Louise

February 10, 2009 -

John Heald

In the past, if a cruise director tells a joke that isn’t funny or says something inappropriate he or she was booed or if it’s really bad a member of the fruit family is hurled at us …… and a pomegranate traveling at high speed can be very painful.

However, that was then ………today, we face a new and much more potent weapon.

Shoe-throwing is the in thing. Everybody is at it. I fully expect somebody to put in an application for it to become an Olympic sport in 2012. The joy of this activity is that anyone can do it – you don’t need specialist equipment or clandestine training.

If someone is annoying you, simply remove your shoe and hurl it at them.

It all started with our mate George W whom, I have to admit, reacted quite coolly to his shoeing in Iraq. He, of course, earned the rare distinction of a double shoe attack, the highest insult in the shoe-chucking world. Last week, however, the Chinese premier only warranted a single shoe attack – which was a bit insulting as it was a sports shoe, a soft shoe, unlike the ones Bush ducked. Chucking a Dwyane Wade basketball shoe is the equivalent of shooting someone with blanks. Surely steel-capped work boots would be the weapon of choice for the connoisseur?

Everyone keeps going on about how a shoe assault is the greatest insult you can produce in the Arab world and until the recent spell of walk-by shoeings I had never been aware of this fact. Obviously I know you have to take your shoes off in a mosque, but I always presumed that this was some form of practical cleaning directive.

The first time I became aware of the power of the shoe in political protest was when I watched that mob spend ages trying to pull down the statue of Saddam (why was he called Saddam? We never called Hitler Adolf or Stalin Joseph … what was that all about?). When they finally managed to get a vehicle to pull the statue down, they all started spanking it with their shoes. This, we were told by Wolf Blister in his breathless live commentary, was a powerful symbol of Iraqi defiance.

I think the whole shoe thing started because people who attend these conferences in the presence of a world leader are always searched for weapons…………and shoes is all they have left.

You could try hats, which fly well, but they don’t do much damage unless you’re Odd Job the Bond villain. I suppose a chunky Brietling or Cartier watch could hurt a lot, but then you’d lose the watch and somebody like President Bush would probably think he was being showered with presents. Underpants………well if they are flung at a President or Prime Minister they may think that this is a cue for them to become Tom Jones and start singing Delilah.

The shoe makes sense. My advice, however, to future shoe attackers is to use a female operative. A well-aimed pair of six-inch stilettos could be used to devastating effect (again there is a Bond precedent with the horrible Rosa Krebs and her “killer” pumps). At press conferences you’ll soon have to remove all your clothing and footwear and sit naked on the floor writing notes and unless you have been blessed with horse-like qualities ….. you will have nothing big enough to use as a weapon.

Meanwhile, the man who threw the shoe at Bush has become a global hero. The make of shoe he threw has supposedly been identified by an enterprising shoemaker in Turkey as one of his products. He already has hundreds of thousands of advance orders for them. I wonder what he’ll call them. Maybe Bush Puppies? Why not Bush Whackers?

It will only be a matter of time until Nike and Reebok are competing for that lucrative throwing shoe market. Someone should invent a shoe that comes back to the owner… they could call it a “shoemerang.” Sorry, couldn’t resist that………….OK, got to run ………..President Sarcozy of France is holding a press conference ……………………….. and I have a pair of Timberlands with his name on it.

Now, let’s see what’s been happening to Jaime and the good ship Carnival Splendor as she continues her voyage to California. Here is her latest Dear John Letter.

February 7, 2009

Dear John,

I would have sent you this letter sooner, but I could not because our satellite on the Carnival Splendor was down. Apparently our satellite needs 305W of signal to allow the phones, internet, and entire system that connects us with the outside world to operate properly. When this letter was written, we were only receiving 113W of signal. To top it off, our satellite was trying to access the proper signal and became unbalanced, so in Fortaleza tomorrow (which is probably today by now) we hopefully will have everything up and running.

Now today was not just like any other sea day in Carnival history. Today was the very first time any Carnival vessel has ever crossed over the equator into the southern hemisphere. I feel honored and so special to have been a part of this historical event. I can add to the lists new experiences being a part of the very first Carnival Equator crossing ceremony. I recently learned that it is nautical tradition for King Neptune to welcome pollywogs (newcomers) into the other hemisphere. A huge production is to take place to cast away evil spirits and welcome novice seaman to the other side of the world.

