January 5, 2009 -

John Heald

The problem with living here in the UK is that I only get to watch my beloved Miami Heat play at 2 am if their game is shown live or on highlight shows, which are random at best. This is because compared to soccer, basketball is as popular as on your cruise having to pay for a steak at dinner and finding out that if you wake up with the munchies at 1 am …………you have to pay to be fed, as well.

It was while I was waiting for Channel 5 to show the Heat beat Vince Crapper and the New Jersey Nets that I got to witness a program called “Brits ……Are We the Worst Tourists?” Now, this was one of those cheap programs full of shots of people from various countries acting like complete idiots……..however, I did compare what the program was saying to what I have seen myself over the last 21 years.

We have a cheery notion that Britain and its people is a shining beacon of hope and goodness to the world. We assume that when our glorious island nation is mentioned, people all over the world imagine us going to work in bowler hats in the rain and the fog and eating crumpets with lashings of cucumber sandwiches with the crust cut off… When they think of us, they think of someone who speaks like the Queen reading the news on the BBC before going home for tea.

Ummm……..nope………..not according to hotel owners from places like Spain, Canada and the Caribbean who were interviewed in this program last night. It turns out that mostly, they think we’re arrogant, badly dressed, untidy, loud, drunk and nowhere near as much fun to have around as the Japanese. It turns out that hotel staff in Corfu, one of the Greek islands, don’t like it when we do the conga through reception at two in the morning and then go skinny dipping in the pool before catching Chlamydia with one another.

The program also reveals that while we spend quite a lot of money while we’re on vacation………sorry……. holiday…….. it’s mostly on beer, burgers and counterfeit goods such as Guci, Raybon, Padra and Rolax..

However, this opinion may be based on jealousy. They have to live in a country where the wine’s made from fermented goat poo, the women don’t shave their armpits and you need to bribe the plumber with something from Faberge to get him to mend your dishwasher.

Anyway, while some Brits may be bad abroad we are not the worst and everyone knows full well that on any international league table of bad behavior, we are a long, long way from the bottom.

Interestingly, the Americans come tenth in the poll, behind the Japanese. You were billed as polite, interested in new cultures and good at tipping. I agree, as I did with what one Canadian hotelier who said that the American tourists’ most annoying habit was talking to their friends as though they are 500 yards apart.

The winner though……and no……I am not making this up…….the winners were ….. my old mates La French. Apparently, they are the worst holidaymakers.

Hello everyone……………how are you? I am OK now and for the first time in days I actually feel OK. Tomorrow I have my diabetic check up which includes peeing in a cup or, in this case, a test tube before I go, which will insure the white marble tiles in our bathroom will have a nice yellow tint to them. I will also have my blood pressure checked. I know this will be high…….I am not taking any medication for this because I know I suffer from white coat syndrome.

Let me explain. The last time I had my monthly blood pressure taken it was 148 over 100…..yet after the doctors visit I asked the ship’s doctor to pop over to my cabin with a machine and take it while we talked about soccer and cheeseburgers. And in that relaxed state my blood pressure was 130 over 87. So certain was I that my blood pressure readings in hospitals and doctors surgeries were higher due to the fact that I hate them with a passion that I spent a fortune on a professional blood pressure machine to use at home.

I took mine just now and it was 125 over 88 yet tomorrow when I am sitting in front of Dr Ramitin I know it will be higher……..yep……I definitely suffer from white coat syndrome. I also know that Dr. Ramitin will give me a bollocking about losing weight but the difference this time is that I will. Hopefully, though he will be happy with my sugar levels and won’t want to exercise his middle finger inside my bottom.

Last week I had a nasty cold but of course, being a man, it wasn’t a cold at all. It was flu, well, when I say flu it was a sort of leprosy. In fact, what I actually had was bird flu and leprosy, with a light dusting of Ebola. Had the chap from the Guinness Book Of World Records been there, he would have verified that I was the illest person in the world who wasn’t actually dead.

To make matters worse, a cruel Arctic wind was blowing in from Canada and the police were advising motorists to stay at home unless their journey was absolutely necessary. The people who believe the world’s polar bears are up at the North Pole sipping pina coladas should come here now…..global warming my arse.

Well, my journey was very necessary because I needed a coat. The red one you saw me wear in the Carnival Dream videos is only a wind breaker and in the current artic conditions it can’t even protect me from my own wind caused by excessive Brussels sprouts over Christmas. Happily, I live only 45 minutes from London, which is the world’s 18th biggest city and the largest shopping center in Europe. So you might imagine it would be easy to buy such a thing. But where? I needed a big coat and therefore Heidi suggested I go to London’s big shop called Seldfridges……so that was me this afternoon mincing over to Oxford Street with my credit card and sticky-out nipples. I was freezing.

Initially, the first floor looked hopeful. It’s the size, apparently, of four football pitches, or maybe two double-decker buses. Or Idaho.

