Keeping a Breast of Things

April 9, 2009 -

John Heald

Unlike my good friend and blog guru Stephanie Leavitt I am not devoted to technology.

Yes, I know I am constantly in the head bowed position praying into my raspberry. However as far as my mobile phone is concerned I am not someone who enjoys using it which is why I don’t necessarily answer mine, especially if I can’t see who the caller is.
Having the day constantly interrupted by various people, none of whom has anything urgent to communicate, is a sort of madness: you can’t relax because you’re liable to be phoned at any time – halfway through lunch, while watching the basketball or bang in the middle of rumpy pumpy time.

If you ignore your ringing phone, you get injured-sounding voicemails saying, “Where are you?” as though you were in the middle of something intensely suspicious, rather than, say, reading a book or buying some nipple pads. I find this irritating, but it would appear that I am in a minority: my friends glance lovingly at their ringing, buzzing phones every 30 seconds and I watch children do that weird thumb-texting thing amazingly fast yet ask them what the capital city of Spain is and they will look at you like an Amish guy at Radio Shack…

Not being a complete bastard (though clearly I am a phone-phobic control freak who wants to hear from my friends only at my own convenience) I rather like Facebook, which seems a more sensible means of staying in touch with, to put it bluntly, people you are fond of but not particularly eager to see in the flesh.

However, this leads me to talk once again about this bloody Twitter thing. For those of you who have been living in a cave or Arkansas for the past few months, let me just tell you what this latest geek-infested nonsense is all about. Twitter is among the fastest-growing websites. Slightly creepily, you can “follow” various celebs’ tweets as well as your friends’, which seems to me not a million miles away from stalking speaks volumes about celebs’ neediness. Weird, isn’t it? They moan about the media and the paparazzi, but they volunteer intimate information to strangers, some of whom are journalists.

Stephanie started a Carnival page for Carnival Twits some time ago and there has been mention of me starting one………………don’t hold your breath.

However, yesterday I received an e-mail from a blogger with a link thingy to the latest Twit who had Twitted some Twitterings. A graduate student at New York University has developed a “pregnancy belt,” a stretchy band with embedded electronics and sensors, which the pregnant woman wears around her stomach and which registers her unborn child’s every kick and…………….she tweets about each one.

To be fair, Corey Menscher, whose wife, Ellen, is eight months pregnant with the couple’s first child, invented the belt, called the Kickbee, for a class project and intended it for his family’s private use. But now he is working on a Facebook version of the Kickbee so that pregnant women can update their status with news of every fetal movement …………………movement my arse.

What is this almost pathological compulsion to share facts with acquaintances and strangers? Even I am getting bored at being told, for the 22nd time that day that the Thingy has just wriggled so why would Mrs. Bucket from Intercourse, Pennsylvania, and thousands of other Twitters find this fact remotely interesting.

It is possible to share facts such as these with friends and family privately, via password-protected online photo albums, or video chats, or whatever. What is extraordinary is the way in which people long to share every minute details of their lives in public, with strangers………….says the man who shares every part of his life with thousands of people every day and has had 4 million people click on his thingy during the last two years.

You see, when I started writing this blog it was purely factual cruised based information that people were reading about. Now, after a spot of self analysis it seems that I have been writing a confessional column these past months. Does it mean I am becoming self-obsessed thinking that people want to know about my boring life? Or am I just part of the world we live in where nothing is special or private enough not to be shared with strangers? I guess what I am saying here is that if ever I spin away so far off the topic of cruising that the blog becomes to much of a confessional and not enough about the cruising world………….please, please would someone tell me.

Oh by the way………….if I do ever Tweet it will be about prelude to conception ………….. and I shall Tweet….. rump by pump.

I want to thank you all for suggesting names for the Thingy many of which have now gone on our list. Hopefully we can whittle this down to just a few because as I said the other day it’s an all-consuming process that both of us want to come to a conclusion.