As you probably expected, the entire entertainment department worked together to make this ceremony a success. The entire cast, the entertainment staff, and even some of our technicians all dressed up as different characters to help make this a memorable experience for our guests.

Our dance cast acted as Merpeople (that’s the politically correct version of Mermaids), they also portrayed soldiers and henchman to the King we also had mystical children of King and Queen Neptune. The wonderful Pauly our dancer acted as King of the Pollywogs. Dan was the mad scientist – because every ceremony needs a mad scientist. Just for the fun of it, Lauren was the naughty nurse. The wonderful Pierre, our enormously massive back lounge technician played the role of King Neptune and I was happy to act as his Queen.

During this ceremony Goose narrated some of our guests being forgiven for their heinous crimes! Some of these terrible deeds included: saving deck chairs on Lido, cutting in line in the Splendido Lido restaurant and the villainous scandal of neglecting to clap during a production show. Our guests were disciplined in a stern yet appropriate manner… One wrongdoer was forced to kiss a dead fish, one gentleman had eggs broken over his body and another man had a can of Fosters poured over his head (last time I checked, that was alcohol abuse!)

After the guests had experienced the proper cleansing ceremony and been forgiven for their sins, the Staff Captain turned up! Our Staff Captain – Alessandro Lemmi is second in command of the vessel and very involved not only with navigational aspects but also with disciplinary concerns on the ship. He turned up and playfully attempted to put an end to our imperative ceremony because it was “very crowded and we were being too rambunctious and disrespectful to our guests!” Luckily, King Neptune was there to save us all! He informed everyone that the Staff Captain was out of line, it was HIS ocean and HE was in charge. The King commanded that his minions throw the Staff Captain in the pool as his punishment for attempting to negate his power! They followed through with this request and Staff Captain Lemmi was regretful of his wrongdoing.

You missed quite a production! It is not too late to make reservations to join us for the second one – which will be taking place during the third leg of our South America run. I am sure next time it will be even bigger and better! All of our guests smiled and cheered, and each of them received a “Crossing the Equator” certificate made by Lauren to commemorate this historic event!

When the ceremony was complete the incredible fly on entertainer Marcus Anthony played a matinee show on the Lido deck. He had the accompaniment of Jim Hanson and the Splendor Orchestra, as well as the hard work of our technical team to set them up and make them sound good! The fiesta continued throughout the day as we head toward our first Brazilian port – Fortaleza!

I hope this satellite connection stays strong!
Can’t wait to share more from the ports.

Your Buddy!
Jaime D =)

Another brilliant entry Jaime and as always we say thank you for sharing your adventures with us.

I am writing today’s blog through very tired and bloodshot eyes ………..because I have to admit I am very tired. However, it’s one of those “feeling tired” that is very rewarding. You know what I mean……….the feeling tired after running a marathon……………..feeling tired after having rumpy pumpy………………although I must admit I have never run a marathon and rumpy pumpy is just a distant memory. I had told myself that I would be in Chitinitza………Chiternetzer………….Cshitunatzer……….the place with the Mayan pyramids. I really wanted to go but I am defeated. Yesterday was a brilliant day with the bloggers having had a great weather and, although the seas became a little choppy later in the day, everyone was having fun. The day started at 9 am and finished for me at 1 am and as much as the mind was willing to explore and climb the enormous Mayan pyramids, the body told to me to bugger off.

I think I already mentioned in yesterdays blog about the Q & A session and the rest of the activities throughout the day…………however, just in case I didn’t and to prove to my readers that I am not a lazy sod and should as I write be atop a bloody Mexican pyramid……….here is what I did yesterday.