Anyway, it’s huge and rammed with every designer label I’d ever heard of, and about a million I hadn’t. All of which were selling T-shirts.

I’m not joking. Issey & Gabbana, Alexander Saint Laurent, Tommy Farhi, Madeyes of Monte Carlo, Viven Bitchwood and Vera Wong. One was all green and I couldn’t get out of the damn thing. Another was full of string.

“We’ve got this,” said one cheerful woman, holding up something that travel agents advise you to pack for those chilly evenings you might encounter during a Med cruise to Venice in July. …..but the only size they had was medium….so I buggered off. Eventually I found a coat at a ski shop. It was thick and warm and best of all it fit……….yes, it was expensive but Heidi would never know so I told the 12-year-old shop assistant not to pack it and that I would wear it home. I got the train home snug and content and not thinking about the £155 I had just spent. The train was packed with commuters on the journey home and their sad and tired faces showed that the return to work this Monday had not been a pleasant one.

I arrived home and was welcomed by Heidi who admired my coat saying how good it looked on me and how warm it must be underneath it……..however she then said “£155 is a lot to spend isn’t it.”…..I stopped in my tracks…….how had she known how much I had spent……did my wife have special ESPN powers ……. ummm………. nope …….because she then reached behind me and pulled off a huge red and white tag that said


I had walked the streets of London telling the world I was a fat bastard who had just spent £155 on a coat……………double bugger.

Some of you may have been privileged to take a voyage on a Cunard liner and sat in the Queens Room and enjoyed the perfect English teatime. Your cup of Earl Grey will probably have been served in a china cup made by a company called Wedgwood. The Queen herself probably gets up in the morning, puts on her slippers and bathrobe before heading to the kitchen to put the kettle to make a mug of tea for her and Philip …….and her mugs will no doubt be Wedgwood. Well, it is a sad sign of the times that Wedgwood and their partner company, Waterford Crystal, today have gone into administration.

In North American terms, this means they have filed for bankruptcy and unless a buyer is found immediately these iconic brands will cease to exist and 6,000 people will lose their jobs. Let us hope that does not happen….it’s not just the banks and car companies that need to survive this huge economic downturn but also small companies like Wedgwood who I hope continue to provide Cunard and Lizzy with china for many more years to come.

Well, thanks for all the kind words and comments. Tomorrow (Tuesday) I will answer any outstanding questions. A special thank you from Heidi for the support and best wishes you continue to send her and the Thingy. And a special mention to all of you who took the time to remember in your thoughts and prayers our crew member who was lost at sea. Once again the community spirit that this blog has is astonishing.

There have been lots of comments as well about our new TV commercials and so I thought it was time for an expert to chat with you about this and so much more. I first met this quite unassuming young man in November and we became instant friends. I was so impressed by not only his huge knowledge base but also his sense of humor and fun. Ladies and gentlemen please give a warm welcome to Carnival’s Chief Marketing Officer Mr. James Berra……….or just Jim.


1. Firstly Jim, welcome to the blog thingy and welcome to the Carnival family. Can I start by asking you to tell us about your career so far and the journey that brought you to Carnival, where you are from and where you went to school and what other jobs you held before joining us.

Jim: I’ll spare everyone the unabridged version – I grew up in Minnesota (land of ten thousands lakes and countless mosquitoes) and went to college at Northwestern University. After graduation, I tried law school and quickly realized that it wasn’t for me. I spent the next few months waiting tables (would you like fries with that?) and interviewing and was lucky enough to find employment with Hyatt Hotels in Chicago, working in their resort and corporate marketing groups. After three years at Hyatt, I joined Starwood Hotels where I worked on the launch of their loyalty program – Preferred Guest. I spent seven plus years at Starwood and had a chance to build and manage a strong program and team that oversaw loyalty programs, strategic alliance and database marketing. In the summer of 2005, I joined Rodale, Inc. which is the publisher of several health and fitness related magazines and books (Men’s Health, Runner’s World, Prevention and South Beach Diet to name a few). I worked across the brands and lines of business to help build marketing and product plans. In particular, I worked on developing their digital strategy and Web sites.

2.Had you ever been on a cruise before you joined us and what were your thoughts about the industry

Jim: Having had access to free or close to free hotel rooms for most of my adult years, I had not been on a cruise prior to joining Carnival. I did spend a fair amount of my time at Hyatt and Starwood working on the resort/leisure side of the business, so I had some knowledge of the industry. In markets like the Caribbean, we typically viewed the industry as competitive, and I was always envious of the cruise industry’s ability to seamlessly provide multiple destinations and experiences within a single vacation. Tough to beat.

3. So as our Chief Marketing Officer what are your responsibilities.

Jim: I’m really lucky and am like the new coach who inherits a great team, so most of my job involves staying out of the way and letting the team run. The marketing team at Carnival oversees all of the brand’s advertising, public relations and marketing communications. We’re also are responsible for the content and user experience on carnival.com. We’ve got a lot on our plates in terms of helping to further strengthen the brand, launch new products and innovations and drive consumer demand.

