Credit Me With A Quick Morning Blog

October 29, 2008 -

John Heald

Two nights ago I went to Publix. I needed to buy some bottled water (I refuse to pay $5 a bottle at the hotel) some toothpaste, a bag of Doritos (I know I shouldn’t) and some extra strength hemorrhoid cream. I paid $21 with my credit card and off I went.

Next door was a Blockbuster, so I wandered in and ended up buying Season 4 of the HBO series Entourage and a classic movie called Clear and Present Danger………….total cost $58.77………….that’s when the problem began.


This is complicated, so you may need to pay attention. A few weeks ago I ordered a new washing machine and then a few days ago it was delivered……..but it didn’t fit in the built-in cupboard thingies. So Heidi sent it back and the money was reimbursed to my credit card company.

I then telephoned the credit card company and asked it to put the money back in my bank account. I even had the sort code to hand and everything. “Yes,” said the man from the call center in Bombay, “I can do that, no problem at all.” But there obviously was a problem because when I tried to buy my DVD’s, alarm bells rang and the 14-year-old shop assistant took great pleasure in tell me my card had been rejected and I had to try another one.

I asked him to try again.

This time my card wasn’t rejected but I was made to talk to someone at the credit card company who wanted to know my mother’s maiden name and all sorts of other bollocks …………..it seemed everything was OK.

Then tonight I tried to pay for dinner and the same thing happened, so I telephoned the credit card company to ask why, all of a sudden, I’d become Osama Bin Laden.

“Aha,” said a lady, “it’s because you are in credit with us.” This was baffling for two reasons. First, why was I in credit with them when I’d asked them to put the money in my bank, and why should being in credit cause them to think I needed a telephone deep cavity search every time I bought a cheeseburger? I therefore asked the man if he’d be so good as to move the money. I even made it plain that if he failed I’d come round to his place of work and use the crack of his bottom to swipe my credit card……….and a cactus.

This obviously meant nothing to the man from Bombay because this morning while using the card to buy some petrol……sorry………….gas, I had to contact my credit card company.

So I called the credit card company and demanded to speak to someone in the UK and not Bombay. And you will not believe what I was told……………….I was in credit, a highly unusual situation, and one that makes them think I may be laundering drug money.

I told them I was not Pablo Escobar so for the love of God could they put the money in my bank account? “Yes,” said the man, who I knew would not do any such thing. And could they stop asking silly questions every time I bought anything? “No,” said the man. “Your name’s been flagged on the computer and I’m afraid I can’t turn that off.” How can I change this I asked…………you need to sign a form…………..”I am in America”… …………”Well, we suggest you don’t use the card until this is sorted.”

This was Skynet…………………………. and I was John Connor.

Good morning everyone and I thought I would drop you a quick blog thingy before I host the live Q&A thingy this afternoon. Things were a little hectic yesterday with the cancellation of the Baseball Universe championships because if the Philly Cheese team beat the Tampon Rays then we were concerned that the resulting victory parade may coincide with our big event. ………………….it will not.

We were informed by the local people with beards that if they win the parade will be on a weekday. So, it’s all systems go for Sunday. Today we had more meetings and my friend Stephanie, who is the big cheese at the Arnold Agency, taught me another great marketing word. She asked if we could provide some staff to help with Gorilla Marketing.

Now, I have done some strange things for my love of Carnival. I have dressed as Dolly Parton, been thrown to the floor by a 400-pound lady and sat on by that lady and ridden like a bucking bronco. I have been shouted at, slapped and called sperm of the devil ……………but there was no way I was going to don a monkey suit and swing around the streets of Philly with a banana hanging from my bottom.

Stephanie giggled and told me that Gorilla Marketing meant that a team would arrive without warning and entertain a street full of people and invite them to come to our party …………………ahhhh……….now I understood…………guerilla tactics……………..of course, I would help and I made a mental note to “reach out” to myself and buy a book called “What The Hell Are They Talking About – An Introduction to The World Of Marketing, Advertising” by top-selling author Willy Buggeroff.

Seriously……………this Philly event is going to be brilliant and once again Stephanie, John, Stephanie, Cassy, Stephanie, Big Dawg, Stephanie and the rest of the Arnold crew along with the best marketing team in the cruise industry Christine, Christine, Erica, Jennifer, Jennifer, Yvette, Christine and Ruben…………..all working together to help make our company’s future and your cruising future a very bright one………………….it seems though to succeed in the business you need to be called Stephanie, Jennifer or Christine.

