University Challenged

March 12, 2009 -

John Heald

Guest: Mr ___________–Ref: 836065611A
Cabin: _______ Booking#: ________ Added-Changed: 03/10/09 – 03/10/09

Guest came to the desk to complain about the University Challenge team activity because the team from University of Wisconsin had said the wrong answer but the staff member had said it was correct. Mr ________ said that he had done lots of checking on the internet and he had proof that the answer was not right. This meant that his team from the University of Georgia were the winners and should have the trophy. Guest then demanded that we refund him the $45 he spent on the ship Internet.
GSA tasked to Cruise Director

Oh Joy.

Well, I have nobody to blame but myself. I thought it might be a bit of fun to have our usually named Super Trivia team event changed to University Challenge. And it was ………. fun………with six teams from various universities and colleges taking part. The event was won by a team from the University of Wisconsin and all was well right up to the moment Mr. Brainbox decided to query one of the answers. I called student Brainbox a few minutes ago and woke him up…………well, it was 9:30 am…….and asked him what the problem was. I should have known this wasn’t going to go well when he started his reply with the word “dude” but I carried on regardless.

So, student Brainbox told me that what happened was “seriously uncool” and that the question that then other team answered was wrong. Now, at this point I should point out that the questions were obtained from the difficult version of Trivial Pursuit and with that in mind here is the question that was asked.

What is the world’s most popular surname? The card says the answer is “Muhammad.”
Student Brainbox told me he has irrefutable proof that the answer should be “Li”
I wanted to say ” Who really gives a #$%^”…….but instead I said “Oh…. how fascinating.” And what a mistake that was as he spent the next 10 minutes reading from his printed Internet findings the figures of the number of people who have the name Li compared to the recent world census carried out by …………………………………. ……………………………………………………………………. sorry, I fell asleep just typing that.

Boring the subject may have been but there was no doubting student Brainbox’s passion and I guess I was a little bit jealous of his academic skills. When I was at school in Essex, UK, academic success was not commonplace. If some kid did manage to pass an exam they’d be pictured in the local paper the Evening Echo, wearing a mortarboard and holding up a map of the world. The headline would invariably be something like: “Local girl is top of the swots.”

It was best not to wear your brain on your sleeve. I myself was loathe to raise my hand in class even when I knew the answer to the teacher’s question. I never told my friends that I was deliberately hiding my light under a bushel, partly because they would have beaten me with wet towels for being a nerd and partly because none of them knew what a bushel was. ……….. studying was for wimps. However, in my later years of education I started hanging out with Julian Fennel, Tony Lang and Colin Redwood. They had a different attitude to study. They seemed to see learning as cool – that it was OK to pass exams and get good essay grades – that brains were sexy.

Yet I have come full circle. This afternoon I met with Student Brainbox at his request and as he lectured me using words some of which contained three syllables I wanted to shove his bespectacled know-it-all face down the toilet……..I tried to tell him it was just a game …………just a bit of fun………….but he said that I was “recapitulating” and wasn’t listening. I didn’t think I was recapitulating ………..maybe it was the chili I had eaten at lunchtime.

And so, I sat and listened to this “human Google” for the next 20 minutes and pretend to enjoy looking at the facts and figures he presented me about the name Muhammad being more popular than Li ………….or was he Wong?

I offered to give the four members of his team trophies as well but this was not good enough………..he demanded a rematch as “the pride of the University of Georgia was at stake.” ………………………….pride ……………’s a trivia quiz.

And so, not having the winning team’s information I put out a general appeal over the PA for a representative of the University of Wisconsin to make them self-known. And unfortunately they did. After explaining the situation I was truly hoping that the team from Wisconsin would tell Student Brainbox to kiss their dairyair……..but they accepted and so on the last sea day there will be a rematch which I will be hosting myself and if it’s a tie with one question to go I shall ask “Supercalafragelisticexpialadocious” is a very long word …… do you spell it?

I hope Student Brainbox puts his hand up and says “Oohh……I know and he will spell…………….Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious correctly…………………..and I shall say” no mate, you just fell for the oldest school trick in the world……………the answer is “I T” ………………..recapitulation my arse.

I shall let you know who wins.

Here’s Jaime

March 10, 2009

Dear John,

This is it, the conclusion to the “South American adventure” part of the very first (and hopefully not the last) South American itinerary that the Carnival Cruise Lines has ever operated. After this we have only two ports left before returning to the United States! We visited Manta, Ecuador today. Upon arrival, it was obvious that we were within extremely close proximity to the equator because the intense heat and direct sunlight provided many of our guests with a complexion similar to that of a lobster served on formal night.

After our last day of tours and our monthly full crew boat drill completed, myself and some other members of the crew took the same route that the guests did for our lovely day in Manta. Right on the pier, welcoming us to the city was boats filled with tuna fisherman waving with open arms. The tuna they were catching were not baby chickens of the sea; they were the most enormous slimy smelly creatures that could not easily be recognized as “tuna.”

When the appeal of taking pictures of the fisherman wore off, and our bodies adjusted to the extreme humidity, those people who didn’t go out on organized tours either rode the complimentary shuttle to the entrance of the pier where they had options to relax on the blissful beach enjoy a cold drink and purchase some local crafts. Or they took the $10 hop on – hop off bus organized by Condor Travel to go see the hotel with internet access, visit an extensive traditional open Ecuadorian marketplace and finally experience a nice, air-conditioned mall.

Once we arrived at the arts and crafts market it was a great opportunity to buy straw “Panama hats” that are actually made here in Ecuador. These tightly woven hand made hats sell for up to $300 in the states, and can be purchased here for only $25! This in itself made the trip worthwhile! Other hand-made jewelry and crafts were at the market as well. In addition we had traditional live music playing such favorites as the Titanic theme song (I think they were mocking us!) As I walked around searching for the perfect accessories for my formal night attire, one of the men selling his goods expressed his interest in my Carnival Towel that I had brought in case we ended up at the beach. I greatly value and love my towel because it reminds me of my favorite place to work AND the place who provides all of my pay checks =).

