Goodbye Bubba

September 13, 2009 -

John Heald

Its time to say goodbye to a great Carnival Cruise Director, a great friend to the blog and a great friend to me. I want him to have the final words so please let me say thank you to Chris for all the joy he has given thousands of Carnival guests. You will be missed mate.


Greetings from Alaska!

As I sit here and type away in front of the computer, I look out my window at the mighty Majorie Glacier located in Glacier Bay. It is a beautiful day.



We have begun our last two cruises of the Alaska season. We end where we begin with the wonderful Glacier Bay Itinerary. A special cruise as we are only allowed 3 entrances to the park a year. The Glacier Bay Itinerary is….

Vancouver B.C.
Sea Day
Juneau – 2pm till 11pm
Cruising through Glacier Bay
Skagway – 7am till 4:30pm
Ketchikan – 11am – 7pm
Sea day then cruising the Inside Passage
Vancouver B.C.

My day today will be spent mostly preparing for our next voyages, which will be my last as a cruise director. I have 2 more Hawaii cruises to do and then on October 10 I will part ways with my role as a CD to begin a new life. What that is yet? I don’t know. I just know that it is time to move on. I will be getting married on October 14. ( and figured if I was going to make that kind of a change in my life I might as well make more than one at the same time.

Now that I have done this reposition a few times, the Hawaii prep is easy for me. Stuart Dunn will be taking over from me on October 10. I hope to share as much of my knowledge with him about how to make these transitions as easy as possible.

John has been posting more CD interviews. I had responded to him at the time that I would not be answering all of those questions, as by the time it actually got posted, I would be just a memory. So John asked me to send one last BUBBA blog looking over my past 15 years.

I actually started working on ships in 1992 with Holland America Line. I worked for a concession company called Trans Ocean Photo. My parents had gone on a cruise on the Regent Rainbow sailing out of Tampa to Cozumel. It was one of their first cruises. When they came back, they had such a good time; they had suggested that I look into working on a ship as I wanted to take a semester off from school. I had been working at Busch Gardens in Tampa in the photo department, so I put my resume together and sent it off. A couple of months later, I got a call….”Can you go this Saturday?” So thanks to my parents for giving me the idea, because otherwise none of this would have happened.

I also must thank my first roommate on the Nieuw Amsterdam. The NA was my first ship. Without Paul I think I probably would have quit within the first month of being on board. For the life of me now, I can’t remember what Paul’s last name was, but I do remember he was from a place called Devon, England. I was lost within the first 15 minutes of being on board. Had missed home, friends and family. But thanks to Paul, he really showed me the fun life of working on a cruise ship. And I quickly forgot all those feelings of wanting to go home.

(Me and Paul, my first roommate when I was a photographer for HAL)

My first contract was full of different itineraries. I worked the Western Caribbean, The Panama Canal & Alaska. All inside of 8 months on board. Saw many great things including Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica. Which I would have to go and stand in for 6 hours a call taking pictures of the Holland America Guests as they climbed up. Duval Street in Key West, stingrays in Cayman, and partied at Carlos and Charlie’s in Cozumel. Being a ship’s photographer, I even got to get off the ship as it went through the Panama Canal and take pictures. Very cool getting to stand on the locks.


Then in Alaska, visited the Glaciers for the first time, and stand in the rain, on the gangway taking pictures. I think this is where I realized being a ship’s photographer was not for me. The photo gallery on the Nieuw Amsterdam was located right by the show room. As I was the bottom of the barrel in the department, I was always schedule to work the gallery hours. So while the shows were going on, I would pop my head in and watch what was going on.

This is where I first learned what it was to be a Cruise Director. I saw this guy up there, just talking, telling stories and a few jokes. I had always been into public speaking a kid and decided that seemed more suited for me to do. When I inquired about changing positions, I was told I was a concession, and would not be allowed to transfer. Not without parting ways with Trans Ocean. At this point I was about 6 months or so into the contract and decided that it was not meant to be and I would go back to school. I put in my notice that I was going to leave. Back then, your contract was scheduled, as long as you could stand being on board. About three weeks later I was headed home. I signed off the ship to go home in Vancouver. I was very excited to leave. Partied up the last night in the crew lounge. Said good bye to everyone and the next morning I was in a cab headed for the airport. Then as the taxi left, and I lost sight of the ship, I started to realize home much I would miss my new friends and my home for the past 8 months. All of sudden I was sobbing. I wasn’t sure what was coming over me, but I know that it was because of how I felt in that cab, he drove me back to ships.

When I returned home, I went back to school for a bit, but quickly felt the call to the sea, and decided to re-apply to the cruise lines, this time setting out to become Cruise Staff. I had many of the cruise lines call and write back to me. Including, Princess, Premier and Dolphin, but all of them wanted to offer me photo positions which I was not interested in. Then one day a guy named Bob Woodry called me from Carnival.


