Saying Thank You

February 13, 2009 -

John Heald

It seems that while I have been on board the Carnival Fantasy these past five days that lots has been happening in the world. Time didn’t allow me to watch any news but this morning as I began reading the BBC week in review on my lap top dancer I came across the most important piece of news that I had missed.

Michael Phelps the Olympic uberfish gets caught smoking a marijuana pipe – brilliant. Not just a crafty reefer either, but a huge bong-type contraption straight out of Cheech and Chong. I know it’s wrong but it actually made me find him a little more interesting. Up until this photographic revelation inspired by the British gutter press (who else) I’d always been tempted to hit the snooze button whenever Phelps was mentioned. Obviously, his Olympic achievements are extraordinary but he just lacked the X factor.

There’s not much you could talk about to a guy whose entire life consists of swimming up and down a swimming pool for 10 hours a day like some demented goldfish. Now, however, I know that he’s probably into really rubbish movies like Police Academy, Rambo and Mamma Mia, which he watches while stuffing his face with pizza and listening to Joe Satriani in the dim glare of a couple of lava lamps. If there was ever a drug less likely to make you an Olympic swimming legend, then it’s marijuana.

The news also told us that Michael still lives with his Mum and Dad so you can imagine the scene can’t you?……….You can’t, you say?………….well let me imagine it for you.

“Michael, get out of bed, it’s time for 12 hours of swimming practice.”

“Mom, just leave me alone, OK? I don’t feel like it, do we have any Pop Tarts left?………I have the munchies”

“MICHAEL… GET DOWN HERE, NOW!”

“Woh, woh, easy now, take a chill pill, lady…”

Phelps has now been banned for three months – he can’t swim for that period so he’s going to have to hang around the crib, kicking his heels with very little to do all day. ………………Sounds like heaven for your average stoner.

Chess ……..now there’s a game where I can envisage big drug use. There’s plenty of time to sit around thinking about stuff and there are loads of complicated angles and strategies to keep the drug-addled mind happy. Maybe that’s why they introduced speed chess. Until then, the grandmasters were so stoned it would take them up to an hour per move. The powers that be stepped in and nipped the problem in the bud.

Cocaine chess, now there’s an interesting spectator sport. Two hugely intelligent boffins with beards sitting at a little table and just nattering away to each other at a hundred words a minute with very little chess going on. But somehow, and totally out of the blue, they decide global warming is a load of bollocks. Sadly, neither of them notice and they plough on into an earnest conversation about Frank Zappa……sounds like something ESPN should be interested in.

So, here I sit in the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami. A place that has become very familiar to me over the last few months, so much so that everyone from the bellmen to the manager all say “Hello, Mr. John” when I arrive and these words are for some strange reason accompanied by a open hand gesture as if to expect something will be dropped in there………….and it usually is…………bugger.

Please excuse my writing today as I am still suffering from either typhoid or diphtheria or possibly………….a cold. All I do know is that every five minutes a huge dribble of green slime drops from my nose onto the keyboard, so much so that the “G” key is sticking and any time I have to use it I have to use safety pin to pries it up.

Well, the Bloggers Cruise was…………in my humble opinion…………a huge success. I shall of course await to see what you all felt but hopefully it will be all positive. Certainly from all the comments I received as I stood saying goodbye to everyone after the final cocktail party it seemed that all the guests had a brilliant vacation……….oh, and as I think I hugged everyone of the 400 of you including the men and you find yourself with a snotty nose and a head that feels like a Frenchman is living in it …….. ummmm ………… sorry.

It certainly must have been a headache for those who had huge delays at the New Orleans Airport yesterday. As I understand it flights to New York and New Jersey were delayed for five to six hours and as we all know, waiting for that period of time at an airport is about as much fun as waking up to find that you are indeed French and no it wasn’t a dream. I hope you all arrived safely home and I am so sorry that your cruise ended in such a way.

I think the bobbleheads were popular. I have to admit that I wasn’t sure if people thought that me giving them a bobblehead of ummm…….me………would be considered pretentious. However, considering I signed the back of 200 or so of the things I guess people saw the humour in them and enjoyed them as a gift along with the Bloggers Bag, T-shirt, mouse pad and key chain.

