A Trip to Remember

September 1, 2008 -

John Heald

A few weeks ago, a blogger who was furious that I had been slightly rude about Al Gore, wrote the following: “When I tread in something unpleasant in the street, from now on I will think of you.” A guest also once famously called me “The sperm of the devil” and when the Carnival Glory had to spend two extra days at sea because of Hurricane Jean……well……..what they said is pretty much unprintable, but it was along the lines of the following robust note: “Dear Mr. Heald, you are a patronizing s*** and I am going to get you fired.”

Right now across the Caribbean there are thousands of cruise ship guests who are understanding and sympathetic to the changes forced upon the cruise lines because of Hurricane Gustav. However, there are going to be the small percentage of guests who will not understand why the ship can’t go to Cozumel and a few who will demand that they be given 12 free cruises and a Ferrari because they have to spend an extra day at sea.

At the forefront of making sure these guests do understand and make sure that all the passengers remain informed, happy and content are the cruise directors. They will be making constant announcements, they will be posting maps of the hurricanes path and making sure that the fun continues regardless. So, before I start with what’s happening today here on the Carnival Splendor, I salute my colleagues in the Caribbean whose positive attitude and ability to turn a complaint into a smile is what makes them the best in the business……good luck to you all.

And so back to routine life here in the Baltic.

Except this afternoon……….it wasn’t.

The “Sierra, Sierra, Sierra” call came over the PA system just before 1 pm. This is the signal to the ship’s company that a stretcher team is needed and they were needed at the deck 0 gangway. ……so, I called to find out what was happening in case I was needed………I was.

There were about 50 or so guests in line to come back on board from their time in Copenhagen and among them was blogger and frequent Carnival cruiser Candice.

Candice noticed that some guests had come straight to the front of the line and pushed past an elderly guest who had walking difficulties ………….I shan’t bother to tell you where this group of guests was from as I am sure you can deduce that for yourself.

Now, being the wonderful and caring person that she is Candice walked out of the line ……………down the side of the gangway ……….. leaned over to talk to the gangway security to advise them what had happened and to ask for the guest with walking difficulties to be given assistance…………….and as she did so she missed her footing and fell off the pier into the water.

This was, of course, seen by many of the guests who immediately raised the alarm to the security.
Within moments a life ring had been thrown down to Candice.

A few moments later one of the ship’s officers wearing a lifejacket jumped into the water and held onto Candice.

Meanwhile the doctor and nurses and stretcher were on the scene plus while I and others made sure the rest of the guests were kept back………..we didn’t want anyone else looking down and falling in.

Then came the rope ladder which was dropped the five feet or so from the top of the pier to the water and the officer helped Candice very slowly climb the ladder…………I don’t know if any of you have ever had to climb a ladder made of rope but it’s not an easy thing to do. Eventually after 10 minutes or so from falling in………..Candice was out………….soaking wet……….a little bruised but able to walk to the infirmary. She was given a full examination by the medical team and, after being given the all clear, she returned to her cabin.

I called her a few minutes ago and she is surprisingly in good spirits…………more embarrassed than anything and also annoyed that her passport and credit cards are now at the bottom of the harbor floating around in her bum bag thingy.

I helped her cancel her cards and we are making arrangements for her to get a new passport from the American Embassy in Berlin.

Of course, it could have been much worse. Luckily there was no current and no swells and…………..you know what………..let’s stop there………she is fine and her act of kindness nearly caused her serious injury…………

I shall be making a fuss of her all cruise long. ……………oh by the way, let’s say a huge BRAVO to the officer who jumped straight into the water and held onto to Candice …………..the things some ladies will do just to get a handsome Italian in uniform to give them a hug!

While all this was going on, of course, we had stopped the line coming back on the gangway so that the security staff and officers could help………….there was therefore a 15-minute wait before we started the line moving again…………….everybody, of course, understood …………..well…………..nearly everyone.

Guest: Mr Ref: 008803704A
Cabin: _______ Booking#: ______Added-Changed: 08/31/08 – 08/31/08


Mr. ——– stopped by the Pursers office very upset because he had waited on the pier for a long time and nobody was able to get on the ship. Purser advised the guest that there had been an incident at the gangway and that we had to stop boarding so that the security and officers could assist a lady that had fallen. Guest said that people should still have been able to get on the ship and it was not right to make him wait for lunch because a lady had fallen in the water. Purser apologized and guest said that he expected some sort of compensation for the inconvenience. Purser said his comments would be passed to the Chief Purser and Hotel Director. Guest left the desk after making a written note of my name and saying he wants to talk to the Captain or the Cruise Director today. Apology letter sent and e mail to CD and CP.

