It's Beginning to Feel A Lot Like Christmas

December 9, 2008 -

John Heald

I am so in the doghouse…….not just a little bit ………….a lot. Apparently, I embarrassed Heidi today and she says I haven’t done so to this extent since our stay in a hotel recently……….on that occasion we were getting ready for dinner and a lady from housekeeping knocked on the door. Upon opening it, she said “Good evening, I have come to turn down your bed.”……..I said……..”Well, you won’t be the first lady to do that………..everyone turns down my bed.”……….Neither she nor Heidi was amused.

And so, to this morning’s journey to the house of hounds……..here’s what happened when we went to buy a Christmas tree.

“Bugger me,” I said, or words to that effect. I definitely invoked our Lord’s name in vain, and I was as flabbergasted as someone who just discovered they were pregnant but had never had rumpy pumpy. I was frozen to the spot like the ass (donkey) on seeing a child being born in a manger; I gaped like the wise men when someone asked what the heck Frankincense actually was; and I quivered like dear old Joseph on being told by his wife that she was about to give birth to someone else’s child. But it was really quite all right, darling, and there was no case for jealousy and it was indeed a great compliment that she had been chosen by the chap in question.

“How much?” I asked again. We were at the Christmas tree dealer, and my glowing wife picked out a six-foot spruce. It was freshly cut and smelt like a Norwegian grandmother. The 14-year-old salesman had already used his chainsaw to whittle the stem, so that it would fit in our stand, and now it was being wrapped in white plastic netting. The only question left was the price.

I had a vague memory that last year, and the year before that, we had been asked for something in the region of £30 to £35 for a tree of identical height and beauty. So when he said, “£60 to you, mate, and that’s as cheap as I can do it,” I nearly decorated the tree with some projectile vomit. “Look here,” I said, after rustling theatrically through my wallet, “I am afraid I only have £50 on me,” and there was one of those difficult pauses like you get when people ask you embarrassing questions like….why do you have a climbing wall on a ship?

We looked at the tree, wrapped and ready to go. I looked at my wife, agog with excitement, and already thinking about the red balls and other Christmassy stuff that we were going to drape all over it while we all ate a Dutch Christmas delicacy called Kerststol and listened to George Michael sing about Last Christmas.

I looked from tree to wife, from wife to tree, and I knew there was nothing for it, and so I foraged despairingly in my wallet again. There in a secret compartment I found some US dollars left over from my recent trip to Miami, Dallas and Philly, and the beady eye of the 14-year-old lumberjack fell upon the greenbacks.

“How many dollars have you got?” he asked, since he is a well-traveled entrepreneur. “Twenty,” I said. And so for fifty quid and twenty dollars I did the deal, and as I fed the trunk into the back of the car I thought …..wow……………..the credit crunch has just hit me in the face like a Mike Tyson right hook.

The pound has fallen against the Euro, so that you pay more for your German tannenbaum. Sterling has fallen against the Danish krone, so that you pay more for your Nordmann non-drops; it has fallen against the Norwegian krone, so that you pay more for your classic Norwegian spruce and unless you intend to buy a £5 fake tree from Walmart (or ASDA as it’s called here) then you really are buggered.

Anyway, we got the tree home and as I write Heidi is decorating it in her usual way. This means the tree will look wonderful and despite my complaining and her embarrassment at my bad language at the tree farm, ours will be the best Christmas tree …….in the world.

It is traditional at this time of year for some people to moan about how much they hate just about everything to do with Christmas. ……..and while I hate the fact that Christmas now starts in September, I mostly love it.

Naturally there are one or two minor irritations. I don’t, for instance, like it when you get hit in the face by a remote controlled micro-helicopter the moment you walk through the door of a toyshop or in a shopping mall. I also despise the fact that in the politically correct world we live in certain Christmas traditions have now been cancelled in case we upset people who don’t celebrate Christmas. ………….And while I have the utmost respect for every religion and belief………it’s gone too far……….for example, a town’s traditional Christmas tree, coming from sustainable forestry, and recyclable, has been abandoned in favor of a plastic one – on environmental grounds.

School choirs have been prevented from singing carols in a local shopping center as the words may offend people of other religions…………..and in case people stop and listen, and cause other shoppers to trip over them. But mostly I get on well with Christmas. The lights work straight out of the box. I like getting long letters in cards from people I haven’t seen all year. I enjoy watching my Dad eat Brussels sprouts knowing that in a few hours time Mum will be decking the halls with a can of Oust.