This gentleman proposed to trade one of his beautiful pieces of jewelry for my ever-so-highly acclaimed towel. At first I didn’t want to give it up because as you know they are not only absorbent and classy but these towels are also a great way to clean up spilled beverages. After much haggling, I ended up getting a nice pearl necklace with a white shell in exchange for my navy blue irreplaceable, unique Carnival Towel. Good thing I am friends with the laundry manager who distributes the new towels ::wink::.

Also at the marketplace, Lawrence, our production singer, tried to refine his bartering skills by talking down the price of a locket necklace for his baby sister. When speaking turned out to be an unsuccessful method of price negotiation, he attempted to serenade the local vendor in exchange for a lower price. The woman clearly did not speak English, she looked scared, and wanted him to stop… so she lowered the cost of the locket from $25 to $20!

After we exhausted our monetary resources at the market place we pressed on to the next bus stop, the Manta Mall. On the drive over we saw very interesting buildings with bamboo scaffolding. I understand that they may have different building resources in the southern hemisphere, but it did not appear as if these homes under construction provided any shelter from any sort of precipitation that may pass through the city.

Good thing that their most fierce weather element is sunshine!

If there has one thing I have learned from visiting all of these foreign places it is: a mall is a mall is a mall… even though this one did contain significantly more incense and beads than I am used to. The vendors all accepted the US dollar as appropriate currency, so that was a nice change to our other recent ports. Some friends and I walked around the mall for a bit before enjoying our strawberry milkshakes and heading back to the ship. On the way back we saw the city’s tuna monument! Our wonderful guide Michelle told us all about Quito, the capital of Ecuador, which is only a one-hour flight away from Manta. Since Catholic is the main religion of this country, the capital city contains much of the Catholic heritage and history.

Back on board this evening we were crossing the imaginary line that separates the lower and upper hemisphere! Our equator crossing ceremony was a huge success with our emcee Goose, King Brad Neptune and Queen Jaime Neptune! All of the guests on board the Splendor at this time can happily consider themselves amongst a family of shellbacks.

You can look forward to my friend Susan’s report from Maccu Picchu in the coming days. She says it was absolutely remarkable.

The most enormous Tuna you have ever seen!!! Wonder what hormones this guy is taking?

A family at the handicrafts marketplace in downtown Manta.

Guests at the Equator crossing ceremony enjoying the Elite showband right before we crossed!

Queen Neptune, King Neptune, Lifeguard, Sailor Owen and Merman Lauren before the big Equator Crossing Ceremony!

Looking forward to sharing more soon!
=) Jaime

Great letter today Jaime and that was one big fish. I am very proud of the staff most of which I know. However, can we do an interview with the naturalist? I have heard so many great things about him……….why don’t you take a photo of him and ask him a few questions?………………we would love to know more. Thanks again, Jaime.
Time for another wonderful photo taken by the brilliant Geo featuring the Carnival Destiny in Dominica………………



As requested here is my Mum’s recipe for home made English scones

225g/8oz self raising flour
pinch of salt
55g/2oz butter
25g/1oz sultanas
25g/1oz caster sugar
150ml/5fl oz milk
1. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
2. Mix together the flour and salt and rub in the butter.
3. Stir in the sultanas, sugar and then the milk to get a soft dough.
4. Turn on to a floured work surface and knead very lightly. Pat out to a round 2cm/¾in thick. Use a 5cm/2in cutter to stamp out rounds and place on a baking sheet. Lightly knead together the rest of the dough and stamp out more scones to use it all up.
5. Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk. Bake for 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden.
6. Cool on a wire rack and serve with butter and good jam and maybe some clotted cream.

Thanks, Mum. I am sure you wont be able to find clotted cream in North America so serve double thick cream instead and see if your local Publix or deli has some English jam.

Let me know if you make them and have one for me……….made with Splenda not sugar.

Someone asked yesterday or the day before for me to help them book tours for their Carnival Freedom voyage next month. Apparently they could not see the port mentioned when trying to book excursions and were worried that this port may have been canceled. Well, I can confirm that it has not and the ship will indeed call at Nassau……. here’s why you couldn’t book your tours online

“We checked a couple of real “live/active” bookings to see if they are able to view tours in Nassau, and the problem is that the port does now show up in the drop down menu when logged in. Last I spoke with tech support they said that they changed the logic in the backend to where the port would NOT show up if tours were not loaded. In this case, tours ARE loaded but the port is still not showing up. I will see if someone has any further input on this issue.”

Good, that’s cleared that up then.

I think that means the site is buggered so my friends in Miami will work diligently as they always do to fix the problem and I thank them for doing so in advance.

So, on we rock to Cozumel and I mean really rock. We have 40 – 50 knots of wind and the ship is really pitching and rolling which has counteracted the spring breakers’ drinking and they are now walking in a straight line. The first magic show with Rand Woodbury was packed tonight yet the 10:30 pm show was unusually empty. This was of course I am sure due to the movement of the ship and the fact that the students are mostly on the late sitting and they are either in the dance club, karaoke or piano bar or are hugging the god of porcelain as the pitching and rolling plays havoc with their young stomachs that are full of Slippery Nipples and Grey Geese.

Did you know that back in the early 1990s we had a COUGAR that lived onboard? Rand Woodbury had Geo the Cougar as part of his amazing magic show. It lived in a special area on one of the open decks on the Celebration. The idea of the show was to change a beautiful dancer into Geo the Cougar. It was the highlight of the show.

After the miracle change, Rand would take Geo out of his cage and walk him around the stage on a long chain lead. During one show, Geo broke free, jumped off the stage and ran through the 800 people in the audience and out of the show room with Rand in hot pursuit. For some reason the guests thought that this was just part of the show and applauded and stood in a wonderful ovation oblivious to the fact that a 300-pound cougar was loose and could have bitten a head clean off with one chomp! Rand got hold of him and told me afterwards that Geo was more scared than the audience …….. scared my arse.

Rand has a new show here on the Carnival Valor which you must not miss.

Today I spent most of my time with Captain Augustino Fazio making a safety video for future guests of the Carnival Valor. This had nothing to do with the abandon ship drill or the correct way to put on your lifejacket. It did however cover many of the hazards that we try and make guests aware of to avoid accidents on board. So, with the help of some of the ships crew I helped write, produce and direct this epic.

