Santa Claus is Coming to Town

December 23, 2008 -

John Heald

So, what did I get Heidi for Christmas?………Well, hopefully she won’t read this because that will give the game away. However…………..I will tell you that I bought her a plasma TV for the bedroom. This means she can relax in bed on cold winter mornings and watch her favorite soap operas and that gardener chap on Desperate Housewives have rumpy pumpy with anything with a pulse.

However, buying said TV was not easy. I went inside the TV shop with my credit card greased and ready for action. The salesman opened proceedings with a lot of technical bollocks I didn’t care about or understand, but I was expecting that. What I was not expecting was the sheer complication of giving him my money.

As a general rule the only thing I ever buy is petrol and cigars. So I’m aware of how credit cards function. You dash into the shop, the man pushes it through a swipy thing, you sign your name and dash back out to the car again. The job’s done in seconds. I’ve heard that it’s the same story in supermarkets. A woman drives your Campbell’s tomato soup through a beam of light several times and then summons a colleague called “a supervisor” who goes to the back of the store to see how much it costs. It all sounds very efficient.

But apart from gas stations and supermarkets, the whole buying process is now littered with an immense amount of needless baggage. I mean, have you ever tried to get something from the Internet? I watched my wife downloading songs from iTunes onto her Eye Pod the other day and reckoned it looked simple. And it is. But only after you’ve told Mr. Apple who you are, where you live, what password you would like, whether you want some Viagra, how much you earn, and all sorts of other stuff that is in no way relevant to the fact I wanted to buy Bat Out Of Hell by Meatloaf.

What happens in the TV shop is that the man with enough product in his hair to fry a fish, takes your credit card, goes to his computer terminal, logs on and begins to write War and Peace.

Anyway, when the 12-year-old with the solid hair had finished updating the company’s database, he started to ask me a series of impertinent questions. Like where I lived, my home phone number and my e-mail address, presumably so that his bosses could sell my details to a spammer who, knowing I’d just bought a plasma television, would clock me immediately as someone who is in need of a larger penis.

By this stage, he had already taken up the time I usually set aside in a whole year for shopping. And he hadn’t even started on the credit card transaction, or the delivery address, which was different from my home address. Which meant he had to re-program the company’s entire software package. I began to be overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness, a sense that I might be in the shop forever. So I started giving serious consideration to the idea of popping next door and buying a knife. I’m not by nature a violent person but I began to visualize the blade in question and how it might look sticking out of the salesman’s head.

All that saved him was the sure-fire knowledge that I’d get the same treatment in the knife shop, the same endless pitter-patter of a computer keyboard and the same requests for personal information.

The only difference being that if you buy a knife, you end up with an inbox full of messages from people who live in a shack in the woods wondering if you’d like to buy some camouflage trousers and maybe join their gang. Christmas comes but once a year………..and thank goodness for that because I honestly would rather run through a church service naked than have to endure the crowds, the parking and the shop assistant who no matter where they work seem to move with the speed of an asthmatic ant.

OK, now that’s out of the way lets find out how Butch and the guests on the Carnival Glory are getting on.

The Grinch who stole my welcome Aboard Show…….Scrooge is cruising!

My second most favorite event of the cruise, next to My Disco Dance class, is the Welcome Aboard Show; the very first opportunity that I get to connect with the guests on stage…….I have worked very hard to make my portion of the Welcome Aboard show as entertaining as possible, but last night I am sad to say that it went south…..deep south.

The show starts with the singers and dancers doing a medley of songs about having fun to get the crowd pumped up, then I come on stage to introduce myself and do some improve audience participation and we close the show with a comedian or variety act.

I have three major goals in my welcome show. One, introduce myself and establish a relationship with the audience…….two, encourage people to step out of their comfort zones and do things they never thought possible and lastly and, most importantly, to do a big set up for my Disco Dance Class. I get three guys up on stage to help me achieve these goal, and to be honest I am looking for certain types of people to get involved …….I always find a newlywed, someone who has been married for over 40 years, and the third is usually someone in the front row who is not clapping or paying attention when I walk out on stage……When I walk out for the show I ask if the guests are excited to be on vacation and I always search for a man in the front row, who doesn’t clap along and use his non-participation as a bit to encourage everyone to get involved (9 times out of 10, this will be the third guy I get on stage).