He was in charge of the photo department shoreside. When I realized that’s what he was calling to talk to me about, I said, “Does anyone in your business read cover letters when they get resumes?” And that got our dialog going where we discussed that he could not get me a job there, but could offer me a new position that was being created in video as I had some experience in college with broadcasting. And also asked if I would be willing to come down and talk to him about it. I looked at it as a foot in the door, so I agreed. Drove down to Miami. The end of the interview, Bob said, “Can you go Saturday?” So I did and next I was off to the Carnival Fascination. Newest ship in the Carnival fleet. It was December 10, 1994. My start date with Carnival Cruise Lines.

In my first contract with Carnival I was right at home. There were no issues with being home sick. There was even one of the Hair Dressers on the ship from the Nieuw Amsterdam on board so I immediately made new friends through her. Here is where I learned a great part of ship life, is that you never know when you will run into someone again. So when you do leave a contract, you don’t have to be sad, because one of those friends could be just around the corner on the next ship. Also during this contract I met a man who would eventually become my idol as a CD….Brett Alans. I think one of the greatest Cruise Directors Carnival has ever had. All though I would not have called Brett and I friends during this contract, I did enjoy filming his talks and shows. Later our paths would cross again.

My big supervisor in the video department was a man named Nigel Stables. He came over from the casino department to video as he was always making videos in his spare time to teach new dealers how to deal games. Nigel, Dusan Happey, Rommel Recio and myself did the start up on the Carnival Fascination to being what ultimately became the Video Services department. Nigel and I became fast friends. He liked what he saw in my work to where he wanted to move me to the Carnival Holiday to be the guy who filmed the crossing of the Carnival Holiday through the Panama Canal….so I went to Panama….again. On the Carnival Holiday the Cruise Director’s name was Art Whitlock. I talked with Art about becoming a social host. He gave me the chance to host some activities, even though I was not in his department.

After my two ship contract, I was ready to put in for my transfer to get into the entertainment department. I spoke with Nigel and he really did not want me to leave the department, so he offered me a position working the Carnival Office in Miami. Faced with the decision on what to do, I decided to take the job working in the office. Gave myself a goal of 1 year. If I didn’t like it, I could always transfer back.

My time in the office was very beneficial. Here I learned the inner workings of the CCL head office. Worked on many video projects for different departments. From Corporate Training, Casino, photo & more. Made a lot of connections. But after the year was up, I still felt like I wanted to be a CD, plus I didn’t really enjoy living in Miami. So again I asked for the transfer, and so long as I agreed to finish the project we were working on, I would be allowed to go over to the entertainment department. Four months later I was back on the Carnival Fascination as a social host.

My return to the Carnival Fascination was excellent. I hit the ground running as a social host. After filming so many activities as a videographer, I needed next to no training. Put the mic in my hand. My first CD as a host was Graham Seymour. Probably the most naturally funny cruise director to have worked for Carnival. I know many of you who read the blog would disagree, but I am sure John would agree with me about how gifted Graham truly was. I studied every move of Graham, but realized soon that I would not be able to be like him. His humor was unique, and where I found I would have to develop my own persona. Valerie Crook was the host who trained me to be a social host. She later went on to become one of the first female cruise directors. During my time, I also learned about how to run backstage. Lights and sound. I wanted to learn everything I could about being in the theater.

(Fly on Lewis Nixon & I in Vegas!)

The time flew through my first contract as a host and soon I found myself home again. Within just a few weeks I was already to come back. Calling the office asking if there was space for me to go out early. My next ship was the Carnival Celebration, and where I feel I truly learned the most. The Carnival Celebration back then was a one host ship. So I was all by myself running the activities. I did everything. My 1st sea day schedule was manic. I would start at 9am, go till 12noon. Back up again at 12:30pm….run activities till about 4pm. Changes for the captain’s party. Host the parties with the cruise director, then run backstage for both of the shows. Then run to the other end of the ship to host the late night comedy special. Oh and then get up at 7am the next day to lead the tour departures.

It was crazy!  But I loved it.  Here’s where my path crossed again with Brett Alans.  Now I was his assistant, and he showed me everything I needed to know to be a cruise director.

I spent about years as a host.  I got promoted to ACD in 1998 when I brought out the Paradise.  Of course, ACD position didn’t exist till then.  I think I was the 2nd guy to get the title.  Right after Simon Prendergast….who I believe was the 1st to get that title.  The Carnival Paradise was the only new ship I brought out in my time with CCL.   AND it was the ONLY ship where they DID NOT SEND THE HOSTS TO THE SHIP YARD…..  L  So I do regret not being able to get to see Finland or Italy.  I joined the ship in New York.  The first totally NON smoking cruise ship ever.  It was a great contract.  I knew that I had to be close to reaching my goal of getting to be a cruise director, and used this contract to learn as much as I could about the rest of the entertainment department.    I spent time learning to DJ.  Got to be a pretty good beat mixer, especially disco.  Took up the bass to see what it takes to be one of our musicians.  And spent a lot of time at cast rehearsals to see what goes in to putting on a production show…never did get good at the bass, but still got a lot of insight into the inner workings of what goes on in the department.

The fateful day came when I got the call from Larry Garlutzo the Cruise Director.  He told me I had to call the office.  He then told me that I was going to get a shot to be a CD.  But then told me I had to act surprised when I was on the phone with the office.  I spent about 30 minutes on the phone with Brian Horta who gave me the news and told me what to expect, and what he expected from me.  I told him I hoped I would not let him down.