I decided to make the captain the star. Safety is our priority so who better to cement this fact than the master of the vessel and so we toured the ship with the camera team filming a brief eight-minute catalogue of areas where we want our guests to exercise caution and care. Here is what we covered.

1. Grasping the handrail firmly when using stairs as the ship is in motion.
2. Being aware that the open decks may be wet and thus slippery. This could be due to weather, the washing and cleaning of the decks, people dripping water from the poles and whirlpools or spillage of drinks.
3. Being careful when walking the decks that you do not tip over chairs or deck chairs
4. In the cabin please be aware of the threshold leading into and out of the bathroom
5. When opening balcony doors please be aware it may be windy and the door could close suddenly so please keep your hands and fingers away from the hinges.
6. When climbing the ladder to get into or out of the bunk beds please make sure the ladder is attached firmly

So, using the captain and some crew we started making this very important film. It’s going to be no more than eight minutes long and will play in the guest cabins ………. we all feel this is very important……have we forgotten anything? If we have please let me know as always your feedback is so important.

I will be answering your comments marked for my reply tomorrow and always I thank you for all the postings…………I wanted to say thanks to Lance and Ilda for the great post regarding the dark and sinister Royal Champions………they have some great points and really sum up what many in the industry feel. In case you didn’t see it………….here it is.

Lance & Ilda
March 11th, 2009 at 10:47 pm
Hhhm. Irrational behavior from a fan of the “Whatever of the Seas.” Seems the runner-up cruise line has to resort to paying folks (some of which have never sailed on RCCL) to post “Positive” reviews on the popular cruise websites. How gauche! Actually, I’m not all that surprised, given the amount of money they dumped into such a weird and out-of-touch series of television ads. The ads actually reminded me of the Terry Gilliam animations from the classic Monty Python series, minus the imagination and irreverence.
It’s funny. I was at the stylist today getting my haircut and she asked me how my vacation was. I told her about our incredible experience in New Orleans and our volunteer work at Westside Park and then I mentioned that it was Carnival that setup the volunteer experience and presented the organization with a check for $5,000. I then talked about our cruise along the Mississippi and on to Mexico. She then hit me with that tired old misconception, “Oh, Carnival? I would never cruise with them, they have a lot of drunk, party people on their boats and the food is terrible. Royal Caribbean is SO much better.”
Well John, I suppose you can guess what happened next. I related the fact that, not only is Carnival Cruise Lines the most popular in the world, they consistently out-rank RCCL in almost ALL categories by the most respected names in the cruise industry. I also gave her an education on the Carnival cuisine and the heritage of George Blanc and his culinary institute. I also told her of our own blogger chef, Kevin McVeigh and how he applauded the chef on the Carnival Fantasy on the quality of the food. She was in shock. I told her that what she was referring to was based on mostly rumors and tired old misconceptions.
I was also speaking from experience, as Ilda and I sailed on the “Boring of the Seas” once. That was enough. It couldn’t come close to our collective experiences aboard the many fine Carnival ships we’ve cruised upon. Besides, the food was mediocre at best.
So, if “The whatever of the seas” has to resort to an under-handed, viral marketing to try and create a “buzz” about their product, it means only one thing. They are running scared!
Here’s to you, my friend. Give our best to Heidi and the Thingy.
Lance & Ilda

Enough said!

I mentioned the other day that the P&O ship Arcadia was sailing the Orient and now it’s the turn of Alistair and Cunard’s majestic Queen Victoria to visit the land of the rising sun. There are some amazing photos and as always I invite you to read the ship’s adventures at

One of the great things I have enjoyed about being here on the Carnival Valor is being able to meet up with old friends. I have been in Europe these past few years and that has meant I have been working alongside a different group of entertainers chosen specifically for the European voyages. However, here on the Carnival Valor I have seen old friends I have known for years and who, like myself, have grown up with Carnival.

One such chap is here with me this week. He has never married. He’s not gay or hideous, he doesn’t have hemorrhoids, halitosis, a twitch, a facial mole that sprouts a dozen hairs or a deformed thingy. He doesn’t live with his mother and he isn’t French.

He is independently wealthy, attractive, funny, amusing, and popular. He always used to have a girlfriend and each of these relationships trundled along, as relationships will, to that point where commitments had to be undertaken, questions asked that involve diamonds, placement cards and singing hymns in church. And at that point, they were gently dumped.

The reason he could never sign up to the Marriage Club is because he fears that all women are only really after his wealth and the family silver, and his handmade Italian shirts. He always thought that the evolutionary purpose of every woman is to find a male, steal his sperm, fleece him, skin him and throw him back, a broken and shivering poor person. Yet, I see him now after a long time and now I see a man who has suddenly gotten old overnight. He no longer has a girlfriend and …….well…….he looks sort of sad. I know he plaid the field for many years and I am sure all that rumpy pumpy and stuff must have given him many evenings of ecstasy………but now………well, he’s 60 and alone ………….and fell so very sorry for him.

Being alone in the cabin is hard and thank goodness I have Heidi to go home to. Usually when write these silly blogs I have to do so in silence so I concentrate but lately the silence has been driving me mad. And so I have been writing to either the accompaniment of music or the TV. The last few days it’s been the TV and as I speak I am watching Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA. I have seen this at home in the UK but never the American version and it’s fascinating. Ramsay swears his way through some more biohazard bistros or at least I think he does because in the States his naughty words are bleeped out. The best thing about the Americans is that they aren’t afraid to fight back. How this hasn’t yet resulted in a frying pan to the face for the smug bastard …….. oooo sorry………….the smug beeeeeeeeeeppppppppp, I don’t know.

I have also forced to myself to watch Deal or No Deal so I can hurl abuse at the shows non autograph giving beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepppppppppp………………….beeeeeepppppppppppp host .I guess watching the show is a chance to enjoy some banker bashing ……………………………..and in these uncertain times it may be the only chance a lot of us get.

I look at all the young kids onboard and I think again how lucky they are to be sailing on this brilliant ship and I think of my holidays when I was their age. I mentioned that we used to go camping but one year we went to something called Butlins. There really is now North American equivalent of this center of fun for the working class. The entertainers that work their are very similar to our own entertainment staff and in fact many of you know James Dunn, the assistant cruise director on the Carnival Freedom, who was “a red coat “as they are called due to their red blazers….similar to what we wear.

