A Parade…..And Someone Who Should Have One

October 31, 2008 -

John Heald

Normally when I write about my air travels, I talk about the strange people I meet, the rudeness of the airport staff or how flying turns my bottom into a crop duster.

On this flight to Philadelphia, though, I only have two positive things to mention. I shall ignore the fact that the plane was old and that the flight attendant was dressed like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. OK, it’s Halloween and its nice to see them getting in the mood and Dorothy serving my Diet Coke may have been OK if Dorothy’s real name wasn’t Gregg.

Anyway, I shall ignore all of this and instead concentrate on my new mate seated beside me Mr. Ray Bearcroft……or Major Bearcroft to give him his full title. Actually, it should be Major Ray Bearcroft, U.S. Marine Corps.

The Major is reading this, so Hello Major and welcome to the blog thingy. Let me describe how and why we started talking and its all thanks to my book called Bravo Two Zero by my favorite author Andy McNab. The Major recognized the book and told me it was one of his favorites, as well. The book is about a British team of SAS (Special Forces) soldiers who were involved in Gulf War I, destroying SCUD Missiles. You may remember then as being a major threat to Israel and Andy and his eight-man team had been assigned to seek and destroy these weapons.

Anyway, Andy McNab and others were captured, tortured and eventually released. Four of his team never came back. Our mutual respect for this great read got us talking and it was then that he told me about his two tours of Iraq……and how his third will begin in December, this time the Marines are going to Afghanistan.

I joked that it was nice to see the Army flew him business class but his laughter at that told me that it was only thanks to air miles.

Before I continue let me tell you that Major Beacroft stands six feet tall and, although in his 40s, is full of muscle and is like one of our supper club steaks…….there’s not an ounce of fat on him. Actually, standing next to each other we look like the number 10. I asked Major Bearcroft why he was not traveling in uniform and was surprised to hear that standing orders are that on commercial flights that “civvies” be worn. ………Major Bearcroft explained that in today’s environment that it’s safer for military personal not to fly in dress uniform in case it “upsets” the public………..upsets the public?……….how could anyone be upset about sitting next to a brave and gallant chap like the Major? ………What a sad world we live in.

Anyway, it was as we continued chatting that I Major Bearcroft told me why he was going to Philadelphia…………and that was a very sad story……..he was going to the funeral of a marine killed two weeks ago while on patrol in Iraq. This young man of 23 years was part of the Major’s battalion and someone he had worked closely with during his last tour.

I expressed my sadness as the Major expressed his anger that due to the election coverage the death of a 23-year-old marine had not even made it on the national news…………I can understand how he felt.

So, here we are in Philadelphia and, while Stephanie shivers, I am basking in the 52-degree temperatures. Somewhere Mr. Knockov the Russian logo forger is celebrating with a huge vat of caviar and a magnum of vodka. I just checked into the hotel and everyone……….I mean everyone….is wearing a red Philly’s shirt and jacket…………even the driver who picked us up was wearing one. The city has gone baseball crazy.

However, there is a dark side to all this because we were also told that immediately after the game while most of the good people of Philadelphia were celebrating their win, hundreds of complete idiots with the combined brain capacity of an amoeba went on the rampage. They broke windows, looted from shops and set fire to cars. Seventy-six arrests were made and some police officers were injured. ………………in England soccer supporters go on the rampage when their team loses………here, it seems that they go on the rampage because they have won…………very strange.

Anyway, let’s hope they behave tonight and on that note I am going to bed. Another hotel room and another chance to lay my head on the pillow and remind myself how much I miss Heidi.

Goodnight, I will continue this blog thingy in the morning.

Bugger. It’s 5:43 am and I have been awake since 1 am. That’s when the crowds started to gather outside the Ritz Carlton Hotel deep in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. There was screaming, there was shouting and, most annoyingly, there was the constant blowing of car horns as baseball fans acknowledged a huge sign which told people to blow their car horns in support of the winning team.

Then, throughout the night, the crowds have been gathering ready for today’s victory parade. As I look out of my hotel window, I can see a tide of red as hundreds and hundreds of fans get the best sight lines possible for the big parade. They all have horns and are shouting and singing and it’s all as clear as a bell even here………….on the eighteenth floor.

I have not slept and, if the windows were not welded shut, I would have soaked a few pairs of underwear in the toilet bowl and see if they are still shouting “lets go Phillies” with a pair of my Fruit of the Looms on their head. I am on the eighteenth floor; I cannot imagine what it must be like on the lower floors.

