TV Times

September 27, 2008 -

John Heald

So, here we are in Venice, the City of Lights and the city with the worst service in the entire universe.

Yes, the universe, because if there was a restaurant on the planet Zog that served one-eyed walrus type creatures a plate of three-headed slime maggots ………it would still be better than the service and the food in Venice.

Hold on………don’t panic………..I am not suddenly thinking of myself as a food critic. That would be pretty hard to do considering that if the menu does not have the words “and fries” on it………………… I won’t grace the establishment with my presence. And so it was with this in mind that I answered this comment with fear and trepidation.

Guest: _______ Ref: 002804886A
Cabin: _______ Booking#: _______ Added-Changed: 09/26/08 – 09/26/08

WANTS ROMANTIC RESTARAUNT INFORMATION FROM CRUISE DIRECTOR

Mr. _______ came to the pursers desk asking to speak to the cruise director. Purser explained that he was on stage at the show. Guest asked for CD to contact him but not in the cabin as he wants to surprise his girlfriend with a proposal at a restaurant in Venice. Purser said he should return to the desk at 9:30 am tomorrow and that this message would be given to John the cruise director. Guest thanked purser and left the desk.
E mail to CD sent

This morning then I met with a chap called Brett who is here with his girlfriend Simone ……and they have come all the way from New Zealand……..that’s 25 hours of flying time.

Brett has been dating Simone for only seven months but tonight………….he will be popping the question ………and he wanted my recommendation for a restaurant that oozes romance here in Venice……………bugger.

I love Venice, there is no more jaw-dropping sight in the world than sailing into this incomparable city………..except seeing me dressed as a Roman gladiator with the flap on the back of my skirt missing……….that’s pretty incomparable, as well.

Anyway, as I said, Venice is a place you must visit and doing so on a cruise ship is the best way to enter and enjoy that special feeling as you sail past St. George’s Cathedral, the Doges Palace and the domed Church of Health.

However, I have had a dozen or so meals ashore and most of them have been an absolute disaster.

Of course I didn’t want to say this to Brett and shatter his illusions and as I gave him the one restaurant I knew called Il Galliano, which is just off St. Mark’s square and where the food was OK ………just OK. But then, disaster struck ……….Brett said the two words that struck fear and terror into my soul……..he wanted to go to “Harry’s Bar”………oh bugger.

I know lots of people who say that Harry’s Bar is their favorite restaurant in the world. What’s even more astonishing is that a fair proportion of them are Italian.

I must confess that the unique, world-beating charm of Harry’s Bar has always escaped me. The menu, including the fabled risotto and Carpaccio, has been good but, considering it costs the same as a four-day cruise on the Carnival Imagination, it was not even close to being worth the money. The service has always been perfunctory and forgetful; the atmosphere provided by overawed Americans and ghastly, finger-snapping British people in pink shirts and blazers. But when so many people whose taste I trust tell me the opposite, then it’s probably me that’s missing something.

I think the truth is that Harry’s Bar is two restaurants. It’s one for locals, regulars and favored visitors and it’s another for ummmm….well…..me. I’m everyone else. Last time I ate there with Heidi …it was just her and I. The food was carelessly mediocre and the service borderline hostile. ………..and then the bill came……….I didn’t leave the waiter a tip………I left him a spoonful of risotto………75 euros……….for some rice and some sauce……what a load of Il Bollocko.

However, the first time I went with my friends the Bentleys it was incredibly good. The food tasted better……….the service had been upgraded from hostile to flippant. Of course, this was because they were regulars and had eaten there many times before.

I really couldn’t recommend this to a young man from New Zealand who probably would have had to sell all he owns to pay the bill. ……………he wanted to make this a special night ………….. And he was depending on me. Then I had a brain wave and 15 minutes later I had booked him the most romantic restaurant in Venice……….and I was paying for the champagne……………at the Pinnacle Steak House…………right here onboard.

So, he has a table at 7 pm and, after dinner, I have a water taxi booked for them to go to St. Marks Square where he will propose to the lovely Simone on the famous Bridge of Sighs and then go for a gondola ride. …………..I am glad I talked him out of Harry’s Bar……….it’s a wonderful place if you are a “face” and therefore known but if you are a nobody like me…………well……….it just leaves you with a feeling that you just left an Italian version of Fawlty Towers………oh, I hope she says yes …the champagne cost me $40. I will let you know.