My Mum and Dad’s best friends, the Edwards, went all the time and I remember going with them one year. Their kids used to cause chaos: there was a game where the kids would chase Captain Hook around, all good fun, but my mates would hide in the bushes, jump out and properly mug him.

It was a fantastic holiday, though – there were girls, fights, freedom, and you could get into the 9-13 disco. I loved it.

My first holiday abroad was to Ibiza in Spain, when I was 19. I went with my mate Alan, but we were quite naive and ended up in a family hotel, so pickings were slim. I was a mass of hypochondria back then. Alan got bitten by a dog, and later he shook my hand, and I got it into my head that I had rabies. So, everywhere I went, I carried a glass of water, to see if I was becoming afraid of it.

The dog story is true and let me therefore finish with a story about me and my mate Alan and our spring break adventure.

Alan and I were on holiday in Spain. We were only 19 and it was our first real “boys” vacation ever. The first day by the pool Alan was eyeing up the beautiful women (and I think it was the men, but that’s a story for another day) when a lovely young lady came over and started talking to us. Her name was Bridgette (she was French). She was not a pretty girl but that did not matter as Alan is no oil painting and the two started getting on well. She asked Alan what he did for a living and I expected him to say that he worked in a bank but no, he says WE ARE BOTH VETS. She did not understand, so Alan then says – WE ARE ANIMAL DOCTORS….she now understood and seemed very impressed.

I just chuckled and got on reading my book and enjoying the sun. Now, fast forward two days. Alan is getting on famously with his new French friend who it turns out is staying with her Mum and dad and younger sister. So, there we were laying in our usual spot by the pool when all of a sudden I here a very loud French shriek “Alannnnnnn, Alannnnnnnnnn.“ Looking up, I see Bridgette and her young sister walking towards us holding A PUPPY! (Please read the next bit out loud using a French accent).

“Alannnnnnnnn,” says Bridgette, “We av found a petite dog and he as cut his leg, heeelp him.” Her sister, Melissa, who was only 14, is crying as she holds one of the many stray dogs that inhabit Spain.

(Back to the French accent) “Alannnnnnnnnnn, Johnny, please help this little thing as you are both animal doctors.” To make matters worse, the dog is looking at me as if to say, “Por Vavor……..helpo meo woofo…”

Alan, looks at me and says, “John will take care of him, he is the dog specialist” and then takes the dog from the very young Melissa and gives him to me. “Come on girls,” says Alan, “let John do what he has to and we will check on him later.” With that, he leads the girls off for an ice cream, leaving me and my new best friend El Spotto just standing there.

Now, I could have just put El Spotto on the floor and said adios but the animal lover in me (if it had been a cat it would have been a different story) said that I had to do something. I carried El Spotto to the front desk and asked if there was an animal shelter nearby. They made a call and one hour later a lady from the shelter came and took El Spotto away for medical treatment and hopefully to find a new home……………..and charged me 50 pesos which was half my holiday money………Las Bugger

When I saw Alan and his Frenchies later I explained that I had given El Spotto medical treatment and he was now a happy little doggy. I received big smiles and Mercies from everyone and I was a hero. Alannnnnn meanwhile continued to date this French girl for the two weeks we were in Spain and that proved that not only did he not give a damn about leaving his best mate on his own……….it also proved he had no sense of smell.

Lets finish today with some exciting news for the people of Baltimore and the surrounding area who are getting so excited about the pending arrival of the Carnival Pride………………if the ship is the main course…………… is the appetizer


BALTIMORE – (March 12, 2009) — Looking for a fun time? The Inner Harbor is the place to be on April 25th from 10:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. when Fun City: Baltimore, sails into town. The event is compliments of Carnival Cruise Lines and will raise funds for Maryland Special Olympics. A full schedule of exciting free events, activities and attractions, including a world record giant beach ball, artistic sand sculptures, live hip-hop dance performances, 3-D chalk art and more, will make up nine “Fun Spots” which will be sprinkled around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The event is a celebration to mark the start-up of Baltimore’s first-ever year-round cruise service on the 2,124-passenger Carnival Pride. The ship will arrive in Baltimore on Monday, April 27 and depart later that day on its first voyage from Charm City.

Other activities during Fun City: Baltimore will include a Carnival Fun Booth, Camp Carnival Kid Zone and an Interactive Aquarium. There will also be biodegradable balloon giveaways, photos opportunities, visits by Carnival’s mascot, “Fun Ship” Freddy and Fun Decoder cards which lead to several chances to win a free cruise, all while raising money for the Maryland Special Olympics.

Following is a rundown of events, all of which are free and open to the public:

•Carnival Fun Booth, located in front of the ESPN Zone near Pratt Street, will be an interactive booth where people can digitally record their own karaoke performance of popular songs and go on-line to obtain a free download.
•Located near the Fun Booth but closer to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, will be a beautifully crafted, detailed Sand Sculpture of the Carnival Pride created by award winning Master Sand Sculptor Chuck Feld.
•In the amphitheater, located between the Pratt and Light Street Pavilions, will be live performances by acrobatic teams, Motown-style singers, cruise directors and dancers from Carnival’s ships.
•Carnival’s huge Guinness Book of World Records Beach Ball will be located in McKeldin square and passers-by will have an opportunity to have their photo taken alongside it.
•3-D Chalk Art depicting Carnival Pride’s twister waterslide will be located on the corner of Pratt and Charles Streets. Extraordinarily talented chalk artist Michael W. Kirby will spend three to four days creating his fantastic, illusionary masterpiece to the delight of downtown workers who will have an opportunity to watch the transformation first-hand.
•Located in front of the Visitor Center will be free balloon giveaways and they’re biodegradable so they’re fun AND green!
•Kids of all ages will enjoy the Camp Carnival Kid Zone located near The West Shore Park. It will feature face painting, candy art machines, arts & crafts and games in addition to entertainment and fun music. Also, Carnival Water Wars, a game played with giant water balloons, will be available.
•Located at 111 South Calvert Street will be a special Interactive Aquarium where a vibrant, computer animated undersea universe of plant life and fish will react to the motion of passersby. Visitors can also dial a number on their cell phones to create their own, personalized fish and swim them around the tank. The Interactive Aquarium is already on display and will remain in place until April 27.
•An engaging, high-energy hip hop and acrobatic performance group will entertain visitors and those walking to the baseball game with performances in front of the new Hilton and across from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
•Throughout the day, Carnival Cruise Ambassadors will be handing out FREE “Fun Decoder” cards where participants can register on-line for five chances to win a Carnival Cruise. The contest takes place from April 1-May 9 and for every person who registers, a $1 donation will go directly to the Maryland Special Olympics.

