Fred and Ginger….And Butch

August 21, 2008 -

John Heald

Achtung!

Guest: Mr————Ref: 002803189A
Cabin: ____ Booking#: ________ Added-Changed: 08/20/08 – 08/20/08

____ – WANTS MORE HISTORY ON PORTS

Mr————– called the Pursers Office from his cabin to say that he had just attended the Cruise Director’s talk about Berlin. Guest said he was disappointed that the Cruise Director did not talk more about America’s history with Germany as many guests have German relatives. Guest said he wanted to talk to Cruise Director and would wait all day in his cabin until he called. Purser explained that the Cruise Director was very busy but the message would be passed for him to contact guest. Called CD at 2:05pm who stated would call guest.

I did. My travel talks are not historical talks. I certainly try and give as many facts as I can about each site we visit but with limited time and the fact that I am as intelligent as a root vegetable this is not always enough and occasionally I get comments about not mentioning the tours but that I should be talking more about the history…….maybe they are right.

This guest was a little different though because he firstly he refused to talk on the phone and second he told me “I hope you speak clearer in person than you do on stage.”………………..oh joy.

And so we met 15 minutes later in the Lobby, found a quiet corner and sat down. I knew I was in trouble straight away………..firstly ……..he had a beard……………secondly……….he was wearing open toe sandals with long knee high black socks …………….. thirdly ……….. he produced a piece of A4 paper with writing on both sides …………………double sided bugger.

However, what astounded me was that at his feet was a suitcase made out of something that looked like old carpet………….what the $#@!

He was joined by his wife who I shall only mention now because she sat with us the whole 55 minutes and never once said a word ………. not one…………..she just sat there looking at her husband as though she was either too scared to talk or because she had been married for so long to a man with open toe sandals, knee high socks and a beard that she had lost the will to communicate.

They were from a place called “Cokeburg,” Pennsylvania ……….. population ………1,000. I know this because the first thing that was produced from the carpet sided suitcase was a map, showing where his town was and I listened to him tell me how small town USA was the safest place to live. I tried to look interested but I seemed to be stuck in time and I am sure I saw his beard grow in front of my eyes.

Eventually, we got down to business. This was his first cruise and he had decided to tour Germany today without taking a tour and if you thought the beginning of this story was bizarre………well as the saying goes “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

For the sake of the story lets call our small town couple Fred and Ginger……….only because he looked like a Fred and you can guess what colour hair his wife had…………….yep………..she was blonde …………….kidding.

OK, before I continue this is one of those moments where I have to promise that the following is the truth……the whole truth and nothing but the truth………….in fact if I was sitting on the other end of the cyber thingy I would probably say “what a load of bollocks.”…………

But, you can’t make stuff like this up. So, Fred started by telling me how disappointed he was that I did not talk about the history of Germany from 1940 to the present day and in particular Germany’s close ties with the USA. I wanted to say that it was difficult enough to cram 14 different bits of information on getting ashore, passport control, how to go ashore on your own, currency and 14 different excursions into 45 minutes without 68 years of history…………..

However, before I could say a word he then consulted his fact sheet……………bugger. He told me that 25% of Americans come from German stock telling me that upon gaining independence from the murderous British Empire that there was thought given to having German as the official language. At this point I had two choices ……..beat him to death with his suitcase or try some humor……I went with choice number two and said that I could see that Americans and Germans had a lot in common because both countries like Mr Bean and Baywatch…………he looked at me, paused and without even attempting a smile he moved on.

Next, came his plan. He had organized a car rental and intended to drive to Berlin because he had ancestors there…his great grandfather no less…………and could I show him the way on the map………….to Berlin……….at this point I thought he was joking and I was about to laugh when I suddenly realized he was serious……….he wanted me to show him on the map how to drive from Warnemunde to Berlin ………. me………….someone who can’t even find the space between the two sides of the toilet lid.

Now again, I had two choices, I could have bluffed my way through it and hoped he and Ginger didn’t end up in Austria or just say that I had no bloody clue. I went with the second option……………and when I said that I had never driven to Berlin he looked at me as though I had just told him I had discovered his wife in bed with Bill Clinton …………”But, you’re the cruise director” was his reply. ………….again, I could have said “Yes, I am the cruise director not a human GPS system”…………..but I didn’t, I apologized and arranged for him to meet Heidi tomorrow on the pier who would speak to the German tour operator who would show them how to get there…………..he didn’t exactly jump for joy but I could tell he was OK with that.

He then spoke again in detail about his ancestors and how Germany is so similar to America. It was as he continued to talk I noticed a big jar of powder in his carpet bag………….” I asked, “What is that?”…………and again here I swear on the love of my wife this is exactly what he said.

