Good Morning from Livorno and, after an unexpected day at sea yesterday, the guests seemed very happy to touch land and off they went touring beautiful Tuscany, gorgeous Florence and historic Pisa and its tower.

As I said yesterday, even though we missed a port most guests were understanding with the exception of Mr. ABCNBCCBSFOX and Mr. Bucket. However, there were a few who I think took their frustrations out on other areas.

Have a read of this………..breaking news.

Sent: Friday, October 04, 2008 5:59 PM
Subject: Comment for John- 1428

Good evening,

Please be advised of the following comments as an FYI.

Comment for John

Mrs. ________ dropped off a Carnival Cares card for you John which says We bought ‘Ray-Ban’ sunglasses for 30 euros from a street trader while on the Pisa tour, only to find out from other people on the tour that they were fake. You should have warned us about this.

Brilliant. Well, before I comment on this I should point out that it is illegal for the street sellers in Italy to sell anything counterfeit and, “officially,” it is illegal for anyone to buy it. Honestly, though, the only place I have seen this law upheld these last few years is in Venice. We have had a few guests who have been fined for buying a fake purse or belt ………and I do, in fact, warn guests about this.

However, Mrs. Rayban is obviously someone who did not hear me or has never bought a pair of good sunglasses before. I just got off the phone with her and I knew immediately that she just wanted me to be her “pin cushion” as the glass had fallen out of her pair of specs on the way back from Pisa……….and she was annoyed at herself, I think……………. so I let her tell me what an idiot I was for not letting her know that the six-foot gentlemen selling sunglasses from a garbage bag whilst always looking over their shoulder in case Officer Gucci was on patrol…………maybe actually not selling the real thing.

I apologized and thanked her for the advice and assured her I would use her experience to prevent it happening to others. This seemed to make her a bit happier and Mrs. Rayban and I departed in an amicable fashion.

Fake goods are everywhere in Europe these days but not just the usual suspects. My friend Adolfo who is from Naples told me popular brands being copied include Dove soap and the most popular scam at the moment are fake packs of Duracell batteries and Gillette razors.

This last call in Naples I learned of a crew member who purchased a laptop computer from a street seller. It probably was the real thing but we will never know ………because when the crew member got it back to the ship and unpacked the box……….it was full of sand………..they had switched it on him while he was paying. I doubt that the street seller is going to be there again — and certainly the crew member will be on the hunt for him — but I have a feeling he won’t be found. We now have warning signs in the crew areas.

So, this cruise has been mostly good and, of course, tomorrow will be my last one before the new journey begins. There will be lots of time to get sentimental so instead let’s welcome the first of the Carnival Splendor’s new cruise directors. Now, obviously we have to have someone who can not only do the job but who is available — and available now. This is because that cruise director needed to arrive today in Livorno so that they can watch the entire cruise which is nearly a carbon copy of the one they will be hosting on the 17th.

Let me explain. The cruise director for the trans-Atlantic crossing will be Goose (Gustav Neumann) who will arrive on the 17th. Why not have him come here now I here you cry?……Ahh….good question. Well, Goose is currently on the familiarization trip in South America preparing for the Carnival Splendor’s voyage to Brazil, Argentina and beyond. So it was important that he be there. So, myself and the chaps from entertainment, Chris Prideaux and Roger Blum, had to find someone who could arrive here today …………… someone who if they did come would not leave another ship short a cruise director ……… and, of course, someone who we all felt was capable of being here for what is quite honestly………a bit of a challenge.

And so it was decided that Jen Baxter…the young lady so loudly applauded for her efforts on the Carnival Conquest during Hurricane Ike. She arrived today after a long flight and she looks absolutely thrilled to be here. I will be chatting with her later and throughout this final cruise I will spend some time posting her thoughts. So, let me give you the timeline.


So, there you have it and I don’t mind telling you I feel quite guilty for leaving the ship. Not only will I miss so many people who have been looking forward to sailing with me but I am leaving both Jen and Goose with challenging cruises to face. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they are both more than capable of grasping the challenges ahead and making everyone’s cruise vacation the best ever………….it’s just………well………..I just feel guilty.

