Greece Is The Word

October 12, 2008 -

John Heald

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts……or …..Beware of Greeks bearing bugger all information.

From: Stelios _________
Sent: Saturday, October 11, 2008 8:18 PM
Cc: ‘Christos _________
Subject: important news!!

Dear All
This is to advise that the center of Athens is going to be closed tomorrow at various points at various hours due to the bicycle tournament of Athens (for want of a better translation into English!).
Although the traffic police were very helpful, they can not know at this time exactly when each location will be closed to all vehicles, in order to let us know in advance.
We are going to slightly modify itineraries to avoid the center at the moments when it s closed.
Best regards
Stelios ________

Now, note the date and the time this e-mail was sent. October 11 at 8:18pm. That’s last night…………..that’s the night before we arrive and 11 hours after I had held my travel talk and, of course, told the guests “Oh, it’s Sunday, although some of the shops will be closed, many of the tourists stores will be open for business and the center of the city will be ready for you to explore.”

And then, last night……we get this from the agency all the cruise lines use here in Athens.

Why are they telling us now, why didn’t they tell us days ago? I mean, did they just realize that 1,000 bikealists will be pedaling their way through the city and thought “Hey Stelios, do you think that we should tell the Carnival Splendor who have 1,900 people on excursion and another 1,000 coming into Athens that some of it may be closed?”


This is one of those prime examples where passengers don’t see that we are so dependant on the help of the people who actually live in these ports and people we pay …… know…………money…………to do so.

Anyway, we shall see what the feedback is when we the tours come back. I will let you know later in the blog. It wasn’t the only concern though as the ship arrived as scheduled at 6 am as scheduled.

Unfortunately, it’s a Sunday and that meant that the Greek Immigration officials decided not to grace
us with their presence until 7 am. This meant nobody could get off the ship, including a big group of Chinese Canadian guests who had arranged for a private tour at 6:30 am. The scenes in the deck 0 lobby were reminiscent of a game of rugby as scrums of unrelenting guests refused to listen to the staff and once again ………….we had to call security.

I guess I should explain that until immigration give their permission nobody…….not even the staff working ashore…..can leave the ship and, if anyone does ……….Inspector Constipationos will fine the ship. Eventually, at 7:15 am……… hour and fifteen minutes behind schedule the ship received permission to allow guests ashore and the rugby players on Deck 0 buggered off.

So, it’s been a stressful morning and I am sure there will be more of a Greek tragedy later when the guests find out that they cannot get to the Everything’s A Drachma shop because of 1,000 bikealists.

If it seems from what I have written above that I am pissed off at the Greeks and their lackadaisical attitude……………….then good……………because that’s exactly what I am.

However, Athens remains a place that should be on your must see places. We make sure our tours visit the Acropolis early. It opens at 8 am and by noon it’s full and lines start to form outside. At the foot of the Acropolis is the new museum, which has been 30 years in the planning and has cost the Greek government more than £100 million, which will, at last, provide a permanent home for the greatest treasures of the classical period, safe from the city’s corrosive, polluted air.

Built in the shadow of the Acropolis, it will display the sections of the marbles owned by Greece – alongside plaster copies of the “missing” sections that reside in the British museum. We also have excursions that have guided tours that will cover this whole world class attraction. Hundreds of marble sculptures that have survived heat, pollution and looters on the Acropolis in Athens have been swung over the city, using special cranes, to the new museum complex.

Athens: cradle of democracy, birthplace of the modern Olympic Games and one of the most heavily polluted cities in Europe. The government’s solution to the traffic that choked the city centre was to prevent cars with odd and even-numbered plates from driving on alternate days.
Athenians simply bought two cars, one even-numbered and one odd………….brilliant.

Anyway, let’s see what the guests say when they return.

Let’s take a break. Tomorrow, I will post photos of the Acropolis and beyond but for now I need to show you 10 amazing photos of Istanbul. These were taken by our Senior I/S manager Kat ……….and all I can say is “Wow”……and I have a feeling that’s what you will be saying as well.
I have asked Stephanie to have these as large as possible so you can see every detail.
Here we go.

Blue Mosque Court

Blue Mosque

Basilica Cistern

City View Evening

City View

Grand Bazaar Detail

Grand Bazaar

Hagia Sohpia


Splendor and Grand Princess

Splendor in Port

Now a quick update and a few photos from Chris “Bubba “Roberts.

Hey John,

Here some pics of the tour that I couldn’t go include during the last Hawaii cruise, but was able to this cruise. These are from Haleakala Volcano – known as the “house of the sun” – and the single largest land mass on the planet. The peak is over 10,000 feet above sea level, but if you count the mass of the volcano that goes under the water, it’s even taller than Mount Everest. Tomorrow is our last day in the Islands, and then we begin the five-day crossing to California.



Thanks Bubba and enjoy the five-day crossing to California. I am sure your guests will have a wonderful time.

I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for all the comments you keep posting. They are the lifeline to this blog and I remind you that should you wish me to reply to any please ask me to do so when you slap on the comment. I reply to about 50 or so a week and Stephanie will always post the replies, plus send you a personal e-mail, as well from me. I remain at your service.

Oh yes…….sorry about yesterday’s blog. I hope you didn’t mind me opening up a bit. It’s quite surprising how therapeutic writing can be though and I apologize if I went a bit of track yesterday. The stress of so desperately wanting a family has been difficult at times and as I just wrote to my mate PA 007………the blog gives me the chance to actually write what I am feeling…………thanks for listening.