Sometimes I should just walk away and not comment but I can’t. How does someone find the nerve to complain because he had to wait a few extra minutes before stuffing his face with a burger?…..If I had known I would have stopped trying to help save Candice and would have run up to Lido to get him some fries. As for meeting him…….not this time…………and not this guest……..

I would rather bury myself on a beach in France with just my bottom sticking out of the sand with a sign next to me saying “Park evous Le Byciclette here siv vous plais”…. (“park your bike here, please”) than give him the time of day……………….sigh…………but, of course, I am just venting and I will indeed talk to him. I will talk to him and listen to his comments. I will be understanding and attentive and while doing so I will…… in my mind be dreaming of bringing shock and awe upon him with a hot dog.

It was a nice day for a swim though as we have had an amazing two straight days of sunshine. We arrived in Denmark today and the sun stayed with us the entire day. Heidi went out with Mum for a few hours and here are their photos for you to enjoy.

The Opera House

The Peacock Theatre

Elegant Hotel/Restaurant within Tivoli Gardens

Fountains of Tivoli

The roller coaster

Royal Palaces of Amalienborg

At the Harbor

Tivoli Entranceway

So, what was my overall impression of Denmark? Well, they love fish; in fact they eat more fish than anyone in Europe….except the Swedish who are fish.

Denmark has built 5,000 wind turbines and it’s said that together they can produce enough electricity to meet 19% of the country’s (frankly minuscule) needs.

But since they came on line not a single one of Denmark’s normal power stations has been decommissioned. They are all running at full capacity because, while the wind turbines are theoretically capable of meeting nearly a fifth of the country’s demands, they produce nothing at all when the wind drops. So, unless the government decrees that the entire population of Denmark eats nothing but beans ……..I am not sure why they are there.

Danish people also love gadgets and everyone seems to have an Eye pod a wafer thin mobile phone. The shopping district of Stroget is superb and is full of gadget shops.

You can buy (and I am not joking) material that can store and display information from the internet. This means that if, for some reason, you don’t want to read blog on the computer, you can – and I’m not joking – read it on your own trousers.

See the problem? Everything that can be stored as a one and a zero is already stored. So now, in the absence of any new and exciting breakthrough, you’re just being offered the same thing in a slightly different way. ……..and much of it is invented by the Danes.

I recently bought a magazine called “Loaded.” Billed as the international lifestyle technology bible, it is full of gadgets and gizmos that honestly and truthfully make me dribble. I want to own every single thing in it.

Did you know, for instance, that you can now buy a toilet roll dispenser into which you plug your iPod so you can enjoy some Elton John …………while doing your number twos?

Or that you can buy a Media Box? According to the blurb, it is an HDD media player with a 700GB capacity that can upscale the output from your PC to a full-on 2180p HD. I have absolutely no idea what any of this means but it’s silver and black and I want one ………….and guess where it’s made………..yep………….Denmark.

It’s the Bang & Olufsen way. Put some simple Japanese technology in a sleek black box and you can charge the earth. Which is why you are now being asked to pay $200 for an alarm clock, just because it’s Danish, and $25,500 for a TV…………. just because it was designed by a man called Arne.

Of course, you have to see Little Mermaid. This statue sits by the harbor and is of course the most photographed object in Denmark ………….however it is almost permanently missing one of its extremities? How bored do you have to be before you think: “I know. Let’s wade out into the harbor and decapitate a statue?” Danes are though some of the happiest people in the world and you rarely see one in a bad mood.

Apparently the main reason why Danes claim to be so happy is that they always expect life to be worse than it really is. They expect to be cold. They expect to pay 90% tax. They expect to be decapitated by a gang of youths who’ve found the Little Mermaid has already had its head kicked off and are now looking for another target.

They are therefore delighted when they get home to find their family still has all their limbs, that the heating is working and that their tax bill’s been reduced to 89%.

So, overall I think the port of Copenhagen has been immensely popular. Our most popular tours are those that see the Royal Palaces, the harbor cruise and anything with Tivoli Gardens in the title.

However………me personally………I love the castles of Zeland tour. The visit to the birth place of Hamlet, the stunning beauty of the castles and the descriptions the guides give of the bloody battles was something I will never forget……….it’s Hans Christian Andersen meets Shakespeare with a little bit of Quentin Tarantino thrown in.

