You Can Call On Al

September 18, 2008 -

John Heald

I’m tired.

I just finished a two and a half hour lunch with a group of people who spoke very little English and were determined to enjoy the hospitality of the ship.

Good Evening one and all. We have just left Malaga, Spain and after the usual plaque ceremony I hosted a lunch for various dignitaries and VIP’s……………..a two and a half hour lunch…………..in a suit………..and a tie…………and if you want to know the menu you could have just looked at my shirt because the jovial man next to me catapulted most of his French Onion Soup, Spinach salad and Gnocchi Al Pesto over me.

It was hard because most of the time they spoke Spanish with our multi-lingual Captain and I just sat there trying not to fall asleep while at the same time dodging bits of supersonic pasta. At one point I was so bored I even counted the number of peas on my plate…………56.

Anyway, these Spanish……….like the Italians………..love their lunch and they are to be praised …………not criticized for this.

In the olden days, people used to go to the canteen on the dot of one to unwind with mates over a plate of something big……with fries. Now everyone gets their lunch from the Grab ’n’ Go shop.

Do they have Grab ’n’ Go shops in Italy? I have never seen one. Over there, they’re still downing a couple of bottles of wine at lunchtime, and then sleeping it off until six.

These days in North America and the UK if we do go out for lunch its usually an excuse to get some more work done. And so is dinner, and so, increasingly, is breakfast. In fact, we’re running out of meals over which we can do deals. Soon, people will be buying and selling products over the midnight buffet………….unless your one of the poor buggers who work for Lehman Brothers who will now be serving the meals……………another 40,000 job losses in a UK bank was announced today…………..you have to feel so sorry for the people who just went to work, did the filling or the human resources, answered the telephone or cleaned the offices…………these people are the human face of the credit crunch thingy.

Anyway, I digress.

Back to the lunches and the Spanish today who went through a whole cellar of wine. My mate Alan told me that when he was working in the city of London nobody drinks at lunchtime as it’s as taboo as admitting that after work you put on stockings and suspenders and work as a cabaret act called Alicia……………right Alan?

But the no drinking thing is just part of how things used to be. We worked to live now we live to work.

A few years ago you finished at 5:00 pm regardless of what was happening. Shops were closed on Sundays. You always took your vacations and would never finish the year with your company owing you holiday days………….and if you sneezed ………you went to bed for a month without fear of having to get a signed paper from the Center for Disease Control to prove that you were ill.

Things are a bit different now though. People go to work even if they were just attacked by a shark.

If you catch Ebola, you must get the deal done before your skin turns purple and your ears fall off.
We go out at night with Borg-style mobile phone headset attachments in case the office wants to get in touch, and of course even if we are in throws of making mad passionate love to Angelina Jolie and Catherine Zeta Jones is waiting outside for her turn………if the Blackberry goes off………Angelina and Catherine will be playing Monopoly for the rest of the evening.

Yep, the Spanish and Italians have it right………..3-hour, 4-course lunches washed down with gallons of wine followed by a 3-hour nap………and………..if they must………a few hours in the office before dinner…………but never………never on the weekends.

The guests had a wonderful day in Malaga. I know this because I just spent the last hour talking too many of them at our Past Guest Party. They did though say that it was very muggy outside. There was a lot of low cloud and no breeze and with a temperature of 84 degrees, I can understand that it might have felt unpleasant. I didn’t get to leave the ship again today which has promoted a visit to the doghouse for me. ………..I may have got away with it but I failed to tell Heidi that her hair looked nice yesterday after a visit to the Spa. Now, how the heck am I supposed to know that she has had her haircut? I mean it looked the same. If she had come back with a mohawk or a red stripe down the center or a Britney Spears slap-head cut then I would have said something………..but to me………….it looked exactly the bloody same.

I would like you to meet the first of today’s guest stars Mr. Robert Cotton from New Hampshire, U.S.A.