So, I went to one of Aunty Natal’s classes last night where the subject was tits ….. sorry ……..breasts…….and the do’s and don’ts of breast feeding. Heidi has decided to breast feed which is great news for me as I can stay in bed every time the little bugger starts to cry.

At the last class we had Dave the nurse but as we were talking about breasts this time Dave had been replaced by a breast feeding specialist Nurse Beverly Heart. She was a lovely lady and aptly named as she had a huge heart which went well with her huge bosoms which me and the 10 other husbands…………sorry…………partners spent the entire two hours hoping she would show us…………she didn’t.

Instead we sat there listening about positioning and leakage and other bosom scientology and I have to admit I switched off up until Nurse Bev started to talk about breast feeding in public. Should mothers be able to feed their children anywhere – or is breast feeding something that should be done in private to save embarrassment to others? This was the topic that she wanted the class to discuss.

Straight away one lady who we shall call Jill because that’s her name said that she would never breast feed in public because she got embarrassed when she saw other mothers doing it. Thinking about it I am not sure where I stand on this subject. There are a lot of things a person can do to embarrass others in public other than breast-feeding, such as men in cars honking at women (or indeed vice versa), passionate kisses being exchanged in a train during rush hour or men and women relieving themselves on the streets when nature calls after drinking too much beer. I personally find people with body odor more offensive than women who breast-feed in public. Then again, do I want other men or women staring at Heidi while she does what is pretty natural? I left the class thinking therefore that there is time and a place for everything and as always I know Heidi will do what’s right.

So, great news. I spoke to Chris Prideaux on the phone yesterday from his bed in ICU. He is still very poorly but heading in the right direction and as soon as the doctors have sorted one more thing out they will move him out of intensive care. He was very grateful for all your kind words and I will keep you up to date on his hopefully continuing improvement.

I know a lot of you have been waiting for updated news on the Carnival Dream so here is something you and your family will enjoy

www.carnival.com/dream

OK, it’s time to talk about onboard dining and the new anytime or open time dining we announced last week. Before I introduce you to Shahnaz I just want to mention the word “service” as I know some of you who prefer assigned seating were concerned that the fun and attentive service you have hopefully always received was somehow going to diminish …………well, it’s not.

When you think about it the service you receive on Carnival ships from the dining room staff ……….it is quite incomparable. I have eaten in quite a few expensive establishments (if someone else is paying) and while your meal of a freshly murdered chicken that’s been drizzled in caviar and served on a bed of thinly carved peacock scrotum may taste divine……..many times the service will be awful. To me, the perfect example of this is Venice. Now this stunning city on the water is a must see and to sail into Venice on a cruise ship is something that the author of this blog is unable to put into words and I hope that in 2011 Carnival will give you all a chance to do this.

Venice is full of fantastic places to eat. Fantastic in the sense that the scenery and the atmosphere is second to none. But, oh dear, the locals. Imagine mating a Parisian with a Miami immigration officer and you get some idea of how unbelievably rude Venetian waiters are. At best, all you can hope to get in exchange for your money………is a shrug. I once asked a waiter if he could take a photo of Heidi and I at the table and he looked at me as though I’d offered him a dose of herpes.

To me, great service is nearly as important as the food itself and when you can get both ………..well it’s something to savor. And that’s what we try and achieve on all our ships all of the time. And to compliment the great food and fun and attentive service we now have that very important ingredient …………….choice.

To tell us all about this brilliant addition to our dining experience I am going to reintroduce you to my friend Shahnaz Kashanipour. Shahnaz was one of our most successful — and without doubt — our most respected hotel directors whose total passion for the job was extraordinary. I say “was “because her brilliant talents have been recognized and she has now taken up a very important position in our Miami HQ.

She will be managing some very special projects over the next few months and I know that their implementation will be a total success with Shahnaz at the helm. However, Shahnaz was the hotel director onboard the Carnival Legend which was the first ship to offer the anytime dining option and Shahnaz will also be overseeing its implementation across the fleet. So…………..I sent her a few questions based on the comments you have all been posting here on the blog thingy and here then are her answers.

