He Is Cunard.

September 22, 2008 -

John Heald

Guest: Ms ________Ref: 0029004616A
Cabin: ________ Booking#: _________ Added-Changed: 09/22/08 – 09/22/08


Ms. _____ came to the purser’s desk today. Ms. _______ requested to speak to the cruise director or shore excursion manager. Purser asked what her concern was and guest said that they had been on the Pisa by Trolley Tour and the bus driver had driven so fast that she had been scared the whole time. Guest said the tour was excellent but the driver of Brown 2 bus should not be allowed to drive so fast. Purser apologized and said her comments would be passed to cruise director and shore ex manager. Tasked to shore ex.

Before I start………..and no, I am not making this up. We give the guests a colored number and sticker which refers to the bus they are on….have a look at the colour and number again of hers……..quite appropriate.

In Italy you sometimes get the impression they’d rather lose the Pope than lose the right to drive like complete and utter maniacs. The question, though, is why?

I mean, we are talking about a country that thinks an emergency plumber is someone who can fix your now flooded kitchen within the next two months. That’s one month to process the order and one month arguing with the suppliers. However, the actual drive from his workshop to your house 25 miles away is done in five minutes……….why, then, are Italians like this on the road?

My friend Claudio told me that the problem in Italy is that as soon as the road users get used to one set of rules applied by a prime minister he will get fired for sleeping with a porno star or because he had been a little too close to men with no necks and a sack full of horse heads…….. And another prime minister comes along and changes all the rules. Remember that Italy has had 348 different governments this year.

Then, of course, when the rules are set out they are done so with the unwritten law that they are indeed just mere suggestions and are never enforced. One such law is the seatbelt law………next time you are in Rome or Naples has a look………..no bugger wears a seat belt. I can imagine the Italian’s saying, “If I wear a seat belt it shows others that I am not a good driver, therefore I must not wear one because I am a driving god…….and that’s the women.”

So here we have a country where people don’t obey rules that aren’t enforced anyway, a country that loves cars and self-image. All Italians dream of owning a Ferrari…….and until they get one, they will pretend their Fiat Panda or their 50-seater Tourist Coach is a purring V12 Ferrari Enzo.

It’s all a question of style and no matter what Paris, London, or New York says……….we all know it’s Milan that wins the gold medal. On a hot day, British ladies are quite happy to wander the streets wearing a tank top with their big bra straps showing. In Paris, the women have long dark hair……….hanging from their armpits ………..sometimes braided.

However, in Italy the whole country is one big catwalk. Even the police have their uniforms styled by Georgio Pradaversachemani. I will never forget a police officer I saw standing on a podium thingy in the middle of a busy street in Naples. He was like a trained dancer, every move, ever gesture choreographed as he pranced about in a crisp white shirt and blue pants and, of course, the standard mirrored Ray Ban glasses.

It meant nothing to him that every single car was ignoring everything he was doing. Looking good in Italy is more important than looking where you are going. And, of course, Italy is a laugh-out-loud country. The men are the most egotistical people on the planet and there is no translation for “political correctness” in Italian.

To be born an Italian man is like winning the lottery of life……… I can only imagine what it must be like for women with principles and moustaches to live there.

Good evening and as you can tell we are in Livorno, Italy today, the gateway to Florence, Pisa, Cinquaterra, and Tuscany. And that is where the majority of people went on this last day of the cruise, although surprisingly quite a few actually never go ashore at all. ……… not just here but in all the ports. That always makes me wonder. Is it because they just love how quiet the ship is when everyone is ashore?……….Is it because they have been to all the places and just love the Carnival experience or is it that taking excursions or exploring on their own is not in their budget?…………I wonder.

Well, while most were ashore I attended another plaque ceremony as the great and good of Livorno came to pay their respects. This included a man who had an Italian sash draped over his body like he had just won the national fishing tournament and a harbor pilot who had was very brave and had been awarded a medal every time he docked a vessel. Still, as Captain Pagano is from this area there was an extra sense of pride in his voice …………..by the way, I will be posting his interview very soon.

