Italian Illuminations

December 16, 2008 -

John Heald

It’s nativity play time again at schools across the country…….or at least those that are still allowed to do it and have not canceled them in case they upset certain individuals with the story of Christmas.

We were invited to join some friends to see their son Carl (aged 5) perform in his part as the inn keeper this afternoon………and because Heidi (who returns tonight from Holland) has our Thingy in her tummy and her emotions are dominated by anything to do with kids……she excepted on my behalf………and that was me…………at a school ………. watching 5- and 6-year-olds perform.

The first thing that struck me was that the shepherds watching their flocks by night did not have the standard tea towel on their heads…………nope……….these were politically correct shepherds.

We sat behind a wall of video cameras. To the rear of the stage was an unlucky group who had been dressed up as the animals in the manger. For some reason there was a bear and a very unhappy one at that.

I have quite some experience in the wearing of costumes………..Dolly Parton ………and I can imagine that a bear suit under stage lights is like a sumo wrestler in a microwave.

Try as I might to watch my friend’s son I kept being distracted by the sight of the boiling bear. His face was visible and was getting redder and redder. I could swear that actual steam was coming off him and he started to sway a bit. Then the bear burst into tears and was withdrawn from the manger and cuddled behind the crib. Shortly afterwards a sheep tripped up on a small bit of wood and disappeared off the stage. This was a health and safety nightmare. I presume the Fun Police will close it down next year.

Back on stage, Joseph and Mary were coming to the end of their epic search for a Holiday Inn. The third innkeeper was approached. “Do you have a bed?” asked a weary Joseph. “NO!! BUGGER OFF!” That’s what I was secretly hoping that Carl would say. Actually he shouted, “NO!! BUT WE DO HAVE A STABLE IN THE BACK!”

Joseph seemed rather startled by the volume of the offer of a stable for the night but accepted it with good grace. He and Mary slunk off for a smelly and uncomfortable night plagued by unwelcome visitors bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Interestingly I now know what the last two are. ….I just Googled Myrrh …………It turns out to be an “embalming ointment”.

So basically the three kings brought a nice gold thing and a couple of token smelly things that nobody really wanted. I’m surprised they didn’t bring some socks along as well.

Back at the nativity play and things drew to a close. The tea toweless kids trooped out back to their classes and the bear was carried gently toward the nearest ER……… Job done for another year.

Now, with much apology for the delay……… are the questions which have been awaiting my reply

Carl Balliet Asked:
Not sure how to do this so here it goes. My wife and I are platinum carnival guest. We were wondering if the Destiny has a TOPLESS deck.

John Says:
Hello Carl
Well, the good news is that all the open decks on the Carnival Destiny allow topless sunbathing………well…… least for the men. Unfortunately there are no longer topless bathing areas on our ships. We did use to have them but found that they were used mostly by the dancers who need an all-over performance tan and by one or two guests. This took away a lot of deck space. So, we have taken them away. However, we do have our Serenity adults only decks and whirlpools which I know you will find to be a wonderful place in which to give worship to the sun.
Have a great cruise and please let me know if there is anything else you need

Jake Silverberg Asked:
John, Please Reply
I’m not sure what to tell my blog, but while being in Miami on sat. I saw the Liberty (which I once sailed on) and I know she recently underwent a dry-dock; however I’m not sure what those two new very distinct windows are on top of the bridge. They are located right before the wings on top of 8 where the actual bridge is, but this is located on 9 where it is open to walk on. Anyways my grandmother is currently on the Regent seven seas navigator, and unfortunaly was not able to sail last month on the Eurodam due to an injury; however she is now booked onboard ruby princess, and is looking into the Carnival Dream bloggers cruise.

John Says
Thanks, JAKE
How is Grandmother Jake after her accident………….would you please send her my best. Well spotted…………yep…………those two new windows you mentioned on the forward part of deck 8 belong to the new and stunning deluxe penthouses available for you and everyone to book on the Carnival Liberty. This was a recent addition to the ship and I think……….somewhere……we have a few photos…….Stephanie……..can you attach please?





Thanks Jake and I wish you continuing success with your blog


Andrea Asked:
Hi John! (Please reply)
I’m pretty new to your blog but am loving it! A friend was on a sailing on the Splendor in September and met you and recommended that I check out this site. My fiancé and I are going on the Splendor on April 26, 2009. We’re actually getting married on board that first day! Any suggestions on what excursions we may want to check out for the Mexican Rivera stops? And would you happen to know who the cruise director is? (I’d love to be able to meet you!) I’ve been on one Carnival cruise before on the Pride on October ‘03 and had a blast. It’ll be his first time on a cruise and in Mexico. We’ve very excited.
Congrats to you and Heidi on the Thingy!


