Why is it that women think that going for a walk …………..is romantic. We are in Copenhagen today and just because the sun is shining Heidi has this romance novel idea that we should hold hands and “go for a walk.”

Of course, you can walk somewhere when your car breaks down, or if you’re too drunk to drive it. You can also walk if you’re only going a very short distance — to achieve something at the end of it………like food…………or a free Aston Martin. But the notion of walking for fun……….. is just bollocks.

Nevertheless, every weekend perfectly normal families from all over the world go for a stroll to walk off their lunch. Others don beards and brightly coloured windbreakers so they may be as one with someone else’s piece of nature. As a result, the medieval peasant art of walking is now big business. And because it’s big business the techno nerds have arrived.

At home we live in the countryside so Heidi says its the law that we must “go for a walk.” Whenever Heidi wins and I find myself having to go I put on old pair of leather boots that have served me well over the years. Oh sure, they’re a bit skiddy on wet rocks and have the weather proofing characteristics of tissue paper. But they’re manly and comfortable.

However, like my favorite pair of underpants that had pictures of the Bentley Continental all over them………Heidi donated them to the charity shop and got me a new pair . And God they were horrid. Big, orange and festooned with badges. The sort of thing you might expect to be murdered for in a Turkish jail.

Fashioned from Gore-Tex, which is apparently 25% more breathable — than what, I don’t know — they come with something called an advanced chassis and shock absorbing reactors, and have a preposterous name like the GTXX or G Shock Ultra. I might have put them on if you were holding my family hostage. Or if I woke up one morning to find I had to take part in one of Pee Diddly’s new videos..

The first problem was that to fit all the technology into the soles meant my height shot up from 5 feet 10 and half inches to about 7ft 6in. But there was no second problem. These shoes I am forced to admit were a revelation. Light, waterproof, grippyin all conditions and with lots of ankle support to keep me in one piece when I fell over on the ice which in England usually starts forming in August.

What’s more, Heidi says my new shoes are cool. So even though I now hit my head on doors, ceilings and even overhead power cables, I won’t take them off. They’re my new best friends.

Anyway, back to this walking thing. You see, Heidi has this image in her head of me and her and our soon to be purchased ( or rescued as she is now going to a place called Battersea dogs home to rescue one from being sold to a Korean restaurant ) dog walking through England’s green and pleasant land.

The last time we did this was back in February just before we came back to work. And, of course, I arrived back where I’d started from with mild exhaustion and a hint of hypothermia.

Each of my new boots weighed 100 tons, I had mud in my belly button, my lips were royal blue, my face was as pink as the Carnival Splendor’s lobby and my hair looked as though I had been wearing a crash helmet for a year.

The walk itself had been tough as had obeying all the rules of the countryside. You may recall from your childhood those long, lazy summer adventures when you could climb trees, go where you wanted and jump in lakes and ponds. It was pretty much a free-for-all, providing you stuck to the Country Code.

This was a simple set of rules designed to explain to the working classes what they should do when faced with bits of the world that did not have a KFCevery 100 yards. In essence, it said that you must not pull faces at the cows and you must remember to shut all the gates. Nowadays, its a bit different. You’re marshaled by signposts telling you where the footpath goes and, just to make sure that you stay on it, you’re fenced in by miles of electrified razor wire..

Every few hundred yards you are reminded of your responsibilities by slogans that would not look out of place in a Soviet factory. “Kill nothing. Only time”, said one.

However, the one that I reminded Heidi of today when she was fantasizing about our dog walking was a sign on a public footpath near where we live that says “No Dogs .”

Well, I’ve had a look at the new code and it seems that the problem isn’t dogs. It’s what comes out of their bottoms. Now I know that in the parks around Cities that dog doo doois a problem, but the countryside is almost entirely carpeted withexcrement. We are ankle deep in poo from sheep, cows, horses, foxes, chickens, and the occasional camper who forget their bucket, so why should your dog be expected to put shove a cork up his bottom until he gets home?
However, I think I have worked out a solution.

If Heidi says we must go for a walk, forget the green bits they call countryside……go for a walk in the middle of your local city.

There is no mud, there are more visual diversions like shops and cars, you can go where you want without fear of electrocution from a fence, your dog is welcome and you won’t come home covered from head to toe in sh#t !

