Body Decorations, Awards and Duran Duran

January 3, 2009 -

John Heald

The talk in the Heald household these past few days has of course been dominated by the Thingy. Heidi is really “showing now” and looks like…..ummm……….me. One of the subjects we have been discussing is how common it seems to be these days for fathers to have the names of their children tattooed someone on their body……..I told Heidi there was more chance of me having a fish and chips lunch with Michael Caine ….. naked …..than me getting the Thingy’s name tattooed on my back.

Heidi replied that David Beckham the world’s most popular female soccer player has all his kids names scribed on his body…………”Am I bothered though,” I replied.

You see, I have never understood the tattoo thing.

I remember watching a TV program a few years ago and the piece was about unemployment in the wake of some strike or other. One interviewee told us he had all the right qualifications but was always rejected after an interview. He couldn’t see why, but I could. It was the enormous spider’s web that had been tattooed on his face.

There was a time when a tattoo would demonstrate that you had been in prison, a gang or the armed forces, but now pretty well everyone I ever see has what looks like a huge Harley-Davidson motif peeping out of their pants. Has Judge Judy got a giant eagle with a man’s skull eating a snake on her arse? I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Justin Trousersnake has a tattoo on his nipple and I think that says it all.

Of course, when I was 16 I fancied the notion of having a small Union Jack (British Flag) permanently etched into my left buttock.

I didn’t for two reasons. First, the law states that you can’t get a tattoo unless you are drunk. That’s why 18 is the minimum age. Second, a tattoo artist once ran his needle over my forearm to show me just what a painless experience it was. He was lying. It felt like I was being stabbed in slow motion.

What would I have ended up with? A skin infection probably and a smudge on my arse. What’s the point of that? Why endure all the pain and expense when it will be used as much as room service on a cruise ship that charges for a BLT after midnight.

Tattooing has been around since the dawn of time, but if we examine the work of all the great artists — Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Monet — we find they would apply their skill and dexterity to just about any surface: walls, ceilings, canvas, paper. But not the human body. At no point did Leonardo da Vinci ever think, “I know, I’ll paint The Mona Lisa on Van Gogh’s arse.”

Then look at the average tattoo artist. As portrayed on that Miami Ink TV show.Maybe, if my children were being held hostage, I would let Jessica Simpson loose with the needles, but not a bald 400 pound Hell’s Angel with most of Staples stockroom stuck through his nose. I wouldn’t mind, but most proper artists spend weeks thinking about their work and how it should be approached. What you get from the Hell’s Angel is a five-minute consultation and what you end up with is a doodle. Furthermore, most successful artists learned their craft by wearing berets and walking along river banks. These tattoo guys, you know, learned their craft by pimping someone’s ride.

The only good thing is that when the subject dies, the tattoo dies too. Except in Japan, of course, where you can buy dead tattooed people to turn into furniture. Interesting idea: yakuza scatter cushions.

I watched this Miami Ink program where a Miami Beach girl had an unsurpassed love for Ferrari which was so intense that she had a prancing horse tattooed just above her lady garden.

Now, whenever she bends over, people say, “Err, why has someone drawn a donkey on your back?” It’s crap and she is stuck with it for ever. Oh, I know there are all sorts of procedures these days for having tattoos removed, but they cost mucho dollars — and hurt — even more than having the damn thing implanted in the first place.
Do they work? Well, you only have to examine New York subway train that’s had its graffiti washed off to see the answer is ummm…….nope.

So, it’s a big no to the tattoo. However, I will be standing by Heidi soon to be with her for something which I understand is quite painful. As she is an older mother at 34 she has to have an amniocentesis test to check that the Thingy is not suffering from Down syndrome.

Now, she has already had a blood test which told us she is low risk at “1 in 400″ but on December 30 we received a letter saying that it was highly recommended that she have a further test as a back up. This will involve…..a large needle being inserted into her tummy………and………well you can understand just why I need to be with her. There is, of course, nothing to worry about and it is standard practice for all mothers over 30 to have this done and we already know she is low risk. However, we will comply with the doctor’s wishes.

Now, this has thrown a spanner in the works for my Carnival Destiny dates as Heidi’s test is on the 14 January and I was due back on the 10th. So, no Carnival Destiny. The office are now though finding a ship for me to either be a cruise director on or sail on to write about before the bloggers cruise. I am, of course, dissappointed I wont be on to write about the rock and roll charters but Heidi is, of course, more important than anything else and I need to be with her.

So, the revised plan is as follows.