The Carnival Pride will operate a mix of six-, seven- and eight-day cruises from April 27 through September 6, 2009 then begin a year-round seven-day cruise program departing every Sunday. The ship will alternate weekly between an Exotic Eastern Caribbean itinerary calling at Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands; and Half Moon Cay and Freeport, The Bahamas, and a Bahamas/Florida itinerary which visits Port Canaveral (near Orlando), Fla; and Nassau and Freeport, The Bahamas. Each voyage also includes three days at sea.

Carnival is the largest and most popular cruise line in the world, with 22 “Fun Ships” operating voyages ranging from three to 16 days in length to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England, Bermuda and Europe. The line currently has two new ships scheduled to debut between now and 2011.

For additional information and reservations on the “Fun Ship” vacation experience, call 1-800-327-9501 (individual) or 1-800-327-5782 (groups) or visit the line’s travel agent Internet portal,

Now, providing the Thingy does not make a really early appearance I will be there to help celebrate this special event with you all.

I miss the Carnival Splendor and I miss working with the great time there led by the irrepressible Captain Giorgio Pagano who made his acting debut in our recent commercial which is now playing………now when I say acting he probably did it in one take………………because he is a natural.
In case you haven’t seen it…………….here it is.


Get off my bridge……………………brilliant

Your friends
John, Heidi and the Thingy

Comment Policy

Look, friends — there are a few things you should remember before you comment. The space below is for you to post your comments about the post I've just written above. Now, while I may not be able to reply to your comment below, I do sit in my underpants almost every morning and read everything that is here. So feel free to comment on the comments and then if someone wants to comment on the comment to the comment then go ahead as well. Please be courteous, unless the poster is French...........then you can say whatever you want.

50 Responses to University Challenged

  1. Jeanette Williams says:

    My husband and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary on the Spirit on Oct 27,2008. Our kids ordered us a cake and a few other things. Upon our return home the kids asked how we liked our gifts. We informed them that we did’nt get our cake and some other things they sent to our cabin. Yes it was a disappointment. They had to prove that they ordered the cake. They did and their money was refunded. I realize people make mistakes. Guess where we will celebrate our 36th anniversary, on the Splendor on Oct 11,2009 with our kids grand kids and family and friends . Thanks for letting me vent. Congrats on the little thingy.

  2. Frank Rist says:

    Wow john how you find time to do this I am amazed. But let me say you are one brillant comedian. I just laugh myself till it hurts every time I read your posts about the complaints you get. I wish I could vent and respond in the way you wish. Being a part owner of a retail business it just makes me roll with laughter the demands you get seing I too have been hit with some strange and absurd ones too.

  3. Linda Hernacki says:

    LOVE that commercial! They need to put YOU in a commercial John! Linda & Mike

  4. dwa76 says:

    Hi John!
    What a packed blog today. Love the video and pictures.
    Sounds like Jaime had a great time in Ecuador. I can’t believe that voyage is almost over.
    Enjoy the trivia challenge. That should be interesting.
    The Baltimore event sounds like a fun day.
    Saw a huge CCL ad in my office building promoting cruises out of Galveston. I thought of you.
    Regards to Heidi/Thingy.
    Take care!

  5. Rositer11-Carnival lifer says:

    Love the new commercial John. Amazing blog keep them coming. Thank you for all you do for us. Also thank you for the scone recipe my wife and I are going to give them a go Saturday morning.

  6. monica says:

    I am proud to be a UGA alumni, but apologize for the big dork giving you a hard time this week. Kids, geesh!!

    We’ve also sailed Carnival 5 times, Disney 2 and that other line only once. The other ship was by far our least favorite cruise ever. We have no desire to sail with them again. The staff was “blah-“, shows just so-so, food very lacking in choice & comparison, rooms much smaller and general fun factor of ship in general just not up to par. We will continue to cruise with Carnival (and the big cheese, sorry but we love Disney too) as much as we possibly can.

  7. Kendra says:

    Who is the guy in the ad with Captain Pagano? Is he an actor or a Carnival employee?

  8. Tucker in Texas says:

    You don’t want to mess with trivia players! We are avid trivia players and have many times seen wrong answers in “the book” the hosts have. We might moan and groan a lot and say “we’ve been robbed” but in the end, we are there to have a good time and provides good conversation. The best one was a question that asked something about the vegetable that had the most calories. We guessed potato. The answer in the book–avocado. Of course, everyone protested avocado is not a vegetable, it’s a fruit, boo hiss. Later on the same cruise, the question came up what was the fruit with the most calories. Well we knew it wasn’t avocado, so I think we said banana. Wrong, that book said avocado. All the hosts we have had start right out saying whatever is in the book is what the correct answer is–right or wrong. I understand trivia is not an activity the social directors fight over to host (lol). Some of those people playing can be brutal!

    Tucker in Texas

  9. Linda (Mom of DJ) says:


    You know the saying… “no good deed will go unpunished”.

    Looks like Carnival is going to have to start printing disclaimers like “the answers to these questions are per the Trivia Game…Carnival accepts no responsibility if the Trivia Game company got it wrong.”

    I found this particular phrase amusing…”he demanded a rematch as “the pride of the University of Georgia was at stake.” Guess what, no amount of right answers is going to restore this guy’s pride. His actions flushed any chance of that.

    You did say “college” didn’t you? Sounds more like the 2nd grade class I do volunteer work with.