So, while I sit here and feel guilty why don’t you have a look at some more photos? Again, I am a little behind so let’s start with these of Verona which is a beautiful town we visit during our stay in Venice.

Castle on the way to Verona

The Gate into Verona

The Famous Balcony where Romeo called up to Juliet

Home of the Capulo’s (where the name “Capulet” in Shakespeare’s story comes from)

Juliet’s Statue

Lamberti – The highest tower in Verona. Used as a guard tower.

The Arena Theater in downtown Verona – 3rd largest theater in Rome with 30,000 seats.

Here is a letter from a guest who did something very different in Venice

What a wonderful letter.

OK, let’s check in with Chris “Bubba” Roberts. You know, Chris volunteers to do this and it’s something he seems to enjoy, so if you get chance drop him a comment and let him know how much we appreciate his blogs. Here is the latest then from the Carnival Spirit

The Hawaii Reposition – SD5 & Nawiliwili

Well the final sea day has been the best so far. The wind finally died down, the ship stopped rocking and we had a perfect sea day. People were out on the deck sunning themselves. We had lots of fun activities like Alligator Wrestling, the hairy chest contest, the on the deck for the cure walk and much more.

My day started with 2 hours worth of meetings. 2 different meetings, both and hour in length, back to back. First we had our monthly safety committee meeting where I serve as a subcommittee chairman for the Guest Safety Focus Initiative. In this meeting we discuss the accidents of the previous month, what caused them, and what can we do to improve and prevent accidents from happening in the future. We look at both guests & crew with this.

Then the second meeting was our weekly senior management meeting. The only difference between one meeting and the other was 2 different staff. Two people got up at the end of the Safety meeting, and then two more people joined us for the senior management meeting. In the senior manage meeting, we also discuss the previous weeks accidents, what caused them, and what can we do in the future to prevent accidents from happening in the future. We also talk about maintainence, intinerary, environmental matters and more.

Finally once I got out of there, it was almost lunch time. Then I could get back to checking on the day. I hosted a cribbage session in the afternoon, as well as the past guest party. My theory on less people would come if the party was done earlier in the day was proved to be very incorrect as I think all 1100 people who were past guests turned up to the party.

The evening was our 2nd revue show & then we had our deck party to make up from the previous night because of the bad weather. All went extremely well and as I said before, it was the best day of the entire crossing.

This morning we arrive in Nawiliwili ahead of schedule. The ship was cleared by the local authorities by 7:40am and people were heading ashore. The weather looked wet this morning, but as I sit here and type, it’s getting better. I have done all of my paperwork for this morning, called home, called friends, written part of this blog and am now ready to GET OFF THE SHIP!!!! It’s been over 7 days since I last got off. I don’t care what I do, so long as it involves being away for a while.

The plan so far today is waiting for Julie(my fiancé) to get done with work around 10am. We are then going to meet our Housekeeping Manager Marcela and her mother and aunt who are sailing. All of these ladies, including Julie, are from the Czech Republic. We are going to see if we can get on some kind of flight, helicopter or fixed wing, over Waimea Canyon, which is like the mini green Grand Canyon of the pacific. Hopefully there will be some availability………………………..

……………..Well I am back after a fantastic day in Kauai!!! Met up with the Housekeeping manager Marcela & her family and we went out on a short walk to where the Helicopter Tour people have their office. Turns out since we had enough to fill the helicopter so they were able to book us in for a 2:30pm flight. The company is called Blue Hawaii Helicopters and they are the same tour company which does flights for our shore excursion program. It was about 11am when we were all booked in so we had a couple of hours before we had to be back for our safety briefing. Marcela and her family went to do a little shopping and Julie and I headed over to the beach for a walk and to take some pictures. While we were walking Julie found a nice flower that she wanted to put in her hair. She asked me which side it’s supposed to go on since I mention that kind of thing in the travel talk. I tell her the left….the left means you are taken….wear it on the right means you are as free as a bird. If you wear it in the middle, means you are thinking about it. ☺

The Spirit docked in Nawiliwili harbor.