I like turkey curry in January. You can never watch the Great Escape too many times. I don’t have any relatives who wet themselves during lunch and I am grateful for my new socks. That said, there is one feature of Christmas that fills me with such fear and such dread that I genuinely shiver whenever it is mentioned. It is the damp log in the fire, the boil on the arse of Christmas and thank goodness I no longer have to endure them on land or at sea………….I am talking about the company Xmas party.

When I worked in the city of London, the staff would each save £1 a week for the annual yuletide piss-up. By July they would have enough for the shrimp cocktail and by October they were more excited than a child on Christmas morning about the first glass of Baileys. I never understood why.

I still don’t. The notion that you turn off your computer at 6 pm and at 6: 01 pm are getting drunk with people you don’t like very much over a plastic cup of Asti Spumante seems really strange to me.

They are not your friends and you would rather have had your nipples stapled to a George Foreman grill then see them socially any other time of year. So why think for a moment that the evening will be anything other than hell? And, these parties can really spoil the whole spirit of Christmas

The streets become full of ordinary people who have suddenly lost the ability to walk in a straight line. And the atmosphere in every restaurant is firebombed by the table of 60 who order food not for its taste but its aerodynamic efficiency.

Some people put more effort into the office party than they do into the family event a few days later. Last year I went to a party of a company we work very closely with at Carnival …………..and boy…..did I feel old. I ended up in nightclub, looking at my watch every few minutes and thinking: Can I really go at 10 pm?

There are some rules, therefore, that I feel I should pass onto you, should you be considering an office party this year. Never, ever let your firm’s outing be organized by the most junior member of the team because their idea of a good night out — lots of vomit and silly hats — is likely to be far removed from yours.

You think you have nothing to talk about with the president and C.E.O., but you have even less in common with the office juniors. Your houseplants, for instance, are alive — but you can’t smoke any of them. There is more food in your fridge than booze and you hear your favorite songs when you’re in an elevator.

There is another problem. Wherever the office juniors are, all they talk about is where they’re going next. Wherever you are, all you want to do is go to bed. And they say, the day afterwards, “I’m never going to drink that much again.” You say, “I just can’t seem to drink as much as I used to.”

The second thing about the works party is rumpy pumpy. You sit opposite the slightly ugly girl for 48 weeks and it never once occurs to you that you want to see her naked. So how come, after one cup of warm Asti, she becomes Angelina Jolie and you have an overwhelming desire to take her for a bit of slap and tickle in the photocopy room.
On a ship it’s rather different and to find out what happens onboard we will soon be reading some guest blogs from our friend Butch on the Carnival Glory. OK, yesterday I replied to lots of comments ………….here are the ones I didn’t get time to reply to.

jerry Calvert Asked:
Since Carnival Corp doesn’t seem interested in offering a decent loyalty program that rewards us for all the lines (CCL,HAL, Princess), is there a credit card offering that gives us 2X reward (or similar ) for Carnival family?
Answer needed–see you on Carnival Valor 3/22

John Says:
Hello Jerry.
I know there has been some conversation about this subject and certainly it makes sense that if you are a loyal Carnival Corporation supporter there should be some kind of reward system in place. However, the logistics of this are very complicated as each cruise line is run independently and each has their own loyalty programs. I will discuss this again though with my friends in the corporate offices to see if this has moved forward at all. Now, as far as your question about the credit card. Well, there is of course Sea Miles which rewards you every time you use it. Those rewards go towards cruises on all the corporation’s vessels. Please have a look at the website at www.seamiles.com
If you still need help or advice I am of course here for you
cheers and see you soon
John

mickeyspal Asked:
Happy Anniversary John and Heidi!!!!
Sorry your “dinner and a show” weren’t exactly thrilling, but then I guess it’s the thought that counts, eh? But the gift was perfect! And you can both enjoy it for hours on end. We have one and they can become quite mesmerizing.
JOHN, PLEASE REPLY: Are you still getting a dog? You seemed pretty set on doing so, or at least Heidi did. Is there a change of plan with Thingy Desk on the way, or did the animal adoption agency turn you down, too? That would be hateful!
Great picture of you two. Bet Dad and Mum are enjoying having you home for a while.
Please continue to enjoy your time together and get some rest.
Your Pal, Myra

