A Dream Job

January 29, 2009 -

John Heald

I will never forget the first time I saw the Fantasy. I was driving with Gary Hunter, the cruise director, from his house in Gainesville. I remember feeling sick the whole journey because the night before we had eaten something called chitterlings for dinner. Gary’s Mum had cooked it and I thought it tasted like crap. However, being a polite 24-year-old from good stock, I smiled and cleared my plate. And afterwards oh how they all laughed when they told me that I had eaten a pig bollocks.

Anyway, we were heading to the ship. Back then the CD and staff did not join the vessel in the shipyard as we do now. That’s because back then the ship would remain pierside in Miami for two weeks or so giving us time to prepare everything. As we came of the I-95 exit to the port we saw the huge smokestack and I remember we both shouted gave a big “wow” as we saw the ship that would start what was arguably the most successful class of cruise ships in the world. I had two very happy years there as social host and then eventually cruise director.

I first conceived my bedtime story on the Fantasy. I first performed my marriage show on the Fantasy. I had my first shipboard romance on the Fantasy only to discover the orchestra drummer wasn’t only banging his drums but my girlfriend, as well.

Yep, this ship holds some amazing memories for me and today is the first time I have walked up the gangway of the now Carnival Fantasy since 1993.
And she looks absolutely jaw droppingly fantastically brilliant.

Now, you are going to have to wait until tomorrow until you see why………I have to go and meet the Captain, etc now but tomorrow I hope you will join me for a photo and video tour of a ship where the Evolutions of Fun upgrades have turned this first lady into a supermodel all over again.

Have a look at James Cusick’s blog today on www.bestblogsatsea.com where you will find amazing photos of Phuket and the island called James Bond Island where The Man With The Golden Gun was filmed. The passengers are exploring it today and James once again allows us to share in their experiences.

During the last few weeks I keep hearing about something called “twitter” over and over again. From what I’ve been told, Carnival is very active in this area and has been recognized as one of the leading companies that “tweet.”

But to me, it is as if I am back at school and Miss Prouse my mole-faced math teacher is saying, “Now. John. I am going to try explaining this one more time very slooooooowly. Quadratic equations…” And of course the shutters come down immediately and my head is all a whirr. In short, I do not understand what this “twitter” thing is.

And if one more person sends me an email or a text saying, “Do you tweet?” I will stamp on my raspberry and replace it with two tin cans attached to a piece of string. Do I tweet? How dare you ask me such a thing? No I bloody well don’t tweet. I am a human, not a Looney Tunes cartoon character with a lisp.

Twitter. To tweet. You try to ignore these things but eventually, they catch up with you, and so it is with Twitter, which is a website on which you tweet, which apparently involves nothing more than telling people looking at your Twitter page what you are doing. Keeping your friends and people you have only met once or twice updated, if you will – a bit like one long Facebook status update. Six million people are at it, and some of them are even celebrities. David Letterman is going to see if Tom Cruise wants to do some tweeting when he comes on his chatshow next month and all the Porsche driving Miami “it girls” are doing it telling us that they are too damn lazy to get off their fat arses and walk their dogs……….. so they hire dog walkers instead…………good grief

Yep………everyone’s doing it and my friend Stephanie and computer genius tells me that we started this back in March 2007 and it seems that Holland America has followed suite and you can now find Carnival Corporations ships blogging, Facebooking and tweeting. How brilliant!

You can find Carnival’s twitter thingy here: www.twitter.com/carnivalcruise

It’s strange to think that when we say goodbye to the Holiday, the Carnival Fantasy will be the oldest ship in the fleet but with its “Evolutions of Fun” upgrades it looks as good as new. Meanwhile the Carnival Splendor will give the flagship baton to the Carnival Dream in September. And with that in mind I would like you to meet the master of the Carnival Dream and surely the proudest captain at sea…..here is Captain Carlo Queirolo.

captain1

captain2

Captain. Very soon you will be the master of our largest vessel. What a wonderful journey you must have been on to get this far…..so, I wonder if you can tell us about your life at sea?

I graduated from Camogli Nautical Institute “Cristoforo Colombo” in 1977 and spent a few years on a cargo ship as deck officer. In 1985, I started as junior officer on the former Carnival ship, the TSS Festivale. Then my career moved quite fast with this great company. I was promoted staff captain in 1991 on the Jubilee, since retired. In 1994, I was the staff captain and helped launch the Fascination in Helsinki. In 1996, I was promoted captain on the Ecstasy and in 1997 I commanded the world’s first Azipod-equipped cruise ship, the Elation. As captain, I was also in charge of the Paradise and Carnival Glory. Therefore, this magnificent ship, the Carnival Dream will be my fourth newbuilding for Carnival.

