The great thing about having your own blog is that I can pretty much use it to say what I want. Of course, if I was to out one of our vice presidents as a secret member of the Judge Judy Appreciation Society or suggest that all the cruise directors perform their shows naked……well I am sure the PR folks would take issue with this and edit it out.

However, they give me a lot of room to express my feelings and occasionally I take the opportunity to do so even though it has bugger all to do with my job or this great industry that I love more than the thought of eating strawberries and cream out of Angelina Jolie’s belly button.

Today…………is one of those times.

As I may have mentioned before, my economics teacher Mr. Puddick never used to shake himself properly and instead of listening to his expert advice on the world’s economy, I sat transfixed by the yellow stain on the front of his cream-colored corduroy pants. If I had of paid attention then maybe I would have heard him say never invest all the money you have saved up in a pension fund with AIG because later in life they will piss it all away on huge bonuses and bad investments.

I left his classes presuming he had said “When times are good, put your savings in property, and when times are bad, put them in a high interest account in a bank.” Unfortunately it seems entrusting all the money I had saved up for Heidi and I and the Thingy to the men in braces is more dangerous than investing in a soap factory in France. And here’s the thing.

I have shared my anger with you before but now my cup runneth over because having spent all my savings they went with cap in hand to the government and got a check for hundreds of millions of dollars………….oh great……………you lost millions and millions of dollars…………..we must punish you………..so here’s some more.

So, I have started saving all over again as honestly my savings have totally disappeared thanks to the amoebas who squandered it all. What do I invest in now? Gold has been the traditional recourse of the terminally scared but that’s expensive at the moment. So’s art. Someone recently paid £17m for painting something that looked like a naked Rosanne Barr on a sofa so I am not going to get much more than a Hallmark greetings card with what little savings I have left.

I should go and protest outside their HQ as many others have done. I have to admit though that I am not very good at protesting in fact the word “no” is never really easy for me to say.

I actually did make a protest march once but for all the wrong reasons. It was a protest against nuclear weapons and my mate Alan and I were only on it because the owner of our local pub, The Shorehouse, paid us 10 pounds to hand out leaflets in our local shopping street during a protest he had organized. As we marched through the town centre, a man in a shirt and tie came to an office window and shouted “Get back to Russia!”

“Get back to f***ing work!” a marcher with a beard and desert boots shouted in response. He then turned to me. “Doesn’t that idiot know we’re marching for his life and for the life of his children?” he said.

“Exactly,” I said …………and buggered off to spend my 10 pounds on fish and chips and five pints of beer.

I have, therefore, been thinking about what can be done, and I’m delighted to say, the answer is very enjoyable. If we continue to with this great economic turmoil with bankers hurling themselves out of the Empire State Building and stockbrokers selling their children for medical experiments, money will become worthless. So you may as well spend it now on things that will make you happy………like a cruise. As for me………..well,

I am never going to put any more money in a bank. I want a place that is safe and secure and where nobody else would ever want to go……….so if there are any AIG people reading this, any bankers or would-be thieves……my money is wrapped in my used underwear………..there may be no interest there …………..but it’s the safest place on earth.

Meanwhile…………..back on the good ship Carnival Valor.

Guest: Mrs __________ Ref: 836205400A
Cabin: ______ Booking#: ______ Added-Changed: 03/02/09 – 03/02/09

WINE WAS SPOILED
report from Maitre D Martin – guest had ordered a bottle of Wolf Blass red wine and had drunk over half the bottle with a friend at table 237 main sitting. Guest then told the waiter the wine was bad and he wanted a refund. Waiter mentioned that he had already drunk half the bottle and that both glasses were not having any wine in them and guest then became abusive and angry. After visiting the table I refunded the $33 for the wine and asked the guest to stop raising their voices or they would be asked to leave the dining room. Note: Sommelier Boris tasted the wine and confirmed there was nothing incorrect about it.
No further action.

