Thingy Advice

March 17, 2009 -

John Heald

I had the strangest chat today with a guest who wanted to place our blog thingy on something called the Huffington Post. I was sitting waiting for David ……… sorry ………. Charlie to start his travel talk when a man came and sat next to me. I knew immediately he recognized me because the lounge was pretty empty and unless he sat next to me with his thigh touching mine because he found me attractive in a cute sort of Dom De Luise type of way……..that he either had sailed with me before of read the blog.

The answer was actually both.

He asked if he could chat with me after the talk to which I agreed and when we did that was when he started talking about this Huffington thingy and how I should be on it. I have never heard of this site before but apparently he wants to link or attach or glue the blog this publication. Since I had no idea what he was talking about and because he had a beard……….I said I would check with Vance in our PR department.

He then asked me if I could answer this question which he wanted to post on this own blog……………here’s the question.

“What advice would you give to people who are thinking about starting a blog based on both their working and personal life.”

Now, I thought about this and wrote “don’t do it – The End.”

But remembering that he had a beard and therefore may be a potential axe-wielding maniac, I decided to give his question a little more attention and so here is what I wrote.

Start blogging and you will initially be lulled into a false sense of security by the ease with which you just knock out a few paragraphs and click send to Stephanie. At once, there it is, out there for all to see. Remember, I do mean “all.” There’s big difference from you sitting at your computer and then finding what you just wrote being instantly visible to the entire world. Try to think of it as like stepping out of the toilet with a wet spot on your pants to find yourself standing in the middle of the field during the Super Bowl.

It will start slowly but if you write from the heart about the good the bad, the ugly and the French the readers will come. Once they do, a few will stay. You will acquire regulars. You’ll get to know them. If they stay away for a while, you’ll miss them. You’ll feel somehow responsible for and to them. This is weird, I know, but then good things start to happen and suddenly you have a huge group of family and friends scattered across the world wide thingy. This, combined with the relief involved in getting something instantly off my chest, is what keeps me blogging. There are days I want to quit, I really do. I dream of going cold turkey. But I never do and I am lost in this blog thingy which I truly adore.

And that’s what I gave him…………………on second thoughts I should have given him my first answer. And after discussion with the experts (Stephanie and Vance) we have decided to keep the entire blog thingy in-house – meaning that we therefore won’t be linking this site or any for that matter.

So, back to life onboard. Yesterday was a slow day for me as I shadow David …………… sorry…………actually you know what I am just going to give the man a sign like Prince had because I keep writing the wrong bloody name……….so…….yesterday was a slow day for me as I shadowed $% around trying to help him through the slings and arrows of being a cruise director.

Overall he did well and the guests seem to be responding to him. There was one nasty moment when a well-meaning guest came over while myself and $% were having a coffee on promenade deck and told me that $% “couldn’t hold a candle to you.” I explained that while $% was on only his third week as a CD, I had been doing it for 17 years and tried to laugh the whole thing off. I felt really bad for $% and if he wasn’t so ugly and smelt of rotten tuna ……..I would have given him a hug. I know the guest was disappointed that I was not the CD but ………..well………… know.

I also helped $% deal with this tricky comment.

Sent: Monday, March 16, 2009 10:15PM
Hello Charlie,
Mrs.________ came to the desk after the show to say how upset she was that there were no African American people in the cast during the Nightclub Express show. Guest was disappointed that during the Cotton Club part especially. She wants to speak to you Charlie so please contact her.
Kind regards,
Guest Services Associate | Carnival Valor

$% called me and asked for my assistance on this and I was able to give it because this is not the first time I have faced a reaction like this. So, I guided $% through the answer which is a very simple one indeed. We hire the best dancers and singers who show up at our auditions………that’s it……and with 22 ships to cast twice a year we certainly don’t have the luxury to worry about skin color. We have diverse casts and in fact had this lady been here just two weeks ago she would have seen Will Stithe who is not only a brilliant and charismatic singer but a brilliant and charismatic singer who is African-American.

However, I also told $% that it is understandable that a guest may be upset when her heritage is portrayed in a way that she didn’t feel was justified.

And so, armed with these responses I accompanied $% to meet the guest this morning. I introduced myself but let $% do most of the talking. At first the guest was a little combatant but after hearing the explanation she began to understand and actually admitted she had really enjoyed the show.

$% did well and hopefully this guest will continue to enjoy all our brilliant entertainment on board.