JANUARY 17 – FLY TO MIAMI
JANUARY 18 – 5 FEBRUARY – SAIL ON TWO SHIPS TO WRITE FOR THE BLOG……….MAYBE CARNIVAL DESTINY AND CARNIVAL IMAGINATION
FEBRUARY 5 – FLY TO NEW ORLEANS
FEBRUARY 6 – BLOGGERS COMMUNITY DAY IN NEW ORLEANS
FEBRUARY 7 – BLOGGERS CRUISE
FEBRUARY 14 – APRIL TH – CRUISE DIRECTOR (YIPEE) OF CARNIVAL VALOR
APRIL 24 – JUNE ? – HOME FOR BIRTH OF THINGY
JUNE? – SEPTEMBER? – CRUISE DIRECTOR – POSSIBLY CARNIVAL GLORY………….I will confirm this ASAP.
SEPTEMBER? – INAUGURAL OF CARNIVAL DREAM AND TWO BLOGGERS CRUISES ON CARNIVAL DREAM

Now, in between all of this I will be helping in my role as brand ambassador as requested by our EVP of Marketing and Guest Experience Ruben Rodriguez and his department which will involve many more chances to meet you ………yes you……..maybe in your hometown. I also hope to visit the Carnival Dream in April as well as attend the inaugural of the Costa Luminosa and if I am invited a chance to look at the world’s most luxurious vessel…….the Seabourn Odyssey.

However, it is the being a cruise director bit that I am looking forward to the most and hopefully 2010 will allow me many more opportunities to do what I love the most and that’s being a cruise director. Anyway, thanks for your understanding and these extra 10 days will be important for Heidi and me. She is very scared of this needle. I told her it would only be a small prick……she told me she felt better on hearing this as that is what she is used to.

Now, don’t forget that on Monday I will be posting a brilliant interview with Jim Berra, our new chief marketing officer. I have already read this superb piece and he has taken a lot of time to explain what your future holds and why it is so exciting. Jim will be offering a first and exclusive look at what Carnival’s marketing strategy is all about and I promise you …….it’s a terrific read.

A few days ago I posted the categories for the 2008 Blog Thingy Awards and I want to thank each and every one of you who took the time to write in with your nominations. Well, we are counting them this weekend and before we announce the winners I thought it only fair to give you my nominations. Now, obviously these will not be counted but what the heck………I would like to share them with you all the same

1. YOUR FAVORITE CARNIVAL SHIP …..AND WHY
Well I guess the answer has to be the Carnival Splendor. Is she my all-time favorite ship………well, probably not because to decide that I have to take in all sorts of emotions. However, the last ship I was a CD on was the Carnival Splendor and she may well be the last ship I deliver as a cruise director. I also loved the lido deck design and that retractable roof was just brilliant. I wasn’t keen on the pinkness of the interior at first but after a few days it started to grow on me and, of course, I began to realize that actually……….the design was fun……..and that’s exactly what you would expect a Carnival ship to be. I loved sailing in Europe and the experiences I shared with Heidi in Russia, Finland and, of course, Amsterdam were incomparable. I do hope that Carnival returns to Europe one day soon however, I do think that the Med and Grand Med cruises go together with the Carnival product much better……fun and European sun…….just my opinion, of course. Anyway, my choice is the Carnival Splendor…….a superb ship of which I have truly wonderful memories.

2. THE OUTSTANDING CARNIVAL CREW MEMBER AWARD
Tough one this. There are many who deserve to be nominated. Stephanie Meads, my long-time suffering assistant cruise director who has put up with my idiosyncrasies and flatulence during three ship deliveries. Jaime Deitsch, who not only was a terrific social host but went on become an instant hit as a cruise director as you read yesterday. My excellent staff on the Carnival Splendor…..Adele,Gary, Lauren, Owen and James Hiyyyaa, all of whom proved that they are the best in the fleet. Then there was Ketut, who was my stateroom steward and anyone who can be as nice and as caring as he even though he had to wash my underwear everyday deserves special mention.
I continue to be so proud of Wee Jimmy and Butch. I consider both my friends and the future of this great cruise line and both have all it takes to be the best in the industry. Then there are all the Carnival cruise directors who each and every day provide the fun we advertise …………they are all fantastic.
However………for me there is one clear winner in this category……..and that is Ken Byrne………..maitre d extraordinaire. You know, Ken and I have been mates for many years. We have lots in common. Neither of us drink……..we both like the odd cigar ……….. and both of us love what we do. Ken is blessed with a huge heart and anyone who has enjoyed him as their maitre d will have experienced his caring and great sense of humor. Yes, we all know about his superb Sinatraesque voice and his witty jokes around the tables but that’s not the reason he gets my nomination. He wins because of the caring and compassion he has for his fellow humankind whether it’s a guest or a crewmember. He is truly a special man.