Good Morning……………..in the end we didn’t go for a walk because as always, something happens that requires your attention so Heidi went out with Stephanie and the entertainment staff to Tivoli Gardens. This left me to finish a project I should havefinished in June during the start up. I won’t bore you with details because….well……..it’s boring.

Anyway, let’s have a chat about yesterday. Without a doubt St.Petersburg is everyone’sfavorite port and the sheer beauty coupled with the fact that Russia despite its new money and MacDonald’s is still shrouded in a cloak of mystery. However, if St.Petersburg is the favorite port then Berlin is a close second and the guides we use on the tours………………are a clear first.

Last night at the deck party I spoke to so many of the guests who had returned on the trains from Berlin. They were tired but buzzing having seen the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, The Brandenburg gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Babelplatz, The Reichstag building, the Prussian Palaces and so much more. I also spoke to people who had been to Sachenhausen and like I was and still am, were lost for words about what they had seen. The tours guides on all our excursions to Berlin and in Warnemunde seem to shine.

The party itself went very well. We closed the roof halfway through the night as temperatures dipped to 60 degrees by 9:00pm……………….however…………..everyone enjoyed the brass band, the beer, the oversized pretzels and the jovial atmosphere. ……………well………..when I say everyone:

This was a strange one and I needed to read it twice to make sure I had not misread anything. The German Brass Band we use is from Rostock, a town close to Warnemunde and are so nice, kind and appreciative of the chance to play on a ship like the Carnival Splendor. I called the guest and explained that having worked with them these last three voyages I can confirm that none of them speak any English………….there was no pretence here………..they just don’t speak English. I explained that Heidi has to communicate with them in German…………..well……….I won’t bother with the details of our conversation but basically the guest refused to believeme and amazingly stated that we should not hire a band that did not speak English and therefore would not be able communicate with the passengers. I found myself having to count to ten at this point……………did this lady really expect a German band to be hired not on their musical ability but on how good their English was.

Once I reached ten…….I continued to explain about the song Edelweiss…………..I did not bother telling her you spell it with an E not an A. However, I did explain as to why the band would not want to play it.

It is named after the edelweiss, a white flower found high in the Alpine hills. The song is sung in the Sound Of Music as we all know by Captain Georg Ritter von Trapp played by Christopher Plummer as he rediscovers music and a love for his children. Later on in the show it is sung as a defiant statement of Austrian patriotism by the von Trapp family in the face of the pressure put upon Captain von Trapp to join the navy of Nazi Germany. Now, I reminded the guest that the older members of the band would not have happy memories of that song or that time. ……………ahhhhh……….I thought…………this should leaveher with a better understanding and maybe even feeling slightly apologetic ………………………….nope……………….and for the second time this week I failed miserably in trying to turn a difficult guest into someone who see’s the other side of their comment.

The guest basically told me I was wrong and that it was a song about a flower and that the refusal of me and the band to help her will mean that we will never see her walk up our gangway again. I apologized profusely and offered to see if any of the ship’s musician’s could play it for her ………..but she didn’t want to know and with that………….the conversation was terminated………………Das Bugger !

I intend to call her back tonight…………you know, I am sure the song has special meaning to her and I feel very bad that the brass band could not play it for her…………..but to say that it ruined your cruise………..mmmmm………that’s very strange………..oh well…………that’s Mrs Edelweiss and Mrs S.Nob who I have not managed to turn around………………and as much as I may joke about this………….you know how sad that makes me feel.

So, very quickly, lets crack on with some other stuff. Lets start with the fact that it’s a beautiful day here in Copenhagen with 70 degrees of sun and blue sky. The guests are all ashore and more worryingly so is Heidi……….with the credit card………….going shopping. As I mentioned she wanted me to go shopping with her. There are many things I’d rather be doing than shopping including waiting for Meatloaf to come off stage after a sweaty concert, and then licking his back clean. Anyway, she is shopping and I am blogging.

Now, yesterday, Entertainment Staff Jaime and Lauren went to Berlin and I wanted to share these photos with you.


The new Jewish synagogue


Bebel Platz(place of the book burning)


French arts and sciences building


Memorial to anti-Hitler supporters in Parliament

Now, a few weeks ago I included in the blogthingy an interview with Kat our Senior I/S Manager. Well, as a follow up from that a blogger had sent me a few questions as he was very interested about the position and the work onboard. Kat gave me the answers today and rather than me just send them to him I thought others may be interested. So, here are the questions and the answers and as always a big thank you to the blogger for asking them and Kat for answering them.