8:00am – Meeting with Stephanie, Stephanie, Tom, Tony and the ship’s senior management to discuss day
8:24am – Had a poo
8:35am – Breakfast on Lido with bloggers
9:00am – 10:30am – Q & A session with Bloggers
10:30am – Dining Room Re plan with Maitre’d , Kuki from Cruisemates, Host Mac from Cruisecritic and Big Ed from Big Ed’s Group – I will come back to this in a moment
11:00 am – Press Interviews with coffee
11:55am – Had a second poo (the coffee built a road straight through me)
Noon – lunch with bloggers
1:00pm – Press Interviews
1:45pm – Live Radio Interview with a Denver radio station that is nationally syndicated
2:00pm – Tea Time with Cruisemates and Kuki
3:00pm – Tea Time with Big Ed’s Group
4:00pm – Change and shower for Elegant Night
5:00pm – 6:00pm – Elegant Photos with bloggers – we took 270 photos
6:00pm – Host Dinner Table
8:00pm – Drinks with Bloggers
8:30pm – Showtime
9:30pm – walk around ship and drinks etc with bloggers
10:30pm – Hosted Sing a Long
11:30pm – poo number 3
Midnight – Watched Lewis Nixon’s Midnight Show
1:00am – Bedtime

So, as you can see it was a busy but oh so rewarding day. During the day I was showered with gifts for the Thingy and hugs and friendship from so many wonderful people. It was a joyous day and each and everyone of the hundreds of Bloggers onboard have been truly wonderful……..and my emotions are all over the place as you can probably tell from how crap my writing is today. I think Tom captured some of the highlights so here they are.

I really can’t find any more words to describe how I feel but to each and every person who took the time to give me a hug and send their best wishes to Heidi and the thingy yesterday………….I say a huge, massive, gigantic, Herculean heart felt thank you.

I mentioned we had to re-schedule the dining room yesterday and this was because I had been a bit naive in my planning. I had envisioned that with an open plan seating arrangement that people would want to swap tables and meet as many people at dinner as they could………….this turned out to be bad planning on my part and caused one or two concerns on night 1. You see, it turned out that the three major groups of Cruisemates, Cruise Critic and Big Ed’s Evil Krewe really wanted to sit together for the whole cruise.

And so, with the help of the Maitre D Mercin and Stephanie Meads, we divided the dining room up into four sections with the aforementioned groups sitting together and a fourth section for the 100 or so guests not affiliated with any of the “families.” And it worked perfectly and everyone was happy. I walk around the dining room each and every night to each and every table to make sure everyone is OK………..it’s very rewarding but it means I get bugger all food and have to force myself not to tell a table “Look, there’s a whale”……..and when they all turn their heads grab a handful of Prime Rib of their plates.

Well, eventually, I sat down for the main course but just as I was asking for some horseradish for my beautifully cooked and free (with reference to The WhyshouldIhavetopayforasteakwhenitsfreeoncarnival of the Seas) steak I heard my name being shouted by some guests to my right. …………..a lady was lying on the ground. ‘She’s down” yelled one guest……….”John, get help,” yelled another.

Now, in cases like this, the first thing that needs to be done is get immediate medical attention. It is often natural to go over and see what the problem is but unless you are a doctor or a nurse and have medical training there is nothing you can do. So, the first thing I did was call our 911 number, explained the situation calmly and request medical assistance. I then went over to the lady who was lying on the floor. And……..as is often the case in a medical emergency, she was being attended to by two ladies both of whom were nurses.

We checked her breathing and put her in the recovery position and then her eyes opened and the first thing she saw was me kneeling down next to her holding her hand. Now, this sight may have sent her into shock but luckily she just held my hand and tried to smile. I had called 911 at 7:12pm……….at 7:15pm the nurse and doctor arrived ………..that’s three minutes …………..brilliant.

Well, we all left the experts to take care of her and about 20 minutes later they helped her up and she was back on her feet again…………..she had fainted………….luckily it wasn’t anything more serious than that. The guest (one of my blogger friends) kept apologizing to me saying “I’m sorry; I’m sorry”…..I told her there was nothing to apologize for because while she had been unconscious I had eaten her lobster.

I want to thank the ship’s doctor and nurse whose names I am embarrassed to say I don’t know. But I do know they arrived in double quick time, something which many guests commented to me on later in the evening. It could have been much worse………..actually……it was…………….because when I returned to my steak it was gone…………the table was on dessert…………….and I left the dining room happy in the knowledge that the guest was OK………….proud of the medical staff and the guests that helped…………..but I also left the dining room ………….starving bloody hungry.

