Before we start today, I would like to wish a safe few days ahead all those people from Texas who may be affected by Hurricane Ike. We are thinking of you all. Please keep checking in at www.carnival.com for all the latest news on how this may affect the cruises from Galveston.

Good Morning everyone.

One of the many aspects of this blog I hope you enjoy is the fact that we not only tell you how good we are………we are good, by the way ……….. but we also share the odd time when things don’t go well.

Yesterday was a difficult day. It seems that after a long absence, Mr. Murphy decided to drop by the Carnival Splendor yesterday, bringing with him a huge dollop of bad luck.

The problems started when, without warning, the computers we use to check in guests ashore in Dover decided to bugger off. The great minds of our I/S managers, Kat and Jon, used all their powers but to no avail — if they couldn’t find the fault then nobody could have.

Computers, as we were told by James Cameron in The Terminator, would one day kill all mankind. Prince Charles recently said he agrees. He sees a time when nano-robots will learn to push buttons and end the world in a nuclear holocaust. I have no fear about a robot the size of a flea’s nostril hair climbing up onto a desk — how, exactly? — and pushing the “erase” key because we can be guaranteed that either the robot or the computer will have broken long before the bomb ever goes “boom.”

So, it was a computer which started our string of concerns yesterday. When computers go down, it means everyone has to be checked-in manually and this involves the embarkation staff using something called a “pen.” We would have started earlier with the check-in process but we had to explain to those staff under 25 years of age how to use a pen…….I would have showed them myself, but I lost my pen which is now probably being used to write shopping lists………I wish someone had been honest and handed it in.

Anyway, back to the check-in thingy. So, obviously the computer is mightier than the Bic so the lines were longer than usual. Most people were fine with this and enjoyed the refreshments we put in the terminal, but, as always, there were one or two vocal ones as well………..more about that later.

Now, the problem with manual check-in is that after the ship has sailed the pursers still have to input everyone’s information into the computers. This is so they can use their Sail & Sign cards for the interactive services on the TV, such as tours and movies. We also have to produce passenger manifests which have to be sent to the authorities of the destination we just left — and 24 hours ahead of time to the next destination.

If this does not happen or if the lists are not complete, then the vessel can be refused entrance or fined. So, our Chief Purser Luis had to call ahead to France to tell Pierre and his friends at immigration that the list would be delivered late. Then, the pursers all sat up to 4 am inputting 3,022 guests into the system……….they deserve a medal…….and, as we don’t have any………… I sent them pizzas.

So, that was the first sign that Murphy had come to stay……..well, certainly to the guests it was — but to the crew it was number three.

The first was a burst pipe from the main pool machinery which starts from the crew deck 0 and winds its way up to deck 9. Well, the pipe on deck 0 decided it was bored and wanted to have some fun, so ……….it burst, sending gallons of water along the place we call I-95. This is named after the famous freeway and most ships have their central crew corridor named after a road…………on P&O ships it’s the M1 ……..on Queen Victoria, it’s the M25, and on the AIDAbella, it’s the A1.

Well, yesterday I-95 was closed for flooding as five inches of water flowed from midship to aft. The pipe burst was quickly plugged and then the clean up operation began. Unfortunately though some of the water from the pipe had poured over one of our forklift trucks we use to take luggage to and from ashore……….and I guess it did not like being covered with swimming pool water, so Fred the Forklift decided to go on strike.

This meant we had only one forklift to take off everyone’s luggage during the debarkation process — and this meant that the system was slower than usual. We started at 7 am and usually finish by 9 am………however, with Fred on strike, we did not finish until 9:45 am. Murphy made sure that he burst the pipe right over the forklift …………. bugger.

And so, we all hoped that after the indoor swimming pool on I-95, the on-strike forklift, and the computer system crashing, that Murphy would bugger off and annoy someone else………………he didn’t.

It was an hour or so after my travel talk yesterday afternoon that the first comments were made via the pursers’ office……….then a few more…………then a few more…………and then, after my show I got a phone call……….Murphy had not left the building.

I had told guests that our arrival and departure time in La Harve, France, was as follows:

ARRIVAL 7 AM

ALL GUESTS ON BOARD AT 8:30 PM

DEPARTURE 9 PM

This was the information we had onboard which had been given to the captain by our operations department in Miami. However…………the guests’ ticket information stated something different.

ARRIVAL 7 AM

ALL GUESTS ON BOARD AT 9:30 PM

DEPARTURE 10 PM

Le Buggair!

We will come to how this happened in a moment but the dozen or so guests who brought this to our attention did so because they had booked train tickets to Paris from La Harve with the return journey arriving back at 8:45 pm. It is then a 15-minute taxi ride back to the ship ……….so…………you can see why they were concerned.

