An Upgraded Blog

April 17, 2009 -

John Heald

It’s 7:20 am. I couldn’t sleep and have been awake since 5:43 am. So, I have just come down to the kitchen and turned the espresso machine on. I bought it myself and I it’s the only thing with a plug in our kitchen that I truly know how to operate…….and truly love. I also bought one of those ludicrously big leather massage chairs. It’s a chair that massages you. I’m thinking of buying a hot tub next. There are a lot of things in my life that aren’t quite ’70s-porn enough and I’ve seen the way the neighbors look at me.

They’d definitely like to see more of my arse.

I have also been looking at buying a “home gymnasium” as Heidi is worried about shedding the excess weight after the Thingy has been born and lets face it…..I could do with losing a few prime rib dinners which have outstayed their welcome now. So……I have been researching which of the many home gym thingies to buy and I have definitely found the one for me……’s the future.

The Rom Time Machine is a home exercise system that retails at just under $15,000.
“Bugger off! Who makes it, NASA?” I hear you cry in disbelief. ……by the way ……… do any of you regular bloggers actually use the word “bugger “in everyday conversation?

Anyway……back to the gym. The Rom’s main selling point is that it promises to get you fit in four minutes a day. Yes, four minutes. The Rom (standing for range of motion) is an imposingly beautiful machine, in a Harley-Davidson meets Star Trek kind of way.

It’s also a quality piece of hardware — sturdy and built to last, even though the most useful characteristic of any home exercise machine is surely the ability hang laundry on.

I might get one simply on the grounds that it’s much easier to fail to work out for four minutes a day than for an hour. I know it’s $15,000, but what a timesaver! Think about it — spending that much money on not going to the gym would take me about 10 years.

I think I speak for all lazy sods everywhere when I say how very, very much we want to believe there is a magical exception to the “no pain, no gain” theory of fitness ……. even though we know this to be total bollocks.

Unfortunately the fitness industry has devised a bewildering array of products with this exact combination of personality traits in mind. There’s even one that makes less demand on my precious time than the Rom’s four minutes a day — a hand-held plastic device called 6 Second Abs. And it costs only $50. In my heart of hearts I know it can’t work. Who can’t afford $50 and six seconds a day? If it were that easy, everybody would not only own the machine, but sport a perfect six-pack too.

We’re back in “reassuringly expensive” territory with the $2,600 Power Plate, which looks like a set of bathroom scales and a metal detector. All it does, as far as I can tell, is vibrate. On the plus side, you use it for only five minutes.

If you’re looking for something cheaper, but have a whole half hour a day to spare, you could go for a $100 “toning belt” — a set of actual electrodes that you attach to your actual stomach in the hope of making it flat. Of course it doesn’t actually work; on the other hand, electric shock therapy is a highly effective cure for mental illness. And your brain would have to be the size of a mosquito’s kneecap to believe that mild electric currents would give you a six-pack.

Nevertheless, there’s something invigorating about having a selection of state-of-the-art fitness equipment close at hand whenever the mood for exercise takes me.

Why, only yesterday I spent a strenuous 40 minutes in the attic, rummaging in vain for — okay, I admit it — my 6 Second Abs machine. I was exhausted……but fortunately that counts as a whole year’s workout.

Let’s see if I have enough energy left to answer today’s questions……… we go.

techmom Asked:
To Roxianne: My son worked with Jen on the Conquest and he liked her a lot. She was the CD in the midst of the hurricane and the Conquest had to relocate. Poor thing was “baptized” very quickly into her position.
To John (please reply): We are going on the Pride May 30th. It is going to strange to be only passengers on the ship not being greeted by our son when we embark or meeting everyone he had worked with. I asked him if he knew anyone working in the entertainment area on the ship who would like a mom and dad for the week. He didn’t so we will just have to be like everyone else…. Anyways, looking at your CD list, will Mark Price still be on the Pride for our cruise? We did have him on the Conquest and enjoyed him.
Thanks for your help!