    On a lighter note….we LOVE James Dunn.
    We actually sailed with him years ago when the Conquest came out and he got stuck hosting karaoke one night. (that was before the days of dedicated karaoke hosts)

    We got a chance to visit on the Freedom in November and laugh about his less than enthusiastic days as karaoke host….as he sat on the edge of the stage (with his head in his hands) and said “next”…. that’s all he said….all night.
    It was a hoot!

    Linda ( Mom of your friend DJ)

  10. Stef aka Hockey Addict says:

    Hi John!!

    LOVE the new commercial.

    So after we see that you have some good college kids onboard we hear about the U of GA being a pain in the butt! I can’t believe they looked it up then wanted to be refunded for the internet bill! Geeez! Make sure you let us know the outcome of round two as you said… I hope they LOSE!!! =)

    Thanks again to Jaime and Geo! I really hope Jaime can contine to give us updates time to time in the future!

    The only thing I could think of to add to your video, which I am sure you do have already in there… would be what they mention onboard during the Muster Drill about carrying your life jackets. Make sure the strings are not dragging on the ground behind you. It could trip someone.

    Thanks to your mom for the recipie… I’m going to try it!!

    It’s funny you mention Gordon Ramsey… I was thinking the other day… I wonder if John’s ever been to one of his restaurants!! I love that show. I actually watch BBC America a lot!

    Thanks again!! Love love love your blog!


  11. Deborah says:

    Hi John,

    I do hope Carnival offers the S. American cruise again soon – I would have loved to have been part of that experience.

    Please Replay –
    I love Carnival’s food, especially their pasta salads, soups (love the strawberry), chocolate melting cake and the lobster served in the Super Club – yummm. I had a very good pasta salad on the Conquest back in 2003 and then again on the Valor in 2007 – it is Penne pasta with pears & prosciutto in a wonderful dressing. With Easter coming, I would love to make that salad to go with the traditional ham. Is there anyway of getting the recipe?

    All my best to you Heidi and Thingy


  12. Host Mach from Cruise Critic says:

    Bravo for Baltimore!! Bravo for Carnival for moving ships to where they are accessible!! Great job!

    I LOVE the new commercial! Brilliant! Some will complain that it does nothing to attract new folks to Carnival but I disagree. Any company that has a sense of humor will attract new customers. A company that is full of itself will do well to keep their current customers.

    Jaime’s ’round the horn adventure is nearing an end and she has been amazing with her reports. What an eventful, stunning adventure it must have been!!

    Please tell ‘dude’ to ‘chill’… There are SO many better things to do on a Carnival cruise than bickering over a perceived incorrect answer…

    For all my friends who were aboard the Blogger’s Cruise on the Fantasy I’m sure y’all remember Dave, jetskier. He was a font of knowledge, a source of wonderful humor and quite a sight on stage in his red… uhh… costume. Dave lost his dad today and I’m sure that he would appreciate thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time.


    Host Mach

  13. retirementman says:

    Good evening John. This blog is many so good for sheer enjoyment. First of all, that Brainless wonder who seems to screw up the enjoyment of an entire cruise for sheer stupidity. Have him go home and count his blocks the ones with the alphabet system on them.

    I’m glad that you made a video about the dangers that are the ship if you aren’t careful. There is one other thing that you forgot and it’s the one that I sent to you awhile ago. Holding on to something if the ship should lurch for some unknown reason. I still think there aren’t enough handles on the different wall of the bathroom. I mentioned that to you after my cruise on the Freedom where the ship moved while I was on the washroom and even though I tried to grab on, the only bar was the one over the toilet which was too far from where I was. My heels hit the bottom of the shower and I lost my balance and fell on my bottom and hit my head. If there had been more handles to grab I might have saved my butt and head. Thank God, both were OK.

    Now, finally the video with Captain Giorgio Pagano. It was amazing, fantasic and mindboggling. His one word was the entire video. I loved it.
    Thank you for a great night of enjoyment with this evening’s blog. Ciao my friend

    Paul F. Pietrangelo

  14. tracy says:

    john what did they do with that tuna? one time as we were boarding the ship for the first time before we sailed. in the water by the ship was a i cant rember what it was called but its protected in flits big and grey. hope the family is good.

  15. Rob says:


    As a University of Florida graduate, you have my sympathy. We are in the same conference with your friends form Georgia. I can attest that they are sore losers at everything. Perhaps the only thing Georgia is good at, is losing. Well a close second is their ability to complain about why they lost. To give you an idea how misguided they are, their school mascot is an English Bulldog(who has been neutered mind you). Now I ask you, if that makes sense? A bulldog from Georgia? The bottom line is the Georgia students have numerous issues to compensate for their universities shortcomings. Unfortuneately it only gets tougher for them as the become mature alumni. My guess is the Wisconsin students will show class and grace, Which the Georgia folks could learn from, during the rematch. So give them a little understanding. If needed on ESPN Classics, the have an old Georgia football game where they actually won. If you put it on the big screen, you will occupy them for the rest of the cruise and all will be happy.



    Will you be present for the Baltimore arrival of the Carnival Pride?


  17. Scott says:

    That commercial is the best so far!

  18. lou-anne says:

    wow , you must have really missed heidi , this was along read , I am so impressewd with the amount of everything in it . So its good , long , good , great reading . the university brainiac really needs to relax , what are other university students usually doing – um party , fun , give it up – its vacation , is he related to the passenger who was mad cause the president of the US was not being played for hours on the lido deck . whats up with all this serious stuff. Vacation is supposed to be that vacation , please find another question hardest one ever so its been a waste of time . and he should pay his own internet costs – draw the line – do not pay for that .
    well john I am sure |Heidi is missing you . have a great cruise week , enjoy that warmth , we are still looking for spring , warm weather is just not happening – uggggggggggg

  19. Stephen Smith says:

    Please Reply
    In response to your request for any additional ideas for the safety video, I have one. Given the large number of kids on board, how about a reminder of no running other than on the track. I have witnessed highly energized children take both themselves as well as innocent bystanders out in the name of who can get to the ice cream machine first. I realize the number of kids watching the video will be limited. However it might help the parent remind their child to be careful and respectful of other guests.

