Going to the Dogs

January 27, 2009 -

John Heald

Being a simple and relatively poor cruise director, I do not get to dine at ritzy, champagne-drenched, Michelin-starred exotic restaurants in sun-kissed, faraway places. Once, while preparing the European ports for the Carnival Liberty’s inaugural season I took Heidi to a “poncy” (www.urbandictionary.com) five-star place in Monte Carlo …………and I hated it.

The Hotel De something or other was full of women who looked like prostitutes and they were in the company of greasy little men who learned their English from baddies in James Bond films and who meet in bars at night to sell one another machine guns. The staff looked at us and after realizing we weren’t members of the machine gun club or anyone famous, they treated us with distain and total and utter rudeness. The only time our waiter smiled was when he gave us the bill……I truly believe he thought that I wouldn’t be able to afford it and that my arse would soon be either doing the washing up or getting a beating from one of the greasy men.

Anyway, last night I did get to go to a very “posh” dining establishment here in Miami and………it was fabulous. And of course it was a most welcome invitation as most nights I have been eating alone……..at my hotel………a hotel with a name but that doesn’t matter because its the same as any other business hotel you or I have ever stayed in.

There’s a priority check-in section where you wait behind some rope, on a bit of carpet. There are staff in shiny suits who say things like “If there’s anything else at all for yourself at all.” And you are given a credit card key that makes lots of whirring noises when you put it in the lock but will not, no matter what you do, open the door. Twice I have arrived at room 522 only to discover that the red light blinking which means I then have to turn around and go all the way back to reception to get a bollocking from the receptionist that I have placed my key near to a credit card whose magnetic strip has destroyed the thingy in the key. I then have to wait while the staff gets me another key and of course this has all happened while I am desperate for a number two and am already “touching cloth.”

Let me describe my room. The air conditioning unit sounds like a F16 jet. The light switch by the bed turns all the lights off, except one. Which can only be extinguished by hitting the bulb with your shoe. The plug you need to charge your mobile is always behind the mini bar, and the “tea and coffee making facilities” are designed to ensure you can’t make either. No, really: the kettle lead is never more than a foot long and the brown powder they put in the sachets tastes like a liquefied pair of my underpants after a nine-hour trans-Atlantic flight.

The restaurant I have been eating is like all hotel dining rooms, furnished in beige, is overseen by a woman who when she discovers you don’t speak Spanish just says “sir” and then hands you over to a 17-year-old who arrived in Miami that morning on the underside of a train.

Your fellow diners are chomping their way through their suppers, some reading books, some newspapers, and there’s always one whose reading the hotel’s smoking policy leaflet over and over again. Just killing time till they can go to their room and watch pornography………we all had one thing in common…..we were all alone…….a table for one, please.

Businessmen’s hotels, I think, are the most miserable, soul destroying, soulless, energy sapping, embarrassing, badly run and badly organized edifices in the entire world. And that’s before we get to the food. The menus are always written in a massively squiggly, curly-whirly typeface. And there’s much talk of jus and things being drizzled onto other things. But you know the chef is not from Paris or Rome. He’s from Honduras and he hasn’t a clue what he’s doing.

As a general rule, I order items that even I couldn’t mess up, which is why, the other night I ordered a lamb chop………”Que?” said the waiter……”Lamb,” I said again adding “a bambino baa baa”. ………”Si” she nodded “……..and returned 20 minutes later with a bowl of pasta.

And so you can see just why an invitation not just to a great restaurant but a chance to eat with others was such a wonderful treat. Ocean Drive, or Ocean as it’s known here in Miami’s South Beach…….or SoBe to the natives. It’s a beachfront stretch of art-deco hotels to which it feels like the whole of hip America has come to pay homage. Obviously, this being the Miami, they didn’t walk here. Enormous Lexus SUV’s driven by handsome men listening to rap songs by Jay the Ruler pursue BMW convertibles driven by gorgeous women hoping that they will “drop it like it is hot.”

South Beach is that kind of place. It’s the American Riviera. It’s like Cannes run by hipsters and everyone’s invited, no jacket required. It’s a place where yellow Porsches make complete sense.

One thing I really cannot understand though is the attitude the rich and tanned have with their dogs. You see them everywhere in South Beach and honestly ……it’s bloody hilarious. Most of the dogs are the small Paris Hilton lap-rat . They walk their rats ……. sorry …..dogs with their natty doggy accessories and 40-meter retractable leads tripping you up on the sidewalk. And then there are the clothes. You will see the little rats ……. sorry ………….dogs dressed in their favorite sports teams colors and one even had an army camouflage jacket on. I am sure at Halloween these poor rats………sorry……..dogs are dressed up as Dogzilla and Batdog.

