The Sound Of?

December 3, 2008 -

John Heald

I truly believe that life now, at the precise second I am writing this blog thingy, is better than it was a moment ago. But not quite as good as it will be in a minute.

Obviously, this doesn’t apply if you’ve just been caught by your wife having rumpy pumpy with the next-door neighbor or if you’ve just been wrongly accused of trying to assisinate Kim Jong Il. And are, therefore, about to have your nipples blow torched.

But for the vast majority, life for human kind just keeps getting better and better. We live longer, we have more food, we can travel more easily and our children are less likely to die of the plague. Yes, there is a credit crunch but things will get better……and, of course, taking a cruise has never been more affordable.

However, in one important area, we are going ever so slightly backwards. I’m talking about the simple art of watching television.

Do you remember, in the old days, your television always worked flawlessly? Not any more. Not since it went digital. Now, I am not sure if in North America the digital age is there yet but by January 1 here in the UK any TV that is not digital will cease to function ………… and mine …….which costs about the same as the Carnival Splendor….is about as reliable as a French plumber.

Now, every so often and for no apparent reason, the lip synch goes all screwy. You’re looking at my mate Kevin on Grey’s Anatomy but you’re hearing Judge Judy bollock someone for eating their girlfriend’s dog.

Then occasionally, you turn on the television — usually just before your favorite show — and it says, for no obvious reason, that no satellite signal is being received.

“Oh,” says the woman on the end of the phone when you call to find out why. “You need to unplug the set, take the card out, tap it on your teeth, wait until your favorite show is over and then re-boot the system.”

Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh. This never used to happen.

Sure, a tube-powered television would often burn your house to the ground, but when it wasn’t on fire it was totally reliable.

Then there’s the question of watching a film. When we had video players, you put a cassette in the slot and that was that.  Now we are forced to sit through all the health and safety messages, the warnings about what will happen if you buy a pirated movie and where you may and may not show the film. And, if you do show the film in the wrong place at the wrong time, then a SWAT team will come bursting through the door and shoot you in the face. Then, you get told that the views of the interviewees do not necessarily represent the views of the studio.

By the time all this is over, you are 400 years old and it’s time for bed.  Mind you, I am assuming your DVD player will actually play the films you rent. Mine won’t.  What I then have to do is play the film in the PlayStation.

Ever tried this? It’s a bit like trying to navigate the Queen Mary 2 through the straits of Gibraltar. Only more complicated. And if you are lucky enough to figure out which button does what, the film will begin at a volume not heard on earth since Vesuvius erupted or Heidi discovered my underwear on the bathroom floor……again.

Now, I know that I am as technically gifted as a sloth but I am positive that none of the stuff designed to make our lives better………. actually works.

Often, when you get in a modern car, you are asked if you’d like to connect your telephone, via Blueteeth, to a speaking woman in the dashboard. “Mmmm, that would be good,” you think.

But it is impossible. And this is because Blueteeth attempts to connect things using the air. That doesn’t work. If you want to join something to something else, you need a screw, or a nail, or some wire. And, because Blueteeth uses air to connect you there are going to be things in the air to stop that happening. For example, for some strange reason the Blueteeth connection never works after I have had a curry……….I wonder why?

Then there’s satellite navigation. When it’s not sending 18-wheeler trucks down roads only just wide enough for a Smart car it’s advising you of traffic jams that exist only in its stupid electronic mind.  Time and again, I’ve driven an extra 300 miles or more to avoid a snarl-up that wasn’t there.

Out of the car, it gets worse.

The adverts for my Raspberry say it can access the interweb but it can’t.  The self check-in consoles at airports ask a million impertinent questions then tell you to bugger off to see a human at the end of a six-mile queue.

The machines that answer phone calls in Bombay haven’t a clue what you’re on about.
And I gave myself an ice-cold enema when trying to use a computerized bog in Hong Kong.

What makes all this so hard to stomach is that technology designed to make our lives worse performs flawlessly. If you drive too fast, as I did a few weeks ago, a camera will take a picture of your number plate, compare the image to a computerized database and that’s it…… are screwed.

How can it do this massively complicated job flawlessly when the digital camera I own takes a picture about two years after I press the shutter button? My photograph album these days is full of snaps of chairs, taken after the person who was sitting there has got up, gone home and died.

Then you have the computers that work out the fine you have to pay and make sure that the fine is sent to you immediately. They never break down. They never get it wrong.

And why doesn’t the computer they use go all blue and frozen as often as the Dell I’m using to write this?

Today, you have a video iPod and a wafer-thin television set. You have a portable satellite navigation system, Tivo, a digital camera, a widescreen laptop, a rampant rabbit, automatic sprinklers on your lawn and a mobile phone that plays the theme from 24 when anyone calls.

I even have a coffee machine that is programmed to deliver a hardcore XXX slug of caffeine in the morning, a mellower blend in the afternoon and big cup of girly-no-caf after six in the evening. How cool is that? …….except you have to have a degree in astrophysics to just get it out of the box.

All of these things have created a new type of person. The gadget freak. And he is every bit as important to the world of consumerism as the last great marketing invention ……….  the teenager.

