This is a blog that I have no idea if and when you will ever get to read. This is because just like Pamela Andersen’s husband, I woke up facing two mountains to climb.

Firstly, the satellite that supplies the ummmm……..thing…….that makes the internet, phones and the ATM work has not been given a visa to work this far up the Baltic sea, so like Pamela Andersen’s bra…….coverage is limited.

The other obstacle is my computer which for some reason has decided that indiscriminately it will just freeze and I have to do that control thingy delete maneuver and every third word, press the save thingy. So, I have spent much of the day on the phone with the wonderful Kat our I/S guru who sighed a lot, swore in German and fixed it………..until it started doing it again a few hours ago. Then, when I tried to print something just now it accused me of performing an illegal operation…….so that was me back on the phone with Kat again. Of course, what I should do is fly to Seattle and shove it up Bill Gates’ bottom.

Hopefully though sometime tonight the satellite will obtain its Russian visa and you will get to read my silly musings of the day.

We are in Helsinki and the weather has been wonderful…….70 degrees and sunny. However, tomorrow’s forecast in St. Petersburg has the threat of “heavy showers”…..buggerov….as they say in Russian.

Talking of Russian, I now return you to the wonderful world of Fred and Ginger.

As I mentioned we met yesterday to discuss their two days in St. Petersburg. Before I start, I have to be honest and say that I actually thought about asking one of the staff to go and sit with them as I knew that they would have me there until the end of time ……… however ……..and again I am being honest here………I decided to go without lunch and go……..just for the entertainment value.

And there they were. Sitting in the same seats. Fred, had is sandals and socks thing going on and as for Ginger, well she was wearing the same plain white dress, sitting in the same position as last time and still not saying a word………maybe she had died and nobody had noticed.

There on the floor though was my nemesis……..the carpet bag…………what horrors awaited me.

I started by asking if either one of them wanted a cup of coffee. Fred said a polite no thank you and Ginger couldn’t say anything because she was dead. I stood up to walk the 12 steps to the lobby bar to order a coffee when Fred said “Please can we start, we have our nap planned for 2 pm.” ……………………I stopped, realizing this was Fred’s way of telling me to sit down and it also told me I was in severe trouble as it was only 12:45 pm…………did this mean he expected me to be with him for 1 hour and 15 minutes…………and anyway, why would Ginger need a nap…….she’s dead.

So, coffeeless I sat down and wished I was a plumber…………….I would rather be up to my head in toilet water than here………..but where duty calls.

My desire to have a large rubber glove on unblocking a toilet was cemented when the first words out of Fred’s mouth were “I need you to contact the American Embassy in St. Petersburg to confirm that it is safe for American’s to visit under the current climate.” ……

Continuing, he said “I called before we left but I need an update on the situation before myself and my wife go ashore and I am surprised you have not told the passengers this as well”……he added with a slight sneer.

Well, once again I had two choices……….try some humor which last time had failed miserably or just explain professionally the situation ………..I decided to go for the humor one last time so I said “Well, I just saw the news and it doesn’t look good, the Russian troops have taken Georgia and have just crossed the border into Alabama and CNN reports large explosions coming from inside a Taco Bell …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

What you just experienced there is two and half lines of nothing, which was Fred’s exact response……..nothing. Ginger of course couldn’t laugh because she was dead.

Now, I don’t know if you have ever been in a situation when you have said something that you thought was funny, expected the sound of laughter to resonate and instead be met by stony silence………it’s about as uncomfortable has having a nest of ants in your underpants.

So, I apologized for my lame attempt at humor, promised I would check with The American Ambassador personally that it was safe for Fred and the Bride of Frankenstein to visit…………. and we carried on.

Fred started to drone on in that monotone voice and I settled down for 50 minutes of torture.

As you may remember, Fred had decided to rent a car in Germany something he told me he did wherever he and his deceased wife went. He started by telling me a bizarre story about his trip to Italy last year and specifically how rude the people had been to him….in Capri.

I was amazed, and asked him what had happened. Well, to cut a long story short, Fred had driven through Naples which is the only city in the world where a red light on a traffic light means GO. Then, he drove onto a Ferry to go to Capri. ……………I knew what was coming.

You see, in Capri, you are not allowed to drive on the island unless you live there and that’s exactly what happened to Fred…………he drove off the Ferry………….was stopped by the Polizi and then was told to get back onto the ferry and bugger of back to bella Napoli.