John Says:
Hello Andrea
Let’s start with saying welcome to the blog thingy and I am so happy that your friends told you pop over for a read. Secondly, congratulations on your marriage and thank you for choosing to spend your honeymoon on the Carnival Splendor. She is a great ship and the staff will make sure that you have the best time and it is the perfect start to many years of happiness……………please try and come out of the cabin at least once! Now, as far as shore excursions go in Mexico I am going to ask your Cruise Director “Goose” to recommend some to you. Before becoming the CD on our flag ship he was the CD on the Carnival Ecstasy and therefore has had many months of experiencing the best at what these ports offer. I am sorry to say I have never been on a West Coast ship. Anyway, we will send your request over and as soon as he replies I will forward his suggestions to you. If there is anything else you need in the run up to your big day I remain at your service

Sasha Asked:
Hi we are friends of Ken Byrne and are trying to e-mail him but we can’t get through if you could please tell him to e-mail us.
The Deubel Family
Fast Eddie, Linda, Sasha, Josh and Mattie

John Says:
Hello Sasha
I will be happy to pass on your request to Ken. Please let me know if you require anything else

ronrn Asked:
John, please reply…
Hi John, the blog has been a must read for over a year now, please keep on blogging, and thank you for sharing.
I am sailing the Legend on 2/22/09, Western Caribbean (5th Carnival cruise). My question is which Mayan Ruins tour would you recommend, Tulum in Mexico or XUNANTUNICH in Belize. This is something my Dad really wants to do, but with the length of the tours really only want to do one of them. Thank you for any info you can provide.
Tell your mate, Kevin, he is doing great on Grey’s. I first saw him on “Rome” and have enjoyed his work since.
All the best to Heidi and the thingy, and may You and Yours have a joyful holiday season.

John Says:
Hello Ron
I want to start by thanking you for your kind words about the blog thingy. It means so much and keeps me wanting to write to you all as often as possible. Now, as far as the ruins tours are concerned …….well………….that is to me a simple one to answer. Tulum! The Mayan temples, the sacrificial chambers and the sheer spectacle of the scenery with the ocean below you makes Tulum a not to be missed site. So, for Dad, I would take him to see the ruins at Tulum. There are many other options in Belize and if you need my help with that………….I am standing by. Thanks also for praising Kevin. I will be seeing him over Christmas as he and the family are coming home for a few days……………..I am very proud of the ugly sod.
I hope you keep reading the blog thingy and my best to you and the family

Jeri R Green Asked:
Heidi, I’ve copied the recipe for my son to try as he loves to BBQ and loves rum! I can hardly wait to taste the results. Thanks for sharing. John, would you please reply regarding things to do in Belize that may not be cruise tours (we’ve done most of those that appeal). We’ll be heading there on Jan. 1st. Hopefully things will be open on New Years Day. Jeri

John Says:
Hello Jeri
I hope all is well with you and the family and by know hopefully you have tried Heidi’s chicken recipe…………..let me know what you think. Now, as far as what to do in Belize that is not one of the ship’s tours. Well, that’s a bit of a tough one. Maybe, you could think about hiring a personal taxi driver for the day to take you to the rain forest and rivers and some of the more secluded beaches. The jungle areas of Belize are amazing and so dense that today the British Special Forces (the SAS) do all their jungle training there. If you are going to use a driver make sure he is a certified taxi and always fix the price with the driver and never pay them until the completion of the tour. I am sure everything will be open on Jan 1……..including the shopping which in Belize is very, very good. Let me know if you need anything else

Semper Fi Asked:
John please reply…
Hey John, Cindy and I need some assistance and advice so we have decided to seek out your Imperial Wisdom. (Lol)
Ok so I tried, any way Cindy and I are booked on the Freedom for an 8 day cruise on March 14.
We were booking our shore excursions and we have a great time planned for our Cozumel visit. however were are at a bit of a loss for the other 2 ports
1- Limon, Costa Rica
We have read all the excursion details and nothing really rung the bell as we say.
So Miss Cindy said, Why not solicit Dear Old John for his suggestions for these ports, and being a well trained husband (30 years) I have learned that there is no difference between a “suggestion” and a “direct order”…lol. So in any case we would like to ask for any suggestions that you may have. We will be celebrating our 31st anniversary on this cruise as we celebrated number 30 last year with you on Freedom.

