A Mouse Among Men

June 18, 2009 -

John Heald

Peter Shanks, Carnival UK’s Chief Commercial thingy, is a brilliant public speaker. He has command of the English language and has the stage presence of a naked George Clooney. ………… His forum on the future of cruising yesterday was superb which really pissed me off because……….I want his job.

The day I spent at the UK Cruise Convention had some excellent speakers and one or two who had no more right to be on stage than Madonna ever did singing “Like a Virgin.”

It’s not easy ………I know this from personal experience. Take an invitation to speak I remember the first time I was a cruise director and had to give my inaugural travel talk about Nassau. I worried for days before about whether I should prepare notes and risk sounding robotic or ad lib it and risk drying up, and as the day approached I experienced all sorts of psychosomatic thingy symptoms……..a tickly cough, night sweats, chronic shits…….. at the thought of standing up and speaking into a silent, expectant room all.

Luckily I seemed to do OK and now it doesn’t faze me………I know that sounds flippant …….. but it is the truth. However, if I had been crap and the resulting boos from the passengers showed that I should have stayed as a bar waiter I would never have gone on stage again. I am sure one or two of the people who spoke yesterday must know they were about as interesting as watching a documentary about the mating cycle of the Mongolian Bog Pig ……..but maybe they didn’t.

As I introduced each guest speaker I did so with enthusiasm and with a dribble of humor and the audience of 500 plus agents and cruise professionals certainly seemed to laugh but two hours into the five-hour marathon I could have resurrected Frank Sinatra from the grave and had him do a pole dance while singing The Lady Is A Tramp…………but nobody would have cared.

This was because in the middle we had two speakers whose content on…….well….I can’t really say was so boring and spoken in such monotone voices that the people who hadn’t already buggered off were fast asleep. I admit, it is difficult to make internet marketing sexy but bloody hell…….try having some fun………smile……..look up at the audience…….and for the love of God don’t drink out of a water bottle after every paragraph.

Then just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse……..I had to introduce a motivational speaker. I have to admit that I have never bought into all this stuff but I know there is a mini-boom in demand for motivational speakers. Now the workforce turns up its nose at anybody who has not climbed Everest, won Olympic medals or at least written a book called Favorite Recipes of the Truly Successful.

I knew we were in trouble when she asked all of us to stand up. Now considering we had just spent the last 40 minutes listening about River Cruising………….”You will glide down the river in a boat…….looking at the beautiful scenery as the water gently laps against the ship, etc. etc. ” and most of us were in a coma………standing up was not easy. However, that was easy compared with the next task Miss Motivator had in store for us. We were told all to stand up and put our hands in the air and “shake out all the bad stuff “…………now the main problem with this was that 500 people had been in a large tent with no air-conditioning for three hours and when we all put our hands in the air……..the tent instantly became Paris……………not pleasant.

I know she meant well but all that mumbo jumbo “smile and you will win”………..”life is good” bollocks just wasn’t appropriate and the only thing she motivated me to do was slap a large piece of gaffer tape over her mouth.

However, there were as I said some excellent speakers and ones who had done their homework and knew that the travel agents wanted to know how they could sell more cruises and thus make more money. They wanted to know what the future looked like and they wanted to know what ships were offering what and where………………..not rocket science really.

All the cruise lines were represented — Carnival, Holland America, whose Executive Vice President Rick Meadows also spoke and spoke really well ……………..which pissed me off because I want his job. Also represented were PRINCESS, CUNARD, P&O, AIDA, msc, rci, ncl, and brand x (and as I said the river boat cruise.  The funny thing was watching all pretending to like each other, shaking hands, congratulating each other on their product, exchanging business cards and smiles and walking away …….each thinking………….you suck, we are the best.