    Stephen Smith

  20. David Allen says:

    Dear John,
    Commerial (very funny!), tuna (wow!), college kids gone amok (Spring break is here!)……the real question is….”What are “sultanas” a Google lists both raisin or grape and “caster sugar?” I think it is “superfine” or powdered sugar?
    I’ve got to have a homemade scone…or should I say one of your Mum’s scones.
    Any help would be enormously appreciated.

  21. LisaK says:


    Thanks for making my day. Can’t wait for the Baltimore celebration.

    Also, love the new commercial with the Captain. And, very excited about the 7 day Alaska cruises out of Seattle…looks like we’ll make our first Alaska voyage in 2010.

    Take care,

    The Kilmartins

  22. Mary Lou & Lee Lovelace says:

    Dear John: Loved that commercial. The look on the Captains’s face, priceless. I agree you should make a commercial, you’d be a natural (and maybe you could replace some of that money AIG stole).

    Cheers, Mary Lou

  23. Ken M says:

    John, please reply. I plan on sailing the Valor on the 22nd and I’m worried that there’s not going be enough people around my age pal around with. I’m 25 from Cincinnati. Can you give me any incite on what to expect for my cruise?

  24. Jill C says:

    As an Emory University grad my boss (a BIG University of Georgia alum) never could understand why I chose to go to a school where they didn’t have a football team. I tried the reason I was more interested in a school whose goal it was to actually teach me something. Those boys can’t help acting like dumb ass jocks- despite higher education. Your blog made my point.

  25. Julie Gantt says:

    Hi John,

    Good Lord, what a saint you are to tolerate the brainiack. I hope you don’t come down with “something” and are unable to participate in the rematch.
    As far as the safety issues are concerned, you might want to tell people not to flush while they are sitting on the toilet. They may get stuck on the can and have to spend the rest of the cruise there.
    So, Lance was getting a hair cut when the subject of Carnival vs RC came up. I hope Lance didn’t come away bald!
    Great job and pictures Jamie!

    My sincere sympathy to Dave.

    Take care all,
    Julie Gantt

  26. Dave Carson says:

    Just for the record John – – – the most common surname (last name) is “Chang” but the most popular GIVEN name (first name) is “Muhammad.” So you see both the trivia card and Mr. Brainbox were incorrect.

  27. Michael says:

    Good morning John. Sallie and I are looking to relocate to the Peach State and experienced a peculiar phenomnon in the homes of the natives. At least one room was painted Bulldog Red! The ‘Boys from Athens’ may have had more than Georgia Moon in those mason jars they smuggled onboard. Check their cabins.
    Now about that bit of blaspheny you uttered. I’m pretty certain that the only thing you cannot find in North America right now is Osama Bin Laden. We found your Spotted Dick didn’t we? Clotted cream should be a snap.
    Here’s hoping ‘thingy’ departs the dock right on time. Fun Day in Baltimore would not be quite as much fun without you here.


  28. Loved the new commercial, John!


  29. Bill Heck says:

    Hi John:

    What in the world was the baby tuna doing in the elevator lobby of the Splendor? That girlie pink decor is a dead giveaway.

    Was he apprehended waiting to get on the elevator to get up to the Boofey on the Lido?

    I am sure there is a good story behind this picture. How about it Jamie?

    Nice story John, right fighters are thick some days.

    your friend

    Bill “Muhammed Chang” Heck

  30. Stacie Soontiens says:

    Hi John,
    We were on the Valor last week and really enjoyed your entertainment. Just wondering however, why you didn’t come with us on the “Caverns by Jeep” excursion in Mexico? Was it because you just couldn’t face that puke ferry? We did survive the journey, barely, but we were disapointed that we didn’t get to meet you.
    Maybe next time.
    Stacie Soontiens and family.

  31. Stacie Soontiens Please Reply says:

    Hi John, Please Reply
    We were on the Valor last week and really enjoyed your entertainment. Just wondering however, why you didn’t come with us on the “Caverns by Jeep” excursion in Mexico? Was it because you just couldn’t face that puke ferry? We did survive the journey, barely, but we were disapointed that we didn’t get to meet you.
    Maybe next time.
    Stacie Soontiens and family.

  32. RBGates says:

    Love the new commercial with Captain Pagano. That is the best one yet!
    I’m happy that Carnival is offering more sailings from close-to-home ports such as Baltimore. Also glad to hear that there will be more sailings from Seattle. With the economy in such an unsettled state and the airline industry in chaos it is helpful to have more US ports to sail from.

  33. Cheryl says:

    John, I am so jealous that I wasn’t still on the Splendor for the second Equator crossing but the first one was awesome! You should interview Dirk, the naturalist that did the narration and seminars. He was so good and made everything so exciting and interesting.

    Honestly, the commercial with Capt. Pagano is so funny that everyone is talking about it. He is now a celebrity! I wish we knew about it when we were on the Splendor so I could have told him how great he was.

    Trivia…..another great subject. While on the Splendor I could not believe how childish people would be over these “games” and cut throat too–I kept thinking we must be playing for free cruises here instead of the plastic medals or ship on a stick. There was a group that won most of the competitions. They had a book they swore they weren’t using except to check “contested answers”. They would argue with the person from the entertainment team that was the moderator about everything until it became uncomfortable to even be there. I just don’t understand this mentality–you are on vacation–the trip of a lifetime actually and this is supposed to be a fun “game” people. I have to say that yours truly and other members of my team did actually win the coveted “Ship on a Stick” with Jaime moderating the TV Theme song trivia. We decided that we aced that one because the usual “trivia book people” as we referred to them didn’t show up and because our team spent way too much time watching TV.

  34. Roxianne says:

    JOHN – Please Reply!

    I heard the Carnival is going to an open seating plan for dinners in the formal dining rooms. Is it true??? This is a very BAD idea!! We made the mistake of going on a NCL cruise once and they already do the open seating and it sucks! You get a different waiter every night so you don’t get to know “your waiter”. You don’t get the “good evening Mr & Mrs So-n-So” on evening two. NCL also has a standard menu that is used every night, like a restaurant menu. We love the fact that when I go into the dining room on a Carnival Cruise, our waiter knows our names and the menu is a superise and different than the night before(we know it’s posted during the day, but we don’t look). So tell me, is it really true?