John Says:
Hello Mate. Oh, how I wish I could be with you to celebrate your anniversary again. However, let me see instead if I can help you with my favorite recommendations regarding the excursions in the ports you mentioned above.
In Limon, you must visit the Turu Ba Ri and Carara National Park. Now, you can do this by boat or experience the thrill of a cable car ride above the forest or a combination of both. We also have a zip line canopy adventure which is truly brilliant. If you prefer something more peaceful than the Limon highlights tour is great or just take in a cruise through the jungles river and marvel at all the exotic birds and animals.
Now, in Panama……..well, if you haven’t been through the most famous canal in the world and experienced this amazing passage for yourself then you really must. We have the Panama Canal Tour which will really show you this phenomenon up close and personal. Have a look at this…….and then you may decide to experience this for yourself.
Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you
Cheers mate

SeanL Asked:
John (Please reply),
We are sailing on the Miracle in 12 days and want to take a small present to give our cabin and dining room staff on Christmas Day. Any suggestions?

John Says:
Wow, Sean……………that is truly wonderful. Well, I can tell you that they will appreciate anything but………….apart from a sack of money …………….may I kindly suggest you take them something generic from where you are from. Maybe a T-shirt, a mug or cap or something that will help them remember you……………….this will be very special to them. Have a wonderful cruise and thank you again for being such kind people

retirementman Asked:
Good evening John, Heidi & ? The Caribbean has always been in back of my mind. Now that I’ve cruised I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to visit some of these islands. In 2009 my wife and I are cruising at Nassau, St. Thomas (thanks for the photos, they look great) and my favorite, St. Maarten. My dream is to eventually cruise all of the island in some way. Your knowledge and expertise has allowed me to know about the islands before I go there. In 2010 I plan on cruising to Panama and see the Panama Canal. Will Carnival change some of the islands in their cruises in the near future? Or have a 10 day cruise on the Caribbean? Or something new about cruising? Just asking. I saw in your blog yesterday you stated that you saw Heidi’s glow. I told you so. Isn’t it beautiful? Ciao my friends.
Paul F. Pietrangelo

John Says:
Hello Paul, how wonderful to hear from you. You asked about 2010 and new destinations and voyages. Well, I can tell you that 2010 will be very exciting and, although I cannot go into specifics right now, I can tell you that there will be lots of exciting news to look forward to. I hope…….and this is just a hope……..that we do indeed have a Panama Canal voyage and, of course…….on a personal note, a return to European cruising ……………….. let’s see what happens and, of course, I will let you all know as soon as I can.
Heidi is glowing and I…………….am a lucky man.
As always, my best to you and your family

Eva Bartolo Asked:
Hi John
Just returned from the “Liberty” western Caribbean cruise which I must say was not one of the better cruises I’ve had with Carnival.
Although I heard people complain on things from Food to Entertainment my thoughts on the dancers and the shows were that they were great. There’s a review by one of the CC members for the November 15th cruise which you might want to read to get a better picture of it all.
My observation however was with regards to the entertainment staff as such. My daughter and I went to several of the activities i.e. trivia games, etc. and the staff were not enthusiastic about their job. One of them was constantly yawning and didn’t even know how to play Scattories and we had to find out amongst ourselves how to play it. You could tell she really didn’t want to be there. The other thing (and I did mention this to the CD Steve) is the fact that one would like to participate in most of the “night time” activities however these were held in smoke filled rooms. It is very difficult to cheer and dance around if you can’t even breathe. There was a red and blue team activity which was close to the casino and again this was smoke filled so we couldn’t participate since my daughter suffers from Asthma. It was a pity that we couldn’t help our team earn more points. We mentioned this to Steve and he encouraged us to write this in the comments section as he agreed that something should be done about the smoking in certain areas of the ship. John to be honest surely if there is a game which normally doesn’t go more than 1/2 hr, the people can stay without a smoke?? Can something be done about this? I had met others during the cruise who voiced the same opinion.
The pianist on this cruise had alot to be desired!!! After the first night there I didn’t venture back, this was unlike the Baltic cruise where the pianist made it fun for everyone to join in with his sing-along!!!!
In one of your Q&A you asked for debarkation comments. On the Liberty this worked great. We were all given our tags which were then called out at different times and it was well organized so this is one place that I can honestly say Carnival did a great job.
Now to my question. Will Ken still be the Maitre D on the Splendor for the SA cruise???? I’m traveling with Harold and my sister and brother in law and would love to be in his dining room. How can I arrange this???
Well John this ended up being long note but as a loyal Carnival cruiser I thought that I had to voice my disappointments to you. I do believe we require more “smoke free” areas on board (I do believe the Splendor seemed to have these areas) and if activities can be added that are smoke free then it would definitely be a step in the right direction.
I’ve read comments that the bloggers cruise is already full for the December 3rd??? I’m still trying to convince Harold to go to it. Does this mean I shouldn’t even try??? Best wishes to you and Heidi and little thingy.