After this I attended a lunch for various dignitaries and it was a lot of fun. This lunch had once again given our chefs a chance to create something that was different and off the cuff………….and it was fabulous. It included some homemade burgers, a beautiful Dover sole dish and some apple caviar…………brilliant. It’s a shame we don’t utilize their skills more and I think we are crazy not to at least once a cruise allow them to design a special menu for our supper clubs……….honestly, they are absolutely talented and we should be allowing them to share their skills more.

As I mentioned there was homemade burgers on the menu. I had asked for these to be added as I really fancied this and so it seemed did one of the dignitaries ……..I felt stupidly British, though, as I used my knife and fork instead of the hands on method used by others. It was a super lunch and just what I needed after a tough week……….thanks to those who joined me.

OK, time for some photos. Tomorrow I will be posting some beautiful photos of Tuscany and Cinquaterra…………today, though, I want to add some more of the ship in Cannes from yesterday. Here we go.

Hope you are still enjoying all the photos.

OK, time for some a special video. I will tell you about the man who took it in a moment.

First, let’s set the scene.

A reception for 150 travel agents, dignitaries and community officials was held aboard the Carnival Fascination in Jacksonville, Fla., commemorating the ship’s new four- and five-day program from JAXPORT which began Sept. 20. The 2,052 passenger Carnival Fascination is the largest cruise ship ever homeported in Jacksonville on a year-round basis.

At the reception, Carnival Fascination Captain Placido Tumminello (left) received a plaque from Dr. William Mason, JAXPORT’s incoming chairman of the board in recognition of the ship’s new Jacksonville-based schedule.

On its new program, Carnival Fascination departs Thursdays on four-day cruises to Freeport and Nassau, Saturdays on five-day sailings to the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay and Nassau, and Mondays on five-day voyages to Key West and Nassau.

Carnival Fascination will sail on 78 voyages annually from Jacksonville, carrying an estimated 170,000 passengers annually.

And now we can see video of the Carnival Fascination looking spectacular as she sails into Jacksonville, Florida, for the first time.

This great footage was taken by a man who has hung outside more helicopters than a Delta Force commando……………professional photographer Mr. Andy Newman of Carnival’s outside PR agency, NewmanPR in Miami. Many of the great photos you’ve seen of Carnival Corporation ships have been taken by the man with bionic eye. I want to thank him most sincerely for sending me this great footage. Maybe I can encourage him to send me some more of his great work from the past years?

OK, as promised, let’s meet someone very special. Last year I spent a night on the Queen Victoria and it was there that I met a living legend. …………..Alistair Greener, entertainment director extraordinaire. He was obviously very busy that night as host to lords, ladies and gentlemen but we did get to spend some brief time together. I was very impressed with his dedication to everything Cunard and everything Cunard stands for can be seen in him.

Well, it seems that the blog phenomonan…….phenomaminoun……….pher……….thingy has arrived at Cunard as Alistair has started a brilliant blog. ………rather than me tell you about him and his blog, lets have a look through the keyhole and find out what it is like to be the Entertainment Director of the incomparable Queen Victoria.

1. Can you please tell us about your career so far?

Probably the best way to describe my career would be to attach my official Cunard bio:

Alastair was born and raised on his parents’ farm in Cornwall, in the South West of England. He first got the travel bug when he traveled throughout Europe as a student before deciding to start a three-year Hotel Management course. Following his graduation, and a few years in the sales and marketing industry, he started to realize his dream to perform when he was chosen to present and host major sales conferences and trainings. This encouraged him to begin acting, initially as a hobby, but after training at workshops and working with a personal tutor, this soon became a new career following his first successful audition.