John says:
Hello Karen
Thanks for singing the praises of Jen who as you said became an overnight star during last year’s hurricane season. I appreciate your words of support do much and I am sure Roxianne will have a wonderful time with Jen as the cruise director.
I am sure there will be plenty of people on the Carnival Pride who will want a bonus Mum and Dad for a week and one such person is our great friend here on the blog Jaime who will be the assistant cruise director. Unfortunately I might as well tell you and many others that Mark Price will not be the CD has unfortunately Mark has decided to retire and will be leaving May 1. I want to take this opportunity to wish he and Lenka his wife much happiness in their new endeavors and welcome Kirk Benning as the new CD of the Carnival Pride. I have known Kirk a long time and I know he will do a brilliant job.
Please let me know if you have any more questions and my best to your son and have a wonderful cruise

Bobby Asked:
Hi John, please reply. I went back to the other reply from two days ago. Thank you so much for answering the sea spi tour question, it is a bummer that they discontinued it. Oh well, do u know if they got a burrito bar on the Valor? John I appreciate all of your help, I have one more question, is there away that I can request to dine by a window in the dining room? All 5 of my cruises I have been seated in the middle it would be nice to look out while dining, if I can request it how do I go bout it?? Thank

John Says:
Hello Bobby
Yes, I know you and others are disappointed about the sea spi tour being cancelled but I hope you found some other possibilities from the list of tours I posted a few blogs ago. There is no burrito bar on the Carnival Valor as of yet but there is the brilliant Fish and Chips on deck 10 aft……….don’t miss that. Please remind me one week before you cruise and I will see what we can do for your table

Rick Asked:
Hello John,
(Please Reply)
Thank you again for answering my previous questions and your help with the maitre’d and the supper club on our April 19 Conquest cruise. I think Jeanne will be very surprised.
Loved the blog yesterday and today. I would say to implement the Burrito bar on the ships, it’s a perfect anytime snack or meal.
I took your test and could honestly answer “B” to all but the last question. The cheese grater would be a tad to much.
It’s funny why they did away with the fruit punch (even though I could care less about fruit punch) was it primarily because of children spilling them or Adults? I ask because I know there are a few cocktails available as well as the drink of the day with fruit punch and I would have assumed someone imbibing might be more likely to spill or drop their drink.
Could you explain as to why there seems to be such a premium on the shore excursions offered by Carnival versus an independent broker?
Hope your still enjoying your time at home.
All of the best to yourself, Heidi and the new addition.

John Says:
Hello Rick
The fruit punch spillage situation was caused by a mixture of guests and the crew who clear the tables. Regardless whose fault it was I can understand why our housekeeping staff didn’t like it very much if it left permanent marks on the carpets. As I said the other day, we are looking for a replacement product so hopefully one will come along soon.
You asked about the cost of our shore excursions. Well, that’s a good question. We are given a price by the tour operator, that’s their cost and we also have to add our costs on which then gives you the price of the excursion. However, what you do get is the following: only the best operators offering the best excursions. Then, just as important you get the same peace of mind as you do when you onboard. This means that these excursions have been personally vetted by Carnival’s shore excursion team and we are able to keep track of which guests are on which tour at any given time. Also, if you are with an independent operator and you do not get the tour you were promised or the description of what they were going to give you does not match the actual experience then you have to deal with that operator alone. Obviously on a ship-purchased shore excursion you have a dedicated team of professional staff who will look after any concerns you have. For many people the major reason they take a Carnival tour is the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the operators are in touch with the vessel and can monitor the status of a particular tour.
Yes……….our excursions may cost a few more dollars than those you may find while Internet shopping but the reasons I have listed above are priceless.
Hope this helps and please let me know if you have any other questions

Melody Asked:
Say it ain’t so!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve been checking another website and it looks like Carnival has removed the Bahamas itinerary from the Triumph when it moves to New Orleans! ARRRGHHH! I know it was there last week, but now…..oh, never mind! I was looking under Caribbean, not Bahamas’.
Any idea on when the June 2010 schedules are going to be released for the Triumph? This is sounding a little repetitive so I will answer for you…..No Melody, nothing yet! LOL
BTW being a parent isn’t difficult….well, not all the time! Good luck! You will do just fine!

John Says:
Hello Melody
Thanks for the parental advice Melody and I hope you are right 🙂
Well, you basically answered your own question and I promise I have not forgotten you. The summer schedules for 2010 will be with us soon and the moment they are I shall promise to let you know within minutes of me receiving the information.
Hang in there
I remain at your service

Lynn and Dave Asked:
John, please respond…….please, please help. We are sailing on the Carnival Glory room —, on May 9th with a brother and sister-in-law room —-. We all requested 8:15 dining time and believe our reservations are linked together so that we will be seated together.
Our request is to have a table for four on the main dining room floor so that we can see all the action of the great dancing wait staff.
Thanks for any help you can give us.
P.S. This will be our fourth time on the Glory and we are looking forward to it this time just as much as all of the other times, just 24 more days. And, 255 days until our first suite and it will be on the Carnival Dream!

