Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans

February 4, 2009 -

John Heald

I got the taxi driver today………..you know………the one who likes to talk……….and he only wanted to talk about one subject……….his beloved New Orleans. It was my fault really as it was me that asked the question “How close is the city to getting back to normal?”………he replied, “The tourist areas are coming back nicely but there is still much work to be done” and then for the next 15 minutes he told me all about Hurricane Katrina and how if he ever met George Bush he would have something to say. Honestly, though, his account of Katrina and its aftermath were morbidly fascinating. He showed me the water lines on some of the buildings and explained how large portions of the outskirts of the city are still uninhabited. He says the government still has not done enough to help and now with the credit crunch many of the projects are on holdYep, the city has a vibrant French Quarter and history dating back to the bluebloods of the 18th century and now New Orleans now has a more macabre tourist attraction – a Hurricane Katrina disaster tour. The taxi driver actually offered me the full tour if I wanted it for only $69………….information he said was in the back of the seat pocket thingy. And indeed it was. The brochure offered to take me on a three-hour journey around a number of flooded neighborhoods, including one called Lakeview. Other landmarks to be visited include the Superdome stadium where thousands of evacuees were housed for days in appalling conditions.

The history of the Mississippi River, the levee system and the region’s oil and gas industries are to be discussed during the tour, but tourists will not be allowed off the bus to take photographs in the abandoned neighborhoods visited……..because it was not completely safe to do so my driver told me.

I sat in the taxi asking myself if the tour was an insensitive means of exploiting a disaster. And why………three years or more from when the hurricane hit, parts of the city are not yet completely repaired.
How different then to the program I watched on the Discovery Channel last night which showed the gigantic $40 billion Three Gorge Dam which is has just been completed on the Yangtze River in China.

This is a truly immense project: 18,000 people have been employed to build what they’re calling the new Great Wall — harnessing the power of the world’s third longest river which takes snow water from the Tibetan plateau to the Pacific Ocean 3,900 miles away. And dealing with the trillion tons of crap that the dam will jam every year.

When it’s completed this enormous wall will be 610 feet high and 1.3 miles from side to side. It’s twice the size of the world’s current biggest dam and makes the Hoover look as if it was built by beavers.

Not only will it generate the same amount of electricity as 15 nuclear power stations, it will also enable 10,000-ton (100,000 tons?) ships to reach the interior of China and, as a bonus, prevent the flooding which in recent years has claimed 300,000 lives. It is a marvel, a triumph and something about which mankind should be proud.

However the program also featured interviews with people who had beards. They say 1 million people will have to be evicted when their homes are submerged and that compensation earmarked for farmers whose land will disappear under the 400-mile-long reservoir is being “appropriated” by local officials. But are we surprised that local communist officials are stealing money? The opponents of this project had to do better than this. So they got themselves a dolphin.

This is the last resort of the bearded ones.

So, knowing that the western world loves nothing more than an endangered species, the protesters in China found Qi Qi, one of only 100 white-finned freshwater dolphins in the world. (What is it about Chinese wildlife? Why can’t it mate properly?) Qi Qi’s pointy little face was held aloft for all the world to see and we were told that if the dam went ahead he would lose his home and die.

In the West this would have brought every housewife for miles around onto the streets. Marine biologists would have been flown in from California. Work would have been halted and costs would have spiraled as the infernal creature would have been airlifted to safety in a specially converted Russian transport plane. QiQi, by the way, currently lives in a tank in China and entertains passersby.

This of course has little to do with my taxi driver friend who when I told him about a group of ordinary people from all over North America coming to his city to do their bit to make it a better place he thanked me most sincerely..

Let’s change the subject but not before I say a huge thank you to those people who are taking the time to come and help.

Well, here I am in New Orleans and meanwhile our friend and Executive Chief Purser of the P & O Arcadia James Cusick is in Thailand…………..here is an extract from his blog

Greetings from Thailand,

I love it here, the agents, officials and local are so friendly and gracious. They smile and bow all the time and appear to be so happy. The terminal is a dream DREAM to operate – and so clean and smart. It makes is all so easy and welcoming for our passengers. Beautiful morning here – hot and sunny and all set to dispatch our tours to Bangkok – there is an excitement on mornings like this that you only get in the big tour ports, like Italy, Egypt, The Holy Land, etc. It is a shame that none of our ships visit the Holy Land at present. Hopefully we can return in the future to visit our good friends in Haifa and operate some of the most inspirational tours imaginable…………………

Want to read more?………………then go to www.bestblogsatsea.com and click on his blog.

