A Blog Full of Valor

January 26, 2009 -

John Heald

Good afternoon from sunny Miami.

It appears to me that the country is still buzzing over the inauguration of President Obama. You know, I flew here to the States on the day of his inauguration and with jet lag and everything I never really got to see the whole thing. So, before I got ready for work this morning I watched it online and it was truly wonderful. I also got my first look at the First Children, accompanied by what looked like a really stern nanny with 1950s-style glasses. Behind them was the First Mother-in-Law who is moving into the White House as well. How many jokes are going to be made about that in the coming years? I hope she sits in a rocking chair on the porch, crocheting and making loud, rude comments about everyone in the Rose Garden. Finally, slightly late (how cool is that?), Obama emerged to greet his country. The place went ballistic………It doesn’t matter who you voted for you have to admit the guy has a certain rock star thing and you just can’t help getting excited by him.

Having written something about President Obama, I was concerned that I was turning the blog into a political discussion and if that’s the case, I would like to offer up an apology. When you are a cruise director you tend to say sorry a lot. “Sorry that joke offended you”…..”Sorry the water in the pool is too cold”………”Sorry that we don’t have roasted peacock on the menu.” And occasionally, as I continue to speak my mind here on the blog I know that I will occasionally have to apologize here on the blog thingy.

Justin Timbertrouserssnake apologized after baring Janet Jackson’s breast live on the Super Bowl halftime show. But was he really sorry? Bill Clinton apologized after his game of hide the cigar became public — but only because he’d been caught.

As a word, “sorry” is a useful get-out-of-jail-free card when you’re having an argument with your wife and there’s only 10 minutes before your favorite television program starts: “Yes, I know I’ve accidentally sneezed a huge green booger over our new couch. I am a useless husband on every level and I’m sorry. Now can I watch 24?”
Sorry works when you tread on someone’s toe, or if a child accidentally burps after drinking too much Coca-Cola. Sorry is for minor indiscretions like being a bit late. When you need to squeeze past someone at the cinema to reach your seat, you say sorry because it’s another way of saying excuse me. And “excuse me” just won’t do if you’ve done something big….”I know you are paying me $40,000 a minute to play basketball and I just missed an easy slam dunk that cost us the game ……….please excuse me, coach.”

Of course, to bring a bit of gravitas to the moment of humiliation and to dispel the illusion that they’ve done nothing more than spill water on someone’s pants, people who make public statements today have learned to adopt a serious face and say that they are making an “unreserved” apology.

I remember back in 1997 on the Carnival Destiny that I made an “unreserved apology.” The ship was due to call at Boston for seven-day cruise to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Unfortunately on the way up the engines ummmm…….broke……….and we eventually arrived at midnight. The guests had been waiting at the embarkation area since 1 pm and as you can imagine some were a wee bit upset. They had very little to do except wait, however, Carnival’s 344th best comedian Al Ernst was also waiting to join the ship and actually stood on the embarkation ticket counter and did a 30-minute comedy show …….using a bull horn. Anyway, we eventually started embarkation at 1 am . I remember standing on the gangway with Heidi and the staff welcoming everyone onboard and you know what……….most people seemed OK and understood.

Now, maybe this was because we had all the bars and lounges open with music, dancing and oh yes…….open bar ……and even though it was 1 am, the thought of free drinks really seemed to cheer people up.

However their joy was short lived as just one hour later we had to close the bars down………because we had not applied for a liquor license while we were alongside and we were told that until the paperwork for a “night time” license was completed we could only serve beer and wine……..no spirits. Anyway, a few hours later we were all in bed and the guests were looking forward to a six-day — not a seven-day — cruise. They were awoken though a few hours later by yours truly giving a “unreserved apology” because the engines had indeed not been able to be repaired and we were going nowhere…………the cruise was over after just one night alongside.

Elton John once said that sorry seems the hardest word. And while many accepted this with a sigh there were surely a few passengers who thought Elton was singing bollocks and really wanted to say: “I don’t accept your apology you overweight British idiot and I want to beat you on your bare buttocks with a tennis racquet.”
Let’s change the subject.

