Passage To India

July 9, 2009 -

John Heald

OK bloggers. Let’s start this morning with a test. Let’s list everything we can think of about Panama.

Hats…………. obviously. A canal, of course. General Noriega … ummm … more hats. Ah, the joy of going to a country most people know hardly anything about. Which is what I want to convince you to do.

Panama might be off the radar, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a brilliant place to take a cruise to. It has all the unspoiled beaches, wild countryside, exotic fauna and historical richness you could ever wish for, and, as far as risky places to go, it’s a big softy of a country— no tinpot regimes, no gun-toting militia, no famines or plagues and the water won’t give you the shits like Paris.

Then of course there is canal. Ferdinand de Lesseps, the man who built the Suez, arrived from France with bold plans but after nine years and 22,000 deaths he surrendered (what a shocker) and buggered off…………………leaving behind a large ditch. Cue the Americans, who completed the task in 1914, eventually handing it back to Panama in 1999.

The best places to see it are the canal locks at Gatun on the Caribbean side. We sent 2000 guests there today either on a boat going through the locks themselves or on tours where you can stand on the locks and marvel as the ships squeeze by, often with just 24in to spare on each side ……………there is a joke there but I am going to walk away from that one.

Unfortunately once again I do not have time to ponce off the ship looking at canals and hats. However, I suddenly got the urge to get off the ship………..which is probably due to the fact that I have not been ashore since …….ummmm…………..well………….since I came onboard on June 20th. This maybe due to the fact that I have been very busy and also due to the fact that I have no friends………yep…………..I am…………….. Billy no mates.

It’s strange. Everyone is very nice to me and everyone treats me with total respect…………too much respect. Not only have most of the people who I worked on ships with either gone to work in the Miami office or they have retired. And the ones left behind seem to think that I am something “important” within the Carnival organization and thus they treat me so. This means the last thing they want to do is go out with me in case I fire them or boil them in oil in eat them or something……….it’s very strange and totally unfounded. I would like to think that I am the same person I have always been………..just more cuddlier.

So today I decided a walk to the Tax and Duty Free center here in Colon was called for. It’s the only place within walking distance from the ship and comprises of shops that sell………..ummm……………hats. I didn’t want a hat………..I was looking for somewhere to have lunch and as did I realized with a heavy heart that the global food shortage had reached Panama. And while I’m sure there are many fine restaurants in Panama, quite simply, I couldn’t find anything serving anything that a human being might reasonably want to put into its mouth……….well……………except maybe a Parisian.

I had in my mind a white-painted restraunt, perhaps by a restored lock. I imagined pretty waitresses, a pint of diet coke over lots of crushed ice and a fillet of freshly caught Red Snapper with lashings of fresh vegetables.

Eventually I found one place that I thought maybe ok. There were a few guests from the ship there already eating and as none of them had died from food poisoning yet I decided to give it a go…………… was though very embarrassing to be eating alone and after talking with them for 5 minutes I decided it would be even more embarrassing to bugger off so I spent the entire time on my raspberry, calling and e mailing ……………Kye mostly.

When I went to sit down at my table I noticed something odd……………all the seats were slashed?

Was this a tradition for the hat wearing Panamanian who thinks “I know? I’ll take out my pocket knife now and cut this chair into ribbons”?

I have similar thoughts whenever I visit the public bathrooms on board our ships …………specifically the ones by the disco late at night. How do they all miss the bowl by such an enormous margin? Are they doing it deliberately or is it a fault with their bomb-aiming equipment? In which case, what on earth must their bathrooms look like at home?

After a short wait my pretty waitress arrived. And she was pretty………….and she was only a kid……….I mean really………..she can’t have been more than 15. She gave me a menu that really was a proper menu. I say this because not only did it have a description of what was available but it had bits of various food items encrusted over it so should I wish to taste the dish first…………………. I could scrape a bit off.

There menu was not very varied though. There was:
CARIMAÑOLA – A roll made from ground and boiled Yucca and filled with chopped meat and boiled eggs. The roll is then fried before serving.

