Blog Full of Pooh

February 18, 2009 -

John Heald

So, here we are docked at the island of Roatan, which, together with Utila, Guanaja and 65 small cayes, makes up the Bay Islands, off the north coast of Honduras. Long and thin, like a miniature Cuba in a hidden corner of the Caribbean, Roatan is an island that cruise ship traffic is just waking up to. Like its more established nautical neighbors, it has pristine white beaches, swaying palms and a tropical interior, home to parrots, iguanas and monkeys. It also has the laid-back atmosphere that comes with an average annual temperature of 80F and year-round sun. On Roatan, though, the atmosphere has a Latino twist, a product of being simultaneously part of the Caribbean and Central America.

The twist — “Yeah, maaan” one minute, “Si, si” the next — runs through everything on the islands, not least the islanders themselves. Mr. Google tells me that it is a former British territory, ceded to Honduras in 1859; the Bay Islands today are home to the descendants of white Cayman Islanders, freed black slaves and more recent Honduran emigrants from the mainland. The result is an ethnically diverse mix, some speaking Spanish, others English, with many speaking a strange hybrid of both. Along the main strip on Roatan’s West Bay, Woody’s Groceries sits next to La Pulperia; hawkers on the beach sell both ice cream and helados; while in the beachfront bars, reggae vies with salsa. Ask a Roatanian what he’s up to and more often than not the answer will be: “Nada-much mon.”

The ship is empty, with 2,987 of the 3,251 guests ashore enjoying the continuing perfect weather and are exploring the beaches and the coves and the town which I am told has some amazing seafood restaurants. Now, I should be ashore with them but not only do I need to work, blog and set everything up for next cruise I am also not feeling 100%. My cold is lingering like a fart in an elevator and I don’t think wandering the island in 88 degrees of heat is sensible. So, I will head out next time and send you a full and detailed report of what this beautiful place has to offer.

On the north side of the island I am told that the latest way to earn money from the tourists is for the local kids to do something called Tombstoning. It’s the latest craze and what you do is simple. You climb the tallest cliff and, without bothering to check the depth of the water, hurl yourself into the unknown. Then you go home in an ambulance which in Roatan is probably rather antiquated and therefore you spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair, dribbling. The reward should you complete the dive successfully is that Mr. and Mrs. Tourist will reward you with a dollar or two.

It makes you think how desperate these poor young people are that they feel the need to do this. It reminds me of Grenada. We used to anchor of shore and tender there and while we waited for tenders dozens of small boats would come up to the ship full of kids who would urge the guests to throw coins over the side whereupon they would dive down to retrieve it.

Obviously we are all lucky that we didn’t have to do this as kids and that today the modern day kid that lives next door to you would never have to do this. However, it seems that today’s young people like discomfort, speed and adrenaline so much they are prepared to risk a lifetime of head wounds and mashed food to get it. Skateboarding, extreme skiing and BMXing or whatever it’s called, are the in thing and show a bunch of kids a video on You Tube of a teenager impaling his bollocks on a stair rail and they will howl with laughter.

I still like going quickly, of course, but only if I can sit down. It’s why I have no interest in making a parachute jump. You have to get off your seat and hurl yourself out of the door. That’s too much effort, especially as you could achieve much the same sensation by driving to work with your head out of the sunshine roof.

Then there’s white-water rafting. Why would I want to do that? All that huffing and puffing. I’d rather eat a cheeseburger while watching the Miami Heat beat the Boston Pistons…

Anyway, as being a Daddy grows ever nearer I think about today’s kids and how they are so different to the ones I went to school with.

Do you remember when we were at school and those big text messages we used to read?……….they were called books. I noticed today as I wandered the ship and looked at the many children sitting with their parents that not one of them was reading a book. ………….not one. They all had their heads buried in prayer……….well, that’s what it looked like but of course their heads were bowed as they worshiped the temple of Playstationnintendobox portable games, their minds concentrating totally on beheading a zombie. This made me think, do we actually have any kids’ books in the library here?………..and I am sorry to say the answer is no………..not one.

I then checked with Camp Carnival and they have some they use to read to the young ones but not for them to borrow under library conditions. So, that’s on my list………..get books for the kids. When I was 8 and older I used to love to read I still do. I remember reading my favorite stories about the one and only Winnie the Pooh …………. and no, not just because it has the word “poo” in the title …………. ok, maybe a little. I intend to read Pooh to my Thingy because apart from the genius of the writing and the joy of the illustrations the stories are so exquisitely simple. It was Eeyore’s birthday. Pooh felt he should have a present. Piglet – surely the most unpleasant character in fiction (apart from The Tweenies) – decided to get there first so he’d be credited with the idea. He fell over. The present exploded. He got his comeuppance. The end.