Here is what I mean

dog1

dog2

dog3

All of the above dogs look like they would rather live in Korea then be subjected to this ……….if I had a little rat dog I would attach a fake penis to its head and let it spend Halloween as a “Cock er Spaniel”………..but that’s just me.

Anyway, I was invited to dinner last night by my friends Mr and Mrs. Bentley. You may have heard me talk about them before. I have known them for 20 years but our travels mean we don’t get to spend too much time together. Mrs. Bentley is an executive for Cadbury’s, the famous British choclatier and Mr. Bentley owns a sporting goods shop.

Well, it so happened that they were in Miami on vacation and so we met up at a place called Prime Italian ………….and it was fantastic. You know , what I love about American restaurants is that unlike their British counterparts, there are no visible dress codes. Whereas in the UK I would have had to wear a suit but in American eateries I could walk in wearing only my Burger King underwear that have “Home of the Whopper” on the front and I still would have been seated.

I am not a restaurant critic but I will say this. If you are ever in Miami and if you love Italian food served in a relaxed atmosphere where any minute someone famous like Pee Diddly or George Hamilton may walk in……….then Prime Italian is for you.

Many of you will want to know what I had to eat…………..so.

We started with a selection of appetizers for the table which included calamari, mini Philly steak sandwiches (“that’s not Italian” I hear you cry…….well, it’s American Italian so “forget about it.”) and of course the one thing you really must have…….a giant meatball …….a huge one pound ball……..it was simply delicious . I am not sure how it’s made or where it comes from but judging by its size I am sure there must be an elephant somewhere in Africa that’s walking a little lopsided.

The main course……..well some had a pasta made with vodka………some had pizza………some had veal scaloppini and I had………something very, very special ………Italian hot and sweet sausage………it was delicious and ………..here’s a photo of it.

dsc04481

It was a wonderful night especially as I didn’t have to pay and because the junior Bentleys joined us, as well. Both had their partners with them and both are obviously in love. I know this because they were saying I love you a lot to each other …….well ….. they didn’t actually say I love you they just texted each other the message.

Seriously though…….it was a great night and the only thing missing was Heidi.

So, here I am again in the Miami office working out of a cubicle in the entertainment office. My laptop dancer computer has picked up a disease called a Trojan and is currently being disinfected by a man with a beard. I opened the computer up this morning and suddenly dozens and dozens of internet pages started opening. These included www.bigjugs.com and various sites telling me I had been selected to win a new car, etc etc…….I couldn’t close any of the pages and so I called Mr Beardy the, I/T doctor who took it away for it to be shot.

I want to thank you so much for all the comments you made yesterday about the new commercial. It seems that the majority of you thought it was fun and you all loved the fact that it was shot onboard one of our ships. If you didn’t get a chance to see it ……… here it is once again.

www.carnival.com/funville

This is the first of the new 30-second spots and I will preview the next one on Monday. There are some brilliant ones to show you and one especially that I think is going to have all of you laughing out loud.
I wanted to choose one of the many comments you posted about it and so I randomly picked one of them………I have no idea why I choose this one:

Tom & Jane
January 26th, 2009 at 10:24 pm
We liked the commercial….much better than
the nation of why not….
why not pay for that steak !!!
why not pay for that late nite snack !!!
or……..
why not sail Carnival, the nation of FUN FOR ALL-ALL FOR FUN

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

It seems Holland America have really taken the world of blogging to their hearts and as you will see on www.bestblogsatsea.com.Multiple blogs from across the fleet is something that Stephanie has wanted to do at Carnival for some time and congratulations to HAL in making this happen. Reading these blogs are a wonderful way to fuel the passion you all have for cruising and there is no doubt that Carnival Corporation leads the way in travel related blogs………..and we have only just begun.

OK, tomorrow I have a long list of questions to answer but I wanted to answer this one which has been outstanding for some time…….my apologies Brittany. However, it is an important question that deserves an answer………..so it is.