Let’s see if Jaime has recovered from her bungee jump to write another Dear John letter.

March 16, 2009

Dear John,

During this 49-day voyage we have been fortunate enough to have a handful of extremely talented additional team members within our entertainment arsenal that have assisted in our tireless mission of providing extensive programming throughout all of our sea days. Within this group of bonus team members we have: the positive, hard working and extremely graceful ballroom dance instructors, Bruce and Sharon. We are lucky to have with us the incredibly patient and kind bridge instructors, Don and Jackie. In addition, on board are the tenacious and creative art directors, Barbara and Martha – who are really everything art directors should be.

We also are fortunate to feature one of my personal favorites MickeyLive and the wonderful Becca (who actually were not sent from home office, but are still is an amazing addition to our programming lineup.) They provide technology seminars with an excellent combination of education and humor. MickeyLive is two great things in one – like shampoo and conditioner… with less hair. It has been so wonderful to see so many guests on board step up to share their talents and skills with their peers. In addition to these wonderful teams of talent, believe it or not we do indeed have yet another amazing asset (yes, it is a long list of incredible crew members on the Splendor) it is our naturalist on board. His name is Dirk and he has been sailing with us for the entire duration of this 49-day adventure. He shares with our guests both historical and educational material about pretty much everything that we pass by, go over, travel through, dock in, or come within close proximity to. In addition, he also discusses daily planning recommendations, safety precautions and tips and tricks about each of our ports of call. Dirk has received absolutely tremendous guest response throughout this entire voyage, and as per John’s request, I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Dirk to find out a little more about him, his background, and what he does.

Where are you from? “At this time I now live in Colorado, although I have spent most of my life living in Hawaii.”

How did you get into this crazy cruising business? “Originally I was in hotel management in Hawaii, after that I began chasing humpback whales for a living. I started my career as a whale naturalist. The whales would leave Hawaii every summer and were bound for Alaska. I began in the cruise industry in 1993 when friends recommend me to the cruise line Holland America. Since that time, I have been to Alaska every summer all summer (with the exception of two) when I spent time working for a whale watching company. In my first contract with Holland America, worked for the shore excursion department.”

Where are your favorite places to visit? “Favorites are most definitely Alaska, Hawaii, South America and the South Pacific. As of now have I have not had the opportunity to experience anything within the Orient so there is still some more of the world to see!”

How did you begin working for Carnival? “My friend Michelle Morris who is the naturalist on the Carnival Spirit recommended me. Shortly after, the head of entertainment, none other Roger Blum, contacted me directly. The rest is history.”

What has been your favorite thing about being on board? “I have received such great exposure to the guests. They have all been remarkable and had such great feedback. If I can affect one person’s trip then I am successful. My favorite comment from the guests has been hearing that they took my recommendation and it was great. The fact that I can have a positive impact – maybe someone has had a lifetime memory because of my recommendation. That is what makes my job worthwhile.”

Where is your next destination? “I hope to head to New Zealand and Australia. New Zealand has a lot of same characteristics that I am accustomed to – open natural spaces, glaciers and whales. I would love to experience this part of the world. For now, I work as an independent contractor. I would be extremely happy to work with Carnival in the future, based on the need. Either filling in for Michelle and going on the Spirit – therefore doing the naturalist position as well as providing port talks.”

What do you miss most about being home? “I miss my dog.”

Would you like to do this again? “I would love to see have the opportunity of doing this again. A lot of people want this itinerary.. feedback has been great about these adventure-type cruises especially now since it is affordable to many people. I am fortunate to cruise as a guest lecturer, so I get the chance to be a fellow guest in addition to working and educating people about my passion.”

Do you have anything else you would like to share? “I believe you can do anything enthusiastically and it makes a big difference. My favorite travel quote from Hans Christian Anderson: ‘To travel is to Live’ – which has now become my cruising motto.”

Thank you so much to Dirk who for taking the time to share with us a little bit of his history and giving us a slight glimpse as to what makes you so great. We are so fortunate to have him and our other guest activity providers on board throughout this entire journey. The ship, the guests and the crew will greatly miss them when they leave us in just a few more days.

I am looking forward to sharing with you the last few days of this incredible itinerary.

Take Care,
Jaime =)

Thanks Jaime and thanks to Dirk who along with Jaime’s long red socks seems to have been one of the highlights of this amazing voyage. Thanks Dirk and your interview I am sure has inspired many to keep traveling and to keep cruising…………we thank and congratulate you for your hard work and dedication.

