The View From My Window

September 14, 2008 -

John Heald

The burgundy red-roofed buildings here in Vigo cascade down the side of the mountain. The sun sends her beams of welcome warmth onto the azure blue of the Mediterranean Sea and onto the passengers from the spectacular cruise ship that sits proudly and majestically in the harbor below.

Hang on a minute. I wanted to write this morning about the mad Russians and the fact that the bloody gangway didn’t fit this morning… But, sadly, each time I look out of the window, I’m consumed by the view.

Anyway. Last night a group of Russian. . . oh, look at that amazing yacht, it’s called Lady M …..Does it belong to Madonna or maybe it was something Paul McCartney bought for Heather Mills before she hopped off with all his money?

I must go on the Internet to find out.

And that’s going to take hours because here on the ship the Internet is as fast as a Sloth who has just smoked something.

Two hours later. It won’t say who owns it but if anyone is interested you can charter her for the measly sum of $180,000……..per week.

This is the problem with trying to work from a desk that has a window from which something it seems is always happening… It’s also hard to write a blog when your wife keeps pestering you to go ashore and when the phone rings every minute of the day.

But where was I? Oh yes. The fishing boats, weather beaten up from years at sea, sit waiting for their masters to head them out to sea hoping that their catch will be one to remember. No, sorry. What I mean is: so we arrived this morning into Vigo and even though I had told 3,000 guests that, as per the port authority, the gangway would be . . . look at that, now there is some sort of power boat race going on.

I can hear the thunder of their mighty engines and now I see the dozen or so cigarette boats laden with advertising for Red Bull and Marlboro ready to race each other to glory.

Chris Prideaux from the office just called and wanted to talk to me about my schedule next year……. I told him there had been local entertainment on the pier all day and now their was a man playing a saw……yep, a saw………he didn’t seem interested and hung up.

What interests me most of all right now, much more than whether the guests are mad that we had to change the gangway location, is whether to take Heidi for dinner ashore tonight or just sit out on deck and soak up more of the remarkable view that being on the tallest building in Vigo gives you.

But, I need to write a blog and it’s impossible to do so from my current position and I am going to switch to my laptop and sit and write in a darkened room.. So, I will leave you to look at two photos of Jesus playing the saw……yep, that is the man’s name Jesus Vargas ……………… I wonder if he is a carpenter?

OK, I’m back. I am now working on my laptop in one of the ship’s lounges………no distractions…no views……..so, let’s go.

Murphy it seems has booked a 12-day cruise. Any doubt about that came this morning as we arrived into Vigo. I had told guests that the gangway would be on deck 3 because great minds had apparently checked this before we arrived. We were not only the first Carnival ship to come here but the largest cruise ship to come here. So, that was me yesterday telling everyone where to disembark the ship from………deck 3, I said.

So, we arrived………and ummmm……..the gangway would not fit onto deck 3 ………….so, that was me looking like an idiot…………..telling guests that “Oops the gangway does not fit, sorry to keep you, etc. etc.”

I tried to make the apology sound genuine and not disguise the fact that I was as frustrated as they were – as it looks like nobody had checked that the bloody gangway would fit. Anyway, I used my best lip-curling sympathetic voice which hopefully generated a photo of me, on the bridge, walkie talkie in hand, dressed in a suit marshaling the troops to organize a new exit strategy for the guests. …………………..the reality was a bit different. I was actually in my cabin, having just gotten out of bed…..dressed only in my underpants having luckily timed the machine gun like fart I had just emitted to the bing bong of the PA system.

Eventually — and I mean the deck department — did an outstanding job in placing gangways on deck 2 midship and deck 1 forward in just under 30 minutes, we were able to start getting guests ashore…………….and what a weird sight it was.

The last few fabulous months in the brilliant Baltic have had guests leaving the ship dressed to battle the elements that Finland, St. Petersburg and Estonia can bring. So, it was astonishing to see guests leaving the ship in shorts and T-shirts armed to the teeth with bottles of sun tan oil.

And what a different feel there is on the Lido Deck as well. The roof is wide open and the sun worshipers are out in force……………and none more so than my Russian friends ………. more about that later.

Vigo really is beautiful and, even though I wish I could go ashore, time does not allow. We arrived on schedule and even with the gangway problems we still managed to get the guests off quickly. Most were very understanding and I can’t be bothered to tell you about the one or two who huffed and puffed to the staff.

At noon, the captain and I hosted a plaque exchange ceremony and cocktail party. We will have one of these in most of the upcoming ports to celebrate our first call. Today, 20 or so distinguished guests from the Port Authority, the immigration service and others who I think had heard there would be free food came and spent an hour or so with us. I make a short speech which as nobody spoke English was received with blank looks with a smattering of polite smiles.