The arrival was extra special this morning as the sun was shining and the clear crisp blue sky gave the city an even more special feeling as we arrived. For many of the crew this was there first — and will probably be their only time — that they will experience this and that’s why the crew deck was packed this morning as we arrived.

Today………and rather unexpectedly we are saying goodbye to Captain Giorgio Pagano. He was due to leave at the end of this voyage but will do so tomorrow morning. I thank him for his friendship and congratulate him on his dedication to the job and wish him a wonderful vacation.

Here is a goodbye note to you all from my friend Giorgio.

I am attaching a couple of pictures, one together with my three children Emma, Joshua and Nathan. Carnival Cruise Lines somehow is their godmother… I met their American mother while we both were working on board the “Mardi Gras,” about 27 years ago, I was third officer at that time, and she was a casino croupier… romance at sea!!

In the picture with my children I am holding the image of the “Madonna di Maralunga,” the benevolent guardian of the sailors from Lerici. It was donated to me by Lerici Monsignor upon our call at Lerici last July. The original painting was found about 700 years ago by three fishermen, washed by the sea waves on the rocks below the castle on the sea side. It was kept in our church since that time, object of worship for generations of “Lericini.”

I am looking forward to my vacation and say a big “grazie” to the officers, staff and crew for all their hard work. It has been an honor to be the captain of the Carnival Splendor and I will return later in the year ready to take her to South America. Ciao to all the bloggers

Captain Giorgio Pagano.

And at the same time we welcome the new master of the Carnival Splendor, Claudio Cupisti. Captain Cupisti and I are old friends and I have watched him grow up through the ranks to captain and, in fact, we delivered the Carnival Legend together back in 2002. It will be great to work with him again.

Yesterday, I came clean and told the guests about my ridiculous mistake regarding the weather in Naples. I have had no further comments and apart from the lady with the giant hands…….. Nobody has said anything…………I can’t believe it. I think this is because the guests are really easygoing this voyage but by now you know when I say that there is always going to be an exception………..and you will meet him in a minute

Time to pause and have a look at some photos of Pompeii taken by Jaime and Claire.


Mt. Vesuvius

Now, let’s return to Chris “Bubba” Roberts for the latest installment from his adventures onboard the Carnival Spirit.

The Fall 2008 Reposition SD1

The view of the Vancouver Terminal as we pulled away for the last time.

So the welcome aboard show went okay last night….fair size attendance, but not packed. Being a travel day, a lot of people hit the sack early. Surprisingly I found a lot of first-time cruises in the show last night. My previous experience with these longer cruises is that there are only a few, but they were quite a few last night. After the show went out on the promenade for a stroll to see what was going on…..to say not much would be making it sound pretty good. I did a head count around the ship after the show. There were four people in the Versailles Lounge listening to the band, about six people at karaoke, there was no one in the piano bar, two people in the disco and about 30 people in the casino. So things were extremely quiet last night. Not only was it a long travel day for most, but shortly after we finished with the welcome show, was when we were entering the Pacific Ocean.

There was a front going across the northwest and so there was a very long swell which was causing the ship to pitch and roll a little more than usual. The captain had said that this weather would stay with us for a few days and then smooth out the further we go. I didn’t sleep well last night because of it. Most people say when the ship is moving it rocks them to sleep, but for me it keeps me awake.

So up early the next morning for a conference call with all of the cruise directors. They scheduled the call for noon Miami time, so it was the crack of dawn my time. While listening to the CD’s and the folks from the office discuss the issues of the day, I was preparing for my Hawaii shore excursion talk. I have only done the Hawaii talk a few times in the past and it has been about five months since the last time I did it, so I was a little worried. The ship was still rocking a bit, so that was in the back of my mind as well wondering what kind of attendance there would be.

The talk went okay…lasted about 50 minutes…covering all of the ports of call. It felt like I was reading the whole time. I really prefer being able to do a talk without having to use notes, but had to get it right, so notes it is. The attendance was pretty good but the audience was pretty subdued with the movement of the ship. Afterwards there were very few questions, so I guess I did all right, or they all had to go back to their cabins to lie down.

