The Lady in Red

November 7, 2008 -

John Heald

I’m often criticized by Heidi for not telling her everything. I’ll go and have a Diet Coke with a friend and come back to a Guantanamo-style grilling: “How’s his wife? What are the children up to? How is his brother who is dying after being bitten by a rabid yak?” I’ll look nonplussed and be forced to admit that none of these things really came up. When pushed, I struggle to remember what we talked about – just stuff … it’s what blokes do

Women, on the other hand, talk a lot about people they don’t know. There are endless discussions about whether Angelina is really happy with Brad Pitt or whether Madonna has had breast implants and had already reached third base with the baseball player Mr. Rod while still married to Guy Boring. Our house is littered with gossip magazines that are read over again and again, as though there is some hidden Da Vinci-style message within.


If anyone within any of Heidi’s group of friends is ill, then the discussion turns to potential outcomes (mostly fatal) and the subsequent fall-out. Then the whole group gets depressed. Then someone remembers there is some Haagen Daaz ice cream in the freezer and everyone gets a sugar rush and the whole rollercoaster starts over again. It’s very tiring.

I’m starting to really understand the appeal of fishing, which is mostly about escaping from this bollocks and very little to do with fish. It’s like golf, except there’s not even any walking involved. I tried fishing a few times when I was younger and found it totally boring. Sitting on a river bank waiting for a yank (not an American, of course) on the line and then fighting a fish for three hours when you can just go to Publix and get one that is already beheaded and nestling in a white wine sauce. However, now that I married things are a little different

The reason I mention this is because Heidi wants to know every detail about how I spend my day. Who did I see, what did I have for dinner and how many number two’s I have had…………OK……….maybe not that but pretty much everything else. And I know she will want to know everything about my trip to the new and shiny Ruby Princess yesterday …… and so………….let me tell her and you.

If you watch today’s soap operas…..As the Bold Turns…….Guiding Hospital etc., you may consider throwing yourself under an express train …..but don’t. That’s because is not a foregone conclusion that your daughter will have to face a teenage pregnancy, or your husband may not turn out to be your long lost brother, or your wife may not decide to have rumpy pumpy with your father, or genetically altered foods might turn your dog into a zebra.

Of course things were different back in the 1970’s when we all sat down in our living rooms…….walked over to the TV…..remote control??…………..gathered our family around us and boarded The Love Boat…………..which was the original the Pacific Princess.

I am not even sure if you could call The Love Boat a soap opera but whatever it was, it allowed us to escape into a world that back then was only for the rich and tanned. We fell in love with Captain Stubing who set the tone for all real life captains who were not hired for their seagoing skills but were given a job only if the looked like Gavin Macleod.

Then, of course, there was my nemesis…….Cruise Director Julie McCoy……….. Who had the most patience of any cruise director in the industry? I wish I could have interviewed her and allow her to be honest………I am sure she would have said: “I got sick of these passengers and their romantic problems. Do you know how many games of shuffleboard and volleyball I organized? Do you know how many times I wanted to take the skeet shooting rifles and shoot one in the head? If I have to listen to Charo do one more ‘cuchi cuchi,’ I’m finding me one of those guns and turning it on myself. You have no idea John how hard it was to see everyone else falling in love and getting some rumpy pumpy ……. by the end of season three, even Gopher was looking good.”

The actor who played ship’s doctor was unavailable……….he allegedly now owns Hooters.
However, the Love Boat set the tone for what we all wanted to aspire to. We wanted to escape into a world of romance, sun, great food and entertainment…………..and then along came Ted Arison who waved his magic wand and made our dreams come true.

Many things have changed at Princess Cruises since those early days but one thing that has not changed is that Love Boat dream of the finest of everything all served up with a big dollop of romance.
A few months ago, Heidi had the enormous privilege of sailing on the Emerald Princess. If you missed those five days of blogs I invite you to read them here as Stephanie included the links to those.

The Emerald Princess- Meeting the Friendly Crew and Being Asked….Are you famous?

