Time to Travel

September 10, 2008 -

John Heald

So, it’s the last day of the cruise …..we are in Amsterdam ………….maybe I can relax a bit…………………or maybe not.

From: SPLENDOR PURSERS
Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2008 1:39 AM
To: SPLENDOR PURSERS
Cc: SPLENDOR CRUISE DIRECTOR; SPLENDOR CHIEF PURSER; SPLENDOR HOTEL DIRECTOR
Subject: UPSET NO TOUR WAS GIVEN OF SHIP/ NO TAGS PUT ON LUGGAGE /ASSISTANCE WITH PACKING

Good Morning, Please see the following FYI
UPSET NO TOUR WAS GIVEN OF SHIP/ NO TAGS PUT ON LUGGAGE
Mr _________ came to the purser’s desk extremely upset about the service on board on general. Numerous times Mr. _______ said “In my country, Israel, the service would be outstanding. Here, I am lost and told nothing.” Mr _______ said that first, his luggage never had tags on them and no one put any on there for him. Purser told Mr _______ that before giving the luggage to the porter outside, the tags must already be on there. Mr ________ said nothing was given to him. Purser explained in the booklet there are the tags to put on the luggage. Mr _______ said he did not know anything and was told nothing. Also, Mr ________ said that he was not given a personal tour of the entire ship. Purser apologized and told Mr _______ that due to the fact that we have over 3,000 passengers on board, there is no way we could organize a tour individually but that we did have tours during embarkation day. Mr _______ said that with over 1,000 staff onboard it should have been done. Mr _______ also asked when he could expect someone to assist with his packing. Purser explained that we did not offer this service on Carnival ships. Guest started screaming so loudly that purser had no choice but to call security who came straight away. They took Mr_______ to have a seat in the lobby but he refused and left the area. Mr_________ then called the desk from his cabin saying he wanted to speak immediately to the captain or the cruise director. Purser told the guest that it was after midnight and that his comments would be passed to the ship’s senior management and he would be contacted in the morning. Mr______ then said that this was unacceptable and started shouting at purser before hanging up the phone. Purser thanked Mr ________ for his comments and told him that they would be forwarded to the appropriate management. Mr _________ thanked the purser and left the desk.
Thank You
Rebecca
Purser’s Desk
Carnival Splendor

He wanted to speak to me or the captain…………who, by the way, came up with the lame excuse that he was docking the ship …………….. bugger………….So it was up to me …………at 8:55 am this morning, then, listening to one of the most angry people I have ever met in my life. He didn’t need the telephone because he was shouting so loudly from his cabin on deck 2 that I would have heard him if I was still in St. Petersburg.

He was a master, though. He kept going and going without drawing breath. After five minutes, I put the speakerphone on………went to the bathroom…………dropped off the previous night’s dinner………….came back and he was still going. Eventually, he stopped talking…………there was a pause of about five seconds………………I said “Sir, I am so sorry to hear that you are unhappy, what can I do right now to make you happy?”……………..

His answer……….and I kid you not was……..”Refund my cruise.” …….. And like the stupid sod I am………I said, “On what basis?”………………I realized what I said but it was too late……………and off he went again……..so off I went back to the bathroom for round two.

The basis of his complaint is I think that he and his wife expected more personal service. He has never cruised before but expected to be “hand held” for the entire 12 days. He also insisted that someone pack his cases for him. I again explained that this would not be possible but if he needed help putting tags on and lifting the suitcases out of the cabin we could, of course, help……………………and this brought a new kind of Russell Crowe-style rage and this time…………He started shouting at me in Hebrew!……………..Now, having many friends from Israel, I had learned a little over the years but I doubt my wishes of a long life or asking him where the train station was would have been any use.

Well, the bottom line was that we have a room service chap going to help with his cases and he now wants a meeting with the captain. I will keep this away from his desk, though, as he has more important things to worry about, including taking the ship through a complicated series of locks here in Amsterdam and then across the English Channel…………one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.

Tonight, I will call Mr. _______ again and see if there is something else we can do to make him even a little happier before he leaves tomorrow…..somehow, though………..I think that maybe a mission impossible.

