St. Petersburg and the Right to Reply

August 11, 2008 -

John Heald

Good Morning and just before I forget I wanted to start by demanding a new Olympic event……….its the 4×4 100m relay: A real chance of medals here for the British and Americans in the event in which braying women in Range Rovers, Lexus’s, Acura’s, Hummers, Lincoln’s and Cadillac’s compete to drive their children the shortest distance to school.

Sorry, I know that’s an unusual start to the blog but I was just watching BBC World and they were talking about who has won what medal and they mentioned 4X 4 something or other so I made up my own event………………….as you can see………….I need more sleep.

But that’s not possible as it’s been a busy day again in St. Petersburg. It’s now 4:43 pm on day two of our stop here and most of the tours have returned. Yesterday was a challenge especially with the 11 am arrival and the first hour of disembarking guests was not as smooth as I would have liked. You see, at 11 am we have the first two Carnival tours disembark, the Panoramic St. Petersburg and the Hermitage and City Tour…that’s 1,000 people.

Plus, at the same time we have guests on private tours all leaving as well and this cruise that must have been 500 or so. Now, I have to allow guests on private tours to disembark the same time as Carnival excursions………it would not be fair to do otherwise. However, this means 1,500 people needing to get off immediately and this creates lines on the stairwells. Normally, the staff is very good at controlling this but this cruise we had an added concern.

Now, I have to be very careful here but it is a fact that certain ethnic groups tend not to do well in crowds and can be somewhat rambunctious. In this case we are talking about our guests from Japan and Hong Kong. We have two large groups this cruise of 120 Japanese and 137 from Hong Kong all with private tours and all moving from A to B at the same time. Now while these people are lovely and kind as a individuals, put them in a group and they will steamroll through any obstacle…………..and they did…………..and we had to really be strict with them……………and…they didn’t listen.

So, for a short time we had a crowded stairwell and lobby area on deck 0 where the gangway is located. Once ashore those problems are usually eradicated by guests moving straight to buses, taxis and walking off into town. The unfortunate thing here is that you walk off the ship into the lines for Russian Immigration. Now, I have highlighted this before so I am not going to rehash everything but I do want to chat with people who will be cruising in the next few weeks and next year on the Carnival Liberty and whom have or will have private tours NOT booked through Carnival.

Let’s set the scene with this comment from Cruise Critic and someone called Muffin.

“Heald will try to scare you about not taking Carnival excursions but I urge you not to listen to him. He said drivers in Russia were crazy and to stay with your Carnival tour guide. They are no crazier than Italians. He said Russian customs were nasty. They were polite and stern, but they gave us no grief. Heald said private tours might get off last and blamed it on Russian immigration, that was ludicrous because as far as the Russians are concerned, they don’t care who your tour operator is – it’s Carnival that makes the line longer for private tours than Carnival tours.”

Well, lets start with reminding this kind person that I have a first name ……….anyway, that aside I have to defend myself. At no point do I mention Russian drivers except when I talk about crossing the road ……..which yes, like in parts of Italy……… a life changing experience. I do not………..I repeat not………..mention that the inspectors are rude…….that Mrs. Muffin is not true…………simply not true and I am sure other bloggers who have sailed recently will say the same.

And as you will see, the fact is that it is not Carnival that separates the lines. The facts are as follows.

There are two feeder lines into the eight Immigration booths and these lines are set up and ordained by Russian Immigration. Now, once inside there are eight booths……5 for Carnival tours and three for non-Carnival tours………again, this ordained by Russian Immigration. This means the 2,500 guests on Carnival tours have 5 inspectors and the 500 or so non-Carnival tours have three. The problem though is that the Carnival tour line does move quicker than the private tour line. This is because the Inspectors see guests with Carnival tickets and they know that contains the visa rights and they pass through quickly.

Meanwhile, guests on private tours have to show the authorities their proof of privately booked tours and this does take time so henceforth yes, the guest is correct the lines do move slower. Please do not think I am trying to dissuade anyone from taking a private tour……..far from it. We allow guests on private tours to disembark at the same time as ours and show no discrimination to those who have not booked onboard……you just need a large dollop of patience.

Anyway, I truly do not want you to think that I am being negative about this port ………… it’s amazingly jaw droppingly magnificent on a biblical scale…………it’s just that you have to endure the plutocratic stuff first.

Now, if nothing else this blog should be a tool to pass on live and current information so I would like to ask that Host Mac and Host Kuki put this on the Cruise Critic and Cruise Mates boards. Cruise Critic and Cruise Mates are our friends and always will be but I will not sit by and read comments by Mrs. Muffin that are so ridiculously wrong and untrue.

So, please allow me to write, one more time this kind reminder.

1. Guests on Private Tours and Carnival Tours will disembark at the same time
2. There may be a small delay for guests on Private tours as Russian Immigration need to see proof that a tour has been purchased
3. All guests need their passports and one copy of a passport. If you do not have one, we will provide one onboard.
4. Guests on Carnival tours need their tour tickets in their hands
5. Guests on private tours need a letter or proof showing the name of the company providing the tour.

While I expect and encourage people to write on the boards their thoughts and opinions I hope you all respect my right to answer.