However, we did all unite at one point. I introduced a pleasant chap from Disney Cruise Line who spoke quite well and we were all listening to what he had to say. However, this all stopped when he introduced the captain of the Disney Ship……..yep…….Captain Micky and down the aisle to the tune of It’s a Small World danced a full-size Mickey Mouse complete with a captain’s uniform………there is never an AK47 around when you need one.

The convention was a huge success and continues today. It shows that cruising really is despite the worries of the world continuing to provide the most affordable vacations there are and it was an honor to host the day…………..I hope I didn’t say anything I wasn’t supposed to …….. who am |I kidding ………of course I did………especially the bit where I said “Did you enjoy your lunch on board the Prisendam?”………….”Yes,” roared the agents…………….”I enjoyed it” I said …… “Especially since we didn’t have to pay extra for the steak.”…………oops!

I loved the Prinsendam. She holds 700 passengers and feels like a small five-star hotel and oozes charm and friendliness. Rick Meadows and his staff have introduced some wonderful new positions on board which I absolutely love.

The Party Planner – This is a lady who among other things holds functions on board where she will show you how to hold a successful dinner party or event at home. This I am told has proven to be very, very popular.

When I met the Party Planner on the Prinsendam she was working alongside the head chef who was in the specially designed theatre holding their Culinary Arts class. These are available fleetwide on Holland America vessels and as passengers sit in cinema-style seating they are treated to cooking demos not only given by the ship’s head chef but by special guest chefs, as well. They also hold wine-tasting classes there as well and I think this is a wonderful activity which considering they have designated a specific lounge for this shows just how popular it has been received by the passengers.

Rick has also included a book club planner, a dance director and my favorite of the new positions ………a “texpert” who teaches daily classes on all things computer…………what a brilliant idea. They also have a Digital Seas staff member who teaches the art of digital photography and that these days is invaluable…………and leads me on to something quite appropriate.

I just bought a new digital camera because Heidi wants to keep our one here so she can take 3 million photos of Kye every day.

I should have charged Carnival for it as apart from taking photos of my own penis (even though I am on a diet it’s the only way I can still see if it’s OK) all the photos I take are from Carnival. However, I paid for my new Sony myself and decided to use it for the first time at the Cruise Convention.

In days gone by, our SLR cameras were the size of a 700-page novel, but we’d carry them around with an assortment of spare lenses and flash guns and we’d move people out of the sun and make everyone smile and we’d take the film to the developers and we’d pay a bit extra for a fast turnaround because we were desperate to see how everything had turned out. And then we’d leaf through the finished shots in 10 seconds, put them in a drawer and never ever look at them again. …………but we were happy.

This morning I decided to transfer all the pictures of the convention and my penis onto my computer. This is easy enough if you have about four spare weeks, the temper of someone who’s actually dead and a master’s degree in engineering.

So when the computer detects that it’s been presented with some pictures it stores them in the electronic equivalent of a dusty box, in the cellar, behind the moonshine. Finding them again is a nightmare.

But find them you do and then what? Do you delete the ones that have no meaning or which are out of focus? No. You either leave them all where they are, in which case they will be lost for all of time when your hard drive crashes. Which, one day, I assure you it will. That, of course, is not as disastrous as losing a photograph album because you will also have put them on Cruise Critic in the mistaken belief that the rest of the world will somehow be interested in what you did on vacation. Most people would rather look at someone’s hemorrhoids than their vacation pics.

Anyway I was doing just that this morning and was having little play around with the computer’s Paint Shop thingy program. I was trying to put everything the right way up and maybe get rid of Peter Shank’s red eye. But pretty soon I was giving him a massive nose and Obama sized ears. …..and when I tried to delete the changes by pressing the ……….ummmm………delete button ……….most of my photos buggered off and although I have looked in every file and the trash can thingy……..I haven’t a bloody clue where they are. So, I think I need to take a Holland America cruise and get some digital lessons,

So, here are a few photos that remained and a brief description of what you are looking at.