Oh, one last thing. When we leave Denmark we pass under the The Oresund Bridge which is a combined two-track rail and four-lane road bridge across the Oresund strait. The bridge-tunnel is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe and connects the two metropolitan areas of the Oresund Region: the Danish capital of Copenhagen and the Swedish city of Malmö………………..it is a stunning sight to see and the clearance from the top of the smoke stack is not that much…………I am sure therefore that someone much smarter than me and someone who probably has a beard will have realized that the Carnival Liberty is coming here next year and her smoke stack is much taller than ours…………..just in case Mr. Beard hasn’t realized this…..can one of you remind me next year please?

Let’s get back to Hurricane Bastard……..I mean Gustav. As I mentioned yesterday is a lot involved to move an entire fleet out of harms way from a storm like this. Someone who is very much involved is Terry Thornton our senior vice president of marketing planning. Terry is as you can imagine a very busy man but he took the time early this morning to answer a few questions.

1. Terry, this is a very busy time for everyone and obviously all eyes are on Gustav. Can you tell us about the Carnival Crisis and command center and what happens during on situation like this?

We have setup the command center to assist us in handling any significant event impacting our ships. It is equipped with all the technology that we need for communications and handling all the information needs. It also serves as the primary meeting place when we pull representatives from all areas of the company together to discuss the plans for dealing with the situation. All the key decisions are made at these meetings and then the various areas proceed with implementing the plans.

In a tropical weather situation, the first goal is to work with the captains and shipboard management of the impacted ships to ensure that all ships operate safely away from the storm. Generally this involves making minor itinerary changes. There are situations that require more significant itinerary changes and we work with the shipboard team to find the safest option that will still provide our guests with a good experience ashore.

Once these changes are decided, we get this information out to all of our internal teams, our travel agent partners and all of the impacted guests. It’s a big communication job, but a very important process.

We very infrequently have to make a change to our departure/arrival time at a homeport or modify the duration of a cruise. There are a lot of logistics to assist guests with transportation needs in these cases, but we have an experienced team that works very hard to minimize the inconvenience for our guests.

2. Changing a ships itinerary is not as easy at it sounds. What factors are taken into consideration when doing so and what are the challenges with this?

Itinerary changes are coordinated between our marketing and operations teams. When they are needed, we look for the best option to provide our guests with a good shore experience. Based on the experience of these teams and the captains and shipboard management, we are generally very successful in finding a good alternative. Once we develop an option, we have to check to see if the port we want is available and have our excursion team get everything setup for our arrival. From there, we communicate the change internally and to all of the impacted guests.

3. I know you were just in New Orleans announcing at a press conference that the Carnival Triumph would replace the Carnival Fantasy in the Big Easy. How excited were they about this and do you have a message to the people of New Orleans?

It was very exciting during our recent visits to both Mobile and New Orleans to announce the new Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Triumph programs. Vance Gulliksen from our PR department and I received great feedback on these announcements at the back to back press conferences. We received strong support from all the local officials and port staff and lithe events were well covered by the local media.

My thoughts have been with all the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas ever since the computer models indicated that Gustav could be headed their way. From the news coverage, it seems like there has been great progress in dealing with this type of storm since Katrina with the evacuation and security plans. It is good to see that the residents have been able to move to safer areas. Our thoughts will continue to be with those impacted by this storm and we are hoping that they will be able to safely return to their homes very soon.

4. Let’s finish with good news and talk about some of the fleet’s new itineraries.

We have been working on. A number of new itineraries to provide our guests with even more choices in 2009. Most recently, we announced newer and larger ships for New Orleans and Mobile. In addition, we just announced our new three- and four-day cruises from San Diego.

With the Carnival Splendor’s arrival in the US, a new homeport in Baltimore, new itinerary options from Galveston and New York and the delivery of the new Carnival Dream, we have a lot of exciting new options for our guests in 2009.

Thanks so much Terry and a special thank you to all your staff and everyone involved in the redeployment of our ships during these difficult times.

Well, as I write hurricane Gustav has started pounding Louisiana and while I have lots more to write about the fun and games here on the Carnival Splendor…………some how, it doesn’t seem right.

Tomorrow I will return with a new blog and another cruise director interview but the last words today need to be for the people in the path of the storm especially those who I know are regular blog readers………..you are all in our thoughts.

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.