Of course that would be too simple for today’s society. It is hard nowadays to get away with something so elemental. We’d have to know why Eeyore was so miserable all the time, and inevitably that would lead us to his upbringing and that maybe he was bullied when he was a child donkey by a bigger ass. Then we’d be invited to explore why Piglet is such a nasty piece of work. Perhaps it has something to do with his height. Maybe he’s bitter and nasty because he has SPS ………….short pig syndrome.

Christopher Robin. He would have to escape to the forest which would have to be full of organic trees and plants and, instead of sitting down for a special treat of ice cream and fizzy sodas, our chums would have to dine on tofu and drink Evian. Some things are best left alone and Winnie The Pooh is certainly one of them. It is a scary place, the children’s section of a bookshop now. Once you wouldn’t find anything more sinister than the Big Bad Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. And even that ended happily ever after.

Now, amid the usual light escapism such as How To Live With Divorced Parents you may find Snow White and the Seven Smackheads — I exaggerate, but not much.

And another thing. Do you remember those wonderful shows that featured wonderful families like The Cosby Show, The Brady Bunch ………..oooohhhh…………Marcia Brady ……episode 11 ……..you could see her knickers when she bent over to pick up the mail………….sorry about that…………..I had a flashback. Anyway, the Cosbys would show a family in love and despite their problems they would all get resolved just in time to go and eat vanilla pudding……..the show was a huge hit by the way in the UK.

Nowadays the shows have to feature a family with no Mum or no dad or a divorced family or a kid who is actually a mass murderer or a mother who has three jobs including a stripper but comes home to look after her teenage son who wants to be a girl and change his name from Bob to Brenda.

Talking of TV, I cannot understand the people who wish to wash their dirty laundry in public especially when it involves their kids. You know the programs I am talking about. Jerry Springer: The Kids From Hell………….Oprah: My Kid Is a Fat Bastard. OK, some of these kids may have some serious issues, but the fact that the parents are willing to portray them on TV to the watching millions is somewhat puzzling. I am sure that for some parents they are at their wits end but for many I am sure the promise of thousands of dollars was the deciding factor.

Then there is Jo Frost……..Supernanny. Heidi made me watch an episode of this when I was home to see if we got any tips on how to be good parents. You don’t just get parenting tips from Supernanny Jo Frost. You get reassurance that however catastrophic your own home life is, it isn’t anywhere near as bad as the bedlam you see on the TV.

Mum is still breast-feeding the three-year-old, and all three children punch, kick and swear from morning ‘til night. As for Supernanny, the kids reckon “she’s a crap idiot” and they “wish she was dead.” She sorts them out, of course, because that’s what she does, but this program doesn’t make it easier to love your fellow human beings and you wonder whether they will use the money they were paid to get junior a great education of will they spend it on a new plasma TV and a cruise.

OK, I have just realized that the last 30 minutes I have been writing this has turned into a grumpy old rant. I guess if you read between the lines it shows that I am as nervous as anything about being a Dad.

Let’s take a break and pop on over to the Carnival Splendor but just before we do here are a few photos of the shoreline of Roatan and the aft lounges here on the Carnival Valor…… photos and Jaime’s Dear John letter…………….

Oh, just before we do can I apologize for sounding so miserable in yesterday’s blog. I desperately need to get back in the saddle again and be a proper CD in my cabin with a computer and a sense of purpose. I do feel lonely though and as my family of bloggers I know I unload my emotions on you……….so please forgive me when I do.

I will return tomorrow with more questions awaiting my answer so please look out for those and remember if you need any help just mark your comments John, Please Reply. Oh, and tomorrow I am going to be asking for your help as we unveil something very special here on the blog thingy…………..don’t miss that…………..OK, here are the photos and Jaime’s Dear John Letter.

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February 17, 2009

Dear John,

Today is our official welcome to Latin America! Cruise number one complete, two more to go. If I told you that debarkation this morning was a breeze, I would be slightly misinforming you. This morning had a handful of challenges. For one, it is our first time in Buenos Aires. Two, we were simultaneously accommodating guests on tours, some guests returning back home and some guests rejoining the ship, with both their old and new room keys in hand. We were assisting some guests with early flights, some on private tours, and some who had special needs. They did have one thing in common, ALL of them wanted to be the first one off the ship so they could go out and enjoy this highly developed port of call.

One of our dancers, Ceri, witnessed an argument between two guests while she was leading a group down to the gangway to meet their tour bus. During this process, a gentleman accidentally stepped on another man’s luggage. There is no question that this action was most definitely an accident. The man who had his luggage “damaged” by the other’s foot got pretty agitated and started yelling at his fellow guest. Their wives each stood by their side in utter embarrassment. To make sure that everyone kept a level head, Ceri came to the rescue! Suddenly, tiny Ceri, the lovely English hero, who stands a mere 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weighs less than 100 pounds, stood starfish style in between the two men and made sure that cooler heads prevailed. Bless her heart. She told me the story later and I absolutely could not believe what it would be like to watch two grandfathers arguing like that! Thankfully Ceri was a calming influence on these two gentlemen and everyone managed to get to their tours and enjoy their day.