Of course, to keep him happy, many new and useless things were invented. The home cinema. The La-Z-boy electric recliner. The computerized barometer. Along with phones that take pictures, cameras that access the Internet and even, I’m told, material that will be able to store and display information from the Internet. This means that if, for some reason, you don’t want to read The New York Times in newspaper form, or on the computer, or the television, or on your mobile phone, you can – and I’m not joking – read it on your own underpants.

Before buying any electrical good these days, ask yourself a question.  “Is this product designed to make my life nicer?”  If the answer is yes: Walk away…………..go to a travel agent and book yourself a cruise instead.
Yesterday, a blogger friend called Bill asked me the difference between a cruise ship and an ocean liner……….well, it was a great question that needed a proper answer……………and so…….here it is, compliments of our friend and chief reporter……..Carnival UK’s very own Peter Shanks.


There are four things that make an ocean liner;

1) The sleek and long design of the bow – as seen on QE2 and QM2 – designed to better take the ship through more challenging waters and the ship sits much steadier in the water.

2) The grandeur of the internal spaces of the ship – bringing back the emotive designs of liners in the past. This is very much in evidence on QM2, Queen Victoria and will be on Queen Elizabeth. A lot of double height spaces, impressive rooms and art deco designs.

3) Ships that regularly cross oceans – like the regular 24 crossings made by QM2 across the Atlantic Ocean every year.

4) The most important one by a country mile – only Cunard has ocean liners – absolutely everybody else has cruise ships.


So, there you go and always we thank Peter for his help….hey, just had a thought ………..Peter, can you come on the bloggers cruise……….I am sure everyone would love to meet you and you can join in the Q&A sessions……………what do you think?

Over at there is lots going on. There is a great blog from James Cusick about the refit of P&O’s beautiful ship Arcadia. It includes some great photos and is written in James’s own great style. Then we have Captain Mercer’s latest log blog from the beautiful Eurodam. He talks about a day in San Juan where the crew went through a 90-day crew immigration check………he explains that this is not always a straightforward operation and gives us the reader a wonderful view from the bridge.

Over at Seabourn’s blog we get to share in the latest news on what will be the world’s most deeply luxurious vessel……the Seabourn Odyssey…..have you seen the new photos?

Alistair, the cruise director of the Queen Victoria, is home now and his blog about the last part of his contract and there is also more great writing from our friend Peter Shanks.

There are also more great photos and events on the AIDA and Costa blogs so I invite you to enjoy a good read of these superb entries.

Well, on January 8 I will walk onboard the Carnival Destiny for the first time since 1997. I have been thinking about those days on what was then the world’s largest ship. I remember so many things. The flood in the Onyx Cigar Bar when a major pipe broke causing two feet of water to cover the lounge. We waded through the water wondering if we could ever get this taken care of before the arrival in New York………….of course, thanks to our brilliant crew ………..we did.

I remember how rough the crossing was and how the cables of the lobbies glass elevators banged against the infrastructure causing such a loud noise that I could hear it all the way on deck 5 forward. I remember how, because of the rough weather the cast had to cancel their rehearsals……… was just too rough. I remember the grand gala dinner where I met Kathie Lee Gifford, Marvin Hamlisch and a very moody Regis Philbin.

I remember someone on the inaugural cruise asking me to make an announcement for “swingers” to meet. I thought they were people who liked swing music not people who liked to have rumpy pumpy with anything and everything……so I made the announcement and was met with much rebuke from other guests and had to publicly apologize for doing so.

I remember arriving in New York and the police were pulling a body out of the Hudson River. I remember Captain Giovanni Gallo trying to dock the ship in New York with no less than 20 press and camera crews surrounding him as he docked the world’s largest cruise ship. I remember a quiet unassuming man ….sitting on a stool on the bridge surveying all around him…….and that quiet unassuming man was Carnival’s founder Ted Arison…….how proud he must have been.

I wonder what new memories await me as I return.

Well, today was a day of days and one I shall always remember. Heidi and I went to the doctor’s for her pregnancy check-up. All is well. Her blood pressure and all her tests were just brilliant. Our doctor was very happy and he told us all about what was going to happen in the future………..I tried to pay attention but that was not wasy as the nurse who was also in the room had walked straight from a Victoria’s Secret catalogue.

Anyway, we discussed lots of things including one that surprised me. Did we want the Thingy born in a hospital…………….or at home………….at home? Was he having a laugh? Did he really think that this was an option? Heidi having the baby in the kitchen while make me a bowl of chili. I want doctors……hundreds of them by her bedside………I want machines that go “ping” and I want loads of those epidoodle drug thingies should it all get too much …….for me………… home…………what a load of bollocks.

We have though, decided after much discussion not to know before the Thingy is born if it is a female Thingy or a male Thingy. It was a tough choice and I have to admit that I did want to know but……Heidi does not.  Since she will be doing most of the work, I will comply with her wishes.

However, I think I know what it is.

Today, I got to hear my Thingy’s heartbeat. It was jaw droppingly astonishing and a sound I never thought I would hear. But hear it…………I did. It was healthy and strong and as the beautiful 20-year-old nurse who was dressed in a short white uniform got closer to my Thingy……..its heartbeat got faster and faster………oh yes………it’s a boy.

Your friends
John, Heidi and the Thingy

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.