Ricky and George

August 27, 2008 -

John Heald

Well, here we are at sea today and again tomorrow.

I love these two days at sea. Here’s another thing I love nearly as much as Heidi and Jessica Simpson…………the retractable roof.

Today, it’s 56 degrees……….cold………..and miserable. Yet, with the roof closed, it’s like we are in the Caribbean. The pools and whirlpools are full, the big screen has a concert playing and, in an hour or so, our duo will have everyone dancing and singing on Lido Deck. Again, I admit that when I first saw it I wasn’t sure if I liked the new Lido mid-ship design. But now, I want to hug it and take it for a week in Barbados ……. here in the Baltic………….it has been a godsend.

Now, I am therefore already thinking about next year when the Carnival Liberty comes to the Baltic and how much the guests and I will miss our beautiful roof.

I see that you all enjoyed the interview with Tim Cabral yesterday………….I loved the comment about his eyebrows, by the way. Tim and I have some great ideas as I mentioned with regard to NASCAR. Now, I know little about the sport except that it’s massively popular and enjoyed by many of the same people who love Carnival. It makes sense, therefore, that we find a way to cross-promote these two iconic names.

Now, I love cars and I still dream of going on vacation and being able to climb into an Aston Martin or a Bentley Continental GT……..to hire one for a month is $15,000….so there is about as much chance of me having one as having Jessica Simpson calling me and ask if she can eat chocolate ice cream out of my belly button.

However, as much as I love cars I have never really been able to enjoy watching motor sports on TV but seeing it live is a whole other story. I once went to a NASCAR race in Florida and it was amazing.
When you go to a race only one thing really matters. What sort of pass you have dangling from around your neck. I went with Tim as a guest of M & M………..that’s the chocolate company not the rap singer. Tim Cabral managed to get a great deal with M & M to sponsor our fleetwide Halloween parties and I guess they also sponsor a car driven by someone with a great name like Butch, Randy or Billy Bob.

Anyway, I had two passes: a red one which afforded me entry to their trailer in the paddock, and a silver one which allowed me into their hospitality unit above the start/finish line.

Unfortunately, to get from one to the other I needed to cross a footbridge, which meant I needed a gold pass — and gold passes are only allocated to really important people. You see someone with a gold pass dangling among their medallions and you know they’re better than you.

Anyway, my perception of watching motor sports on TV was that the most interesting part was the commercials………….seeing it live…………that’s a whole other story. Watching the drivers climb aboard and fire up the volcanic sounding V10 engines was jaw droppingly amazing ……….the crowd made the atmosphere almost solid………you felt you could reach out and touch it.

NASCAR is as I said watched by Mr. and Mrs. Average……..unlike other sports such as tennis. Right now we have the U.S. Open where the real fans may get tickets for the back row in the nosebleed section………and it’s the same at Wimbledon.

The place is full of businessmen and their guests who tend to get stuck into the fine wines at lunchtime and are usually so drunk they don’t even go and watch the match.

And it’s also true that even those who do wobble back to the match often have no clue what’s going on, calling the racket a bat and generally leaving their mobile phones switched on.

NASCAR is like football and basketball…….it’s watched by people like me and you, normal everyday hardworking people who love their cars and love the drivers. Oh how I would love to recreate that atmosphere on a Carnival ship……………….and who knows? ………….maybe we will.

Let’s have a look at some more letters from today’s In Their Own Words section

And now for today’s cruise director interview and the Carnival Imagination’s George “I low you, man” Solano.

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

I’m currently on the Carnival Imagination sailing on three 3 different runs: 4-day cruises to Key West and Cozumel Mexico; five-day voyages to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Nassau and five-day departures to Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman. On Sept 21, we will take over the Carnival Fascination’s run of three-day cruises to Nassau and 4-day voyages to Key West and Cozumel México. I’ll be here until sometime in December.

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 was a touring comedian headlining clubs and colleges all over the country for eight years prior to joining Carnival in 1992 as a fly-on entertainer. In 2001 I became a cruise director as I was tired of flying around and packing my bags every other day, Now, I only pack them every six months. Woo hoo!!!!!

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 cruise director’s job has changed so much since I first started and it will continue changing as the industry keeps growing. We’re no longer in charge of just entertainment — we have been appointed ambassadors of guest safety with endless meetings and inspections, safety directives etc. It takes a great part of our day. I’m also responsible for the daily Capers and entertainment activities, and many other things too boring to talk about. I still have the best job in the world!

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 love doing my stand-up routine. I just love to make people laugh it makes my day, hosting the love and marriage show every show is different I look forward every cruise I get to improvise, which I truly enjoy.