This morning was the culmination to the handful of challenges we were faced with when undertaking a new itinerary and a demographic of guests that is not exactly typical to most Carnival Cruises. I had remembered some bloggers asking about the complaints of some of the guests that you used to post in your blog. Here’s one that I found particularly amusing.

DENT ON CABIN FLOOR NOT SAFE

While Purser was walking the lines at the Pursers desk, “Mrs.____” had informed that she was concerned for her friends safety in the cabin as there was a dent on the cabin floor, and she feared she might trip and fall. Purser offered to go up to the cabin in attempt to assess the issue at hand. On arrival Purser noticed that the portion of the floor being referred to was the area between the cabin floor and the bathroom, which is more of a step than a dent. “Mrs. _______” told Purser that maintenance had been to her cabin last night and informed her that no maintenance could be done at the time as this would require for the whole floor to be removed. “Mrs. _______” told Purser that she was just concerned for their safety and did not want to end up seeking medical assistance. Purser offered to keep checking on guests to ensure that everything was fine.

Tonight I am off to enjoy what is rumored to be the best Argentinean steakhouse and a tango show! You can look forward to pictures from those events tomorrow! Ya know, most people think that working on a cruise ship is an incredible opportunity to save money. WELL, for some people this may be true, but going on these itineraries is more of a wonderful chance to immerse oneself in a variety of cultures and customs so different than those that I grew up with… which can get very expensive =)!

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Wish you were here with us!!!
Jaime =)

Thanks Jaime. Sounds like an interesting day and for sure you are seeing that every time you put 3,000 guests on a ship that you will the good, the bad and the ugly………..which is one of the many reasons why cruising is the best vacation in the world. I have stayed in so many hotels these past few weeks and every time I even say hello to another guest who is staying there they look at me as though I just asked them back to my room for a game of naked Twister. On a Carnival cruise people make instant friendships. They talk to each other and they become friends and occasionally……they argue as well. Why would anyone stay at a hotel?

Talking of which I have a friend who is currently staying in Las Vegas on a business trip. My mate Mr. Bentley is there for a sporting goods convention but he told me yesterday that the city is very, very quiet as are the casinos and shops. The hotels are quieter than a Soap and Body Wash shop in Paris. So, while we at Carnival are holding our own and then some it seems that Vegas has really been crunched during the current downturn.

And on that note, I turn into Mr. Grumpy……….I spoke to Heidi yesterday who told me that she had received my statement regarding our savings and pension account which had been managed ……….. sorry, that’s just made me laugh…….managed………….what a joke ………..anyway managed by a company I guess I shouldn’t name. I will give you a clue by jumbling up the letters………..here we go……GAI………try and work that one out.

Anyway………she had received the latest news regarding our savings. Of course, I had made strenuous efforts to get my money out as soon as the scale of its problems became apparent. But it wasn’t possible. It had shut the fund in which I’d invested and it would remain closed for five months while it tried to sell the assets. “We need to do this in an orderly fashion,” said the man on the phone, calmly.

Inwardly, I was screaming. I don’t give a crap about an orderly fashion. It’s my money. I gave it to you. You’ve squandered it on a house in San Diego and million dollar bonuses and that’s your problem you Porsche-driving git………………… not mine. Well, it turns out I was wrong. It was my problem. Heidi scanned me the letter and the statement of my account and I really have tried to understand.

Here is a paragraph from the letter.

Approximately $227 billion . . . of the $341 billion in notional exposure of our super senior credit default swap portfolio represented liquidity written for financial institutions, principally in Europe, for the purpose of providing regulatory capital relief rather than risk mitigation. In exchange for a minimum guaranteed fee, the counterparties receive credit protection with respect to diversified liquidity loan portfolios they own, thus improving their regulatory capital position.” That’s not English or any other language except bollocks.

They should have written

Dear Mr. Heald
We screwed you out of your money. Sorry.

A. Totalbugger
Chairman

The letter uses one particular word quite a lot…………..”Liquidity,” which mean that I would piss my pants when I saw how much money they had lost………….and I did…………twice.

So, is there any good news from this? Well, I guess it means that I will have to work as a cruise director for another 20 years or at least until the Thingy is old enough to go out to work , preferably as a highly paid Hit Thingy who will be paid millions to whack the merchant bankers who lost the Mafia and me all their money. So……you may be stuck with me for a while longer yet.

I said this a few months ago and I will say it again now. There is no safe haven for your money; you need to give it to someone else. That way, it becomes their problem. So, why not pay your income tax early? Need a new car? Why not buy one now? ………and most importantly call your travel agent and bring you and the kids on a Carnival cruise with me. …………….I will even read them a Winnie the Pooh story.

Goodnight
Your friends
John, Heidi and the Thingy

WARNING: This e-mail is a suspected phishing scam.

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.