“I promise you, we will catch the Punk that did this.”………………..I remember those words as if they were yesterday. My Dad and I religiously watched all the 70’s and 80’s cop shows from Ironside to Cannon, from Banacheck to McLeod and that one with Dick Van Dyke stars as a brilliant physician with an eye for a mystery, who regularly helps his slightly more dim-witted son to crack murder cases…………can’t remember the name of that one.

And of course Michael Douglas and the chap with the huge mole on the side of his nose in The Streets of Francisco. Ah, the good old days Watching them pull up and be able to park a car the size of the Holiday in front of anywhere they went in San Francisco still brings back great memories.

It’s possibly my new favourite city – stunning-looking, wonderful standard of living and the location of so many of my favourite Hitchcock movies.

In San Francisco, you don’t have to pretend. You can come out. You can admit to the world — yes,…………………….I am a tourist.
It’s not like Manhattan, where you’re surrounded by busy New Yorkers and want to be one of the locals. There, you feel obliged to say things like “you talkin to me” and “get the f&^%$ out a heeeeere” if someone asks you for directions.

By contrast, San Francisco is a meeting place for visitors from every imaginable city, country, planet and sexuality, so you can be yourself, whatever you are. Well, that’s how I feel having been here a few hours.

My journey started at 11:00am with a tender ride from the Carnival Valor to Belize which was made all the more enjoyable by watching a young lady feed the fish with what was probably a mixture of her dinner and a gallon or two of vodka …………..most enjoyable. Anyway, it was 85 degrees and that’s just the perfect weather for me to be humping a suitcase that weighs the same as ……….well………..me………….on and off a tender and dragging it like a dog with no legs down the pier. I was supposed to met by the ships agent and indeed there he was ready to take me and comedian Jim Brick to the airport. So, apart from the fact that I was sweating more than a Royal Champion taking a polygraph test……………….everything was going well so far.
And then suddenly…………….it wasn’t.

First of all the driver charged us $25 to go to the airport even though I know it was supposed to be complimentary and then it was time to enjoy the delights of Belize International Airport. Now………….that is surely an oxymoron…………….calling Belize’s airport International is like calling the Staten Island Ferry a cruise line. Sure, they do fly internationally but the airport has bugger all facilities and worst of all……….you have to pay $25 to leave the country………………are they having a laugh? And they tell you that you have to pay this money on a big sign that says “hope you enjoyed your stay in Belize, come and see us again……………oh and that will be $25 per person please if you want to go home.”………………………….what a load of bollocks.

Anyway, as I sat in the international terminal which was the same size as my Dads garden shed but with less to do I realised that something was missing……………oh yes…………..the plane. It was a Continental Airlines flight to Houston which was due to take off at 11:45pm local time. It was now 11:15pm and unless Continental had started to use stealth technology and managed to steal a cloaking device from the Klingons………….it wasn’t there.

And it still wasn’t there one hour and thirty minutes late and it was as invisible as the staff. There was nobody around to tell us what was happening. One man (German I think by his accent) got very upset and stood on the bench and started to shout ” vill somewan pleese tell us vat is happening mit das plane .” Considering the only people in the terminal were the passengers and Cedric the chap selling water and sodas from a cart…………….it was a pointless demonstration but I felt his pain.

Eventually and without warning or apology a plane landed and emptied its passengers and 2 hours 10 minutes late and myself, Hans and the rest of the passengers boarded the flight. Once onboard we were given a solemn apology by the Captain that due to fog in Houston the plane had been delayed. …………………..ok………….understandable but why couldn’t a Belizean have told me that?

My thoughts now turned to my connection in Houston which according to my E ticket left at 6:00pm and with the two hour delay this meant I still had an hour from landing to make it…………..but it was going to be close.

Except no……………..it wasn’t. That’s because I had not figured on the 37 different time zones there are in one country. Bloody hell……………mountain, pacific, eastern, western, Texan…………..I tried to figure out what time I would land in Houston and what time the Californian flight would land and my answer came out as Sunday………..2011.

Anyway, the flight to Houston lasted 2 hours 35 minutes and was uneventful apart from the man next to me who read the bible the whole way. He was one of those chaps who look like someone from ZZ Top………I think they are called Hasidic and are members of the Jewish faith. He was very polite…………..told me ” good afternoon ” and then spent the entire flight reading the good word pausing only to drink some water. …………..now that’s faith.