4.You have joined us at a very exciting and also a very challenging time with the economic downturn hovering over all of us. What will Carnival,s message be in 2009 to encourage people to experience a brilliant Carnival cruise

Jim: Carnival is actually in a very envious position. If we were creating a brand from scratch and were deciding on what promises we’d like our new brand to own, you would be hard-pressed to come up with two better promises than Fun and Value.

The key to our marketing, both in this market or any other for that matter, is to clearly define what these promises mean in a way that is engaging, believable and memorable. Our brand of fun is social, gregarious and inclusive. It isn’t overly planned or scripted. And Value doesn’t mean cheap or tacky, it means getting a fantastic experience for the money.

5. One of the ways we are getting our message out is with the new TV commercials. Many seem to like them while some are not so sure. So……can you tell us what they are all about and the thinking behind them

Jim: Absolutely. I’ve read through the feedback and most of all am so appreciative of everyone taking the time to comment and share their thoughts (including the tough feedback).

Stepping back for a minute, the Fun Crowd TV spots, Pinata and Beach Ball, are designed to disrupt and get people talking/thinking about Carnival. The imagery and music should evoke our brand of fun, but do so in a way that is unexpected and therefore creates a bit of a disruption. In the age of Tivo, we also wanted the ads to standout and be something memorable. Whether we’ve hit the mark or not, we’ll know as the brand research rolls in and as we monitor Web traffic and consumer comments.

The Fun Crowd spots are running for five weeks only as it is important, as many people have correctly pointed out, that we tie the message back directly to the guest experience. Beginning in late January, you will start seeing ads filmed onboard begin to run and I’d love to come back and talk about them and answer questions. We’re very excited about the work and can’t wait to share it.

6. I know that there are new top secret commercials due in February and beyond. Can you open that secret door and let us know something about them and when and where they will be seen.

Jim: The door is ajar. We’ll let everyone know the air dates once we lock down on the media plan.

7. I know that your were responsible for the hugely successful loyalty program at Starwood hotels. Our loyalty program here at Carnival is also very important and therefore I wondered what your thoughts were about CCL’s program and what you may have planned for it’s future.

Jim: I have a ton of passion for this area and have seen what it can mean for both brands and members. I definitely need to start doing my homework on the current program and see what steps we can take to improve it. I have yet to see where a smart investment in how you communicate, recognize and reward your most loyal guests hasn’t paid off in terms of improving loyalty and attracting new guests through positive word of mouth. Can’t promise what this will mean just yet, but can promise that we will look very closely at it.

8.What other initiatives will be your focus this new year.

Jim: The soup is very thick. Let the record state that this is the first time in this interview that I’ve used marketing speak:) We’re going to put even more energy into .com and digital marketing, expand our local marketing efforts (including our debut in Baltimore), continue to invest heavily in building the Carnival brand, explore new partnerships and introduce The Dream this fall – just to name a few items.

9. This blog is a small part of Carnival’s internet program. How important is the internet in today’s world of marketing and will Carnival continue to invest in this area

Jim: The internet was/is/and will continue to be game-changing for the travel industry. The two most important and related aspects of my job are to effectively and profitably build the brand and grow our presence online, full stop.

By the way, your blog is an absolutely critical part of both goals. I would have killed to have had something 50% as strong at Starwood.

10. Finally, and as we jave always done with executive interviews its time to find out about the real Jim.
Please fill in the blanks

Favourite Movie: The Godfather (also partial to The Shawshank Redemption)

Favourite Music: U2, Radiohead and Frank Sinatra (not necessarily in that order)

If you were stranded on a desert island which of these would you choose as a companion

Angelina Jolie

Bill Clinton


Simon Cowell


Assuming that I have to play by the rules and select from the above (otherwise I would clearly choose my wife Serena), I would have to go with Angelina (sans the posse of children of course)

Favourite Sport
: Love baseball, football (the version that allows you to tackle the other guy without getting carded) and am addicted to golf.

Favourite way to relax: Golf followed by 19th hole libation

If you were invisible for a day what would you do: Sneak out for 36 holes on Augusta National

Thanks, Jim. I am sure I speak for many when I say how excited we are that you have joined us and I know that the bloggers will want me to follow up with you in the months ahead about the new commercials and the very important loyalty program. Please join me in posting your comments about this interview…….your feedback is priceless and this is one of those blogs where I am going to kindly ask that you provide it.

It’s going to be a great year for Carnival and with Gerry, Ruben, Jim and the other top executives at the helm it’s going to be a great year for you as well.

It’s time to put the garbage bags out as the refuse collectors are coming in the morning. It’s minus 4 degrees tonight, its snowing again and according to the British Met Office, December 2008 was the coldest in 31 years……..the people with beards who believe the world’s polar bears are up at the North Pole slapping on some factor five should visit us in the UK now… oh………bring a coat and don’t forget to take the bloody label off first.

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.