Robert was with me on stage and as you can see he was dressed very smartly. ………and of course it will come as no surprise as well that he is an ex-military man having served in the Army for 38 years. What was different about Robert’s service was that he was an Army Minister for all those years and saw service in the first Gulf War and until his retirement was stationed at a base in South or North Carolina …..I forget which. I forgot that the armed forces have their own Chaplains and that these men or women go where the troops go. Anyway, I had met Robert previously and had asked him to come on stage with me. You see, I had received a letter from some friends of his who were traveling with him. I called them and they told me what else was special about Robert.

This man travels the States attending every funeral for the men and women who gave their lives in the service of their country. …………..and as he said to all of us………..that’s far too many. He is here with his high school reunion group who wanted to acknowledge his service and his compassion………….so today…………..we did…………..it was a very special moment.

Now, here is the first of today’s amazing photos taken by our brilliant Photo Manager Adrian………it’s of the Carnival Splendor passing ……….but only just………..under the bride in Lisbon’s harbor.

Here are a few letters from today’s In Their Own Words Section.

And now some very exciting news. Last year I met the Cruise Director of the Queen Victoria, industry legend Alistair Greener. We spoke briefly about the blog and I casually hinted that it would be marvelous if he could write one.

And, here we are, a few months later and I am proud to invite you all to sample life onboard a Cunard liner. Every Thursday Alistair will share the incomparable journeys he and his passengers enjoy and we will go behind the scenes with him as we meet some of them. So……….ladies and gentlemen……….please click over to www.wearecunard.com………I will see you there and congratulations on a brilliant blog.

And now, I would like to talk about the after effects of Hurricane Bastard…………sorry………….Ike.

First of all I just want to say a few words about the blog. During the last few days I have tried my very best to provide everyone with as much information as I can. It’s not been easy with the 6-hour time difference and doing my other job as Cruise Director. I have posted the information late at night my time and I hope it has been helpful.

Nobody can know what it must be like to lose your home and return to a scene of utter devastation. I certainly am not gifted enough to even try and describe the emotions you must be feeling. I do want to say this though to Rita, Paula and Renee and the others who sent me comments. Our blog thingy is many things and if it can be a sounding board to the people at the top at Carnival, then let it be so. But, I do ask that you bear in mind that I am a long way away and there will be a time lapse from when you send in your comments to the time they are posted, read by me and replied to. I know many, many people had nothing but exuberant praise for the way this very trying situation has been handled so far by the shipboard and shoreside personnel.

However, I have received one or two comments that have suggested that I don’t answer or reply to negative postings.

Here is one of those from today

Rita
Why won’t you post my first comment, because it was honest and negative about carnival? All you post is positive, and you probably made that up anyway.
——————
Rita
Wow so glad you have information up for people going out and you sound so excited.
Do you think you could do the same and get more information up for those of us who just came back through New Orleans and our cars are in Galveston.
Also could you guys who sit comfy in the Corporate office please explain why nobody told us when we were boarding that Galveston was under Mandatory Evacuation and give us a choice to continue to sail or get our money back. YOU GUYS DIDN’T CARE ABOUT US AND THE HOW THE RETURN WOULD WORK OUT. You had us on board, got our money, and then lied for days that you didn’t know the outcome of the cars in the parking lots, when FEMA had information, with pictures up as early as September 14, I left the ship with your stupid letters saying you were still unsure. Well Thanks Carnival you promised a memorable cruise, and believe me it was.
Rita. First of all can I apologize for the late posting and answers. As I said, I am in Europe being a Cruise Director. It’s now 10 pm and I have half an hour before the next show but I wanted to make sure I reply as I do to each and every comment……..marked “please reply ” that is positive or, on the rare occasion, negative………and no I am not as you suggested making that up.

Let’s start with the facts as I have been told them:

The decision to proceed with the voyage was made because we determined that we would be able to operate it safely and canceling the cruise would have pulled the plug on the vacation plans of many people. And, as with all storms, there were no concrete assurances as to exactly where the most severe impact would be and what level of damage it would cause. Unfortunately, Galveston and surrounding areas were substantially impacted by Hurricane Ike and this in turn impacted our guests who were on our Galveston-based ships operating during that period. We apologize to all of those guests for the huge inconvenience the situation caused and especially those whose cars have been damaged while parked at the port. We will ask the Port of Galveston to explore alternate parking arrangements in the future for the type of situation.