Feeling the heat! First time in the sun in a while!

Post card perfect day!

So after a nice walk on the beach and some lunch we headed back to the Helicopter office. We were given a short safety briefing and then taken over to the heliport.

The helicopters were big and spacious. Room for 6 plus the pilot. But more room than other helicopters that I have been in the past. After boarding we met our pilot named Mike who is originally from Wisconsin, but has lived in Kauai for the last 18 years. We lifted off and spent about an hour of flight time seeing some amazing sights. Famous landmarks, movie sight locations, extinct volcanos & incredible coast lines were just some of the things that we saw. Our pilot also told us stories of famous movie stars who he has flown in the past to remote locations that can only be reached by helicopter. People like Harrison Ford, Jack Black & Ben Stiller were just some of the people he had flown. We saw the famous waterfall from the movie Jurasic Park & more. The pictures are fabulous.

It was such a great day I didn’t want it to end. By the time we got back to the Helicopter Office it was after 3:30pm. Did a little browsing in some of the shops and had to head back as Julie and I had to get ready for work. We got back on around 4:30pm and sailing was at 6pm. Took a 30 minute power nap had a shower and got ready for the show. We have 2 shows tonight….the very funny Merl Hobbs. We do the shows early on here when we can because most of the guest like to retire early on these longer cruises. So I’ll be done for the night around 10pm and then a quick walkaround and get ready for tomorrow. Tomorrow we will be in Kahului on the island of Maui. We stay overnight in Maui so all of the crew are looking forward to it. During our stay I will be visiting Haleakala Crater which is one of the highest points in the islands. Nasa sent the lunar landing crews there to practice before they went to moon because of the surface being so similar to the Moon.

Mahalo for reading….back with more later.

P.S. For Jamie’s mom & dad……Squishy!

Great photos mate, loved the “Let the Fun Begin” towel on the beach and the photo of the Carnival Spirit. Thanks again mate, I am sure guests who have taken and will take a cruise to Hawaii find this absolutely brilliant.

So, as I mentioned Heidi has a bun in the oven and we are both staggered at the 100-plus comments from you all expressing your happiness and joy at the news. …….I have said this before ………this blog has become so many things and one of the most important is the sense of family that has emerged. We are truly grateful for all your beautiful words and please……….please ………..send diapers………..for Heidi as I have no intention of going down that end.

Unfortunately, this means that Heidi will not be joining us on the Bloggers Cruise. I just can’t have her flying nine hours in her condition. I am sure through the use of web cam thingies we can stay in touch and we can all say hello……….to them both.

I wish I could give you more details on the initiatives that I will be involved in but for now they are top secret. I can tell you that it is a huge undertaking for Carnival and, of course, it is a huge honor for me to be involved in this. I can tell you that I will be sailing on the Carnival Fantasy and the Carnival Destiny to write about the addition of Evolutions of Fun on the Fantasy and the upgrades to the Carnival Destiny. Maybe…….some of you will be with me. I hope so.

Meanwhile ….talking about the Carnival Fantasy. A long time ago, I joined the Carnivale as cruise director. I was met there by the most fearsome sight in the industry………….Chief Purser………….Mark Hoffman.

Mark is from New York and does not suffer fools gladly…………and considering I was going to be the cruise director on his ship…………considering I was the first cruise director with no act…….considering I was replacing Cruise Director Kenny Day………who was a legend……..considering I had the entertainment skills of lump of coal…………I was a fool.

But, Mark was fair and honest and helped through those first few weeks and, thanks to him, I survived. I wish you could meet him. He is a character and this business needs more characters like him. In those days it was not unusual to see him behind his office desk at 6 am in his bathrobe and often when I was called to his cabin to check the Capers for the following day……….he would be …………….as I am right now………….sitting there just in his underpants. Mark was the first chief purser now hotel director I worked with as CD and he will be with us for the bloggers cruise and my cruise in November.