Within three years he had become a full member of Equity (The British Actors Union), and had played many diverse characters in Theatre from “Buttons” in pantomime to “Don John” in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Other roles, to name a few, included “Clive” in the classic Ben Travers farce Rookery Nook, “Constable Hackett” in the thriller Write me a Murder and “Henry Pargiter” in the original London cast of The Thieftaker. He appeared on UK television in a number of programmes including The Bill and the BBC’s House Of Cards, and was cast in the Warner Brothers classic film Black Beauty. As well as featuring in many commercials for products from paint to cough medicine he has also been a presenter for training films, road shows and conferences.

Yearning to travel again, he saw an advertisement looking for actors and presenters to audition for work on Cruise Ships. An opportunity to travel the world and continue his love for performing seemed too good to be true, but soon he was accepted in the position of Cruise Staff with the British line, Sun Cruises. Within two years he had risen through the ranks to become an Assistant Cruise Director also covering as Cruise Director.

He joined Princess Cruises in November 1997, initially as a member of the Cruise Staff team but was soon promoted to an Assistant Cruise Director. In 1999 he became a Cruise Director on the Sea Princess and went on to serve on eight ships within the Princess fleet. He was proud to be part of the inaugural teams on four ships including the Golden Princess in Italy, the Sapphire Princess in Japan and the Island Princess in 2003, which was built in the same French shipyard as the Queen Mary 2.

In 2005 he was very honoured to be offered the position of Cruise Director with Cunard Line, and was proud to have the opportunity to be a part of the historic Cunard tradition on Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth 2 and now to serve as the Entertainment Director on the Queen Victoria during her maiden season.

In his role as Entertainment Director on board, Alastair heads a department of over a hundred staff comprising entertainers, musicians, lecturers, production team, children’s staff and social staff. He hosts shows, lectures and special events including his own daily TV show where he has interviewed many celebrities from the stage, screen and prominent politicians including Roy Hattersley, Jane Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, the Duchess of York, Carol Thatcher and Lenny Kravitz.

In addition to his career on board, Alastair has been a presenter for training videos for Princess Cruises, P&O and Cunard’s famous White Star Service. He was also pleased to be asked to represent the “Cruise Lines International Association” (C.L.I.A. – the organization representing all the major cruise lines including Cunard), as a spokesperson on different media tours along the east coast of the United States, appearing on network television and radio, promoting the cruise industry. You may recognize Alastair as the host of the Queen Victoria Virtual Tour on the Cunard website, and he is also currently featuring on U.S. television, on the Veria Network, as the presenter for The Genesis Of Healing.

When at home, he now lives in a 250-year-old thatched cottage near Marlborough in England, which is proving to be a long-term renovation project. In his spare time when not renovating his home, Alastair enjoys cycling as well as being a keen skier.

2. Before we talk about what it means to work for the most famous Ocean Liner company in the world, can you tell us about your job as a Cruise Director? I know there is no such thing as a “typical day,” however, maybe you can tell us your responsibilities and how you spend your time on board.

Firstly I should explain that on Cunard we are called entertainment directors. The role is the same as a cruise director, which you will be familiar with on other ships, but the change came about when we realized that as Cunard does voyages (as opposed to cruises) the name cruise director no longer really made much sense. Also on these large ships, long gone are the days where the job would involve other non-entertainment related roles, such as shore excursions. Therefore the title entertainment director made sense and as they say – I do exactly what it says on the can! As an entertainment director the primary roles are being the head of the entertainment department and the main host for the voyage. As a result I try to have as higher profile amoungst our guests as possible, without being intrusive. It’s a matter of time management really, in that while our guests are on board (during the sea days and evenings), I try to be out and about as much as possible, which will mean hosting shows, events and activities or just spending time with guests around the ship. Like most ships I host a morning TV Show every day which is a great way to communicate in a lighthearted yet informative way. During port days and in between activities, I try to find time to catch up on the paper work, and with a department of over 100 and numerous activities and shows to schedule there is a fair bit of that! There are also quite a few meetings to go to, as we interact very closely with other departments, but fortunately though I have five key managers who are a huge asset to the smooth running of the department. They look after areas such as the entertainers and lecturers, the resident cast of singers and dancers, social activities, music, behind the scenes production work and the youth programme.