How many IT personall is on a ship like the carnival splendor and what is their job title?
On the Splendor we are three but this is due to the extra work required for the inaugural season. Conquest-class ships typically have two people.

What kind of systems, storage etc. do you use?
We have about 25 dedicated HP servers but Carnival is in the process of switching to a handful of servers running VMWare on all ships that undergo dry dock. Here on Splendor, we have6 racks with the HP servers, two SUN servers, work stations, KVM switch, patch panels, and other dedicated servers. The network is laid out as 15 data hubs and 30 IPTVhubs with Cisco switches. We have an additional rack which houses the satellite BDU equipment, and one that houses the ‘cell phones at sea’ equipment.

What kind of rank do the IT people have, do they have a rank? Do they have private cabins or do they share cabins on lower decks?
We are Hotel Officers, between one and two-and-a-half stripes. One is the Lead Senior Info Systems Manager who has a single cabin in the Staff and Officer quarters (deck 4 on Splendor). The Assistant(s) are either Juniors or Seniors also but with less time in the company, and they usually share a cabin also in the Staff and Officer quarters.

Do the IT people also staff the internet cafes on board ?
The iCafe on board is run by a concessionaire. The Info Systems Department is not responsible for these PCs or any issues. This is run by the iCafe Manager and he will communicate any issues to his company.

Hopefully the IT people can tell me a little about life on board.
Of course. We work 7 days a week and ‘week day’ or ‘week end’ don’t mean anything to us. We can get off in port if work is not affected and at least one I/S Manager remains on board. We have an on-call schedule in place and one of us will always be available for emergencies. Our core hours are 9 AM to 7 PM but of course we need to be flexible because things can and will happen. In Europe, we are additionally challenged by the time difference to Miami. We work very close with HQ and are in constant communication about projects, issues, updates etc. Therefore our days here in Europe rarely end before 11 PM – see it as a double-shift. Being Officers, we have certain privileges such as lunch on Lido deck on port days, coffee shop, Supper Club, access to bars and lounges and of course the shows. While we are not regulars ‘out in the passenger areas’, we occasionally enjoy going out.

There are crew events also, a crew bar, and crew tours in our ports, so we haveoptions. Still, work comes first and plays a big part in our lives. Our regular duties involve: Assisting shipboard staff with all IT issues (emails, printers, permission / software / hardware / network issues), troubleshooting various system issues, overseeing antivirus updates, satellite connectivity, WiFi, the embarkation system, Point-of-Sales systems, system upgrades and printing S&S cards for the upcoming voyage.

Best regards,
Kat

Thanks again Kat and thanks to all the I/S Managers who havehelped me over the last year or so with this blog thingy.

OK, now, I answer dozens and dozens of questions from the blog thingy and from my Facespace page and probably the most common question I get asked after what my own schedule will be is ” who will be the Cruise Director ” when guests are planning their next Carnival cruise. Now, I could just post the schedule but that would be boring. So, what I have done is send a series of questions to all my friends in the fleet. Each CD will answer the same questions which includes how long their leaving date. This will allow you to see who the Cruise Director will be when you sail and allow you to find out a bit more about them before you do.

So, who to start with…………well, after a bit of thought I decided that we needed an old friend to set the scene…………so, here is an interview with ” Chris ” Bubba ” Roberts.”

1. Can you tell us which ship your currently are on and when you are due to leave.

I am currently working on board the Carnival Spirit in Alaska. We will be doing this itinerary till the end of September. Then out to Hawaii, then to San Diego for the 8 day cruise down to Acapulco. I will be leaving here on November 12. I will return to the spirit on January 15, 2009.

2. Carnival Cruise Directors come from very diverse backgrounds. Some have entertainment experience, some, like me have none. Can you tell us about your background and how you ended up with the best job in the world.

I started on ships with HAL as a ship’s photographer. I was looking to do something to get away from school for a semester. I had been studying communications in school and had done a lot of competitiveve public speaking in high school. When I came to work on HAL I saw the cruise director’s job as something I wanted to do, but was unable to transfer. I went back to school for a short while and then came to CCL in 94 where I helped set up what has now become the Audio/Visual Services department. I worked both shore side and ship board. After a couple of years in that department I transferred to entertainment where I became a social host and worked my way up to CD in 99.