Onboard right now is my great friend and Senior Hotel Director Mr. Dennis Dearborn. Many of you will have sailed with the mustached God of Hotel Directors. Nobody ………and I mean nobody… has a better eye for the hotel services side of the business than Dennis. I miss working with him as most of his time is spent in dry dock……….I mean on ships that are in dry dock………..not that he is dry dock……….making sure the work is carried out as it should be. I asked Dennis some questions about the work that is being carried out. Here are his answers.

1. Can you tell us about your career and life at sea?

I really don’t want my personal life all over the Internet read my millions, due to your extreme popularity to blog readers. Who knows what could come back to haunt me from my nefarious past? Basically I am now just trying to oversee hotel refurbishment works and logistics to try to get all the projects finished on time and to our satisfaction.

2. Can you tell us what’s happening onboard the Carnival Fantasy right now?

We are now four days out from having to take on guests. Works are still in progress and we now have to start thinking about cleaning up the ship in preparation for leaving the dry dock and sailing for New Orleans.

Extensive work is going on all over the ship in relation to our “Evolutions of Fun” project. These are all refurbishments to make our Fantasy class ships more attractive and compelling to our guests. They are as follows:

All guest cabin hallways: new carpet, wall paneling, and lighting.
Verandah deck demi-suite-new design and refurbishment of all furniture and fixtures, (except for bathrooms, which were already done.)

Upper deck suites: same as above, including bathrooms and new Jacuzzi bathtubs.
Both guest dining rooms: complete refurbishment, table lay-out design, new flooring, material, chairs, lighting, curtains, etc.

Redesign of the gift shops with improved displays, lighting, lay-out, etc, giving the shops a more “upscale” overall look.

Installation of new “Circle C” club for our cruisers in the 12-14 yr age bracket. This will give them their own exclusive “space” for playing video games, big screen TV’s, lighting and sound systems, seating, etc.

Serenity area: promenade aft outside deck has been redesigned with two new Jacuzzi’s, new seating with large cushions, umbrellas, both covered and open areas, all exclusive for “adults only.”

Lido deck aft restaurant: this has been completely redesigned with a whole new theme using new colors, wall treatments, seating with polished granite table tops, both inside and outside, new flooring, lighting, and window treatments. The use of teak louvers over the windows should give a cool, slanted light effect impression when entering from the warmer open deck spaces.

Lido deck main pool area: this is one of the more aggressive projects to convert the original main pool/slide area into a space that resembles a more upscale Caribbean beach resort pool area. This is being done by removing the original pool slide and changing the décor using richly colored teak woods, faux thatch ceiling trims, faux palm trees, new lighting and sound systems, new LCD TV’s around both of the bar areas, new spiral staircase towers to get to verandah deck above, new tile work around all pools, Jacuzzi’s, bars and service lines. The effect almost makes you feel as though you are sitting on a beach in the Caribbean while you are sailing at sea. All deck chairs are being replaced with a new, more upscale lounge style.

Lido outside food service line: this was included in the new design décor and new rotisserie chicken and Mongolian grill outlets were added to provide our guests with yet more varied selections from our lido restaurant food service options.

Verandah deck aft WaterWorks Water Park: this is probably the biggest undertaking of the dry dock period in the guest areas. The water park includes a much larger and exciting pool slide which starts high above deck 12 and twists and turns to end up in the catch basins of the park floor. In addition, there are two side by side speed slides that run from deck 12 down to deck 11 of the water park. And then there are a variety of “water toys,” which provide a diversity of water sprays, fountains, waterfall effects, etc. this outlet is extremely popular with our younger cruisers, who find a multitude of ways to enjoy the water features and entertain themselves. Of course, many times you will see the adults jumping in and joining in the fun. This is a great family entertainment feature.

Public area bathrooms: these are all being completely rebuilt with a sleek European look, using new floor and wall tiles, new granite counter tops, fixtures, dark and light wood stall paneling, ceilings, etc.

