a company called MTN who provide the satellite service which in turn provides the connection for E Mail, Internet, Phones and ATM machines. It seems that in this particular part of the world that coverage is very poor because once again we have no satellite service at all and I have no idea as I write when and if this blog will reach you………we had the same problems last week and the internet although working was slower than Paris Hilton completing a rubic’s cube and……………hold on ………….. ahhh, there you go, just as I write, this e mail came in.

Sent: Saturday, August 09, 2008 12:16 PM
Subject: Satellite connection unavailable

Good day,

We will not have a satellite connection during our stay in Tallinn. This is due to blockage on one satellite and a low elevation resp. interference on three others. As soon as we set sail from Tallinn, we will reestablish the connection. We are sorry for the inconvenience but as per MTN there is nothing that can be done until we set sail.

Best regards
Splendor I/S Team

Kat, Gabor & John
Splendor Info Systems Team

Well, there you go. It seems that the Satellite is constipated and this blockage may result in Stephanie posting the blog a little later than usual. Thanks to the I/S team onboard who have been working hard to try and fix the situation ……….hopefully all will be well and the satellite will have taken some Ex Lax.

Here are some letters for today’s “In Their Own Words Section”.

Here are a few photos taken by one of the staff members who went on our Panoramic London tour.

I have spoken recently of what it must be like to be Prince Mustaffa Lotsofmoney or George Hamilton and vacation on a beautiful gleaming super yacht. You pull up off Pampalone beach near St.Tropez in your boat and there’s no wandering around for ever trying to find a big enough spot to sit down. There’s no sand in your sandwiches and every time you wake up you from a nap in the sun you are not confronted by loads of naked people and the unedifying spectacle of a German penis.

You have your own fridge, your own air-conditioned shelter from the sun, you have a bed with sheets for a lie down, and when the sun sets you don’t have to walk back to a superheated car for the 4 mph trudge back into town. You go for an evening cruise. Then, that night, you casually mention to the prettiest girl in the Caves dance club that you have a boat in the harbor and its rumpy pumpy time.

Most people will never get to experience this.

I mean, the minimum size for a decent boat is at least 65 feet long with proper lavatories and proper bedrooms, not bunks wedged into empty spaces behind the microwave. The trouble is that 65-footers are really very expensive. $2 million. And to park them anywhere you need a mooring that is just as much again.

Once, acquiring the trappings of a billionaire lifestyle was easy. You bought a few houses, a Ferrari and a Range Rover, a Gulfstream and a yacht. But the tidal wave of money that has engulfed London, New York and the Middle East thanks to soaring stock markets and oil prices has raised the stakes.

Now you must have a “gigayacht”. These are between 300 feet and 600 feet and come with deckhands and Michelin-starred chefs.

So, unless you are a Trump or a Prince Sultan Bin Aluckybugger, how can the many experience what its like to live like the few.

Well, you can charter one but for this you need to find a group of friends you are happy to share this huge expense with………….I tried to think of who I would go with and came up with a list of my wife Heidi, my mates Alan and Danny and Uma Thurman ………………… and anyway, even chartering a boat will be a huge expense and that’s before you pay for the fuel, food and drink.
So, if you want a taste of the Super yacht lifestyle and cruise to places that the big ships just can’t……………then you have to take a vacation on one of the Yachts of Seabourn.

Seabourn has a name that as with Bentley, Rolex and Cartier you know you are getting the best. I have disembarked many times in places like Cannes, Monte Carlo and Portofino have seen one of the Seabourn Yachts in the harbor and even though I have never been onboard you just know that the people onboard are experiencing something very very special. So, what’s it like to be Master of such a vessel………well, lets find out by talking to Captain Karlo Buer, Master of the Seabourn Legend.

1. Captain, please can you tell us about your career so far from your earliest child hood memory of wanting to work at sea to your current position.

Answer: I joined my first ship in 1970, never meant to make this a life long career. Like so many young men/boys at that time just thought I should use a couple of years to work on ships, see the world and make up my mind what to do with my life. But, I liked it and kept on for 5 years in different positions, before going back to join the Merchant Marine Academy in Norway. Then I graduated as a Master in 1980. I worked on different ships for different shipping companies until I permanently moved to cruise vessels in 1986 as chief officer (what is today called Staff Captain) on the Explorer Starship. I was part of the start-up team with that company. I moved to Seabourn in 1989 to supervise the building of the Seabourn Spirit. After Sprit launched I spent more than a year in the Seabourn head office in Oslo before rejoining the ships in 1991. Since then I have served as Captain on all the three Seabourn sisters until today. And now I will be the inaugural captain on Odyssey next June.