(Making an announcement at the Purser office on the Sensation)

I think it was April of ’99 when I signed on the Carnival Imagination for the 1st time as a cruise director.  I had a two week handover with Steve Cassel.  Steve is our most senior Cruise Director.  He’s been doing the job longer than anyone else.  Was true then and still is today.  I was little worried about taking over from him.  But within a few days Steve was a wealth of information for me.  He was very generous in sharing with me years of experience.  In my time I have taking over from Steve twice.  A master of his craft.

My time on the Carnival Imagination was short.  Only 3 months.  But what a 3 month stint.  I had taken the ship from a 7 day alternating run to a 4/5 day run.    Got my first taste of performing with the show band as I would do my “Killer Bee” routine during the guest talent show.


Overall was very successful.  Many guests were surprised to find out I had only just started as a CD.  At the end of my time, I knew I would have to step back down to being an ACD.  Brian Horta had stressed that fact to me when he told me I was getting my shot.    Brian had brought me into the office, as they used to do back then, to discuss my performance as a CD and also to ask if I would be interested in helping around the office in preparing for the upcoming Millennium Cruises.  So I spent the next few months putting together an entire manual for all Cruise Directors & social hosts for decade themed events to be run during the special cruises.

It was after this experience when I had my one and only experience working with John Heald.  It was the end of 1999 and we were on the Carnival Triumph.  I remember how he used to be retiring back then every week.   Yet somehow he’s still here.  I sailed into the new millennium as John’s ACD.    It was my last time in that position.  I was back to being CD right after the new year on board the Carnival Celebration.  A ship hold near and dear in my heart as one of my favorites.

(Myself with Juggler Victor Zuniga on board the Celebration)

The rest as they say is history….I have had a chance to be Cruise Director on the Imagination, Celebration, Fantasy, Fascination, Inspiration, Sensation, Jubilee, Elation, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Miracle, and Carnival Legend.  Some ships more than others.  Working out of Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral, Galveston, New Orleans, San Diego, San Pedro, Vancouver, Whittier/Anchorage, & Honolulu.  I have had some many wonderful opportunities and so many more people to thank who have helped me along the way.

(Jen Baxter, my then ACD, now a CD & myself at a flashback party)

As I look to the future, I am not sure what in holds for me.  But know that something will find my way.  I kind of stumbled into working on ships and becoming a cruise director, and I know the next thing will come along when it’s time.  Right now, I am winding down with my last 3 cruises.  Doing some last minute wedding plans.  Packing up my life on ships.  It’s amazing how much crap you can collect.  October 10, 2009 I will sign off in Ensenada, Mexico.  Drive to Las Vegas for the wedding.  Get married.  Go to Florida for a couple of weeks.  Then fly with my new wife to her home in Prague in the Czech Republic where we will spend Christmas and New Years.

Then after that I will start to look for work.  I would like to continue performing in some way.  Either on stage, radio or TV.  I would love to continue performing my blues show.  I even inquired about becoming a fly on entertainer, so you never know, you might see me again on another FUN ship, but in a different capacity.  Or perhaps I will find something else I will be passionate about.  Working for myself or for someone else….anyone hiring?  I just know that I will want to spend time enjoying time with Julie & our dog-to-be…ELWOOD.


Which will be one of the first purchases I make now that I can finally have one living on land.

(me on a tandem bike ride in Skagway Alaska)


Cruise Director’s Conference from I don’t know when….Cruise Director’s in the Picture:  Bret Alans, John Heald, Jorge Solano, Mark Hawkins, Trevor Block, Dana Hodson, Matt Ross, Steve Cassel, Mark Price, Josh Riffe, Todd Wittmer, Matt Goodwin, Shawn Bussey, Lenny Halliday, Paul Santley, Larry Garlutzo, Marashall Stanton, Risa Barnes & Jeff Bronson.


(Even older CD conference picture.  Cruise Director in this pic, not in the one above:  Greg Kneale, Troy Linton, Dave Armour, Corey Schimdt, Devin Flemming)

Now to answer some of John’s questions….

Ron JeremyJ &   Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Meryl Streep

Way more music than I can possibly listen to.

The Blues Brothers, Star Trek(any of them) & the Hunt for Red October

Jenn Baxter(CD), Big Tex(CD), Brad Calabrese(CD), Marc Tavares(ACD), Lewis Nixon(Fly On), Carl Faulkenberry(Fly on), Kenny Miller(fly on), Merl Hobbs(Fly On), Al Ernst(Fly on), Risa Barnes(CD)

Jenn Baxter, Big Tex, Brad Calabrese, Risa Barnes – All my ACD’s at some point.

Brett Alans – my all time #1 and very good friend.

There are just too many people to thank for their friendship over the years.  I hope that I will get to see them all again.   If I forgot to mention someone, I am sorry.  Thank you to all, for letting me have a small part of the blog over the past 2 years.  It’s been a lot of fun.

In the words of the great Casey Kasem….”Keep those feet on the ground, keep reaching for the stars.”  Was always my favorite way to end a show…..

So long,

Aka “Bubba”

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.