The Emerald Princess Part Two

What Can You Get for $10 These Days?…..Paradise

Icon Number Two Sabatini’s

A Slice of Piazza

Heidi Princess for a Day

Farewell My Princess

The Ruby Princess is of the same design as the Emerald Princess…………….and I mean exactly…………….and why not? Look at the world’s most successful sports car the Porsche 911 and you will see the design has been the same for many years………………and that’s because it’s an epic car……………not as epic as an Aston Martin still a very, very good car.

And Princess has their own 911 in this class of ship. As you will have read from my blogs on the Emerald Princess I loved everything about the ship. The Sanctuary which for $10 turns your five star cruise into a seven-star event featuring totally and unrivalled tranquility. We loved the Anytime Dining. This is I know a subject on which many of us differ and I know some lines do this better than others.
But freedom of choice is important and those little periods of waiting or an invitation to dine with other guests are made more palatable when you have the David Copperfield of maitre d’s…………Generoso.

He, along with Carnival’s Ken Byrne, are simply the finest, most talented and most loved maitre’ d’s at sea and it was wonderful to see him yesterday even for only a few minutes. In fact, many of the crew had come from the Emerald Princess and many recognized me……………and all said a big friendly hello to me as well ……………………..and that is pure Princess Cruises…………………….brilliant.

The entertainment spaces, dining features (including the unmissable Sabatini’s) the bars, theatres and open decks are as the Emerald Princess and even some of the decor is similar………………..and that leaves you with a warm and comfortable feeling like putting on your favorite pair of underwear.

So, let me take you through my day.

I arrived at 1 pm having battled the freeways of Miami to Fort Lauderdale. I was nearly killed twice………..once because a guy in a big truck changed lanes without using his blinker and the second time was when I changed lanes suddenly because, without any warning, my exit appeared and the man I pulled in front off threatened me with a huge blast on his horn and told me I was his number one………..I know this because he put one finger in the air.

So it was that I arrived at the magnificent Ruby Princess. She was docked in Port Everglades and, as usual whenever I see a new ship, I got that tingle down my spine and the hairs on my bottom stood to attention…………………..WOW is she gorgeous.

You will probably have noticed that I always write the ship’s name in full. It’s a pet peeve of mine when people call the ship by a shortened name………..QM2………..The Splendor………The Fasc………..etc. etc……… it’s a like when people call me Johnny…………which makes me want to insert a leaf blower up their bottom.

Anyway………as usual………….I digress.

I arrived onboard and was immediately enveloped into that Princess Cruises’ world of the finest of everything. It started from the welcome from the very pretty Assistant Cruise Director Samantha who looked resplendent in her new uniform designed just for the Ruby Princess……………..very Ralph Prada.

And then I met Princess Cruises’ number one Cruise Director James Lay………….I could write so much about why he was chosen to deliver yet another a new ship. I could tell you about his friendly posture and his love of life and his amazing presence …………….. however, I just want to say this…………….he has become a great friend and should be a role model for all those young men and women who dream of being a cruise director on the Love Boat………………….Julie McCoy may have nicer legs than James …………….. actually an oil rig has nicer legs than James…………….but James has that certain something which makes him by far one of the most popular cruise directors …………………. in the world.

James though had little time for me as he was off to a naming ceremony rehearsal. However we did manage to have a Diet Coke together and during that time I saw many guests approach him and say how nice it was to see him again. I also met many people who recognized me and whom read the blog. One couple brought me a cigar cutter to replace the one that was confiscated by the airport police in Miami………………however, I never got to see them again that day and I disembarked without it. Hopefully I will see them again and thank them so very much as I do all the Princess Cruises fans who read the blog thingy.

So, after my quick hello with James I walked the ship marveling at the gorgeous decor and, of course…………………..comfortable chairs all of which handled my bottom with no problem at all. Once again Princess Cruises had built a warm and inviting place to escape to. It was certainly warm on deck as well as I passed the big screen which was playing an episode of the Love Boat.

