Fun For All And For Fun…..And Charity

February 6, 2009 -

John Heald

Heidi and I have given money to various African charities for some years now including an adopt a child organization. However, I have always had a I fear that no matter how much money I pump in, the bejeweled bastards that run the place will pump it straight back out again, into the coffers of Kalashnikov and Mercedes-Benz. The one thing I would love to send to the Dark Continent is a team of Delta Force and SAS hit men to shoot the likes of Mr. Mugabe and that pig from Chad in the middle of their faces.

We get sent leaflets and information packs all the time about the child that Heidi chose to sponsor this year. She is called Baako which in African means “born first”…………..my name is John and means toilet.

Seriously though our 25 pounds sterling a month we are told by the organization helps Baako lead a better life and our money will cover her food, education, health and housing for one year……….that’s $400…….to live on in a year.

Baako is from Rwanda, a country of 10 million people but thousands upon thousands of them do not have legs or arms. In fact, according to the information we received when we undertook this sponsorship there are 25,000 amputees, the highest ratio per capita of any country in the world. It is because of landmines.

Nobody knows how many mines were laid during the endless cycle of warfare, but it’s sure to be in the millions.

It’s still going on today and even though Heidi and I are trying to help we sometimes wonder if indeed our money is actually helping this 12 year old lead a better life………….one can only hope so. ………….these feelings are amplified when you read about a team of British doctors who happened upon a little girl in a remote village in Rwanda. Her face had been horribly disfigured, by a bloody landmine I suppose, and they were overwhelmed with a need to help.

They went to meet her parents, and her father was keen that his daughter be sent to the UK for plastic surgery.

Her mother, however, went ballistic when she discovered the poor child would once again look normal. “How will she be able to beg then?” she asked. And the Brit medics were sent packing.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I guess for once, today’s events enabled me to actually see the good I was doing. I had thought of this idea to help New Orleans a year or so ago and now here we were………..actually doing it………………it wasn’t help from afar like Heidi and I give each month to Baako………….but it was there for all to see and while I am not comparing the plight of many Africans to the people of New Orleans, it is still a place that needs help…………….and a lot of it.

As you saw from the video in yesterday’s blog I met with one of the Director of the Beacon of Hope charity and we spoke in length about the city she loves. It has been three and a half years since Hurricane Katrina visited New Orleans, creating a catastrophe that uprooted more than a million people. They were promised a reawakening, but no one said it would be easy.

The floodwaters have been pumped out, but the sludge left behind was so deep in places that some neighborhoods were being baked by the sun into modern-day Pompeiis.

The community of Lakeview was one of the worst hit and as I was told yesterday more people are moving back finally. As we drove around we saw home after home that is either rebuilt, in the process of being rebuilt or still awaiting to be rebuilt. Yet, the people of New Orleans seem a determined group. I met Jane Du Pree today who works with the charity. She told me how after the waters subsided and she was finally allowed back into the town she arrived gripping a black garbage bag in which to collect a few salvaged possessions. She left empty-handed, because everything she owned had been swept up by the torrent and cooked into a solid mud-cake………………..she lived four miles from the coast.

She also told me of her heartbreak of not being able to retrieve the ashes of her brother, Andrew, who died aged 10 in an automobile accident. The water has seeped into the bag, which was kept inside an urn. “It was my mother’s wish to get these,” she told me. …………but Katrina had washed them away. You might expect Jane to have buggered off and moved to Iowa…………but no……………she is rebuilding and so are many of the residents of Lakeview. Jane then went on to talk about how she and other survivors of Hurricane Katrina watched in horror as Hurricane Gustav threatened to wipe out their rebuilding efforts last year. “People are just finishing rebuilding. I do not think they will go through it all over again,” she said. …………..but luckily Gustav left the Big Easy alone.

And so a merry band of brothers and sisters arrived to help Mrs. Du Pree and the residents of Lakeview. As we set about our task we all remembered Katrina and the subsequent flooding, which put much of New Orleans under water and killed 1,700 in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The day started early at 8:00am and when the alarm sounded at 7:00am I have to admit I wanted to crawl back under the covers and go back to my dream of Drew Barrymore and a large peacock feather. I’m not a natural morning person. Left to my own devices, with no work commitments or sense of purpose, my sleeping pattern tends to drift into student mode, ambling further and further past morning until it gets to the point where I’m waking up at 1pm. I seem to be going to bed later and later these days and soon I will be John Heald the vampire, but more of a loser, and with markedly less capacity for transforming into a bat and flapping around a castle scaring virgins.

But all that’s had to change of late because once onboard it will be early to bed and early to rise as I start being a Cruise Director once again, and oh boy, it’s an exciting journey into a whole new world. For one thing, I’ve discovered an entire species of human being that I rarely come into contact with…………………….early morning passengers.