And so I reached for the remote control and dozed in and out of consciousness in the company of CNN repeats of old sitcoms. Every episode of Seinfeld, The Cosby Show, M*A*S*H, The Golden Girls and Gilligan’s Island is available, all the time …………………thanks goodness for that.

I also watched my first-ever episode of House starring fellow Brit Hugh Laurie. I loved his character. After all the sugar-coated angels of ER, and every other medical drama, a doctor who doesn’t like patients, other doctors or himself, who thinks the point of medicine is to treat illness, not people, was a joy to see. And Laurie plays him like he really is a doctor. You watch the doctors on ER. When they do that medical bollocks over the triage table, they’re not thinking, they’re desperately remembering their lines.

Anyway, thanks goodness for late night TV. It’s now 6:15 am and the crowds are getting bigger by the minute and the parade doesn’t start until noon……………oh joy.

Well, what’s happening otherwise? Well, I am helping as many of you as I can to find a cruise on the Carnival Dream, Emerald Princess or Eurodam to replace your cruise vacation on the Carnival Liberty. It seems that the blog thingy was your first source of reference that this change had been made and that has upset a few of you. Let me assure you that a letter was sent to each and every guest either directly or to their travel agent. However, it seems that some of you did not receive your copy and for that I apologize. I want to move on but not before one last time asking you to please let me know if you need any help, assistance or just want someone to vent your frustration at. Please post a comment marked “John, please reply” and I will, of course, do so.

Let’s check in with Jaime.

October 30, 2008

Dear John,

My first thought today was that the morning of sea day #1 was extremely rocky. As the day progressed I came to realize that the afternoon, evening, and night were rocky as well. Apparently we are chasing a storm and I personally think we should just let it win this game of hide and seek because chasing it is not so fun. At least the rockin’ and rollin’ is easy to ignore because we have so many activities on board! Carnival has been so kind as to fly in even more entertainment staff – everyone from dance instructors, arts and crafts professionals and seminar specialists to add even more fun to the “Fun Ships” (even though we all thought this was impossible). Among these special guests are Lou and Amor, ballroom dancers extraordinaire, and they are fellow bloggers so you know they are great! I am their Carnival liaison for the cruise, which means I get to attend and assist with all of their dance classes.

Goose made his first few announcements and had his first big travel talk today as cruise director of the Carnival Splendor after seeing him on stage, I know he is going to do an excellent job. He made sure to remind everyone repeatedly about the important safety precautions – wash your hands often to avoid and viruses, hold the handrails, etc. These two issues are very important to avoid any potential safely concerns. In our staff mess, we have a member of the dining room team standing at the entrance making sure everyone washes their hands. I think I will make them a hat and a badge that says “Hand Wash Patrol,” just because any job with a hat and a badge is more official. Maybe they should have a tool belt with liquid soap, hand sanitizer and Kleenex. As far as the “holding the handrail” directions, this is all well and good except that SOMEONE had the brilliant idea to paint the handrails on the crew stairs today, so that makes holding that handrail advice not only sticky but also a great opportunity for finger painting all areas of the ship!

Our Coast Guard preparations are underway for the ship’s arrival in the US! Today the show lounge staff rehearsed a full theater evacuation drill. We reviewed exactly what to do if there is a fire in the main lounge. We know the codes, procedures and traffic patterns involved in all of the potential crises situations that could arise. Also, I noticed the special needs team practicing their protocol in the event that a guest is in need of a stretcher. I am proud to be on a team with such knowledgeable and hardworking individuals.

After two welcome aboard shows and walking around the ship it is good to see all of the lounges so busy and the ship alive once again! Everyone is out and about enjoying all that the Carnival Splendor has to offer.

This cruise our guest count in 2,919 however all of the cabins are full since so many guests traveling alone. Guest participation has been great thus far and I am confident it will continue throughout the cruise. Our American guest count is higher than ever, it seems we are giving quite a few people a ride home with over 75% of Americans on board.

Tomorrow we will visit Barcelona for the last time!

Our new cruise director, Goose

The fabulous ballroom dance class taught by amor and lou

The rocky seas alongside the Carnival Splendor
Have a great day =)

Now, it’s good news for the Caribbean bookings and many of you taking advantage of our affordable fares. Also, it seems that you all love the fact that we are placing ships closer to you. Carnival started this and it’s been copied by many other lines which is a good thing I hope for you. Flying anywhere these days is about as comfortable experience as sitting on a cactus, so look out for more ships coming your way in the future. I will be sailing on lots of Carnival ships in January and February and I look forward to renewing myself with our brilliant Caribbean product and featuring the voyages right here on the blog thingy.