John Says:
Hello Mate
First of all let me thank you for all your postings. They are a joy to read. The dog……………ah yes…………..well, this has been put on hold now the Thingy is on the way. Heidi does not feel she can cope with a young puppy, a Thingy and me.
I am sure in the years ahead she will get one though. I am really enjoying being at home and before you know it………I will be back at work
thanks again for all the kind words
Cheers
John

Stephen Smith Asked:
Please Reply
Quick question….. I am sailing on the Conquest on the 28th of this month. Is the Piano Bar non-smoking? I know you spoke of the Piano Bars and their smoking status in a previous blog, but I can’t remember what you said. For the record, and not to disrespect the smokers out there, I hope it is a non-smoking venue.
Thank you for your time and the wonderful blog.
Stephen Smith

John Says:
Hello Stephen
Firstly, thanks for the kind words about the blog and I am so glad you are enjoying it so much. You must be so excited about your Carnival Conquest cruise and what a fantastically fun way it will be to bring me the new year. I checked with the ship and at the time of writing the piano bar on the ship is still a smoking bar. We did try making it a non-smoking area on the Carnival Splendor but so far this has yet to be implemented fleetwide. I am sure you will still be able to enjoy this fantastic entertainment area and please drop me a line when you get back about how much you enjoyed this special cruise.
Cheers mate
John

PrincessElaine Asked:
Hi John, (PLEASE REPLY)
The activities for the Blogger’s Cruise sound great. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it.
Do you know if Ron Pass will be at the piano bar for the logger’s cruise? He is the absolute best.
Kisses to you, Heidi and the baby.
Princess Elaine, the quiet and single of Big Ed’s Evil Krewe

John Says:
Hello Princess
I just saw Ron had sent me a message on Facebook and I will now see if he can join us. It certainly would be fantastic if he could and I know you and many others are huge fans. Lets see what can be done. Hope you are well and please write soon
cheers
John

I will answer the next batch of questions at the end of the week so if there is anything I can do for you please let me know. I see many of you stopped by bestblogsatsea.com yesterday to read Eurodamnews. Well, on toady’s Captain’s log there is a fascinating look at what happens during a medical emergency onboard……….have a look, it’s a must read.

Well, bestblogsatsea.com has its official launch today and with that in mind here is the official press release.

‘BEST BLOGS AT SEA’ OFFERS AN INSIGHTFUL, BEHIND THE SCENES LOOK AT EIGHT CARNIVAL CORPORATION & PLC BRANDS

Blogs from AIDA, Carnival, Costa, Cunard, Holland America Line, Ocean Village,
P&O Cruises, and The Yachts of Seabourn Showcased in Comprehensive New Web Site

MIAMI (December 8, 2008 ) – The success of Carnival Cruise Lines’ Senior Cruise Director John Heald’s blog has led to the creation of Best Blogs at Sea, a collection of Heald’s favorite web sites that provides a unique, behind-the-scenes look into eight Carnival Corporation & plc brands: AIDA, Carnival, Costa, Cunard, Holland America Line, Ocean Village, P&O Cruises, and The Yachts of Seabourn.
Designed as a “one-stop shop” for the latest news and information on these distinctly different cruise operators – each a leader in its own market – Best Blogs at Sea (www.bestblogsatsea.com) showcases the fascinating personalities and magnificent vessels that have played a key role in these companies’ success.
“Have you ever been on a cruise and wondered what’s going on behind the door marked ‘crew only’ or thought what it might be like to be a captain of an ocean liner?” said Heald. “With Best Blogs at Sea, the world’s greatest cruise lines have come together to produce the world’s most brilliant blogs, all written by people who have a passion for the industry we all love,” he added.
In addition to highlighting the cruise industry’s top blogs, Best Blogs at Sea includes links to other cruise-oriented sites among the various brands along with a top 10 list of the most visited blogs within the site. Featured blogs include:
AIDA Web Lounge – offers photos and information on the top-rated German cruise operator, along with features such as the “Captain’s Blog.”

Boat Buddy (Ocean Village) – an interactive blog that embodies the characteristics of the British cruise operator, which caters to younger, more active vacationers.

Carnival News Blog – features photos, video clips and news updates on the fun, unique vacation experience of the world’s most popular cruise line.

Eurodam News Blog (Holland America Line) – provides a comprehensive overview of the new Holland America Line ship, which accommodates 2,104 guests and entered service earlier this year.

James Cusick’s Blog (P&O Cruises) – within this blog, the executive chief purser of the Arcadia offers an insider’s view of the day-to-day operation of the 1,952-passenger ship.