Time to answer some of your comments marked for my reply.

Stacie Soontiens Asked:
Please Reply
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 disappointed that we didn’t get to meet you.
Maybe next time.
Stacie Soontiens and family.

John Says:
Hello Stacie
I am so glad you have such a great time and thanks so much for saying how much you enjoyed the entertainment. I truly wanted to go on the jeep tour but as normally happens when I want to plan something fun something called “work” rears its ugly head and buggers up my plans. I hope you enjoyed the caverns and the thrill of driving the jeeps around Mexico and once again my apologies for not being there. I am so glad you have found the blog thingy and I hope the next time you cruise we will get to spend time together.
My best to you and the family

Hi John,
I would like to request that Carnival consider adding captions (or subtitles) to their movies shown on the big screen.
Being hearing impaired I can’t watch and enjoy movies without the aid of captions. I would think that there are probably many others who would benefit from captions.
Please respond if you can.

John Says:
Hello JBraabe
Well, I originally thought this would be an easy thing to do but I guess knowing nothing about things like TVs and computers, etc. has showed me what an idiot I am once again. I checked with our audio visual manager who informs me that the movies we play are sent on something called an M peg and do not have the usual facilities that your usual home rental movies do……………like subtitles. So, at this point all I can offer you is an apology but mixed in there is that our shoreside folks are currently evaluating how we might be able to make this available in the future.
I am so sorry and if there is anything else you can think of to make your cruise more enjoyable please would you let me know.
Best Wishes

Melissa Asked:
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!!!!!!! 🙂

John Says:
Hello Melissa
Well, there is nothing to report yet however all that is going to change in April. Right now the public areas are slowly starting to take shape and then in mid-April she will undergo her sea trials where different aspects of her seagoing abilities will be tested. So, once that is over she will return to the shipyard and I will pop over for a visit and I promise you some new and exciting footage. You sound so excited about this ship and having visited twice myself………………I can understand why.
Watch this space
Thanks Melissa and my best wishes to you and the family

Frank Rist Asked:
Hi John,
Please respond
My wife and I will be sailing on the miracle in just about 3 weeks from Monday. My wife just loves your blog and goes out of her way to always read your blogs and laugh (along with me) at your posts. Herself being from Bristol, UK she just enjoys your humor. We also go out of our way to show your blog to others not to mention your you tube videos. She just always looks forward to your posts as a daily pick me up. She is a High School teacher and is exhausted every day when she comes home until she reads your blog. I have read on here where you sometimes send a little something to a cabin for bloggers. Is there anyway I can get you to do that for us or mainly for her? She has been counting down this cruise and can’t wait to get away from those teenage brats and government dummies that what to cut here and other teachers funding. We will be on the miracle in 6203, booking number ####. Can you just email me directly or maybe just say all taken care of in your post on here? As she reads this ever day. I would like it to be a surprise for her to make her cruise even better.
Thank You so much
As Always a BIG fan
Frank Rist
P.s. Be glad she wasn’t the one on the cruise dealing with the university challenge. I tried your line about supercallifragi-something and spell it. And her response “it”. ARGGGGHH again the English humor in her.

John Says:
Hello Frank
As a son of a school teacher, I know just how hard your wife works and how so underappreciated the teaching profession sometimes is. It will be therefore my honor to send her a little thank you when you cruise next month on the Carnival Miracle. Please though can you remind me the week before you sail as I have a mind like Swiss cheese. I am so glad that you enjoy the blog and I send my very best wishes to you both

Cheri bolchoz Asked:
Please Reply
I got your email- Are you there? On 3/8 I did email you back, not sure if you got it. I know you stay quite busy. Hope all is well with you, Heidi & the baby
We are looking forward to sailing on the Fascination on April 4. Michael was looking up info & can’t find anything about the big screen on Lido on the Fascination. Does it have one, like on the Carnival Freedom?
Do you know anything about the horseback riding in Half Moon Cay? We think we might like to try this
Thanks for all you do.
Love Cheri & Mike
JOHN – Please Reply!

John Says:
Hello Cheri and Mike:
It’s great to hear from you as always. The Carnival Fascination does not have a Seaside Theatre big screen however with the recent upgrades she looks fantastic. As for Half Moon Cay………well it’s a slice of heaven and one of the best places I have ever visited that oozes total relaxation. The horseback riding tour is part beach and part wilderness and from what our shore excursion manager here told me it is one of the best two horsey tours we offer along with the one in San Juan, Puerto Rico (hi Nanny.)
If you are considering doing this tour and have further questions please would you let me know?
Until then I wish you both well and hope to see you soon

Roxianne Asked:
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?