About 10 years ago, Carnival used to have an outside contractor who provided video photographers onboard. They were called “Video Diary” and the majority of the young men were from Israel. Most were also straight from having spent their years of national service in the army. They were all hard-working, calm and friendly chaps and I became friendly with many, including one young man called Moran.

He told me about some of the things he had seen and done in the Army and they were stories I would never forget. This, of course, was during the height of the suicide bombings and, even though he was only 25, he carried himself like a man twice that age.

It is sometimes easy to forget that Israel is surrounded by enemies and they live their life in fear…………certainly there will be another side to that story…………however……….even though I joke about my conversation with Mr_________, I understand the stress and concern that living there must bring……………..whatever you believe in ………and whichever side you think is right……….one can only imagine what it must be like to live in a small country surrounded by people who hate you with unrivaled passion…………and that’s why I have a lot of sympathy for the guest.

FOOTNOTE: I just spoke to the guest again and he apologized for his behavior and thanked me for the help with his suitcases and the time I had spent with him. …………… and that makes me feel good.

Well, I am in a bad mood………not because of my friend from Israel but because I have lost my pen.
It was a proper grown-up fountain pen by Mont Blanc, finished in a lovely lacquered dark blue with gold finish that has to be filled with real ink and whose cap goes back on with an enduringly satisfying click. It’s weighty and perfectly balanced, like a well-designed watch or carving knife, and a pleasure simply to hold. Popular wisdom says that buying a posh pen is pointless, because most of us cannot discern between the Mont Blanc and the $1 disposable pen with the words “Bank Of America – Do Not Remove” written on it …………but that’s bollocks.

I had first bought this pen six years ago and given it to my Dad for Christmas who is a pen collector………as well as model trains, model buses, Carnival memorabilia, and model ships and watches and cameras…………

Anyway……..he gave me the pen back saying he was never using it and it has been with me for two years now. It’s a writing weapon to be taken seriously, a latter-day Excalibur (though mightier, obviously, because it’s a pen) that I wield daily in my tireless quest for legible, joined-up truth, and to sign countless photographs for bloggers and contributors to the Morning Show.

And that is where I lost …………..I am certain that I left on the desk after filming the Afternoon Show yesterday. I ran back……….OK……I took an elevator….and walked quickly back to the Circle C room where I film the show but there was nothing……….no pen…………just emptiness. I have made an announcement offering a $200 reward for anyone who brings it to me…….but nothing……..nobody has had the decency to turn it in.

The pen cost $500 and is one of the most extravagant things I have ever bought ………….. apart from a pair of Calvin Klein underwear for which 10 years ago I paid $70………they don’t fit me anymore……….but I still have them………I just can’t bring myself to throw them away. But, it’s not the cost of the pen………it’s the fact that my Dad gave it back to me and the fact that I now have to use a Carnival pen, which, unlike the cruise line it advertises, is about as fun to use as it would be to use barbed wire as toilet paper.
Bugger!

OK, while I sit here and fester lets have a look at some photos taken by Heidi today of the center of Amsterdam’s “Dam Square.”

And it’s time for some wonderful letters, which are just some of the many, many examples of people who have had such a wonderful cruise.

So, away we go, back to Dover for the last time. Heidi said goodbye to Mum but she will see her soon, so the tears were at low tide today. She has had a great time and it was heart-warming to see Mum and daughter spending some quality time together.

Amsterdam gave us a day of 70 degrees and …here is a word I have not used much, if at all, for many a week……it was……..muggy!

So, was the Baltic season a success?………The answer is a huge unadulterated YES. The ports are as diverse as they are beautiful and the history and cultural experiences have left the guests breathless. There have been one or two challenges along the way, but we sorted those out quickly and this has laid the foundation for the Carnival Liberty to come calling next year.

I feel compelled to write a special “Baltic Highlight Blog” and will be doing so complete with my top 10 photos and top three “must see” places for each port. Hopefully, this will be useful to the thousands of people who have already secured their spot on the Carnival Liberty next year……………..If you have a bucket list thingy…….then………a Baltic cruise must without a doubt be on it.

Now though we have started to prepare for our voyage tomorrow. Here is where we are going.