1. Shahnaz, before you joined our hotel operations team in the Miami office you were one our finest Hotel Directors for many years and were onboard the first ship to implement the Your Time dining. Therefore I would like to ask you about your experiences on the Carnival Legend. So, let’s start with the basics. What is “Your Time” dining?

“Your Time” dining, is basically where our guests don’t have a set time assigned, where they have to go and eat in the dining room, but have the option to dine anytime between 5:45 pm and 9:30 pm and with whomever they choose.

2. Do guests need to request this when they make their cruise booking or is it something they can decide to do once on board?

Yes, they make that decision before sailing, since now we offer confirmed dining assignments at the time of booking, and at that time one can decide to book Early, Late or Your Time dining.

3. If a guest has requested our regular dining times of early and/or late sitting yet one night decide they wish to go to Your Time dining – is this possible?

No, that won’t be really possible, since it would take away from the seating for our assigned Your Time guests.

4. From your experience on the Carnival Legend and the Carnival Liberty, what is the average wait time for guests on anytime dining how are guests informed that their table is ready?

Most of the time there is no wait time, however at times we need to give beepers out and then too, the wait time is minimal. Some days there no beepers given out at all.

5. Are guests likely to have to share a table or do we try and give tables for individual parties?

We will try to accommodate as per the guests requests. Some like to have their own table, and some like to share with others. At times when we won’t have an individual table available, our guest will be given the option to share a table, if seats are available and if they choose not to, they will be given a beeper.

6. How do guests on Your Time dining tip the wait staff if they have a different waiter every night?

All gratuities are pooled and shared by service staff assigned to Your Time dining.

7. How is the dining room (rooms) going to be broken up on each class of ship…..meaning where will the Your Time diners eat?

It depends on the class of ship. On the Spirit-class ships, where we only have one two-level dining room, we use one side of the upper level and on the rest of our ships we use the upper level of the forward dining room.

8. Will guests on Early or Late seating still be guaranteed the same waiter and assistant as normal?

Yes, they will, nothing has changed there

9. What percentage of guests are choosing Your Time dining for the entire cruise?

It’s really too early to say. During the pilot phase, we really didn’t do much promotion on board so the requests were minimal as guests were not aware of the new option. Many guests indicated their interest once on board but by that time the dining was already assigned. We are seeing an increase in requests since the press release that’s for sure and will increase the numbers based to demand.

10. What is the most popular time for guests on Your Time dining to request a table?

It all depends, some cruises we have more guests come for dinner earlier and some cruises later.

Thus far, there really hasn’t been a time that has been deemed more popular than any other.

Thanks Shahnaz and I hope that this provides you all with everything you need to know and squashes any concerns you may have had. If it doesn’t and you would like a follow up please remember to let me know here on the blog thingy by marking your comments “John Please Reply.” May I also ask that Host Mach and Kuki place this on their respective boards so people there have the answers to their questions……………..I will be answering the next batch of questions tomorrow.

Thanks’ Shahnaz for all the help and we all wish you continuing success.

Shazer (as I call her out of ear shot) and I have been friends for many years and while I am writing about her I must tell you my favorite Shazer story. I know I wrote about this back in 2007 but it’s always worth telling again………….and it’s absolutely true. For this we need to journey back to 2002 and the start up of the Carnival Legend.

The ship was still in the yard in Helsinki, Finland. Picture the scene, I was sitting in the cabin at the computer with Heidi preparing for the hand over ceremony. This is where Carnival takes delivery of the vessel from the shipbuilders. Carnival gives the shipyard a suitcase full of money usually in $1 bills just to piss them off and the shipyard gives us the keys and the pink slip.

