Love They Neighbor……My Arse

April 13, 2009 -

John Heald

Let’s start with the great news that the brilliant US Navy sent Long John Somali Slimeball and three of his fellow pirates to Davey Jones’ Locker and rescued Captain Richard Philips. Maybe now these retched pirates will get the message that people who work at sea are protected and that any one who is a pirate and isn’t Johnny Depp ….. will be getting a visit from a bunch of SEALS.

However…….Somalia is a broken country, awash with hunger, poverty and guns. Piracy is one of the few things that works. So while yesterday’s dramatic rescue is a victory for the world’s navies, it is likely to prove only a small setback for the thugs who think they rule the waves.

Our fun event in Baltimore is just around the corner and I truly wish I could be there. Some of you have been asking for details as to where and when the event will be so I will ask Stephanie to please include the link thingy again………..here it is.

Carnival’s Fun City: Baltimore Event

As you know there will be a Bloggers Only doughnut and coffee gathering. I was supposed to host this but as you know I will be staying here in case the Thingy decided to pop out early. Our Chief Marketing Officer Jim Berra has most graciously offered to step in and host the breakfast instead of me so I do hope as many of you as possible will take the time to go and meet this brilliant man.

Of course all of this is being done as a welcome to the Carnival Pride and here are three wonderful photos of this stunning ship.

pride_funnel

pride_lounge

pride_pool

pride_ship

Now you know me…………I don’t like to get all commercial here on the blog thingy but in these times of need it appears our Early Saver thingy is sweeping the nation. I must be honest and say that I hadn’t actually paid it much attention. I guess that’s something indicative of all the shipboard employees………..we never really know or understand how the ticket prices are set or who has paid what (I have not forgotten the “how is it decided who gets an upgrade question” by the way and will have an answer on that soon.”) We just welcome the guests on board and give them the most fun we possibly can.

However………..while glancing at carnival.com the other day I noticed the Early Saver page and when I looked at the incredible prices……………..well, I couldn’t believe it.

5 DAY CRUISE FOR $319
7 DAY CRUISE FOR $469
8 DAY CRUISE FOR $524

Are we having a laugh? And these rates are for select dates this summer and the rates are even lower on some winter dates when you need sun and fun the most.

If, after booking, you find a lower Carnival advertised fare, Carnival will match it and issue you the difference in an onboard credit……..terms and conditions apply. ………………….terms and conditions apply may cause uncrontoable laughter and relaxation. In tests it was proven that 99.9% of people who take a Carnival cruise may find the experience addictive. people who want to pay for a steak and receive ordinary service and have a huge unused climbing wall for entertainment should not take a Carnival Cruise. Check with a Travel professional to find out if a spirited, fun and affordable carnival cruise is right for you.

Do a friend a favor – send them this link thingy and let the world know
www.carnival.com/earlysaver

Heidi is doing well and is counting kicks. This is apparently where a pregnant woman has to count that the baby has kicked 10 times or more during the first few hours of the day ………this apparently shows that the baby is healthy. Well, it appears the Thingy is very healthy as this morning Heidi had been kicked more times than a football and for the first time since I have been home I heard her say “I want to have the Thingy NOW!”

I wasn’t sure if this was normal so I turned to my bible ………”Dad” magazine which the British Government sends to all expectant dads…………..and it is hilarious.

Last month’s issue had an article that read as follows “New fathers should wait for at least six weeks after a child is born before resuming sex with their partner because she ‘may be too tired.’”………….OK, that’s fair enough but then it offers tips on alternative methods of staying physically close. Other advice includes: ‘give her regular lie-ins’, ‘tell her how great she looks’, and ‘don’t have an affair’…………don’t have an affair?…..OK, good job you told me Dad magazine because I was just thinking about having rumpy pumpy with the Polish lady who works at the shop where I buy my newspaper from every morning.

Anyway………the article encouraged new Dads to write in with their advice following the first few weeks of having a baby. These are some of the replies……and they are just brilliant.

“Don’t be bullied into doing more than your fair share around the house. If you’re the one going out to work and your partner has decided she’s going to stay home, then it’s her job to keep the house clean and tidy. When you’re at home, devote time to your baby, not the vacuum cleaner. “Name and address withheld”.