DAY 1 –– THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11 – DOVER – DEPT. 5:00pm
1 HOUR FORWARD

DAY 2 – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 – LE HAVRE france – ARR. 7am – DEPT. 9pm

DAY 3 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 13 – AT SEA – ELEGANT NIGHT

DAY 4 –– SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14 –VIGO, SPAIN – ARR. 10am – DEPT. 10pm

DAY 5 – MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15 – AT SEA

DAY 6 ––TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 – LISBON, PORTUGAL – ARR. 8am – DEPT. 8pm
1 HOUR FORWARD

DAY 7 –– WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17 – AT SEA

DAY 8 –– THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18 – MALAGA, SPAIN – ARR. 8am – DEPT. 6pm

DAY 9 –– FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19 – AT SEA—–ELEGANT NIGHT

DAY 10 – SATURDAY, SEPT. 20 – BARCELONA, SPAIN – ARR. 7am – DEPT. 5pm

DAY 11 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21 – CANNES, france – ARR. 9am – DEPT. 8pm

DAY 12 ––MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 22 – LIVORNO, ITALY – ARR. 7am – DEPT. 7am

I have never been to Vigo in Spain but it sounds delightful and I will be letting you all know about the port and all the other great destinations as we go….hope you will join me.

Sorry to talk about a sad event but a year ago today my Great Aunt Flori passed away. My aunt died at precisely 9:37 am and the old grandfather clock stopped at precisely the same time also………………… It fell on her.

Let me introduce, therefore, the one and only Gustav…….not the hurricane…….the cruise director. He is better known as “Goose” and here is his brilliant interview.

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

I’m currently on the Carnival Ecstasy and due to leave on vacation September 15.

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?

The door that opened this incredible adventure took place in the winter of 1996. I was offered a job as a ski instructor in the Swiss Alps after completing the Canadian Ski Instructor Alliance course. Knowing the price of clothing in Europe, I saw an opportunity to help fund additional adventures by wrapping my skis in the latest denim and protecting them for the flight at the same time….brilliant!

A few weeks later, jeans sold and a weekend off, I was hitchhiking my way to Chamonix in France. (The Mecca for skiers in the Alps) While there I was offered a job to help run and organize an adventure program for youth/teens. Groups of 40-60 arrived from international schools in Europe to Switzerland for ski courses and evening programming events, including ice skating, night skiing, murder mystery, Mission Impossible, cheese fondue, cultural tours and late-night cliff-side yodeling competitions. I miss my lederhosen and Ricola commercial exploits.

This Swiss company, called “Village Camps,” carried over to the south of France where I led a canoe river team on the Ardeche River. A one-week program that offers rock climbing, mountain biking, white water canoeing, cultural tours and a two-day descent down the Ardeche River. The program extended to Austria where I worked as an event planner and mountain bike specialist.

This European adventure was a blessing and offered more to me then what I could put in words. With some time off in the fall of 1997, I was looking for additional adventures before the snow called me back to Switzerland. I saw an ad in the paper for work on a cruise ship. I applied as a youth counselor with a hiring agent and got the job. The day before my flight out my agent called and offered me a different position working in the tax and duty free shops on board. It was a “take it or leave it” all kind of deal, really. I figured I would just work a couple months then quit and return to the Alps. I joined Royal Caribbean in the shops on board in October of 1997. I worked the seven-day eastern Caribbean, Panama Canal, Hawaii and Alaska routes for my first contract and I was hooked and ready to come back for more. Next contract was Europe, the Med, and the Baltic. Again time for change I applied for a position of cruise staff (entertainment staff). I got the job and went to Alaska for a season that I’ll never forget. That first day I was asked to host a pool deck game and I was buzzing. I could not believe I was left to run the party! An ultimate buzz that still fuels me today.

I did a couple more contracts in Europe and the Caribbean as entertainment staff. I was promoted to assistant cruise director during the Royal Journeys from Australia, Indonesian, Asia, Africa, Middle East, Europe and New England. This latest experience offered me a chance to learn so much from some amazing people such as programming, hosting and delivering 10- to 18-day cruises around the world. I was promoted to cruise director in 2002. I joined Carnival in fall 2005 and promoted to the best job in the world in January 2008.

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.