Last year I was honored to win the Seatrade Insider’s Sea Going Employee of the Year. This year the award has stayed within Carnival Corporation and has been awarded to Mr. John Duffy, hotel director for Cunard. Have a read of this

Cunard’s John Duffy Receives Prestigious Seatrade Insider Award for “Seagoing Employee of the Year”

February 3, 2009 – Cunard’s longest-serving four-stripe officer, Hotel Manager John Duffy, has received the prestigious Seatrade Insider Cruise Award “Seagoing Employee of the Year 2008” in recognition of his long and distinguished service with the company and his service on board Queen Elizabeth 2.

“This award is well deserved by John who has served Cunard with distinction since joining the company in 1965. He played a key role in making QE2 the best-loved ship in the world and we look forward to his joining our flagship Queen Mary 2 in March 2009,” said Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Line.

Chris Hayman, publisher of Seatrade, said, “This award is given to special people who have performed magnificently over the years and I can think of no better person than Cunard’s John Duffy to have received this recognition during the final year of QE2’s service.”

John Duffy was born in Aintree, Liverpool in 1944 and received his secondary education at St Francis Xavier’s College, Liverpool. He also attended Cornell University’s Hotel Management School in New York.

Duffy joined Cunard in 1965, being posted first to Queen Elizabeth and subsequently to Carinthia on the Liverpool to Montreal route. Other ships he has served on include Carmania, Franconia, Cunard Adventurer, Cunard Ambassador and Cunard Princess. In 1978, he became the company’s youngest hotel manager when, at the age of 33, he took over that position on Cunard Princess.

Subsequently, Duffy became QE2’s youngest hotel manager in April 1981 and remained in that post longer than any other up to her retirement in November 2008. In 2008 he was presented with the Merchant Navy Medal for long and distinguished service. Duffy will join Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2 in March 2009.

Married with one son, John Duffy currently lives in Liverpool.

For more information and to book a voyage aboard Queen Mary 2, consult your Travel Professional, call toll-free 1-800-7-CUNARD or go to www.cunard.com.

duffy_haymanseatrade_caroljan09

Please join me in saying congratulations to John and I will be hoping to post an interview with him very soon…

Time for Jaime’s third Dear John letter and as you will see the Carnival Splendor has reached her first port of call.

February 3, 2009

Dear John,

Today we visited the first of several ports during our trip en route to South America. Our stop was none other than Dominica – a beautiful Caribbean island filled with long windy roadways, lush green hillsides and a breathtaking rainforest that would not believe!

Before arriving in port (on time as the captain promised), we had a wonderful morning on board. After some Famous Faces Trivia, much needed gym time and disembarking half of the Splendor guests, I was released to enjoy this amazing port of call. At first, I was not quite sure what I was going to attempt to visit. I ran into (not literally but figuratively) many of the entertainment department members on the gangway who planned on visiting the “Trafalgar Falls.” I was not quite sure what this entailed, but they assured me it was a great place, and I trusted Christina and Jeremy since they have visited this port before while working on previous ships.

Today we were in port with two other cruise ships. We were able to catch a glimpse of both the Carnival Victory, and the Pacific Princess – which is only exciting to me because I know that this was the original Love Boat, and I have heard more “Julie” comparisons that you would believe… in fact I am thinking about changing my name…

Around 1 pm the 20 members of the entertainment team disembarked the ship, broke into a sweat because of the extreme humidity, and piled into a small van (we don’t mind getting close), to head to the falls. Along the way, our knowledgeable guide, Kastor, told us all about Dominica: their environment, cultural details, education system, etc. etc…

During our trip to the falls, while periodically holding my head out the window to take pictures to share, I overheard some facts about this Caribbean island. In a nutshell, we learned: Trafalgar falls is also known as the Mama and Papa falls. Mama drops about 75 feet where as the enormous Papa reaches about 150 feet. Now this is quite impressive, but definitely does not rival Niagara =). Dominica has over 40 acres of flourishing botanical gardens… which we were fortunate enough to pass through. The capital city is called “Rousseau,” this area is home to 40,000 of the 69,000 of the islands inhabitants.