JOHN WHAT’S THAT BIG JAR OF POWDER

FRED POWDERED MILK. WE READ THAT EUROPE HAS LOTS OF PROBLEMS WITH MAD COW DISEASE AND WE DON’T WANT TO GET FOOT AND MOUTH FROM THE MILK IN EUROPE ………SO WE BROUGHT OUR OWN

How I did not just end up on the floor rolling around laughing in hysterics is a bloody miracle………not only had he carried a huge jar of powdered milk from Cokeburgsville but he had combined both mad cow and foot and mouth disease together making it mad foot and cow mouth disease.

So, I said there was nothing to worry about and shook his hand and walked away…………I really wanted to laugh but I didn’t because I suddenly thought who the couple had reminded me off…………the two people from the Wicker Man movie……….or was it a painting? …………standing there holding a pitchfork…………except the pitchfork had been replaced by a carpet sided suitcase and a large jar of powdered milk.

You know, sometimes I worry that one day I will sit down at the computer and will have nothing to write about……….but everyday something happens………..everyday you meet someone who is worthy of a blog…………and Fred and Ginger were just what the doctor ordered.

This morning, Heidi met them as promised and the tour operator showed them how to get onto the autobahn and off they went in their little rented Opal Car to find their roots……………….I am worried about them and shan’t feel relaxed until I know they are back onboard and not foaming at the mouth like a mad cow…………or sheep.

So, as I mentioned we are indeed in Germany and again the weather forecast was as accurate as an Al Jazeera news story. It had said thundershowers yet today again, it’s been dry and although cloudy at times the sun has been in gold medal position for most of the day.

We had a neighbor today in the AIDAbella………….I love those AIDA ships. She will be here with us in 12 days time and I will be having a visit………….can’t wait.

Here are some of Heidi’s photos from her walk today.


Painting the ship

You know, it was amazing to see all the locals and tourists take photos of both ships. Just 20 years ago they were behind the old iron curtain yet here today are two huge ships carrying Germans and people from all over the world on amazing vacations.

The same can be said about Europe…………Carnival Corporation ships can now be found everywhere. Take the port of Civvitave …….Civativecia…….Civitavacria…………the port near Rome. Tomorrow the following ships will all be visiting:

AIDACara

AIDADiva

Carnival Freedom

Noordam

Emerald Princess

Ventura

Costa Romantica

I make that 16,000 plus guests all of which are experiencing the wonders of Europe……………what a wonderful cruising world and a sure sign that Carnival Corporation rules the waves.

Kevin…………..I have mentioned this name a few times and totally forgot that there are two Kevin’s. One is the chef blogger from New York who has been a true friend of the blog since day one and the other is a gentlemen with the same name who has different opinions but whose thoughts are most welcome and respected here on the blog thingy…..just didn’t want you to get the two mixed up.

I want to thank you all for your kind words after my “Looking On The Bright Side Of Life” blog…………I have read everyone of the 68 comments and I feel so privileged to have you all as friends. I see that you all want me to keep writing………..so I will. I will probably have bad days now and then and as long as you don’t mind sharing those bad days with you and being a grumpy old blogger now and then.

I also had a call from PA 007 who told me that if I stop writing the blog that his or her dull as ditchwater life in the cubicle will be all that he or she has left and to snap out of it…………I did…………..thanks PA.

Let’s have a read of today’s cruise director interview. This young man is someone I care about a lot. He was with me as Entertainment Staff and Assistant Cruise Director for two years or more. I was hard on him, I was tough on him and there were days he probably would have preferred to sit on a ham-slicing machine than work for me………..but, it was for one reason.

I wanted him to be a Cruise Director ASAP and I wanted him to be Carnival’s best ever Cruise Director…….well the first part is done ……….and if he wants……….the second part is more than achievable.

Here’s Butch.



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

I am currently on the Carnival Glory home ported in Port Canaveral Florida. We rotate Eastern and Western 7 day cruises departing on Saturdays. According to the computer system it says that I will be here until Dec 31, 9999…….That is a long contract!

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?

In college I studied Theater and Communications, although from a very young age I was always on stage in Community Theater and continued to excel as an actor in high school and college, I always thought I would go down more of a business route…..possibly Public Relations or Marketing, I never envisioned myself as a Cruise Director. Shortly after graduating from college I moved to Cooperstown, New York and accepted a job as an Event Coordinator for Glimmerglass opera. Although I loved my job and the company, I was working extremely long hours for very little reward, in the Fall of 2003 I left Glimmerglass to pursue an Arts Education Outreach position at Appel Farm Arts in Music Center in South New Jersey.

