A Safe and Simple Blog

August 12, 2008 -

John Heald

In the last few years you may have noticed the odd sign around the public areas on cruise vessels. These signs mind you to “watch your step” and” mind your head” and while you are watching your head you miss your step.

Well, we live in an age of health and safety and this of course applies in all aspects of life. As I may have mentioned a few weeks ago even religion is not safe. At the last supper Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, and for 2,000 years Christians have followed suit, going to church at Easter so the vicar can move among them with a wet towel. This Easter, however, I read that the Bishop of a church in New York had to use a different towel for each member of the congregation in case he passed on a bout of athlete’s foot.

Anyway, Carnival takes health and safety very seriously so much so that they have invested lots of money in making sure the numbers of accidents decrease dramatically over the next few months. For this they have asked for the help and assistance of the Du Pont Company who are the leaders in the field and this morning myself and all the Senior Officers attended a four-hour course on helping prevent accidents onboard the ships. This was directed towards both guests and crew.

As I listened I understood exactly why Carnival must lead the way in reducing accidents onboard and how in fact we already have.

However, I couldn’t help but think how things have changed in the years I have been onboard… I thought about the ships as they were then…………for example ……..we had pillow fighting.

This would involve a large slippery pool standing about five feet high. The idea was two men or women or married couples would get on the pole and knock the crap out of each other with a pillow.

If they fell off they would do so onto a rubber mat about three inches thick. People never got hurt outside of a few bruises and the odd broken leg………..but if they did go ” Own ” that cry of pain would be followed by an even creator cry of ” where’s my solid gold plastic trophy ” and then they would get up and take part in the beer drinking contest. Of course. Pillow fighting could not happen in today’s health and safety conscious world. If it was allowed the pole would only be allowed to be 2 inches off the floor and the mats would have to be thicker than the height of the ship. The pillows would have to be made out of silk and filled with three ………only three…………duck feathers and passengers would only be able to hit each other on the elbow……….gently.

Now, I acknowledge that everyone’s safety is paramount, however I am concerned. You see, the problem is that while we weren’t looking, an insidious coup has taken over all our main institutions: vacation destinations, schools, government, television stations, the police and even the army. Yes, it’s not the high school principle or the general who’s in charge any more; it’s that quiet little man (or woman) in the high visibility jacket. ………the health and safety inspector who have a very important job to do……………I just hope it’s not at the expense of fun.

Well good morning from Helsinki, Finland where it’s a beautiful fresh and sunny Baltic day with temperatures pushing to 70 degrees. The ship is empty…….it’s 1:15pm and there are only 197 guests on board. Last night I spoke to many guests who told me of their love of St. Petersburg and their stories of their favorite stop. The hermitage is often in pole position on many peoples list and as I was talking to one guest they told me something their guide had said. If you were to stop and look at every artifact and painting in the Hermitage for three minutes it would take you seven years…………..seven years…………to see everything.

Here are today’s random photos.


Helsinki St.Michael Cathredal


Oldest hardware store in Europe


Oldest hardware store in Europe


Helsinki Porvoo Old City


Helsinki Rock Church


Helsinki Sibelius Monument

Well, tonight we have the past guest party with 1640 guests having sailed with CCL before. I will also host the show starring Penny Mathisen who is a beautiful light opera singer. The entertainment we offer is so diverse and of such a high standard ……..this week our shows include:
LIGHT OPERA SINGER
STAND UP COMEDY
MAGIC
VOCALIST TRIBUTING THE RAT PACK
VIOLIN ENTERTAINER
THREE SHOWS STARRING THE CAST OF 18 DANCERS AND SINGERS
TALENT SHOW

It’s no wonder that Carnival continues to lead the way in entertainment.

Now, entertainment of a different sort will no doubt come when I visit the table tonight of Mrs. S. Nob. As I mentioned yesterday I was awash with a huge sense of guilt yesterday when she was telling me how unhappy she was everything and everyone. I suddenly realized that she was lonely……..and probably had no friends in the world. Here she was traveling on her own and having alienated her dining companions she was even eating dinner on her own thus I believe she decided to demand to dine on her balcony. So, I arranged for her to join seven other single ladies at dinner last night and tonight I will stop by the table to see how they are doing. I was going to do it last night but with the early shows I didn’t have time. I checked with Ken the Maitre D to see if any of the ladies had walked away from the table because of her somewhat strange behavior but so far Ken reports all is well. I will let you know later.

Here are two contrasting comments from guests.

Guest: Ms ——-Ref: 002802769A
Cabin: ___Booking#: _______Added-Changed: 08/11/08 – 08/11/08

_____- PASTRY PRAISE

The Carnival Cares Comment card was received as follows:
Although all the food is wonderful, the pastry chef is marvelous! All the baked goods are excellent! Chocolate melting cake is to die for. The crumb cakes taste like mama used to make.

I have to say that this guest is not the first to mention just how amazing our breads and pastries are but being a diabetic the avenue of pastries has been closed off. However, I think the guest speaks for many when they say how good the pastries are…….oh by the way. The Pastry Chef now has a range of sugar free goods at the coffee shop including Apple Pie and Banana Gateau.

Now, here is the next comment.