You and I have been friends for a long time and together we have seen many changes. Can you tell us what it was like to be a young deck officer and some of the duties and experiences you remember?

When I step on board the TSS Festivale, I was assigned right away on duty at the gangway in Miami during embarkation. And with my poor English at that time, what I learned right away was the words “pursers’ office,” which was my answer to almost all answers from the passengers. I had many different experiences, I’ve worked hard but I have also a lot of fun.

And so on to today. Can you tell us where you are currently serving as captain and the ports you visit? I heard cruise with some bad weather and a missed port……can you share with us what happened and what decisions you had to make.
Right now I’m the captain of the Carnival Freedom, and her itinerary is simple beautiful. I love the eight-day eastern Caribbean run from Port Everglades to San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola, and Nassau. The six-day western Caribbean run includes Key West, Grand Cayman, and Ocho Rios. Then we do an eight-day exotic western Caribbean run featuring Cozumel, Limon (Costa Rica) and Colon, Panama. Yes, sometimes during hurricane season we have to change the itinerary or skip a port for the safety of our passengers, crew and ship. It is not an easy decision for a captain, because we always try to give the best to our guests. But I can tell you by experience that when I take this type of decision with professionalism. I always take some of my time to personally explain it to our guests, they are always are understanding and they support it, because their safety is my number one priority.

Once again congratulations on being chosen to be the master of the Carnival Dream. …….so, a simple question……..how do you feel?

I’m simply proud to be the first captain of the largest ship of our Carnival fleet. There are still many dreams which I want to fulfill, but for sure the Carnival Dream is one of those.

From what you have seen about the ship what are you most excited about from a Captain’s perspective?

The whirlpools on deck 5 — just kidding. Tthere are many features which I like about this ship. The Carnival Dream has a beautiful stern, the size and the dimension of the ship are a nice challenge, but with the new power plant, thrusters and new steering system I cannot wait to park this magnificent ship in some beautiful port.

You will soon be heading to the shipyard and therefore I thought it would be great for the bloggers to read about what a captain’s involvement is during the ship’s construction?

The captain is fully involved with the last stage of construction. We have newbuilding team working on site all the time, but already captain and chief engineer (my friend Stefano Gazzolo) are reviewing ship’s plans. A few months before the delivery of the ship, the captain and chief engineer move near the shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy with their team and start to follow the last inspections of the ship and prepare the ship for our guests and crew. Furthermore during the construction our team goes through many different training classes to familiarize themselves to the latest technology on board.

In April the ship will start her sea trials. Can you explain what this involves and what your involvement will be?

The sea trials are the most interest side for me of the entire new building process. Why? Because it is the only time you can test everything of the ship, and test each equipment at the extreme condition. As a sample, the Crash Stop, which means we run the ship at maximum speed ahead and then stop to check to see how much time and distance we need to stop the ship. Our team is also checking all of the different equipments on the bridge, fire suppression system, life saving equipment, etc.

This may sound a silly question but I am sure its one that many of us don’t know the answer to. What are the challenges to navigating and docking a 130,000-ton ship like the Carnival Dream compared say to a Spirit class or Fantasy class ship.

It is only a matter of experience. For sure, the first few maneuver I’ll be little bit more slower than normal, because I have to learn and memorize the size of the new ship and the response of the new power plant.

And now…………as is tradition here on the blog thingy, it is time for you to choose your ultimate Captain’s Table. Let’s start with the menu using your favorite items from our brilliant dining experience
APPETIZER Shrimp salad
CHOICE OF two MAIN COURSES Surf and Turf – Lobster
DESERT Tiramisu

THEN YOUR TABLE
Someone from the cruise industry Micky Arison
Someone to make you laugh John Heald
Your favorite actress the one who John always promised to me as godmother in the past: Sharon Stone
Your favorite actor Richard Gere
A musical guest Madonna
Someone from history you wished you had met Pope John Paul II

Now, the Captain wrote that for me yesterday before disembarking the Carnival Freedom today and heading for a captain’s conference in Miami and then onto Italy and the Monfalcone shipyard. Captain Carlo and I have been friends for many years and, in fact, we delivered the Carnival Glory together as well. There is no better man for the job and I will be asking the Captain to write more from the shipyard and during the sea trials of your Carnival Dream. He will also be hosting our two bloggers cruises as well which will be fantastic…………have you booked yet? Please then join me in congratulating Captain Carlo Queirolo on his Dream posting.

