The Basketball Diaries

November 4, 2008 -

John Heald

I remember the first time I went to see a basketball game. I was 25 years old and went with the cruise director of the Carnival Fantasy, Gary Hunter, and entertainer Tim Harkleroad. We drove from Miami where the ship was spending 10 days before her inaugural cruise……………..we used to do that way back when……….now, of course, the ship’s go straight into service.

Anyway, taking some time off from the travel agent functions etc, me……..the young social host…………Gary……….the industry’s cruise director (and he still is by the way) and ventriloquist and comedian Tim all got into Gary’s Bronco thingy and headed for his home town of Gainesville, Florida, to see his beloved Florida ummmmmmmm ………thingies play………’s either crocodiles, Indians or something like that.

This trip was memorable for two reasons. It was my first ever-live basketball game and …………..the trip back which I will tell you more about later.

So, we arrived after a long drive and I remember how excited I was to see a live American sporting event…………….this would be my first……………and, being a college game, the stadium would be full of young college girls who would all have long curly blond hair and have names like Crystal and Summer. They would be dressed in very short cheerleader-type skirts and tight T-shirts with their college emblem festooned across their ample breasts. They would, of course, hear my British accent and having just read Jane Austen would fall in love with me……………their very own Mr. Darcy and that would be me…….having some college rumpy pumpy under the bleachers.

Unfortunately, the reality was a little different. The crowd were mostly middle-aged men and women and the only young people seemed to be male…………all drinking beer out of huge plastic cups. There were no young bosoms anywhere…………except mine.

Then a few rows in front of us was a 40-piece brass band who every time the Florida Alligators or whatever they are called touched the ball or whenever they took one of 345 time outs they would strike up a tune………..I couldn’t hear myself think and my ears were ringing for days.

Disappointed that there were no college girls to stare at and trying to stop myself from shoving my hot dog down the nearest trumpet, I tried to concentrate on the game. It was mind-numbingly dull. On an unbelievably squeaky wooden floor, two sets of unfeasibly tall men ran from one end of the court to the other like baggy metronomes, dropping the ball into opposing hoops. It appeared not to have any midfield action whatsoever.

The score rocketed – 32-28, 74-62 –but I’d lost interest. The big TV screen was randomly selecting a couple in the crowd. They would be framed in a heart and if they kissed while on the big screen they won an all-expenses meal for two at Taco Bell. I prayed that I would be selected………even though I knew that Taco Bell food would instantly leave me with a turtle’s head in my underpants………I was so bored that even that didn’t bother me.

We left………….Tim and Gary were buzzing because the Florida Crocogators won ………… I just wanted to go home.

Don’t let me forget to tell you about what happened on the way home will you.

I was so disappointed and that disappointment stayed with me for years. Until I went to see a Miami Heat game back in 2004. They were playing the New York Knicks and I had been invited by a friend called J.B. Buccafusco who was from New York and a huge fan of the Knicks. Anyway, this time it was different. Although we had seats way, way back the excitement and the atmosphere had me on the edge of the seat. ………………and the Miami Heat dancers were pretty hot as well.

Anyway…………..I was converted …………… and that’s why I am looking forward to going to a game tomorrow night. Let’s Go Heat!

Basketball to me is like jazz…………….let me explain.

I left that first college game disappointed. I had wanted to like basketball but I left hating it. And it was the same the first time I went to a jazz bar. I wanted to like jazz music but……….I left hating it. The whole bepbopdadooscoobydoo scat thing just gets my goat. I’m sure men with beards will say I’m wrong but I just couldn’t get into it. It just seemed to be random, tuneless nonsense. The jazz lifestyle, on the other hand, is something I was attracted to “cool cats” dressed in black smoking big cigars surrounded by sophisticated groovy and “far out” girls.

However that all changed when Carnival put cigar smoking in “cigar bars” and I was forced to listen to the jazz trios while puffing on my Cohiba Siglo V.

Then………..slowly……….things changed and I started to listen to the notes and the tone and then suddenly………..I went out and bought my first jazz CD…….. Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. It’s one of those albums with the word blue in it that it seems to be almost compulsory to own. I really “dig” this album – it’s good for late night driving or as a gentle soundtrack to a dinner party. If I had a lift, then I’d pipe it through my elevator speakers? Who chooses elevator music by the way………..Just once I’d like to get in one to find it playing the Sex Pistols or Throbbing Gristle.

So, good morning everyone from my hotel room which I have spent the last few weeks in. I have got to know everyone here and they all call me “Mr. John” for some strange reason. I have also been asked by three hotel staff members for job applications onboard.