Fred told me he had argued with the officer for a “long time” and I could imagine that the sound of the car horn would have been heard all over the island as the non too patient locals told Fred to go away and multiply.

It was as he was telling this story that I panicked……….was Fred thinking of renting a car in St. Petersburg. Was this retired roboton from small town America thinking that he could hire a car and drive through the streets of St. Petersburg?

All sorts of images began going through my mind of Fred and the body in the front seat driving in this huge city full of twists and turns and signposts in “paperclip.”

Then, thank goodness he told me that he had booked a “driver” and was taking a private tour. He then opened the carpet bag and took out a huge map of St. Petersburg, a 300 page guide on Russia…….I just caught sight of the famous jar of powdered milk and bizarrely…… an industrial-sized staple gun.

So, for the next 30 minutes he told me his itinerary and what he had told the tour company he wanted to do. He went through each stop at the hermitage, Catherine Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress, The Church of the Spilled Blood, telling me at each location what he wanted to see. It occurred to me as he spoke that he wasn’t actually asking me any questions…………he just wanted to tell me what he was doing…………..why?………….maybe telling me gave him satisfaction and credibility……….or maybe it was because he had nobody else to tell considering Ginger had passed away in 1997.

And so, at 1:50 pm, Fred packed away the map, the guide and at one point I thought he was going to put Ginger in the carpet bag as well. I stood to go…..waited for a thank you or a goodbye…..but it was never going to happen…….I had been dismissed …..it was time for their nap…..and so Fred and Ginger who had miraculously risen from the dead went for their nap………leaving me to worry about them all over again.

I need a break………..here are some photos of Dover Castle ………. yes, I know we are in Helsinki…….but I just got this from Lawrence our Production Singer and wanted to share them with you immediately ………..they are great photos.

Thank to all of you for your continued comments. As always I have read them all and replied to each and everyone that says “please reply, urgent.”

I would also like to say a special welcome to all the new bloggers who have just joined us after sailing last voyage. We all bid you a warm welcome onboard.

I see many of you were hoping you were going to be onboard the same cruise as me when I embark on my Grand Tour next year. If any of you are, please let me know nearer the time so we can arrange to meet.

I also received a few comments from people saying that my blog was hard to find……..and you are right. My blog link thingy has been removed from the CCL homepage ……..hopefully I will be put back one day soon.

Now, to the bloggers cruise. We have the hotel ready now and Stephanie will release the name and how to book very soon. She is also working diligently on finding the right venue for the big pre-cruise dinner and once we have everything ready to go we will announce everything in one big happy package.

Let’s meet today’s guest Cruise Director Mr. Bronson. He and I have been friends for many years and I have watched with pride as he has become the CD he is today…………here is his excellent interview.



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

Carnival Pride. November.

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 am amazed at what a journey it has been to get to where I am today. Did any of us imagine ever getting a dream job of being a Cruise Director? I didn’t even know what one was, for that matter, what any position was on a ship until I started working on ships 11 years ago. I find that amazing too. 11 years has passed by already. It seems like yesterday or maybe like a week ago that I signed on a ship for the very first time. I remember that day very clearly. I got up at 3am to fly from Fresno, California (where I had just left a good friend who I helped move everything he owned including his record store from Seattle, Washington – he didn’t have a car, so he asked me to drive his rental moving truck) to LAX, the airport for Los Angeles, California and found myself in San Pedro at 5am waiting for a Carnival ship called the Holiday. The ship came in and I started my first 9 month contract as a Social Host doing 3 and 4 day cruises. It was a very festive time and I couldn’t believe I got to do this for a living.

To go back to the beginning of my journey, it all started when I was smaller in size and younger than I am today. I was a writer with an active imagination and wrote many different stories which evolved into graphic novels with animation. The animated drawing then evolved into fashion design which led to actually creating the things I originally drew on paper. The creative process has always gotten me excited and I love the ability to brainstorm ideas and see them through. The clothing I created evolved from loud attention getting in your face type of wear to a more subtle yet unique look which is used for entertainment purposes. This subtle unique look was created by me for my entrance into the entertainment world, that being my own Disc Jockey business. My mobile business was a lot of fun and I experienced great success. From the mobile DJ business, I was hired to work in a night club, where a friend of mine in the DJ business would visit every week and made the suggestion I work on cruise ships. I put the suggestion on a back burner and continued working in a variety of night clubs for about 3 more years. I was then ready to try the next big thing for me which
was working on a cruise ship.