And so it was that we landed in Houston where I had to go through US Immigration and where as usual I faced a barrage of questions. Why are you here…………….do you work on a ship………….what do you mean you did but now you don’t………..where’s your employment letter…………why don’t you have one………………so you are going a as passenger………………where’s your ticket out of the country?

Now, I now I am playing an old record here but I have to say this again………………I know they have a job to do and it’s a very difficult one for sure but why oh why do they have to be so rude.

President Brown and Prime Minister Obama said last week that there is a special relationship between our two countries. I found no evidence of a special relationship when I go through Immigration. There is no fast-track lane through immigration for visiting Brits. The inspector man always looks at me as if I’ve just chucked his tea into Boston harbour. And we have to answer questions about whether we’ve ever done genocide, just like everyone else…………………………special my arse.

Once through checkpoint Charlie I headed for my luggage which because I had been at Immigration for an hour and twenty minutes was lying on its side looking lost and lonely. It was also injured because the bastards at baggage handling had put a tear in the side, just under the zipper……………….oh joy.

Then, after rechecking in my injured samsonite and after rushing around worried that I would miss my flight I realised that with the time change I had 2 hours to spare……………….I was very confused.

So, I called Heidi and woke her up. She had been to the midwife for another check on the Thingy. She told me that the Thingy ” had turned “……………..which know means his head is facing the exit which apparently is a good thing. I really miss her. This is the longest we have been apart and its time for us to be together once again.

Then, it was back onboard for the three hour 35 minute flight to San Francisco and I pitted the poor sod who had to sit next to me as I am sure I smelt like Paris on a summers day. That person was a lady who if truth be told probably couldn’t smell anything because of the litre of perfume she had put on……………….and……………..who slept through the entire flight complete with the pillow, the blanket and the Zorro mask. The only problem was that every few minutes she would smack her lips together as though she was dreaming about eating a turkey sandwich. Now, considering her lips had recently received an obvious delivery of Botox and were the size of dinner plates and she looked like a member of one of those lost tribes of the amazon. You know what I mean. A TV crew visits some far-flung corner of the planet to live on a diet of beetles and sludge and explain that we in the West have much to learn from the indigenous tribes they have met.

Really? What exactly do I have to learn from a man whose wardrobe extends to three pairs of snakeskin underpants? Except that we can’t really call them underpants since he doesn’t wear them under anything. For sure, Uga could show me how to make a twig into a spear, but think of what I could show him. A cell phone, for starters. I think if you’d been brought up in the jungle you’d be pretty damn impressed with an Blackberry.

And so here I am in San Francisco and what a beautiful city it is. I awoke with the headache from hell and my head is currently hosting a party for Amy Winehouse and 200 Russians in it. So, I decided to take a walk so I could see something of this amazing place.

As I crossed the road I imagined I would be mown down by Steve McQueen in a Mustang or Nicolas Cage in a Ferrari 355 but it’s more likely you will be killed by some bespectacled librarian in a VW Beetle…………………it’s nothing like the movies.

Personally, I’m surprised that nobody in this land of opportunity has started up a Bullitt taxi service that crashes you down all of San Francisco’s hills — with full revving sound effects included of course, so you don’t have to do your own vrrrooomming.

Another missed opportunity is that nobody has thought of producing postcards of Alcatraz with a pre-printed message — “Wish you were here”. It would save tourists like me the trouble of writing out the joke on 20-odd cards for friends, family and a few people I actually would like to see in prison………………..like the entire board of AIG.

And so, here I am back in the hotel feverishly writing away to you all in order to get the blog posted. With that in mind and also the fact that Vance and Stephanie are traveling the next few days I apologize if there is a delay in posting…………….we will do our best.

Ok , time for a break and time also to say hello to Jaime one last time.

March 19, 2009

Dear John,

They waited in the terminal until the wire wrapped papers were cleared and officially not explosive material, and now 49 days later pulling up to the terminal building in Long Beach, California, we have officially marked the conclusion of the first-ever South America cruise ever completed by any Carnival ship. Coming with any new itinerary, it is expected that a handful of challenges arise. Yet, with the continuous modifications and growth that coincides with any sort of new programming, the rewards and lessons learned (along with the overwhelming positive feedback that we have heard) makes all of these endless hours of planning worthwhile.

