A Load of French Wind

October 2, 2008 -

John Heald

Sometimes when I write a blog, the cursor thingy will wink away until I have eaten an entire bag of pistachio nuts and a box of sugar-free jelly beans.

Sometimes though the words just vomit out of my head as my fingers dance on the keyboard desperately trying to keep up.

Tonight, as I sit here typing to you at 12:35 am, the floor is full of empty nut shells and an empty box of sugar-free jelly beans lays discarded by the mouse thingy…..and in a few minutes time, the cabin will smell like a French prison…………which, is the nearest me or the guests are going to get to France this cruise. Today has been like one of those French films you sometimes find on cable TV in the middle of the night. It promises much and it delivers plenty a breast or three. But somehow that isn’t really enough.

So, it was just before departure from Barcelona that my phone rang and the number 250 showed it was the captain. This either meant something was wrong…….or……he needed to borrow a movie to watch.

He didn’t need a movie.

This is why.

From: r.obinu
Sent: Thursday, October 02, 2008 4:56 PM
To: Cannes, France; SPLENDOR CRUISE DIRECTOR
Cc: SPLENDOR CAPTAIN
Subject: URGENT URGENT URGENT

Dear Captain, John,
Please give me a call as soon as possible in order to discuss about tomorrow call in Cannes:
Regards
Roberto OBINU

Roberto is our agent in Cannes, and a genuinely nice guy, and when he writes an e-mail like this you know something is up. So, having received this information the captain called me to his office…………so, I put my brown pants on and up I went.

We called Roberto, who told us that because of very high winds and strong swells, the Port of Cannes would be closed tomorrow to all the cruise ships due to call. Remember, Cannes is a tender port and when there is any chance that this operation may be dangerous we will not operate the service.

Roberto had told us that the winds were gusting up to 50 knots and obviously that means Cannes…….was Cannneseld…La Bugger.

Right then, what were our options. This is when sometimes the less-experienced cruisers tend to get a little confused. The occasional guest will expect that when you cancel a port the captain says, “OK, where shall we go instead….mmmm….I know lets go there”…….. and he just turns the ship around ……….and of we go.

It’s a little more complicated than that. The first thing I do is inform the guests…….there is no need to keep them waiting. If you know something and it’s a certainty……tell them. This has always been my philosophy and it’s something that I hope other cruise directors believe in as well. So, that was me, on the bridge telling guests and crew the following.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and my apologies for disturbing you inside the cabins and in all areas of the ship. I am here on the bridge with Captain Cupisti and we have just been informed that due to expected high winds tomorrow, the Port of Cannes will be closed to all cruise vessels.

Tendering guests ashore in these conditions would be extremely dangerous and therefore as your safety is always our number one priority we will not be calling in Cannes tomorrow. Now I am sure all of you will be disappointed and I do not blame you, however, I am sure there is not a single guest that will not understand completely that we cannot control the weather and I am positive that everyone acknowledges that the safety of all our guests must take priority.

Now your excursions will be automatically refunded to your Sail & Sign accounts and at 8 pm I will make another announcement with any news on the plan for tomorrow. Please do not go to the information desk as …well……..they don’t have any…….information that is. All news will come through me and regardless if I have any or not I will keep you updated at 8 pm. Thank you so much for your understanding and I will talk to you again at 8 pm.

I then asked for this announcement to be made in Russian.

Goodski Eveningov Comrades………..Canneski nietski goski.

Then it was back to the captain’s cabin to call Miami operations to discuss our options. There are three main factors we talk about when a port is canceled and you are looking for a new port to call at.

1. CAN WE GET THERE? It’s all very well saying “Let’s go to Naples,” for instance but can we get there. Does the top speed of the vessel allow us to arrive at an optimal time?

2. IS THERE SPACE AT THE PIER? OK, so we can get to Naples but is there a berth for us at the pier.

3. YES THERE IS SPACE – NOW WHAT ABOUT EXCURSIONS AND TRANSPORTATION? OK, there is space at the pier but are we able to book coaches, guides and shuttle buses on such late notice…………especially in Europe.