I am very proud of the fact that in 2007 we started taking online bookings for the supper club via the blog. This proved very popular with many people and I think many of you mentioned that you would like to book your spa appointments in advance as well. Well ……good things come to those who wait and as you will see from the following press release ……..you can.

Here’s Vance to tell you all about it.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES ROLLS OUT NEW
ON-LINE SPA PRE-PURCHASE SYSTEM

Wide Variety of Treatments Available Via Expanded Carnival.Com Web Portal

MIAMI (January 26, 2009) – Carnival Cruise Lines, the world’s largest cruise operator, has introduced a new on-line pre-purchase system for guests interested in booking spa treatments prior to their “Fun Ship” cruise.

With the advanced reservations system, available on all 22 “Fun Ships,” guests who have a fully deposited cruise can log onto Carnival’s web site (carnival.com) and designate a specific spa treatment and appointment time and submit payment information.

The site lists more than 30 different treatments which are available for purchase, everything from acupuncture services, soothing massages and Elemis advanced facials to invigorating detoxification wraps and slimming treatments, pricing and details of which can be viewed on the site. A full menu of nail, tooth whitening, and men’s services is also available for pre-purchase.

“Personal pampering in our luxurious spas are a highlight of the Carnival vacation experience and our new on-line spa reservations system provides our guests with an easy and convenient way to pre-purchase a variety of treatments which serve as the perfect complement to a ‘Fun Ship’ cruise,” said Bob Woodry, Carnival’s vice president of hotel commerce. “Since our spa appointments are known for filling up rather quickly on board, this on-line reservation system allows guests to secure their preferred spa treatment before their vacation begins,” he added.

To access the new on-line spa treatment pre-purchase system, guests must be registered on carnival.com and have a fully deposited cruise booking. After accessing their reservation through the “My Reservation” link, guests are prompted with the “Plan Activities” option and “Spa Appointments” link where they can search for spa services available on their particular voyage by treatment type, date, and preferred time.

To purchase a spa treatment, guests simply select the treatment of their choice and enter credit card payment information via a secure encrypted reservations portal. Guests are provided with a printable spa treatment order confirmation with details on the specific treatment and appointment time included.

On-line spa treatment reservations can be made prior to seven days before the cruise departure date. Guests are also welcome to visit the ships’ spa once on board to purchase spa treatments and obtain additional information.

Operated in conjunction with Steiner Transocean Limited, Carnival Cruise Lines offers some of the most elaborate spas at sea, ranging in size from 12,000 to 21,000 square feet. The new Carnival Dream, set to debut Sept. 21, 2009, will set a new standard for the line’s health and wellness centers, with a two-level 23,750-square-foot “Cloud 9 Spa” – the largest in the fleet.

In addition to a variety of treatments and salon services, Carnival’s fleetwide spa facilities offer expansive gymnasiums with sophisticated exercise equipment and aerobics rooms which serve as the venue for a host of organized exercise classes. Wellness counseling such as nutrition and fitness classes is also available.

Carnival is the largest and most popular cruise line in the world, with 22 “Fun Ships” operating voyages ranging from three to 18 days in length to The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Panama Canal, Canada, New England, Europe, Bermuda and South America. The line currently has two new ships scheduled for delivery between now and 2011. The first of those, the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, is set to debut Sept. 21, 2009.

For additional information and reservations on the “Fun Ship” vacation experience, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com.

I think this is a huge step forward. I will also be discussing all your spa suggestions you made a few weeks ago with our Roberta Jacoby who was recently appointed as senior vice president with overall charge of our hotel operations department. Let me know what you think of this online booking service please.

Thanks so much on behalf of Heidi for all the wonderful comments you wrote having seen her on the video. Some of you wrote that you could not view it and hopefully since then you have been able to as I know Stephanie tried to change ………… ummmm ……… the ………..ummm………..she did something that computer geeks do so you could see it. Let me know if you still cannot view it. Anyway, thanks again to all of you and as we head to 3.7 million views I continue to be amazed that so many of you take your valuable time to read my musings.

