Helloween, Pinata's and Captain America

November 3, 2008 -

News From Steph

With everything that has been happening, I haven’t had time to tell you about the huge success of our “Fun Ship” Halloween parties. The guests took part with great vigor and reports are telling me that some of the costumes were outrageous ……………………….the place to spend Halloween it seems is onboard one of our ships.

For me though…………it’s a little different…………………..Halloween… Hell-oween if you ask me. I used to completely ignore this American import, but then, of course, I crossed the pond and entered a world where the celebration of the dead is almost as popular as Thanksgiving and dare I say it………….Christmas

Bugger me you all take it so seriously. First it’s the ritual carving of the pumpkins, followed by days on end of pumpkin-based recipes until the dreaded day itself dawns. I always thought that you were supposed to dress as Dracula or Frankenstein. However, in the States they don’t all dress up as witches and skeletons – they wear all sorts of things that are not necessarily ghoul-based. According to Wee Jimmy on the Carnival Conquest and Stewart on the Carnival Elation, the most popular costume onboard this year is the “Sarah Palin” and I am sure there are some Democrats who would say that in fact these people did dress as a Witch……. the wicked Witch of the North.

A few years ago, I am sure kids used to be sent out into the chilly night to go trick-or-treating on their own. Now, in our terrified, paranoid new world, the kids have to be accompanied by groups of parents who all huddle at the gate armed with baseball bats should the trick or treating kids encounter someone who tells the kids to bugger off. I suppose it’s fair enough – after all, we spend our days warning them about “stranger danger” and not accepting candy from them, and then we send our children off to do exactly that. It’s like Christmas, when all the rules about sitting on weird old men’s laps are thrown out the window.

Obviously I have yet to experience the phenomenon of taking your child trick or treating but I will soon though with the pending arrival of the Thingy.

I was home last year, though, during Helloween armed with a massive bowl of sweets with which to pay off the local groups of trainee burglars.

I may have mentioned this in a blog thingy last year but let me remind you of my experience. Heidi takes it very seriously and had bought two pumpkins and placed them with the obligatory candle burning inside by the gate to our house.

The thought of having to open the door constantly to lots of very small ghosts and Batmen during my soccer game was unthinkable so as soon as Heidi wasn’t looking I would rush out and extinguish any pumpkins and I hung a huge hand made sign on the gate saying “Beware of The Huge Attack Dog That Hasn’t Been Fed In A Week.”

I wanted to write “There is no candy here because I am diabetic so bugger off”………but I didn’t think that would go down to well with the neighbors. It worked……………and to this day I don’t think Heidi quite understands why nobody knocked on our door.

My sister will tell you though that the previous year was much worse. Heidi insisted that I accompany my niece and nephew on their scavenging rounds. It soon became very clear that we each had very different hopes for the evening. They were obviously after the “treats” and hoped to fill their buckets with goodies. I, on the other hand, had adopted the role of “the Terminator.” Unknown to Heidi and Suedrip my sister, I had a bag of old eggs with me that I was going to use on the less generous houses. The first couple handed out some candy as did the second. At the third house we were met with bemused expressions and bugger all candy for Buzz Light Year and Sleeping Beauty/Cinderella/Princess thingy.

I immediately got my eggs out and started pelting the house with them. The kids were howling with laughter and Heidi, red with embarrassment, beat a hasty retreat threatening me with divorce and the removal of my genitals with a chain saw. As my fourth egg hit the target, the front door of the house opened and a huge and very frightening man came out swearing and making straight for me. He was huge and could have ripped my head off with just one finger. Halloween had turned into a real nightmare as Buzz, Sleeping Beauty, Heidi and Suedrip all ran for their lives. I brought up the rear, of course, to protect my family…………not you understand because I was overweight and unable to keep up with two kids and two women in their thirties.

We turned and ran, disappearing into the darkness and eventually hiding behind some cars. The kids were crying, and kept crying for hours……………and my poor attempt at saying that Halloween was supposed to be scary was met with a huge bollocking and the remainder of the eggs being broken over my head.

Well, I am back from Philadelphia. Did you see the USA Today newspaper today that highlighted the Carnival breaking a new world record by making the world’s largest piñata? I should also mention that the representative from the Guinness World Records said that only 3% of attempted world records succeed……………now considering that Carnival has broken two in the last week……………well, that’s pretty good.

Now, the local Philadelphia TV stations have run some footage of the event and, of course, they included some interviews with local people who, quite rightly, were disappointed about not seeing the piñata broken and therefore receiving some free candy.

Let me explain again what happened.