I put together a resume and carefully selected from my various work experiences to list as much diversity as possible. I had no idea what type of jobs existed on a ship and thought maybe I’d get a job washing dishes or being a wine steward or something. I applied as a DJ and was hired as a Social Host. I said great, whatever that is, I will do it! What an amazing adventure it has been. Being Social Host has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve been fortunate to meet so many wonderful guests and crew and they in turn have been very kind to me. Then I received the promotion to CD! As of this upcoming October 2008, I will have been in the dream position of Cruise Director for 5 years. It just keeps getting better and better.

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.

The Stage stuff really is just a small portion of the Cruise Director job of today. Paperwork, meetings and inspections are a big part of the job and pretty much behind the scenes. Safety is our #1 priority. There is no safer place to vacation than on a cruise ship. A Carnival cruise ship is a community of friends and family with a common goal-having a great time on a well deserved vacation. If something happens and a guest has to dial 911, they do not get the fire department or the police station, they get us the crew. We the crew are 911 and that is a big job in itself. Not only are we the Fun Ships, we are also the safe ships.

For safety, we do a variety of proactive acts including port manning, training, observation and meetings. I am in charge of the Guest Safety Team and a group in the Safety Observation Team. We meet regularly and work together to continuously improve safety for guests and crew. I’m also in charge of Safety Training, including a team in the Security Drill, Work Place Fire Safety Awareness, Theatre Evacuation and On the Job Training. We have regular safety related meetings which include the Fire Risk Assessment Inspection and the Quarterly Safety Meeting.

There are also a variety of meetings I attend every week as part of or running it myself including the Captain’s Meeting, the Hotel Director’s Meeting, the Production Meeting, the Entertainment Department Meeting, the Entertainment Staff Meeting and the Business Partner Meeting along with the normal Safety, Muster Station and Life raft Training Meetings.

I do the Guest Boat Drill announcements at the beginning of each cruise and regular activity announcements throughout the voyage. It helps to be organized as there is a lot to communicate too. The Travel and Adventure Talk and the Debarkation Information Talk are opportunities for the guests to be informed about the many options available to them. These talks require a lot of attention to detail and must be accurate. I spend a lot of time constantly tweaking them as the information changes from cruise to cruise.

The Carnival Capers are the guide to the fun and the information center at the same time. They require constant daily adjustments as they list everything for every department as well as safety messages and Environmental information. The Cruise Director does the updates to the Carnival Capers before they are sent to print. Last week, I made adjustments for the Casino, Photo Department, Duty Free Shops, Art Auctioneer, Golf Pro, Destination Shopping Specialist, Carnival SeaMiles, Camp Carnival, Infirmary, Musicians and the F&B Department along with the normal changes of the date, sunrise and sunset and the Fly On Entertainer schedule.

The adjustments for all the departments vary from week to week. Last week was a particularly busy one for changes. In regards to paperwork, we are blessed and cursed at the same time with e-mail. On this ship, I get approximately 70 e-mails a day. Some are for information only, some are for upcoming meetings, some are for communication, some are for inquiries, some are new directives, some are new assignments and some are from my mom. Every week I do a voyage report, fly on entertainer evaluations and a report for the Carnival Capers. Schedules are something that are adjusted on a regular basis too. Funtime Schedules are like clock in and clock out procedures. They require a lot of attention to detail and must be 100% accurate. Much time is spent making sure they stay accurate. When a staff member signs off the ship at the end of their contract, I do a performance evaluation for them. During their contract, I may do a Performance Record, some are positive and some are positive suggestions for improvement. One more thing for the e-mail, I’ve kept track of how many I get a week for kicks. The lowest was 468 (lots of people in the office on vacation) and the highest was 1341 (due to itinerary change caused by a hurricane). There are other various paperwork reports that must be done and I deal with them according to priority. There was a big schedule one this week that required a lot of time to put together and had to be sent to the office as a special project.

Another behind the scenes activity is meeting and touching base with the business partners, different musical acts, fly on entertainers, other departments and the Hotel Director. I meet with all parties regularly to communicate and stay in touch to address needs, inquiries or concerns.

The best part of the behind the scenes stuff is planning and brainstorming ideas. For me, it has always been about some form of process. Working on an upcoming project or implementing a new idea and seeing if it works well or not is very exciting. My latest project is preparing for the Frightfully Fun parties we will be doing in October.