I will be answering your questions that have been marked for me to reply to later this week. It also seems that you enjoyed James’ blog on his world cruise adventures. Thanks again, James, and I know many of the bloggers will be over regularly to have a look at what you have written.

Don’t forget later this week I will have interviews with Alistair on the Queen Victoria and with Captain ???? who will be Master of the Carnival Dream.

On Thursday this week I head off to the Carnival Fantasy to prepare the bloggers cruise. This will also give me chance to write about the Evolutions of Fun upgrades and I am very much looking forward to that.
I spent Sunday visiting friends. The day started with a trip to a ship I have never once set foot on before…………….Carnival Valor. Thinking about it, there are four other ships I have never been aboard……….. Carnival Elation…….. Carnival Conquest……. Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Spirit. So, today I got to see the ship so many of you call your favorite and after today I can see why. Now, at this point I would love to direct you to the photos below……..but……ummmm……..I forgot my camera and this once again proves that without Heidi I suddenly have the intelligence of an amoeba.

The ship looks brilliant and the color scheme is easy on the eye and…….every chair ……… yes……..every chair I sat in was comfortable……please let this be the case on the Carnival Dream. In fact……I think I should be given a chance on your behalf to test every chair before they are purchased for quality, comfort, relaxation levels and, of course, breakage strain.

So before I met with some special people I spent sometime with my friend and the Carnival Valor’s Cruise Director Chris Jefferson. He is a brilliant CD and I know many of you have enjoyed his antics. He has been on the Carnival Valor for a few years now and will soon be transferring to the Carnival Conquest. After lunch with him at Fish & Chips on board which was as excellent as ever I went down to the lobby where I met with Linda Hernacki and her husband Mike. We have not sailed together since 2004, in fact the last time we did sail together was on the Carnival Triumph. We kept missing each other after that mostly because of my changing schedule and so it was just brilliant that we managed to spend some time together today. Also at our gathering were my old friends Duchess Bee and her Prince Charlie who are known on the blog as Southern Dreams. They are platinum plus guests and have cruised many, many times with me over the years.

Now…..don’t tell anyone this………but I was a bit naughty today. Both Bee and Charlie have new motorized scooters and they begged me to have a go because their new vehicles were light, fast and fun to drive. And so it was at just after noon and much to the amusement of the few guests and crew there……….I whizzed up and down on Promenade Deck on Bonnie’s thingy. ………and it indeed was fast and fun and I think we should hire them out. In fact we should give them to our room service staff who could whiz up and down the corridors delivering sandwiches………..meals on wheels.

Now Bonnie and Charlie have their own blog and will be writing about their cruise experience on the Carnival Valor from onboard……her address is muffin53.blogspot.com

Now, I now they will be reading this so Bonnie….stick the photo of me on your thingy on your blog would you and as always, thanks so much for all the fun and have a brilliant cruise.

Now, the last couple I met onboard today were Mr and Mrs. Pietrangelo (retirementman) whom I have never actually met before.

However, he has been reading the blog from day one and finally today we shook hands as friends do and it was a wondrous moment to meet him and his beautiful wife. Paul is a true gentlemen and it was an absolute honor to meet him today.

I also got chance to speak to our Puerto Rican friend and long time blogger Nanni whom I know wishes she could have been with us today and to whom I send muchus hugos.

All of the above brought gifts for the Thingy and I got a cap as well …..it was a wonderful experience and I am so glad I got to do it. I left the ship at 3:15pm with mixed emotions. I was happy that I had met everyone and once again I was reminded that this blog thingy has become a place where friends meet, talk and decide to cruise Carnival together ………. long may that continue.

I also left feeling sad that a few hours later I wasn’t going to be on stage………hosting the welcome aboard show………oh how I miss being a CD.