I have seen this one before, in fact I have seen it up close and personal when I was a wine steward back in the late eighties. It’s an old trick however it does take a lot of courage to try it. Many of us (myself included) would rather sit and drink a disgusting bottle of wine than risk asking for a replacement. They are more frightened of being humiliated by a waiter than of the consequences of consuming gut-wrenching vinegar. “Darling, the wine tastes like cat’s pee.” “Never mind – I’ve got a really good bottle of Pepto-Bismol at home. I’ve been keeping it for a special occasion.”

What do you imagine the waiter will do when you tell him his Chianti tastes as though the Miami Heat players have used it to wash their armpits and other bits in before straining it back into the bottle through a freshly skinned yak rectum? How do you think he will react when you point out that the cork has been inserted into a flatulent baboon?

Will he say, “Sorry – I’ll bring you another one,” or is it more likely that a single spotlight will pick out your table as the waiter assumes a fake French accent and launches into a triad of abuse so terrifying that you order another bottle of the same wine and one for every table in the restaurant. When I was a wine steward I always hoped that one day someone would send a bottle back because it tasted bad……………but you know what ………….I don’t think they ever did. As I said, I have seen the “Oh the wine tastes bad and we noticed this after out third glass” thing before and it’s a real shame that people try this one on. Ever heard of anyone who sent back empty plates to the chef, saying that the food was vile and they refuse to pay?

On cruise ships though it seems to be the law that if some people find anything wrong at all they expect the world in return. “My fork has a speck of food on it. I haven’t had an apology from the captain, I expect a complimentary bottle of champagne, and a spa treatment and the ship moved to the left.”

However, these sorts of complaints are in the minority. Most of the complaints we receive are indeed valid and the brilliant and dedicated crew will do whatever they can to rectify the issue and have the guests smiling once more. However, as I have shown on this blog these past two years we do occasionally get the sort of people who have been effortlessly complaining with every other breath since they could send their mother’s breast milk back.

On a happier note I want you to see some amazing photos. Yesterday I mentioned about the ship’s tendering into Spot Bay in Grand Cayman. Well, I asked the entertainment staff to spend the day on the pier keeping the guests happy and considering at one point there were at least 1,000 people between the three ships standing in line waiting to return to the vessels…….this was not an easy task. One of the staff I asked to help was Geo from Mexico. He is a brilliant young man full of energy and a love of life…….and as you will see now he is also a brilliant amateur photographer. Here are his shots taken from Spots Bay yesterday in Cayman.

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Wow……….how about that? Please help thank Geo for sharing those outstanding photos …………….they are breathtaking aren’t they?

I would like now to introduce you to John Duffy from Cunard Line and the proud and deserved winner of the Seatrade Insider Employee of the Year award. I asked John to answer a few questions about his long and illustrious career. The attached photo shows John Duffy (centre) with Chris Hayman (Publisher, Seatrade) and Carol Marlow recently receiving the Seatrade “Seagoing Employee of the Year Award.”

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1. John, you have had an illustrious career to date. Can you tell us about your journey so far?

Having spent the early days of my career in junior capacities as such well know vessels, as Queen Elizabeth, Carinthia, Franconia Carmania, etc., the company approached me in l980 whilst I was Hotel Manager onboard Cunard Princess and told me they would like me to take over QE2 when the incumbent retired in l98l. At the time I was the youngest Hotel Manager in the history of the company and therefore honoured and delighted to accept…I subsequently took over the QE2 on April l l981 – the April Fool Joke has lasted for a very long time!

2. When you first became a Hotel Director I am sure there were many differences from the job today. Can you tell us about some of the responsibilities and are there any that you miss that have fallen by the wayside.

I think in today’s world, a Hotel Director can be more involved in overall company business, which is a good thing as you are operating one of the units within the Company. On some vessels the involvement on a day-to-day basis with passengers is not so prevalent. However within Cunard Line we have maintained this very close relationship with our guests, which I think is very important bearing in mind the positive effect on repeat business.