Yesterday, 11,000 of you read the blog about Halloween and piñatas ………..considering there is an election going on that is unbelievable. I want to mention the Philly incident one last time. You have probably seen the replies to the comments I received yesterday all of which I replied to……………well…………apart from the ones that contained swearing, cursing and threats of violence…………they received the “delete” button treatment.

I have received a few more today and while I thank everyone who wrote in it seems redundant for me to reply to them now. So, let me say one last time how sorry I am that this happened and although thousands of people had fun many left disappointed ………….. and to you …………..from the depths of my heart……………I apologize most sincerely.

Now, there seems to be a conspiracy theory that the piñata was broken yesterday and the candy thrown away. This apparently was suggested on a local radio station…………..this, of course, is complete and utter bollocks…………or nonsense ……… non-Brit speak. The candy remains in the belly of the piñata. I have suggested that we contact local charities so that the candy is given to them to distribute to the various children’s homes and to the underprivileged………………..all in Philadelphia, of course.

I will let you know what happens.

Here is the latest news from Jaime as the Carnival Splendor gets ever nearer to home.

November 3, 2008

Dear John,

Today we visited Malaga, Spain for the last time. Our coast guard preparation continued this morning with a wakeup call from Cruise Director Goose at 9:30 am. He alerted the entire ship and the fire squad to stage a fire rescue mission and evacuation procedure that originates from the crew laundry area. In this time of rehearsal for potential danger, it is important to note how vital it is that the fire team moves quickly and efficiently to resolve the simulated problem as early as possible.

This morning the team did all of the necessary fire fighting routines, and, thankfully, no one was injured during this drill. I think one crewmember may have stubbed his toe, but of course the infirmary is well prepared with splints and physical therapy for that. This fire drill was continued by a boat drill for crew only. Once again, all the crew made their way to their muster stations and followed through with the necessary protocol for a general emergency. We have a few more of these drills before we return to the States, and I assure you that at this time the repetition has made this crew member feel more than prepared to demonstrate my knowledge in these aspects of nautical safety regulations.

After the back on board time, I was able to sit down with Goose for a bit and discuss with him his plans for South America and the Splendor. We are already planning for this route because we realize almost half the ship will be chartered to guests that are staying on for the entire 49-day journey around the cape. I will make it my goal to learn all 1,400 of their names before they disembark! We are looking forward to offering them new and different activities to keep them entertained and occupied throughout their entire trip.

So far, he has already made a few changes to our program, with a focus on live music and traffic patterns that guests will typically choose. He has made altercations to our activities schedule, offering a plethora of new activities during the day. He was sharing with me that his primary goal while working on this ship is to make the best program possible with so many options and varieties that guests feel like there is “too much going on, which is a good thing, because this means they can not do it all in one time.” He plans on adding multiple theme nights, new pre-show activities, and utilizing all of the technology that we have on board.

Goose also shared with me some tricks he learned from a team building seminar he attended years ago. The strategies taught in this class were the three S’s 1) stabilize, which can be applied to one’s self or the entire team 2) strengthen, which is a huge window for opportunities and ideas and 3) strategize, which is what he has now, but the first two steps need to happen first.

I felt motivated and empowered after talking with him. I am sure there are is a very bright future for the Carnival Splendor and our team with Goose in charge. From what I understand the trip around the cape has potentially rough seas, so if you will be sailing with us, prepare yourself for a rocky but action-packed ride.

The sunset at Malaga (not altered at all!)

The Coastline

Fire in the skies!

=) Cheers!

I thought I should share this wonderful comment with you all which really sums up how lucky I am to have this blog thingy.

Love is in the air, and Carnival’s got the fun you will really admire! There is always a celebration on board to make your winter holiday a great one and give you a complete sense of true paradise. On a Fun Ship cruise, you can renew your spirit in the extravagant spas or show that athletic pride in the greatest gym afloat. You can be a legend in the show lounge or experience the glory of winning bingo! It takes a lot of valor to play the lido deck games, but with a little inspiration, you can find the strength to do it and establish a personal victory. When in the beautiful ports of call, you can witness the splendor and beauty of different lands and even dream of your own life in the tropics, Europe, or any of the dozens of places Carnival sails. Everyone has a fantasy they want to see come true, and with the magic of Carnival, it is a real sensation each day at sea or in a wonderful port.