As I said, it’s been a rewarding and emotional two days. I have been given amazing gifts including gift certificates and money for the Thingy from Kuki and my Cruisemates friends……..which I really couldn’t take but I was threatened with violence if I said no…………I have had plaques and cakes and blankets and one lady from Big Ed’s Krewe spent months making a huge quilt for Heidi and I ……………it was all truly amazing.

You know, I mentioned in one of my Q & A sessions that two or so years ago Heidi and I had gone through a rough patch ……….. not personally……….our love for each other has never once wavered…………..well…………..except the time when I had a huge torpedo-sized poo and forgot to flush the toilet……….which her MOTHER (who was staying with us) discovered a few hours later …………………… anyway, what I mean by a rough patch is that I think that we had decided that we had lived at sea long enough. Heidi wanted children but she also wanted the normalities of life which you just don’t get on a ship. I had also professionally come to a halt. I had been honored to deliver lots of new vessels and loved the entertainment side of the job still. However………….I to was beginning to find the cabin claustrophobic as well as a life aboard ship itself.

And so we made a decision to deliver the Carnival Splendor and then that would be it. I had even discussed my retirement from Carnival with Vice President of Cruise Programming Roger Blum and others. But as I explained yesterday to a group of blogging family and friends ………..the blog itself rejuvenated me and allowed me to find a new love…………….writing. From that came the Brand Ambassador role and so much more and who knows what’s next? I still love being a cruise director and always will and as you will see from this brilliantly written piece by MSNBC’s Anita Dunham Potter……..the best thing about the blog are the people I have met. Have a read of this.

http://www.expertcruiser.com/blog/carnivals-john-heald-blog-kept-me-from-quitting-high-seas/

While there are far too many people for me to mention by name who have shared in their own personal stories with me these last three days there is one lady I want to mention …………..her name is Louise who told me proudly………is. From East Texas. Louise asked to sit with me last night after dinner and so we found a quiet spot to talk. I had assumed that maybe Louise was unhappy about something but as it turned out it was much more personal.

You see Louise is dying………….she has cancer……..and has been given six months to live and this she told me was her last chance to do what she loved most………….cruise with Carnival and spend one last vacation with her husband Scott. Louise has been reading the blog for a year or so and decided that she would like to come and meet me and the bloggers. …………………this is by the way the most difficult portion of any blog I have ever had to write. Louise told me she’s frightened and in pain and she loves her kids and she doesn’t want to die. “I’m in a nightmare,” she told me, crying big great racking sobs. Her husband held one hand and I held the other. Louise then asked if I would do her a favor and publish these words in my blog which I promised her I would and so she handed me a piece of paper which contained these words…..and these will be the last words of today’s blog.

“I am on the Lido Deck and as I take a deep breath and I think: “Thank God I’m alive to spend more time with my husband Scott and the boys is the most important thing in the world. The marvelous thing is that I get up feeling normal. The toxic effects of the chemotherapy are still with me and Herceptin affects the heart, I’ve been very breathless but I have been able to walk around the ship OK. Today I feel at ease. Yes I am scared and frightened but here on the ship I am at ease. I remember very well that mixture of screaming hysteria and disbelief I felt when I was told I had cancer. I was incredibly fit; I danced, I walked the dog for miles. My cancer turned out to be HER2-positive, the most deadly variety, and my chances of survival, with chemo, were just 11%. The doctors told me just after Christmas that I had only months to live.

Scott and I spoke about coming on this cruise because I wanted to have one last vacation with my dear family and I had all my savings sitting in a bank. What else would the terminally ill woman want to buy? A new pair of shoes? So here we are and we are all having a fun time. I have been reading John’s blog for sometime now and I enjoy his funny sense of humor and I have enjoyed meeting so many people whose names I recognize from the comments they send in. It was during the Tea Time yesterday that John joined us for that I decided to ask him to put this letter in his blog. I have lived a normal life and not done anything out of the ordinary. I am 51 years old and I think I have been a good mother and wife. I wanted then to use John’s blog thingy, as he calls it, which I know has thousands of readers to tell Scott and Brandon and Ben that I love them so very much and I wanted the thousands of readers to know this. I am crying again now but have to stop as we are all meeting for a family portrait photo. Thank you John for allowing me to do this and allowing me to share my love for my family with thousands of people.

Louise

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.