Dominica was donated from the British in 1903, which is one reason they still follow many British customs – such as driving on the WRONG side of the road! Cricket and soccer are their main sports. Although, they do not have a traveling team. They simply play versus other local islands. Kastor told us that they did try to go to the Olympics once, but they lost… bad… not like the bobsled team, obviously! Another highlight our guide was sure to point out was the Subway and KFC that the locals enjoy regularly. They have yet to acquire a McDonalds, but are hoping for its arrival within the next five to 10 years.

After finally reaching our destination, Christina, our talented Carnival Splendor dancer who had visited this port before, double checked with Kastor that we were headed to the pool area that lay near the bottom of the falls. Kastor informed us that this pool area that she referred to no longer existed due to a massive hurricane that attacked the island within the past few years. This location where swimming was once a common occurrence now was home to massive rocks that have been shifted to block access to this area. Kastor said it is possible to climb these rocks, but it could be tricky. As you can imagine, being a bunch of 20-something year olds, a challenge like that was motivation enough to change our days plans and turn away… if you believe that this would scare us away, I laugh because it was at that point the cast made it their mission to attack the treacherous rocks of Trafalgar Falls! Muahahah! This venture to the top of the tall, tall mountain was certainly exhilarating and extremely rewarding. The people who made it to the top screamed with excitement as they overlooked the simply magnificent rainforest and current that were below.

After mission “Put Your Life and your Career in Danger by Falling All Over Mossy, Slippery Rocks” was complete, and waiting 30 minutes for our late returning co-workers, we still managed to stop for a photo opportunity at the boiling springs as well as drive along the coastline of the botanical gardens as we headed back to the ship.

This was a beautiful port and I wish we were returning so I could further explore the natural wonder that is Dominica. At first glance, the city seems like any other Caribbean island, but with further exploration, the wildlife and countryside was indescribable, even though I did try my best to explain!

More tomorrow from Barbados!

the-carnival-splendor-docked-in-dominica
The Carnival Splendor docked in Dominica

some-entertainment-team-members-on-their-venture-over-the-huge-rocks-to-the-top-of-mamma-falls
Some entertainment team members on their venture over the huge rocks to the top of mamma fall

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The Boiling Springs

the-lush-green-countryside
The Lush Green Countryside

Have a Splendid day!
Jaime =)

Thanks Jaime. We are starting a “find Jaime a boyfriend” mission here on the blog. So, if there are any single male bloggers aged 18 – 88, please post a comment on the blog with a little information about yourself. She needs to find love.

Stephanie Leavitt is working on some new and exciting ventures in the world of blogging. We have been speaking about TWITTING and in preparation for me possibly doing the same I have been looking at some of the rich and tanned who are Twitting as we speak. You know Twitter has hit the mainstream when, one by one, the world’s sporting stars, some real, some fake, adopt the micro-blog as part of their busy lives.

Widely regarded as one of basketball’s living legends, Shaq has been involved in something of a twitter scandal in recent months. The seven-foot former Miami Heater was so disgusted when someone began tweeting under his name that he decided to start his own authentic twitter, under the name “The Real Shaq.” Just like watching him on the court, it’s never dull. Here is an extract from his Twitter thingy. “Good morning everyone. Let me give you all a hint on how to relate to me, Shaquille O’Neal I have a sense of humor I am very quotations I am super intelligent …” So, I may soon be Twitting just like Shaq who can be found on twitter.com/THE_REAL_SHAQ

I wonder if Shaq ever read the book I have by my bedside right now. I bought this book after listening to Coach Riley at the recent Carnival Executive Forum a few weeks ago… I have, in the past, always switched off when I have been forced to listen to someone tell me how my life could be better if I pay just $49.99 plus shipping and handling for a set of three DVD’s plus if I order now I get a free George Foreman Grill……..nope……….I always told those people to bugger off.

However, Pat Riley’s The Winner Within is all about “motivation, selfishness, teamwork, complacency, winning and choking.” A self-help manual for sealing championships and something I have found not only a brilliant read but actually useful in every day life ………..yes ladies and gentlemen………a book that really gives you some actual plain and simple advice on how to be a winner and not the usual bollocks full of long words and meaningless sentences. Buy a copy ……….it’s a great read and it will help……….go figure……….a self-help book that actually helps……………now there’s a first.

I was talking to a mate of ours via e-mail……….the one and only Chris “Bubba” Roberts who is back home on the Carnival Spirit. Do you know, I have never been to Alaska and therefore I just made an executive decision? This summer I am going to take a cruise on the Carnival Spirit and write about Alaska for the blog. I want to experience the last frontier and what better way than to take a cruise with our friend Bubba. You know, someone once said to me that you haven’t really cruised until you have done so in Alaska. ………..I think its time I found out if that statement is true. Anyone want to join me?