3. Cunard is very special. Simple question: Why?

There’s no doubt that a true family atmosphere exists on our ships and I think that is probably one of reasons why we have so many loyal Cunarders who keep coming back. They tell me they look forward to seeing familiar faces amoungst the officers and crew as well as fellow guests. There are also the Cunard signatures such as the tradition, heritage and elegance associated with a Cunard voyage. We do have what I like to call comfortable formality, in that we offer a higher level of formality than most other companies, where guests enjoy the opportunity to dress up and soak up an atmosphere of relaxed elegance, where they can dance in real ball rooms or listen to classical music in a variety of lounges. Our White Star Service, (stemming from our merger with White Star Line in 1934), is another part of our product that guests recognize as a level of personal attention they can expect to receive from our crew. Another way to explain what makes Cunard special is the fact the guests have an opportunity to experience something very different and truly unique.

4. The Queen Victoria is a ship I will never forget and I was only on board for 1 night. You must be so proud to be her Cruise Director. What are your favorite areas of the ship and do you have a favorite place just to sit and enjoy those precious moments of pause and reflection?

I don’t need to tell you John, that bringing out a new ship is very special. As crew you feel you are really part of something where the team spirit is incredible especially as the company takes delivery of the ship. However Queen Victoria was more than that and definitely different, which although she was my fifth new ship, she was a new Cunarder and this made me feel especially proud and honoured. It may sound a little dramatic, but I realized I was part of history; a new Cunard liner which was going to join the history books with such names as Queen Mary 2, QE2, Queen Elizabeth, Mauretania and all the way back to the Britannia in 1840. I was fortunate enough to see Queen Victoria 3 months before delivery and helped host a press visit to the ship which helped me appreciate all the thought and attention to detail that had gone in to her design. I love the idea of having precious moments of pause and reflection, though I am not sure I have ever managed to do that in a guest area! Having said that there are some great venues on Queen Victoria including the Golden Lion Pub (a real local) and the Chart Room with Cunard memorabilia, but other than the Royal Court theatre (which I will tell you about later), my favourite has to be the Commodore Club with its commanding panoramic views over the bow which really feels like a club.

5. The Queen’s Room is extraordinary. For those of us who have not had a chance to see this stunning area, can you tell us what happens in this room and describe its magic?

This is a signature venue for Cunard which plays host to a resident orchestra, vocalist and gentlemen dance hosts and it’s fantastic to see how busy it becomes every night with all age groups enjoying an opportunity to hone ballroom dancing skills they acquired at the dance class earlier in the day. What makes this venue special on Queen Victoria (apart from the fact it was inspired by Queen Victoria’s favourite residence on the Isle of Wight called Osborne House), is that it has become the hub of the ship. With a two deck high ceiling, a balcony reflecting the QE2’s Grand Lounge, original etchings by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and rich furnishings it fulfills many roles. Traditional afternoon tea with white gloved waiters and traditional finger sandwiches is a must (whether you are hungry or not!) In addition to the dance classes, classical concerts, believe it or not guests can try another Cunard first – fencing. Although I doubt anyone’s going to become the Zorro of the high seas in the two beginners’ lessons we offer, it’s still a great opportunity for our guests to try something new.

6. Obviously, I have to mention the showroom, the most unique at sea. What is it like to work on the stage looking up at the private boxes? Also, can you tell us about the diverse entertainment to be found during a Cunard voyage?