Anyway there we were working away………..well Heidi was……….when I heard a knock on the door. I shouted for the knocker to come in without even turning around to see who it was. There, as large as life, was Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation’s chairman and CEO and Carnival Corporation’s Vice Chairman Howard Frank. Now, the chances of these two chaps to come walking into my cabin were about as slim as the new NCL ship to win the Best Looking Ship in the World award

Anyway I was asked by Mr. Arison to help him at the hand over ceremony. Just a few months earlier the same ceremony had been completed on the then brand new vessel Carnival Pride and Mr. Arison said he was “a bit bored” with having to give the same old speech thanking the ship builders for their hard blah blah blah blah………..obviously Mr Arison didn’t say blah, blah, blah, blah……….that was me adding that bit………….. but you get my drift.

He had devised a plan where during his speech thanking the shipyard for the wonderful vessel they had built I would start to heckle him from the back of the theater and eventually walk on stage and say that his speech was boring and that it was the same speech he had done just a few months ago.

Now when the chairman of the board asks you to do this you say “Yes, sir” and he left comfortable in the knowledge that this would happen while I went straight to the bathroom and gave the toilet some shock and awe.

So, what was I going to do? There would be 1,000 people in the room, all from Finland and 99% of them spoke as much English as a three-year-old from Mongolia.

The idea had been that I would do the heckling in English and then five minutes of jokes, etc., in English knowing that the boss and a few others would be the only ones to understand. And of course while The COB and the VCOB would be laughing their expensive hand-made Italian socks off, the fat English bloke in the JC Penney suit would look a total wanker (www.urbandictionary.com)

Bollocks to that I said to Heidi and I decided (and quite bravely I might add) to turn the tables around and do the whole thing in Finnish. The problem was I only new one sentence in Finnish and as I doubted nobody in the room would want to go and mate with a reindeer……… I went for help.

This help came from one of our Finnish pursers, the wonderful Maarit, who translated all my jokes into Finnish and wrote them out phonetically. I practiced for two hours even trying them out on another Finnish crew member until they understood me and laughed.
Now, I want to cut to the time when I actually get on stage and come back to the best bit. Once on stage I stood next to Mr. Arison, Mr. Frank and the captain and they waited for me to do my speech in English but I then started to do it in Finnish and the audience laughed they looked very bemused. It had worked and the ceremony was successful and a whole lot of fun! I remember one particular line I used that had the 1,000 Finnish builders laughing hard……..and I looked across at COB and he smiled and nodded not knowing that I had actually said that if they managed to deliver the next new ship the Carnival Miracle on time that Mr. Arison had agreed to ride up and down in the atrium glass elevators………….naked………….they did………he didn’t!

Now, the best bit. Let me set the scene. There are 1,000 shipyard workers, all the Carnival executives and shipboard department heads. The thing was, I had not told anyone apart from Heidi that I was going to do this. Mr. Arison started his speech and I immediately started whispering quietly from the back that I was so bored with this and I couldn’t take it anymore.

Then, without warning I sprang from my chair as though someone had just goosed me with a cactus and shouted from the back of the room “Get off the stage, you said the same thing last time, boooooooooooooooo.”

One thousand heads turned to look at me in horror, but none more so than the Hotel Director Shahnaz Kashanipour. The look of horror in her eyes is something that I can still see so clearly today

I continued to shout “boring” and “this sucks” to the most influential man in the cruise industry and as I shouted I started to walk toward the stage.

I was halfway towards the stage when Shahnaz suddenly turned into Warren Sapp and threw herself at my legs trying to tackle me to the floor and I walked the last few meters towards the stage with Shahnaz hanging on my leg. I tried to shake her off by moving my leg backwards and forwards (which to those seated at the back of the theater must have looked like she was humping my leg) but I couldn’t shake her off and all the time I am whispering “It’s a joke, it’s a joke, get off me you mad old bat.”
What brilliant memories.

Right, time to go and get my car serviced. You know how much I love cars but even here things are about to change because my beloved Range Rover will become my wife’s best friend. To me a car is a penis extension; to Heidi it’s a handbag extension. And it’s about to become a diaper-bag extension, a mobile crèche, a soft play centre and, in times of extreme need, a breast-feeding cubicle…………will someone for the love of God please buy me an Aston Martin.

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.