As someone with too many years fatherhood behind him to be classed as a new father, my advice to new fathers is – ignore all the advice. It is mainly condescending, sexist, delivered by people with another agenda, or all three. Fatherhood is great, just learn to ignore the crap and have sex as soon as possible.” Chris, Harrogate

“If you are too thick to realise that having an affair when your other half has just given birth is not in the best interests of your long-term relationship, then you are probably too thick to understand the article anyway.” Adrian Short, London

I can’t wait for the next issue of Dad magazine. It’s soft and totally absorbent making it the perfect magazine to take to the bathroom when you have to drop the kids off at the pool.

Today’s blog is going to be all about saying and doing the wrong things. This is because yesterday a young cruise director friend of mine had e-mailed me in a real panic. I won’t mention their name but I will say that this particular cruise director is one of our rising stars and has a tremendous work ethic. Anyway, the CD in question had been on stage hosting the Welcome Aboard Show and during the audience participation event had said something that had upset a guest.

The CD had asked the passenger where he was from etc. etc. and then asked if he was married……..the guest said that he was not married and then as a follow up the CD asked if “He was looking?”………the guest then told the CD that his wife had recently died and that she was supposed to have been on the cruise with him………..the guest then started to cry and walked off the stage……………the guest wasn’t the only person crying…………the cruise director was as well……..on the phone to me.

I felt so sorry for the man on stage who had lost his beautiful wife and I felt sorry the cruise director who I know to be someone of excellent standing and someone who would never say anything to purposely upset anyone. Obviously the rest of a show was very difficult and the CD did their best to turn things around by apologizing on stage to the rest of the audience………but what else should the CD do? Well, that’s what they called me for at midday today which is 7 am Eastern Time which tells me that the CD got very little sleep.

Well, the first thing that they speak to the guest along with the hotel director and offer an apology…………sympathy………and support as soon as possible. Also, I told them was to make sure that the show was not replaying on the cabin TVs. “Should I apologize in public again on stage?” was what the CD wanted to know. I told them no. A public apology had been given the night before at the show and there was no need to do it again………it was time to move on.

You never know if what you are going to say on stage is going to upset the one …….. or the many………..as I did many years ago.

Back on the Fantasy in 1992 I remember one of the biggest mistakes I have made so far during my career as a cruise director. I had only been in the job a very short time and I must admit I was a bit “cocky” as we say here in the U.K. Anyway, I was in the middle of my travel and shopping talk for Nassau, which I did before the ship sailed from Miami and was in full flow about the tours and what to see and where to go doing my usual information dissected with various off the cuff remarks and as the talk went on I realized that there were very few laughs coming from the audience. This puzzled me a little but I carried on regardless. I mentioned the casino that Carnival used to own in Nassau called Crystal Palace. We used to send guests there during our overnight stay to see a spectacular show that featured “topless dancers” in a showgirl scenario.

Anyway, I made my usual reference to the show saying don’t worry about the topless dancers because “If you have seen one you have seen them both” ……….usually this joke got a goof laugh but this time the laughter was sparse to say the least……….and as I looked up and then en masse, 75% of the lounge stood up and left..…yep……….they walked out together shaking their heads.

I finished my talk in record time and went back to the cabin dumb struck by what I had seen. I called the chief purser (this was before we had hotel directors) and told him what had happened and he said “Didn’t you read your memo; we have 750 Jehovah Witnesses on board?”……………..bugger.

Well I felt an idiot for upsetting these nice people and indeed I had not read the memo which in the days before e-mail came in written form in a big brown envelope which was sitting on my desk………..unopened

I spent the rest of the four day cruise apologizing and making sure I said nothing that would upset them further…………but they never forgave me………I don’t think they enjoyed the Male Nightgown Contest too much either.

Sometimes when I write to you, my friends out there in blog world, two things are always on my mind………..rumpy pumpy and Aston Martins…………..OK………..sometimes when I write to my friends out their in blog world, four things are always on my mind…rumpy pumpy, Aston Martins, will anyone find what I write remotely interesting and will I upset anyone with the words I write.
So, last night our neighbors hosted a dinner party and even though I have not said anything to them before outside of “Morning” and “Did your cat crap in my garden again?” our conversations had been minimal. So, it was with a mixture of surprise and horror that I discovered that Heidi had decided to except an invitation to their dinner party ………..yep………..we were going to the “big house.”