3. What are your fondest memories of the Queen Elizabeth 2?

The twenty-seven and a half years as Hotel Manager of the QE2 is indeed one long fond memory. The ship had the reputation of being the Greatest Ocean Liner in the World. And to be involved in making her thus and maintaining thus will be forever memorable…. To categorize individual memories is most difficult there have been so many. but to give a few examples, the visits from Her Majesty the Queen, Queen Mother and most members of the Royal family, Nelson Mandela’s voyage on board and the beautiful personal letter he wrote to me after the trip, leaving Yokohama in the early eighties with an estimated one million people watching our departure, the first visit to Liverpool in l990 when again one million people witnessed the Great Lady sail up the River Mersey, into my home port, being the centerpiece in the Hudson River Celebrating the Anniversary of the Statue of Liberty and the wonderful welcome received in Sydney each year on the World Cruise. These are but a few of literally thousands upon thousands of astoundingly memorable occasions.

4. Today’s Cunard fleet is the youngest in the industry. What are your favourite areas of the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria?

These are two outstanding vessels which continue the wonderful traditions of their predecessors, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary and QE2. As I have yet to sail on either vessel it is difficult to discuss various areas of these ships, but I am sure after joining Queen Mary 2 next month, I will no doubt be in a position to answer your question.

5. There are a special group of people called Cunarders. Who are they?

This can be categorized on two ways…….probably of all shipping companies, Cunard have maintained a loyal clientele who continue to travel, hence the high “repeat factor,” secondly crew members have traditionally stayed with the company for many many years, and after a long period of service they are known as “true Cunarders.”

6. During your career you must have met many interesting and famous people. Amongst the many who are the ones who made the greatest impression on you?

Yes over the years there have been hundreds of famous people including royalty from various countries, movie stars, pop stars, politicians, outstanding sportsmen, etc., etc., amongst those who have left lasting impressions are the Queen on several occasions. HM the Queen Mother, the late Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela, the Beirut hostage Terry Waite, Princess Christina of the Netherlands, the Romanoff Family, who remained our family friends also. From the world of show business, Dean Martin, Elizabeth Taylor, Julia Andrews, Richard Burton, George C. Scott, Rod Stewart, Tommy Steele and one of the many Authors I have outstanding memories of is Carl Bernstein the co-author of “All the Presidents Men” who traveled regularly on the North Atlantic. For personal reasons, that being I have always been a Beatles fan, meeting George Harrison and Ringo Starr will remain a great memory.

7. Of all the voyages you have been aboard for what are your top three itineraries.

Easy…..Transatlantic, followed by the World Cruise and the Mediterranean Cruises.

8. We are Cunard is something the blog readers are becoming very familiar with. What’s your definition of those three incomparable words?

High standards through White Star Service, delivered with Elegance and Pride?

9. I would like to congratulate you on winning the Seatrade Crew Member of the Year Award. You must be very proud. This question goes to Maria your wife. Why did he win it, tell us about this special man.

Where do I begin? He is indeed a special man, apart from being a wonderful human being, a devoted father adored by his proud son and a cherished husband, testimony of which is our 35-year marriage which is as strong as the day we had our honeymoon aboard QE2, John won the Seatrade Crew Member Of the Year Award because of his obvious great capabilities, warmth, integrity, fair-mindedness, high moral principles and a loyalty beyond compare, to his passengers, crew and his family, nothing to do with him being one of the greatest Evertonians ever to live!

10. Finally, let’s find out about you. Can you fill I’m the blanks.

Your Favourite Book – Johnny We Hardly New Ye……by Kenny O’Donnell and David Powers…………..Tribute to John F. Kennedy

Your Favourite Movie – All The Presidents Men

Your Favourite Food – Anything cooked by my wife

And, hosting a table on the Queen Victoria who would you invite – I think this should be the Queen Mary 2!

Someone from the cruise industry – John Heald!

Your favourite actress – Angie Dickinson

Someone to make you laugh – Peter Ustinov (who incidentally I had the pleasure of hosting on Board QE2)

Someone from history you wish you had met – modern day history John F Kennedy.

What an amazing career. All the people and places he met and visited and I am sure you will all join me in congratulating this very special man whose years of service have been recognized with this special award. I truly hope to shake his hand one day soon.