Disco: this too is also being completely re-designed with new furniture, fixtures, lighting, seating, window and wall treatments, counter tops, polished granite flooring, carpet, and sound systems. My first impression is that it is starting to resemble a trendier northwest martini bar.

Camp Carnival: this is getting a facelift with some new flooring, new color scheme, bathrooms, and additional audio video equipment.

There is also the more technical projects going on such as the bottom painting, the name change (where the word Carnival is being added before Fantasy), AC refurbishment upgrades, painting, new carpets, IT improvements, new cell phone installation, lighting upgrades, replacement of piping, new main stage flooring, upholstery, and the list never seems to end.

(We completely redesigned and upgraded the penthouse suites. They will look great, much better than the original. I assume you will request one of them to entertain loyal blogger participants?)
There are 901 crew onboard and 494 techs/contractors onboard.

The main challenge in living conditions is the lack of AC. When the systems have to be shut down, it can get pretty warm onboard. Luckily, they plan the work such that the AC is turned back on at night for sleeping, but sometimes it is just not possible to do so. The water can be turned off for certain periods of the day so pipes can be replaced. (Such times as 8am-11am/1pm-4pm/10:30pm-6:30am are an example.) We have also had to change dining rooms and galleys during the period so work can be alternated between various areas. Luckily for us, the weather has been warm and sunny during our entire dry dock period.

The day usually starts around 7am and at the morning meeting at 8:30 am. The meeting is very important, as all aspects of the dry dock projects are discussed and problems brought up, with both the shipyard personnel and the project contractors. I spend the day monitoring the various hotel projects as they progress. If I see discrepancies in the work or the design, then I try to bring it up with the contractor or our project/ship manager. I also try to liaison with the housekeeping dept and staff captain to keep the trash being generated moving off the ship and the new items coming on as quickly as possible. The clean-up at the end of the dry dock is a big challenge. We usually have to be at least 12 miles out at sea before we can really start using water to hose down the open decks and sometimes you have to look for missing material, containers, or purchase missing items that may be crucial to finish a job. The variety of problems and challenges of a dry dock is what interests me as well as the actual projects themselves.

I really like the lido main pool area upgrade and the water park. These are the biggest challenges and most intricate.

Can you tell us your favorites from this list please and fill in the blanks.
My favorite Caribbean port is St. Maarten.
My favorite non-Caribbean port is Vancouver, B.C.
My favorite ship is the Carnival Spirit.
My favorite lounge area is the Spirit class supper club bar.
My favorite cruise director (apart from you) was Bill Panoff (or Gary Hunter)
My proudest moment: buying my first house.
Roughest seas: m/s Tropicale off west coast of Mexico in hurricane.
If you were stranded on a desert island what articles would you want with you:
Book- “The Grandmaster”
Movie- any “Star Wars”
Someone to serve you drinks and food and be your servant – Mark Hoffman
A beautiful lady – Natalie Portman would do.

Thanks, Dennis, and in a few days we will be seeing some photos of all the work that has been completed.

So, there you are. I just mentioned Carnival’s two most senior Hotel Directors with 60 years service between them………..and as many broken hearts behind them.

I just can’t read women. Heidi is nine weeks pregnant and someone said to me “Did you get her a congratulations present?”………..bugger, I had no idea I was supposed to.

So I asked her.

“I don’t want a present. You got me lots of nice stuff at Christmas and we are going home soon and we need a new sofa.”

That’s what she said. So, I don’t get her a present.

Not bad, I thought……… that saved me some money.

Today one of the staff members bought her some special cream stuff for rubbing in to avoid something called stretchy marks………she was delighted.

But I could also tell something was wrong.

What’s wrong I asked

“I wish you had gotten me something that I could keep for ever to remember this moment. It’s just me being greedy,” she said with sad eyes. “When I get over it, I’ll realize that just having you here is all I need.”

This was an Oscar-winning performance and an Oscar-winning speech which made Halle Berry’s look happy….. and made me feel like a total bastard.