3. THE OUTSTANDING CARNIVAL SHORESIDE EMPLOYEE AWARD
OK, this is another tough one. It was fascinating for me and others at Carnival to read how many of you voted for your PVP. Embarrassingly, I do not know many of these ladies and gents but it is obvious to me that they are highly thought of and that is wonderful news.
I want to give an honorable mention to my friend Vance Gulliksen, who each and every day regardless of whether he is in the office or taking his son to watch the Miami Dolphins lose, always takes his Blackberry with him. This is because he has to spell check what I have written, as well as from a public relations standpoint, make sure I have not written anything that may embarrass Carnival Cruise Lines…….although between me and you I think he has given up on this one. So thanks Vance because without you there would be no blog.
However, my nomination is Stephanie Leavitt who has become so much more than the manager of the blog. This is only part of her job yet it consumes the most time and she has become a friend to many of you as well I know. She also manages me…..and now that Heidi won’t be traveling with me anymore I have a feeling that this part of her job will become even more important. So, my winner is Stephanie Leavitt……well done Steph.

4. THE BEST CARIBBEAN PORT OF CALL
This again was difficult because I have been in Europe for the last few years. As many of you know I always list Ocho Rios as my favorite Caribbean destination and indeed it still is. However, there is a new entry at joint first place……..and that is……Grand Turk. There is no doubt about it – Grand Turk is THE hottest property in the Caribbean. The beaches are exquisite and the shopping is brilliant. A short distance from the pier is the giant Flow Rider. Now, you don’t have to be a world champion surfer like Gerry Cahill to give this ago but give it a go you must. The backdrop to your family photos of you all doing this is the ship itself…..it’s a stunning location and an attraction that really is just brilliant. Of course, it’s even more fun to try it after you have had a few cocktails at Margaritaville which is right next door. Yep, it is a place you should all visit and is quickly becoming one of the Caribbean’s most popular destinations.

5. THE BEST NON-CARIBBEAN PORT OF CALL
I have never sailed in Alaska and I am sure that sailing through this Last Frontier and seeing the ice caps, hills and mountains and the stunning wildlife……..that’s if my Ranger Rover or Sara Palin’s rifle hasn’t killed them all must be astonishing and I must and so must you…………take an Alaskan cruise one day soon.
However, my nomination is…..Istanbul, Turkey……….even though Fatima tried to drive up the forbidden road during my Turkish bath. I hope Carnival returns to Europe and I hope Istanbul is one of the ports of call. If you have yearned to watch bulbous domes and slender minarets silhouetted against the setting sun, Istanbul is the port. You have to see the imperial The Blue Mosque, the crowning glory of Byzantines and Ottomans. The splendid Hagia Sophia mosque which will leave you breathless. To see the city from the water, with one of our special excursions followed by shopping at the incomparable Grand Covered Bazaar is a day none who have done it will never forget.

6. THE BEST ONBOARD SHOW FEATURING THE DANCERS AND SINGERS
Easy…….Ticket to Ride from the Carnival Freedom and the new Vroom show on Carnival Splendor………..Kerry Stables, our choreographer and director at her best.

7. THE BEST CARNIVAL SHIPBOARD ENTERTAINER AWARD
If you see the name Gronway Thom on a billboard or in a daily ship program ……go and see him. His blend of comedy and juggling is unique……totally unique and he has been blessed with a personality which will reach out and grab you. Penny Mathisen is another star who has been blessed with a voice from above and she is not to be missed. I am sure many of you will have enjoyed these two greats on the Carnival Freedom or Carnival Splendor. However…..my nomination goes to Carnival’s 344th best comedian….Al Ernst. Now, Al to me is as funny as a boil on the bottom but his shows seem to be appreciated by so many. But…….it’s not just what he does on stage but off stage that gets him my nomination. He walks the entire ship before and afterwards talking to as many guests as he can. He always has fresh and exciting ideas some of which you will be seeing on your cruise this coming year. So……Al Ernst and if you get a chance to meet him take it …..you will be meeting one of the most genuinely funny and likeable guys in the world.

8. YOUR FAVORITE ONBOARD DINNER MENU ITEM
This is an easy one. The steak you can order anytime from the nightly dinner menus. Not only is it a great cut of meat but you don’t have to pay extra for it like you do on the
“WearegoingtochargeforroomserviceaftermidnightoftheSeas.”

9. YOUR FAVORITE ONBOARD DESSERT
As a diabetic I have to nominate the sugar-free banana cake which if I had my way would be available on every menu as it’s so much better than the other sugar-free deserts. I dream though of the chocolate melting cake and the Dutch Apple Pie.

10. THE BEST BLOG GUEST INTERVIEW AWARD
I can’t really answer this one. There have been so many industry executives and shipboard employees who have given up their time to speak to us. There are some I have never managed to capture or whom I would love to interview this year.