And so here I sit on the plane heading back to Miami and my hotel. I wanted to write about what happened today. First, the good news. The Funville tent was a huge success. Everyone enjoyed the brilliant entertainment, music, dancing and food. However, the problems began when, by 11 am, there were hundreds and hundreds of local people lining up to enter Funville and those hundreds and hundreds of people quickly turned into thousands and thousands……..and by the time it came to break the piñata there was anywhere from 5,000 – 7,000 people.

Many had come with empty bags and boxes…….ready to scoop up the candy …….one man…….and I kid you not……………had a shovel. Can you imagine thousands of people surging forward all at the same time to grab as much candy as possible…….and among the audience were hundreds of small children? The film crew and event staff were working hard to keep things orderly…………..but, in the interest of safety, the Philadelphia Police Department told the film crew that they would under no circumstances allow us to break open the piñata……….and………that was that.

A female police officer took a bull horn and told the crowd that the event was canceled for the safety of those present. I doubt too many of the 5,000-plus strong crowd heard but word soon spread ……..and some were very upset. There was some booing and suddenly the knowledge that there was no free candy turned what had been a pleasant and fun day into avery disappointing situation.

The police had called in reinforcements and had people began to leave, some telling us what they thought, most left just disappointed.

And so, here I sit mulling over what happened. We knew that offering anything for free was going to draw large crowds. However, none of us ever expected the numbers who showed up………….we offered free fun……..and the people of Philly responded. Many had come just for the free candy and didn’t necessarily care if was being offered by a cruise line ……….it was free and so they came.

Yes, it was the police who canceled the event. But, I agreed with that decision wholeheartedly. I know without doubt that the sheer number of guests and their exuberant and determined mood to get as much candy as possible………would have meant someone could have been injured.

Ultimately, it’s our fault. We are to blame and, personally, I am at fault as much as anyone. It is therefore that I say sorry………sorry to each and every one of you who lined up for a long time………..sorry to each and every child who stared in amazement at the piñata hoping for candy to come pouring out…………sorry to my blogger friends who drove from Philly and 600 miles away from Michigan, Tennessee and beyond. I wish I could have spent more time with you……….and I will make it up I promise.

I have lots of comments to answer and I will tomorrow…….except the one that said the next time I come to Philadelphia me and my colleagues will be killed………..you are getting bugger all.

I have lots more to tell you and I will be writing a full and normal blog tomorrow as there is much to tell. Until then…………sorry for the disappointment…………I guess Carnival style fun really was too popular today.

Your friend

The commercials will be brilliant and I will let you know when they will be broadcast soon. I was asked to open and close each one and even if my attempts of being a TV star end up on the cutting room floor along with most of Madonna’s attempts at acting then so be it. Just to be asked by Big Dawg Pete and to be directed by Noam Murro who directed Smart People the huge movie hit starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Dennis Quaid.……. mmmmmm………..Dennis Quaid………….and then John Heald………..that’s like driving an Aston Martin and driving a VW Beetle with two flat tires.

Oh well, it was an experience I will never forget and that I hope applied to all of you who drove from places near and afar to see me, experience the Fun For All and take part in the commercials in Dallas and Philadelphia.

The fact that so many of you did is extraordinary and I am totally flabbergasted by you doing so. It shows the love you have for Carnival Cruise Lines and it shows once again that the community have built here on the blog thingy is unique and jaw droppingly brilliant.

In a few hours I will be answering all the outstanding comments so look out for a “John Replies” section very soon.

Let’s check in with Jaime as the Carnival Splendor continues her voyage across the Atlantic. Here are her latest two Dear John letters and as always we say thanks to her for doing this.

November 1, 2008

Dear John,

Today we are docked in the beautiful port of Palma de Mallorca in Spain. At tours this morning I was in charge of making sure the guests got off in time for their excursion. While I was speaking on the microphone, releasing groups from the lounge, one guest raised his hand to ask a question. He was curious why the shuttle bus which is run by the government has a five-euro charge at this port, when the shuttle was free yesterday in Barcelona. He went on to explain to me that the government should be encouraging tourists to travel into their city in order to boost the economy and he was very upset that this was not the case. Keep in mind, this gentleman was going on a full day tour and he was not going to take advantage of the non-existent complimentary shuttle bus. Besides this occurrence, everything else ran smoothly as always.