John Says:
Hello Roxanne
I think “sucks” is rather a strong word to describe open sitting dinner as it has already proven to be a huge hit on the Carnival Liberty and Carnival Legend. There are indeed plans to put this on other ships as well but fear not…………we will continue to give guest a choice between assigned dining and open sitting so in fact……….you have the best of both worlds…………….and that certainly doesn’t “suck.”
Please let me know if you have any other concerns and I will remain at your service until then

kiciaski Asked:
Hi John,
Could you please tell us a little about David Tancock – aka Charlie Davidson? Where is he from? Does he do a morning show? Since we won’t have you as CD we can plan for David/Charlie.
If you’re planning another Blogger’s cruise maybe you could consider the 2/13/10 on the Dream.
Only a couple of more days as CD and then you’re jetting off again.
Hope Heidi is doing well.
Linda & George

John Says:
Hello Linda and George
It’s great to hear from you. I will have to start thinking about 2010 Bloggers Cruises and I am sure the Carnival Dream will figure into the mix
Here’s David –
Hello everyone I started Carnival Cruise Lines on 10 June 2002 and have worked my way from Entertainment Staff to Assistant Cruise Director. I have from the UK and I hope that I can prove to everyone that I can be the Best Cruise Director Carnival have ever had, I have enjoyed watching and learning from John but I want him to leave now 🙂 wish me luck Charlie.
Thanks $% and we all certainly wish you all the best.
My best to you both and hope to see you soon

I will answer more of your questions and comments tomorrow and if there is anything else I can do for you please let me know.

Speaking of cruise directors can you help me wish a Happy Anniversary to Lenny Halliday who is currently serving on the Carnival Legend. This crooner from Liverpool has served 18 years as a CD today and we all wish him many congratulations and hope we get to see his Tom Jones impression for many more years to come. Lenny has also produced a CD featuring all of Fun Ship Freddy’s favorite songs and these fun and happy discs which kids of all ages will love are now available onboard from the Camp Carnival staff.
Congratulations mate.

Well, we are in Grand Cayman and $%’s first week a s CD has brought great fortune with the weather as we tender guests ashore on a mirror like sea. I am stuck onboard again completing the final stages of the safety vide with Captain Fazio. Then I guess I will have to start to pack and prepare to bugger off again………at least $% will be happy.

I have never been to Hawaii and my shipmates who have boasted of its incredible diversity, endless sunshine and crystal clear seas. So imagine all of that plus the fun and affordable value of a Carnival Cruise. Here are two such cruises on the Carnival Spirit……………I might just put myself down as the CD for these.

12-Day Ensenada to Honolulu, Departure Date April 11, 2010
Date Day Port Arrive Depart
4/11/10 Sun. Ensenada* 9:00 PM
4/12-16 Mon-Fri.”Fun Days” at Sea
4/17 Sat Hilo, Hawaii 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
4/18 Sun. Kahului, Maui* 8:00 AM –
4/19 Mon. Kahului, Maui – 6:00 PM
4/20 Tues. Kona, Hawaii 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
4/21 Wed. Nawiliwili, Kauai 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
4/22 Thurs. Honolulu, Oahu* * 8:00 AM –
4/23 Fri. Honolulu, Oahu (debark) – 8:00 AM
** Overnight aboard Ship
12-Day Honolulu to Vancouver, Departure Date April 23, 2010
Date Day Port Arrive Depart
4/23/10 Fri. Honolulu, Oahu (embark)* 1:00 PM –
4/24 Sat. Honolulu, Oahu – 6:00 PM
4/25 Sun. Nawiliwili, Kauai 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
4/26 Mon. Kona, Hawaii 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
4/27 Tues. Hilo, Hawaii 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
4/28 Wed. Kahului, Maui* 8:00 AM –
4/29 Thurs. Kahului, Maui – 6:00 PM
4/30-5/4 Fri-Tues”Fun Days” at Sea
5/5 Wed. Vancouver (Canada Place) 8:00 AM
* Overnight aboard Ship

If you have any questions about this brilliant itinerary please let me know.