John Says:
Hello Eva
I am so grateful to you for writing to me about your cruise experience. As I mentioned yesterday what people say on the Cruise Critic boards are personal opinions and as you mentioned with regard to entertainment……………..opinions variety and one person’s champagne is another’s cup of poison. Anyway, with regards to the specifics, well, let’s start with the activities. Firstly, and most importantly let me apologize that your experience was not as you would have hoped and that I have sent this comment on to Steve and our Carnival entertainment managers. The one thing our staff must have is enthusiasm, without that, the activities are flat and we can hardly hope to get our guests enthusiastic about taking part if the staff running the activity is in a virtual coma ……… nope, that certainly can’t be tolerated and we’ll definitely take a look into it.
As for the smoking…………..well, I guess we still face challenges here even though we continue to have less and less smoking options available onboard. I guess in the instance you mentioned the activity was on the non-smoking Promenade Deck yet your daughter was troubled by the smoke from the casino……..that can be avoided by moving the activity and I will encourage Steve and all the CD’s to look carefully at their locations and make sure that whenever possible they are held in non smoking environments. The world’s opinion to smoking is changing and we are changing with it and I am sure that meantime we can accommodate both non-smokers and smokers alike.
I am very happy to hear debarkation went well and I will also pass on your comments about the piano bar player.
Please send me your dining request, cabin number and full names of those wishing to eat together and in Ken’s dining room as he will be on the South America adventure with you.
My best regards to you and the family

missingthesmokefreeparadise Asked:
You missed two must do’s, in my opinion.
1. See the Mayan Ruins of Tulum – absolutely fascinating to see these century old structures. Kinda like seeing Old Rome on a beach.
2. Visit one of the Bernard K Passman galleries and stare in awe at the wonderful works of art that this man produces from black coral – the one in Grand Cayman is great.
One more thing – the turtle soup in Grand Cayman is very good. Enjoy.

John Says:
Hello John
I actually missed out many, many more Caribbean highlights and will be writing more of them soon. I think I did mention Tulum after you wrote this comment and how correct you are about Bernard Passman whose work has continued to rise in value each and every year. His Charlie Chaplin piece is my favorite and can be seen as you said in his stunning Grand Cayman store.
One other Caribbean highlight is to have your photo taken with you in your Carnival Funnel hat!
Cheers mate and best to the wife

Sarah Asked:
Please Read!
I just wanted to post about our trip last week on the Splendor sailing 11/29! (It would have been sooner, but my computer decided that it too wanted to take a vacation and the internet was out snorkeling in the World Wide Web and refused to connect me!)
It was really Spectacular Spectacular! I want to commend the staff and crew on one of my favorite cruises ever! And it wasn’t their fault that we flipped our kayak into the ocean on our night kayak tour in San Juan (and yes, it’s a good story
The entertainment staff was splendid! We had sailed with Kevin before, but we loved sailing with him again-he is so much fun! Adele was wonderful too-cracked me up during Game Show Mania! She really brought the fun to all the events we went to! Lauren was great, but unfortunately we didn’t get to spend as much time with her. We even got the privilege of sailing with Dance Captain Claire again-she was on the Glory with us last year when Ashley fell in love with Wee Jimmy! She is one of the sweetest, most sincere people I have ever met. And her dancers were amazing too! Overall, I would gladly cruise with any of them as my entertainment staff again any day!
Yes, I was super disappointed that you were not going to be our cruise director. But I did get the chance to meet you in Philly at the Piñata event, so I was OK with Goose. My friend Ashley had even convinced me that Goose was totally my type of cruise director; though she might have been referring to his looks He did a great job. Throughout the week we spent some time talking to him and it was a lot of fun. We even got that elusive fruit basket from him-who knew such a little thing could make such a big difference??
Our wait staff at Table 107 was fantastic too! Some of the best service we’ve ever gotten on Carnival and that’s saying a lot!
It really was a splendid week and not one that I will forget anytime soon. And alot of the credit goes to you too because I know that alot of those still on board were part of your team. So, thank you, thank you, thank you! And hopefully we’ll see you on a cruise soon!!