The ship was getting ready to sail on a two-day cruise from Port Everglades and was filled with travel agents, invited guests and those who had sailed on Princess on countless occasions. I met one of these at lunch. I was hungry so I helped myself to some wonderful shrimp salad and a piece of crusty bread with butter and sat down. The place was pretty busy and I was sitting on my own at a table for six. A lady and her husband asked if they could sit with me and I of course told them no………..bugger off …………….. joking…………..I, of course, said yes. And so it was that I met Josephine and Andrew who have been married for 40 years and had taken 65 cruises with Princess. I remember their names because they gave me their business card which I am looking at now. It says their names…………their address…………..and then says their occupation……………Professional Cruisers……………..brilliant.

Now, the ship was sailing at 9 pm but, since the naming ceremony was about to start and that would lead straight into dinner, James announced that the boat drill would take place in 10 minutes and all guests needed to collect their life jackets…………..and showing what an experienced group of passengers were onboard……………..every single one got up …….. and went to boat drill.

I was there on my own………………I didn’t have a cabin because I was not sailing so mopping up the last bit of salad with the last bit of bread I wandered down to my favorite part of the ship……………….the Piazza. It was there that I met Rai Caluori who is Princess Cruises Executive Senior Vice General Thingy……………..he is very important and …………. he used to be……………………a male stripper…………………joking……………….

He used to be a cruise director and now is one of the most respected men in the whole cruise industry. I want to thank him for the invitation to sail which I wish I could have and thank him for his continuing friendship. It was so great to chat with him and you could see how proud he was of the new ship……………….and he has every right to be.

So, after boat drill I sat in the lobby. I had a quick cup of coffee with a passenger/travel agent from Hong Kong, a Mr. Woo Hoo (great name) and we chatted about our mutual love of Princess Cruises and all things shippy. I then went to watch the entertainment in the Piazza. This included a couple of amazing chaps doing a balancing act, a brilliant juggler who I know well called Nick Pike and a singing group of four African American gentlemen who doo-wooped their way through the songs of yesterday……….they stole the show.

The Piazza style entertainment is something that you must not miss if you are ever onboard this class of vessel…………it reminds me so much of Convent Garden in London ………….and that includes not just the entertainment but also the ambience. This is because there are no desks or pursers or anything but coffee, drinks, nibbles and fun entertainment………….brilliant.

And before I knew it my fake Rolex told me it was 5 pm…………………time for the naming ceremony…………………………time for me to feel totally underdressed. I was wearing a blazer and open neck shirt……………..no pants……………….just a blazer and open neck shirt. However everyone else was dressed elegantly……………….and thanks to a masterstroke by the marketing chaps and lassies…………………all were wearing red……………………Ruby Princess red……………..Ruby Red ……………..the color of romance.

Each guest had received a letter telling them to wear Ruby red for the ceremony …………. and everyone did……………………and what an 18-carat gold doughnut that made me look in my blue blazer and blue shirt ………………….and no pants.

Anyway…………….ignoring the looks of disgust from various passengers, I stood back and watched a simply beautiful ceremony. It was held on the Neptune’s open deck. The pool had been decorated with red roses bobbing in the center and many more red roses were festooned all over the deck. These complemented the red tablecloths, red cocktails and, of course, the redness of the ladies dresses and the men’s ties and bow ties………………my blueness was stood out like a Judge Judy in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shoot.

The weather was beautiful …………..the shone and the temperature was just right …………… it was a beautiful day and that was the icing on a beautiful ceremony.

First to speak was a man who needed no introduction………………Captain Gavin McLeod ……………….Princess Cruises ambassador and the huge applause he received showed the love the passengers still have for the actor and the character he portrayed. He opened the proceedings before introducing the emcee for the event…………..James Lay, the cruise director. It was noted during the introduction that he had been chosen because of his red hair ……………well maybe not but it was most appropriate that he was. James then introduced the guests of honor which included most unusually not the ship’s godmother ………………but the ship’s godparents.

Programs like the Love Boat have been with us for years but it took much longer for reality shows to get to the box, simply because the technology made it too difficult for people who weren’t rehearsed to appear on television. Survivor, Big Brother, The Island, etc., are possible only because of small digital cameras and microphones. The other reason there are so many reality shows now is that they are cheap. The public comes cheap.