Time to answer some more questions marked for my reply…………………here we go

Andrea Asked:
Hello John (Please respond)
I have been reading your blog for a year now and find it very enjoyable. I have shared many of your stories with family and friends. Thanks to your comments about the Carnival fleet I am booking a cruise on board the Carnival Paradise next year for my hubby’s and mine 25th anniversary. I have cruised with one of the other lines before, but was not completely happy with it. From what I have read and seem Carnival is the way to go. Who is the CD on the Paradise and any suggestions as to what to see when we sail? I hope that Heidi is doing well. Keep up the good work,

John Says:
Hello Andrea
Thank you so very much for the kind words. I am so thrilled that reading the blog thingy has prompted you to book your first-ever Carnival cruise. You will love the Carnival Paradise and her ports of call. I won’t know who the cruise director is until later in the year but I will promise to do so as soon as I know. You must see all the shows and take part in all the fun activities and most importantly you will enjoy our iconic crew who will show you that you are indeed correct…….Carnival is the way to go. Please keep reading the blog and if you have any questions about the excursions or onboard activities please let me know. Best wishes to you and your husband
John

Rositer11-Carnival lifer Asked:
Please reply- you could just email me directly
John you said a while back the 2010 schedule was done any word when we may see a peek. Also you said you were looking into how much Carnival will charge for a baby, just curious.

John Says:
Hello Rositer
Well, at this point much of the fleet will remain where it is. The Carnival Glory will spend some summer months sailing out of New York before heading down to Miami and the Carnival Dream will make Port Canaveral her home. However, there may be more changes down the road and soon as any changes occur I will let my blogging friends like you know. Hope this answers your question and if you have any ship specific ones I will be here if you need me.
Best wishes
John

Ailene G. Statler Asked:
Hi nice post, I read your blog from time to time but I was wondering something. I also run a blog on a similar topic, but I get 1,000’s of spam comments and emails every day does that happen to you… Any ideas to stop it? I currently have commenting disabled but I want to turn it back on… Thanks!

John Says:
Ailene
I love Spam, especially with chips and tomato ketchup. This was very much part of my school dinner diet along with Shepherds Pie, Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick …oh hang on…….I think you mean the other kind of Spam don’t you? In that case I will hand things over to Stephanie who manages this blog so brilliantly and maybe she can advise you as unfortunately I know very little about anything. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and I wish you much success with yours.

Hi Ailene,
WordPress, which hosts John’s blog has spam filters built in, and it usually does an excellent job of catching spam comments. However, we do occasionally still receive spam comments, so we have all comments set to require moderation. It does add some work on our end as someone (usually me) reads each and every comment before it gets approved. Although it’s time consuming it does allow you to really know what’s going on with your blog and its readers. You can also set up email alerts so you’re notified each time someone submits a comment. If you have any more questions please feel free to email me at socialnetworking@carnival.com.

Good luck!
Stephanie

Erin W. Asked:
Dear John – Please Reply,
As I’ve told you before I am going on the April 18 sailing of the Glory – This will be my third time on this ship with Butch and the Glory gang in an 8 month time period! I will also be celebrating my 30th birthday on the 19th of that sailing (which by my calculation should be the Captains dinner!). As I have been in such a short time span I have made several friends on the crew and hope they will still be there this time!
Anyway my question is this: Butch has made my last two sailings amazing and I would like to bring him a little something – Any suggestions of what he may enjoy? Also do you know his T-shirt size? There is also a social host (Amy) that is quite amazing and her birthday happens to be a few days after mine – my question here is: What is her shirt size if you can find it? And are they allowed the drink coupons or other gifts from Bon Voyage?
Thanks John,
Erin

John Says:
Hello Erin
How wonderful that you think of the crew so much and the fact that this will be your third cruise on the Carnival Glory in eight months is simply brilliant. Butch wears size large…….the skinny git……..and my spies tell me she would be a medium. Now Butch loves hats……..baseball caps and any kind of headgear so I am sure a hat would be a great surprise gift for him. I wish I could be with you for this special birthday cruise and you can expect a little something from Butch and I, as well. Have fun and please tell Butch to do the funny walk for you.
Cheers
John