John Says:
Hello Lynn and Dave
Thanks for taking the time to write and I will certainly make sure your requests are noted by the maitre d. Don’t worry and I promise your fourth cruise on the Carnival Glory will be the best ever.

Justin Flood Asked:
Hello John,
Please reply if you get the chance.
I just wanted to say hello, my girlfriend (now fiancée) and I sailed with you on the First Blogger’s cruise, and to date it has been my all-time favorite vacation experience. You made our cruise an absolutely fantastic time, and your rendition of “the bedtime story” was the very first time I have ever literally fallen out of my seat laughing. You are definitely the proof that a great Cruise Director can really make a difference.
That brings me to my question.
My fiancée and I are sailing on May 17th, on the Pride out of Baltimore. We are taking my parents on their very first cruise, and their first vacation since their honeymoon 30 years to the day that we’ll be sailing. I’d like to do something special for them on board, but I’m at a loss for ideas. Do you have any suggestions?
Also, would you happen to know who the cruise director on my voyage will be, and also who the Piano Bar player will be? The Piano Bar tends to be one of my favorite activities on the ship, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to enjoy the talents of someone great on our voyage.
Thanks again John! You’re the best! Best of luck to you and Heidi with your new thingy!
–Justin & Jessica

John Says:
Hello Justin and Jessica
Thanks for the kind words and I am so glad you have such happy memories of that first bloggers cruise on the Carnival Freedom and that the Bedtime Story gave you a good chuckle.
The CD was supposed to be Mark Price and as you may have read above he has just announced his retirement and you will now have the brilliant Kirk Benning as your cruise director. I will check later today to see who the piano bar entertainer is but I bet Laura (Divetrash), our unofficial head of piano bar entertainment, will be able to tell you before I do. Anyway, I will let you know in tomorrows blog mate. Now, for your parents. I suggest you pay for them to go to the supper club for a romantic dinner for two paid for by a son and future daughter-in-law who love them very much. If you want to book this for them you can do so online using this link thingy here:
This will be a night they never forget and if you remind me a few days before sailing I am sure I can leave them a little belated honeymoon gift as well.
I know you will all have a brilliant time and I send my best wishes to you all

Brenda R Asked:
John Please Reply
I previously wrote…My husband works for a man who runs a business institute. His boss is interested in conducting a week long series of classes while onboard a cruise ship…etc…
And you replied with a series of questions which I have copied below:
Just before I try and point you in the right direction may I ask if this chap wants to conduct these classes to the entire ship or is he travelling with a large group who have maybe already booked a cruise?
1. No, he has not yet booked a cruise. He would like to have a group consisting of around 300-700 people enrolled in his classes plus their families who will be travelling with them.
If this is the case I would need the name of the ship and sailing date. If not and he would like to do this as and when then please kindly send me his details and I will ask someone from our entertainment department contact him
2. He would like to schedule rooms for classes to hold 300-700 for 3-5 days on board. He does not have a particular date picked out yet. Please contact
Thank you very much!

John Says:
Hello Brenda
Thanks for the information and I will make sure you are contacted by someone in our group sales department. This sounds like a very exciting plan and we would be proud to host Paul and his guests onboard.
Thanks for writing and I remain here if you need me for anything else.
Best Regards

Slickabrina Asked:
I’ll be sailing on Splendor shortly and while on our Glory sailing in October, our head waiter had indicated he would be heading to Splendor in January. I had mentioned this to you while on the Blogger’s Cruise but would it be possible to find out if he is on board and in which dining room? The only info I can share is that his name is Mel and he is from the Philippines. Also, he was going to be sent to Conquest but then got changed to Splendor.
I know that’s not much to go on so it’s ok if you aren’t able to find anything out.
Thank you!

John Says:
Hello Colleen
No worries…….let me ask Ken and let us see what we can find out. I will write as soon as I have the answer