John Says:
Welcome back Sarah and I am glad your computer has also returned from its vacation. What a wonderful review and I am excited that the staff you mentioned are still doing such a wonderful job. They are all fantastic, however, could you understand Adele? ……….. she is from Liverpool……………have you checked you still have your wallet and that your car is not missing any wheels? Seriously, I am proud of them all and I will pass on your vote of gratitude. I am sorry I could not be there with you but hopefully we will be together again soon.
Say hello to Ashley and maybe have her eyes checked………………Goose is ugly.
All the best

Bill Russell Asked:
We are booked on the Dec 3 Bloggers Cruise on the Dream. First we thought you were going to be the CD but reading your replies to other emails find out your not. But you’re doing the blogger things so we felt that was still good. I called my Carnival consultant, Lenny Hernandez, who is a real asset to Carnival by the way. He should be senior cruise consultant. I asked him to make sure we had the code for the bloggers thingy included in our reservation. He called around and got the same answer everywhere. “They cannot participate in any blogger thingy’s because they are getting a military discount. Does this seem fair to people that have served their country. If you’re not the CD and we cannot even participate in the blogger things we are seriously thinking of canceling the trip. I really hate to do it but this is just not fair. HELP!
Bill and Joan Russell

John Says:
Hello Bill and Joan
Hopefully by the time I have answered this problem has been sorted. Regardless, I promise and assure you will not be missing out on anything and you both will be a major part of the bloggers cruise ………….please don’t worry.
I will write to you again very soon

CindyInPA Asked:
John – Please Reply
Hi John, first of all I’d like to say happy belated anniversary to you and Heidi. Also sounds like things are going well with the pregnancy and Heidi is enjoying it. I haven’t written in quite sometime due to work commitments and my son’s health. But I wanted to say reading your blog each day does bring a smile to my face, even on those impossible days!
My question, I saw on one of the blogs that there was gonna be a private beach excursion in Cozumel for the BC2. Are we able to book this now or do we need to wait until we are on the ship? Do you have any details about it? I just know how much we enjoyed the one in Ocho Rios on the BC1.
Can’t wait to see you in 58 days (the New Orleans help project) it’ll be here before we know it!
Cindy Billet
York, PA

John Says:
Hello Cindy
How wonderful that the blog brings a smile to your face……….as reading that makes me smile. The bloggers excursion in Cozumel will be released in the next few days and yes you can book through the blog or onboard. It’s going to be a great day and I hope many of you will attend. My best to you and the family and please keep smiling

jerry calvert Asked:
John – thanks for the response–unfortunately that charge card is very restrictive on travel agents.
I cannot stress to you too much that it is a buyers market.
HAL is good but so is “X”.
You could help yourselves, with a good cross-marketing program in these trying times. Wake them up in Miami!!! Yes it’s complex, because each division must make money. However the business each dividend gets because of the overall program is never recognized.
In today’s market there is frankly little distinction between lines–loyalty programs, well designed can work.
Again –wake up Miami.
As a grandfather of 8, best of luck on your coming birth!!

John Says:
Hello Jerry
How right you are about today’s market. I can tell you that many people at the highest level ……..for some reason……………read my thingy each and every day. I wonder if they will maybe……move a corporation loyalty scheme forward. It seems like a great idea. I will keep you posted.

Melissa Jurgensen Asked:
John reply.
Hi John!
Thanks for posting the old photos; would love to see more! Ha, ha.
Thanks too for the cruise director list. I am curious, who is the lucky captain that will be at the helm of the Dream, or has that been decided yet?
My best to you, Heidi and the Thingy!!

John Says:
Hello Melissa
Good question………………..who will the Captain of the Carnival Dream be. I have an idea but it hasn’t been officially released yet. I wonder if PA 007 can help there and maybe do some digging for me. I will get back to you very soon. Whoever it is……….will be the captain of the best cruise ship…………….in the world.
However, other positions have been appointed ………and let’s congratulate the following.
The following management has been assigned to the Carnival Dream:
Hotel Director: Donato Becce
Cruise Director: Todd Wittmer
Guest Services Manager: Hector Groves
Food & Beverage Manager: Francis Mekkattukulam
Housekeeping Manager: Niksa Pelic

carol.schoenberger Asked:
Hi John,
Mr. T is an excellent addition to the team.
Love the old photos – in the photo from the Carnivale, who is 2nd from left with the beard? He definitely looks familiar.
JOHN – PLEASE REPLY: I saw all those comments from bloggers who are trying to book the blogger Dream cruise and can’t get a balcony cabin. I haven’t contacted my PVP yet, since I’m already booked 11/15 & have a balcony. But if they’re going to charge a different rate – I’m paying a lot already. I’ll contact him today, but if you’ve got anything further, I’d like to know.
Thanks, & regards to you & Heidi,