  35. Tom & Jane says:

    Linda H

    did you get your john goodies ?????

  36. Tom & Jane says:

    common name !


    your on V A C A T I O N


  37. Mayla says:

    Remember when college kids on a cruise couldn’t spell their own name due to alcohol intake~!
    You truly are a good man John

  38. Slickabrina says:

    John – PLEASE REPLY….

    First, I want to say how much I enjoy your cruise guest stories. Just goes to show how high maintenance some people are!

    Second, while on the Blogger’s/Blooger’s cruise, I had asked about the possibility that Elation might be returning to Cabo. You had said there would be some news on Elation in a few weeks. I’ve been busy studying for a state licensing exam (which I passed, phew!) and have not been able to check the blog regularly. Is there still an announcement in the works?

    As a West Coast cruiser, I think it’s silly to have 2 ships doing the same exact itinerary. I will be on Splendor next month but in terms of a quick getaway, I feel like there are limited options. And while this is just my opinion, Catalina or Ensenada don’t have much appeal to me as cruise destinations.

    Thanks for any info!!

  39. "BIG" ED says:

    John, Carnival is going to Baltimore but I’m still hoping that they will come to the Great Lakes. With all the great ports cities around the Great Lakes it would make for great cruises. All us northern snowbirds have all those Florida ports to run to to get away from the cold of winter. Now those in the south need a cruise port to run away from the summer heat. Carnival’s ship builder, Fincantieri, even has a shipyard to build a ship for Carnival right on the Great Lakes.

    BIG ED
    Future Great Lakes Port Agent

  40. mickeyspal says:

    “We have 40 – 50 knots of wind and the ship is really pitching and rolling which has counteracted the spring breakers’ drinking and they are now walking in a straight line.”

    John, for some reason that line really cracked me up! I guess I have a weird sense of humor.

    Trivial Pursuit? The host should be the final word…or, actually, the word in the host’s “book” should be final.

    Safety? Don’t sit on, or lean out over, the deck railings unless you have a death wish!

    Great commercial! Love the look on Captain Pagano’s face.

    Hi to Heidi and Thingy.

    Your Pal, Myra

  41. lilof98 says:

    I see that you mentioned something about not tripping in/out of the bathroom, and Paul P. said something about other bathroom hazards, but you should mention about using the grab bars in the shower when the ship is moving. When it’s wet and slippery and your eyes are closed to rinse your hair, the ship seems to move more unexpectedly than it does when you’re just walking around the ship.

    Also, you should talk about safety issues while using the gangway and/or getting in and out of tenders. These areas can be slippery too, and the tenders bounce with the waves, so climbing in and out can be hazardous for some passengers.

    Back to the cabin, you should remind guests to lock their valuables in their cabin safe when they are not needed. As soon as I get onboard, I put my passports, airline tickets, cash, jewelry, credit cards, etc. in the safe and only take out what I need to go ashore.

    On the recent topic of tipping, I don’t believe anyone has mentioned that one reason that tips were added to the cabin charges was to solve the problem of how to tip wait staff in the alternative or open seating dining rooms when you may only see them once during the cruise.

    When everyone had traditional dining, passengers would see their wait staff on the last night at sea, and that’s when they would distribute the tips. If that continued, many staff who provided services wouldn’t receive tips if you only saw them once or twice earlier in the cruise.

  42. Elaine says:

    No reply necessary…


    In under 2 months time, you’re going to wish for the silence!!! I’m so sorry that you’re feeling so lonely for Heidi but soon enough you will be with her.

    And you have made my parents day (Naomi & Marty). They loved that you answered them… and trust me when I tell you, very little gets my dad excited!!


    To Dave/Jetskier,

    My thoughts are with you and your family at this time. Remember all the good times you shared with dad.

  43. Mike & Lori Drew says:


    You should ask Mr. Brains how much of his time on the internet was spent looking up other things he personally wanted to find or emailing his friends. I bet you would find out that very little was spent actually researching a trivia question!

    Love the new commercial. The look on that captains face is priceless.

    Great pics Jamie!

    Give our love to Heidi & Thingy and keep the laughs coming!

    Mike & Lori

  44. Melissa (please reply) says:

    John, (Please Reply)
    I asked a few weeks ago if there were going to be any updates on the Dream before you went to the shipyards in April. You posted some pictures on the blog thingy here a few days later but they were all pictures that are already on the ship’s webpage on Carnival’site. The last posting there was 1-30-09 and it was the interview with the new Captain of the ship. Are we going to get anything new before April?????? Please!!!!!!! 🙂

  45. Dave,

    Sorry to hear about your Dad. I lost mine in 2003. There really are no words.


  46. annemarie says:

    to your poor, lonely, unmarried friend: i’d go on a blind date with him. the number one thing i look for is a guy that can make me laugh, and seeing as how you are taken, i’d go to dinner with him.
    i’m not looking for marriage, although i do like jewelry and wouldn’t turn down a ring!, i’m not into family silver as it all needs to be polished, italian shirts? wouldn’t know one if it pinched my butt. i don’t want his money (i wouln’t know what to do with it other than buy groceries for people who haven’t any which i already do), i’ve already had my children, so he can keep his sperm to himself (besides, its been so long, i’m not sure what rumpy pumpy is. watched the english patient last night and if that’s how its done nowadays, i’ll pass. or if that’s how the english do it nowadays, i’ll pass on that too!). i hope your friend cheers up just knowing he can still be interesting and friendly to people.

  47. Mike & Lori says:


    Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time of sorrow.

    Mike & Lori

  48. Hi John
    Great Blog as Usual
    El Spoto LOL
    To the University losers,”picky picky picky”
    To Jamie, fantastic report & pictures,
    Captain Giorgio Pagano GREAT COMMERCIAL!
    No ACTING Needed!
    Take Care
    The Tuckers
    Elizabeth missing Arnold

  49. Pingback: Top Posts «

  50. Catmama044 says:

    Dave/Jetskier: our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Baltimore: how many are going?

    My favorite tag-line from the new commercials: Buckle up buttercup! Makes me laugh hysterically every time.

    Have a fun-tastic day everyone!


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