Later that evening I met some more bloggers for dinner at a five-star restaurant called Tony Romas. Now, I can’t mention all of these because there were 23 of them and I can’t remember all their names. They all juts got off the Carnival Triumph and had a wonderful time. Their leader is Sue “Cruisin Mum “on the blog and her and her family and friends are all from Charleston, South Carolina……….and all of them drove here in their RV or Winnebagos as they are known.

Anyway, I had a quick appetizer rib thingy and we chatted for an hour. Once again I was struck by how loyal these people are to Carnival and how much this blog thingy means to them………..they even paid for my ribs. So Sue, I hope your journey home is a good one and having seen inside your Winnebago it certainly will beat flying……………..thanks again.

It was strange being in Miami today. I was trying to remember the last time I was on a Miami-based ship and again I think it was the Carnival Triumph in 2004. Anyway ……….. boy has it changed. Parking is much easier although I wish they would have signs naming which row you parked your car in like they do at airports and shopping malls. I walked around the parking lot today for ages trying to remember where I parked my GMC thingy. However, security has not changed especially trying to get on as a visitor. I went to where the crew sign on the ship and where I thought the visitors would embark from as they had when I was last in Miami. So, I minced down to the gate and was met by a very special lady. Now……..I know I am big……..and only because I am is it that I can write what I am about to.

I was met by a lady with a uniform full of patches and with the personality of dung beetle. As I approached her she stuck a huge Chewbacca-sized hand in my face. She would have probably used two hands but unfortunately the other was occupied stuffing a massive hot dog down her tunnel-sized throat. Bringing me to a sudden stop she then screamed at a crewmember who had walked past her showing her his ID to come back. She did this as though she was talking to a dog that had just crapped in her shoe……as the crewmember returned she demanded to see his ID all the time shoving more food in. At one point it looked like she might eat the poor Indonesian crewmember as well but she let him go with a dismissive wave of her flabby hand.

Why…….why do people have to treat others this way and why is it that this woman expects respect when she treats crew this way and how can expect respect when she has a huge mustard stain on her iron on security patch?

Anyway, I explained to Jabba the Hut who I was and – surprise, surprise — she told me to bugger off and I couldn’t come in. She did this again so rudely that as I walked into the terminal building I hoped that the hot dog was full of Ebola and that her next few hours would be spent with her wide screen bottom giving some shock and awe to the nearest toilet.

Then I walked into a different world. The world of the guest terminal manned by lovely ladies and gents whose first impression was perfect, not just to me but to all the guests I saw. We are really working on our check-in procedures and I am sure many of you will have seen the positive changes we have made……….and we have not finished yet.

OK, let’s have a look at the first of our 30-second commercials. This is number one of four or five that will air over the next month or so. It was filmed onboard the Carnival Splendor and gives you a first look at our new “Fun Director.”

So, grab 30 seconds worth of popcorn and if you ready……….press play

Watch here or Visit www.carnival.com/funville

So, what did you think? This young man will appear in all our new 30-second spots and over the next few weeks I will share them all with you. I like this one. I like the fact that it shows that any one of any age can be a young girl screaming as you hurtle down our Twister slide. Carnival is all about the spirited, the people like you and like me …… people of any age who are comfortable in their own skin and love life and know that the antidote to all the gloom and doom of life is a huge dollop of Carnival fun.

As always……..I encourage you to watch it two or three times and then please……………as many as possible please post your honest opinions……………thanks in advance.

One last thing before I go. Being in Miami today was strange also because of all the ships I saw docked together. It seems that ship names have in some way come to a standstill. There are Freedoms and Magics and Dreams and Seas all over the place. There are always conversations to be heard discussing who copied who etc. Well, actually nobody copies anyone, it’s just that there are many ships in the industry and only certain names that ……well…..suit a cruise liner. I wonder therefore if it is time to get a bit more radical when it comes to naming a ship.

You know, Ferrari built a special car recently named after the company’s chairman “Enzo”………and so was born the $500,000 Ferrari Enzo. I think that’s the way we should go and therefore I am pleased and proud to tell you that after the Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic we will build…………………the Carnival Micky.

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.