3. Before we talk about some of your favorite parts of the job, lets talk about the areas behind the scenes……….the things guests never see. Tell us about what a Cruise Director does when he or she is not on the stage but keeps you just as busy.

Being on the Carnival Spirit we have many different itineraries that we do through out the year. I am always working on whatever the next itinerary is going to be. Right now we are doing our north and southbound Alaska cruises, but I am spending lots of time preparing for our special glacier bay itineraries as well as hawaii…then right after that a special 9 day cruise and then our regular 8 day cruise. So coordinating with all of the departments to get the Carnival Capers takes up a good chunk of my day.

More so than ever now, safety is a major factor in our jobs. I am now a team leader for what are called safety tours. This is where I lead a team of department heads around the vessel looking at both guests and crew on their behavior and whether or not it is safe or not. If it is deemed unsafe we must correct the action, and if it is deemed safe, we praise. This is done on a weekly basis.

I am also the chairman of a subcommittee on how to improve guest’s safety awareness. This is also done a few times a month where myself and several other positions discuss ideas on the above.

I am also in charge of the training of my staff when it comes to safety in the workplace. We discuss situations like FIRE, MEDICAL, and theater evacuations, handling of pyrotechnics and chemicals and much, much more.

4. A Cruise Director is happiest when performing or being with guests. Can you tell us two activities or events that you would call your signature items…………events that make you stand out from the crowd

I do my own performance during a voyage. It is a tribute show to John Belushi and the Blues Brothers. The show is filled with a lot of great music and features our incredible show bands. We have some fun getting people out of their seats and doing some crazy dances. And if the schedule permits, we do a follow up show to this where we do another selection of “blues and more” later in the cruise. The show is a surprise to most guests as when they see me during the cruise, I guess the don’t expect me to be so light on my feet. I took a lot of ballet, jazz and tap when I was young. You wouldn’t know it to look at me though. These are my favorite performances of the week.

5. What has been your most challenging moment as Cruise Director so far

Hurricane Wilma from a few years ago. Turned one of the 4 day cruises of the inspiration to Cozumel, into a 5 day cruise to nowhere. Very busy, very challenging. Watch my pull a show out of my……well, you can imagine when you can’t get to port, you can’t pick up your entertainers.

6. And, your most rewarding
Meeting Julie…my fiancé. She’s the best.

7. On your current ship can you tell us about your itinerary and can you recommend one must do excursion from each port of call

Currently we are in Alaska doing the North and southbound runs. We have about 6 weeks left in Alaska before going out to Hawaii at the end of September.
Northbound:
Vancouver(home port)
Sea Day Cruising the Inside passage
Ketchikan – Bering Sea Crab Adventure or the Misty Fjords
Juneau – any of the flightseeing tours(helicopters or floatplanes) or the whale watching tours
Skagway – Any of the train tours that go up the White Pass. There are lots of combination tours that do the train…if you are a train buff…do the steam train…or if you don’t want the train, there is plenty of flightseeing in skagway as well.
Sitka – the sea otter and wildlife quest or the Russian America and raptor center.
Sea day cruising college fjord & prince william sound
Whitter(home port) – if you have a late flight out of anchorage you can make whitter a 5th port with some of our excursions.

The southbound itinerary is pretty similar
Whittier(home port)
Sea day cruising college fjord(this happens very early in the morning)
Sitka
Juneau
Skagway
Kethikan
Sea day cruising the inside passage
Vancouver(homeport)

8. Why, in your opinion is Carnival…………..the world’s most popular cruise line

The product that we offer to the price that we sell is incomparable. One low price gives you so much bang for your buck. That in combination with one of the friendly crews a float.

9. Is there a ship in the fleet you would love to be Cruise Director of that you have yet to be so and what port of call would you like to visit that you have not so far in your career

I have done the all almost….so I guess it’s just the splendor or freedom since I have not had a chance to do the European runs.

10. Every CD has a story to tell from their time onboard. What’s your most recent funny, sad or inspirational story you can share with us

I got plenty of stories…my most recent was already featured on the blog…look up on the blog “the return of bubba”

11. Finally………….pick a Cruise Director table ……………..you are hosting a table at dinner onboard the carnival Dream………what’s for dinner………..and who do you invite.

APPETISER – chicken tenders or clam chowder

MAIN COURSE – chicken tenders or corndogs – I guess I will be sitting at the kiddies table….but I like simple things.