We have two neighbors ……one that owns a beautiful English-style cottage and one who owns “the big house.” We call it this because it’s a……..ummmm………big house. It has two huge stone lions guarding the electric gates and as you drive up to the 10-bedroom house you expect Jeeves the Butler to come down the steps to greet you.

So…………yippeeee…………this is how we were going to spend our weekend and I was not happy. Heidi though said it would be rude not to go and that it was important that we strike up a relationship with our neighbours in case we ever needed their help…. relationship my arse.

However………Heidi had spoken ……..and it was time to get ready. I didn’t have to decide what to wear because we had received an invitation……..that contained………a dress code.

Now let me make one thing absolutely plain. Dress codes are bollocks when it comes to house parties or dinners. Telling your guests what to wear implies that a) you are a megalomaniac or that b) you’ve invited such a bunch of witless fools, they’d all turn up dressed in their pajamas if left to their own devices. I simply hate going to a function that requires me to wear a suit, or a tie outside of work. And even if my bestest friend were to celebrate his birthday with a costume party……………….he’d be doing so without me.

OK, here’s another possibility that what I am about to write may upset someone. And remember this is my opinion…….not the opinion of Carnival Cruise Lines…….it’s just mine.

Who really cares what I was wearing? Why did this dinner invitation say “jacket and tie” ……..we were going to someone’s house for dinner ………..what a load of bollocks. You see, I have never understood why a tiny minority of passengers get upset when they go to dinner on an elegant night because the chap on the table next to them isn’t wearing a jacket and tie they complain that this ruined their meal…………why……….why does it matter what someone else is wearing?

Does the fact that he just has an open necked shirt on make your steak taste of yak poo……………no, of course it doesn’t.

Now, if that man was wearing no shirt at all and spent the entire dinner rubbing mashed potato into his man boobs then yes……..I can see that you would have every right to call the maitre d and complain.

Carnival has a very clear set of dining dress codes………cruise casual…………..and cruise elegant…………..and I think all of you will have seen recently that these dress codes are being enforced. Most guests are still choosing to dress elegantly and I think that’s wonderful…………but if someone chooses not to……….don’t worry………..be happy ……..enjoy your steak and who cares who is wearing what. As long as they are within our guidelines……….and remember…….it could be worse……….you could be on a ship where regardless of who is wearing what……..that steak on your plate sure as heck wasn’t free.

Anyway………..back to the big house.

So, we met our very posh neighbors and their friends. There we sat in their huge living room which was like something from Brideshead Revisited. Logs crackled on the huge open fire as the “staff” handed round nibbles and drinks. Heidi being pregnant of course ordered a sparkling water which our hosts and their friends understood “Ya, ya, OK ya your pregnant sweetie darling,” they all cackled . However……….when I ordered a Diet Coke they looked at me very strangely and one of the “chaps” said “Are you sure?” ………….”Yes, I said,”…………”I don’t drink.”

Now, that should have been enough for the subject to move on…………..but it wasn’t because suddenly this very proper English chap became American………….let me explain. British people are for the most part very reserved and very rarely do we say what we mean and never do we complain. In restaurants British people are more frightened of being humiliated by a waiter than of the consequences of consuming bad food. It’s the same with opinions………..British people very rarely will give a stranger an opinion about how they look………how they act……..or on what they say…………unless they are members of their own family.

Americans and to some extent Canadians……….well you are a different story. ………….. and I love the freshness of the no holds barred “say what you mean” attitude. For example ……….you have no idea how many passengers have come up to me over the years and said…..”How much money has the casino taken in this week?”……or… “Hey, you need to lose weight.” This one is often followed up with “I can help you lose weight.” And then, as I am British and a cruise director, I can’t tell them to bugger off and mind their own business so instead I have to stand there and listen to advice from people who I have never met before.

My most striking memory of something like this was back on the Carnival Freedom when two ladies who worked for a company called “Herbal Life” hounded me the entire 12-day cruise trying to get me to try their “teas” as they promised I would lose weight.

Eventually I gave in and spent the next two days drinking their brew. And yes ……….I did lose weight………….because I had diarreah for 48 straight hours and without putting a finer point on it …………I could have pooed through a straw.