Brittany Asked:

John. I want answers. Why is Carnival one of the only cruise ships that doesn’t allow someone under the age of 21 to be in a cabin with somebody who is 21 years old? (I am referring to the Age restriction of the fact a 20 year old would not be allowed to be in the same room as a 21 year old, and instead is required to be with somebody 25 years of age or older in a cabin)…

John Says:

Hello Brittany
You ask a really good question and I can understand why you are so upset. The fact of the matter is that while I am sure you and your friend are upstanding and well behaved, I am sorry to report that this cannot be said for many young people your age. I spent 20 years at sea and each year I dreaded spring break when groups of 20 year olds would be four to a cabin and would cause so much damage in and around the ship. I could tell you many stories of the things I saw and eventually Carnival realized what a detrimental effect this was having on the other passengers. And so, the rule was changed where any groups of younger people who wanted to sail must have someone of 25 or older in the cabin unless they were married….and this has made a huge difference. Now, the flip side to all this is that people like you who and your friend get punished and that is so regrettable. I hope that maybe you can find a way to sail with family or friends and enjoy the Carnival experience. I am also sure you have further thoughts on the subject which I encourage you to express here on the blog thingy.
My best regards
John

If anyone else would like to chime in on this subject please feel free …….as always I appreciate your thoughts.

So, what do you think of bingo? You know, it’s been around on cruise ships for many, many years. I remember when I first started in the entertainment department we sold big and heavy cards that had little windows on them so every time a number was pulled from the dice cage that you had to slide the window across the number. You then called “bingo” and if you were lucky……..you would win our jackpot of $50. Obviously things have changed. We now have modern bingo machines and disposable cards and huge jackpot prizes. Back in the old days we used to make bingo fun……….really fun and I am going to try and encourage this to return.

Anyway…….do you play bingo onboard, do you like what we do or do you have suggestions to make the games more fun? Now, I know you would all like cheaper cards and bigger prizes but that aside………..is there anything you would like to see? These are changing times and as I have said a few times recently, your feedback and suggestions are so very important………so shout BINGO and I look forward to seeing your comments.

Well, the Carnival Splendor is getting ready for her South American adventure. Extra activities, events and seminars have been planned, extra shows produced and I truly believe that Goose and his staff will make sure it’s a voyage to remember. Now, don’t forget Jaime will be posting Dear John blogs throughout the voyage so look out for those very soon. It was nice by the way to see that Jaime and our old friend Chris “Bubba” Roberts took the time to post comments on yesterday’s blog……..hey Bubba, the next time you have some free time………..how about a Bubba blog?………..we have missed you.

Now, the Carnival Splendor has ordered more library books and board games for this special voyage. It seems that board games are getting more and more popular with sales of Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly and Scrabble increasing all the time.

Naturally, the sort of people who eat tofu and dress their dogs in Santa suits think that the world is reverting to traditional family values and that instead of beheading Zombies on the WiiStainonboX that kids are whittling chess pieces round the fire with Mum and Dad listening to Perry Como. They see the resurgence of the board game as a good thing.

It will though come as no surprise that I think this is a load of bollocks and that these games are crueler then buying a Frenchman a bar of soap for Christmas. Let’s start with Monopoly, a game I see many passengers playing along the Promenade Deck these days. OK, I guess it’s good fun but, like the banking and property system on which it is based, there is a flaw. It never ends………You go bankrupt so you borrow money from your Dad who has loads. Then you go bankrupt again. So you borrow more money from the bank.

And then, when there is no more money left in the box, you write out an IOU and keep on borrowing by which time it is Sunday , everyone is bankrupt and you have realized that unchecked capitalism doesn’t work whether it comes in the form of a merchant banker called Richard…. or in a box. That’s if you’re lucky. If you’re not, there will be a “bad loser” around the table who will land on your hotel on Madison Avenue and in a hysterical rage will burst into tears and throw the board, his dog (wearing a New York Yankees dog suit), and eventually themselves out of the window.

In theory Scrabble is much better and yet it, too can cause my hemorrhoids to throb. And that’s because I always end up with mostly vowels. So while my opponent is writing “fantasy” across two triple word scores and claiming it’s a game of skill, I’m getting three points for “poo.”

I have a similar problem with backgammon. So far as Heidi is concerned, dice have six faces all of which feature six dots. I, on the other hand, have only ever thrown a two and a one. Even without a player coming the other way, it would take me about 15 months to get all my pieces to the other side of the board.

Board games, then, do not bring a family closer together. They rip out its heart in a seething cauldron of rage, hysteria, accusations and hate. And so to all my friends who sailing on the Carnival Splendor’s for 40 something days………forget Monopoly and Scrabble……take the one you love to the Arcade and spend an hour or two playing Death Zombie Auto Halo Hemorrhoid Killers……….it will bring you closer together.

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.