I answered lots of comments yesterday and many of them were concerning the Carnival Liberty. I have helped many already and some have switched to Carnival Dream and some are considering enjoying the Emerald Princess and or the Eurodam. I know all of you are disappointed and I totally understand why. I am working with air/sea and reservations departments to assist with specifics.

Remember I have a live write in thingy this afternoon at 2 pm – 4 pm EST……………..it’s not just about the Carnival Liberty, indeed you can write in to say hello or to ask me anything ……….I am hear to help. However, I must also say this………………I hate to do so ………….. but I must.

There were one or two very nasty comments including one using very bad language which, of course, I will not reply to or publish. May I also ask that you be patient with me as I received a comment complaining that a comment had been not posted or replied to in 24 hours? May I kindly state that I am only one chap and with all my traveling it may take a few days to reply……………..but reply I will if asked to do so. I am not being asked by Carnival to offer this help …………I am purely volunteering to try and help any way I can. This is a new concept in guest relationships and I hope it is successful. So, hope to hear from you this afternoon. If this is successful……………..we will do it again.

I am flying to Philadelphia on Thursday night. I have radio interviews on Friday and on Saturday Roger Blum and the entertainment team will be joining me for a dress rehearsal.

After the Philly event I will be back in Miami for a few days before the following schedule.

NOVEMBER 6-8 – EMERALD PRINCESS
NOVEMBER 8-13 – CARNIVAL DESTINY
NOVEMBER 14 – CARNIVAL SPLENDOR
NOVEMBER 15 – BOSTON
NOVEMBER 18 – HOME FOR VACATION AND FISH AND CHIPS AND SUGAR FREE SPOTTED DICK

Carnival Splendor and Carnival Freedom are coming home. Both start their trans-Atlantic crossings and we wish them calm seas and lots of fun. Here is Jaime’s next report.

Dear John,

In an effort to be more like you, I decided to practice delegation for today’s blog entry. I attempted to find a rich, talented, and good-looking performer to describe what a day in the life of a Carnival singing star was like. We didn’t have anyone who fit those characteristics on board, but Lawrence was close enough so here is his letter for today =)

More from me tomorrow!

=) Jaime

Dear Jaime, John, Heidi, & Thingy,

So for some misguided reason, someone thought it might be a good idea to share with your readers what a day was like in the life of a production singer. Now, I warn you ahead of time that I’m not nearly as witty as John or funny (looking) as Jaime. But we all share an immense passion for the work and fun that we get to have in the fabulous world that are the Carnival “Fun Ships.”

Last night was “Vrooom” night (so exciting, it’s with three “o”s), the last and best of our productions shows on the Carnival Splendor. The final performance that the audience saw was actually the third for the cast during the day. There’s a great line from the musical The Producers about being in entertainment so that you can sleep “until half-past two” in the afternoon. That’s why my day started at 8:30 am!

Not that I wanted to get up that early (early for me that is), but unlike the work that I’ve been blessed to do at home in New York, shows on the ship come with safety meetings at ungodly hours of the day. Sure it’s early but we all realize how important that they are to the safety and well being of our guest and ourselves aboard, which has been continually reinforced after six years on cruise ships preceded by five years in the US Navy. So after making sure that in an emergency I will know exactly how to properly guide our guests to the lifeboats, I had to get ready for a full tech rehearsal of the show.

Normally on a performance day, the cast will rehearse only numbers that need to be cleaned or tightened up or any trouble spots, but, as we have a new dancer coming into the cast this cruise, we have to do a “full tilt boogie” rehearsal of the show at noon so she can feel comfortable when she does it for an audience for the first time. Here’s where the beginning of my day planning begins.

Vrooom is an incredibly taxing show, both physically and vocally. So I need to make sure that I don’t kill myself in the excitement of the rehearsal to the point where I can’t ace the shows. It doesn’t help that I’ve been nursing a sore throat for the last two days. We are also a dancer down because of an injury. Now one of things that I’m always impressed by is the dancer’s ability to learn someone else’s part in the show and perform it flawlessly after only one rehearsal. Lord knows if you gave me someone else’s part to sing the same night that I had to sing it that I’d be lost. That’s what our cast has to do today. So we blasted out the show for an empty room at noon and then after an hour to make last-minute corrections, we all move on to our duties for the day like bingo, library, deck games and trivias. In my case, I don’t have any additional duties (one of the perks of being a singer) but contrary to popular belief, the singers don’t go back to sleep until show time. At least I don’t.