Their existence never fails to surprise me. I’d always thought of the mornings as essentially uninhabitable, like the planet Uranus. But no. I head out the cabin door at 7am and there they are – actual live people! Some wander the decks in a daze, some are dressed to jog and gym and some are bringing their loved ones breakfast in bed. These are usually the honeymooners or men who screwed up the night before by blowing the kids’ college fund in the casino and are now trying to make up for it.
Anyway……………as usual I digress

As I said I was tired after a long day of writing and making continuing arrangements for the days ahead. Last night I had met with Big Ed and his group of 50 plus blogger who were meeting for a get-together at the hotel. It was wonderful to meet old friends and some new ones and there were hugs galore………………I felt like a superstar and it was a wonderful yet humbling feeling. I won’t mention any other names as it will be hard to remember them all but never the less, Big Ed and his beautiful wife Pat put on a heck of a party and it was an honor to attend. I was joined by Stephanie, Stephanie, Tom, Tony and Vance and afterwards we all said how thrilling it was to have been welcomed in such a warm and friendly way.

So, back to this morning. We met at 8:00am and then off we went to the park. This used to be a place where you would hear and see kids at play but now…………..it was just a barren stretch of grass most of which had been killed by the 8 foot of water that flooded this once vibrant family area.

Now, rather than me waffle on about what happened……………here is Tom’s video showing the work that was done and the wonderful people who did it.

Let’s come back to this later

But first……………..here is the latest Dear John letter from Jaime who is still without love …………….maybe she needs to go blonde?

February 5, 2009

Dear John,

Today the Splendor team experienced another wonderful day at sea, which brings us another step closer to reaching our first stop in the ever so highly acclaimed Brazil. This morning, Goose, our Cruise Director, was kind enough to invite all of the entertainment staff to his morning show so that guests could get a better understanding of how we all ended up working on cruise ships. This is a question I am asked almost on a daily basis; so much like the rest of the team our responses are well rehearsed.

Brad told everyone that he was a teacher by trade; he started out working for Camp Carnival, transferred departments and advanced from there. Adele informed the public that she left for the same reason everyone else did! She was “running away from her ex-boyfriend.” Owen did his general introduction telling everyone how he missed his flight and joined the ship in Barbados. He will be instructing both Spanish classes and Samba lessons throughout the cruise. Lauren was at trivia, but I believe her story is similar to mine and Adele’s. And myself, I just told everyone that I was interested in traveling and meeting people. I had sailed as a guest before so I thought I knew what I was getting myself into =). Now, I have friends all over the world!

Throughout the day I had a chance to speak with some of the other entertainers on board and ask them these similar questions, about their background, life before ships and what they are currently working on. Some of my favorite people on board is the band that performs regularly in the El Morocco Lounge – “Elite.” They are a high energy, fun loving, international show band based out of central Florida. They have worked all over, on cruise ships, resorts, casinos, theme parks and the list goes on. Each night you can find their lounge packed full of people dancing to 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and current music. The band members in Elite are: Nina originally from Philadelphia, Pete from Cocoa Beach, Florida, Dave from New York and Joe all the way from England! They are a wonderful team both on and off stage and definitely a highlight to the Carnival Splendor entertainment crew.

Now when guests come aboard and are looking to dance the night away, and have some fun and laughs, many find themselves ending up in Greg Gallello’s piano bar. Greg informed me that he is from Grand Bend – and he assured me this was not a sexual innuendo. He has a big beard, and has since he was 12. His favorite color is green and he refuses to disclose his age in such a public forum. I think this is just because he is trying to attract ladies from all generations. He did inform me that his birthday just passed on January 4th, so he will accept gifts of jewelry, food and/or monetary donations. For Greg, coming to ships was the next step in his musical career. His primary instrument actually is not the piano; in fact it is his guitar! He has only worked on cruise ships for 6 short months, but among the piano bar entertainers in the fleet, he has already made quite a name for himself and guests do love him. Mickey (not the mouse, but a guest), one of his regular attendees during this run referred to Greg by saying “This Piano Man Greg really has IT!” Now, he did not specifically state what “IT” was, but I am fairly certain this is a good thing!

Tonight, our fly on entertainer was none other that the wonderful Marcus Anthony. Marcus has a show unlike any other fly on that Carnival offers. He is one that is certainly most appreciated and requested by the guests. Even with out older demographic on board, both of his shows were packed this evening. Primarily because anyone passing by simply can not resist the temptation of coming into the show lounge to watch Marcus perform! He entertains with his incredible selection of R & B, Motown, Jazz and beyond. Marcus comes to us from the beautiful island of St. Thomas. If you ever have the opportunity to see Marcus’s show, do not miss it because he leaves the entire audience dancing in their seats and longing for more.