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

Strangely enough, my last name stands out. I emphasize it when introducing myself. It was a nickname given to me a long time ago that I really like. I’ve been told by many a guest that they may not remember anything else about their previous cruise vacation, but they do remember that guy with the crazy name. In the Caper I will add a couple R’s for emphasis. It was originally Jeff Bronson with the last name like the famous actor named Charles had. For years now I have pronounced it as Brrronson (brawn sawn!).

There are people who love it so much, they will exclaim it when something happens, one person has given that name to a stuffed animal and one guest has even named their pet fish after me. I’m flattered!

I do a rendition of a song called With of Without You originally performed by the rock band U2. I have a lot of fun with it and we usually all laugh together, because the song starts out fine and goes horribly wrong by the end of it. I’m told by guests and crew that they have never seen anything like it and they laugh so hard when they do.

It seems I am developing a reputation when it comes to Halloween. I like to give a pretty extravagant effort to the festivity and it seems every year I try to make it bigger than the previous year. I’m understanding there are people who now plan to sail on the ship I’m on for the Frightfully Fun stuff we do for Halloween. It all started with a mask I found at the costume shop one vacation about 4 years ago. I think every kid imagines themselves as a super hero. Mine was Batman and now I’ve been bringing that dream to life. This year the Carnival Pride will see Batman and also my favorite villain the Joker. The Entertainment Staff go to great lengths to help me live these crazy dreams and we all have a fantastic time.

Last year, there were little kids who couldn’t wait to meet Batman. It was amazing to see how excited they were. You’d think it was Santa Claus or something. Oh, and there was one adult man who was absolutely terrified and ran away. His wife laughed and explained to me that he was scared of Batman. It’s just a costume…

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

One year I was on one of our beautiful ships and all was well until the incident. I got the call at 5:00am. Even though everything is done right and everything is maintained to the highest standards, it does happen, on a very rare occasion. The engine broke. Everything was still working and all was in order, we were just running on half speed, which means we weren’t going to make it to our normally scheduled ports of call. I informed the guests on the PA system around 9:00am and then did a Q&A at 11:00am. There were just over 2000 people in the main show room and I got to be the messenger. I would like to thank John Heald and Roger Blum for their indirect assistance when dealing with that situation. I was John’s host on the Carnival Destiny in 1998 and had watched and learned as he dealt with a variety of different challenges at that time. Roger had just sent us one of those inspirational e mails that made you take a bit of perspective just a day or two before the incident. I’m happy to say that most folks that day decided that they were on vacation and were going to have a great time no matter what.

6. And, your most rewarding I have a few of them.

My first big Halloween party. It was such a huge success. Meeting Hulk Hogan and getting to be on one of his shows (which I haven’t actually seen yet but I’ve heard a lot about it from guests and crew). Meeting Van Halen’s Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar and getting to hold the trophy
inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I grew up listening to their music.

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

The Carnival Pride is an excellent ship with an excellent itinerary. You get a perfect balance of cruising and port visits.

First port-Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I highly recommend the Extreme Canopy Tour. It is the ultimate outdoor adventure.

Second port-Mazatlan, Mexico. My personal favorite was the Sierra Madre Tour. You see so much of the area and you get a cookie along with a really nice lunch.

Third port-Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The Mini Jeep Rhino Tour. Like a golf cart on speed. It is such a fun tour.

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

It doesn’t matter what walk of life or where you come from. All are welcome here and we are all one happy family. When a guest sails on a Carnival ship, they are at their home away from home and with their adoptive family, being the crew of many different cultures. You can be whatever you want to be on the Carnival ships. You can be a star of the cruise or just sit back and enjoy the ride. I’ve also been fortunate to vacation in a few places and have to say there is no better value than what you get on a Carnival cruise.

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’ve really enjoyed every ship I’ve been on so far. As far as ports go, I’d like to visit Bermuda.

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

There was a child on the stairs the other day and he was so tiny and cute. He saw me and chirped “Como se Llama?”, which I think is “what’s your name?”. I told him and he giggled and laughed. You had to be there.

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 Those meatball thingys with BBQ sauce

MAIN COURSE Filet Mignon butterflied with potatoes and asparagus

DESERT Cappuccino Pie

SOMEONE FROM THE CRUISE INDUSTRY John Heald

SOMEONE TO MAKE YOU LAUGH OUT LOUD Al Ernst

YOUR FAVORITE ACTRESS Jessica Alba

YOUR FAVORITE ACTOR Christian Bale or Edward Norton

YOUR FAVORITE MUSICIAN John Mayer or The Corrs

AND SOMEONE FROM HISTORY YOU WISHED YOU HAD MET Jesus

Great job mate.