Being on the far side of the BIG 3-OH I’ve got to work to keep up with all the twenty-somethings on stage with me. So after some lunch up on Lido (another perk), I head up to the track to do a few laps. I usually go the gym as I can work harder and longer but the other people working out tend to get upset at the strange guy in the Battlestar Galactica T-shirt singing show tunes at the top of his lungs on the elliptical. This is followed by some time steaming to make sure that all the crap is out of my chest and lungs for tonight. I have a raging sweet tooth, as well, but on a show day, no dairy, no salt, no alcohol (until the post show festivities) no nothing that might make affect the quality of my voice. That means on a show day I usually will keep to myself so as not to even talk any more than is absolutely necessary. Needless to say, this means I don’t see much of Jaime before the show.

Come six o’clock I start my routine. Dinner from 6 to 6:30, no later so it’s not weighing on my stomach during the show. Then I run the hot water in the shower until there’s enough steam to power a locomotive (don’t tell the environmental officer) and start my warm up. People always say that they do there best singing in the shower. Guess what, they are totally right! That’s where I warm up. This is where I pause to thank my next door neighbors for putting up with me blasting Les Miserables, Man of La Mancha, The Producers, and Rent as loud as humanly possible for an hour while I get myself vocally warmed up and psyched for the show tonight.

Oh wait, I almost forgot. Thanks to my 14-year-old sister, I’ve added Legally Blonde: The Musical to that warm-up list. My vocal coach at home thought that regular vocal drills were boring so she helped me pick songs that would mimic all the exercises I needed in order to wake up. The great part about singing these songs so often as a warm up is I know instantaneously when I’ve got a trouble spot. Even nursing the sore throat I’m doing well so far. I show up at 8, a half hour before curtain to set up my costumes, stretch and get dressed.

Tonight, we’ve got a new dancer in the show, several people in different roles to cover our injured castmate, and the last time I was on stage my voice started cracking. But you can never let the audience know that. We can never let the audience know that every time we get up there, no matter now many times we’ve done it before; it’s still the first time. You’re still nervous and excited. Hoping that we won’t mess up a line or a step and that the audience will reward us putting our egos on the line with uproarious applause at the end of the show.

We all got together before hand in a big “Kum-ba-ya” circle to wish the new dancer “sh*t, sh*t.” (Yes, we entertainers are a superstitious bunch, we don’t wish the “L” word anywhere near the stage, we don’t mention the Scottish play, and if you whistle anywhere near our theater you are taking your life into your own hands.) I grew up in a very religious household so personally, I never go into a performance without saying a prayer of thanks for the blessing it is for me to be able to do what I love and love what I do and, maybe along the way, touch a few people’s lives positively.

The lights come down, the band starts up (in this case, a motorcycle sound effect that sounds more like and F-14 from Top Gun on the flight line) and we are off. An hour later it’s all done….except, let’s do it again! The second show of the night. Usually a bit harder after all the energy you put into the first. But last night, all of my worries were put to rest, we rocked it out! And as the curtain came down at the end of the last number of the last show of the night, “We Are the Champions” by Queen, the cast burst into cheers of our own.

Last night I asked Jeremy, one of our dancers, how he would describe the feeling at the end of the show for us, knowing I was going to write this, and after a long time thinking about it he just said, “Don’t bother, they’d have to be there.” Just imagine on the other side of the curtain the kinds of cheers you’d expect to see at New Year’s Eve in Times Square, multiplied by 10, and you kind of get close.

This isn’t just a job for us; it’s a passion, a lifestyle, and a destiny. At least it’s that way for me. I’ve been performing almost continuously since I was 7 years old. The only break I’ve had was when I served in the military. And I knew when I came back to this career that being an entertainer was more than just a way to pay the rent. It’s the reason I was put here. And whether it’s a relatively easy day with a tech run and two shows or the three and half months of 10 hours rehearsal days, six days a week, to get these shows off the ground I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. As I say in the last line of Vrooom: “Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Night.” Let the after show festivities begin!!!!!

Lawrence Neals
Production Singer
Carnival Splendor

I have fond memories of my trans-Atlantic crossings. Some have been smooth, some have been rough, but all have been memorable. Todd and Goose will be providing five brilliant back-to-back sea days and I know the guests will have a wonderful cruise vacation.

OK, time to go to my morning meeting for the final details for Philly to be arranged.

Until a few weeks ago, I knew bugger all about the world of marketing and advertising. You had to learn Latin, grow a side parting, wear a suit, play squash, speak a language only understood by others in the industry and Klingons and get up extremely early in the morning.

Friends had to be stabbed in the back and children ignored. However, I have learned that this world is occupied by brilliant people all of which laugh……….they have fun …… and in a strange way…………there job is the same as mine as a cruise director …………..and that’s to make sure everyone knows that Carnival’s affordable fun is something everyone should experience

Hope to talk to you this afternoon………….live

Cheers
John

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.