A Japanese Odyssey….And The Twins

September 9, 2008 -

John Heald

I just heard that Jay Leno is leaving the Tonight Show. Throughout television history most talk show hosts have been men. And this is a problem because men feel duty-bound to compete. If the guest fires off a cheap shot, a man has to come back with something heavier and better. Male conversation is gladiatorial, argumentative, macho and, most of all, designed to be funny.

I know this from yesterday’s Marriage Show. I asked a honeymooner if he would like to come on stage and take part. He did……..and before I even had chance to ask his name and where he was from, he told me in a frenzied high-pitched squeak. “You need to lose weight.”

And as he said that he patted my stomach. I wanted to tell him that he was ugly……I could lose weight — but he would always look like someone who had been hosed down with the ugly gun. But of course, I didn’t – if I had been Jay or David…….well, that’s another story.

But it’s hard………it’s hard to keep your mouth closed when sometimes you want to scream that famous John McEnroe declaration “You cannot be serious!”

Let me give you an example. I met a lady this morning from Japan whose hair was taller than she was………..Oh, hold on…..that sounded very stereotypical…………I didn’t mean it like that………..yes, she was on the short side — maybe 5 feet, 3 inches……. but her bouffant beautiful hair was 6 feet tall. Anyway, I was asked by our Japanese purser to speak to the group leader because this lady and her friend were very upset. Let me explain why ………… actually …………let me have a guest explain why first.

So, this lady and her friend had apparently got very angry with the guests for swimming in the pool and splashing their hair. The ladies themselves…….well, they just like to stand in the pool and “meditate” translated the group leader. Again, I wanted to be Jay or David and tell them that I used to stand still in the pool and meditate, which usually involved the water getting warmer and greener….or sometimes yellow……once even brown.

Instead, I explained that the pool was built for swimming and I could not stop other guests from swimming just because it might wet their hair……as beautiful as it was. I suggested they try the aft pool or the whirlpools. The group leader translated this and I was met with a barrage of Japanese which I don’t think was an invitation to join them for sushi.

I respect the Japanese culture beyond measure, however, having visited Japan I know it can be a different world. The hotel we stayed in was your normal four-star Tokyo hotel. ……….or was it? I remember the carpet was as deep a purple as Barney’s number twos ……….there was ice white plastic over the sofa and chairs and then there was the telephone. Not once during my 10 day stay did I ever find out how to work it.

I think I managed to get through to Mum and Dad on one occasion but mostly I had chats with the operator or the laundry room attendants who, even though I told them “wrong number,” would arrive at my door five minutes later. Because of that, I felt guilty and would hand them clothes they had washed the day before. They either thought I was mad or that the food was not agreeing with me, as they washed the same pair of underpants seven times.

You know, most international hotel chains do their best to erase any memory of what country you are in. You can be in a Hyattarriotcontinentalton in London, Rome, Miami or Sydney and, unless you looked out of the window, you would never be able to tell where you are………………not in Japan. Each night they would leave a pair of slippers by the bed.

Now, either they were not for me but for a pixie or a very small, retired Delta airline pilot…….or they were mad at me for calling the laundry room 10 times a day so they decided to put size minus seven slippers in my room.

When I say they left them by the bed………..well…………that’s not true because there wasn’t a bed. There was a mattress on a thinly sliced wafer of oak which, like the chairs and the table, had no legs. To get out of the bed, I had to roll off the slice of wood, dropping one inch onto the floor…….roll over the 300 pairs of dwarf slippers ………roll into the bathroom and use the toilet to pull myself up. At least the toilet was normal ………… unlike the one that nearly killed me in Hong Kong.

Then ………….there was the TV. Wherever you go in the world you can get CNN and enjoy Wolf Blister in his Constipation Room. Not in Japan………again, it’s going to sound like stereotyping, but all I could watch was kung fu movies and outrageous game shows where contestants put baby crocodiles down their pants …….one…….and this is absolutely true ….had to win a million Japanese thingies by having tying a piece of fish bait to his big toes and inserting them in a pool in which swam huge crabs…….you can imagine what happened next.

I remember one special moment………..we walked through the purple lobby of the hotel and as the electric sliding doors whooshed open. The two bellman bowed majestically ………… the problem was………….there heads were nearly touching and there wasn’t enough room for me to get through………………bugger. There are 122 million people living in Japan and all of them worked as porters in my hotel……………and, even though some of Heidi’s suitcases were bigger than them, they won’t let you tip.

The highlight of my trip however was being stuck in a Japanese traffic jam………….there are traffic jams, of course, all over the world but in Japan, it’s very different. First of all, the traffic does not move. There is none of this inching forward little by little………….you just don’t move.

Now, if this was in the U.S., Canada, the UK, etc., you would see drivers doing stuff like ummmm…..shifting about in their seats…..making calls on their cell phones……picking their noses or singing along to the radio…………..in Italy, they get out of their cars and do their impressions of a windmill on steroids.

Not in Japan, they just there like they are frozen to the seat and steering wheel…………….. It was quite unnerving.

So, I thought I had heard of most of their customs but the pool meditating one………..well, that was new for me and probably new for you, too. It’s also another fine example of the wonderful and sometimes crazy world here on the Carnival Splendor.