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

My first week as a Cruise director was 9/11. I was on the M/S Holiday. Nothing has come close and I’ve had quite a few tough weeks now and again to say the least…

6. And, your most rewarding

We’re doing something called “Just for the Fun of it” During the intro show I choose a couple that has been married 50 years or more, and treat them to a romantic evening they will never forget. I close the Serenity Deck for an hour and set the mood with a pathway of candles (battery operated, of course). This leads to a table for two with a rose and rose petals where they will be served dessert specially prepared by the chef just for them along with a bottle of champagne. One of our talented soloists plays romantic music in the background while they dance and reflect about their life together under the moonlight, the moment is always captured by one our photographers and I present them with a complimentary photo. I can’t describe the feeling of satisfaction I get to see these wonderful couple faces beaming with joy time after time. I love it

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

I love all the ports that we call on:

Key West – Conch Train/Old Town Trolley tour. I love doing this tour over and over never get tired of hearing about Key West history and visiting over 100 historical points of interest, from Ernest Hemmingway’s home to Harry S. Truman’s retreat, the “Little White House”

Cozumel -ATV Jungle and Beach – Really rugged and muddy stops at a cave used by the Mayans for protection during hurricane season and a Cenote that was used for sacrifices. Then it’s off to Uvas beach for a dip in the ocean. Awesome time!!

Grand Turk – Ultimate Snorkeling – takes guests to two different snorkeling sites close to the 7,000 foot wall drop. The marine life is the most beautiful I have ever seen, without a doubt.

Half Moon Cay – A private island where guests can participating in a parasail expedition where they enjoy breathtaking views of the entire island and the ship. Cameras are a must!!

Nassau Bahamas – Agua adventure Park – lazy rivers, waterslides going through the shark tank. Good for kids and grown ups.

Ocho Rios Jamaica – Shark swim at Dolphin Cove. I’ve done the swim several times and now we offer it to the guests. You get to swim, feed, and snorkel with these mysterious creatures. Next time you’re in Jamaica, give it a try.

Grand Cayman – Atlantis submarine. These underwater vessels go down about 100 feet and the marine life is incredible. The coral is also amazing.

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

We’re committed to giving the best vacation ever and we have fun at the same time. I’m a “Carnie” 100%

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

Yes – but you’re on it 🙂 Other than that, an Alaska or New York-based ship

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

Nothing jumps at me. However, John I would love to be able to tell everyone about the flour story!

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.

Shrimp salad on a Half Avocado
Rack of Lamb with glazed carrots and golden mashed potato
Banana Flambé
Captain Angelo Los – he’s one of my favorite captains
John Heald makes me laugh
Bette Davis
Al Pacino
Michael Buble
Christopher Columbus (he was the first cruise cirector)

Here’s an interesting comment from a guest on board.

Guest: Mr————-Ref: 0028076444A
Cabin: ____Booking#: _____Added-Changed: 08/26/08 – 08/26/08

Mr ____ called from his cabin wanting to speak to the Cruise Director. Purser asked if she could help and guest said he was very mad because the election program from America was not being played on the big screen on Lido Deck. Guest said the movie should be canceled as everyone wanted to watch the election show. Purser apologized and said his comments would be passed on to the Cruise Director. Apology letter sent, as well as e-mail to CD

Firstly, I love the way our purser who is from Eastern Europe called the event the guest wanted to see the Election Show……brilliant. Obviously it’s the Democratic Convention that the guest wanted to see and wanted me to cancel Casino Royale to show it. Now, we have CNN and SKY broadcasting the coverage in guest cabins but I really didn’t feel that politics and the big screen go together. Now, maybe in November for the election itself ………..we shall see.

I explained this to the guest who was not a happy bunny at the news suggesting that I was refusing to do so because I was not American. Anyway, we compromised and as there are not major sporting events on at present I offered him the Sports Bar. …………..which he said would have to do but not before saying that I had “ruined his vacation and he would be reporting me to head office.”…………….oh joy.

So, I need your help………..should I be showing the Democratic Convention on the big screen?………..Let me know, please. I watched a bit myself last night and heard something interesting. One of the speakers Mr. Kennedy said that the people gathered in the convention center were about to vote for the “leader of the free world” …………. interesting statement and in many ways very true………..And in that case, since I live in the free world then I should get to vote as well and so should the Canadians and the Italians and the Kenyans and everyone in the world………….just a thought.

So, last night’s talent show was one of the best yet and the bedtime story had the theater howling with laughter as the three guests upstaged me yet again………they were brilliant. However, there was also one other star of the show 88-year-old Maryanne from Texas. Here she is.

What a wonderful lady and her husband Ben is also quite the character. They were both in my marriage show this afternoon and we celebrated their 58 years of marriage. Ben served in the U.S. Navy for 33 years. He is quiet and unassuming ……..the exact opposite of his wife…….they are just perfect for each other and wonderful role models for all of us.

