Freedom and Splendor in Bella Napoli

October 14, 2008 -

John Heald

I would rather blow torch my nipples off then work in a bank ….but it looks like they may have got their act together…..so yippee for that and now, hopefully, we can start leading normal lives again and start worrying about SARS, Bird Flu, North Korea, Iran, whether to cruise on the Carnival Spirit to Alaska or the newly renovated Carnival Fantasy…..oh yes……and hemorrhoids………one should always worry about those nasty little buggers.

However, it is good news with the markets closing way up and my Carnival shares looking as healthy as Cameron Diaz in a string bikini holding a sign saying “Wanted: Cuddly cruise director for fun, friendship and occasional rumpy pumpy.”


Good morning then from Naples and I hope all of you are well. Sorry about the missing bit of the blog last night. It seems I must have deleted it when using spell check ………. yes…………I have just found spell check and was totally my fault and not Stephanie’s. It was a good thing that I saw it was missing because otherwise it made no sense ………… especially saying that you have to have a drink to have a good time……….and there’s me not having had a drink for 12 years …………

Anyway, Mick Jagger really got up my nose with that comment so I am glad I had the chance to respond………….even though there is more chance of me being voted “rear of the year” than Mr. Jagger reading the blog thingy.

So, as I said, here we are in Naples and as you will see from these photos ……… we had a friend docked next to us.

Yep, the Carnival Freedom was docked next to us and what a thrill to see the two ships side by side. That meant that today, Naples was hosting 6,000 Carnival guests — what a wonderful advert for the world’s most popular cruise line as we fly the flag here in Europe.

Of course, it’s a thrill for the crew only, many of which have colleagues, friends and in one case, family onboard. There is an engineer here on the Carnival Splendor whose brother is a deck officer on the Carnival Freedom. They have not seen each other for nine months. This is because they are on different ships, of course, but also because they are on vacation at different times….I hope they had a great reunion.

As for Heidi and I, we went to say goodbye to Adolfo our friendly tour operator here in Naples and also to say hello to our old friends from the Carnival Freedom’s shore excursion staff, Filip and Miguel. We spent seven months together and it was nice to see this lovely couple again.

I have a huge love-hate relationship with Italy as I may have mentioned before. I love the beauty, the easy “am I bovered, though” way of life and, of course….I love the food.

However, Italy always has me wanting to put on a costume ……a gorilla, perhaps, or a priest— these seem like a brilliant plan for self-improvement.

I tell myself I’m a great person, and that looks aren’t important. I tell myself beauty comes from within, and that happiness and confidence are the most attractive thingies of all.

But walking around Naples today in my sweat pants and t-shirt, I knew that was bollocks. And now here I was in a country that really understood beauty — in men and women, in architecture and cars, and in life itself. Italian men are obsessed by beauty. Or rather, they’re obsessed by femininity. And femininity is not hard to achieve in Italy….the waiter kissed Heidi’s hand today after she ordered her meal…..and we were in McDonald’s.

Italian men still have an image of themselves as superior thingies who are born to run the world and to be admired for making a bella figura. And the reason is simple ……………….. Their “mamas “tell them so.

The main focus now is of course packing. With Heidi’s hormones now, our Thingy inside of her is already acting like a herd of marauding bulls and, put that together with the packing scenario and you can imagine how my life is at the moment. I am seriously considering becoming a monk …………I mean, I am getting no rumpy pumpy, have been told to be silent and say nothing at all ……………all that’s missing is one of those brown sack things and a long piece of string to hold it together.

As I write, Heidi is on the phone again this time having a chat with a friend about whether she can eat Philadelphia cream cheese and if it’s safe for our Thingy. I have no idea what the answer is because we have gone from there onto countless other subjects none of which have anything to do with cheese or the fact that she is on her cell phone calling the UK from Italy and in a few moments we will be broke.

I think you should only use a telephone if you are drifting in the ocean, it’s the middle of the night and you are surrounded by Somali pirates.

The notion that it can be used “for a chat” is as ridiculous as the notion that cuddling is in some way a replacement for rumpy pumpy.

Yesterday was a very special day as we held our On the Deck for the Cure. I am happy to tell you that in just two hours we raised $3,000 which I hope will help the ongoing battle to find a cure for breast cancer.

At 4:30 pm we all gathered on Lido Deck to take a group photo and listen to a lady called Barbara. She is a survivor of the terrible disease and her words of encouragement were so appreciated by all, especially those who are sitting on the front row in this photo ………… all are recent survivors and two are currently fighting the fight.

It was an afternoon of mixed emotion as there was laughter and tears and, once again, I was proud to meet each and every one of them.

However, this cruise I half expected there to be a negative comment about what we were doing…………as I mentioned before, it’s been a difficult cruise with a tiny minority of people being so vocal and complaining about things that are sometimes……………beyond imagination………………like this.