I love hearing people talking about this venue. Of course being the main focal point of entertainment on board, I feel a real pride that the Royal Court Theatre is our work place. Inspired by a Frank Matcham design (a prominent Victorian architect), guests can easily forget they are on a ship and not in London’s West End. It’s a truly stunning 835-seat theatre, spanning three decks with 16 private Theatre Boxes. Yes I did say private theatre boxes; another Cunard first. And these are exactly how they would look in a West End theatre, complete with privacy curtains. They are available on a first come first served basis on regular nights, but when the Royal Cunard singers and dancers perform production shows, we offer a special programme ($50 per couple). Guests are met by our White Star Bell boys and offered Veuve Cliquot champagne with finger desserts in an exclusive lounge area before being shown to their boxes where a half bottle (per couple) of Veuve Cliquot champagne and more chocolates await. At the end of the show guests are given an exclusive souvenir photo of the show they have just seen so they have a lasting memory of a unique experience. In addition to our shows, we have a great variety of cabaret acts providing comedy, music and magic on a nightly basis. Apparently the word on the guest entertainer circuit is “Have you worked on the Queen Victoria yet? No ……..well you wait till you see their theatre……..it’s incredible”. From the stage it’s wonderful because there are clear sightlines and despite the lights you can still see people feeling rather special in the boxes with extra attention focused on the Royal Box which Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited when they came on board. In addition to the evening entertainment we also use the venue for movies and our Cunard Insights Lecture Programme. In a typical sea day we’ll have three lectures which vary in content from destination information, the arts, history and of course being Cunard we have our fair share of celebrity speakers.

7. You must have met some wonderful characters during your time as cruise director. Can you tell us some of your favorites?

I do like longer voyages which give you the opportunity to get to know guests better than you can on shorter itineraries. This year the world cruise was not only the first for Queen Victoria, but also for me and although I will admit some apprehension on my part (a slight understatement) I really enjoyed it. You can imagine there were some great characters, especially the true Cunarders who had completed many world cruises before who were delighted to show me the ropes! Hearing stories from guests from all over the world was great and then there were the guests who had spent their lives looking forward to retiring and going on a world cruise and here they were fulfilling their dreams. There are also so many members of the crew who are great characters as well, with many having spent a good proportion of their lives on board Cunard ships, having experienced amazing milestones in the company’s history. As I mentioned earlier I have also been privileged to meet some well-known people and it’s difficult to single out anyone in particular, whether they have been on board as a guest or a lecturer. Mind you I have to say for someone growing up in the 60’s and 70’s watching Norman Wisdom films; to meet the man himself was a huge honour. I interviewed him on the QE2 a couple of years ago and what a pleasure it was to meet this great man who had overcome such adversity to become such a national institution. He even showed me how to do the famous walk – there’s a photo of that here. Others include, Richard Dreyfus, the Duchess of York, Bill Conti, Kathy Reichs, Sir Roger Moore, Lenny Kravitz and, of course, I have to mention the incredible Jane Russell who amazed us with stories of her days working with Marilyn Monroe and how Bob Hope had described her as “The two and only, Jane Russell”.

8. I have heard the expression: “We are Cunard “a lot recently and I think it is brilliant. In your own words, what does “We are Cunard “mean?

When we brought out the Queen Victoria last year, the phrase “We Are Cunard” somehow sprung up as a something which encapsulated the feeling amoungst the team, that we were a close-knit family and were part of something very special. Having been at sea for thirteen years I had never known such loyalty and pride, until I came to Cunard three years ago. To be honest I am often humbled by crewmembers who have dedicated so much of their lives to Cunard and all it represents, having been through tougher times as well as milestones in the company’s history but what is fantastic is that it doesn’t take long for new crewmembers to feel like a Cunarder. It may sound a bit of a cliché but we really are a family, one which includes our shore side team, officers and crew as well as our guests. With just three ships you come back from leave knowing almost everyone, and very quickly guests get to know you as well and I think that is probably one of reasons why they keep coming back. After all they are also very much a part of Cunard.

9. Your journeys on board must have taken you to some extraordinary places. Can you choose a Queen Victoria voyage this year or next that you are most looking forward to and tell us why?