Mort13ers Asked:
For John/Thank you/Reply, Sorry it took a little while for me to write about our Fantastic time on the Freedom 4/5/09. First off we are all suffering from the Post cruise blues, not to mention we got to fly from Sunny 85 degree Fort Lauderdale into a very pleasant pouring rain/snow 32 degree Boston, Not the best way to end your cruise. John, thank you very much for the gifts, I heard the chocolate cover strawberries were delicious as I came back to the cabin 2 minutes after they arrived…… My wife and sons took care of them. Well the Fun ship experience started right at embarkation, as we sat in the lounge eagerly waiting to board the ship, the shore side staff started playing trivia, singing and even tossing around a beach ball with the passengers waiting to board. I like the fact once you board they were a number of crew members dressed in bright red shirts with the large letters of “Just ask Me” if you had any questions. We had a great table in the posh dinning room 333 right at the stern of the ship, we got to see the sunset everyday during dinner it was real nice. Dino was our ever Friendly Maitre d’ and Alexander and I believe Dimitri (I wrote their names down, but now I cannot find the paper) were our servers who did a fantastic job. The food was EXCELLENT, the best we have had in some time. We did have over 1500 kids on board and security did an excellent job with them, I would say 99% of the kids were well behaved, no issues, Just a few elevators with the buttons pushed, no big deal.( I am sure I would have done the same at that age). I along with you and probably everyone else out there agree Grand Cayman Needs a Dock; we were luckily that we could be tendered in on the other side of the island, but 4 other ships had to miss this beautiful port of call. The onboard staff was great always smiling, and I loved the new Deck Challenge for the Deck Party, that Todd and his staff have incorporated. It was a great cruise and we took full advantage of the future cruise deposit/on board credit program Carnival offered. My wife and I are trying to decide on a nice 5 day Anniversary cruise, but the kids are not happy as we are going to go solo this time. Sorry for the long post which could have been a lot longer but I wanted to say Thank you again. Just 2 quick thoughts Debarkation probably went the smoothest I’ve seen in years. We did not due self assist but saw that it ran very smoothly and then we were called by group number, and again very smoothly. A lot of passenger like the idea of the luggage express (that’s a keeper). One last note about the tipping of the maitre d’ this has been the long standing question of why tip him and how much. My comment would be like everyone else, have a suggested amount printed somewhere; as Dino did a great job for us.
Thanks again John, and here is wishing Heidi, Thingy and you a very Healthy, Happy, glorious day coming up. (Notice the Order Heidi, thingy and Then YOU) Like all of us men you will get used to it.

John Says:
Hello Mort13ers
What a wonderful report and one I have already shared with the vessel. I am so glad that you enjoyed the staff and all the special touches you mentioned above. I am glad also that you enjoyed Todd and his staff. It is obvious why we have chosen him to be the cruise director of the Carnival Dream and I am so very proud of what he has accomplished. It was also wonderful to read that the debarkation went smoothly. I know we have been working hard on this and will continue to do so and it’s nice to read that this hard work has been noticed.
Yep………I agree Grand Cayman needs a dock but as far as I know I don’t think we will be seeing one in the near future. I also see that you stated how friendly the crew were and the scene for a fun cruise was set right from embarkation as the shore side staff entertained you ………that’s brilliant.
You asked about tipping the maitre d and why we ask you to do so. Well, they all set the scene and all the parades and iconic dances and the friendly and fun service you hopefully receive all starts with the maitre d and all cruise lines…………..not just Carnival ……………we do ask that if you have experienced great service and if the maitre d has been attentive to your table that you pass on a gratuity to him or her.
Now………how much? Well, that’s at your discretion and when people ask me I always say “just a few dollars.” That probably doesn’t help does it? OK, let’s say you are on the cruise with a family of four. If it were me and the maitre d had visited the table and provided a fun environment in the dining room, I would put $5 in the envelope provided in the cabin……obviously this is just a suggestion and you may decide they deserve more, or less or nothing at all. It’s at your discretion which is why we never really mention amounts.
I would be interested to read what other bloggers have to say about this.
Anyway…….thanks again for the glowing report and I am so glad you had such a wonderful time
My best to you all

That’s all for today. I will have more tomorrow.

I see many of you have written in regarding the smoking policies onboard. On Monday I will collate all the information together and send your thoughts way up the line. So, if you have anything to add please let me know over the weekend ………remember your opinion counts.

Now, someone had asked “How is it decided who gets an upgrade?” and I had promised to find out………..well………here is the official answer from the lovely Brenda Yester who leads a very talented team of professionals as our vice president of revenue management.

Hi John:
Thanks for the opportunity to respond to your reader’s question about upgrades aboard Carnival.

While we do receive upgrade requests, the reality is that most of our cruises sail at full capacity so the opportunities for upgrades are somewhat limited.

Typically, when we are able to upgrade we give our Platinum guests priority. We also consider how much a guest paid for the cabin.

Thanks John and big thank you to all the blog readers for their continuing support.


Thanks Brenda. So, those are the basic guidelines that our staff offer upgrades on and I think we would all agree that upgrades should go to those who are Platinum guests first …………..this should be an incentive for everyone to reach their 10 cruises.