Susan Asked:
Hi John,
Just discovered and LOVE your humorous blog! I have some free time today and look forward to reading more!
My fiancé and I are getting married on the Miracle sailing Nov 4 from Ft Lauderdale. We have 10 guests sailing with us.
We very much hope that we can have our ceremony on the second day at sea (though we understand there are lots of other festivities to schedule on a cruise!)
We also want to treat our guests to the Supper Club that night…but how can we reserve if we don’t know the exact date of our wedding yet?
I’d be disappointed if we could not have our wedding dinner in the restaurant!
Thanks John…I am curious about how other brides have handled this?
Susan
Toronto, ON

John Says:
Hello Susan
Congratulations on your big day which will be here before you know it. Please don’t worry; I will be here to help you through it. Now……can you tell me if you booked the wedding through Carnival? If you did the wedding will most likely on the day you join the vessel unless you specifically asked for it to be held in one of the ports of call. Please let me know and I will follow up and nearer the time ………say………one month before just contact me via the blog and I will reserve the supper club for you. It will be a wonderful day and a brilliant cruise.
Best Wishes
John

Big Z Asked:

Hey John,
I am sailing with you on the Elation on April 16, 2009 to Ensenada, Mexico and I am proposing to my girlfriend, I want to make it special and unforgettable….I overheard her and her friends talking about how they wanted to be proposed to and she wants it to be public…so John is there anything you can do for me, this is our first time sailing, I got the ring and I got the girl, I want to be with for the rest of my life….what can John and Carnival do for us, to make this the most special moment ever?

Big Z

John Says:
Hello Big Z
Of course mate. Tell you what. Please remind me one week before you sail via the blog thingy and I will arrange for this to happen in a very special way. I will need both your names and your cabin number and we shall have you down on one knee in front of the whole ship……hope she says yes. Look forward to hearing from you in a few weeks
Cheers
John

Tina Tano Asked:
John Please Reply:
My family and I are cruising with friends that have never cruised before on the Caribbean Princess April 5 out of San Juan and recently realized that they are part of the Carnival extended family. Can you tell me how Princess compares to Carnival because I love Carnival and I am hoping we will have at least a similar experience aboard Princess? I know it won’t be the same without you as our CD.

John Says:
Hello Tina
Great question and let me see if I can do it justice. You know, if you were to line up the guests on the Caribbean Princess and the guests on say the Carnival Valor where I am now it would be impossible to tell them apart………unless of course everyone was wearing a Princess or Carnival T-shirt ………anyway, Princess have great shows, wonderful music and a relaxed and easy going atmosphere onboard. You may find a difference in ship lay out and design but overall I know you will have a great time. You must try Sabatini’s which is their family-style Italian restaurant where food never stops coming…………..it’s a personal favorite of mine. Also, treat yourself to day at sea in the Sanctuary. This costs $10 I believe and is the private adults-only deck with huge doublewide sun beds, massages and brilliant personal service. So, have fun and I would really like to know what you thought of your Princess experience when you get home so please write and let us all know.
Have a great time and my best to all the family

John

Bill Vogel Asked:
How do I get a REAL person to help me plan my 3/16 cruise for my wheelchair bound 12 year old? I can’t find anyone at Carnival that knows how to answer my questions about the accessibility of the excursions. I call the 800 numbers and wait for an average of 30-45 minutes. When I get someone on the phone, they have an attitude that they are doing me a favor by (halfheartedly) answering my questions. Do you know of someone with knowledge and the recognition that it is customers like me paying for space on the ship that allows for them to have a job? I simply want someone from Customer SERVICE rather than Customer Prison to help me. Any thoughts?

John Says:
Hello Bill
My apologies that so far you have not received the help you require to make your cruise a brilliant one. That’s about to change. Please send me a list of your concerns and questions and a will be here to help you as and when you need it. Again, my apologies and I hope to hear from you soon
Best Wishes
John

Gary Asked:
So what I want to know is a I have heard that sometimes they show the Rocky Horror Picture Show on the big screen any chance of us seeing it on our trip on the Valor on April 5th to 12th?