DESERT – chicken tenders….just kidding…moose tracks ices cream with magic shell.

SOMEONE FROM THE CRUISE INDUSTRY – Captain Antonio Marchetti – Master of the Carnival Spirit.

SOMEONE TO MAKE YOU LAUGH OUT LOUD – Jen Baxter – Acting cruise director on the Carnival Conquest.

YOUR FAVORITE ACTRESS – I can’t remember her name, but the woman who plays the mother on “that 70’s show” she’s hysterical.

YOUR FAVORITE ACTOR – if he were still alive John Belushi….if not then William Shatner or Christopher Walken

YOUR FAVORITE MUSICIAN if he were still alive Ray Charles….if not then Billy Joel or Elton John

AND SOMEONE FROM HISTORY YOU WISHED YOU HAD MET – Leif Von Eriksson

What a great start to this series of interviews. My goodness, old Bubba’s turned into a big softie saying his fiancé is the best thing that ever happened to him during his time onboard…………..I was expecting him to say that the best times were anytime the ship was in a port that had a Waffle House. Anyway, thanks mate for the great answers and we all wish you and Julie much happiness.

The blog has thousands of hits each and every day and amongst the readers are a group of people who used to havea connection with Carnival Cruise Lines. One such lady is Kelly who many years ago used to be a Casino dealer on the Mardi Gras. Kelly sent in these great photos from days gone by.


Entertainment in showboat lounge- Brad Cummings


Malcolm Kennedy……….the late great Malcolm Kennedy………we miss him terribly


Dennis Dearborn


Chief Pursers Dennis Dearborn and Mark Hoffman who are now hotel directors


Grand Ballroom


Carousel Lounge


Mardi Gras


Mardi Gras


Mardi Gras


Mardi Gras in Canada


Mardi Gras Pool

Those are wonderful photos and for many of you who may have cruised on the Mardi Gras I am sure it brought back many memories. Who would have guessed where Carnival Corp is today………..and all on the back on the little old Mardi Gras. Thanks Kelly for the trip down memory lane………..Roger Blum still has that T Shirt you know.

Well, it is now 5:50pm and we are here in Denmark for another hour and a half. Usually we leave at 4:00pm but with this reversed itinerary we have a later arrival and a later departure in port. Well, the guests are very happy and once again the letters and the comments are showing that with the usual tiny exceptions people are having the vacation of a lifetime.

Here are a few of today’s letters from the In Their Own Words Section.

I have walked round the cabin until my socks were worn out, I looked at the view of the port of Denmark, I sucked half a dozen pens dry and I am still sitting here, as the blog’s deadline gets close and I am just can’t find the right words to end today’s thingy..

Here’s the problem. I like to pretend am a travel journalist. I know the world’s proper journalists will laugh out loud at that and explain that 15 months writing about being in the doghouse and other such musings does not make me a journalist any more than the fact that I once took a pair of scissors and cut of my own hair qualifies me to be a hairdresser to the stars.

Anyway, at the moment my mind is a blank so I will just write whatever the next thought is that comes into my head………………ok, maybe not that one as I doubt you, Heidi or Catherine Zeta Jones would like that very much.

Instead, I will say that I wish there was a data base at Carnival Corporation which I could look at and find out what ship is where. This would be useful in so many ways especially with my desire as to visit as many of them as I can and share my experiences with you all. The problem at the moment is we just show up in a port and go “wow, there’s the Grand Princess.”…………and by then I have either planned other duties for the day or its too late to organize a visit. So, that’s a goal of mine then……..a data base thingy to see where in the world the ships of Carnival Corporation are……………may need some help on this from someone with a beard and lots of pens in their top pocket.

The only other thing I can think of is that while I have been trying to think of how to finish today’s thingy I decided to call my mate Alan. When I turn on my mobile telephone, it’s a Nokia – I am treated to a short movie presentation. Two hands extend, one from each side of the tiny screen, clasp each other in the middle and then pause while I contemplate this symbol of universal friendship driven by the benign force of mobile telephony.

The first time I saw this I probably thought it was quite fun, but now, having turned the phone on a billion times, I just think “yes yes yes, very good, get on with it.” By the time the thing fired up today I had forgotten who I was going to call.

So, instead of mincing around trying to think of something funny to say at the end of today’s blog I think I will just say this…………….take a cruise………….it’s the best vacation in the world………….and anyone who doesn’t…………………. is an idiot.

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.