This will always remain a mystery. I could work for hours behind my computer or on the floor and afterwards have no idea how to pinpoint what was accomplished. Phones ringing, doors knocking, coffee runs, secret activity start-time checks, soup on Lido analysis report, cigar delivery, random calls, correcting Capers and next cruise programming, working lunch meetings, hitting the gym, shore excursion status report, safety meetings, safety tours, then a meeting on the safety tours, one-on-one with crew members requesting time, inspecting candy quality in the Formalities shop, checking on dance rehearsals, tech runs, award ceremonies, crew cabin inspections, checking group functions, meeting with team members and staff captain for various issues, CNN, national hurricane weather check, touching base with hotel director, captain and crew bartender………

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?
1. The Quest
2. Love & Marriage Game Show

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

Having a hurricane named after you and heading right for it …!

6. And, you’re most rewarding?

We extended a four-day cruise to a six-day cruise last week during Hurricane Gustav. It’s sounds like a bonus but I’ll leave out the details. The outcome of this cruise takes the prize of the most rewarding.

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.

Homeport is Galveston, Texas. Four-day cruises to Cozumel and five-day cruises to Progreso and Cozumel.

Galveston – Take a walk on down the Strand. Galveston takes you back in time with its late 1800s architecture and style. The charm of this town is matched by its welcoming friendly locals.

Cozumel – A jewel in the Caribbean. We all dream of Cozumel. Your Corona commercial comes to life here. For the water, I have two recommendations. First, the two-tank scuba dive. It took Jacques Cousteau 10 years to explore the corals that surround the island. Imagine what you’ll find. Plane wrecks, deep walls, caves, sea turtles and over 10,000 species of fish.

More comfortable on the surface? Check out the three-reef snorkel. Taking you to the three best snorkeling locations on the island. I have to recommend two land tours, as well. The best combination tour giving you culture and an afternoon at an incredible National Park is the Discover Mexico & Chankanaab Excursion. The Jeep or dune buggy adventure to National Park Punta Sur is also on the top of the list. Mayan ruins, untouched jungle and drive down a coast line that you’ll bring you back to Cozumel.

Progreso – The gateway to one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, the amazing Mayan Site of Chichen Itza. An excursion in Progreso is a must…..don’t let the opportunities that surround this incredible area of the Yucatan pass you by. The beautiful capital city of Merida is only 35 minutes from Progreso. The Merida City Shopping, Horse Show and Buffet Lunch will have you wanting more. Fantastic city for shopping, Merida is one of the wealthiest city’s in Mexico and there’s much to offer on the shopping menu. Speaking of menus, this tour offers you a buffet lunch you’ll never forget. A chicken dish named mole, in a sauce made of 24 ingredients including chocolate! Be warned on the habenaro sauce….I use it while on vacation to start small campfires! But Chichen Itza tops the list. This is an action-packed adventure taking to you to the spiritual grounds that are rightfully listed as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

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

There are approximately two hours during a homeport day that, if captured, would underline my answer to this question. Ironically, this is a period of time that there are no guests on board — a period of time when the crew and shoreside team drop it into sixth gear. The provisions, cleaning, posting, painting, washing, re-fueling, re-scheduling, printing, the list goes on. Not only does this amazing team orchestrate this incredible feat, they do this in a style, focus and, more importantly, an attitude that cannot be matched. This is where it all begins. A crew that is confident, ready, excited and happy to bring on there new guests to deliver that wow! To never treat every cruise the same and want to deliver more and more each time. This is a constant in the Carnival family and the support given all around is unsurpassed. This is only part of the show “behind the curtain” that no one sees. But, ultimately, the basis of what helps create the most popular cruise line in the world.

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 be cruise director on the Carnival Splendor. As for a port or area I have always wanted to visit…………French Polynesia, Bora Bora and Fiji.

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.

Last summer Captain Scala and I help lead a team to support an orphanage in Merida City. The support received from the crew and guests was amazing. We would visit the orphanage with a team of crew ready to re-paint, fix plumbing, fix school desks, hire additional teachers, purchase cleaning supplies, as well as a hot water heater, cooking supplies and much more. We invited all the faculty and children to enjoy a day on board the Carnival Ecstasy. Disco hour, pizza party, volleyball, basketball…..it was amazing.