I’ve also been hearing from people who have property damage and are scheduled to sail on upcoming voyages. In that situation, Carnival will definitely give each case a personal review and will consider exceptions to the cancellation policy if the guests can simply provide some basic supporting documentation that indicates they were affected by the storm (for example, a copy of your drivers license or a copy of a utility bill or something along those lines). To request a review, just send a letter with whatever supporting documentation you can to Carnival Cruise Lines, Reservations Administration Dept., 3655 NW 87th Avenue, Miami, FL 33165. Or you can call the main office at  800-438-6744  and ask for the reservations administration department.

Now, on a personal note I just wanted to say to everyone who wrote to me that I hope you, your family and your property are all OK and please know that you are all in my thoughts and those of the thousands and thousands of people who read this blog thingy each and every day.

As requested by many, here then is the latest information about parking in Houston.

NOTICE TO PORT OF GALVESTON PARKING LOT CUSTOMERS
September 17, 2008

The Port of Galveston’s Board of Trustees of the Galveston Wharves and Port staff sincerely hope that the passengers and their families had a great cruise. The Port understands that the passengers, crew and other cruise ship workers are concerned about their vehicles that may have been parked at the Port’s parking lots or other parking locations on Galveston Island during Hurricane Ike.

To the best of our knowledge the parking lots could have had over 7 feet of salt water in them, which would have placed most engines underwater. Many vehicles floated around in the parking lots. Therefore, most of the vehicles will probably not be in drivable condition.

At this time, only emergency personnel and work crews are allowed on Galveston Island, because most of the Island, including the Port’s property, does not have utilities. In spite of not having utilities on the Island, Port personnel, who are off the Island, are able to receive telephone calls and e-mails through offsite connections.

You are respectfully, requested to e-mail parking@portofgalveston.com or call Sharon Fox at  409-739-1344  with the following information:
Name:
Phone Number(s):
e-mail Address(es):
Vehicle model, color and license tag:

The Port is not responsible for any damage that may have occurred to your vehicle while parked in the Port’s parking lots. A vehicle owner should contact his/her insurance carrier to report a damage claim. Claims adjusters may e-mail or call the Port’s 888 telephone number if they are on the Island and need to see a vehicle.

Sincerely,

Port Management

The life of the fly on entertainer is a tough one. Living out of a suitcase, flying three or four times a week and in this case flying into uncertain territory. Take my mate Al Ernst, Carnival’s 344th best comedian.

Al has been out of action recently as he pulled the ligaments in his ankle representing the State of Georgia in the National Over 40’s Yoga and Pie eating contest.

Anyway, when the going gets tough………we get Al ……….for two reasons………..he is very, very funny…………and ..he’s cheap.

Thanks Al and if you ever see Al’s name in the Carnival Capers or a comedy club billing……………….bring a book.

Seriously, Al is our best and not just on stage. He will wander the corridors and lounges until the wee small hours of the morning looking for guests ( and food ) to talk to and if you do see his name in lights or in the Capers…………go to his show…………and bring a box of tissues to wipe away the tears of laughter. Nobody delivers other peoples jokes like Al !……………………ok, that’s enough………….don’t miss him and I hope you get to see he and I work together some time……..it’s one of my favorite things to do.

Anyway, Al went to both Carnival Conquest and carnival Ecstasy where in some rather challenging conditions………..he had them laughing hystericaly. There are few who could do this and Al is one of them. Thanks mate.

For more of the Industries BEST COMEDIAN go to www.alernst.com or www.pimpmycomedian.org
Thanks Al……….for all you do.

Now, before I go to bed, here are two videos from last night’s talent show. These two gentlemen are wonderful examples of why we should have talent shows.

And finally, a message to all those who are about to cruise on the Carnival Ecstasy or Carnival Conquest. I can promise you all one thing with absolute certainty. Once you walk up that gangway of the ship you chose for your vacation, regardless of what problems or concerns are waiting for you when you get home……. for those four, five or seven days …………you will have the time of your life and that the experience will rejuvenate you for the challenges ahead.

Bon Voyage.
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.