4. IS IT VIABLE TO SPEND THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN FUEL TO GET TO A LOCATION IF THERE IS NOTHING FOR GUESTS TO DO? This is also important…………guest service and satisfaction is paramount but so are costs especially these days and this particular point would come into play as you will see now.

First, we tried Monaco but not only was the pier occupied the high winds that were closing the port in Cannes were also likely to close the pier there, as well. So, even if there was a pier available it would have been like my cabin is as I write now….too windy.

Next up………..Genoa. This is “just round the corner” from Monaco and the port is protected from the wind and yes………there was a pier available to dock. YIPPEE.

However, as the office investigated further…….problems arose. There was an International Boat show taking place and this meant that the tour operator could only provide excursions for……are you ready?……….300 people. That’s 300 out of 3000.

“OK,” I said……….”Can we supply coaches and buses to take guests into town on their own”……..”Nope……we don’t have any…………it’s too short notice and………the boat show has closed the main road so it will take about an hour to get into the heart of the city.”

Now, Genoa is a nice place………this ship was built just down the road from there but it’s not exactly a “happening” place and, quite honestly, there is more action in Judge Judy’s bedroom then in Genoa and, without transportation to the stunning areas of Portofino and Santa Margarita, the YIPPEE of five minutes ago now turned into a BUGGER.

OK, let’s try this ………and I suggested going straight to Livorno and the captain confirmed we could arrive at 1 pm and stay overnight and then the next day as we were scheduled to do……………..wow, this was looking good. I then spoke to my friends in our shore excursion department and they confirmed we could offer tours to Pisa, Florence and Tuscany giving guests a chance to do more than they could usually during our one day call. This was it then……….all we needed was a pier……………………….so we waited for Miami to confirm………and they did……………………..they confirmed that there wasn’t one.

SACRA BLEU AND LA GRAND BUGGAIR

And that was it………we were out of options. We had spent over an hour and a half trying to find somewhere to go but luck was not on our side and it was time to let the guests no.

And that was me back on the bridge.

Good Evening again everyone. Well, here I am and the only good news I have is that tomorrow, we can all have an extra few hours in bed because we are going to enjoy a relaxing day at sea. The captain and I have been trying to find an alternate port for the last hour or so. We tried Monaco, Genoa, Livorno and Ocho Rios, Jamaica but unfortunately the weather has affected these ports as well and at others there are no docking spaces available. Therefore, the Captain will provide us with a smooth ride down to Livorno where we will arrive on schedule on Saturday. If any of you have any concerns about this and wish to talk to someone, I will make myself available in the Lobby in 30 minutes time. Meanwhile, we will work on a new Carnival Caper which will be placed in your cabin letter box tonight. Thank you again and have a super evening onboard.

Now, just before I continue here is a copy of a letter that went to each guest cabin and was also translated into Russian, Spanish and Japanese.

October 2, 2008

Dear Carnival Guest:

We hope you are enjoying your cruise aboard the Carnival Splendor. We also want to provide you with some information about our itinerary.

Unfortunately, we will be unable to call in Cannes tomorrow. The unfavorable wind and sea conditions will not allow us to safely operate the tender service.

We sincerely apologize for this situation and we know that it will be disappointing for you. Please understand that we made this important decision to ensure your safety which is my number one priority.

We also carefully reviewed all the options to provide you with a replacement port of call including Genoa or adding an additional afternoon call in Livorno tomorrow. However, none of these options were viable. We will now proceed directly to Livorno for our scheduled call on Saturday.

In the meantime, we have a full schedule of exciting activities and entertainment planned for you aboard the Carnival Splendor. In addition, my officers, staff and crew will continue to do everything possible to provide you with a great cruise experience.

Sincerely,

Captain

P.S. A $20 per person credit will be applied to your Sail & Sign account to cover a refund of the government fees and taxes for Cannes. In addition, excursions purchased for Cannes will be automatically refunded to your Sail & Sign account.

OK, let’s come back to the guests’ reaction later and talk about what happens now behind the scenes.