Not only did the guests enjoy being amongst bloggers but also they all loved the Carnival Fantasy. Now………….I may have mentioned a few days ago ………..or not……….sorry, I just sneezed so violently I had to go and change my underwear again……….that’s happening a lot lately. Anyway, as I was saying, not only did the guests enjoy being among other bloggers but they all loved the Carnival Fantasy upgrades. I had been a little concerned that this may not have been the case. I was concerned that they were all used to the bigger ships and the newer vessels. But my fears were unfounded because everyone told me how much they loved the Carnival Fantasy’s Evolutions of Fun upgrades.

From the cabin upgrades to the waterworks and beyond it seems that the millions of dollars Carnival has invested in the rejuvenation of Fantasy class of ships has been money well spent……and it wasn’t only the Bloggers who felt this…….it was the press too.

I don’t think I’d like to be a trawlerman; mincing around in a stomach-churning ocean for fish. I also wouldn’t like to be the person who has to wash Dwyane Wade’s jockstrap after a game or be the waiter who has to explain why the guest has to pay for his steak on the
“Wehavespentmoremoneythanwehaveinthebanksowearechargingforsteaks of the Seas.”

But most of all I wouldn’t want to be a public relations chap like my friend Vance Gulliksen who accompanied a very high profile press group on the Bloggers Cruise. Yes, PR often works for celebrities but mostly there is no tangible measure of success. Did the EyePod become a global phenomenon because of great PR? Maybe. Maybe not. But in many cases PR is hit and hope.

In theory what you try to do in PR is raise awareness and shape public perception. But in reality, what you do is invite a few journalists out for lunch and try not to look too embarrassed when they don’t turn up.

You spend weeks trying to get a mention of the foot spa you’re promoting in any publication, no matter how small or insignificant. And you’ll find yourself punching the air in a dopamine-drenched moment of ecstasy when you find that after two dozen phone calls, and six redrafted press releases product is featured on page 14 of Foot Fetish Magazine.

Vance also had to sit back, entertain the journalists and hope that they would enjoy the experience……..well……he had nothing to worry about as you will see from these articles.

Expert Cruiser

Travel Mavens

Southern Cruising

Cruise Mates

USA Today Cruise Log

It was a huge privilege and an even bigger pleasure to sail with them and they are now very much a part of the bloggers family………..I hope they will all join us again on the Carnival Dream Bloggers Cruises later this year.

Let’s take a small break and go and visit the wonderful but boyfriendless Jaime and another super Dear John Letter.

February 10, 2009

Dear John,

Welcome to our second Brazilian port of call also known as the state capital Recife. Each day, one out of the four of my team members has the privilege of staying on board to entertain the guests that choose not to get out and experience each of our brilliant ports of call. Today was my turn. Therefore I was fortunate enough to spend time with some guests I am truly getting to know and learning to love – since we have the opportunity to spend so much time together and at the same time, experience the port second hand, just as you typically do, through the stories and photos of my colleagues.

Before arriving at this port of call, all crewmembers were advised to be extra careful before swimming or surfing at Boa Viagem beach because the area is known for shark sightings over the years. Apparently, Recife may have waterways with bridges it is clear that it is way different from Venice.

Many guests and crew visited the nearby UNESCO heritage site of Olinda and were pleasantly surprised. From what I understand Olinda is home to a beautiful Cathedral, a lovely chapel and most importantly, Brazil’s largest mall!

My friend Ginell – our SeaMiles representative on board, who is also a member of the bloggers family, was kind enough to share with me his wonderful pictures so everyone can see the best parts of this Brazilian port.

It is wild to think that the first of our three legs of this cruise has almost come to an end. Salvador and Rio are next in line =).

I look forward to sharing more soon.

a-photo-i-took-from-the-minigolf-course-the-cathedral-in-the-distance
A photo I took from the minigolf course the cathedral in the distance

thank-you-to-ginell-the-flag-flying-high-over-recife-olinda
Thank you to Ginell – the flag flying high over Recife/Olinda!

the-push-carts-on-boa-viagem-beach-ginell-is-awesome
The push carts on Boa Viagem beach. Ginell is awesome!

::smiles::
Jaime D =)

Great stuff Jaime and, as always, you have left us wanting more so we hope to see another one soon.

I know dress code is something that people still like to chat about on the boards and here on the blog thingy. I have to say that it was very well enforced on the Carnival Fantasy Now, to help guests understand what each dress code means you will all start to see the following placed in the embarkation day Carnival Capers.