Maybe they did speak English and the reason they were being a little cold was that the last time I was in this area of Spain was in 1989 with my mate Alan who was arrested for peeing off our hotel balcony into the pool seven floors below.

Anyway, we did the ceremony and the wonderful Captain Pagano made a speech in fluent Spanish which was greeted with rapturous applause.

In all seriousness it was obvious how excited the town of Vigo is to welcome our ship. I am sure they realize that having the industry leaders flagship here is something to be proud of and certainly as I sit here at 7:45 pm the comments from the guests have been nothing but joyous. Many have been on tour while many have just enjoyed a stroll around the beautiful harbor.

Usually, the harbor is one of peace and tranquility but not today. There is a Formula One boat race today which is like the Formula One/Indy Car race on the sea. The boats can fly at 60 mph across the water and today the locals came out in their hundreds to watch the race. However, there seemed to be as many people taking photos of the Carnival Splendor as they were the fast boats.

So, let’s have a look at some photos of the harbor, the Formula One Boats, some modern art and ………….the Carnival Splendor’s gangway……………….. I hope you enjoy them.

My goodness, poor old Texas and the news I am seeing here of Galveston’s situation does not look good. I pause for thought now to remember all those who have lost their property and at the same time give thanks and hope that there are no reports of casualties.

So, what about the Carnival Conquest. Well, I had a chance to speak to the cruise director Jen Baxter this evening. Jen is a wonderful cruise director and, even though her title says “acting Cruise Director,” she certainly will not be acting this cruise. The Carnival Conquest was supposed to be going to her home port of Galveston which as we just mentioned is recovering from the storm. Now, I am going to share with you an e-mail between Jen and I. Often, in strange situations some of the cruise directors will ask me for advice and I am always happy to give it.

Have a read of this.

_____________________________________________
From: CONQUEST CRUISE DIRECTOR
Sent: Sunday, September 14, 2008 8:20 PM
To: SPLENDOR CRUISE DIRECTOR
Subject: RE: Jen

Hey John,

Got a question for ya.

We have moved the debark talk to 5pm (We will be making a announcement shortly on the emergency system to tell everyone that we’ll be docking n New Orleans) Once I have told them that we will be going to New Orleans should I carry on with the talk as usual? How do I go about this?

J

Jen Baxter
Cruise Director
Carnival Conquest
______________________________________________
From: SPLENDOR CRUISE DIRECTOR
Sent: Sunday, September 14, 2008 8:38 PM
To: CONQUEST CRUISE DIRECTOR
Subject: RE: Jen

Yes, do the announcement and then say that you will follow up in the talk.
I would make sure you have all the facts ready and maybe to break the ice come out wearing a life jacket. I have tried this before and it always puts people at ease.
Take your time and the worst thing you can do is to change anything. Be yourself, keep to the usual order of your talk and …….just be yourself.

When you talk about comment card remember to say, “If you are upset with the situation please blame me….not the crew. They have worked so hard under difficult circumstances to continue with their friendly service and they deserve nothing but praise. I am very proud of them and I hope you are to.”

Stay in touch

John

So, as you can see, the ship has been diverted to New Orleans which I am sure will welcome the guests with understanding compassion. Nobody knows better than the folks of the Big Easy what it is like to go through a hurricane and as many of the guests on the Carnival Conquest are from Texas ………I am sure they will do everything they can for them.

As have the captain and crew of the Carnival Conquest…………whom I wish a safe voyage home.

Here is the latest news from Carnival headquarters

TROPICAL WEATHER UPDATE
SEPTEMBER 14, 2008 – 2:00 PM
We are closely monitoring the situation in Galveston and the impact from Hurricane Ike. We do not currently have a lot of information about the status of the shipping channel, cruise terminal or the port access infrastructure. Local communication has been very challenging and there are restrictions against incoming traffic into the Galveston area.
We do not expect the Port of Galveston to be open on Monday and there is tremendous uncertainty about when the port will be available to us next week. Due to this situation, we will now cancel the following cruises:
• Carnival Conquest September 14, 2008 departure that was re-scheduled to a 6 day cruise departing on Monday, September 15.
• Carnival Ecstasy September 15, 2008 departure
Guests will receive a full refund of cruise fare and we will process these refunds within three weeks.
We sincerely apologize to our guests that are impacted by these cancelled cruises. Unfortunately, we did not have any viable options available to provide an alternative cruise option.
We hope that all of those that reside in the areas impacted by Hurricane Ike were able to remain safe. We also wish a speedy recovery to those that may have sustained damage homes or businesses.

Also in the news is the story of a big British vacation company going bust. It seems that XL.com could not afford to run its airline anymore due to the cost of fuel. This left thousands of European holiday makers stranded all over the world. Now, the next piece of news is even more disturbing, and that is Italy’s national carrier Alitalia is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Hopefully, the government will provide them with yet another bail out package but with hundreds of passengers due to fly back from Carnival Freedom and Carnival Splendor and out to Rome for the start of their holidays it is something we are keeping a very close eye on. I will keep you updated from the blog thingy as much as possible.