DSC0371-Dancing with the Stars professionals with Princess Sr. Cruise Director James Lay1
Dancing with the stars professionals with Princess Sr. Cruise Director James Lay

DSC03688-The Party Planner and Chef teach the guests to make crab cakes
The Party Planner and Chef teach the guests to make crab cakes

DSC03689-Culinairy Masterpiece Theatre
Culinary Masterpiece Theatre

DSC03691-Internet Cafe and Library
Internet Cafe and Library

DSC03692-Great idea. Crosswords on the table top, changed every day
Great idea. Crosswords on the table top, changed every day

DSC03695-- Prinsendam cocktail bar
Prinsendam cocktail bar

DSC03699-The Pinnacle restaurant on the beautiful Prinsendam
The Pinnacle restaurant on the beautiful Prinsendam

DSC03701-John and Holland America champion blogger, Captain Albert
John and Holland America champion blogger, Captain Albert

DSC03707-The travel agents dance
The travel agents dance

DSC03712-Dancing with the Stars professionals with John
Dancing with the Stars professionals with John

Princess Cruises Dancing with the Stars was a huge success even though as a judge I was terrible. I just made silly jokes and gave everyone a ten……..even though one lady jerked around the dance floor as though she had stuck her finger in the light socket and then shoved a cattle prod up her bottom……..I gave her a ten for effort though…………bless her. I got to share the stage with Princess Cruises’ Senior CD James Lay whose professionalism shone through ………..shame that because I wanted his job……….he’s on the Ruby Princess sailing in the Med.

Congratulations to Seabourn who this morning at 10:30 am Italian time took delivery of the most luxurious cruise vessel……in the world………..the Seabourn Odyssey from Italian shipbuilder T. Mariotti.

She will begin her inaugural season soon sailing from Venice and I am hoping that someone at Seabourn will be sending me some photos for all of us to enjoy.

The Seabourn Odyssey is another success for Micky Arison who as he did with Cunard has rejuvenated the Seabourn fleet with this ship and another one to come soon………shame that Mr. Arison is so good at what he does…………I wanted his job.

Well, as you can see I have rattled this blog of in record time today and you will note that there is no Q&A session. Time does not allow as I have to pack and do a whole host of things before American Airlines flight 57 takes me to Miami tomorrow morning. Then on Saturday I have to journey from my Motel 6 to the Carnival Freedom where I will post my first blog on Sunday once I am settled.

I will write a raspberry blog or two tomorrow and also at 5 pm on Friday (EST) please join me here on the blog for another Carnival Dream special.

I hope you enjoyed the interview with Boris and if you didn’t get chance to read it please do so because I know you will find it to be excellent. Well tomorrow Stephanie Leavitt will be posting an interview I did with your Carnival Dream’s hotel director and you must read what he has to say about his job and what’s happening right now over there in Monfalcone where the ship is nearly complete…………..don’t miss it.

I want to finish today by saying thank you to all of you. I arrived back home on March 31 and have been here nearly three months. Many of my blogs have been as much about life as about the cruise industry yet the readership figures have remained very strong with between 150,000 – 180,000 hits each month. I know the blog is at is strongest when I am on board or am visiting other ships, so the fact that you have all kept reading despite me at times writing utter nonsense is extraordinary.

It’s been a wonderful three months though and of course the highlight was the arrival of our beautiful princess…….Kye. It would be easy for me to gloss over how hard it will be to leave her and Heidi tomorrow and even now as I type these words I find my eyes filling with tears.

This will be the only time I will mention this. I won’t say this again on subsequent blogs because …….well…….just because. But I will miss them more than words can ever describe. Many people said she would change my life….and the many were right…….because she has and everything I do from now on……..every dollar I earn is for Kye and her future………..and a little bit for my Aston Martin fund.

So, I will see you in Miami and then onboard the Carnival Freedom as we cruise the Caribbean together …….I wonder what will happen? I hope you will join me to find out.

Goodnight……….and thank you.


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.