And here are the remaining questions from yesterday.

Brenda R Asked:
John Please Reply
We just wanted to tell you how much we appreciate the help we have received from our PVP, O. J. Callahan. If you have a chance while you are in Miami, could you relay our message of thanks to him?
He has gone the extra mile to help me get credit for a cruise I took back in the 80’s. He has also worked on making changes for us on several cruises. He is always kind and considerate when we call, and always assists us in making our travel arrangements..
Thank you O.J!
Paul and Brenda Riffle

John Says:Hello Paul and Brenda
I will be happy to pass on your thanks and I am so hapy we were ablo to help you with your European Cruise adventure. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you
Cheers
John

missingthesmokefreeparadise Asked:
STEPHANIE – PLEASE PASS ONTO JOHN
John –
My orthopedist is celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary on March 25th and asked me about a cruise for him and his wife to celebrate. This man has been very good to me over the years, taking care of my various maladies without hesitation, so I owe him.
Specifically, he asked about a four-day cruise from a port proximal to Philadelphia. He has children, so I am assuming that the cruise length request is related to this issue.
As near as I can tell, this cruise would be his first cruise.
It looks to me like none of the northern ports open for business before late April, so it appears I have to send him south to sail.
Your help is appreciated.
Your friend (and foil)
Jon
P.S. I miss the repartee of the original blog.

John Says:
Hello Jon…………here are my answers mate
Questions:
1. Are you aware of any cruise lines that sail out of any port north of Norfolk in March? – Sorry Jon but nothing is scheduled to depart from Northfolk in March. How about Carnival Pride and Baltimore……….pretty close
2. Are you on any ship the week of March 25th? – Yes Sir Carnival Valor. Why dont you sail with him 🙂
3. Have you got any suggestions that I might pass onto him?
I really think the Carnival Pride would make an amazing first cruise impression and if he says yes, please pass on my e mail address so I might be his guide. Thanks so much for your continuing support to Carnival, you are such a wonderful man
Cheers
John

Melissa Jurgensen Asked:
John please reply.
Dear John,
You may or may not know this, but is there ANY chance that Carnival will resume sailings in Europe in 2010? Can’t make any of the Dream sailings there this year.
I really would like to take more European cruises but hate the fact that I would have to go with another cruise line in order to do it.
Thanks!
Melissa

John Says:
Hello Melissa
Oh how I wish I knew Melissa. I think its safe to say that at the time of writing no final desicion has been made yet. Obviuously, like everyone else, we are watching the economy and that will help determin when we come back to Europe. There will tjough be a ” when ” and that day will be celebrated by you , me and many many others.I promise to let you know as soon as I do.
Until then my best regards to you and the family
John

Kim Repka Asked:
Hi John,
Most of these posts are pretty old, I don’t know if you still check any of these or not, thought I would take a chance. I recently returned from a 7 day Conquest cruise, and loved it. Of course right away fell head over heels for Ralph (who doesn’t I’m sure) LOL – anyways, I took some video of his embarkation talk and he made it pretty interesting for me, thought I would share it with you. You can email me at —— and I can send it to you, and I don’t know if you still talk to Ralph or not, but I would love his email address, I couldn’t catch back up with him before we left. Thank you for

John Says:
Hello Kim
You are not the first and not the last to fall in love with wee Jimmy. He is truly a wonderful CD and I would love to see your footage. I am going to send him your e mail address and ask that he contact you. Thanks for letting me know about him as I feel like a proud Dad when I hear how well he is doing.
Let me know when you hear from him
cheers
John

seinerb Asked:
Is there anyway we can verify we are on the blogger’s cruise? We originally booked our cruise using Carnival Sea Miles, but we didnt know we had to specify that we wanted to be on the bloggers cruise. We called back later to be added to the blogger’s cruise and they said they added us but we have not received any type of verification.
Thanks.