John Says:
Hello Carol
The man you refer to (with the beard)…..well unfortunately that is a man I really never got to know but was one of Carnival’s most loved cruise directors………Dave Armor. He passed away a few years ago but his spirit lives on amongst us all. I know Stephanie was investigating the concerns about the balcony cabins on the Carnival Dream and the bloggers cruise.
Don’t worry Carol, we will sort this out.
I hope you are well and wish you and your family happy Hanukkah
your friend

Bill Heck Asked:
Hi John:
You asked about debarkation.
Last cruise was September; Legend in Tampa. We had a noon flight. The purser helped us with an early luggage tag. We got off the ship in short order after a nice breakfast, found our luggage right away, got a quick $20 cab ride to the airport and got to the airport about 9:30. Quick, simple easy.
On previous Europe debarkations, Liberty 2006, Freedom 2007 in Civitavecchia, we got off the ship real fast, found the luggage quickly, but finding the shuttle to get to the train station was very difficult. There was no assigned bus stop and there were no personnel that had any idea. It was nice both times to enjoy a good breakfast and putter in the room until time to go instead of the old way of sitting on the promenade deck for a couple of hours. Of course we had extra days in Rome, so really didn’t matter. But simple directions to find the shuttle out of the port would have been professional.
Splendor June 2008, Dover, debarkation fast and easy, took Carnival transfer to Gatwick after picking luggage up at the port. Although my friends got off later and said the port got bugger all crowded with the traffic that had to go past the exit from the terminal building so you couldn’t get to the busses or the taxis.
We also had a Valor in Miami one year ago, and again we got off in time to catch a noon flight without any drama, Carnival transfer.
The biggest improvement Carnival made over the past four years is the policy that you can wait in your cabin until your number is called. We just get up, shower, dress, eat breakfast, go back to cabin for carry off baggage, wait for number and away we go. It is great when the CD gets on the intercom and tells when the debarkation will begin, and what the number sequence is. Also, if you have a need to get off early, the purser usually accommodates.
Hard to get everyone off first I think. What is appreciated is having some idea of when you can get off so you can do something other than just sit around. We have had the experience of sitting three hours on the promenade after being evicted from the cabin, years ago. So thanks for the improvements. Seems like most passengers are off in about two hours. The hauling the luggage off the ship never appealed to me, I hate playing baggage handler.
This next Fantasy Blogger cruise we have platinum, so I expect all things will be practically perfect, including free laundry. yay
Our best to Heidi
Cheers Mate

John Says:
Hello Mate
And I will be doing your laundry for you!
Thanks for the news about your debarkation experiences. It seems that on some ships we really have this pretty much perfected yet on others we still have some room for improvement. And improve we will. I will pass this along to the team and thanks again for taking the time to write
See you soon

gacrusier Asked:
John, Please reply:
Hello, Hope that you, Heidi, and the thingy are doing great and enjoying your holidays! My sister-in-law that we cruise with now for 5 years has just retired from her job after 20 years and is taking her grandkids on their 1st cruise next week (12/15) on the Carnival Imagination. I would love to be there and see her grandkids faces when they see the ship for the 1st time. The youngest grandson was diagnosed with Omen’s Syndrome when he was 3 months old and had to have a bone marrow transplant from his sister (7 or 8 yrs old at the time). He is a miracle child from God to have survived this disease (he was 3 in Feb). I was wondering if you could have something special done for them next week on their trip. The names are Beth and Terry Dowling and daughter and husband is Shan and Tony Strickland. The children are Katy Beth, Seth, and Drew.
Hopefully I will be cruising with her again in February like we always do. We have sailed with you twice and enjoyed it so much.

John Says:
Hello GA
Consider it done. I will make sure a little gift is sent to the kids.
Thanks for letting me know.

I am sure there are more questions awaiting my answer and I will do so later this week. Thanks to you all for your patience.

Well, as mentioned above Heidi is home tonight and I will be collecting her from the airport. The house is totally clean thanks to a cleaning company called Molly Maids who have assured Heidi of clean floors and surfaces and no pee stains on the toilet seat ……… and I get a night out of the doghouse……….£50…….a small price to pay. She enjoyed her time with Mum and its important she sees as much of her as she can during the next few months.