The day was busy with activities all though attendance was light. Thankfully tonight is not the elegant night, so hopefully tomorrow things will calm down and the promenade will be a bit more lively for the captain’s party. Here’s a list of some of the things we had going on today…..

Hawaii – Island Style Talk with Dirk
9:00am…………………..… . . . . . . . ……………..Pharaoh’s Palace
Adult Arts & Crafts
9:30am-10:30am & 1:00pm-2:00pm.. . . . . . . Fountain Café, Dk. 2
Women’s Golf Putting Tournament
10:00am………..……………… . . . . ….Spirit Atrium Lobby, Dk. 2
General Knowledge Trivia # 1
10:30am……………………….. . . . . . .……..Fountain Café, Dk. 2
Dance Classes w/ your fantastic Instructors!
11:00am – 12:00pm……… . . . . . ..Dancin’ Dance Club, Dk. 2 Aft.
Connect 4 Contest
11:00am ………………….……….. . . . . . . .Fontain Cafe Dk 2 Fwd
Introduction to Scrapbooking! (Fee)
11:30am………………….…… . . . . . . …Fountain Cafe Dk 2 fwd
Buzz Word Followed by Jenga Contest ~ How high can you go?
12:00pm ………………….… . . . .………Fountain Cafe Dk 2 Fwd
Ice Carving Demonstration
1:00pm ……………………………. . . . ………Lido Deck Stage Area
Deck Games – Fun in the Sun!
1:30pm……………………………….. . . . . .Lido Deck Stage Area
Dance Class with your fabulous Dance Instructors
3:00pm………………………………………………………… ….Dancin Dance Club
Austin Powers Dance Class w/ your Spirit Dancer!
2:00pm………………………………..…… . . . . . .Pharaoh’s Palace
Digital Scavenger Hunt (Bring your digital camera along)
2:00pm…………………………..….. . . . . . . . .Fountain Café, Dk. 2
Horse Racing – Bet on you favorite & win!! Cash bets only.
2:30pm…………………………..…… . . . . . . . .…Pharaoh’s Palace
Taboo!
3:00pm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . .Fountain Café, Dk. 2
Showtunes Trivia
3:30pm …………….. . . . . . … … . . .. …Fountain Cafe Dk 2 Fwd
Rubik’s Cube Challenge ~ Can you beat Squishy’s time of 1min 30 seconds??
4:00pm …………….. . . . . . … … . . ….Fountain Cafe Dk 2 Fwd
Geology & Geography of Hawaii Talk w/ Dirk
4:00pm……………….……………… . . . . . . .…..Pharaoh’s Palace
Sports Trivia #1
4:30pm……… . ….……………….. . . . . . ……Fountain Café, Dk. 2
Trivial Pursuit Round 1
Join us daily for a seriously fun trivia. You could be the overall winner and the official Brainiac of the cruise!
5:00pm…………………. . .………..….. . . . . ..Fountain Café, Dk. 2

These are just a few of things going today…lots more going on as well.

I have to get down to rehearsal in a bit as I have my show tonight. I hope that with the rocking I will be able to pull it off. I am sure it will be fine…I can shake my tail feather in any kind of weather. Will check in tomorrow and let you know how sea day 2 is progressing.

Thanks Chris. Sounds like you and the guests are going to have a remarkable voyage and we all look forward to the next episode from the Bubba Blog.

I am arranging a Rosh Hashanah service for our guests of the Jewish faith for Monday. We don’t have a rabbi onboard but hopefully we can assist in every other way in making this a special evening. This is also being carried out around the fleet.

The non-smoking policy we have just adopted in the piano bar has been met with nothing but compliments from guests………..except one who had a little grumble but understood. I have to admit I was concerned about the revenue but so far and even though we have a new entertainer there (a great guy named Greg), it does not seem to have hurt. I will keep you all informed. Housekeeping gave the lounge a special deep cleaning at the end of last cruise and it certainly has made a difference to the aroma of Promenade Deck.

Guest: _________ Ref: 002104790A
Cabin: _______ Booking#: _________ Added-Changed: 09/26/08 – 09/26/08

NO TV STATIONS
Mr. and Mrs. _______ came to the guest saying how upset they were that there were no American TV stations onboard. Guest states that he had asked his travel agent who had promised him that they could see the channels. Mr.____ said he wanted to speak to someone in charge. Purser said his comments would be documented and someone would be in contact with him. Purser also explained that we had European TV because we are in Europe. Guest would not listen and got quite emotional. Purser thanked guest and Mr. and Mrs. ___ left the desk. E-mail sent to hotel director and cruise director for follow up.