EMPANADAS – These are something like a Cornish pastry we get back home. Made from flour pastry they were filled with meat, chicken or cheese.

Judging by the state of the chairs, and by the loud banging noises in the kitchen and because I could not afford to ruin another pair of underpants……….I decided not to go Panamanian and instead go for the more American option which jumped off the menu at me.
I went for a burger.

My nuked beef arrived between two pieces of what, I suppose, you could describe as bread. But only if you were mad. Let me put it this way……….. If I threw it at you in a food fight, I feel fairly sure that it would take your head clean off. ……………… was a good thing therefore that I am on a no carb diet and so I left it at the side of my plate…………which was considerably softer than the bread.

Plainly, then, this is a place you go to not because you are hungry or because you want to treat your Panamanian family to a celebratory meal following your son’s first purchase of a hat. No. You go there to get heavier. As lunches go, it was right up there with an experience I had in a restaurant in Hong Kong. The menu said, “Rather burnt rice land slug” and I ordered it because it sounded intriguing, but sadly it wasn’t. It turned out to be as described -…………….a rather burnt slug.

And so after taking a few bites out of my mystery burger meat which probably did its last ” moo ” when Noriega was still in power I wandered alone back to the ship wondering how long it would be before the burger built a road through me and I would be adding a few more gallons to the Carnival Freedoms sewage tanks.

I also thought to myself “what the hell are you doing going ashore to eat you idiot?” Why are you eating a burger that looks and tastes like a camels arse when you could be back on board the carnival freedom enjoying a huge variety of freshly made food?

And so……….I was inspired and once on Lido Deck I asked the maitre D to get me a selection of everything we were serving today for lunch………… is the result:

Food - IMG00250-20090708-1342

How about that. I defy any fan of any cruise line who says carnival’s food is not as good as other lines to look at that photo and not go ” wow !” ………oh and you may have noticed that the fish and chips plate is missing…………ummmm……………sorry………………I ate it.

There will be more about food shortly………….but first here are today’s questions…………….here we go.

Jim Asked:
Hi John, Please Respond,
Gee, thanks a lot for the supper club description….. If my drool ruins my keyboard it will be all your fault.

For Stephanie: the Dream is still not on the list of ships for the supper club reservations and we are all getting very anxious because we only have 90 very long days before our Dream cruise.

Johns Says:
Hello Jim
I am sorry the steak house……….and yes………..we all have to get used to calling the dining area formally known as the Supper Club as the Steak House…………made you drool. It does me every time……………especially the Porterhouse……….it really is a great cut of beef. Anyway, we will have the Supper Club reservation page for your Carnival Dream up next month and I will let you know the exact date very soon.
Best wishes

MrPete Asked:
Please Reply
Regarding the change of a supper club to a steakhouse, does this mean the intent of the FINE DINING aspect will be different, inviting families and such of all ages, eliminating dress requirements, with an emphasis of upgraded food, rather than fine dining?

John Says:
Hello Mr Pete
That’s a great question and I think the answer is yes and I think the answer is no. While the amazing service levels that you have all come to expect at our Steak Houses will remain unchanged I don’t think we have ever not encouraged families to dine there. The dress code will remain as well and the food choices and preparation will also continue at the high standard that has made our Steak Houses so very popular. I think the word Steak House sums up exactly what the experience is all about and is more congenial to the Carnival product.

So, it’s basically just a name change however there will be some exciting additions to the menu which I hope to talk to you about very soon.

Please let me know if you have a follow up on this
Best wishes

Kathy Asked:
Hi John,
Please respond,
I was just reading where someone asked you to do a blogger cruise out of Galveston. I just got thinking, since you have already been on that ship, why not do your cruise to Alaska first so your fans on the West Coast of America can enjoy a cruise with you first, then go to Galveston. I think it is time the West Coast had you for awhile.
BTW, I love the picture of Kye; she is getting so big and beautiful by the day. I bet she misses you as much as you miss her.