I met a great Dad last night and I want to tell you about him shortly. But before that I want to mention our conversation in which he told me how wonderful it has been to spend 12 days of total quality time with his three children. He told me that his job does not always allow him to be home and how “today’s generation of 30 somethings” are expected to be home by 7 pm every night………regardless of work and the need to earn the money to support the family.

I’m sorry but I don’t understand. If you were an Iron Age man and you came home from a hunting expedition empty-handed because you wanted to play with your children, you’d starve. If you were a penguin and you came back from a fishing trip with nothing but snow in your flippers, your baby would die and the following year Mrs. Penguin would find a new a new Mr. Penguin to have rumpy pumpy with before they are both eaten by a tiger seal.

This is the problem. Men have always been the hunter-gatherers. But in an evolutionary nanosecond, it’s all changed. After several million years of programming we’ve been told that what women really want is a husband who leaves his colleagues in the lurch at 7 pm and comes home to make a delicious meatloaf. That’s like telling your faithful family washing machine that after a lifetime spent washing my underpants that you want it to make cappuccino.

And it’s not just a bunch of bra-burning feminists who want this. It’s every woman in the world………including Heidi. She wants me to be more in touch with my feminine side. I pride myself on the fact I don’t cry over films. But apparently this is all wrong. I should sob hopelessly every time I watch the news or any TV program that has a baby animal of any sort in it. Nope, we are living in a woman’s world and there is no greater example of this than Hollywood’s continuing down wood spiral as they make films about kissing, love and other vomit-inducing subjects.

For me though, the best example of this is in action films. In days gone by, we had Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, John Wayne…real men who didn’t cry they shot you in the head before climbing into their Mustang or climbing on their Mustang and drove or rode off into the sunset to have rumpy pumpy all night long.

Who’s their modern-day equivalent? There’s nobody. Segal has smoked his own underwear and disappeared. Schwarzenegger is in politics. Gibson (the idiot) is too busy pissing off everyone from the Jewish to the Mayan population. And now we’re expected to believe that a dwarf like Tom Cruise could knock someone out with a single blow from his hair product.

Anyway, this was the conversation I shared with a terrific chap………here is how we met.

The last few cruises I have been hosting a new event, I don’t think I have mentioned it before and it is really no big deal but it is the perfect segue into something that happened this morning.

The last few cruises I have been up on deck 11 at Camp Carnival reading the smaller kids a bedtime story. I find this very rewarding and the kids really seem to enjoy it. The kids sit around me in a circle and stare at me in awe — not because they are riveted to the story I am reading but because they don’t understand how the kid’s chair I am sitting on has not buckled under the weight of 43 years of fried food.

Anyway, last night before the talent show I went up and read a book about a Hungry Caterpillar……it was utter nonsense but the kids seemed to enjoy it especially as I tried to do make the various characters different nationalities. We had a Texan caterpillar, an English mouse and an Indian elephant……..although my Texan sounded Irish and my Indian more Welsh than anything else.

Anyway, for some strange reason I find this 30-minute activity immensely rewarding and it was while I was reading last night that I met a terrific 6-year-old called Ricky.

Now, I have seen Ricky at a lot of the shows and he asked the Captain and myself for an autograph at the Elegant night party.

Ricky is a very bright and intelligent kid with a smile that would light up the darkest of rooms……..he is essentially a normal kid………….except he was born in Darfur and when he was two years old his Mum, his dad and his elder brother were both killed right in front of his young eyes by warring factions that plagues the country for so many years.

Ricky……..and I have changed his name slightly at the request of his Father was also ……….well………..I can’t even type the words……………but let’s just say that Ricky was lucky to survive. But survive he did and that was thanks to a group of ladies and gentlemen who work for an organization called Doctors Without Borders and one particular chap ……….Doctor Sam Hayes from Pasadena, California. Sam saved his life …………..twice…………..once with the emergency surgery…………..and again when after a long battle he and his wife Patricia adopted this little charmer.

I listened to his story and as Doctor Sam spoke I realized that outside of our world of computers, cruises and gas price worries there is an utterly cruel world full of hate and despair……………and once again Africa seems to be the forgotten country where there have been and will be again many more thousands of Ricky’s.

However, as I said, Ricky is a cheeky young thing and you would never know the living hell he has been through. I asked his new Dad if Ricky remembered what happened. Dr. Sam said that he has memories of the small things but rarely talks about it. What amazes me is that Ricky’s English is so good……….yes, there is a strong African accent there still but he is 6 and speaks as well as every other 6 year old at Camp Carnival………. amazing.

So, meeting Ricky was the highlight of a night with many highlights as you will see shortly. I really wish I could post a picture of this African Angel but in the world we live in posting photos of kids on the Internet is never a good idea……………..however…………..I can show you a drawing that Ricky made for me. It’s one of me doing my morning show on the big green chair which I have christened “the booger chair” …………..It’s a drawing that I will treasure forever.

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.