Well, it has been a beautiful day at sea and the sun has been shining. However, I want to pause for a moment and remember the hundreds of people who have lost their lives across the Caribbean during the recent hurricanes. The Caribbean is an arc of diamonds in a jewel-encrusted sea with white sandy beaches and red-hot sun complemented by the many cruise ships that land their passengers to enjoy drinks with umbrellas in them and a chance to swim with dolphins.

Then……….there is Haiti and Cuba whose infrastructure is about as solid as tissue paper and when hurricanes come to call………..well…..the result is as what we have all seen on TV. Let us remember them tonight.

OK, let’s share some letters from this week’s “In Their Own Words.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I want to show you some stunning photos taken by Dr. Jason Wolf last night. These are of a bridge which we pass under. I think I have mentioned this before but just in case I didn’t……here are the facts.

The Østbroen Bridge, The Great Belt Bridge, The East Bridge, or even the Storebæltsbroen. For more information, take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Belt_Bridge

Official name – Østbroen
Carries – Motor vehicles
Crosses – Great Belt
Maintained – By A/S Storebælt
Design – Suspension bridge
Piers in water – 19
Longest span – 1,624 metres (5,328 ft)
Total length – 6,790 metres (22,277 ft)
Width – 31 metres (102 ft)
Height – 254 metres (833 ft)
Clearance below – 65 metres (213 ft)
Opening date – June 14, 1998
Coordinates – 55°20′31″N 11°02′10″E / 55.34194, 11.03611

Now, not only is the Doc a skilled surgeon but he is also a brilliant photologist thingy …… as you will now see.

Thanks Doc, we want more please!

Oh, by the way……..the Carnival Splendor’s new cruise director for December and beyond is “Goose,” who has just sent in his interview, which I will post tomorrow.

And talking of interviews…………how brilliant was Commodore Romano’s yesterday? Please drop him a note to say thanks for taking the time to write.

Now over the last few months I have been trying to gently prod some of our sister companies into the world of blogging……….and it seems to have worked. Over the next few months, I will be introducing some of these fantastic sites to you.

Let’s start today with the Yachts of Seabourn.

Back in June I was privileged to visit the mock-ups of the suites that will grace the most luxurious ship in the world……….and then………..had an opportunity to board that magnificent ship ………….her name ……….. The Seabourn Odyssey.

If you missed my report, have a read of this

“Seabourn Odyssey and the Lifestyles of the Rich and Bill”

And now, here is a message from Seabourn themselves:

The Yachts of Seabourn is excited to announce our Seabourn Odyssey Blog. Twice a week, we will blog about the build, the amenities, the services…….even the vessel specifications. Visit frequently to see new images and updates as we get ready for Odyssey’s entry into service in June 2009. You can even leave comments, read what others have to say, or ask questions about all of the exciting amenities and options Odyssey has to offer.

To visit our blog, simply click below or type www.seabourn.com/blog into your internet address bar.

We invite you to participate in our discussions and come back often! It is going to be an epic ship, quite unlike anything else in the world. Because every single atom of every single component is designed only to make your life as luxurious and as comfortable as possible.

As you know I have met many people this cruise. Bloggers from the States, Canada, Australia and beyond. I have met people who wanted me to make the weather the same as the
Mediterranean……….the Coppertones………….and of course I have met Captain Short who wrote me saying my failure to surprise his wife with dinner with the captain as “one of the most unhappy moments in his life.”

I would have shown you the letter here on the blog but it also contain harsh criticism of both the dining room staff and the stateroom steward. ……….I have met hundreds of guests who have told me that the Baltic ports were the best they have ever seen. I have met Platinum guests who have sailed 10 times or more with Carnival who told me that this ship was their favorite. I have met guests from all over the world all of which have made this voyage a special one………however………as much as I will try and remember all of them, I won’t of course…..but………..there are two little girls called Cassie and Carla.

I would love to show you photos but as always where kids and the internet are involved ….. I can’t……They are twins, age 5……..they have the happiest most mischievous grins you have ever seen…………they have had a wonderful time at “Camp Carnival” playing with “Fun Ship” Freddy and the few other children we have sailing this week ……….. they have had a photo with the captain………….a photo with me…………..been on stage with me…………where we sang “If Your Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands” together and I watched their eyes sparkle when I gave them their solid gold plastic trophies.

They would have loved to have shown their prizes to Mum and Dad but they couldn’t. That’s because Dad was killed in Iraq in 2006 and Mum passed away from cancer in January 2008. They are being raised by their grandparents…..Michael and Caroline.

We talked for sometime today and their story is one that would reduce the most hard-bitten man to tears. Michael and Caroline are in their mid-60s, I would guess ……….. Michael has just retired after 33 hard years of operating his two hardware stores in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and now he said………..”We have two five-year-old twins to look after.” But, he said that with pride — and with a faraway look in his eye — as though his son and daughter-in-law were watching over him.

I will probably never see Cassie and Carla ever again………..I will never know how their lives turn out………….regardless though, I will never forget them…………….their smile and their giggles made my cruise.

Goodnight
Your friends
John, Heidi, Cassie and Carla.

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.