Hotel of Dreams

June 19, 2009 -

John Heald

The position of Hotel Director is one of the most important on board. Here we speak to the proud HD of your Carnival Dream.

1. Donato, can you tell us about yourself. Where you were born and your career so far from its start until now

I was born in a small town in southern part of Italy (Potenza). When I was fourteen years old I decided to pursue a career in the hospitality industry and attended the vocational Hotel School in Potenza (Italy) where I received a Diploma in Restaurant and Bar Services. During my school days I was always looking to develop my knowledge in service etiquette, food and drink recipes, and attended many wine classes and seminar which helped me later to becoming a wine enthusiast.

Early in my career I worked as an apprentice in various hotels, resorts and restaurants; both in Italy and in London (UK); where I also attend The English School of Westminster and advanced my study in Oenology.

In 1986 I joined Cunard Cruise Line as a Dining Room Waiter and quickly progressed to the position of Maitre D’ and later to Food and beverage Manager. In 1994 I left Cunard Cruise Line and took a teaching position as Culinary Instructor with Johnson and Wales University where I taught a number of subjects and progressed to the position of Associate Instructor.

The love for the sea is what brought me back to the Cruise Industry and in 1998 Joined Renaissance Cruise Line as Hotel Manager.

I joined Carnival Cruise Lines in 2004 as Hotel Director on Carnival Legend and than on several other Carnival Fun Ships, and now am honored to be part of the start up team for the Carnival Dream.

2. For those who do not know what the Hotel Director’s position onboard involves can you give us a taste of your responsibilities as a Carnival HD

My first priority as Hotel Director of course is to ensure that all team members within the Hotel Department are properly trained and follow safety and environmental procedures. Ensuring of all the of various services offered to our guest including guest stateroom, dining, food, room service, bar service, entrainment, children activities, gaming activities, and all of the onboard concession are always kept at highest standards. Coordinate all groups’ requirements, and ensuring all needs are met. Daily I work close with all of the Hotel Department Heads and ensure that standards in regard to maintenance, cleanliness of the vessel, United State Public Health, company procedures as far as budgeting and on board revenue are met. I keep an open communication with the onboard command and the shore side CCL office.

3.You must be very proud to be chosen to be the Hotel Director of the Carnival Dream. Having toured the ship with us last week what was your immediate impression of the ship

I am extremely proud and thankful to be part of one of Carnival biggest ship the “Carnival Dream” and my immediate impression when touring the ship was this is truly amazing such a unique ship that will set a new style of cruising since different area of the ship has been molded according to the different guest’s ages.

4. What is your job while the ship is in the shipyard?

While in the ship yard I am getting familiarized with all the area of the ship and believe or not it takes a long time to tour the all ship and look at every room and space on board…130,000 thousand tons of fun…oh boy. Everyday I meet with CCL New Building Team that they have been here in Monfalcone since the Keel laying back in February, 2008, and go over structure and layout of the different hotel spaces of the ship. The New Build Team has done a tremendous work in making sure everything is to specifications form the safety aspect to every service outlet within the hotel. I am also planning ahead for when the crew assigned to the start up will be arriving to load the ship before setting sail on September 18th.

5. Can you tell us about the crew. When will the crew arrive and how long do they have to prepare the vessel and what are the challenges the Hotel department will face

Some 100 crew members within the hotel department will arrive from mid- July to the end of August and will start to set up and help in stocking the ship for linen, chinaware, glassware, and finally food and beverages, and ready to welcome onboard the remaining of the crew which will arrive from September 2nd to the 17th. We shouldn’t have any challenges as since everything has been planned accordingly but Never say Never, and should the work be behind so will be everything else but, with good planning confident that will always be ready and overcome challenges.

6. What will the total crew compliment of the Carnival Dream be?

The total crew compliment is 1,367 and approximately 1,200 are working within the hotel department.

7. This is a new class of ship and I am so excited at some of the new features we will be able to share with our guests. Which of the new features are you most looking forward to seeing in operation?

As you know we have some new deluxe stateroom with double bathroom and finally those poor husbands can actually have something for themselves! The newly designed cove balcony cabins on deck two I feel it’s a great addition that guest will enjoy. The beautiful indoor outdoor Piazza on deck 5 promenade, this new feature will be a fun gathering for the guest. The new water slide it’s unbelievable and still, the most impressive area is standing on the new wraparound deck (The Lanai), and where you can truly say Wow!!!

8. Can you introduce us to some of your senior staff and tell us who they are and where they are from.

Chief Purser/Guest Relations Manager
Hector Groves – from Johannesburg S. Africa with Carnival team for a little over 8 years.

Housekeeping Manager
Niksa Pelic from Split, Croatia Joined Carnival in 2001 as Management Trainee and promoted to Housekeeping Manager in 2005 on Carnival Valor.

F&B and B Manager
Francis Mekkattukulam 18 Years with Carnival, love working for carnival and it is an honor to be chosen for the newest and biggest ship in the fleet

Cruise Director
Todd Wittmer – From San Diego California with Carnival for 10 years

Executive Chef

Sameer Shaikh – Chef -De Cuisine from India .I am With Carnival for 15yrs

Maitre D’s
Ken Byrne Sr. Maitre’d joined CCL February 1990, and promoted to Maitre’d in 1996 and accomplished the ‘Tagged Title’ of been know as ‘ The Singing Maitre’d’ I guess its an Irish thing, Married to Esther for 28 years and have a beautiful daughter Kellie, presently signing off Carnival Splendor 06/14 and scheduled to join the Carnival Dream in august.

9.What is the secret to being a successful sea going Hotel Director

To be successful is to a have a winning team that is prepared to work for you anytime even when there are changes to the ship’s itinerary that might alter the expectation of our guest but with a positive team that can all be turned around. Its is also very important to listen to team member that’s why I have an open door policy and no matter how small the request of any team members might be if it has reached my door I will always make it important and give the necessary assistance.

10. Finally, let’s find out more about you.

Married to my beautiful wife Irina whom I met on my first carnival ship, the Carnival Legend and we now have two beautiful children Alessandro almost 3 year old and Victoria 1 year old, and we live in Clermont, Florida. When not on the ship and at home we enjoy going places since and someday we will probably take a cruise…can imagine some 16 years at sea and I haven’t taken a cruise? I should really try it some days everyone say it’s the vacation of the life time.

Favorite Port
Difficult to say since I have had the opportunity to be in so many beautiful places around the world but, if I have to pick than I’ll have to say St. Malo (France).

Favourite Carnival Ship
The Carnival Dream of course but, I love the Carnival Miracle as well.

Favourite Movie


If you could manage any land based hotel in the world which hotel would it be and why

I would love to manage the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas which is for me is one of the most beautiful resort and would remind so much of the ship as far as services offered to the guests of all ages since I believe we should impress guest from younger to more mature, and older age.

If you had to choose the Godmother for the Carnival Dream who would you choose

That would depend if she had to be from Hollywood than I would definitely choose Halle Berry but if within our carnival family than I would choose not one but two Godmother and would have to say the tow Guardian Angel that are working alongside me in the yard office, Margherita and Laura.

Thank you Sir and I am sure many of the bloggers will join me in posting their thanks for this great interview and wish you much success.

I will be asking for updates from Boris and Donato over the next few weeks .


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.