2. Standing on the bridge as Master of one of the most prestigious ships in the world must be quite a feeling. Can you tell us a little about the Seabourn Legend, how many passengers and crew etc and some of the features that as Captain make this command so unique.

I would say that Seabourn Legend is unique, but that isn’t quite true. She is one of three sisters that are virtually identical, but then there are no others like them. Seabourn Legend has 104 guest suites, so her maximum capacity is 208 guests. And we are nearly the same number of staff to take care of them. So we can quickly get to know them. Everyone on board can address them by name by the second day. And our stewardesses know how they like their suites arranged, the bartenders know how they like their drinks, and so forth. One guest asked for mixed nuts to have with drinks in his suite, and when the stewardess cleaned up, she noticed that all of the almonds were left in the bowl. The next night, there were no almonds in the mixed nuts. That makes everyone on board feel really special. And at the same time, they get to know each other really well, too. All the drinks are included on Seabourn, so it’s an easy sociable atmosphere like a country club. They tell me that they especially like that.

3. I would imagine that you have traveled to many fantastic ports. Which are your top three favorites to navigate the ship to and why.

There are so many fantastic ports in this world like Sydney, London, Venice, Hong Kong, Oslo, Halong Bay, etc. But if to choose one I would vote for Stockholm, Sweden. Cruising through the Stockholm Archipelago on a sunny summer day is the most spectacular approach to any city in the world. And mind you that is quite a statement for a Norwegian.

Another favorite day is our Caviar in the Surf beach party that we do in several ports around the world. Legend does it at Hunting Caye in Belize during her Panama , Belize and Costa Rica cruises. We anchor and the staff set up an incredible buffet on a private beach, with all kinds of barbecue and cold foods and silver and china from the ships, lots of loungers and entertainment and so forth. Then, at a certain point, we come rushing in from the ship in the Zodiacs with iced champagne and caviar and the waiters go right into the water chest deep and serve the guests who wade out to meet them. They use a surfboard for a bar and table and life-rings for the caviar-it’s is always great fun and a highlight of the cruise.

4. How would you describe the people who sail Seabourn? Is there such a thing as a typical passenger?

They are young and old, tall and short, they come from all over, but what they do have in common is they like to travel, and they like to do it in fine style. They really care about fine dining and wine, they like to live life to the fullest and they want the best. And they like people, too. Seabourn’s yachts are the friendliest places. Everyone loves to gather over drinks before dinner and talk about where they have been and where they are going next. A lot of them have met on board and now they travel together year after year. On any given cruise, more than half the people have been with us before, and of those, about two-thirds are coming back within a year and a half. About a third of them book their next cruise while they are still on board – so we must be doing something right!

5. You must have met some very interesting characters during your service onboard. Who are some of the most memorable?

Let me just say; all our guests are unique in their own way. I wouldn’t single out anyone by name. They are very interesting people and on our yachts they really have time to talk with each other and with us. It’s part of the Seabourn way. But we do have some guests who have sailed with us more than 2000 days, and many more have more than a thousand, so they’re almost like family—but they welcome new guests just as warmly as they do their old friends.

6. lets now talk about your exciting new command The Seabourn Odyssey. How and when did you hear the news and how did you feel when you were told you would be the master of what will be one of the most luxurious vessels in the world.

I was simply asked by our VP Operation a couple of months ago and was of course very pleased to be asked. When it comes to luxury the Odyssey will be a natural and logical continuation of the present Seabourn yachts and it is a very satisfying feeling to be on any of our vessels. All the best features will be on board, plus there will be space for a lot of extra things like a huge spa and a great pool beach area, which we don’t have so much space on the sisters.

7. I was privileged to have a look at the mock ups of the cabins as well as have a walk through the vessel last month and both experiences were truly amazing. What will be your role in the building of the vessel?

These ships are built by the Carnival Corp. building department and our role will basically be to set up the operation and make sure that everything is as prepared as possible on the day our guests are walking up the gangway. My biggest job will be to train with my senior staff to be sure we know all about the technical details of the new ship. There are very sophisticated safety and waste management systems that are all new to us.