John Says:
Hello Kathy
Thanks for these lovely words about Kye and Heidi will have the latest news and photos of her tomorrow. I can tell you that we are considering all the options for the 2010 bloggers cruise and it will be a tough choice for sure as I know it won’t please everyone. I have never been to Galveston or been on the Carnival Conquest so that was why I was considering this as one of the possibilities. However, I have been talking to Chris and Roger and as I have never been a CD on the west coast I am more than likely to be on the Carnival Splendor for a few months next year. I hope to have my schedule confirmed very soon and I will let you know as soon as it.
My best to you and the family

Sheryl Asked:
John Please Reply
Thank you for getting the sugar free cakes sold from the Bon Voyage department. Now my diabetic husband can “…have his cake and eat it too!” Another sugar free question- How about offering sugar free ice cream and toppings at the Ice Cream Parlor that is open on Sea Days from 3-5 PM? I’m sure many people would enjoy that too. Wouldn’t you just love a nice sugar free ice cream sundae? Thanks John, for all of your hard work!

John Says:
Hello Sheryl
I am glad we were able to help you and others by getting the sugar free cake added to the bon voyage list. No let me work on the ice cream. As I said the other day in a blog thingy, I intend to do my very best in making Carnival the most diabetic friendly vacation in the world
Best wishes

Uncle Doug Asked:
John, please reply,
March 14 is Rumpy Pumpy day? I will have to remember that. March 14 is mine and Donna’s wedding anniversary. Next year March 14, 2010 will be our 25 wedding anniversary.

We are currently looking for the perfect cruise and ship to celebrate the event. Any recommendations for a Carnival sailing of 6 days or longer that does not go to the western Caribbean? While we love Cozumel, we go there several times a year already. We have done the Eastern Caribbean once but not the Southern Caribbean.

John Says:
Hello Uncle Doug
Congratulations on having your anniversary on International Rumpy Pumpy Day……….sounds like cause for celebration………….maybe even twice.

I love the southern Caribbean and its been a long time since I have been to these places which I have listed here which represent the itinerary of the Carnival Victory………..a cruise I highly recommend
San Juan, Puerto Rico;
St. Thomas, USVI;
Dominica; Barbados;
St. Lucia, WI;
St Kitts, WI;
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Have a think about this Uncle Doug and let me know if you have any follow up questions. It would be perfect to spend International Rumpy Pumpy day there………oh yes…………and your anniversary
Best wishes to you both

Canuck Cruiser Asked:
Good Morning John, (PLEASE REPLY)
I’ve noticed several comments about the ease of embarkation in Port Canaveral. Our Jan. 2010 DREAM cruise leaves from there and I wondered if you had any insight into how and why this port has such a good reputation?

We have left from both Miami and Fort Lauderdale and although Miami has a beautiful new embarkation area we have found the staff in Fort Lauderdale to be very friendly and efficient.

Our Liberty cruise in Sept. 2007 we were the “FIRST” passengers on the ship. Being Carnival Vacation club members does allow us the VIP boarding which is nice.

We have also suffered the cattle call of the embarkation lounge but the anticipation of the cruise is enough excitement to ignore any waiting time. I think that if you arrive at the port at around 10:30 am you are going to wait 1.5-2 hours so why put yourself through that stress and just bring a book or something to keep your mind occupied and the time will pass and before you know it………………you’re having a burger and a DOD on the LIDO deck and should be stress free.
Chill people…………you’re on vacation. Stop complaining about every LITTLE thing and enjoy the fact that you are NOT at work!!!
As I always say…………..”There is no such thing as a bad cruise…………..just too few of them!”
Over and out from Canada

John Says:
Hello B and D
You make some excellent points and I thank you for taking the time to mention them. Once again it never ceases to amaze me that while people seem to have accepted the stress and tribulations that are involved in checking in at airports these days and would never dream of complaining or raising merry hell with the staff…………they seem to have no problem in doing so when checking in at a cruise terminal.
we are really putting a lot of resources into making this experience as pleasant as possible and I hope everyone is beginning to see the effects of this hard work at all of our home ports. In this regard I ask all of you who cruise to send me not only a review of the ship and her crew but also a report on the embarkation and debarkation process. Everyone who has a priority position at carnival reads the blog so your comments will I promise be invaluable.