John Says:
Hello Gary
It seems that this is very popular on the big screen although I must admit I have my concerns about showing it due to its adult nature. However, as it is so popular I will order this for the Carnival Valor as you and many others have requested it. Do you know?…… I have never actually seen the film myself but have read some reports that it’s as bit “racy”……….anyway, I will have it hear for April
Cheers
John

I have lots more to answer and will promise to catch up with all the rest of your questions tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s blog will feature a fantastic Dear John letter from a Chile Jaime so please look out for that.

Here are a few letters I received on board for today’s In Their Own Words Section

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Now, many of you have been asking about the Carnival Pride and her Panama Canal voyage to Baltimore. It appears from your correspondence that there is still no information on two of the ports of call as far as the shore excursions are concerned. So, I asked my friend and department manager Bobby what was happening……here is his reply

Two ports on the above cruise, Puntarenas in Costa Rica and Cartagena in Colombia, are currently not loaded in the Web due to some behind the scene technical issues. We are hoping to have them for sale on the Web by 3/10. I apologize very much for this and as soon as they are ready I will tell John and he will let you all know. Once again my apologies.

Thanks Robert………who by the way used to work on board with me as a chief purser and I am very proud of his success…….I owe him $40 so hopefully that statement will keep him happy for a few more weeks until I have sold a few more bobble heads on eBay.

So, here we are in Roatan, Honduras, and the weather is a mixture of cloud and sun. I was at this point going to post the comments of the two people who demanded monetary compensation because we didn’t go to George Town yesterday and therefore they had to pay $6 cab fare……..but I couldn’t be bothered. That’s two people out of 3,200 guests who wanted their $6 per person cab fare returned………you don’t need me to say anything else really do you? The guests are all having a fantastic time and the mood on the ship is excellent. I walked around last night between shows and shook hands and hugged ladies and the spirit of fun that everyone at Carnival preaches was alive and well.

Anyway, I was talking to a group of spring breakers last night by the coffee shop. They were a fun bunch from a university called Brown………..at least that’s what I think they said unless it’s a nickname and colleges are now being called after colours.

Anyway………as I was talking to them I asked what they were doing in Roatan and Belize and while the girls said the usual beach and snorkeling stuff, the two guys said something different……they were going to go running and swimming to train for something called an Iron Man contest. They told me it is a three-day event with not much time off. In it they run, cycle, swim and hack their way through thick jungle in unbearable heat wearing little more than some sort of glorified thong. As they explained this to me, the college girls all swooned and pouted their lips. I can’t help but be impressed by the fact that they doe this but I also can’t help hating them for it.

There’s no rational reason for doing this sort of activity except to show off and to make people like me feel inadequate. Let me explain. The two guys are studying law at a university. So…….unless they intend to represent a hideous dictatorship who if they lose the case will imprison them in a ultra-hellish prison camp that they then have to escape from and survive until they reach freedom, there is no logical reason for training or competing in this sort of event.

It’s really all about machismo and bragging rights – something I totally understand – just don’t have access to… people who do Iron Man events and such are always the annoying types who wander into a situation when you are trying to impress a woman and you suddenly find yourself sitting alone in the corner munching on a large consolatory cheeseburger.

I may have mentioned before about Alison Sergeant who I was very keen on at school, and was making fairly good headway until an old “friend” turned up in town out of the blue. He was a physically imposing looking guy anyway but it soon turned out (because he wasted little time in telling us) that he had just completed the local marathon and won. He had photographs, then video footage and we had to listen to hours and hours of this bollocks. It was only at the end of the evening when my target girl disappeared off with this robo-athlete that I realised how attractive this sort of thing is to the opposite sex.

So I listened as they described what they were going to do and all the while I knew that our lives were very different. They would be having rumpy pumpy with a college girl and then taking their tanned and hard-as-iron bodies for a run in the jungle while would be ordering a BLT with cheese and taking my cuddly body to bed alone. They asked me if the Roatan jungles were safe to go running in………I, of course, said yes telling them that its fluffy place full of doe-eyed deer and baby birds and that nothing nasty ever happens there……but……I forgot to tell them about the snakes, poisonous frogs, Hummer-sized spiders and oh yes…….the cougars …… oops ……..Iron Man my arse.

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.