OK, on a lighter note………and I mean as light as a feather note………we go back to Mrs. Duck who if you remember arrived on the ship stating her allergy to all things fowl and polyester.

Our agent priced some silk sheets at…………300 euros………..and as Mrs. Duck expected us to pay we decided that this was not something we could do. We offered her 100% cotton which she accepted but not before telling the Chief Purser Lui that……..and I quote………”I am disappointed in the lack of service you are offering.”……..Surely, if she needed the silk sheets so desperately she would have bought them herself. Anyway, she has cotton sheets and blankets and hopefully she will sleep well tonight.

Now, I wanted to share this comment with you.

I just got off the phone with my mum, and wanted to pass on to you something she said 🙂

We (my parents and I) were on the Splendor a couple of weeks ago (the 18 Aug sailing) and I had discovered your blog a month or so prior to that, while checking out the ship online. My parents are pretty new to the ‘net so I would call Mum every day and read her extracts from the blog, so we could get all the news about the ship, the itineraries (and, of course, the gossip he he)

She laughed even more than I did, and she intended to tell you on board how much she enjoyed reading (well, ‘hearing’) your blog. As it turned out, we never got to meet you, which is a shame, but it’s a big ship and you’re a busy guy!

Anyway, we got back, and my mum decided that she couldn’t rely on me constantly phoning her to read her the entries, so she got off her techno-phobic backside and now manages to access your site herself, but we still talk daily on phone (I’m in London, parents are in Newcastle) and the first thing she says is “God, did you hear about that bloke who wanted his packing done?” or “Did you see the Vladimir video?!”

When we spoke just now, we were saying how lucky it was that we had such a smooth disembarkation compared to the one you talked about yesterday, and she said that my dad was jokingly “fed up” of hearing us discuss the blog so she explained to him that reading it was like getting up in the morning and having a coffee and a chat with a friend. I thought that was kind of a cool summation of reading a blog regularly, and figured you’d probably like to know 🙂

Take care, and hope the Med run is as good as the Baltic one!

Jane

Jane is shy, she told me so in the header to her comment but I wanted you all to read her posting.

The fact that her and Mum (Hello, Mum) call each other and chat about the blog is yet another reason for me to wake up each and every morning and sit down and write to you all. Thank you Jane and thank you Mum for the wonderful comments and I am so glad that the Baltic adventure we shared was one holiday that you will never forget. I hope to see you both soon. I hope also that our friendly morning chats continue for many and a day.

I also have to apologize to some Canadian friends who posted a concern that they and others have. It seems that for some reason whenever I write that someone is from Vancouver or Toronto or another Canadian city I apparently always say …………… Vancouver, Canada………..or Toronto, Canada.

Now, apparently this upsets my Canadian friends who point out that I do not say, Miami, USA or Detroit, USA……………..why………………..why do I write Canada after mentioning a city. Am I the only one who does this or is this normal? Anyway, let me know and meanwhile I apologize to everyone I may have upset from places like Vancouver, Canada…………..bugger………I did it again. I promise that’s the last time.

As I mentioned the sun is shining and with temperatures in the low 80’s everyone is in the sun……….and none more so than my Russian friends and their Lido fashion is just brilliant.

For the men it’s the traditional tight Speedo, one man bizarrely has a pair with a print of the American flag on it while the women seem to get their fashion pointers from Internet porn sites. I haven’t yet seen anyone walking around Lido deck in stockings and suspenders but it’s only a matter of time. The Russian ladies wear the strangest bikinis as well some so small they are just nipple tassels held together with ludicrous gold clasps. Their Channelov and Pradaov sunglasses have absurd hinges which look as if they’ve come from one of the grand doors to the Hermitage.

The Russian men love the pool and what they like to do, and you’ve got to remember they’re all fairly big-boned, is dive off the side of the pool onto your head. And as you helplessly flop about with a broken spine, he orders another bottle of Smirnoff.

Today, I walked across Lido and was greeted by a Russian lady who had a chest that put the entire starboard side of the ship in the shade. I wanted to stay a while and chat to her but she was lying next to a man who had a body shaped like one of those Laughing Cow triangular cheeses and his look told me that he was ex-KGB and I should buggerov as quickly as possible. So…………I did. But as I walked away I took a last fleeting glance at one of the biggest chests I had ever seen and as I did so I embarrassingly tripped over something and tripped and fell on my arse.

The Russian beauty looked horrified ………..her wedge of a husband looked pleased ………….I looked and smiled at the pair…………..hers………..and then looked to see what I had tripped over……………..bugger……………it was my tongue.

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.