Guest: Ms__________ Ref: 001505479A
Cabin: ______ Booking#: _________ Added-Changed: 10/13/08 – 10/13/08

WAS DISTURBED BY CHARITY PHOTO

Ms __________ came to the desk to say that she found the request to donate to charity onboard very unprofessional. Guest said that she is always asked at home and work to give money to charity and she finds it bad that we ask to do the same onboard. Guest asked to speak to Cruise Director and Purser promised to pass on her comments.
Note: Guest Mr ________ was at the desk at the same time for another matter and started to argue with Ms_______ saying that she was wrong to make a complaint.
Comments forwarded to cruise director and hotel director

I have to admit that this comment came in yesterday and, now as I sit here at 4 pm, I have yet to call the guest. I mean……..what I am going to say? Three hundred people gave the $10 for the shirts………….I could have sold many, many more but we had none left …………some still gave despite there being no more shirts. I understand charity is not for everyone but to take the time to complain is, quite honestly, beyond me. I mentioned the event at my Travel Talk and in the Capers….that was it…..no hard sell……….just a polite invitation to take part.

So, I have to admit that I have decided not to call the guest………I have nothing really to say………….I will apologize to any guest that I upset or that is unhappy with anything that I do………………but asking for donations to help fight breast cancer is not one of them.

On a very much happier note, I did meet with a big group from Venezuela last night. There are 146 guests from Caracas and they had a big Latin party in the disco yesterday evening. Now, I went there in fear and trepidation of being asked to dance which, as many of you know, is something that not only I hate to do but something I am unable to do. And, the thought of me having to salsa was enough to make me feel physically sick.

However, luckily, I was not expected to dance but instead I had been asked to present three awards. The group was made up of sales people from a company that makes air conditioning units and I was to present the Sales Person of the Year, Employee of the Year and the bizarrely named “From Zero to Hero” award………….that was the translation from Spanish to English. Luckily I was not asked to read out the names but just hand over the beautiful Waterford crystal bowls to the winners…………but, oh boy, it was a tense 20 minutes as the nominees were read out.

There’s a moment in all award ceremonies when the nominations have been read out and you’re sitting there waiting to find out whether you’ve won or lost. My advice having seen these awards yesterday, should you ever find yourself in this spot, think only about what face you’re going to put on when the envelope is opened and the winner revealed.

You’ve got to look proud, a little bit startled, coy and happy, but not air-punchingly delirious. That’s a hard one to pull off, even if you’re Halle Berry, which, presumably, is why she usually stands there sobbing. It’s easy for the actors the Oscar ceremony, because grinning is what they do for a living.
And because they’ve been nominated for the biggest grinning prize of them all, we can assume they’re very good at it………….

However Jose, Miguel and Maria were not and one nominee for the Employee of the Year who did not win……stood up ……….waved his hands in the air as if he was doing the Venezuelan version of YMCA ……..and after stormed out. I just stood there looking at my shoes but the chairman/CEO chap next to me just laughed and carried on……I wonder today if the man who lost apologized or is there now a vacancy at Las Coolo Airo?

Here are more photos of Greece and, despite the problems with the taxi drivers and the comments we received because areas of the center were closed because of the cycle race, Athens is stunning and is a must see city.

Here are a few photos of the Corinth Canal tour taken by our Dance Captain Claire.

In two days time the ship will have a brand new management team. We already have a new captain in Claudio Cupisiti and on Thursday we will also say goodbye to the staff captain, staff chief engineer, housekeeping manager, chief purser, chief security and food and beverage manager. All of these gentlemen have been a huge part of the massive success that this ship has enjoyed and I wish them all a wonderful vacation.

Heidi has begun to reminisce. Whatever the future holds for me, tomorrow, will be her last ever-working day on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship. She started in 1996 when she came onboard the Carnival Destiny in Malaga, Spain, to sail to New York on what was then the world’s largest cruise ship. The crossing was as rough as I can ever remember with huge waves pounding the mighty ship for much of our voyage.

We had a camera crew onboard filming something new. It was called “reality TV” and back then the “All At Sea” program for Channel 4 UK was groundbreaking. Yet with all this going on you ask Heidi what she remembers most and she will say the jaw droppingly awesome experience of sailing into New York…………….it is something anyone who has been lucky enough to do this will know exactly how she felt and anyone who has not done it…………well………….you must………….maybe on the Carnival Dream or Carnival Triumph in 2009.

This was also the time that she experienced her first real brush with death …………. something else she will never forget. As the ship sailed through the Hudson and as helicopters buzzed overhead and the tugboats fired their water jets high into the air …………right next to where we docking, members of the NYPD were pulling a body out of the river. As Heidi and other crew who were standing on the bow will tell you…………it wasn’t very pleasant.

I have to tell you, it took her ages to get this image out of her head and for days she would fret about it. On one occasion she awoke from a terrible nightmare. Who was he? What had he said to his wife that morning? What was he planning to do later that day? Or at work the following week? Did he have a family and why was he in the river?

However, it was that crystal morning in New York as we sailed past the Statue of Liberty and as the sun glistened on the Twin Towers we realized we were part of history. Here was Heidi, on the largest and newest cruise ship in the world, sailing into the most exciting city in the world………….she was a very proud young lady as was I………..well obviously I was not a proud young lady………..I was………well, you know.

Since then Heidi has been a groups coordinator, an international rep and, of course, an assistant cruise director. She has delivered the Carnival Destiny, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Legend, Carnival Glory, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Splendor. She has been a massive asset to the company –and in two days time her 11-year career will come to an end.

She will leave without fanfare, no party or farewell speeches. …………but I thank her so very much for 11 years of total and utter dedication and it goes without saying that without her I would never, ever been able to do what I do.

So thanks Heidi…………….for everything

Goodnight
Your friends
John, Heidi and the Thingy.

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.