John Says:Hello Brenda
We will make sure if you could just send us the full names and cabin numbers please.
Dont worry, all will be well and the fun will begin very soon.
I will await your details and take care of it with Stephanies usual help
Cheers
John

So far you have not heard me be Mr. Grumpy about my flight today. I have not mentioned that the staff at security only spoke Spanish. I have not mentioned how I laughed out loud when I saw a huge sign that said Miami Airport had been voted the friendliest in the United States or how I tried to explain to the mall cop at security that my portable DVD player was not a laptop computer which is why I didn’t take it out of my carry on…….the same as I didn’t a hundred times before.

The reason I am not going to waffle on about that and wind my neck in is because I have something much more important to tell you from my flight…

I was on the aircraft flying from Miami to New Orleans In front of me sat a grey-haired lady and a teenager whom I rightly assumed to be her grandson. I don’t want to be unkind but the youth didn’t look like someone who’d be your first choice for phone-a-friend. He was one of those teenage lads who seem to regard breathing through the nose as an unnecessary risk and so had stapled various bits of metal to it.

About 30 minutes before the flight was due to land however, his blank expression switched to one of concern. He beckoned the rest of the family, seated near by, and they scurried towards him. The first was a longhaired man with tattoos that covered his hands and arms and crept up his neck to the tops of his ears. I guessed that his whole body was tattooed. The general theme seemed to be demons and skulls. “You OK, Mom?” he said to the old lady in an accent you’d normally expect to hear accompanied by banjo music. The old lady stared at him but did not reply.

He was soon joined by two women with similarly wide-ranging tattoos. I imagined the three of them had just returned from a Hell’s Angel meeting and if I tuned into an episode of Cops I would find the man being arrested wearing only boxer shorts… Still the old lady just stared. Tears began to moisten the longhaired man’s eyes. I’d become the accidental witness to this family’s crisis, although I hate to admit it, the tragedy was somewhat diffused for me by the Jerry Springer Show nature of the people it involved.

Soon an announcement asked if there was a doctor on board. A tired-looking woman, probably mid-30s, in a crumpled T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, appeared from the first class section of the plane. She had dark hair pulled roughly back and looked very nervous indeed………..perhaps she was a doctor who specialized only in feet.

As I watched her I also remembered a conversation I had some years ago with a ship’s doctor and good friend Doctor Hamish. He had told me that his friend had been on a flight from London to New York when an elderly man was taken ill. He answered the “doctor on board call” and gave the man CPR which saved his life. Unfortunately during the process he broke the man’s ribs and even though he had saved his life the ungrateful sod sued him. This I was told by the good doctor was not an uncommon story and is why some doctors are very nervous about answering the call.

Anyway, back to this morning.

The lady doctor took the old lady’s hand and knelt in the aisle beside her. I’d never seen such caring in anyone’s eyes. The flight attendant brought the doc a medical kit and soon as she fitted her stethoscope, this drab little woman seemed to be transformed by her vocation. She continued to hold the old woman’s hand, speaking kindly to her, trying to get through. At the same time she calmly quizzed the family about the patient’s recent health and any medication she may have been on, and instructed a stewardess to fit the old lady with an oxygen mask. When she then told the sick woman to breathe through her nose, the grandson took on the expression of someone witnessing an elaborate magic trick. As all this unfolded, the longhaired man stood gently stroking his mother’s hair and repeating in a near-whisper: “Can you hear me, Mom?” Happily, it became apparent that she could.

I felt bad. I had dismissed these people as tattooed monsters but they weren’t, they were a close, loving family. The doctor also was a challenge to my assumptions. As soon as she saw the sick woman, she came to life, became dynamic, heroic even.

As the aircraft landed the captain asked for all the passengers to remain seated so the paramedics could come straight onboard. This resulted in a tutting sound from behind me as a man told his business colleague that they would now be late for the start of a meeting and that this was “ridiculous.” I wanted to beat him over the head with my seat belt extension but I decided that if I did that I would have to do the same to the other dozen or so bastards who had ignored the captain’s request.

Soon two burly medics, all scrubbed and professional, boarded and took the old lady away, the family following behind. The medics barely acknowledged the doctor. Once her patient had gone, she shrunk back to ordinariness and shuffled back to her seat.

I made a point of thanking her as I left. I did this not because no other bugger was doing so but because it had lessened my guilt. I had judged a book by its cover and as I left the airplane feeling a complete and utter idiot I said a silent prayer for the lady who was on her way to hospital and for the family who loved her.

Join me for a tour of the Carnival Fantasy tomorrow.

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.