Oh, that’s great news…………sorry………..let me explain. While I am writing this blog thingy I have CNN International playing on the TV and they just told me that very soon the ban on taking liquids on planes will be lifted…………….Praise the Lord.

Since the ban came in the airside shops have done very well out of it, selling bottles of water and other soft drinks at inflated prices to a captive market. Terrorism was designed to disrupt our way of life. I always thought that bans like this indicates to terrorists we are willing to have our lives disrupted. …………I never thought I’d see the day when I’d lose a can of Diet bloody Coke because it could be a weapon……..lets hope it is lifted soon as I am always so embarrassed when going on one of the many trans-Atlantic flights I do to have to put my tube of Extra Strength Hemorrhoid Cream in a see through plastic bag.

A man goes into a doctors wrapped only in cling wrap……………the doctor says “Sir, I can clearly see your nuts.”


Heidi is really ready for me to come home. She mentioned that she has been learning some new recipes.

There is a similar answer to the question of food. Every night, she has been watching some over paid celebrity chef like Gordon Oliver and Jamie Ramsey or Amille Thingy on television to learn how to make a lemon sauce for your shrimp and how jalapeno peppers go very well with avocado. I have told her how much I am looking forward to this but that’s a lie………. because we all know that what I want is bacon and eggs.

I can have it for breakfast, lunch and supper. It works with ketchup just as well as it works with Tabasco. You can make it in five minutes ….yes…….even me. And it’s impossible to get the recipe wrong. Indeed, I have decided there is a simple answer to every choice we face in the world today. Brand of television? Sony. Music? Deep Purple. Pin-u? Jessica Simpson. Car. Aston Martin DBS. Cruise line? Carnival.

European country to visit? Italy….not France which only exists so you can drive to Italy.

As I mentioned, I have met many guests these past few weeks here on the Carnival Valor who read the blog thingy and all of whom have their advice and comments about the pending birth of the Thingy……………And, boy, do they want to tell you about it.

Have a water birth………..a water birth? Well, I didn’t even give this consideration as having worked on a cruise ship all these years I know how many people pee in the pool and therefore there is no way I am dragging Heidi down to the local swimming pool, shoving her in the shallow end and wait for the Thingy to start learning the backstroke.

However, last week having told the guests from on stage that I was heading home to have a baby……..or at least my wife was………lots more advice headed my way including a man who had been through a water birth and any minuscule thought of having the Thingy in water buggered off when he told me “I’ve was entrusted with a special job. I get to use the sieve to fish the poo out of the birthing pool.”

I’ve had to once fish my cell phone out of the toilet when it had fallen in and even I found that stabbing my own poo with a wired coat hanger whilst trying to retrieve it was too much…………water birth my arse.

Then comes the advice on drugs. Have an epidoodle. Don’t have an epidoodle. Only wimps take drugs. Or, from men: Don’t, whatever you do, look down the business end because it is definitely not a spectator sport.

Is she eating right? If I have heard this once I have heard it a hundred times and now I find myself asking Heidi everyday “what did you have for dinner?” I then find myself Googling obsessively worried that Eggs Benedict may mean the Thingy is born with a beard.

Names……….have you decided on one………what is it……..are you going to call it Carnival or Blog or Micky? I had a guest tell me that Ruth, Rachel, Rebecca, Solomon, Jonah, Job were names from the Bible and that naming the Thingy so would result in him or her leading a peaceful and blessed life. I told her that Heidi had her heart on the sort of Eighties pop-star names that would score big in Scrabble: Zack, Xavier or Quelvin.

Heidi herself is driving me crazy because she keeps telling me how big the Thingy is. Instead of something sensible, like tennis ball, soccer ball, etc, she keeps telling me by comparing it to food……….it’s the size of a lentil, a Brussels sprout, walnut and avocado and a grapefruit. Why? It’s not like we are going to eat it when it comes out.
But despite all of the above……………. I have never been so profoundly, bone-deep excited about anything in my whole life.

Finally, I want to say that there will be after today no more mention of the Royal Champions those band of brothers and sisters who flood reports on the cruise boards about just how wonderful everything is aboard the ships of the seas. I think we have all realized now how low this was and there is no need to discuss this anymore. Allegedly they will be allowed to keep writing and that’s a shame but anyway there will, as I said, be further mention of them.

To me the Royal Champions are like the children’s toy The Slinky………..nobody is sure what they do or what their purpose is…………….but it brings a smile to our face when we push one down the stairs.

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.