So, today some of the bloggers start to arrive as do Stephanie, Tom and Tony from the Carnival office. I went to the Maison St Charles Hotel today to check on the room we are using for the cocktail reception. I have to admit, it’s a bit bland……….but once we fill it with bloggers it will be a vibrant place full of friendship and fun……….a two-hour open bar will help, as well.

I just wanted to tell you a quick story about the hotel I am in. This morning, I went all the way to the room to discover that my key card thingy would not work ……….and that was me going all the way down again. I stood in line waiting for the one person who was working.

Eventually, I got there, told her had happened and she then asked me very curtly for some ID. I told her that my ID was in the room as I had just come down to the lobby for breakfast……………she then made some sort of ……….well I can’t describe the noise ………..it was like a sucking in of the lips noise ………she then moved her head from side to side like an Egyptian dancer and at the same time she told me she would have to get a manager. With that she left the desk……..I guess phoning for a manager was out of the question. I stood and waited and as I did a line of people formed behind me. Now ……. remember ………this is at a metropolitan business hotel and its 9:20 am………and there is only one person serving.

Eventually she waddled back and extending her arm she pointed and said “Wait over there.”…………….I could not believe how rude she was and so I said “Thank you, Mrs. Rude”……she either didn’t hear me or pretended not to and started to assist another unlucky sod.

Someone had definitely pissed in her cornflakes. I waited, patiently for ten minutes……..and then when the line had disappeared I dared to ask “is someone coming”………….she didn’t look at me but just went “mmmm mmmm.” Biologically, the receptionist at my hotel may have been female but aesthetically she was a tractor. Had I taken her out for a drink, she’d have a pint of diesel.

Eventually a security guard escorted me to my room, let me in with a master key and then asked to see my ID. I showed him and expected him to give me my key. He didn’t …… and that was me and my new boyfriend going back down to see Mrs. Rude.

It made me wonder, though………….why wasn’t there a line of people complaining at the desk about her attitude? If she had been behind one of our guest services people at the purser’s desk she would have been walking off the gangway………..while we were still at sea. I guess my point is that complaining seems to be an accepted thing on a cruise ship. Let me just ask this in closing. How many of you have ever been at hotel reception and heard someone complaining viciously about the hotel or its service?……….and now ……….. how many of you have been at the pursers desk on any cruise line and heard someone complain?

I already know the answer to this but for the life of me I just don’t know why. You know, I was talking to a hotel director who has been with the company for a long time. He started behind the pursers desk on the Mardi Gras. As we spoke he told me back then there were many genuine concerns. Plumbing, floods, non-flushing toilets and an air conditioning system that was provided by an asthmatic hamster sitting in the ceiling breathing through a straw.

The food was average at best and yet said the HD “complaints were few and far between.” Today, that’s changed. There are of course some complaints that are totally justified but I know you have read some of the ones I have posted over the last two years that are……….well………..astonishing. Have we in the industry created our own problem?

Do people know that if they complain about a leaky facet on the Ruby Princess or a piece of steak that wasn’t cooked to their liking on the Costa Concordia or a joke that the CD told on the Carnival Splendor that they will get some kind of compensation? I don’t know the answer. I do know that I didn’t complain about Mrs. Rude today and neither did any of the other guests she dealt with……….I would appreciate your comments on this.

To finish with today I want to go back to my situation with Mrs. Rude. So, having waited for 10 minutes to get a key, I was met by Mrs. Rude’s husband and he and I held hands and went back to my room. After showing him my passport he told me that I would have to go back down to see Mrs. Rude with him so he could confirm that I was John Heald of room 2221 and not someone looking to steal something the M&M’s from the minibar. I asked if the key could be delivered now I was in the room………I even suggested that I would tip the chap who did the delivering…………

Now at this point I should mention that my Grande Cappuccino and eggs Benedict had built an immediate road through me and I was desperate to speak to the Arabs ……….. Mustafa Shite………..but my request was denied immediately by Mr. Rude because I had to “sign” for another key. It was like trying to negotiate with a donkey ………I told Mr. Rude that common sense would have meant that he had brought the spare key up with him when he escorted me to the room ……….and this is exactly I swear what he said……..“Sir,” he said, “you don’t need common sense when you’ve got laws.”
That, I think, probably says it all

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.