However, as Brenda says, upgrades are few and far between because for the most part our ships sail full. You know, it is quite amazing that each and every cruise on each and every ship our pursers office…….bugger………I mean our guest services desk always gets requests for upgrades and usually from people who have booked an inside cabin and now want an upgrade to a balcony cabin.

This is something that has gotten more popular over the years as compared to yesteryear people seem to have no problem in asking for free upgrades, not just on a ship but with the airlines and in the hotel industry. There is never any harm in asking although but do prepared to hear the news that the ship is sold out.

One of the most common reasons our guests ask to get upgraded is to say that “they are on their honeymoon” and while many are……many are definitely not. And it’s the same top reason used in order to blag ( a free upgrade on a plane? The things people will do for a bit of extra legroom and a linen napkin…

Now, here with important money saving news…….is our friend Stephanie

Hi Everyone,

In honor of fun times and the approach of summer we launched a 72 hour sale yesterday. So Thursday, April 16th through Saturday, April 18th ONLY – book any of our select summer sailings, and receive a FREE stateroom upgrade plus up to $240* to spend on board. Best of all, whatever you don’t spend, you can take home with you.

For more info on the 72 hour sale click here

Have a great weekend!

I read recently about a Mrs. Mason who had her daughter feign paraplegia to get to the front of the lines at Euro Disney which of course is totally and utterly wrong. Yet we stand back and applaud airline and cruise ship passengers who’ll pull any old scam to win something for nothing. I have yet to see a book entitled How to Buy a Hyundai for $20,000 but make them give you an Aston Martin instead but there are several volumes on how to get upgraded on airlines and many different posts and comments on how to get something for free onboard……..for all I know there may even be a book about it.

If I sound pissed off it’s because a) I never get upgraded, and b) my friend and ex-Dutch Purser Mioline used to work at an airport check-in desk and spent years stifling giggles as passengers tried anything from manic flirting to dressing in a expensive suit and addressing her as if she were a scullery maid so that they might turn left on the plane.

Mioline did tell me that the best bet is to volunteer to be “bumped” on to a later flight if the airline has overbooked. But surely hanging around the crap shops for another three hours rather defeats the point? Then there’s the tip about greeting your check-in person with a winning smile and a “Wow, you have beautiful eyes”…. but don’t forget they have heard it 2,000 times before and will almost certainly think you’re a tosspot ( especially if you have just told someone called Bob that he has beautiful eyes.

Here are some of the things that Mioline has told me about during her time at the British Airways Desk at Heathrow. Many people claim that these have worked for them: walking to check-in with a pronounced limp; claiming to have just recovered from DVT; buying coffee for the gate agents; wearing a tie (Eh? Have you seen how millionaire celebs dress?); lying that they nearly missed their connection due to a “crap” rival airline, thus making staff seize a PR opportunity to upgrade them; deliberately breaking their economy seat; arriving late; arriving early; wearing comedy high heels, claiming to be a giant or a power forward for the Miami Heat.

It’s nice to be in business but, really, I care more about my plane not plunging to the ground in flames than the width of the armrest. But FYI, here’s what my friend Mioline says: Upgrades these days tend to go to frequent fliers and those who’ve paid top dollar for their ticket. However, when she had the discretion she’d give it to someone who didn’t ask at all but just seemed nice. Oh yes……..and there’s always that old-fashioned, sure-fire way to guarantee your upgrade………….Open your wallet and pay for it.

Of course people still go to the purser’s office…..bugger………guest relations desk on that first day for what is quite often the strangest reasons.

Let’s go back to 1996 on the Carnival Destiny where I experienced this first hand. Now the important thing here is that the ship is in Miami……it’s embarkation day……..the ship has yet to leave…….it’s tied up against the side of the pier………..this is very important to remember.

So, there I am in the back office of the then purser’s office and suddenly I hear quite a commotion at the desk. So being a nosey bugger I go to see what’s happening. There at the desk is a man refusing to stand in the busy embarkation line which is full of honeymooners, giants of industry and people wanting upgrades because they are good friends of the owners “Mr. and Mrs. Arnisen” ….that’s another very common way of trying to get an upgrade……”I am the next door neighbor of Gerry Cahill’s cousin’s gardener.”

Anyway, I digress. This chap is really irate and so the purser (Andy Brown who is now a hotel director) started to try and calm him down……..and this is honestly…..I swear …….. how the conversation went that embarkation day two hours before sailing


Mr. Angry then tells him and Andy checks his cabin number


Andy fainted.

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.