On ever cruise ship, every cruise, there is a man like this. Someone who just won’t understand that it does not matter how much you shout and scream and threaten ……. nothing is going to change. The hotel director and I met with this guest……….by accident, actually, at the Past Guest Party.

And as every one of the 1,200 people greeted us with words of praise and exuberance about the ship and the pending arrival into Venice…………he greeted us with a sentence that included the “f-word” and a desire that this ship be a Princess ship…………because they would have USA TV networks.

So angry was this man that Duncan the hotel director and I decided we should take this conversation away from the door to the theatre and stepped into a “crew only” area to continue. I tried to explain that we were in Europe, etc., etc., etc. etc…blah blah blah…………the same conversation I seem to have at least once a voyage and, most of the time at the end of these conversations, there is some notion that there is nothing that can be done……………….not this time.

Mr. ABCNBCCBSFOX said, and I quote, “I will be glued to the TV tonight and if I don’t get to see the American TV stations then there will be trouble.” Yep, those were his exact words to Duncan and I…………..and with that…………he buggered off back to the past guest party for a drink and one of those nice little doughnut thingies.

And so, as I write Mr. ABCNBCCBSFOX is in his cabin glued to the TV. I know this because while he was ashore I coated his remote control and the on button on the TV ………….in superglue………………at least I made one of his wishes come true.

Talking of TV, did anyone see Grey’s thingy last night? My friend Kevin McKidd had a role as an Army surgeon last night. I e-mailed him today and he said the reviews had been good………anyone see my mate……..how was he?

You know, I think I am going to place something in the Capers stating that we will not receive any US TV. Honestly, I get this comment every week as does Todd on the Carnival Freedom. They are not normally as hostile as Mr. ABCNBCCBSFOX, but it may help. I am sure that is not the last we will hear from him by the way…….I will let you know.

Anyway, the next generation of cruise directors won’t have this problem because nobody will be watching TV but everyone will be watching You Tube. I see kids watching these all day long and I think to myself how entertainment has changed.

There’s no plot. No Brady Bunch. No tedious instructions on how to make a space helmet out of a plastic bottle. No commercials. Just loads of people falling off their bicycles and catching fire. And when kids find one they like a lot, they watch it over and over again. For free.

How can television possibly compete with that? When I was 11, I watched Time Tunnel and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea because, on a wet Thursday afternoon in October, there was absolutely bugger all else to do.

But things change I guess. My grandfather was born up a chimney and was only allowed out when it was time for him to be beaten. My father looked forward to the orange and piece of string he was given every year at Christmas. I spent most of my childhood watching television Now, kids have got You Tube, Xbox, MSN, MySpace, text, e-mail, PSP, DVD and Tevo.

Every day I write a blog thingy, as I have done for over a year and a half now. My nephew Luke loves me and I love him but, even though I send him jokes and things I have written from the blog thingy, he only has eyes for one thingy. And that’s to show his friends and himself every day the video I made with the flying hand towels in the men’s bathroom.

So here it is again Luke.

There is no solution to this. Forcing broadcasters to make shows for children is a complete waste of time. Because to make anything they want to see, it would have to be a nonstop medley of skateboarders falling over and people getting eaten by sharks.

To make it these days Kathie Lee Gifford would have to be injured every five seconds and then at the end she’d have to explode. And they couldn’t fake it because that’s not allowed any more. She really would have to say: “That’s it for this week kids, and now I’m going to blow up.”

The best thing I can suggest is not to worry. Reports say the vast majority of programs for children are stupid violent cartoons. And this is true.

My big problem is that broadcasters will react to the report by redoubling their efforts to win back an audience that simply isn’t there any more. This will mean there’ll be even fewer programs for those who really do watch television. People who don’t have a PlayStation or an account with Myspacebookface. People who don’t go out on a Saturday night………. We’re called adults.

The message then is simple. Sod the children. And bring back The A Team.

Off to see the Carnival Dream tomorrow……..are you coming with me?

Goodnight
Your friends
John and Heidi…and written in memory of Cool Hand Luke……..Mr. Paul Newman

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.