John Heald’s Blog (Carnival) – the most popular blog in cruising, thus far 3.4 million visitors have logged on to read Heald’s interesting take on the cruise industry and life in general.

Odyssey Blog (The Yachts of Seabourn) – offers photos and updates on the construction progress of Seabourn’s newest and largest yacht, the 450-passenger Odyssey.

We Are Cunard – showcases the people and places – as well as the classic ocean liners – that make up the venerable British cruise operator.

World of Costa – the distinctive Italian flavor of Europe’s largest cruise operator is showcased in this comprehensive and informative Web site collecting cruise experiences, pictures and dreams of guests and prospects.

“When John Heald launched his blog in March 2007, it really struck a chord with readers who were seeking a different perspective into the inner-workings of the cruise business. We designed Best Blogs at Sea to offer a peek into crew-only areas that guests normally don’t see, with colorful entries by highly talented individuals each offering their own insight into our constantly evolving industry,” said Bill Harber, director of marketing for Carnival Corporation & plc. Harber added that the site will be expanded as other Carnival-affiliated blogs come online.
Carnival Corporation & plc is the largest cruise vacation group in the world, with a portfolio of cruise brands in North America, Europe and Australia, comprised of Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, The Yachts of Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Ibero Cruises, Ocean Village, P&O Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia.
Together, these brands operate 88 ships totaling more than 169,000 lower berths with 17 new ships scheduled to be delivered between March 2009 and June 2012. Carnival Corporation & plc also operates Holland America Tours and Princess Tours, the leading tour companies in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon. Traded on both the New York and London Stock Exchanges, Carnival Corporation & plc is the only group in the world to be included in both the S&P 500 and the FTSE 100 indices.

My thanks to all the contributors and I know that this sight will continue to grow. I had the same question from Don Cheeseman and Seaguard 100 about there being no blog representing Princess Cruises on this site. We didn’t leave them out I promise. Their blog is not ready yet and as soon as it is we will add it to the site and I will let you know when that happens.

And so, let’s continue my Heald’s Heroes basketball team. To recap we have.

WINSTON CHURCHILL – COACH

THE GODFATHER

COLOMBO

MR T

And also in the starting five………we have …………….James Bond. Obviously he is going to be our star player. He is unflappable and always resolute and a man with the capacity to defuse a nuclear bomb, have rumpy pumpy with Pussy Galore, be measured for a Saville Row suit and execute a pick and roll with Mr.T……….all at the same time.

It has to be Sean Connery, though……..not that big girl’s blouse, automatic non-gearshift driving good for a man to cry ………Daniel Craig. Sean is a man’s man and command’s instant respect. You know, he has always kept his Scottish accent no matter what movie he has appeared in………seriously……..can you think of a movie where he wasn’t as Scottish as a Haggis in a Kilt?

Even in my favorite movie The Hunt For Red October he played a Russian submarine captain with a Scottish accent……….Captain Vasillie McTaggertov. In the movie The Untouchables he was supposed to be Irish but again his Scottish accent rang true.

Anyway, I digress as usual. James Bond is in the team because he is simply the greatest male hero ever created and lives the life us mere mortals can only dream of. He has the ability to break through impenetrable defenses like volcanoes, submarines, underwater laboratories and the Detroit Pistons. Now, I did consider the other JB but Jack Bauer only make the bench. My problem is with him that he doesn’t obey orders. I don’t want Winston Churchill telling Jack to double team Dwyane Wade only to have him instead blow up the stadium before kidnapping the owner of the Miami Heat because someone’s trying to frame him. Nope, I need Bond not Bauer……..I don’t want him torturing the hot dog guy because he thinks he is a terrorist………Bond therefore is in the team ……….. wearing the number 007.

I want to thank you all for the wonderful anniversary wishes you posted on the blog thingy. Heidi is doing well and seems very healthy. She has booked a week of something called a yoga retreat with her friend Nadia in Devon. Apparently this is for special pregnancy yoga where they only consume fruit juice five times a day. It’s supposed to be a “healing” and “cleansing” thing, and I suspect that it will include the dreaded colonics.

I did suggest, before she went and wrote the check, that I could lock her in the shed and slip fruit juice under the door five times a day. I have the Sounds of the Forest CD from and could have piped that in as well and we have a very long hosepipe for the colonic thingy……….. It would have been a lot cheaper. She declined……..There’s no pleasing some people.

Goodnight
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.