The ship never returns to this Spanish city and to be honest, I thought about just staying on board today. I am so grateful that I got off. The port is absolutely beautiful, and the weather matched… finally! This was our first day with nice weather. The port was simply stunning there is no way I can describe to you just how relaxing, peaceful, and great it was. OK fine, I will try… The air was filled with the smell of saltwater, which we sea-people have learned to love. The sun was shining, it was 75 degrees and the cool wind took course every so often just to bring a slight chill to the air. A man sat strumming soft Spanish music in the distance, wrapped warmly in his traditional Spanish blanket. The only other sound was the laughter of the young children playing on the playground. This made me remember just how much I miss kids. One of my jobs before working for Carnival was working as the assistant director of a children’s theater camp in Michigan. I went to join these kids by swinging on the swings with them, and the serenity continued… Until all of a sudden I remembered how many of their boogery fingers had touched those bars on the sides of the swing set. I then decided it might be best to continue my walk =).

I continued on to explore the Gothic City and the Cathedral. Today was a national holiday in Spain, so the roads were clear of people and several of the shops were closed. Even the streets were clean and polished. The sides of the streets were lined there were many tiny trash compactors that looked like gold plated R2D2s. They were marked organic and commercial/inorganic so the garbage separation is a natural element within daily life. I saw the beautiful cathedral with so much detailed artisan work that would never be found on a modern building. The sky was perfect and this made for excellent photographs of the quaint little town. Lawrence and I combined our pictures and got some great shots, see below.

Another highlight of the day was seeing the “Dunkin Coffee” shop, which is the same menu and décor as “Dunkin Donuts” in the States. Did I mention I am looking forward to being back home!? Seeing this store reminded me of my childhood. My mother and I would stop at the donut shop to buy treats for my class on the way off to school. I went into the shop to use the bathroom and remembered the only phrase I learned in 6th grade Spanish class, “Peudro ir al bano?” Good thing I remembered something!

Upon returning to the ship, I headed back to work and to have dinner, hit the gym, not figuratively but literally and play some big bingo games before tonight’s show. Another action-packed sea day is in store for tomorrow I wonder what adventures await!

View from the stern

The view facing the aft of the ship

Palma de Mallorca

The cathedral in the center of the town

All the best,
Jaime =)

November 2, 2008

Dear John,

Day five of our sixteen day transatlantic journey and I can really see the unification of guests beginning to form. Kind spirits and friendly faces permeate the ship. This morning, one guest offered to lead a non-denominational Christian worship service for her fellow passengers. An award winning author offered to conduct a de-stressification seminar on one of the five consecutive sea days that begin later in the week. Everyone sharing their area of expertise with one another most definitely leads to a more rewarding and exciting cruise. These offers of productive seminars that guests are willing to lead remind me of my favorite life lesson from my former voice teacher and mentor. At camp, we would always teach the campers about the “five love languages”, and how generally people most appreciate the love language that they communicate in. The love languages are (in no particular order): 1) Words of affirmation 2) Acts of Service 3) Quality Time 4) Physical Touch and 5) Giving Gifts. I am definitely acts of service, meaning I go out of my way to do people favors and follow through with promises =). I promise I will talk about something more interesting…

Not to be too preachy, but I had a rough sea day, not just because of the choppy waters but also because I was faced with a guest who was extremely rude to me. At the intro of the hairy chest contest today, I introduced DJ Owen as the next possible US President. If you see the photos below, you will notice how easily Owen could be mistaken for Obama. Apparently a guest was extremely offended, and thought I was acting morally wrong for supporting a political group in a public environment. I spoke with him and informed him that I was not supporting/negating the candidate or his abilities, just simply stating that Owen and Obama do indeed share a strong physical resemblance. Too bad the election is in two days and I do not think I will greatly influence the vote of the many Americans that will be in the middle of the Atlantic on Election Day! Unfortunately, we do not have a polling location set up on the ship. This gentleman informed me he had been on 54 cruises and he knew the head of Carnival, and I would be fired within the near future. Thank goodness that lady is offering that de-stress seminar in the next couple days!

For the time being I had the support of my co-workers in the office to help me get through the stresses of dealing with this particularly callous man. My team on the Splendor is very important to me. They are all incredible at their jobs. I am lucky to be on the flagship with such competent co-workers. On this cruise elegant evening, I am heading off to go tell them just how they great they are and spend some time with them. More about Steph, Adele, Lauren, Owen and Kevin tomorrow =)

The day was beautiful and I managed to capture a few pictures of the sunset to share with you. I remember Gary, one of our former entertainment hosts telling me he got some pictures from the crossing last year and everyone enjoyed that so I was hoping to share them once again.

Enjoy the photos. We will be in Malaga tomorrow.

See the resemblance?