My job was to work with Theater Artist and develop an outreach initiative in the inner city communities of South Jersey. It was a terminal position only in place until the goals were reached. In the Winter of 2004 I packed up my Dodge Neon and drove across the country home to Minnesota, no job, no home, and quickly running out of funds. It was shortly before Christmas and my Father surprised us with a cruise for the holidays.

We took a cruise on the Carnival Conquest out of New Orleans and one night during the shows we were watching the Cruise Director and my father turned to me and said, “Son, that’s you up there…..you should do this.” So with some influence from my very persistent dad (who I believe just wanted me out of the house again) I applied. Two weeks later Carnival called and at the end of March 2004 I joined my first Carnival ship which, funny enough, was the Carnival Glory. I started with the company as a Social Host and at first intended only to stay for one contract, however, at the end of my first contract I was lucky enough to meet John and Heidi Heald.

I have said this before and will continue to stand by this the rest of my Carnival Career; John helped me see how special I could be and challenged me to be the best host I was capable of. I re-signed on the Glory to work with John and at the end of my second contract John asked me to be on the inaugural team of the Carnival Liberty which was set to cruise a new European itinerary. Being a part of the delivery of a new ship has definitely been a highlight of my Carnival career.

At the end of the first European season on the Liberty John promoted me to Assistant Cruise Director, which prompted me to re-sign on the Liberty to take it back to Europe for a second year. As our Liberty team was getting ready to take a break, John pulled me into his office one day and said to me I had a choice to make. I could travel with him and the team to take out the Carnival Freedom or I could take a shot to be a Cruise Director.

So I departed from my Carnival Liberty Family and the safety net of Mr. Heald and was given the opportunity to fill in for full time Cruise Directors who were on vacation. I traveled all around the fleet filling in for 6 – 10 weeks at time for a couple of years before getting my full promotion to Cruise Director.

My mom will probably be the first to tell you that I was born to be on stage. In a family with eight brothers and sisters I was always trying to find ways to grab attention (many times often landing me in trouble). I believe that I am doing what I was meant to do, being a part of making our guests vacations memorable is the most rewarding feeling….and to experience this week after week has made my life complete. I am doing something that I absolutely love.

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.

So many things go on behind the scenes that I think that most people never realize. There is the managing the entertainment department; musicians, singers, dancers, social hosts, entertainment technicians……sometimes I feel like I have 65 children. It is a strange dynamic when you live with the people you manage, sometimes you are boss, sometimes you are friend, other times you are dad; offering words of wisdom and advice.

When the guests do not see me I am busy making schedules, creating new activities, working with my managers to improve entertainment and activities. Also, I don’t think that many folks realize that the Cruise Director is a key person in the overall safety of the ship, attending weekly management meetings, running a guests safety committee team and participating in drills and on-going safety trainings.

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,

Anyone who has cruised with me before knows that I love to dance and my Disco Dance Class is one of my favorite activities of the Cruise and definitely a highlight for the guests.

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

I once had a crew member who had a family member pass away. Telling them this sad news was heartbreaking and I hope I never have to do this again. It made me a better person though and a stronger one as well.

6. And, your most rewarding

I feel blessed everyday out here. I see that people work hard for their vacation time and to be a part of special moments in people’s lives everyday is more rewarding than words can describe.

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

We rotate a 7-day voyages that goes to the eastern Caribbean (Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten) and the western Caribbean (Cozumel, Isla Roatan, Belize, and Freeport). Currently I am in love with Roatan…….a small Island off the coast of Honduras that is virtually untouched. Last week I had the opportunity to check out the Pirates, Monkeys, and Birds tour that took us to Gumbalinda Park where we played with Monkeys and Tropical birds, it was a blast. Other tours that in my opinion are the best. Belize: Any of the snorkeling tours that take you to the reef; the best in the Caribbean. Cozumel: The ruins of Tulum are stunning. St. Thomas: Any of the Tours that bring you to Trunk Bay. St. Maarten: The island tours that bring you to the French Side of the island are all great…….when you get to the French side you really feel like you are on the French Riviera.

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

Because we are fun…..we don’t take things too seriously here, we have created a vacation atmosphere that just lets folks really let loose and leave the stresses of their real live behind.

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 would love to go to the Carnival Spirit; Hawaii and Alaska are two places I have always wanted to see.