We did some investigation and it appears that originally the departure time was 9 pm, which was changed to 10 pm based on the excursions and guest satisfaction, etc. Unfortunately, someone forgot to inform the vessel.

The result of this is that we will sail leaving a dozen or so guests stranded in France with only their passports and their souvenir Eifel Tower key rings and the faint smell of garlic as company……………….of course, I am joking.

We will stay until everyone is onboard and I informed the guests of this when arrived. Mistakes happen in every business around the world and the good thing is that we are able to make sure we rectify them quickly and professionally………it’s why Carnival’s shoreside team and on board personnel are…………. the best in the business.

Well, the guests seem happy although we do have a huge international mix. Amongst them are nearly 300 Russians, more than the provisional count suggested — and they are a handful.

They join the end of the line………but at the wrong end. It seems that they feel they a divine right to be served first and it is always a challenge to try and make our Russian friends understand that they need to join the back of the line…….not the front. Obviously, we have lots of Russian-speaking staff and they do their best to help, but I am sorry to say that rules and Russians do not go together.

They’re all eager to spend the huge wads of cash from Russia’s oil-and-gas boom on vodka by the bottle from the bars, betting hundreds of dollars on any red number on the roulette table, and on fancy Italian handbags from the gift shop. The days of queuing for bread and beating themselves with twigs to stay warm during the harsh winters are long gone…………they are here and enjoying the full “Fun Ship” experience. ……………I am sure there will be more stories to tell in the days ahead.

Here is one from today

Guest: Mr _______ Ref: 002804106A
Cabin: _____ Booking#: __________ Added-Changed: 09/11/08 – 09/11/08

PURSER PROFESSIONAL AND HELPFUL

Mr. and Mrs. _____ asked to speak with the supervisor. Purser offered assistance. Mr. and Mrs. ________ said that they just wanted to let purser know that they had witnessed a Russian guest coming to the front of the line and refusing to leave until he had been served. Guest said that even though the guest had been shouting and very rude that the purser, Okasana, had been polite and professional. Purser thanked Mr _______ for his comments and reassured that all the comments would be documented and properly addressed. Mr and Mrs. ________ thanked purser for taking her time to talk to them and left the desk.

Bravo, Okasana!

Let’s pause for a few photos taken from the bow of the ship in La Havre today. I will post some photos of Paris tomorrow once Jaime returns from her tour. Obviously, I didn’t go as I doubt I would receive much of a welcome from my Parisian friends and besides ……. I don’t have a Hazmat suit.

There are also some of our towel folding demonstration, as well.

Heidi and Mum and Auntie are at the Towel Animal Folding Demonstration

Heidi and mum and auntie are at the Towel Animal Folding Demonstration
Heidi and mum and auntie are at the Towel Animal Folding Demonstration


Le Havre and AIDAbella


Here are a few notes I received from guests who sailed last week including an old, old photo of me.



Now, would you join me in congratulating our UK Sales team who has just won a prestigious industry award.


Well done to them and their hairdressers!

Talking of Holland America, have you seen the latest photos and blog from their flagship Eurodam recently? The ship is currently sailing from New York and you should have a look at this brilliant blog at www.eurodamnews.com

Now, can I say a big “thank you” to all of you who continue to post comments? I love reading them and, of course, I will reply to each and everyone marked Urgent Please Reply. As you will have seen I have been posting all the replies which I hope you have enjoyed reading. Thanks again and please keep the comments coming.

The blog has raced past 2.8 million with a continuing average of 40,000 – 50,000 slaps a week. This again is just amazing and I will continue to write as long as you ask it of me……….thank you all.

Here then is a brief overview of the excursions we offer in Le Havre enjoyed today by 1,789 guests.

1. Paris Highlights

10½ hours

Photo stops. Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe. Ride down the Champs-Elysées Avenue. Lunch and free time

2. Paris On Your Own

10 hours

Dropped off at the Place de la Concorde, at one end of the Champs-Elysées, guide will advise you of the time and location for your

Return.

3. River Seine Cruise& Paris Highlights

10½ hours

Stopping at the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero area for photo opportunities and then passing by the Notre Dame Basilica. At the Trocadero dock, you will board a bateau mouche

style riverboat. Lunch onboard.

4. Honfleur

4 hours

Scenic ride to Honfleur; Center for arts and crafts.

5. Historic Rouen

5 hours

Architecture and history. Approx 90 mins drive from Le Havre. Where several bombings in World War II took place.