8. What are some of the features of your new command that you are particularly excited about

It is difficult to mention any thing in particular as the whole ship is extremely well designed from guest areas to technical spaces and bridge equipment.

For instance there is a system that offers what they call computerized decision support in case of an emergency. So no matter what happens on board this system will suggest all sorts of actions that might be necessary, and the captain can either accept or reject the suggestions. We put all those suggestions in while we are under no pressure—just to be sure everything is covered. Then if there is an emergency nothing gets overlooked.

9. Can you tell us where the ultra luxury Seabourn Odyssey will sail to?

We will start her maiden voyage in Venice. We have just announced that all of the guests on board will be the godparents of Odyssey and will take part in the naming ceremony. Each of their names will be engraved on a plaque that will always be displayed on board. Then we will sail in the Greek Isles, Turkey and the Black Sea for the rest of the summer. We’re going to some new ports like Sochi in Russia and Batumi in Georgia. Then in the fall we will cross the Atlantic and end the year in the Caribbean. In January, though, Seabourn Odyssey will start our first-ever World Cruise, which will sail 108 days from Fort Lauderdale to Athens. She will visit 42 ports on 26 countries on five continents. It’s not very often you can become “well-traveled” on a single cruise!

10. Finally, and as is tradition here on the blog, I would like you to fill in the blanks please Captain.

The scenario is you are hosting your first Captain’s table on the Seabourn Odyssey and you have been given permission to choose your guests and the menu……………………so using the fantastic menu items from the Yachts of Seabourn please choose your favorites for the following.

APPETIZER Well, I’m Norwegian, so it would have to be seafood. I love Charlie Palmer’s Citrus Marinated Smoked Halibut, that he fixes with ruby grapefruit and ginger crackling.

SALAD Tossed tomatoes with grilled bread, cucumber and toasted pine nuts.

FISH COURSE Lobster, Lobster & Lobster with Lobster Sauce (it’s a specialty of Charlie’s)

MEAT COURSE Herb Crusted Lamb Chops, fondant potatoes in mustard jus, with peas and wilted lettuce.

DESSERT Without doubt the Crème Brulée En Parade in three flavors: Jasmine, Capuccino and Classic Vanilla.

And now please choose who you eat dinner with.

A FAMOUS ACTOR Mr. Paul Newman would be a pleasure.

A FAMOUS ACTRESS and his wife Joanne Woodward, of course.

SOMEONE TO MAKE YOU LAUGH Robin Williams never fails.

SOMEONE FROM THE WORLD OF CRUISING I am always delighted to see our president, Mrs. Pamela Conover.

SOMEONE FROM THE WORLD OF SPORT I think maybe Stein Eriksen, the Norwegian skier who invented freestyle skiing.

SOMEONE FROM HISTORY YOU WISH YOU HAD MET. I would like to hear some stories from Roald Amundsen, who was the first man to reach both the North and the South Poles and traverse the Northwest Passage.

Thank you so very much Captain for that enthralling interview. We all wish you much success with your new command the incomparable Seabourn Odyssey and I hope one day to be fortunate enough to visit you and your super yacht. Can you imagine what it must be like to experience this kind of cruise vacation?………….I hope one day to be able to tell you all about it.

You know, I read this interview and again I thought to myself……….why does anyone spend their valuable vacation time on a cruise………….Carnival Corporation truly does have something for everyone. I think that message has been firmly delivered in North America and now finally it seems to be reaching the British public as well. I have spoken to so many these past 28 days all of whom are saying “where the hell of you been hiding” ……..meaning………I wish we had tried cruising before and to some extent……….I wish we had tried Carnival before. You see, British people tend to be stereotypical when choosing a vacation………..sorry………holiday destination. For years, the choices were limited and you could tell so much about the person from their vacation choice.

If you meet someone who’s been to Ibiza you might think that they are nymphomaniacs, and that if they’ve just come back from the Greek islands that their husband recently run off with his pneumatically breasted secretary and they are looking for an Uzzo-induced affair with a waiter called Stelios

Anyone who goes to France votes has no sense of smell. Anyone who goes to Italy votes labor and is desperately trying to induce some romance into their lives, and anyone who goes to Spain has, at some point in the recent past, might look like they may be wanted by the police . The only person who ever went to Germany for a vacation was Benny Hill.