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

About six months ago when I was Cruise Director on the Pride I met a very special family whose oldest daughter had a rare form of cancer and wasn’t expected to make it through the end of the year. As a final wish before traveling overseas for a series of experimental treatments their daughter requested that they take a family vacation; they ended up on the Pride. I spent a lot of time with this family and a very special young lady who made me realize that life is fragile and to live each day to the most. I often think about my young friend who was more than inspirational to me and thank God everyday that I have the opportunity to not only make people smile, but be in a position to also touch peoples lives.

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.

APPETIZER
My Mom’s Minnesota Wild Rice Soup.

MAIN COURSE
My Mom’s Meat Loaf.

DESERT
My Mom’s Strawberry Short Cake.

SOMEONE FROM THE CRUISE INDUSTRY
John & Heidi Heald of Course…..I miss you two!

SOMEONE TO MAKE YOU LAUGH OUT LOUD
Stephanie Meads….Assistant Cruise Director of the Carnival Splendor.

YOUR FAVORITE ACTRESS
Patty Lupone.

YOUR FAVORITE ACTOR
Alan Cummings.

YOUR FAVORITE MUSICIAN
Renee Flemming……I’m a big Opera Nerd!!!!!

AND SOMEONE FROM HISTORY YOU WISHED YOU HAD MET
Winston Churchill.

And I know that they are not on the list, but I would have my parents there as well……….I am so lucky to have the most supportive family in the world and would be nothing with out the sacrifices that my parents made for me.

This cruise the demographics have suddenly changed. While we have lots of UK guests, lots of Asian guests, everyone has a lot more in common. The average age has suddenly shot up from 47 to 55………..that’s a big difference.

This has had an effect with our Carnival Legends auditions. It seems that nobody wants to play the part of Madonna, Britney Spears, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan and James Brown. In fact we had to cancel the show last cruise. Now, we have half of Hong Kong wanting to be Frank Sinatra and Elvis but again this week it looks like we will have to have a different show rather than Legends……..and that’s a shame because its a great show.

So, it’s now 7:45 pm. In a few minutes I have to go to the Lido Deck to introduce the German Brass band and make sure nobody asks them to play Edelweiss. I will also be calling Fred and Ginger’s cabin every 10 minutes to see if they are onboard. Considering the Fred is worried about becoming mad from drinking sheep’s milk, he is very brave to rent a car in Germany.

If I was arrested in China for wearing a T-shirt saying how terrible they were to force that little girl to sing behind closed doors because she had slightly stuck out teeth, I would not try and defend myself. I don’t speak the language and I am sure the result would be me being found guilty and within a few minutes I would be sharing a cell with a man called Yu Mi Man.

And yet, when we go on vacation to a foreign land we quite happily rent a car and drive somewhere trying to read signposts we don’t understand, road customs which are completely different and if you are me……..everyone is driving on the wrong side of the road.

In the UK for example if someone flashes their lights it’s a polite gesture giving you permission to come through ahead of them. In other countries such as France and Greece it means “I am not stopping for you Mr Tourist” and you won’t realize this until you wake up in hospital eating mashed potato through a straw.

I remember the first time I rented a car in Orlando. This was many, many years ago when there had been some high profile tourist shootings of some British tourists. I remember the rental car guy saying that if someone rammed the car from behind do not get out inspecting the damage because they will shoot you and steal the car.

His advice was “try and outrun the car and drive around until you see a police officer.”………..well, I don’t know about you but every rent a car I have ever had has been driven so hard that it won’t go over 65 mph. If you try to go any faster, the breaks will not handle it; you will bounce of the Florida Turnpike and be eaten by an alligator.

Then there is Italy. Changing lanes on an Italian road is as dangerous as creeping up on a sleeping lion, lifting his tail and tickling his scrotum with an ostrich feather. If you don’t change lanes and drive to slow they blow their horn and ram you at the same time.

You will not be surprised when I tell you that the worst place I have driven in a rent a car is France. This is because if you do get caught speeding and they discover you are in a rent a car and a tourist they will impose such a huge fine on you that you will have to sell your house and all your worldly possessions to pay for it………….if you don’t pay they will take your car on the spot………..and your wife ……….. who will fall in love with their Gallic charm and leave you to live a simple life with officer Jean Paul in Provence.

And so to Germany where as you might imagine, things are a little bit more organized except there are death traps everywhere ……………. the exit signs of the autobahn have huge signs that read “Aus Fart” ………this will make you laugh so hard you will crash the rent a car into a the fart sign………. and die. This though does not worry me because Fred and Ginger have bugger all sense of humor.

I will let you know tomorrow if they make it home OK. Also tomorrow, I will tell you my plans for 2009.

Thanks again………………….for everything
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.