Having a Good Whine

August 14, 2008 -

John Heald

Is there such a word as unpatting?………..The reason I ask is that yesterday I mentioned that I had patted myself on the back for working hard to get the passenger formerly known as Mrs. S.Nob to say the word thank you and to start enjoying her cruise. Well, it seems that I now need to unpat my back because of this…….bugger.

Guest: Mrs Ref: 002802941A
Cabin: Booking#: 3XF958 Added-Changed: 08/13/08 – 08/13/08


Mrs came to the desk demanding to speak to John the cruise Director or the Captain. Purser asked if she could know what was making the guest so upset. Mrs.______ said that she had ordered a bottle of wine for the table. Guest said that it took 10 minutes before it was served and which is too long and it was not done by the Maitre D . Guest said that the wine was bad and did not taste good and she refuses to pay the $29 charge. Purser said she would call the Maitre D and that her comments would be documented for review.

NOTE: Maitre D Ken advised that the guest sent the bottle back after it was 3/4 empty and she had drunk everything in her glass. Ken had asked the other guests at the table all of which said the wine was fine.

So, there you have it. I checked with Ken just now and told him I would pay for the wine.

Unfortunately though he also told me that the other ladies at the table had told ken that she had spent the evening telling everyone how dreadful the guests were, the food was and how she is used to better………..well, everything. So, not only have I failed with Mrs. you know who but also lumbered the other ladies with someone whose company they really don’t enjoy……….I guess when I visited the table they were putting on a brave face. From what Ken tells me Mrs. S.Nob took it upon herself to “host” the table and therefore she became Queen for the night. Well, this evening we are in Warnemunde until late and we have open sitting………..I will have to see what we can do about tomorrow. I wonder if the wine really was bad?

Well, as you know I started my career with Carnival in the bar department. I had blagged my way through the first interview as a bar waiter with consummate ease. The only difficult moment was when Wayne Kozack the Carnival director who was interviewing me asked if I knew what a sex on the beach was…………I was about to say that since I had spent the last 10 years with Alan as my by best mate that I hadn’t a clue about sex on a beach, a hill, on the back seat of a Mini…….in fact anywhere….when I realized that it was some sort of drink……..so I said ” of course, smiled and got the job.

If that interview was easy then the one that the Bar Manager Colin Campus gave me to become a wine steward on the M/S Holiday was even easier.


I of course knew nothing. Back then I did actually drink the odd glass but most of the wine I did drink came with a screw top and had a picture of a Blue Nun on it or if I was really living the life style of the rich and tanned I would treat myself to something with a cork.

My life as a wine steward was short lived probably because I didn’t know anything……….I mean anything about wine. The only thing that got me through it was a bit of banter and a few jokes plus the fact that as little as I knew most Carnival guests of the late eighties knew even less than I did.

Thank goodness the majority of them tasted the wine and not me and I cannot remember too many occasions if any at all when the guest having tried the wine vomited into the wine bucket and said it was no good……………….and that always had me thinking.

When you’re out for dinner, why does the Sommelier invite you to taste the wine? Why doesn’t he do it himself? He’s the expert and as a general rule most customers would struggle to tell the difference between a Robert Mondavi 1989 Opus One and a glass of Mad Dog 20 20.

I certainly fall into this category. I still nothing about viniculture and even if I did drink you could pee in a glass and if it were chilled enough I’d be happy. When I’m buying wine for home consumption I have two very simple rules. I never spend more than £5 ( $10) on a bottle, and I don’t buy anything with the words La or Chateau on it meaning of course it’s French…….I am sure they make great wine but Monsieur Le De Pape is not getting any of my money and the only person who ever comes over for dinner is Alan and after a glass or two he also would not know if he was drinking Pinot Grigio or Pinot PeePee. Sorry to bang on about the French again………….they pride themselves on their culture, though it is not easy to see why. All their music sounds the same and they have never made a movie that you would want to watch for anything but the nude scenes and let’s face it, no matter how much garlic you put on it, a snail is just a slug with a shell on its back……….anyway, I digress.

When I was a wine steward we had wines from France, some from California and a few from Italy the most popular of which was Lambrusco. I still remember this for two reasons……….it was $9 a bottle and we called it Italian Coca Cola……………it was our best seller. Nowadays, our restaurant and Steak house wine menus are diverse and offer something very special to suit all budgets. Thank goodness though that I am not a wine steward today though as our guests are much more knowledgeable and because it seems every country in the world now produces wine.

I’m told Romania makes a decent drop these days, but I imagine that they also make a lot of stuff that will leave you with a huge headache. And how are you supposed to know which is which? Which will have you spending the night driving the porcelain bus and which will feel like silk worms are having rumpy pumpy on your tongue? Wine bottles should come with honest opinions of the experts like Oz Clarke from the Food Channel. He should be allowed to put honest opinions on each label………” this is a brilliant wine…..drink lots of it”……….or “I would rather liquefied Baboon poo then this”

Sadly, though, this doesn’t happen, probably because wine reviewers talk in a language that nobody understands using words like “Earthy, Plummy and Deluxe.”……ok, but does it taste good?

My favorite part of being a wine steward though was the hours and the fun we had. We worked maybe 5 hours a day……….we cooked in the wine cellar using little stoves and………..please don’t tell anyone bout this………….we would accidentally drop a bottle of good red wine every night. The wine would be reported on the “Breakage Sheet” and that was sent to the F & B Manager…………….we never lied or misled the boss………..we really did drop it……….but only after it was empty……….ssshhhhh.