Oh, and if you think that it may not be worth all this hassle……………well………… is proof that despite the slings and arrows you face getting ashore that a cruise to St. Petersburg should be on everyone’s bucket list.




Well, it’s now 7:05 pm and I just returned from a wander around the ship………….via the coffee shop to make myself a cup of monkey tea (P.G.Tips.) I spoke to many guests and although there were a few grumbles about the lines yesterday……………today was perfect by the way as guests already have their passports stamped so the line moves rapidly ……………everyone told me that they were thrilled to have visited the city formerly known as Leningrad. I had my photo taken and also was told that our Hot Chocolate was to “watery.”…………and then I met………..Mrs. S. Nob………………double bugger.

I am going to try and describe her as best I can. She is in her 60’s………5-foot bugger all…………….immaculately dressed and with enough jewelry on her fingers to open her own store in St. Thomas. She has perfect blonde hair which tonight for some reason had a chopstick sticking in it, which according to Heidi is something called fashion………if you are 21 and a supermodel………………not 61, mad as a bat and likely to use the chopstick as a weapon should she not get her way. When she saw me she changed direction quicker than a handbrake turn in a Ferrari and headed towards me at warp speed……………….as Captain James T Kirk would say………..”Shields Up.”

She arrived…………and then kept on coming and was just inches from my face as she started her barrage. The subject this time was basically that she was more important than anyone else in the universe and therefore she should have private debarkation in the ports, dinner with the Captain and………I can’t remember the rest as my mind was absorbed with stopping myself from emptying a pack of Tic Tacs down her throat………she certainly needed them.

Anyway, the result of the conversation was that I am now gently trying to persuade the captain to invite her to his table on the next Elegant night………….we shall see what happens. I left Mrs. S. Nob who for some bizarre reason headed to the Sushi bar……….now I understood why she had a chopstick in her head. You know, I think if you cut through all this ladies bravado she is just suffering from a simple yet dreadful disorder ………….I think she is lonely……….I think she is using her misgivings as an excuse just to find people to talk to. So, I have made it my goal to make this lady happy and it starts with me having her join the table of single ladies I told you about yesterday who befriended Susan Brock…………..I just did this and tonight I will stop by the table and see how they all are. ………loneliness………….It’s a terrible thing.

I decided to do early shows tonight. This means that late sitting guests who eat dinner at 8:30 pm will tonight…….see the show at 7:30 pm before dinner. Early sitting see theirs at 9 pm. I do this tonight only as after two long days in port I am always concerned that a 10:45 pm show will be not very well attended and tonight’s show featuring our great cast is called Fiesta Latina…………I really want them to see it.

Oh yes, last night I gave a call to a group of friends from Cruise Critic. They had gathered in Texas to have a pre cruise party and barbecue in 110 degrees of dry heat. I called Host Mac who then put me on speakerphone where I chatted with all these wonderful people.

I will let Host Mac tell you on his posting who everyone is but it was a true honour to speak to everyone even if it was 12:30am here 🙂

As I said, the folks of Cruise Critic are priceless and if I came across as defensive earlier I apologize but…..well, sometimes you just have to set the record straight.

Here are some photos of the Cruise Crazies from Cruise Critic.

You know, I was just watching the news and I truly hope this awful situation in Georgia improves quickly. As always in a war like this it is the civilians that suffer most. The people of Russia (including the Immigration Officers) are good people and have been through enough over the years………….lets all hope this is resolved immediately.

Anyway, I was watching the TV and an interview with George Bush who had just finished worshiping in a Chinese church. He was speaking and there was his wife by his side as usual. Now, I know that I could not do this job without Heidi and I wonder if George feels the same about Laura who keeps from what I can see a low profile.

There is a low profile and then there is our prime minister’s wife.

Sarah Brown, the wife of our prime minister, is a complete mystery. For all I know, she breeds rabbits, is a qualified bricklayer, and was an extra in a Steven Segal movie. You never had this problem with Margret Thatcher’s wife………Dennis.

Anyway, I was thinking this when later in the news program we went for a report to Italy.

Things are very different there where Silvio Berlusconi has filled his entire cabinet with ex-glamour models some of which have even allegedly starred in rumpy pumpy movies ………one called Saving Ryan’s Privates.

And naturally, this brings me on to France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Unlike anyone in British or American politics, he attained the office of president and responded immediately by replacing his wife with the almost impossibly gorgeous Carla Bruni. Her mother is a concert pianist, her sister an actress and film director, and she’s an heiress to an Italian tire fortune.

It’s also amazing and dare I say typically French that the general public has accepted her into their hearts with no love or compassion for poor old Mrs. Ex Sarkozy who is living in a cardboard box under the Eifel tower.

Can you imagine Senator Barrack Obama getting into office, divorcing his wife and marrying Beyonce or Senator Macain winning the Presidency and marrying Catherine Zeta Jones……..OK………she likes older men…..bad example but you get my point ……….. the voting public would not have accepted it.

This as I said could only happen in France………….as could other things only happen there. Take the oyster as an example. I have no idea who first cracked one open, peered at the snot inside and thought: “Mmm. I’m going to put that in my mouth.” But I bet he was French.

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.