The only thing that topped this experience was their next visit during Christmas. We collected their wish list to Santa weeks earlier and created an “Ecstasy Elves” project where we gathered and wrapped the items on the list for their next visit which included the Christmas show from the dance cast, Spanish Frosty Story and a visit by Santa to present the children with the gifts they had requested. This had nothing to do with being a cruise director but had everything to do with being in a position to help others in need. I will never forget the look on all those faces…look out, Christmas is around the corner!

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
Prosciutto, Melon and Brie Cheese – Spinach salad with warm blue cheese dressing.

MAIN COURSE
Clay-oven-baked, thin-crust European pizza.

DESERT
Pumpkin pie with butter pecan ice cream.

SOMEONE FROM THE CRUISE INDUSTRY
Charo

SOMEONE TO MAKE YOU LAUGH OUT LOUD
Chris Rock

YOUR FAVORITE ACTRESS
Charlize Theron

YOUR FAVORITE ACTOR
Gary Oldman

YOUR FAVORITE MUSICIAN
Roger Waters

AND SOMEONE FROM HISTORY YOU WISHED YOU HAD MET
Christopher Columbus

So, as you can see, all those lucky people who will be sailing from late November onwards here on the Carnival Splendor will have this young man as their cruise director. …………you are all going to have an absolutely fabulous time.

Please allow me to say a quick thank you, as well, to all of you who sent your thanks to Commodore Romano for his superb interview. It will soon be posted on Princess Cruises’ web site as well so even more people will get to immerse themselves in his life story.

Then, can I also say a big thank you to everyone who wrote a message of support for Stephanie’s Mum …….I know she appreciates this very much and those words will be of great comfort.

I also showed yesterday’s blog to Caroline and Michael……..you remember them……the grandparents who were looking after the twins. Well, they were both so grateful for all the comments of support and love you showed them.

Finally in this section………..can I say a big hello to Gary and Di Coates. They were both due to join us tomorrow for our cruise but as you may remember, Gary was recently diagnosed with cancer so they cannot join us. ………I know tomorrow will be a difficult day for you both and I wanted you to know that I was thinking about you and I am positive that in the months ahead you will both be walking up a “Fun Ship” gangway ready for the vacation of a lifetime. ……I will be thinking of you tomorrow.

Have you seen the news today? Well, apparently there is a huge experiment going on in Switzerland involving men and women with beards making something called a Super Pinacolada or something…………and apparently everyone is very concerned that it may induce some black holes and suck us all into space. Here is what CNN are saying.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/09/10/lhc.collider/index.html

One of the benefits that may come from this is a Jeff Goldblum-style transporting device to move a particle from one place to another.

I’m not so sure. If the claim had been made by a California/Silicon Valley-type then maybe it would have a vestige of credibility. But the Swiss are far too busy building fallout shelters in their back yards and making sure their bank accounts remain secret.

Historically, Switzerland has given the world absolutely nothing of any value……they don’t even have their own language……however……maybe now the world will gasp as the Swiss bearded people discover how to use the atom splitter to make a particle transporter.

And if they have achieved such a thing, what’s the big deal, anyway? The tricky bit is moving lots of particles and putting them all back together in the right order.

You only need be out by the tiniest amount and it would be a disaster. Being beamed directly into your cabin onboard a Baltic cruise on the Carnival Liberty in the blink of an eye might sound appealing, but not if you got there to find you’d become Judge Judy. Or a table lamp.

For those Trekkies out there, I should mention that history has it that Gene Roddenberry only came up with the “beaming” thingy in Star Trek because there was not enough in the budget for the original series to film a model of the Enterprise’s shuttle craft landing on a different planet every week…………..even though every planet looked the same.

Time travel is much more exciting. Hollywood has been fixated with the notion for as long as I can remember. Over the years, they’ve had all sorts of things being jettisoned into the past — DeLoreans, Michael J Fox, Jean-Claude Van Damme, the governor of California and, in a little-known film called The Final Countdown, the entire USS Nimitz aircraft carrier.

I dream about being able to go back in time and telling George not to go to the theatre ………..giving that Charlie Chaplin look-a-like from Austria the good news with a baseball bat …………….. or arrive a few minutes before my mate Alan , in a drunken stupor told a Spanish police officer he loved him ……….called him Manuel……….and pinched his bottom……….resulting in an hour in the back of a Polizie van.

Think of the lives you could save with a time machine. Think of the good you could do. And think how much you could win on the lottery.

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.