So……….it was having told our dinner party hosts that I didn’t drink that I was shocked to hear the husband say “Were you an alcoholic………..how long have you been dry?”

Now…………having been told that in no uncertain terms was I to not embarrass Heidi or myself I didn’t tell him to mind his own business but instead I told him that due to my work I had stopped drinking 14 years ago and hadn’t had a drop since.

And that of course led into the inevitable “What do you do, John?” conversation. I started to explain what I did to the Retired Senior Police Officer………….the “something in the city” and our host who is a merchant banker……….that’s what he does and it’s also cockney rhyming slang ( www.urbandictionary.com.)

They actually seemed quite interested but being British my description of what I do and who I work for was interrupted as everyone spoke about Cunard as the senior retired police officer and his wife had been on the Queen Victoria recently and raved about the service and food, etc. I just sat there quietly not bothering to say that the company I worked for was in fact responsible for the rejuvenation of the great ocean liner company.

I was not having fun ………….they were being very sweet to Heidi but I just wanted out of there………….this so wasn’t us…….but we had a long way to go because dinner was served.

Obviously, they had caterers in and as we sat at the huge dining room table I at least was looking forward to some good food……..but then the appetizer came…………it was lentil soup. I hate lentils………..I mean what is a lentil and why would anyone want to eat one?………especially in soup form? Anyway……..if I had been smart the lentil soup should have given me a clue, but I am not smart and therefore I was about to upset one of my neighbors………..very badly.

The conversation had turned to the news that day which had reported that a mad German woman had jumped into a polar bear’s enclosure at a zoo and that the polar bear had subsequently tried to eat her and everyone at the table was trying to work out why she had jumped. Now……..up to this point I had been on my best behavior…….I had used the correct knife and fork……….I had no belched or farted……….well, not so anyone would have heard……. and I had not said anything to embarrass myself or Heidi………….but as the lentil soup was hardly a distraction I suddenly went to automatic cruise director mode and said “Maybe she needed a new fur coat and with the credit crunch she decided to go straight to the source.” Well……..I might as well have said “this lentil soup tastes like it just came out of a koala bear’s bottom”…………because suddenly the only sound in the room was silence.

I soon learned why. The wife of our host and the wife of the Senior Police Officer were part of an organisation called Viva!, which stands for Vegetarians International Voice for Animals and I spent the next ten minutes listening to why I was a total and utter bastard …….she did so while the vegetarian lasagne was served.

I had three choices……..argue with her ……say nothing except sorry……..or take my tasteless vegetarian lasagne and shove it in her smug face…………I went with choice number two and apologized. I respected her opinion bit she did not respect that I was just making a joke………it’s what I do.

The conversation moved on and just wanted Scotty to beam me the hell out of there. I spent the rest of dinner e-mailing jokes to my friend Mrs. Bentley on my raspberry. We left our neighbors with polite handshakes and air kisses but I knew that they thought very little of me. Heidi told me how sorry she was that we had gone but how proud she was that I didn’t rise to the bait and just kept quiet.

You see……..you just can’t win these days…………you never know who you are going to upset. You could give me any subject matter: Coffee, cabbages, climbing walls or croquet – anything that took your fancy – and I bet that after half an hour I could come up with someone who was prepared to be angry about it. The problem is simple. If you say, in public, that you would not shoot a polar bear or you would not support an attack on Iran or you would not buy a Range Rover because of climate change, you are offending nobody. Because you are saying, “I will not do something.” But if you say you would do something, like eat red meat or buy a Range Rover, then someone in an attic with a website will jump on your case and not let go.

Unfortunately, however, in the current climate it is no longer possible to express an opinion or make light of the world we live in because you are bound to upset a pressure group that then runs around waving its arms in the air and calling for you to be fired or shot or turned into a hat.

Think therefore of my fellow cruise directors who have to be so careful what they say on stage. They are performing to hundreds of people from all walks of life and although they are and should be very careful………there is always going to be one person who is upset at the joke or comment you make.

Anyway…………..Heidi has said that we will be inviting our neighbors round for dinner one night because it would be impolite not to do so. Obviously if one of them reads this blog I doubt they will accept our invitation. Fine with me……….if however they do come for dinner we will have roasted polar bear meat drizzled in a meercat sauce……….. and I shall serve the pre-dinner drinks wearing only a pair of mink underwear.

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.