I have been very lucky to have traveled all over the world. In fact last time I was on leave my godson asked me how many countries I had visited and like so many of us who have been at sea a while – it took some time. Eventually I think I got up to about 85, but amoungst them I do have my favourites such as Japan, China and Australia. In fact I don’t think you can beat sailing in to Sydney Harbour which for me ranks along with Venice and New York. As I mentioned, I loved the world cruise and am looking forward to our second in 2009, going to lots of new ports over the 107 days including my first opportunity to go to Jordan. I love discovering new places and am delighted that the Queen Mary 2 is going to South Africa in 2010 for the first time so I may have to ask if I can go across to our big sister for that one!

10. Congratulations on starting your weekly blog. I think this is wonderful and I am sure anyone who loves the world we work in will be regular readers. What are your aspirations for your blog?

That’s a very good question because firstly I have to come clean and admit I have not really got into blogging until we started this. It seemed a great idea and I hope that not having many preconceptions will be a good thing, because I would like the blog to shape itself, so our bloggers feel part of the development process. I do hope that for anyone who is part of the Cunard world, it helps guests crew and visitors to the site feel even more a part of this very special family.

11. And finally, and as is tradition, it is time for you to chose your ultimate Cruise Director table.
Please fill in the spaces, choosing your favorite things and favorite people:

Appetizer – Seafood Salad
Main Course – Filet Mignon au Poivre (rare) & steamed vegetables
Dessert – coconut and mango crème brulee

Guest List:

Someone from the cruise industry – Micky Arison
Someone you consider a hero – Bob Hope
Someone to make you laugh – Billy Connolly
Your favorite musician – Phil Collins
Your favorite actress – Cameron Diaz
Someone from history, you wish you had met – William Shakespeare
Your favorite Cruise Director, not working for Cunard, who is English and has a blog – Now let me think ……. the only one I know is….. You, John!

Now, let’s share in some of Alistair’s photos.

Alistair with famous British screen and stage star Norman Wisdom

The Royal Family

Alistair with singing star Tony Christie at a charity auction for Children In Need

Thanks, mate, and what a wonderful interview. So, let’s all check in every Friday morning to www.wearecunard.com to see what has happened onboard and in the life of someone who is……Cunard. Good luck, mate, and see you on Friday along with all of us at the blog.

Well, another cruise is nearly over. We head now to Civitavecchia and our only Grand Med cruise. The guests this week have been great. They started of a bit quietly and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Now though everyone seems to have had a great voyage. Vigo was a surprise star and a port we should go back to if we can. The Russians provided us with much laughter and money and even though they may not follow the rules…………they have a great time Russian style…………and as someone asked me today…………..yep………….they all buy the bathrobes.

We had someone fired by Donald Trump and I nearly fired myself following a few less than favorable comments that suggested I was a racist and needed to go to the gym more. I was bollocked because a lady won bugger all at bingo…..asked to move the island of Gibraltar a little to the left……….barked like a dog at a guest………..and laughed at when I suggested two people may like to not lay down on a sofa, dressed in shorts and T-shirts and no shoes on elegant night inches from the captain. We had two people miss the ship, two guests left the vessel on medical grounds, and one musician who had to leave due to a family emergency……….we wish him well.

I wrote 12 blogs which were read by 50,000-plus people. I said a prayer for those who had suffered in Texas and congratulated those at Carnival who did wonders for our guests.

I was in the doghouse three times with Heidi, got of the ship just once in 22 days and performed five morning shows, three travel talks, one debarkation talk, one marriage show, one welcome aboard show, one talent show, one bedtime story and three variety shows. I met guests who had sailed with me before and one guest who said he will never sail with me again because of my sexist jokes and the skimpy costumes. We had 3,022 guests, 1209 who had sailed before and all in all…………it’s been a great 12 days.

Here is a photo taken by the ship’s Italian agent Senora Anita Acupuncto of our home sailing from Livorno towards more adventures at sea.

I wonder what will happen next.


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.