So far, this cruise is going very, very well. The mixture of guests is great, the weather has been mostly very good and the comments have been very positive indeed.

OK, before I go on to the next subject I refer you to my disclaimer that states that what I write is my opinion and not that of Carnival Cruise Lines or indeed any other bugger……….just mine.

With that in mind I have to say that I am having problems yet again with the large Asian groups onboard. As individuals they are as nice as can be and as timid as mice but put them in a group they become snarling saber toothed tigers hunting in packs and devouring those around them. I am sorry to say but again our incident report is full of comments about this from other guests and many have stopped me to tell me tales of having their feet stepped on, being pushed out of the way to get in elevators and worst of all……..cutting in line at the Lido deck food service areas.

Now, there maybe some reading this that may think it’s inappropriate for me to write about this…………why? It’s a fact and I am sure it’s something that many have experienced first hand………..here is a comment from a guest……….just one of many.

Guest: Mr ———Ref: 002803296A
Cabin: ____Booking#: 8SR030 Added-Changed: 08/22/08 – 08/22/08

____- COMPLAINT ABOUT RUDE GUESTS

Mr___________ came to the desk to say how upset he was on the rudeness of the Asian guests. Mr______ said that he and his 14 year old daughter were in the line for the Mongolian Wok when a group of 20 or so Asian guests pushed him and his daughter out of the way and went in the line. Guest said his daughter was crying. Guest then said an announcement should be made telling the guests about not doing this and how many guests all felt the same.
Purser said she would pass the comments on to the Hotel Director and Cruise Director. Guest thanked Purser and left. E Mail sent to Duncan and John.

Well, as much as I would like to say something over the PA system specifically mentioning certain groups of guests I cannot. I did tonight though mention something generic over the PA system about showing courtesy to your fellow guests when in line etc…….I hope they got the message. I just returned from the first show having stopped to get a cup of tea from the lobby bar and was thanked by three different guests for making the announcement. Hopefully …….. the message will have gotten through.

I apologize if anyone reading this is of Asian descent and is upset by what I have written…….but it is a concern and that means it’s my duty to share this with everyone. By the way, many of the guests are from Canada…….can any Canadians tell me if it’s like this on land?

I had lunch on Lido Deck today and met a wonderful man called Ben. You may have read his letter which I posted yesterday. ……………oh, sorry about the letters, I see that a lot is cut off………..that’s my fault I think because I scanned them incorrectly………I will make sure it’s correct next time.

Ben is 88 and served in World War II as an engineer on a US Naval Destroyer and was involved in the famous Battle of the Bulge. I sat and listened to him as he told me about the living conditions and he described the smells, the sounds and the fear of battle better than any film or book. His lovely wife Maryanne of 58 years was just charming and I hope they enjoy the strawberries and fruit basket I sent them along with a signed photo of the ship from the Captain. As always when you meet people like Ben you realize how lucky we are that there were people heroes like him ready and willing to fight for the freedom of the world.

And so the Olympics is coming to an end and apart from the little girl with sticky out teeth being Millie Vanilied and anyone daring to look poor being told to stay at home…………the games we have to say have been pretty spectacular.

Now, it’s London’s turn…………….I wonder how we will do.

Tourists do not come here for our weather, or the quality of our cooking. Nor are they attracted by the exceptional value of our hotels, or our beaches, or the fact that the 2:50 pm train from Kings Cross to Edinburgh will probably leave at 3:50 pm…..the next day. I’ve never met an American or a Japanese person who has said: “I want to come to Britain so I can buy an Arabic newspaper from an Indian store where the cashier speaks Polish.”

What most foreigners like about Britain is not multiculturalism or tolerance or any of that new labor nonsense. No, what they like is our history. Shakespeare. The Tower of London. Soldiers in preposterous hats who don’t move even if you pee on their shoes. Yes, they may go and see some weird sculptures in a modern art gallery but that’s only because they’ve spent the morning on the top of a sightseeing bus and……………….. they’re freezing.

The UK therefore will have to conjure up all its pomp and circumstance if the games will be a success. There should be lots of brass bands and soldiers with the huge bearskin hats and cheering crowds and soldiers on horses and free spotted dick for everyone and police dressed in the old fashioned helmets and bottomless barrels of tea and warm beer and The Queen and all the Royal family waving as only they do ……….and oh yes………….a Carnival ship docked on the Thames hosting the 2012 Bloggers/Olympics cruise.

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.