So here we go….dancers finish their bit, the male singer introduces me, I walk out on stage and ask my question and BAM! Right in the front row there is a guy not clapping (it never fails), so I ask him, “Are you not excited to be on vacation sir?” “He answers “Sure!” So I tell him “Let me put this in perspective for everyone and you all let me know when you start to get excited………blah, blah, blah”…….(This all ends in a silly joke, that if you want to know the punch line you will have to come take a cruise on the Glory!) So……he claps and gets excited along with everyone else……I get my newlywed on stage, I get my guy, who this night, has been married 48 years on stage and then I invite, who I will now refer to in the rest of the story as Mr. Grinch, on stage. I then proceed to interview each of the guys…….

Before I continue I must admit that I have a standard set of questions for the interviews that I ask each of the men, but depending on their answers I improv and play off their dialogue, but, because this is all unrehearsed sometimes the interviews are very entertaining and sometimes not as much. It all depends on how open they are to my questions and how quick I might be that night. Back to the Grinch…I ask him his name where he is from and who he is traveling with; all standard….. I ask him the rest of my questions, but I am not getting really anything I can bite on, so I finish up by asking him if there is anything that he wants to tell his wife……he answers “NO!” very abruptly (Mind you, the newlywed just expressed his love to his new bride in a very romantic speech). I ask him if he just wants to tell her how much he loves her…..he looks at me with a grimace on his face and says in to the microphone “She knows — I don’t have to say it!”

This made the audience gasp and you could feel the room start turn on him…….so I wittingly let him step back into the line of three guys on stage and moved on to my last guy, who was very charming about his 48-year courtship with his wife……….all of this is really unimportant because the highlight of the show is after the interviews when I tell the audience that the reason I brought these guys up on stage is because I love to dance and that I will be teaching my World Famous Disco Line Dance Class on the next sea day and that I am going to start the fun a little early by teaching our three new friends some dance moves…..this is when the audience goes crazy……so the music starts the newlywed and the other guys get really into it and Mr. Grinch, just stands there…..

I try to encourage him, but nothing……so we finish with the group dances and then I tell the guys we are going to do a dance contest and the audience will decide the winner……this is when Mr. Grinch threw his hands up in the air in a grand dramatic gesture and yelled “This is ridiculous,” stormed off the stage and angrily sat down in the front row, arms folded with a frown on his face. The audience, who is usually always on the side of the guests booed him, so I just played it off and repeated my same intro line before Mr. Grinch stormed off in a huff, not wanting the audience to turn even more …….“We’re going to have a dance contest with our TWO new best friends.”

I am not so naive to think that everyone on a cruise vacation is going to get involved in crazy, off-the-wall events, and I never force people into doing anything they don’t want to do…..however, I gave this man the option to come on stage and to participate; he agreed and then quit. This is the first time that this has happened to me and I guess it is one of those entertainment business learning moments……but still……..did he have to interrupt my shtick?

I have not seen Mr. Grinch since the events of last night, but my hope is that his Christmas story has a happy ending. Scrooge realized the error of his ways in the Dickens classic and even the Dr. Who’s Grinch caught the holiday spirit in the end…….so here is hoping the Mr. Grinch will be in the front row of my Disco Dance Class tomorrow……I will keep you updated!

Before I go today, I have included a picture of the Carnival Glory Entertainment Dept. Holiday Card. It is a Carnival tradition that all of the on board departments take a group photo around the holidays and share it with the fleet. Enjoy!


Reading this makes you want to book a cruise for the holidays next yet doesn’t it? Thanks Butch and I know thanks to you and the crew the guests will have a wonderful Christmas cruise. We will have another offering from Butchy tomorrow.

Remember Jaime?………She provided us with so many great Dear John letters during the trans-Atlantic crossing of the Carnival Splendor. I think I mentioned that she was more than ready to become an assistant cruise director. Well, she was and she is……….on the Carnival Pride. However, just before we congratulate her promotion I should tell you that as it sometimes happens on ships……….her promotion didn’t last long.

That’s because that Dan, the cruise director on the Carnival Pride, had to leave suddenly for a family emergency. We wish he and his family well and they are in our thoughts. This meant that after just one week as an assistant cruise director, Jaime suddenly found herself promoted to acting cruise director and this week, she will be sitting in the big chair. I know she will do a wonderful job and thought maybe one or two of you may like to post a few words of congratulations.

We should also congratulate my friend Shawn Bussey who is also with child. She is currently serving as cruise director on the Carnival Legend and for the many of you who have sailed with her and enjoyed her charm and fun will want to say congratulations, as well. She will be leaving soon and before she does we will have a chat with her. Congratulations Shawn.

Here is a video I recorded while I was in Miami last month. I think you will be interested to see how your cruise tickets are printed.