6. Fécamp & Etretat

4 hours

Pass by: French countryside and the coast along the way; Fécamp: visit the Benedictine Abbey and Museum, a Gothic and Renaissance-style; Etretat; Pier.

8. Land of Impressionism

Claude Monet

10 ½

Hours

2-hour drive through rural France to famous gardens and farmhouse of artist’s home and studio. Visit American Museum. 40-minute drive to Rouen, Capital of Normandy. (Cathedral, splendid example of Gothic Architecture) Walking tour through town.

9. D-Day Landing Beaches

10 hours

Visit the Landing Museum, continue on to Omaha Beach,

These are great excursions and none more so than a life-changing visit to the beaches of Normandy.

Have you booked your cruise for next year yet? It seems that many of you have and the success of this year’s Baltic season has led to many people realizing that they too should see this area for themselves. So much so that bookings for the Carnival Liberty’s 2009 Europe voyages are very popular. I will be writing a special “Baltic Blog” for the web site soon and I hope that as you sit around the family table deciding which Carnival vacation to take that you will consider joining me next year.

Now, I am not sure if I posted this or not but I wanted to make sure I got this message out to those guests who are joining me on the October 5 cruise.

Unfortunately, we have had to make a slight change to the itinerary since the port of Naples will be closed on October 6. As Naples is one of our most popular ports, we have canceled the scheduled short stay in Katakolon to allow a call at Naples.

Here is the new itinerary.

Arrive Depart

5th. Rome (Civitavecchia) 7 PM

6th, Messina Noon 8 PM

7th “Fun Day” At Sea

8th. Marmaris 10 AM 6 PM

9th. Izmir,Turkey 9 AM 4 PM

10th. Istanbul,Turkey 9 AM 8 PM

11th. “Fun Day” At Sea

12th. Athens (Piraeus) 6 AM 5 PM

13th. “Fun Day” At Sea

14th. Naples 6 AM 4 PM

15th. Livorno, Italy 7 AM 7 PM

16th. Rome (Civitavecchia) 6 AM

17th. Rome

If anyone has any concerns or comments regarding this, I remain at your service.

It’s strange being in France and, although I know the guests are having a memorable time in Paris and beyond, I have nothing but dreadful nightmarish memories of my time here.

Obviously, us Brits go there a lot. You can get to France in two hours by fast ferry and 35 minutes by plane. As I sit here and write, I remember one time I came to this part of France ……….to a place called Lille………………..my mate Alan assured me that this was the place where all the young French girls partied at the weekends. So, trusting my friend ……off we went…….were we staying in a fine hotel or resort?…. nope…we went camping.

I hate camping.

Tenting works well when you are climbing Mount Everest or joining the Boy Scouts, but I find it extraordinary that a family should say: “Let’s spend our vacation this year soaking wet and arguing morning, noon and night in a room none of us can stand up in properly.” Top of Form 1

Bottom of Form 3

If you are that hard up and you are so desperate for a change, then why not simply stay at home and cut your legs off?

It’s claimed by medical experts that we cannot remember pain, but that isn’t true, because I remember the pain Alan caused me during our tenting holiday in France. I remember every little detail of it – so much detail that sometimes I turn out all the lights and sit in a corner………. and cry.

I remember the rain and the way it cascaded down into the hollow where our tent was built. I remember the wind that knocked it down. I remember the French campers laughing at us. I remember the hateful food – salmonella sausages that, as they were bought from the local French supermarket, were probably made from the local horse.

I remember the soggy sleeping bags, the sloping floor, the stones that dug into my back, the lack of sleep, the arguments, the discomfort, the pain, the misery, the mosquitoes, the desperation, the homesickness and my desire to hammer a tent peg into Alan’s bottom.

At home, I had headroom and walls. I had space. And when we wanted to go to the toilet, we didn’t have to tiptoe through the dirt and mud to a filthy shower block full of French campers with faulty bomb-aiming equipment.

I can see them now if I close my eyes. All those massive French turds ……..it was beyond belief…….there were 50-plus toilets in the campsite, yet everyone seemed to have missed the target……I can smell the …..sorry…I have to turn the lights out and cry……..back soon.

OK, I am back.

Anyway, Alan had told me that this utter torture would be worthwhile………why?……….. because women, he said, think tenting is sexy. Well, of course, it will come as no surprise that Alan’s statement was utter bollocks as I spent the entire weekend laying three inches away from Alan. I was cold, I was wet, and I refused to go back to the public toilets so I had just done my number two’s in a field watched by a French cow. I didn’t sleep because I was sure that Freddy Kruger was going to jump out of the bushes and slaughter Alan, me and the cow…..and……..not one French mademoiselle had asked to see my tent pole.

Bonsoir

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.