The great misconception about real people on television is that the professionals who present program aren’t real in the same sense that the audience is. But they all began as anonymous members of the public, desperate to get their face on the box. There is no identifiable difference between Simon Cowell and the kids he tells are crap and to bugger off home, apart from 20 years and millions of dollars.
To a man and a woman, people on television are bungee jumpers. They would leap off a crane, tied by elastic, and many of them would do it naked. And so it was with a program called The Bachelorette.

Now I never saw this but friends tell me it was massively popular. Apparently a wealthy young lady fills her home with a load of stud muffins and then chooses which one she wants to ummmmm……………….date. Well, my friends told me that, like most reality programs, these relationships don’t get past the rumpy pumpy stage and most end up with the making of a sequel program to discuss just why the once in love couples now want to blow torch each others nipples off.

However…..there is one exception to this mayhem. And that’s Trista and Ryan Sutter . ……….they met on the program…….fell in love on the program………………..and are now married with a beautiful child and another on the way. I can only tell you that judging by the rock star applause and cheers they received from the passengers that they are a very popular couple……………..I will tell you more about them shortly.

Before they named the ship, we were treated to some big band music and song from the Ruby Princess orchestra and entertainers and as they played the crew formed up above the stage. Chefs, cabin attendants, waiters and many others all stood to attention. Below them the ship’s senior officers made up a background that made me feel proud…..it is always wonderful that the crew is allowed to be part of these ceremonies. They are the heartbeat of the ship and you could see how proud Princess Cruises President and CEO Alan Buckelew was of them through the words of thanks and admiration in his excellent speech.

Then, James introduced us to a surprise.

A wedding.

Yep………………..a real life wedding.

Princess Cruises had run a competition in the USA Today newspaper to find a couple to be married during the naming ceremony. They did………….and so we met the wonderfully named Kip…………….and his bride-to-be Danielle who walked to the rose-filled stage to the sounds of “The Entrance of the Queen of Sheba” and gasps from all around…………she looked stunning.

And then with her new husband Kip on one side and Gavin MacLeod on the other, they became man and wife. After the vows a ruby-haired vocalist sang a stunning version of “You Lift Me Up.”………………and I was immediately surrounded by hundreds of sobbing women all crying their eyes out and this touching event…………I even saw one man crying……………..but then I realized a sobbing woman had just trodden on his foot.

It was a beautiful ceremony and with everyone dressed in red……..the color of love ……… it was the perfect way in which to celebrate the beginning of the life of the Ruby Princess and the life of Kip and Danielle.

Then it was back to Trista and Ryan Sutter who both spoke in turn about their love for each other and their pride at being asked to be godparents to the Ruby Princess and all her crew. And then speaking together they named the ship………..the bottle of champagne broke successfully…………..the ship’s horn blasted in salute……………and so it was that The Ruby Princess was officially named. Everyone hugged and kissed each other and took photos of Ryan and Trista, Danielle and Kip, Captain Stubing and each other……….while I painted a forlorn and lonely picture as I buggered off ………it was time to go.

The ship is stunning…………Princess Cruises performed a ceremony that was as romantic as could be…………….today they will be continuing that romance with a renewal of marriage vows for everyone………..all at the same time……on deck ……. and it’s no wonder that Princess Cruises were just named the most romantic cruise line in an online poll.

For me though…………..the romance was over and I had to get back to the reality of my hotel room which after living in it for three weeks looks as romantic as me in a pair of Speedos with a red rose in my mouth.

How to sum up?………..well……………I have a sister…………..her name is Suzanne. She was headhunted by a big bank to go run their trading desk in Hong Kong………and you know what?……………..I don’t think I have ever told her how proud I am of her……………..until today. And so it is with Princess Cruises………..our sister…………..and one I am very, very proud of……………and whose new Ruby Princess ………..really is a place to fall in love, rejuvenate love and……………to escape from the slings and arrows of the world we live in.

I didn’t take too many photos but have a look at www.princess.com for some wonderful shots.
Here though are a few rough-cut videos I shot with my Flip camera thingy. I hope you enjoy them and my huge thanks to everyone at Princess Cruises for their hospitality. I wish the captain and his crew much success and happiness.

Goodnight
Your friend
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.