I just can’t play games of this sort. If someone asks me to come round for dinner at eight, I’m there… at eight. Apparently I should be there at 8:30 pm. Well, bloody tell me to be there at 8.30 then. The same people will also tell you “not to bring anything…” So you don’t. Then they stare at you all evening for being a cheap git for not bringing a bottle of wine……… or a plant.

When I met Heidi there was none of this not-phoning-for-three-days-to-show-that-you-weren’t-too-desperate type stuff. We just met, got on and got on with it. That’s how I like life to be – really uncomplicated. Sadly, Heidi has become a lot more cryptic in her declining years. Now, “no” means “yes,” although “bugger off and leave me alone” ……………..still means exactly that.

I do try and do the right thing. Heidi bought me the entire seven-season series of West Wing and six series of the Sopranos for Christmas (because that’s what I asked for) and I’ve watched them all – sometimes for eight, nine hours a day just to prove to her how much I love it and her for buying it for me.

But bugger me, she got really angry that I was spending so much time watching these TV masterpieces proving my love for her, and yet I remember how furious she was when I didn’t wear the lovely red and blue sweater with white snowmen frolicking on the front.

I’m just trying not to repeat my mistakes. Sadly the snowman jumper was lost during the packing process from leaving the house to coming to the ship…….I am saddened by its loss.

I suppose that what I’m saying is that I try my best to be a good husband, but seem to be repeatedly failing. It’s one of the reasons that I will travel around the Caribbean and the States this next month on my own. I’m keen to study other cultures and pick up as many tips as possible from them as to how to become a better husband.

For example. While I am in the United States I will go to see the Miami Heat play and then eat a huge steak with extra fries. This will give me time to reflect on how lucky I am and just what a wonderful wife I have.

Cigars are a new point of dissent in my marriage. Heidi gave me a wonderful new humidor, cutter and lighter for my birthday this year (because I asked for them), but ever since she did she does nothing but moan about the fact that I have them in the house. I don’t smoke cigars in the house and now with the thingy on the way I won’t be smoking my monthly cigar within the same hemisphere as my wife……….no……she moans that I have the humidor in the cabin and then in the house.

What did she expect me to do with them? I actually intended to give up completely but now I keep them in the cabin and in the house just to show her how much I appreciated her present and how much I love her.

Women just don’t get this stuff.

The worst of the celebrations though has to be Valentines Day ………….it’s a minefield.

In the old days it was a time when Alan and I could legally stalk single women for a day, sending the objects of our affections, slightly creepy, unsigned cards.

Now you have to ask the person you’re married to “to be my Valentine”…And me sending Gabby the Italian limo driver a little hand-drawn card is, apparently, a total no-no.

And, of course, now she is with child and that has brought on a whole other level of non understanding. Why for example was I banished from the cabin yesterday for eating my lunch………….a simple cheese and onion sandwich? Well, apparently the smell of onions was making the trouble and strife (that’s cockney rhyming slang for wife) and the thingy feel nauseous and I was told to leave the cabin immediately and me and my sandwich buggered off to the office.

Yet, a few days ago I found Heidi eating a pastrami sandwich smothered……….I mean smothered in ketchup …………Heidi hates ketchup…………apparently the thingy loves it and why for the 12 years we have been manacled together have I never heard the smallest little burp or belch from Heidi but since she became pregnant I suddenly find myself living with the belch monster.

This is, I am told, normal behavior for someone who is in the family way. However, help is on hand because a few days ago Heidi presented me with something that she said would help me understand and that had been written especially for me. It’s called ……………Pregnancy for Dummies.

There are 200-plus pages in this book and I have been told I have to read each and every page………………when Heidi gave it to me she said………”Here you go……it’s time for someone else to be a child.”

So, tonight, I will start at page one and in a flash my life will change. Of course, being a man I went straight to the bit about having rumpy pumpy ………..but after thinking about it I have decided that I will close off that particular avenue of pleasure…………just in case the thingy………….. Already has teeth.

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.