Cruise Casual attire
Gentlemen: Sport slacks, khakis, jeans (no cut- offs), dress shorts (long) collared sports shirts.
Ladies: Casual dresses, casual skirts or pants and blouses, summer dresses, Capri pants, dress shorts, jeans (no cut-offs)

Cruise Elegant attire
Gentlemen: Dress slacks, dress shirts. We also suggest a sport coat. If you wish to wear suits and ties or tuxedos, by all means we invite you to do so.
Ladies: Cocktail dresses, pantsuits, elegant skirts and blouses; if you’d like

This will be backed up by the cruise director at his or her first talk so hopefully this will all help makes things nice and simple…any thoughts?

And so, the Bloggers Cruise is over for another year. There are many people to thank and in case I miss any I will just say a few collective thank yous. Let’s start with a big one to three gents who organized large groups of bloggers. Not only did they all take part in each and every one of the organized activities but also organized their own parties and gatherings. They are of course in alphabetical order.

BIG ED FROM BIG ED’S EVIL CREWE
HOST MACH FROM CRUISE CRITIC
KUKI FROM CRUISE MATES.

Three wonderful men and three men who also gave us three very individual memories.

Big Ed……..what can I say mate. I have lots to choose from but I think my memory of you will be arriving at the show with your wife Pat’s Carnival Gown on backwards covering your ……..ummmm……small Ed and then your gown over that. This was done of course because I have been promising you that the one size fits all gowns that are in the cabin will be replaced with ones that really do fit all. I have let you down on that and I will again write to Mr. Smith in the office (yes, Mr Smith) to see if we can get this done.

Host Mach……….of course, you are now known as Roger Blum. That’s because you look like my friend Roger as highlighted by comedians Lewis Nixon and Al Ernst.
However, we all of course will remember the way you looked during the male nightgown contest in your little lingerie number topped off by lipstick, rouge and of course your handlebar moustache…………..priceless

Kuki………well, I think you should quit your day job and come work as a fly on comedian here at Carnival. Kuki was trained by Al and Lewis in the art of stand up and he got to be the opening act for Al’s midnight show…………..and he brought the house down. Well done mate. This was a first in so many ways. The first time we have had a guest open for an entertainer, the first time we have allowed a guest to perform comedy for many a year ………and most importantly……….it’s the first time we have discovered a Canadian with a sense of humor…………kidding.

I also want to mention Robert Schneider who has cruised with Carnival 50 times, 40 of which have been booked specifically because I was on the ship. Needless to say we have become great friends and despite ill health and the loss of his father, Robert and his wife Suzanne joined me for cruise 51……amazing.

I must also pay tribute to Lewis Nixon and Al Ernst who are Carnival’s number one and 344th best comedians. They not only performed their shows but spent each and every day befriending and entertaining the bloggers. I am sure you will read in the forthcoming comments just how amazing they were and how much everyone enjoyed meeting them.

If you open your Carnival Capers on a cruise and see either Lewis Nixon or Al Ernst performing you will be assured of two things. A hilarious show and hearing someone else’s jokes……….kidding………the second thing you will be assured is that you won’t just see them on stage but off it as well as they walk the ship meeting as many of you as possible. Thanks guys………….you made a huge difference.

Without the two Stephanies and Tom and Tony, I would have been devoured by the enormity of the whole cruise. But thanks to them I was able to ………well………be me ……….. while they looked after everything else. They were simply brilliant and I owe them so very much.

Just two thank yous to go.

What can I say about Captain Scala and the crew of the Carnival Fantasy? …….. Well …….. whatever it is, it will not be enough. They embody everything that is Carnival. They do provide Fun For All and I was proud to see them do so this past cruise. Thank you then, captain, for your hospitality and to the crew of the Carnival Fantasy I send my heartfelt thanks and hope we all get to work together someday very soon.
However, the biggest thank you has to go to the people who spent their time and their money to come and cruise with me. I think this year that the Bloggers cruise was even better than last year and certainly not being the cruise director meant that I could spend each and every day with my friends and yes……my family as that is what you have all become.

I received so many gifts for Heidi and the Thingy, I received countless wishes of hope for a healthy Thingy and these as you all saw left me speechless. I also saw that the blog has continued to grow as a community. It’s a community based on the love of life, the love of Carnival and the love of pure and simplistic fun. And that will keep me sitting here at the computer in my underpants for many months to come. Thank you all for joining me, I shall cherish those memories forever and for those who couldn’t I hope you will be able to do so on the Carnival Dream.