Suddenly though and thanks to the wonderful people at Carnival UK the message that cruising is simply the best value for money holiday in the world is being received loud and clear and the ships of P & O, Princess, Costa, Ocean Village, Seabourn, Holland America and of course Carnival are resonating to the sounds of regional British accents. I am told that the stigma of cruising only being for the very rich or the very nearly dead was something that probably kept people from giving it a try. However thanks to companies like Ocean Village whose advertising tag line is “Cruises for people who don’t do cruises” has smashed through this stigma and now a multitude of Brits are walking up the gangways and into the world you all love.

And how I would have loved to finish the blog on that note…………but I can’t ……….because of this.

Guest: _____: 002802584A Owner:
Cabin: ——- Booking#: _______Added-Changed: 08/08/08 – 08/08/08

——— Upset with Gift Shop Selection
Mr. _____ came to the desk mentioning he was not able to find what he needed in the gift shops onboard. Purser asked what the items were that he wanted and guest produced a list from a note book which had 5 different items
1. Crunch Chocolate Bars
2. Chewing Gum
3. CD with local music
4. L’Oreal Shampoo
5. National Enquirer and Star Magazines
Guest said all these items were available when they cruised on other lines so they were very disappointed that Carnival does not have them. Purser explained that we do not sell chewing gum because of the cleaning issues. Guest shouted at Purser saying on Princess they have 10 different brands. Purser asked guest to kindly not shout and that the comments would be sent to department heads concerned. Mr________then said that every ship he had cruised on had always carried L’Oreal Shampoo and therefore he had not brought any with him. Guest said he wanted to talk to someone in charge. Appointment made with Chief Purser for follow up. letter sent with time to cabin at 2:45pm.

Ok, let’s examine his list.
1. Crunch Chocolate Bars

Not sure what these are and as my internet service is down because of the constipated satellite I can’t see what one looks like. I can tell you that I called Justine the Shop Manager and she told me we don’t have this …………..oh………..but we do have 14 other chocolate bars plus a full range of Godiva chocolates.

2. Chewing Gum
Well as the Purser correctly said we don’t sell it onboard and certainly during my 21 years (and oh yes, its 21 years this month) at sea we have never sold gum. Keeping the ship clean is difficult enough without having to clean up people’s gum…………and I am not certain but I do not think Princess has it for sale either.

3. CD’s with local music
OK, this one may be something we can look at. Although how many people will want to buy Russian and Finnish music is anybody’s guess…….anyway Justine is looking into this.

4. L’Oreal Shampoo
The fact that this gentleman would loose his temper because we do not carry his shampoo tells me that this is a man who cares about his hair a little too much. We have two types for sale in the gift shops and two more in the spa but obviously not what he is used to…………………not to be cruel but I bet he uses hair spray or gel as well and probably has a manicure every Thursday………..and likes Cher.

5. National Enquirer and Star Magazine
We do not have these magazines as we supply toilet paper in the cabins.
Seriously, its really difficult to meet everyone’s demands. Yes, maybe we should have bigger sizes and they are getting better at that. Our jewelry selection is as good as any store on land and the gift items are better than they have ever been. I wish they actually stocked more “off the wall stuff “though as I love collecting the weird and the wonderful for my “trunk of crap”

In Barbados I bought 10 different hot sauces all hanging from the saddle of a donkey. In Canada I went to a Green Peace gift shop and bought a cuddly white fluffy seal that when you squeeze it blood comes out a wound in its head. The worst gift shops though in the entire world are at British Airports……….have a look next time you are there. You get Teddy Bears dressed up as police officers………not the modern day police bears carrying Heckler and Koch machine guns and wearing bullet proof vests but wearing the old style helmets last seen in 1950. I mean can you imagine the French selling teddy bears with onions round their necks? And while I am a staunch supporter of Queenie Elizabeth and the family why is it that we think people want to buy items with her face on it. I mean, if your British or part of the Commonwealth maybe but why would we think anyone else wants to buy these things.

How many other countries sell crockery with pictures of their heads of state…………..can you get a Berlusconi Bowl……….a Putin plate…………A Bush Beer Mug.

Anyway, the gift shops onboard are better than ever and personally the only thing I think is missing is a John Heald Bobble Head doll that looks like me and is so realistic than when you massage its back it farts…….ever so gently.

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.