As for Port Canaveral. Well………..dare I say that the further you move away from south Florida the more relaxed and pleasant the authorities are…………..I probably shouldn’t say that but………..well……………it’s the truth. I am sure there are extra stresses and strains for CBC in the more cosmopolitan ports but from my experience in Port Canaveral and Tampa…………they are a wee bit more flexible than their South Florida colleagues………………and I had better leave it at that.

Thanks again for the great post and as you said…………….check in should be done with a dollop of patience remembering that the reward for that will be obvious as soon as you walk onboard.
Best wishes to all

Jeri Asked:
John, Please reply
Is there really no way one can get the blue envelope with our tour information and luggage tags for future cruises? We will be taking our 25th cruise at the end of December and have saved every blue envelope with cruise information for our enjoyment. I can realize that Carnival will save money by not mailing items to us but making the customer pay for laminating or covering with mailing tape luggage tags and going to the bother of doing so does not seem quite fair.

On a much more positive note – Kye is beautiful and is growing so fast!
Enjoy you next week. Jeri

Johns Says:
Hello Jeri
It seems that the world of computers has indeed taken over the world and while many will welcome the ease at which you can check in on line and print your boarding pass there will be some that will mourn the loss of the blue package, which always signified your Carnival vacation was that much closer.

Thanks so much for mentioning Kye and I hope you like the photo of her that Heidi will post tomorrow.

Best wishes to you and your family

Lisa Asked:
Dear John, (please reply)
My family and I just got off the Carnival Freedom and had a great time!! Your doing such a great job! My son is still laughing about you putting the pop rocks in your sister’s cat’s kitty litter. We’re still laughing about Mr. Whopper and Dick Little. You really made our trip and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. My question is, I have a friend on the Glory (RIGHT NOW) her name is Rita Marinucci and she’s a divorced woman with her two teenage kids (I hope she finds a man) anyway I was so wrapped up with my own travel plans, that I forgot to order something sent to her stateroom, is there anyway I can do that now that the ship has already set sail? Thanks in advance for your advice.
Lisa Perkins

Hello Lisa
I am so glad you found the blog and I am glad you had so much fun here on the Carnival Freedom last week.

I have contacted Ryan on the ship and he will send Rita a little something from you.

Best wishes and hope to sail with you again soon.

Paula Asked:
Hi John,
I think we cruised with you many years ago. Can you give us a list of ships on which you have been the CD? We have been cruising with Carnival since 1992. Our best cruise was in March 2009 on the Freedom. We loved our maitre d’ but Todd and Jaime were the best cruise director and ass’t CD we have ever had. They were so great, as was Capt. Q., that we are compelled to take our 10th cruise with them on the Dream in January. My husband, a friend and I are so psyched to see them again. Hope you are enjoying your “new” post on the Freedom. It certainly is a beautiful ship. But, I bet the Dream will be awesome. Enjoy reading your blog, although I have not done it very often.

John Says:
Hello Paula
You know I have no idea what ships I have been on and when just off hand. I have been a Cruise Director since 1990 and apart from the Carnival Conquest, the Carnival Pride, the Carnival Spirit, the Carnival Elation, the Carnival Paradise………….I have been CD on all the ships. I am sure If you had have sailed with me you would have remembered because I am better ………..much better than Todd……………and I am much better looking as well. Then again, the lesser Spotted Mongolian Dung Beetle is better looking than Todd so I guess that’s not saying much.

OK, to get serious……Todd is brilliant and he will be the CD on your Carnival Dream and James will be the ACD. I don’t have Captain Queirolo’s schedule just yet so I don’t know when he is taking a vacation. I will let you know when he knows.

Regardless you will have a fantastic time and your Carnival Dream cruise vacation will be the best ever.