Well, the first thing is that I call all the department heads together for a quick five-minute meeting and indeed, 10 minutes later I had the F&B manager, casino manager, gift shop and spa manager, housekeeping manager and chief purser with me. I then explained what was happening and that I needed their hours and schedules for an extra day at sea e-mailed to me as soon as possible — or now actually.

I should say that most cruise directors already have an emergency day at sea caper ready……………I didn’t. This cruise was our sixth new itinerary since June and I just have not had time to put one together. And so, as the department heads sent in their hours, I sat with the F&B manager to ask if we could do the following.

A WESTERN DECK PARTY WITH APPROPRIATE FOOD – WINGS, GRITS, RIBS, GRITS, FRIES, GRITS,BEANS, GRITS AND HOT DOGS

AN EXTRA TEA TIME TO ACCOMPANY A CLASSICAL CONCERT

A COOKING DEMO

A MARTINI MIXOLOGY CLASS

He said yes to everything. Now, you may think………well, why wouldn’t he? Well, again, it’s not that easy. Most ships bake their own pastries and bread products and this is always done to a schedule the night before. Obviously we had not planned for an extra tea time so he had to make sure the chef could have a team make the pastries for 200-plus people.

The Western buffet……….why wouldn’t he say yes? Well again, we need to make sure the food can be taken out of the storage and freezers. Do we have enough and do we have the team ready to prepare this for 3,000 people………well, we didn’t but somehow he is going to make this work.

Then, I have to plan with my team a whole dollop of extra fun activities and after 15 minutes of brain storming I think we have a great program tomorrow…….what do you think?

The Library – Deck 4 Forward
Opening Hours: 9:00am – Noon,
2:00pm – 5:00pm & 7:00pm – 8:30pm.
Good Morning Trivia
9:30am………………………………..El Morocco Deck 5 Aft
John’s Morning Show
9:30am………………………………..Channel 6 and Seaside Theatre
Carnival’s Bean Bag Toss
10:00am………………………………………….Lobby Deck 3
50’s Sock Hop Trivia
10:00am……………………………..El Morocco Deck 5 Aft
Big Screen Movie Trivia
Do you recognize these movies?
11:00am…………………………Seaside Theatre Deck 9
Behind the Scenes Q and A with John
10:30am………………………………..Spectacular
Saturday Night Fever Dance Class
11:30am………………………….Spectacular Spectacular
What Year? Trivia
1:00pm……………………………………….The Cool Deck 5
The Match Game
1:00pm………………………………………………Lido Deck 9
Fun On Deck and By The Pool
1:30pm………………………….Spectacular Spectacular
Language & Word Trivia
1:30pm……………………………………….The Cool Deck 5
Hip Hop Dance Class
2:00pm……………………………Spectacular Spectacular
Human Body Trivia
2:00pm……………………………………….The Cool Deck 5
Carnival’s Bean Bag Toss
2:00pm……………………………………………Lobby Deck 3
11 Games Of Bingo for 410
2:45pm………………………….Spectacular Spectacular
The Newly Wed and Not So Game with John
3:45pm………………………….Spectacular Spectacular
Sports Trivia
4:00pm & 7:30pm…………….Our House Deck 5 Fwd
MINI GOLF TOURNAMENTS
Meet at the Mini Golf Course on deck 12 Fwd
at 10:00am & 2:00pm.
Guest Speaker Denise Moreland Presents:
A conversation about Hawaii and its Culture.

That’s just some of the activities and we also have a matinee performance from Penny Mathisen. She has already performed her main shows and was due to leave tomorrow in Cannes…………….but she can’t, of course. And she has graciously agreed to perform a Sound Of Music show at 5 pm………..it’s only a 30-minute spot but I know the guests will love it………….more about Penny and entertainment in a moment.

We also have all our bands and musicians working and the orchestra will be performing two Dixieland music sets in the lobby and I will be holding a Country and Western deck party with our party band Elite playing under the dome as the guests gnaw on a chicken wing and grits.