Within the past few days, the entertainment staff team all had a chance to discuss what we were most thankful for, and what we enjoyed the most about this 49-day voyage, what we thought was successful, what we would work on and of course the select few guests’ actions that may possibly be considered less than desirable… If you were here during this cruise, don’t worry, I am sure it was not you, or the guy you sat next to at dinner, or your third cousin that we saw throw someone else’s laundry on the floor in the deck 2 laundry room!

This entire conversation was an incredible bonding experience for all of the hosts – Adele, Lauren, Owen, Myself and our fearless Assistant Cruise Director, Brad.

We discussed the great success of the deck parties. We had so many original and unique theme nights – Rock around the Horn Deck Party, Pirate Night, Fire and Ice Party, Rio Deck Party and of course our Crossing the Equator Ceremonies. The turnout for all of these events was incredible. The dance cast and the captain of dance Claire all contributed to make these parties a huge success! All of the different competitions and music selections definitely provided for many fun, memorable experiences (which really is our ultimate goal!)

Adele expressed how she developed such a strong relationship with so many of our guests. On a typical 7-day cruise, we of course do get to know the guests quite well, but it is nothing like sailing together for nearly two months. She shared a story about how at one of the trivia sessions she was conducting; there was a gentleman that was angry with her because he felt that one of the answers she read was incorrect. This man started yelling at Adele and being completely disrespectful, and it was “Mama” (a guest who all of us have come to know and love) who turned to this man and stood up for Adele. Adele asked the gentlemen if he had a child. The man said “not that it is any of your business, but yes.” Adele asked, “What would you do if someone spoke to your child that way?” The man replied “Punch them and never allow them around my kid again.” Adele then expressed “Sir, I am someone’s child, please do not talk to me like that.” Adele is so strong, especially for a 5-foot tall, dancer – shaped girl. She constantly impresses us all, and to develop this mother-daughter relationship with guests like Mama is something positive we can all take away from this extended cruising experience.

Lauren said that she thought this cruise was wonderful for all of us for so many unique reasons. She really appreciated the team and each of our individual strengths. She was so proud of Adele for making a new activity “Mixology” her own. At first Adele was nervous about this daunting entertainment task, but now she excels at it regularly has a regular group of attendees and looks forward to this part of the schedule. She loved Owen’s Spanish class, the guests have truly loved learning from him and where else would he be able to express his own background, culture and language with a group of guests that would be so appreciative and take their learning into application immediately? Well, where besides South America, Mexico or another predominately Spanish-speaking region – like downtown Los Angeles? I agree with her compliments about Brad how he never stops working hard. He is such a supportive and strong force that stands behinds all the hosts and encourages us to thrive. She told me that I was so patient and strong and had wonderful guest relations’ skills – I don’t really know what she is talking about though, because I can be a jerk.

I told the team that the thing I appreciated most about the cruise was working on a team that was always ready to help one another, not a single weak member of the group. Also all of our ability to continuously be flexible and accommodating was truly refreshing.

Brad expressed that he had never been a part of a group that he didn’t have to constantly monitor. Each one of the hosts he could depend on and trust. We all were strong with guest relation skills, microphone skills and administrative tasks – this combination of hosts is sort of a dream come true for any ACD.

As far as challenges involved with this 49-day voyage – they are hard to put our finger on. Of course we had interesting mornings with debarkation and tour operation in new ports, it was incredibly sad when we lost a member of the Splendor family. BUT with every challenge we are learning how to improve for future cruises.

Overall, this cruise is undoubtedly one of my favorite experiences at sea. Not only did we visit absolutely remarkable ports of call with an incredibly talented and strong team. We also were blessed enough to truly become family with many of our guests who sailed with us for weeks on end. It is the people that make these memories worthwhile. I may not have found love this cruise, but we made it safely around the horn with so many great memories and pictures to take away.

Thank you everyone for taking the time to get a glimpse into the life of a crewmember. Sharing experiences and thoughts with you throughout this adventure has been such a blessing. Thank you John and Chris P. for asking me to do this… If and when Carnival has any more breaking news, unique itineraries or even a pizza-eating contest, consider me there in a flash! It has been so nice meeting so many bloggers that have sailed, and I look forward to sailing with the rest of you in the future. As of now, I am scheduled to go to the Carnival Pride as the assistant cruise director on April 25, which I am greatly looking forward to that opportunity to grow in the company and learning from the amazing Mark Price on the brand new Baltimore itinerary.