During the cruise I learned just how many people were excited that we were bringing the Carnival Pride to Baltimore. I know many of the bloggers are waiting for the 2010 schedule. Well, I can tell you that it was confirmed today that Carnival will not have a ship specifically placed in Europe in 2010…………I know some may be a bit disappointed with this news but………….let me add my take on this.

In all other walks of life, disaster can be averted at the last minute. “I smell gas so I won’t light this cigar.” “That Taliban insurgent is shooting at me so I shall shoot back.” “Climbing a 30 foot wall in 90 degrees of heat on vacation is stupid so I won’t do it .” And so on.

However, when you are running a cruise line, you are not afforded this luxury. “Oh, God. A recession has arrived so I must immediately decide what to do with a huge fleet of 22 ships.” Predicting how the economy will be months and months in advance is not something that Gerry Cahill and the executive ladies and gents at Carnival are able to do.

The Queen didn’t see the financial crisis coming. The Bush government didn’t see the financial crisis coming. The banks didn’t see the financial crisis coming — and they caused it. So what possible chance was there for cruise line? And what can we do now it’s arrived? It’s a complete nightmare and I was therefore not surprised to see a bunch of car bosses descend on Congress the other day in their electric cars with their caps in their hands…………..by the way, smart move Mr. Ford and Mr. General Motors to swap the private jet filled with Latvian women and champagne for a car that runs on 220v.

The bankers have been bailed out but I think if we went to President Obama and asked for money to buy a new ship or for some cash because our ship in Europe was sailing half empty, he would laugh, ask for a photo of “Fun Ship” Freddy for his daughters and then tell us to bugger off.

And so we have to look after you the guests and place the ships close to home …….. your home and allow the credit crunch thingy to settle. I mention this because I see many of you have asked me to reply to the question of 2010 and Europe. I can tell you that we are committed to returning one day and don’t forget we have the Carnival Dream this year conducting three 12-day Grand Med cruises and a trans-Atlantic crossing. For now though we have to do the right thing and that right thing is provide fantastic and fun value for money cruise vacations.

I am, of course, disappointed as well because I wanted to be closer to Heidi and the Thingy next year but I know that this is the right decision and I also know that the leadership at Carnival are very smart people because some have beards. I also know that nobody in the industry is positioned better than Carnival in this troubled times and if you really want great value and lets face it………even the richest of people want that these days………….then Carnival Cruise Lines will provide that value along with a massive dollop of fun.

Now, at this point I am not aware of any other changes for 2010 however as and when I hear of any I will of course let you know.

Ok, that’s it for now. I had considered going to the Dolphin Mall tonight but have decided against it because I don’t speak Spanish and yesterday I had a driving nightmare. I went out about 5 pm to get some Nyquil for my cold sat in a traffic jam for two weeks and came back to the hotel again. The traffic did not crawl. It did not move at all. The only way you could imagine even half an idea of what it might be like to be stationary for so long is to blow your head off.

So instead I shall sit here in my hotel and pay $15 to watch a movie on the interactive thingy. My friends are all away on business or pleasure leaving me alone here in Las Hotelos where Spanish is the official language.

I still have many treasured memories of the cruise though to look back on as well as the videos and photos………..oh my, did I have a lot of photos taken.

Having my photograph taken has always been like having extensive root-canal work done or a hemorrhoid that is so far up that there is no way to get there and scratch it.. I hate it with an unbridled passion. A photograph of me serves as a permanent reminder of the simple fact that I am just a stomach and a bent tooth and a crooked nose.

Unfortunately these days everyone has a camera phone, so everyone has become an amateur paparazzo.

I understand why, of course. If you could get a snap of Judge Judy smoking a joint with Michael Phelps, then – ker-ching! – I bet it’d be worth a grand. If you could get a photo of a Jehovah’s Witness inside a house that would be worth loads of money.

However, why anyone should want a photo of me is beyond my comprehension.
There was one guest who I won’t name although the bloggers will know who I am talking about who must have taken 1,000 photos of me. Wherever I was he was there snapping away. During the last evening he approached me and asked me to sign around twenty or so of the photos including some of me at the beach! I asked him why he had taken so many photos and why he wanted me to sign them. He told me that he felt that I would become famous and that he would be selling the photos to various travel publications and even (jokingly I think) said that he would be putting them on eBay.
Well, just in case he is correct I’m thinking of cashing in myself; and so today you will find a photo of me on eBay………….. Checking my prostate.

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.