=) ::stress-free smiles::

So, today, I am here in the entertainment offices of Carnival Cruise Lines. I am currently sitting at Kerry Stables’ desk blogging to you. Kerry is in the conference room designing what will surely be another award-winning show on the Carnival Dream. I will try and get you an insight as to what the shows’ theme will be very soon. I hope Kerry doesn’t mind me using her office and I hope she doesn’t mind the fact that I just broke her chair. Kerry weighs the same as an acorn while I weigh the same as the whole bloody tree and therefore her chair was not ready for my large bottom and henceforth it is now listing to port……………..bugger……………..oh…………and Kerry………….if you are reading this………….I wouldn’t recommend sniffing the chair cushion either.

As I said, later today I will be meeting with Stephanie who will assist me in answering all your comments. Then tomorrow I have a free day………..the first in a long time. I have no idea what I am going to do but I will hopefully relax a little. Then on Wednesday I will be filming a video for the “Onboard with Carnival” series with our Senior Vice President of Sales and Guest Services Lynn Torrent. We will post the subsequent video here for you as well. Also on Wednesday I will be going to see the Miami Heat play the Philadelphia 79ers. I am very excited to do this and will report on my game experiences, of course.

Then on Thursday I will be joining the Ruby Princess for a two-day cruise. I will be telling you all about this spectacular new ship that Princess Cruises have added to their brilliant fleet. I understand there is a special “romantic” theme to this voyage and a huge marriage renewal planned for everyone on deck………..as Heidi won’t be with me I guess I will be holding my own hand and……………….well…………..never mind.

Anyway, I can’t wait to see the ship and share my experiences with all of you.

Then on November 11 I will be flying (boo) to Grand Cayman to join the Carnival Destiny. She has just returned home to Miami after a dry dock session in which a Seaside Theatre big screen was added as well as other upgrades. I will be sharing my Destiny experience with you, as well.

After that I have one more flight to Boston for a meeting with my friends from the Arnold advertising agency and then………………I fly home to see Heidi and the Thingy. In between all of this I will be putting the final touches to the Bloggers Cruise on the Carnival Fantasy and looking at different blogging ideas for Carnival Dream. And of course …blogging each and every day…………or until you tell me to bugger off.

So, my flight from Philadelphia to Miami was pretty uneventful as far as my fellow passengers were concerned. The man who sat next to me didn’t say one word and spent the whole time reading magazines about X Playboxstation games and yes……………he had a beard. On the aisle next to me were two middle-aged men who went through the usual pre flight ritual of phoning their wives to say they were taking off before they bowed their heads in prayer………..actually they were both using their blackberries but from where I was sitting it looked like they were praying. During the flight they drank gallons of wine getting slowly pissed on Chateau American Airlines ………in fact, one of them was so “happy“ he offered all those around him a handful of nuts from this bag of mixed stuff he had.

However, the real entertainment came from the captain of the plane which had been due to take off at 6:15 pm……………….it didn’t. This is why……….and is pretty much word for word what he said on his first announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen this is your captain and welcome aboard flight 438 to Miami. It’s a beautiful evening here in Philadelphia and I am surprised therefore that so many planes want to take off and leave. Traffic control seems surprised as I am and have informed me that we will not be able to take off for another 30 minutes.”

Traffic control and captain America……………..were surprised?………………why were they surprised…………….I mean it’s a bloody airport…………..it’s going to have lots of big planes on the runway…………why was this a surprise……………what did they expect to find on the runway………….hundreds of tap-dancing nuns……and what happened to “slot times” or were they making the airlines play rock, paper , scissors to decide who gets to take off first.

Obviously this news was met with much resentment from my fellow passengers, however, they were a bit happier when moments the later Captain America came back and said “Ladies and Gentlemen I see that we are now third in line and that means we should be taking off in 10 minutes.”

“Hoorah”………….we all said.

Then just moments later he was back…………”Sorry folks, I can’t count………we are actually tenth in line to leave.”

“Bugger”……….we all said

Can’t count…………basic math is something that you hope the man who is flying your plane across the eastern seaboard has mastered………….and if he can’t even count past three…………..well………….that just left me feeling pretty nervous and by the end of the flight my arse looked like a chewed orange.
Knowing you have a captain who can’t count and then admitting he can’t over the planes PA system is like finding out Stevie Wonder is your hairdresser.

Still, we landed safely, albeit one hour late and I was glad to see that the cabin attendant went to the same school as the Captain America. As we all stood up to leave she said this over the PA system……….. “Would the guest who requested a wheelchair……..please remain seated.”

It’s good that she said that because I am sure if she hadn’t the poor passenger who couldn’t walk would have slithered all the way down the aisle of plane.

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.