There are many signs that you need to lose weight. These include the sucking in exercises needed in order to get the Easy Jet seat belt around me and the fact that even though Heidi is three months pregnant my tummy is bigger than hers. However, yesterday a new reason reared its ugly head when my six-year-old nephew asked if I was Santa “because I had a big stomach.”

So, I decided to lose weight (and I mean it this time) and before that starts I decided that yes……….I am Santa…………..well…………at least for the benefit of today’s blog.

And so:

boys, girls and bloggers. As you might imagine, this is a very hectic time of year for Santa. I have, quite literally, a million and one things to do before Christmas Eve, and I haven’t even started my shopping yet. Yes, Santa must shop too. Do you think Mrs. Claus would be happy with something I put together in the workshop? She would not. And Christmas shopping here in the Lapland/North Pole area is not exactly straightforward. We’ve got an Ikea, and a Starbucks, and that’s about it.

A lot of people ask me, “What the worst thing about being Santa?” Have a guess. No, it’s not the hours. No, it’s not having to eat four billion cookies in the course of an evening’s work (the secret is to take just a small bite from each one)……… It’s the paperwork.

There’s my licensing agreement with Playstation and Nintendo, for a start. It runs to 88 pages, and if I don’t sign it, then the 40,400 elves churning out Wii games downstairs right now may as well go home, but Santa’s lawyers (yes, Santa has lawyers – many, many lawyers) want changes to the wording regarding North American distribution rights.

There’s my annual coal order – Santa is one of the biggest buyers of coal, after China – which this year I thought I would do in the summer, to get a jump on things, but I bought at the top of the market and now, of course, the price is plummeting. If you get coal in your stocking this year, it’s not necessarily because you were naughty; it’s because Santa can’t give the stuff away.

On top of the present list and the Naughty/Nice List, I have to finish the Naughty/Nice Addendum for 2009, because if you don’t give people a clear idea of which activities constitute naughtiness, they can get litigious later on (another reason why Santa has many, many lawyers).

Every year I have to do an update. So, for example: piracy – naughty; pyramid schemes – naughty; looking for my house on Google Earth – very naughty……….cruising on RCI……well that constitutes you getting what we call here in Lapland “bugger all.”

Finally there are the inevitable customs declarations, immigration cards, visa waivers, and more. It’s hard enough delivering toys to children all over the world in one night without all this red tape. Two years ago, I was held up at the Miami airport for two hours because the Customs Officer decided the picture in my passport didn’t look like me. It’s true that I was a lot heavier when the photo was taken, but I mean, come on. I’m Santa.

I also get asked lot of questions about my name. Last year when I was on my rounds some kid came up to me and said, “So what should I call you? Santa Claus or Father Christmas?” I said, “It’s four in the morning. What are you even doing up?” But I do understand the confusion the name thing causes for some people, so it might be helpful if I give you the official explanation. Father Christmas is the office I hold. Santa Claus is my name.

On checks I write “J Santa Claus.” I tell people that the J stands for Jolly, but actually it’s Jason. I know – that’s why I don’t use it.

Santa, however, is not the politically correct sort, and I don’t stand on ceremony. You can call me Santa, Santa Claus or Father Christmas, or for that matter St Nicholas, Père Noël, Papa Noel or Babbo Natale. In Germany they say Weihnachtsmann, which means “Christmas Man,” and that’s fine too. I don’t mind Kris Kringle, even though I have no idea where it comes from. Santa Baby is the only one I really don’t like; I find it presumptive and patronizing. It’s the kind of thing waiters say when they recognize me: “Hey, Santa Baby!” I’m like, “Ho, ho, ho.” Then I pay the bill with coal.

With everyone so worried about the credit crunch, it’s worth pointing out that for some people the downturn has proven to be a blessing, and that includes Santa. For me it means smaller lists, a lighter sack and fewer Rolexes and Prada purses the Elves have to make. The elves really hate making that stuff. But what do elves know? If you left it to the elves everyone would get some hemmeroid cream this year.

No, my friends, the biggest threat to Christmas is not the recession – its global warming.

Every year we see the changes here at Christmas HQ. Normally we’ve got deep drifts of pristine white snow right up to the window sills year round, but this summer the ice and snow retreated further than ever, leaving bare earth visible for the first time in many centuries. This means we have no snow which means I can’t use the sleigh. Instead I will be using a Toyota Prius which, will no doubt, keep the environmental people with beards very happy.

This means that Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer are unemployed.

However, there is some good news as we have found some use for Rudolph who is currently cooking nicely on the spit………should make a nice change from turkey.

Ho, Ho, Ho.

I will be back with a Christmas and Holiday card for you all tomorrow

Your friends
Santa, Mrs Claus 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.