A CRUISE DIRECTOR FROM EVERY LINE
KATHIE LEE GIFFORD – LOOKING BACK AT HER WONDERFUL RELATIONSHIP WITH CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES AND HER CONTINUING BRILLIANT CHARITY WORK
AN UPDATE INTERVIEW WITH CCL PRESIDENT GERRY CAHILL
AN UPDATE INTERVIEW WITH ALL THE CORPORATION’S PRESIDENTS
AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID DINGLE CBE
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE CAPTAIN OF THE WORLD’S MOST LUXURIOUS VESSEL THE SEABOURN ODYSSEY
AND, MANY MORE.

Those are my nominations……………hope you enjoyed them.

I just received these amazing photos from my friends Mr. and Mrs. Gateholes who were celebrating New Year’s Eve in Nassau. There, they celebrate in a very special way with a festival called Junkanoo………have a look ………at these amazing pictures.

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Last night I went to a party. As regular readers of this blog thingy will know ……I am not a big fan of parties. You’ve read all about the show business parties that are held this time of year as George Hamilton, Lenny Kravitz, Elton John and Pee Diddly bring glitz, glamour and sophistication to town.

The party I went to last night was just like that because an old mate of mine an old friend hired a village hall in the hellhole that is Surrey the suburbs of London and booked a Duran Duran tribute band to come and play. Did I want to go? Honestly? No…….I would rather have gone on the something of the seas, waited to one minute after midnight and paid for a bagel and a glass of milk.

Our party would be all male and if there’s one thing I simply cannot abide it’s single-sex gatherings. What’s the point? The top five worst experiences of my life have all been stag nights. All that speedboat, snooker cue, business deal, BMW, golf, “Whoa, look at the chest on that” bollocks.

Yes, the men in question would all be old friends, people I hadn’t seen much since going to work for Carnival 21 years ago. But if you’re going to play catch-up, why do it in a village hall while being assaulted by four blokes who think they’re Duran Duran? …… And get this, the tickets were £15. Exactly £15 more than I would pay to see the real Duran Duran.

Still, I went, and it was fantastic. It was just a group of middle-aged people in a room who, for one night only, could pretend they were 18 again. It wasn’t easy. For instance, when I was18 I was very good at carrying up to eight pints of beer from the bar to where we were all sitting. But I seem to have lost the knack. Three glasses had me so stumped I had to make two journeys. And when I was 18 I could stand for more than 10 minutes at a time without getting backache.

Another indication of old age came when I went to the toilet, where I overhead my friend Barry talking on the phone to his wife. “Yes Beverley, I love you. No Beverley, there are no women here. Yes Beverley I will be home before midnight……..luv you.” Now Barry back in the day would drink 10 pints of beer…….throw up ……..drink 10 more before having rumpy pumpy with anything that had a pulse………now he had been reduced to a dribbling middle aged man living under his wife’s iron fist……….poor sod.

Also, at 1980s gigs the audience provided their own eerie light by holding cigarette lighters aloft in the ballads. Not last night they didn’t. The light came instead from a million shiny bald patches. Viewed from the back the audience really did seem to be a big flat reflective disco ball.

Sadly, with no hair to let down any more, the audience had tried to dress down instead. This meant Boxing Day corduroy and quilted sleeveless Puffa jackets teamed with training shoes. It wasn’t a good look. But then looking good wasn’t the point.

At most middle-aged parties the hosts try to be sophisticated and grown up. But why? We have to be responsible when we’re at work, and mature when we’re at home with the children. Surely on a night out we shouldn’t be quaffing cheesy peas. We should be getting drunk and shouting.

In Surrey that night we parked on someone’s lawn, drank gallons of beer from plastic glasses, never spoke about schools and listened to music that wasn’t sung by men with low slung pants or women who wished their girlfriend was hot like me…

This brings me on to the band. If you closed your eyes you really could imagine that it was LeBon and his friends up there. And if you opened them again the illusion didn’t really go away. Wigs and lots of denim did create an illusion that they were the real deal. The lead singer even seemed to have a length of authentic hosepipe down his pants.

Of course, the biggest difference between this party and the ones I used to attend with this same group of friends many years ago is that this morning I awoke with no hangover …….although if I had I would not have minded.
We moan about hangovers as we grow old. We complain that when you’re 40 rather than 14 they’re so much more difficult to shift. But a hangover is simply a reminder that you had a good time. You should learn to embrace it.

I certainly used to embrace mine. Along with the lavatory bowl, and all the soft furnishings in my house, for several days afterwards if it had been a very good party.

And here’s the thing. You can do it too, for nothing. Why waste a fortune on linen and roses? Why try to be like Elton John or George Hamilton when you can rent a room, hire a $500-a-night tribute band and then flog a hundred tickets at $15 a pop?

No one will feel very glamorous. They’ll feel something so much better. Young.

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.