You won’t ever want to leave a Fun Ship because of all the freedom you’ll enjoy day and night. It might seem like a miracle, but you don’t have to do a thing! There is a certain fascination that comes with seeing your bed made for you and all your gourmet meals prepared. And what elation you’ll feel when you are a platinum guest and you get your laundry done, too! Today, we all work hard to triumph over tough work schedules and everyday life. Wouldn’t you love the liberty of being free on a Fun Ship? More than just feeling wonderful, you will reach ecstasy during this Valentine season on a Fun Ship. As 2008 just begins, enjoy the conquest of making your dreams come true and alter your own destiny in the most incredible way with Carnival!

©2008 Brian W. Cabral

Now………….have a look at these fantastic photos of the Carnival Dream which show her leaving dry dock and the subsequent “float out” ceremony.









Spectacular photos and ones that show just how stunning the Carnival Dream is. I hope to get permission to fly to Italy early next year to see how she looks. Don’t forget that I will be onboard the ship for the inaugural cruise and that we are considering two Bloggers Cruises aboard our newest flagship, as well. I will write more about this very soon as these cruises get further along in the planning stages.

I am trying to get away from the election coverage on TV during my lonely nights in the hotel. ……………..but that’s not easy. I did manage to see an episode of Grey’s Anatomy on the TV On Demand thingy in my hotel room. I did this so I could see my mate Kevin in his new role of…………..ummmm………….stabbing pigs…………….which is what he seemed to spend the episode I saw doing.

Anyway, he looks great and I hope you are enjoying his character. The actual medicine in Grey’s Anatomy is a stream of extreme Guinness Book of Records oddities. Nobody gets the flu or breaks a leg or has hemorrhoids any more. I told Kevin that if he gets a script that shows he has to operate on a man with hemorrhoids that he can practice on me.

It seems life in Los Angeles is very different to the UK. Everyone in LA is very busy at home in the early mornings. Kevin, who lives there, says it is because everyone is seeing their shrink/life coach/fitness trainer. If you’ve got nowhere to go before breakfast in this town, then you’re going nowhere.

Today I answered more comments and attended two meetings. One was with a most talented group of people. These folks are the costumers, scenery designers, music composers, lighting designers, choreographers and other personal all of whom are responsible for the shows that you all love, the shows that are without doubt……..the best in the industry.

Under the careful watch of Kerry Stables and my mate Roger Blum the people who are meeting in the next few days will ultimately provide the Carnival Dream with the finest in entertainment. I also got to see a video of the new show on the Carnival Liberty. It’s called “Simply Rock” and while there is certainly nothing simple about it……………it will rock your socks off. It’s a must see.

So, back to the story of my first ever basketball game. I should mention that Tim Harkelroad is still working with Carnival Cruise Lines and is one of our most consistently successful entertainers. Gary Hunter taught me everything I know including one pearl of wisdom that I always passed onto all the young CDs. He once said “John, the microphone is a device that just amplifies your voice. It is not something that should change your personality.”

Basically…………..he was saying be yourself and those are words that I lived by as a cruise director and words I hope others have listened to, as well. Gary now works for Crystal Cruises and I have so much to thank him for.

So, back to the story and as I keep writing I am not sure if this is one I have shared with you before………….anyway………….we were in Gary’s Bronco returning from the game when Tim said he was hungry. Now, I should say that Tim is a well-built man with a big appetite rather like myself and him being hungry was no surprise.

And so it was that we stopped at a place called Bobby Rubino’s where Tim went in and bought a few dozen barbecued ribs. We needed to get back to the ship and we had a long drive ahead of us so Gary said he would keep driving. So, there we were driving along on the dark expressway. Tim asked me if I wanted a rib…………I said no thanks because back then I was supermodel skinny and didn’t eat much……………..truly!

However, after a while those ribs started to smell pretty good so I asked Tim to pass me one from the front seat where he was to me in the back. He did…………and they were the worst ribs I have ever tasted. There was no meat on the damn things and as I sucked at nothing but bone marrow. Tim passed me another…………..this one was even worse and I had seen more meat in a vegetarian’s refrigerator than on these ribs.

It was then that I heard Tim start to giggle….the laugh out loud and Gary joined in. I then realized that I Tim had been passing me back the ribs he had already eaten and in the dark I had not noticed…………..I had been sucking on Tim’s leftovers……bugger.

Tomorrow I will be filming some video for a series called “Onboard with Carnival” and then it’s off to see the Philadelphia Thingies play the young talent that is this year’s Miami Heat.

Oh, by the way……………….I miss Heidi very much.

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.