Let’s get right back on track now though.

Guest: Mr. ________ Ref: 002881386A
Cabin: ____ Booking#: ________ Added-Changed: 10/11/08 – 10/11/08


Following comment card was received:
“I am surprised that being an American company that you hire non-American staff. There are too many foreign staff who do not speak American. As an ex Vietnam Veteran I would also like to know if there are any Vietnamese crew on-board?”

Purser meet with Cynthia from MSA in the back office and inquired if we have Vietnamese crew on board. Cynthia informed we have not. Purser sent thank you for comments letter and sent email to cruise director and hotel director

As I think I said yesterday. This has been a difficult cruise and although complaints are minimal, the ones we have been receiving are a little ….ummmmm……different.

I spoke to the guest this morning and, straight away, I knew I needed to be careful. I had gone to the meeting with a battle plan………American isn’t a language…….it’s English …….. all of the Carnival staff speak English. Some, better than others, but is a requirement that they do…….not just a company requirement but a SOLAS (Safety of Life At Sea) requirement, as well.

I was ready to do battle……….but as soon as I met the guest I could see in his eyes that he had probably been threw enough battles in his life already……….and my posture of defense turned into one of surrender and I spent 20 minutes listening, agreeing and feeling somewhat sorry for the guest. …..I am certainly no expert but after our meeting I think that like so many veterans of past and present conflicts…..he is still fighting his demons today.

I don’t think we have ever had a crewmember from Vietnam but there are and have been many from China. I am thinking about him today as I have developed a mouth ulcer …………. more about that in a moment.

He worked in the laundry back in the early 1990s. Then, the laundries on most cruise lines were run by an agency from China who brought on gangs of crew to work in what was…..back then…… pretty awful conditions. The thing was, these young men would come onboard and for the entire six months they were contracted to work…………you would never see them.

They would work, go to sleep and then wake up and go to work again. They ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in their own galley where …………they cooked the best food on the ship. Many times I was invited to eat with them and I shared many a happy night sitting among the tablecloths, bed linen and guests’ underwear eating sweet and sour everything and spicy something.

They were happy, they would laugh all throughout the meal and even though I had no clue what they were laughing about………..I laughed with them. They were probably laughing at my face after eating stuff that was OH MY GOD hot and they could have been laughing because even though they worked hard ………… harder than most……….they would be returning to China, Vietnam and Indonesia with lots of dollars which would pay for them and their families to lead a better and happier life.

Things have changed as they always do. The Chinese laundrymen are gone. They are now regulated and run by Carnival and the crew who work there are regulated to the same hours as all the other crew onboard. They are not allowed to cook their anymore either. It’s a whole new and very clean world down on deck B.

Now, back on the Carnival Imagination in 1994 I remember a chap from China………….I wish I could remember his name ………….I mean his real name but honestly …………I can’t………… I will have to use his nickname……..the name all the crew new him as…………Dr. Ko

I think I had eaten too much spicy food because I had woken up with a huge ulcer on the side of my mouth, which, when you are a cruise director, is as nasty as a cyclist discovering he has hemorrhoids minutes before he starts the Tour De France.

I saw our doctor……….I won’t mention his name but he was dreadful. No matter what you went to him for he would give you the same thing……..Ibuprofen and Theraflu ……………. Doctor, I have a headache………Ibuprofen and Theraflu……….Doctor, I have Eboli ………… Ibuprofen and Theraflu……..Doctor, my thingy has just fallen off and one of the cleaners has just vacuumed it up and it has been put in the incinerator ………….. Ibuprofen and Theraflu .

Needless to say that the aforementioned medication did bugger all and my mouth ulcer continued to pound and sting and reduce me to big girly tears.

And so, as many of the crew did back then……we went to see Dr. Ko, who, for $10 or a 6 pack of Heineken or some Camel cigarettes, would take a look at you. I have no idea if he was trained in alternative medicine or if in fact he was actually a doctor ………… but …………Dr. Ko was a hit with the crew because he could cure all sorts of aches and pains.

Back then there were no restrictions on what you could bring onboard and what you could keep in your cabin. His looked like a cross between a Brazilian rain forest and a pet store. He had herbs and leaves and fish heads and potions. I always wondered if I had opened his cupboard would he have had a tiger’s penis hanging next to his overalls.

Anyway, Dr. Ko told me that the best way to get rid of mouth ulcers is to eat a guava fruit every day for a week. I did…………and in five days……… was gone.

I remember looking at Mr. Ko’s house in a forgettable Chinese province. It was a small free standing house with maybe four rooms. To him though, it was a mansion comparable to anything standing the waterfront of Miami Beach had to offer.

I will never forget Dr. Ko. And, if I ever realize my dream of turning this blog into a sitcom………..he will be one of the stars of the show for sure. There are many people like him in the industry. People who work very hard to provide for their families.

For us, not having a new car is the benchmark of poverty……..For them, it’s not having a pig. But soon and with the way the world is going….it could soon be the other way round.

Do you remember what Mayor Giuliani said after 9/11 to get people back to New York…………it was something like go see a show and buy a pizza?

Well, here is Mayor John’s speech………..go buy a Carnival cruise and we will give you free pizza and let’s keep the economy moving.

Your Friends
John, Heidi and the Thingy (now with a capital T)

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.