Well, I must say that yesterday was a brilliant but exhausting day. You know, I once heard that our Chairman Micky Arison expects each and every new vessel he orders for the corporation as they are being constructed………….and sometimes he does 2, 3 or 4 at a time………………….he must be extremely fit…………….or maybe because he is the chairman and CEO he has one of those old fashioned chairs used in Roman times and is he carried around the ships by eight strong eunuchs.

Honestly, it’s like a marine assault course. There are no proper stairs…………and sometimes you have to crawl…………..yes, crawl, through passage ways to get to the next part of the ship. But, it was more than worth it and I am so very thankful to all the Fincantieri people and my Carnival shipbuilding colleagues who gave up their busy day to show me around.

Now…………Thursday will officially be Carnival Dream Day. I will be writing a blog about my visit……..posting videos……….and will be releasing some more information about what will make this ship our most spectacular Carnival vessel so far. I just need a few days to put this together……… join me on Thursday as I share my Dream with you….that’s the ship………..not the one about me being carried around on a Roman chair by all the Carnival Corporation presidents…..who are all naked ……….. nope, that one is not for sharing.

Before we move on I need to vent. I have in the past blasted the Miami Immigration service for being rude, flippant and downright aggressive………….and I am sure that will be the case again in January when I return to work.
However, it’s the turn of the British to feel the full wrath of this blog thingy.

Yes, I was still in a mood of post ship visit euphoria as we landed and my morale was still pretty buoyant 10 minutes later, I trekked down the interminable Gatwick corridors in the direction of passport control; and even there, my mood was not wholly deflated. It did occur to me to wonder why there were so few passport controllers, and so many hundreds of exhausted travellers shuffling round the cow pens…

But then I saw a sign reminding us of the extra precautions that were necessary these days, and apologizing in a nice British way. However, we still had a 45 minute wait to get into my own country and when I was eventually reached Passport Control, I was met by a lady who could have easily fitted in to the Miami operation…………..not a smile, not a thank you for waiting…………in fact…………not a word…………. a quick glance at the passport which was then stuck in one of the machine thingies and then slapped back into my hand…………..not a word was spoken.

I had no luggage to collect which was a good thing across the vast neon-lit baggage hall were loads of pissed off people. Some sat and stared at the barren carousels; some tried to cheer themselves up by pretending to be their own missing luggage, sitting on the conveyor belts and taking pictures of each other with their mobile phones…..I heard one man complain to another that it had now been an hour since their plane had landed and their luggage had yet to appear……..we had better get our act together before the 2012 Olympics.

Time to cheer up………….So, let’s talk Italian.

I love Italy. I love the food, the people and the sheer bravado that oozes from every man, woman and child………”We are the best at everything and we don’t care what you think,” they say …………accompanied by rapid upward and downward movements of both hands.

Sarah Brown, the wife of our prime minister, is a complete mystery. For all I know, she collects hamsters, is qualified to be a sniper in the Marines, has 11 toes and sounds exactly like that woman with the broom in the Tom and Jerry cartoons. You even have to say “Sarah Brown, the wife of the prime minister.” Which was unnecessary with Cherie Blair or Denis Thatcher.

All I do know is that she looked at the country’s 28 million men and thought: “No. They are all horrid except for Gordon.” Which must mean she’s a bit odd. And let’s be honest here shall we; like all women in and around politics (with the notable exception of Sarah Palin and Carla Bruni), she’s not exactly a purring sex kitten.

Things are very different in Italy where Silvio Berlusconi has filled his entire cabinet with ex-glamour models. ………………..that’s Italy.

When I was a teenager I had an Italian machine……….it was called a Vespa …………….. pure Italian. I liked the idea of a Vespa because most bikes are Japanese. This means they are extremely reliable so you cannot avoid a fatal crash by simply breaking down. This is entirely possible on a Vespa because it is made in Italy………and that means total reliability coupled with lots of macho flair. By the way, back then I loved the thrill of my Vespa but today……….I would never consider riding a motorbike. Unfortunately, because this is Britain and there are rules.

Which means that before climbing on board your Vespa you must go to a parking lot, put on a high-visibility jacket and spend the morning driving round some cones while a man with a beard explains which lever does what.