I know last time I was writing for you all, I showed you around the bridge, the kitchen, our crew rooms and eating location, but is there anything else you would like to see? We have lots of sea days to come so I would like to provide you with the best glimpse of cruise ship life possible.

Have a wonderful day!

greg-with-guests-enjoying-his-entertainment-in-the-piano-bar-see-if-you-can-find-mickey-his-newly-appointed-manager
Greg with guest enjoying his entertainment in the piano bar see if you can find Mickey his newly appointed manager

marcus-anthony-performing-on-stage-in-the-spectacular-lounge-with-jim-hanson-and-the-splendor-orchestra
Marcus Anthony performing on stage in the spectacular lounge wit Jim Hanson and the Splendor orchestra

the-amazingly-talented-elite-show-band-performing-in-the-back-lounge-el-morocco
The amazingly talented elite show band performing in the back lounge El Morocco

All the best,
Jaime =)

Thanks Jaime…………blondes do have more fun.

I forgot to post the photos of the Carnival Conquest yesterday for which I apologize ………….here they are showing just some of the public areas after her dry dock period………….and doesn’t she look brilliant

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Well, here I am back in the hotel having finished the charity work and having presented the Beacon of Hope charity with a check for $5,000 on behalf of the volunteers and of course the Carnival Foundation I feel pretty fulfilled. However……………I did have one set back today

I was told by a blogger I’m not as good as I used to be and my blogs were mostly “boring these days.”
Now, when you hear stuff like that, your brain does two things at once: on the one hand, it marvels at self-importance of the person who told you. And on the other, it agrees with every word they say. Lurking deep within my brain are two interdependent creatures. One’s an insecure bugger and the other a needy egomaniac. So long as they both take turns pulling the levers, everything works out OK. But the balance is a fine one. So, I promised the lady in question as I promise you all………….I will do my best to unbore the blogs and should I fail then and if enough people tell me I shall shut down the laptop dancer computer and bugger off.

So, there I was in New Orleans driving a Hertz rent a car trying to avoid being killed by the tram thingy and drivers who learned their skills in Miami. The car I was in was a ………….I actually have no idea what it is. I do know that it’s a car for females. It is so completely girlie that I’m surprised it isn’t supplied with a bra and high heels. It really is a Hallmark Movie……….with windshield wipers. This is a very ugly car. So ugly in fact that you’ll want to get inside it and shut the door as quickly as possible. But sadly when you are inside it’s even worse.

The designer has gone for a half-timbered look with bits of wood nailed to every flat surface…………like a newly fitted kitchen. I had ordered a seven seater because we have to ferry myself and the gang of Stephanies etc around but if this is a seven seater then I’m a sex object……………….well actually I was a sex object at college. I would ask all the girls for sex………..and they would object……….but that’s another story. The 15 year old Hertz assistant said it’s a seven-seater, but it isn’t really. To fit into the rear seats you’d have to be so badly deformed that you’d need all manner of specialist equipment to keep you alive. An iron lung, for instance, and that isn’t going to fit.

What’s more, you can only get into these seats from the driver’s side, and only then if you have no legs, no arms, no head and a torso that can be twisted like putty. Best to push the little button that electrically folds these seats away and pretend they don’t exist.

However, the most annoying factor was the extra $45 I had paid………….sorry…………..that Carnival had paid for a GPS system called Never Lost………………..Never Lost my arse. It was hopeless and invented street names and when I typed in Lakeview it sent me to Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club on Bourbon Street.

Seriously though it was hopeless and the female voice began to get on my nerves. The more I got lost the more she seemed to get angry with me and I started imagining the woman bossy, impatient slightly Germanic voice suddenly turn into a Heidi! “In 50 meters, you are going to shut your window, because I am freezing.” And: “I know you’re a man, but it’s been 45 minutes, why don’t you admit you’re lost?” And: “If you fart again, you can get out and catch the bus.” followed by…………I am going to insist you stop the car, then I will get out, slamming the door behind me, walk away and wait for you to come and apologies, even though you haven’t got the faintest idea what the matter is.”

Well, it’s been a long but fruitful day and I go to bed dreaming that the park in Lakeview, New Orleans will once again be filled with the sound of kids playing and family fun. We did our bit to get New Orleans back on its feet again and I am so very proud of the people who joined me. Tomorrow they and another 300 people will join the Carnival Fantasy for five days of fun and laughter.

Wish You Were Here

Goodnight
Your friends
John, Heidi and the Thingy…………………who today I miss more than ever.

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.