Back to entertainment. And again, I know that most people who cruise are understanding and see the big picture of what missing a port means but, as I said earlier, one or two don’t and there’s a domino effect. Take Penny Mathisen the brilliant vocalist and audience favorite I was talking about just now. She was due to leave tomorrow and fly to Naples to join a Holland America ship………she can’t and right now the cruise director of the ship involved is saying “Dam”……….and not just because the name of the ship he is on ends in those three letters. Will the ship have a show tomorrow night now ………….. maybe not?

And that brings me onto our show tomorrow night. We were due to have a very talented and brilliantly funny juggler Steve Rawlings perform. He can’t. He is …..or was ………… supposed to fly into Cannes tomorrow. So, I have made calls and canceled his journey and now he is going to join us in Livorno and perform then.

So, as it stands we have no main show tomorrow. Therefore I am showing two movies in the main lounge and hoping everyone will join me for a huge party upstairs. The acts fly onto and out of ports of call and when you miss one……….well…………you do your best to provide the guests with a fun evening and I think tomorrow will be one…………….my staff and I will certainly do our best to make it so.

At this point I have been typing for an hour and I wanted to pee three hours ago ………….. so I will be right back.

OK, that’s better.

Where was I?

Oh yes, the Capers and at this point I have to say I have no idea how I would have managed without Heidi. She marshaled the staff and then stayed behind this computer thingy for two hours making a brand new Caper which is, as I write, sitting in the guests’ mail box outside their cabin. Thanks, Heidi.

Well, I went to the lobby as promised and I spoke to about 30 or 40 guests in the space of 30 minutes. Most wanted to say hello……….two or three were worried because they had booked private tours in Cannes and wanted to see if they could cancel them and we provided free phone calls for those who had this concern.

I met poor Gaynor Middleton who was in tears. She had planned to meet her daughter who had married a Frenchmen and who lived no in France. She and her son in law had planned to drive down to visit them while the ship was in Cannes………….and as she cried on my shoulder …………. literally……cried on my shoulder.

I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do or say to make her feel better. We organized the phone call but that was it…………..she wasn’t going to get to see her family ……………..there would be no happy ending to this story and all I can do is call her tomorrow and offer my apologies one more time.

However, the entire time I stood in the lobby only one…………just one………….guest was angry and shouting like a spoiled child…………..and guess who it was? …………… Mr. ABCNBCCBSFOX……………he had heard that I was going to be there in the lobby and he took this chance to tell me that he should receive compensation for missing the port and ………..you know what……………..”Am I bovered”………..the word bovered has been spelt as I say it in my Essex accent…………..”Am I bovered”………………….nope. ………………and so as he told me that Carnival was this and I was that………..I just stood there thinking ………………..”Am I bovered, though”……………..he was the only one………..and has been the only one……….so far out of 3,000 guests who has shouted and screamed about missing the port.

Yes I am sure there are many others who are upset…but he was the only one who wagged their finger in my face and told me and the company I worked for was a big lump of poo……he actually said a “big piece of shit” but I can’t write that…..am I bovered, though?

It’s now 1:05 am. I have been up since we arrived in Barcelona this morning at 7 am. I had so many plans for today’s blog. I had the bloggers cruise to discuss. I had another chapter in Bubba’s Hawaiian adventure to share and a hilarious letter I received from a guest as well as loads of great stories and photos to slap on…………….and I had important news about my schedule for the rest of the year.

But, I can’t. I am tired and its bedtime and I need to rest before tomorrow comes. So, stop by for this and more tomorrow.

I should have known it was going to be a bad day after I awoke this morning and still very much asleep I brushed my teeth and realized that the very sweet sickly taste in my mouth was due to the fact that instead of the Colgate toothpaste I had put my hemorrhoid cream on my toothbrush.

So, I will say goodnight and leave you with the hope that the next time you are on a ship and you miss a port that this blog thingy will have helped you understand what’s happening behind the Crew Only door.

Oh yes …one more thing………….thank you………..each and every one of you who has read the blog thingy over the last 15 months ……..this morning we went over the 3 million reader mark. ………….thank you all

Your friends always

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.