Best wishes

Diane Asked:
Hi John, was referred to your site by a friend. My family and I are taking our first cruise on the Dream’s 2nd voyage (Oct 3). We will be celebrating my husband’s recent promotion, and our son’s 30th birthday. Could you tell me if there is something special we can have done for them on the ship during our cruise? And, if there is someone specific I should speak to regarding this? I wasn’t sure if I could get a small cake made, or have “Happy Birthday” sung to our son, etc. Since it’s our 1st cruise, we aren’t sure what type of special request to even ask for that would be considered feasible. Hope you can give me some tips.

John Says:
Hello Diane
What a wonderful way to celebrate your son’s birthday and your husband’s promotion. Your Carnival dream voyage will be an incredible one for sure and sailing the Mediterranean is incomparable.

Now, we have a bon voyage page on where you can pre order a celebratory cake and even have your state room decorated for your sons birthday. The dining staff will sing “Happies Birthdays Two Shoes” at the table for sure when they present the cake and if you remind me a week before you sail I will send your son a little gift as well.

Please keep reading the blog as there will be much more Carnival Dream information coming your way.
Best wishes

Hottycruiser Asked:
Hi John
Just started reading your blog and can’t stop laughing. First off congrats on your new addition and hope all is well with everyone.
We were on the legend in April for a chartered cruise to the western Caribbean and fell in love with Carnival it’s staff and the ports we visited, we have cruised with Disney prior and must say found all the crew we encountered on the legend for that cruise fantastic and if not at par above the Disney standard . So that saying that we have decided to take our children ( 8 & 10) on the valor with us Sept 6th (shhh it’s a surprise) visiting the same ports as we did in April ( hopefully visiting Cozumel this time). As our cruise was an adult only cruise, we are a little concerned about the kids being bored. We know about camp carnival but we also realize that this is the time frame that kids go back to school. Guess our question is. During this time frame does carnival still have its fair share of family’s cruising with them and if not does camp carnival reduce the amount of activities for the children that are on board? Also are children allowed in any of the clubs on board as we would love to have the chance dancing with them?

We can’t wait to sail with carnival again…
Be safe and be well and all the best to you and your family

John Says:
Hello Bronwen (great Welsh name by the way)
Welcome to the blog and I hope you will stop by for more laughs and information when you have the time.

I am glad that your Carnival Legend experience got you hooked on the product. We pride ourselves on our iconic crew and their friendliness is as important a part to the Carnival experience as anything.

I checked with our office and the preliminary count for the Carnival Valor cruise in September and there will indeed be many other children your age sailing. It is very rare that we sail without at least 100 children although early September and even with the schools back the count should be much higher. If you check in with me here on the blog thing a week before I will be able to tell you the count exactly.

I promise your children will enjoy the Camp Carnival experience and will make loads of new friends.

Hope you had fun on the adult cruise and the family one you will experience on the Carnival Valor will be even better.
Best wishes
That’s all for today.

Within the next several days we will be issuing some exciting press releases about your Carnival Dream. I have also made some videos for our new Carnival Dream web page. If by the way, you have yet to have a look at our new page ……please pop over and have a look…………you will love it I promise.

I want to encourage more of you to try the Tandoor. I realize that Indian cuisine is not as popular in North America but honestly……….pass it by and you will regret it. I can’t tell you how much Indian food I have eaten over the years. India is one of those countries, like Italy, where you could spend every vacation for the rest of your life and you would never run out of new things to eat. That is why it’s such an inspirational place, and why trying to recapture the colors and flavors and excitement of Indian food is so enthralling.

Many of our chefs are from India and they have a passion about sharing Indian cooking with all of you. Indian food bombards and seduces you in with its complex flavors, some of which hit you between the eyes, while others dance subtly across your palate…………and that is …………even if I do say so myself…………a brilliant description.

Try the butter chicken masala and the tandoori chicken and of course some freshly made popadoms and nan bread………….please don’t pass the Tandoor by and head straight for the burgers or the grand buffet. Allow these young chefs to take you on a passage to India……… will be a culinary journey you will never forget.

Here are some photos of the food itself.

Tandoor Food 2

Tandoor Food 4

Tandoor Food 5

Tandoor Food 6

Tandoor Food 9

Ok, time for your daily Carnival Dream fix. First of all, let’s check in with Captain Carlo Queirolo who has just returned from the ship’s final sea trials. I asked him how it went.