I will be sure to write a Dear John a letter if something exciting happens!

im-going-in

in-the-clouds

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Your Friend,
Jaime =)

Jaime, we all want to say a huge thank you for all the time you have taken out of your very hectic work schedule to take the time to write to us. It has been a magnificent voyage and one that thanks to you and the staff and crew of the Carnival Splendor it has been a very successful and very memorable one for all. I know that your career will continue to grow from strength to strength and we will be here to share it with you. Thanks again Jaime……………..now………………….go find a man.

Goodness me…………….I had no idea just how much trouble California was in. I am writing this and watching the local news and I was oblivious to the fact that California is in a wee spot of bother with regard to its finances.

As I speak there is an interview with some Californian senator or congress thingy, who, if I understand correctly is saying that if you were due for a tax refund for 2008, California wouldn’t send you a cheque. It would send you an IOU. Does this mean California is closing? Perhaps it has something to do with the man running the place. And I am ashamed to say that, yes, when the actor most famous for playing a killer robot in a so-so movie ran for governor, I was behind him. I defended his loveable tendency to work movie tag lines into important policy debates. I believed in Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the “governator”.
And like the five million Californians who voted for him, I’m feeling a bit silly now.

The governor wants to raise taxes – exactly the same thing that his predecessor tried to do before being terminated by a certain Hollywood action star – while his fellow Republicans are objecting, without suggesting anything cleverer. Until a solution is found, California is done, dead, kaput. It is, as John Cleese might have put it, an ex-state. In the meantime, I suggest Californians put Mr. Schwarzenegger on an aircraft, fly him back to Austria and ask politely for a refund……………….and make sure he ” won’t be back.”

So, there is much doom and gloom here so I am sure the arrival of the Carnival Splendor to the city by the bay will be one that will bring good cheer to the good people who live here. I will be joining her tomorrow but this afternoon I have the chance to see another Carnival ship as I head down to see the Carnival Spirit. She is in dry dock and I will have a chance to see the work that’s being carried out before she starts her Hawaii and Alaska season. Look out for a full report on this soon.

I also want to thank you for your support regarding yesterdays post about the chap who was so cruel to a member of the staff. I appreciate your kind words and I agree with everything you all said about him not being allowed onboard again. Thanks so much for standing by me………………Stephanie will be sending me the latest questions nor me to answer over the weekend. Tomorrow I have a radio thing and then onto the Carnival Splendor so I will write tomorrow.

I just want to return to the opening theme of my dad and I watching American TV shows together. I had forgotten Banacheck, Macmillan and something and of course Colombo………….and then there was Starsky and Hutch.

Yes, I enjoyed the series when it was first aired on the BBC. The show had one of those great brassy-funky-wah-wah-pedal theme tunes. And we’d never seen cops like Starsky and Hutch on in the UK before. They were undercover officers in tight jeans, leather jackets and hip shades.

They looked cool, talked tough and, best of all, kicked arse……………..sorry…………………ass. The show had two other winning factors too: The hip snitch Huggy Bear, and that car — a red Ford Gran Torino that tore through streets and flew through the air with the greatest of ease. The show had style. Bottom line: it made you smile.

Ok, time to take my rent a car and try and find the Carnival Spirit that is docked at pier 70. Now, I have a map but I also have a rent a car and………………it’s a Toyota Prius…………….yep……………when the lady at the Hertz counter gave it to me I half expected a camera crew to come leaping out from behind the counter………………the Range Rover driving polar bear killing fat bastard is driving a Toyota Prius…………in California.

And so today, I will be doing my bit to protect the planet by driving my Toyota Prius, wearing a pair of sandals and listening to the Carpenters.

The one thing I discovered though is that it is without doubt the slowest car in the world. And driving an underpowered car on the freeway is one of the most dangerous things a man can do. It’s up there with sticking your middle finger in the bottom of a sleeping tiger. It’s very nearly as dangerous as introducing yourself to a group of 1000 people who love cruising by saying ” Hello, my name’s Bob and I’m a Royal Champion.”

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.