I’m crap at complaining. I live and work in a world where complaining has been perfected to an art form and yet when it’s my turn I just can’t do it………..I should have done so this morning, though.

I was sitting in an expensive, snobby restaurant for breakfast……..you know the type …….one where you’re made to feel lucky that you’ve even been able to get a table. The service is patronizing, the food is over-tampered-with and unbelievably expensive. So you ruin everyone’s meal by grumbling about it all the way through. “What is this? Is this an egg ….who laid it……..Madonna? How am I supposed to eat with these weird forks …….why can’t they but proper ones? Eight dollars for a bottle of mineral water? Why do we have to wait for a cappuccino?………..and this isn’t a proper cappuccino……..I could make more froth on top of the coffee if asked a rabid bat to spit into it?”

But when the waiter turns up and dares to ask whether everything was OK (not because he gives a bugger, but because he wants a good tip), you lamely reply: “Yes, thank you, it was brilliant…” and then you bugger off to your room, full of self-loathing, having left a huge tip to show that you’re not a cheap sod. Why do we do this? Why do I do this?

Partly, it’s being a cruise director and writing a blog about people who complain and I never know if someone may recognize me and write a nasty comment…………..I know the chances of that happening or smaller than Kate Moss’s breasts, but I just don’t want to take that chance. Even if I do hate something, I don’t want to make a scene, I don’t want to have an image of being a complainer, with waiters saying: “We had that John Heald in here last night, he complained about everything, didn’t leave a tip, he was a complete and utter bastard.”

But also being British means it is the law that we must not make a fuss even if we have ordered filet mignon and been served fried hippo poo in a white wine sauce. If we were French and we didn’t like a meal, we would quote French law, which apparently allows every Frenchman the right to refuse to pay for a meal once in their life for no reason whatsoever. In fact, a Frenchman would go through every fault in the meal and then storm into the kitchen and personally show the chef how to cook the dish. Not only that; if the French are unhappy about something, they protest, they burn cars, they close down the whole country and even threaten the waiter with a bar of soap.

When my Dutch wife, Heidi, and I first started dating, she would embarrass me with her complaining. She complained about this, she complained about that – she complained about everything. We would go for an average meal, where the service was the bollocks, and she would storm up to the maître d’ and demand that the service charge be removed from the bill. I’d be hiding in the toilets longing to disappear into a hole in the ground, but part of me secretly admired this feisty little blonde……………..it’s the European way ……… like the North American way………….but it’s just not me.

This morning it took an hour to get my eggs Benedict. It took another 30 minutes from asking for the cheque until the 12-year-old waitress brought it……………….she apologized ……………..saying that a lot of the staff were at the parade. I should have said “Am I bovvered though,” and told her to get the manager. But, instead I found myself saying “Oh, no problem,” and gave her a $10 tip.
If it wasn’t for the smell and the fact that I would be hated by the entire world……I sometimes wish I was French.

It’s noon. And the parade has begun and as I look out of my hotel window now there are thousands and thousands of people dressed in red and waving white thingies round their heads. Every police car in Philadelphia has driven passed which means right now the bad guys robbing a house have no chance of getting caught. After the police came the bizarre sight of mascot. It looks like a cross between an alligator and Judge Judy and is perched on top of a truck. It’s dancing and waving a flag but no bugger is paying the poor sod any attention. That’s because behind Judge Alligator are their heroes……….the players ………… the World Champions after beating Canada, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Botswana and oh yes………..Tampa.

They are screaming and shouting and it is actually an amazing site. Bits of paper are being dropped from the offices and banks……..and the way the financial markets are going I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few bankers chuck themselves out, as well.

One thing that is surprising is the number of kids at the parade. Thousands of them are here and the schools will be getting thousands of “Johnny had the flu” notes tomorrow.

However……..as much as I congratulate the Philadelphia team I cannot help thinking about something else.

On the other side of Philadelphia there is a much smaller crowd. There will be no ticker tape and marching bands. There will be no screams of joy and no sense of exuberance. Instead…………there will be tears of sadness and despair as Major Bearcroft consoles the family of a 23-year-old Marine. He probably loved baseball…………..he probably would have been right here at the parade.

So, among the preparation for Carnival’s new world record of the largest piñata ever …….. among all the preparation of fun and against the backdrop of this huge parade…………I want to remember the young Marine being buried at 11 am. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family and I promised a man I met on a plane that some of you …………. would remember him, as well.

Your friend

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.