However, many people are making the switch because they imagine that having a small motorcycle will be cheap. It isn’t. Sure, the basic Vespa I tried can be bought for $3,000, but then you will need a helmet ($300), a jacket ($200), some Freddie Mercury trousers ($100), shoes ($130), a pair of Kevlar gloves ($40), a coffin ($1,000), a headstone ($2,750), and flowers in the church ($200). ………however if you want to die on a motorbike and die in style……….choose a Vespa……or a Ducatti………….both pure Italian.

Oh to be Italian. Whiling away those long, warm summer evenings in the Tuscan hills with some cheese and a bottle or six of Chianti. La dolce vita? It’s Italian for “the lucky bastards.”

Italy’s youngsters complain, apparently, about having to live at home until they are 65 but that’s because they spend all their money on Armani suits and coffee and Alfa Romeos rather than mortgages.

Of course, I can see that there are drawbacks to life in Italy. It must be annoying to have to post your letters in Switzerland if you want them to stand any chance of arriving, and I would quickly become bored with being killed on the autostrada every day.

Then there’s the problem of your wife. One day, you know with absolute certainty, you will come home from work to find that the ravishing beauty you married and said goodbye to that morning is waddling up the street in a black sack with breasts like six sacks of potatoes.

In a country where style is everything and la bella figura dictates what you eat, what you wear and how much you drink, worrying about your wife becoming the size of a Fiat and having an unreliable postal service are not the end of the world, and having a dodgy prime minister is normal. Yep. Italians have won the lottery of life……and imagine then a cruise ship designed by Italians……..built by Italians…..managed by Italians and a ship full of all the essence that is Italy………….well, you don’t have to imagine that because it exists in Costa Cruises…………..and yesterday I was privileged to explore their latest vessel the brilliantly named……………Costa Luminosa.

The ship will be delivered in April and the public spaces and decks are yet to be completed. However, as early in her life as she is I could already see why this ship is so eagerly awaited by so many. Now, let’s talk about the name ……. Luminosa ……………. how romantic ……… Italian……..go on ………say those words in an Italian accent whilst moving your head up and down…..ready…… “Costa Luminosa” …………………… ahhh, those words ……………… can only be Italian …………..oh, by the way……..the actual translation means………Costa Lighting……….mmmm…………lets stick to the Italian ………..Costa Luminosa………yep, a ship designed to sparkle and dazzle in the sunlight, the glow of the moon and thanks to the stunning lighting and chandeliers found all over the vessel……..dazzle and sparkle she will. The lights will shine down on the restaurants, bars, pool decks, shows, activities and on the world famous Italian Costa service which is as good as it gets.

The ship is designed on the same hull as the Queen Victoria and it was fascinating to see how the designers had taken this hull and changed the public spaces to those on the Cunard ship to make them more ………well……………….more Costa.

Here are some of the features:
• GRT: 92.600t
• Lenght: 294 m
• Width: 32,25 m
• 1.130 cabins in total including 56 with direct access to the spa, 718 with private balcony, 44 suite with private balcony, 4 suites with direct access to the spa
• 4 restaurants, including the Club Luminosa and the Samsara Restaurant, by reservation only, with fee*
• 11 bars, including a Cigar Lounge and a Coffee & Chocolate Bar
• 2 swimming pools: one with a retractable roof
• 4 Jacuzzis
• Multi-purpose sports court
• Outdoor jogging track and roller skate track • Cruising speed: 21,6 knots
• Max speed: 23,6 knots
• Samsara Spa: :3,500 m2 Wellness Centre on two decks, with gym, Thalasso pool, treatment rooms, sauna and steam room, UVA-ray solarium, Cabins and Suites.
• Cinema 4D
• Theatre on three decks
• Casinò e discoteca
• Internet Point and library
• Shopping Centre
• Video Arcade, Squok Club, children’s splash pool
• Grand Prix Simulator
• Golf Simulator and outdoor Putting Green Golf Area
• Giant screen on the swimming pool deck

Here are a few photos. Now, there wasn’t much to see as the ship is under construction and the public rooms yet to be completed. It was also raining cats and dogs or as they say in Italy …………it was raining “gatos and canoes.” However, here are a few shots.










The Ship in the background is the Costa Delisciosa

I am home in April and will be inviting myself to the naming ceremony and then I can really show you how the Costa Luminosa will light up the cruising world.

Oh yes…………..One of the most talked about features will be I am sure the incomparable statue which will take pride of place in the 10 deck high atrium…………….to find out more………..please click on this link here……….you won’t regret it.

How about that? What a jaw droppingly awesome talking point this statue will be……… and ………….. how nice of my ex fiancé…….to model for the sculptor.

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.