So Captain………how did the latest sea trials go.

“The Final sea trial went very smooth, the ship achieve a very good speed, and I believe she is one of the faster ship of the fleet and very stable. Great honor specially for a Flagship.”

What’s going to happen next? Will the ship return to dry dock or will she be alongside the pier.

“The ship is now alongside the pier, the activities inside are frenetic, they are starting the final delivery of crew and guest accommodation and all public lounges starts to shows their final beauty.”

What will your main job be these next few weeks?

“From now on, I’ll be very busy with my Team, CCS and New Building Team to supervise the final stage of construction before the deliveries. The Safety Officer with some assistants prepares all documents necessary for the safety crew training. In a few weeks all crew arrive and they need a full time training to get a knowledge of the new supermegaliner. One Officer is in charge as well to prepare all charts, publication, and timetable for the new cruises.”

Are you finding any time to relax and if so…

“The food is good the area around the yard, so I have to watch my weight, I bought a mountain bike and I try to spend at least 1 hour riding it.”

Ciao John, I miss you

And I miss you to Captain and congratulations once again.

Tomorrow I will be posting some photos of the people who are currently working at the ship yard and who are a vital part of making sure your Carnival Dream is ready to host your cruise vacation.

For now though………… are some photos taken today (Thursday) by our friend Boris Jockstrap ski.

Dream Angle View 3

Dream Angle View

Dream Angle View 2

There are many things I regret that I have said and done in my life. Actions that if I could I would go back in time and change. Trying very hard to distract Heidi in the delivery while she was giving birth to Kye by telling her about the time I got really badly constipated and had to go to hospital and, you know, the Doctor said that sometimes the pain can be almost as bad as the agony of labor ……………….was both stupid and painful as the finger nail marks in my hand proved.

However, some people do things in their life that are just as dumb and more so yet feel absolutely no remorse. Remember the blonde lady who under the influence of a vat of beer wandered up onto the stage during my welcome aboard show? Well she has been on my mind these last few days. Was she Ok, was she angry at me?

Well today, I discovered what I thought was the answer to that last question as she passed me on the Lido Deck. I smiled……..and she glared at me like I just killed her cat.

What had I done to deserve that? Why was she mad at me? Maybe it was because the way other guests had treated her. She certainly did not make any friends the night she decided to act the way she did in front of 1,800 people. I walked away thanking the guests for their support and that should have been that. But I need to know why she did what she did. I don’t think she was drunk again…………..she certainly isn’t buying the drinks herself as we stopped her card…………….I guess other people may have bought drinks for her but when I saw her on lido it was 10:30am…………no…………..she wasn’t drunk…………..she was angry……………and I need to find out why. So, I have written her a letter and placed in her cabin. Here it is.


Well anyway a few hours after delivering the letter I received a call from the Guest Services desk that this young lady had called. And so I called her back.

Twenty minutes later I hung up the phone having spoken to her Mum and to her. She wasn’t angry…………….she was embarrassed ………….totally and utterly ashamed at what she had done. She had no recollection of what she had done and broadcasting the show unedited had been the right call as she had watched herself on TV and could not believe what she had done.

She could not apologize enough and I told her that it was not necessary and tried to explain that the reason I had stopped the show was not because of the thing she did with her finger but the fact that she was behaving like she was had me in fear for her own safety………………..she and Mum thanked me for having security take her to her cabin.

She told me that everywhere she went other guests would point and stare but most had been nice, some even asking her if she was part of the show. One or two younger guests had called her names and that made me very sad.

She could not have been more apologetic and could not have been more understanding that I did what I did. He mother could not have been more thankful that we escorted to her cabin rather than let her wander the ship in the state that she was.

And so we departed as friends and I wish I could tell the ship about her actions tonight and the remorse she felt …………….but I can’t. But I can say it here on the blog. I sent her Mum a fruit basket and some photo coupons……………………and as keep sake……..and as hopefully a reminder of the perils of drink…………………I gave her a DVD of the show.

Your friend

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.