Guest: Mrs———Ref: 002802391A
Cabin: ____ Booking#: _____Added-Changed: 08/11/08 – 08/11/08

UNHAPPY WITH GIFT

MRS.______ called the front desk to say that she had received a bottle of champagne and a photo from the Cruise Director for her anniversary. Guest said that she was expecting something more thank this as he had read her husband’s letter at his morning show. Mrs.________ said that she was expecting a free excursion or a free dinner at the Supper Club. Purser apologized and said her comments would be passed on to the Cruise Director
E-mail sent to CD

So, each morning I host a show live on TV and the Big Screen. I encourage people to write in with their dedications which include messages of love, birthday wishes and sometimes as you have seen………messages that make you laugh and some that make you cry.

I read each one and then I reply to each one sending a personalized photo of the ship signed by me with a personal greeting and when applicable these photos are accompanied by a trophy or champagne etc. On a typical day I receive and reply to 20 – 50 letters. This is the first time anyone has ever said the reply and gift was insufficient. I remember the letter which honestly was just three lines “it’s my anniversary of 33 years” etc …………and that was it. So, I called the guest and apologized that she was not happy and I explained to her exactly what I just wrote above…………she told me she expected more…………..I told her “Shh, don’t tell anyone but I will send you some chocolate covered strawberries tonight”…………..I said this in a fun way trying to bring the situation to a close and my efforts were rewarded with a blatant suggestion that I refund the dinner she had eaten two nights ago at the Supper Club.

I said that this was not possible and she made a noise like a clucking hen…………and put the phone down on me. I called back………..I shouldn’t have done………..but before I knew it I had called her number. This time the husband answered and said his wife was too upset to talk. I again explained that I send dozens of letters and photos and gifts to people who write in and I could not possibly send everyone for a free dinner or excursion. Although he was much calmer than his wife he still could not understand and honestly believed that I should have done more. The call ended amicably and here I sit ………. wondering what I did wrong.

Let’s finish the comment section on something positive with one such letter that I read out on the morning show. Do you remember Pam and Anthony whose daughter (I think I wrote son) is mentally challenged and how they had left her for the first ever time………..well here is another letter from then.

As you can see they are having blog withdrawal so I will make sure that any comments that you write having read this today will be printed and sent to them. I also sent them some gifts from all of you to them.

I wanted to thank you again for all your comments. As always I am here should you need a reply and if you do please mark your postings: “John, Please reply.”

I also have to apologize a billion times to Muffin aka one of the blogger’s who had sent me the posting from Cruise Critic I referred to yesterday. It was not written by Muffin but sent by Muffin……….I just didn’t read the address thingy properly and did not recognize the bloggers new title of “Muffin”……….the posting was actually written by someone called “Jollimont” who I send my regards to as well.

As you can tell I found the e-mail address thingy very complicated. We all tend to have a sense that if something is complicated and difficult; it is bound to be better than something that is simple and straightforward. Beethoven’s Symphony Number 5, for instance, is considered by almost everyone to be a better piece of music than the theme from the Brady Bunch.

This is also the case with acting. The critics with their beards and Mont Blanc fountain pens will tell us that performing on a TV drama is nothing more than reading out words, shouting, marrying your own sister and slamming doors. For real acting, we are directed towards Olivier in Richard III, Brando in The Godfather, and Hanks in Forrest Gump. These are the giants.

Yes, I’m sure. But actually the best piece of acting I’ve ever seen came from Martin Sheen, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, Alison Janney, Bradley Whitford and Rob Lowe; in the West Wing………their fast interplay was outstanding. Each week they simply talked politics using words most of us had never heard before. And yet you always got the gist. And you always laughed . . . right up to the very last episode, when …..We cried . . . well, I doubt you will see genius to match it in your lifetime.

And now we shall move on to food. Of course, when it’s sculptured and drizzled with jus, and it arrives on your plate with everything balanced on top of everything else, you know you are in the presence of greatness. Particularly if the waiter has revealed it to you from under a cloche with an annoying “Eh Voila.”

Best food ever? Ooh, that’d be a boned Chicken al la Blanc I had in France, or the Risotto De Billionaire I had at Harry’s in Venice, or maybe the …….Oh no, hang on a minute. I’ve just remembered the absolute best thing I’ve ever eaten was in fact the porterhouse steak at the Pinnacle Steakhouse

I had last night………In fact, come to think of it, the five best things I’ve ever eaten were not pigeon on a foie gras thingy or potatoes cooked in caviar. They were simple things: bacon and egg. My mum’s roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding. And the mozzarella and tomato I had at Sabitini’s on the Emerald Princess.

I like my artwork simple as well. Yes, you can be dazzled by Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and by Rembrandt’s attention to detail in the Nachtwacht. But the best piece of art I ever saw? That was “Dogs Playing Poker “by Peter Edwards…….it’s so real that you can actually see that the German shepherd is bluffing.

And this of course brings us nicely on to the cruise vessels of today. Today’s vessels are filled with more gadgets and gismos than Circuit City……..well………..this is all well and good but I saw something last night that shows that sometimes……..simple is best.

I had encouraged people to do this last year and started again this cruise…………it was simply to take a walk before bed……….on the open decks…… under the stars. Well, I mentioned this last night again after the show and when Heidi and I went for our walk there must have been 100 plus couples ………..hand in hand………..walking under the Baltic sky………proof positive that sometimes………….the simple things in life …………. .truly are……… the best.

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.