So, Good evening from Warnemunde in Germany. The day has again been a sunny one but temperatures didn’t get up much past 65 and a light jacket was required by most. This morning our private trains carried 1000 plus people to Berlin while the rest enjoyed a tour of the charming fishing village and lunch by the water. I had the last of my safety training meetings today so instead of eating a huge bruckwurst I sat and listened about storing chemicals and avoiding gaseous explosions………I couldn’t help but say out loud that me being here had stopped me eating a German sausage and that had in fact avoided a gaseous explosion………..some of the senior officers laughed………the instructor didn’t.

Oh, just before I forget, I see you all enjoyed the little cameo video of Ketut yesterday. He is so kind and happy all the time. Well, he is not the only one……..have a look at this wonderful comment………..oh, and usually we remove the guests name but as she is a blogger she said I could keep it in.

Guest: Ms Ref: 002802910A Owner: ___________
Cabin: # Booking#: ____ Added-Changed: 08/13/08 – 08/14/08


Ms F stopped by the Purser’s desk and mentioned that she was on several cruises before but she met the most polite and friendly crew on this ship. Ms F asked to pass message to everybody that we were doing a great job.

Purser thanked Ms F and advised that we were happy to hear that and she left.
E-mail sent to all department heads.

Now, I don’t know if you have seen the cameo videos that Stephanie and Tom filmed when they were onboard during the three day cruise last month. If not, have a look at these.

The Carnival Channel Video Blog

Well, I have to say that despite the fact that word ” Line Up ” does not exist in Japanese our group of 137 people from the land of the rising sun have been having a great time and this morning as I stood in the terminal building making sure the tours to Berlin went off on time I was ” papperazied ” by the entire group as flashes and camera phones went off all around me…………….why is it by the way that Japanese women always hold two fingers in the air like they are Winston Churchill.

I was in Japan a few years ago …………..Heidi loved it………………..me………….well I wasn’t so sure. The bath in my hotel room was vertical and made from wood, the food was mostly still alive, there weren’t any chairs, the walls were made from rice, I was fed by a woman with a completely white face and a shoe size of minus three, all the bars were full of men in slippers, singing, the traffic hadn’t moved since 1972 and all you could buy from vending machines on the streets were cans of drink called Sweat.

We rented a car one day but it was impossible because none of the road signs made any sense. Elsewhere in the world “centre” is zentrum, or centro or some such derivation, but in Japan it’s just a meaningless squiggle made up of bent paperclips.

Anyway, the reason I mention this group was that only the guide speaks English however the other 136 Japanese have something to help them with this problem. Each couple has one of those gadgets that only exists in Star Trek, the mind of Stephen Hawking, and obviously most Japanese high street electrical stores. You type a message in Japanese and it speaks the words in a sort of robot…….. Engrish. And unbelievably it worked……….every time. I have been stopped a few times this voyage by someone wanting to know ” where is dining room ” or ” where is photo gallery .”………….each time I expect to be told that I have the face of a bulldog chewing a wasp or that my bottom smells of sushi……………..but, annoyingly, the machine thingy has been correct each and every time.

This is such a diverse cruise with so many guests from all over the world…………………….and that’s fantastic. It seems that whether you are from Japan, UK, Canada, USA or any of the other 28 represented countries we have guests sailing from this week………….everyone has one thing in common. Yes, fuel is expensive, yes there may be a credit crunch being felt everywhere but people are seeing that cruises are astonishingly brilliant value even in today’s……… tough economy.

Let’s have a look at today’s photos.

The Berlin Wall

Brandenburg gate

Warnemunde Train Tour

Schwerin castle

John and Susan Brock whose mother was so tragically killed in January………..John actually danced with her……..he has never even done that with me (Heidi)

John and Blogger Ray Mcteague

John hosts the German Brass Ban playing on deck

Guests enjoying the music – note the roof is closed as it was a chilly night

The bedtime story on the big screen

OK, let’s chat about your comments following Heidi’s blog yesterday. It seems that some of you read between the lines and were worried that I would not be part of CCL next year…………..I promise you that is not the case. I can tell you a few definite though.

Heidi needs to be home, living a normal life. She loves being onboard but she deserves to be a homemaker and hopefully a mother………no…….nothing yet:)

I always forget that Heidi has been onboard for 11 years and delivered seven new ships………..nobody deserves a rest more than her.

What about me? Well, I have no idea what ship I will be on next year yet. I do know that I will not be delivering the Carnival Dream as a Cruise Director. This is for two main reasons. Firstly and most importantly…………someone else deserves the experience………….and the guests deserve to see someone else apart from me. There are some brilliant young, funny and talented ladies and gents out there all of whom will I know do a wonderful job. The second reason…….well, I have delivered nine new ships now including the last three in a row…………and honestly …………..it’s quite tiring.

Now………I will say that I intend to invite myself on the inaugural cruise so I can blog about the experience………..plus…………..I will be hoping to help someone write a Eurodam style blog during the construction.

Well, where does that leave me. ………….mmmmmm……..obviously I think it will be the Carnival Liberty in Europe. I love the Caribbean but my heart belongs here and I have to be close to home.

Before the European season starts………..well, I have the Bloggers cruise and before and after that………..who knows. Maybe I will go on a grand tour and sail on some of the Carnival ships and some of the sister lines vessels writing and sharing my experiences with you all. Then, its Carnival Liberty and Europe………without Heidi. How will I manage…………..well, time will tell and one things for sure,……………she is going to be taking a lot of cruises next year.

Maybe the top guns at Carnival have a plan for me………..who knows………..but for now let me say, I love what I do and still consider myself the luckiest bugger……………… in the world.

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.