Captains Blog – Part 2

December 14, 2009 -

John Heald

Good Morning everyone……………I smell of baby poo…………..but I am a very happy man. I will be back tomorrow with a full blog. Today though it gives me great pleasure to welcome back to the blog thingy…………….Captain Scala.

John, a Good Friend
by Captain Scala – Carnival Destiny

The very first time John and I met personally was last February (2009) during his Blogger’s Cruise on the Carnival Fantasy. Before then, John had known me due to this blog – as mentioned in my first post – and I had known John through word of mouth and by reading his stories on this blog. John once told me, in one of his emails, that he has read so much about me that it was like he and I worked together.

When we met on the Carnival Fantasy, we immediately felt like we had known each other for a long time. I have always admired John for the fantastic job he has done over the years. What has struck me the most is his passion for the job and for being very consistent during his whole career. “Passion” and “consistency,” two qualities I consider the “key” to success in any business. One can be very skilled, talented, enthusiastic and the like, but if you are not consistent and passionate, you have very few chances of being successful.

John is one of the few individuals who have been very consistent and passionate in delivering what we at Carnival are asked to do: “CONSISTENTLY EXCEED OUR GUESTS EXPECTATIONS BY MAKING A CARNIVAL CRUISE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE.” John Heald has managed, over the years, to consistently entertain millions of guests from all over the globe with the same passion and enthusiasm as when he started his career as a cruise director.

A wonderful memory I have of John:

During the New Year cruise the ship had a technical problem and had to change itinerary. The cruise director made an announcement and asked guests to meet him in the main show lounge for a ‘question and answer’ session about the itinerary change. Knowing, in advance, what to expect from hundreds of unhappy guests, the cruise director went on the stage wearing only his underpants, a pair of fins and goggles. Before any of the many shocked guests could say anything, the cruise director said, “I know you are going to throw me overboard at the end of this Q&A, so I came prepared.” That cruise director was John Heald.

Although John and I have a completely different job, we share the same passion when it comes to engaging guests and doing anything in our ability to ensure they have a memorable time on board our ships. Despite the different kinds of activities we host for our guests, we both manage (obviously myself on a much smaller scale) to be personable and passionate enough to have a huge positive and lasting impact on our guests experience.

Now, let’s ask all our readers a question:

John and I had talked about the opportunity and we both agreed we should give it a try. Perhaps we should let our readers decide by conducting a survey, what do you all think about the idea?

I’m now ready to answer your questions.

Linda (Mom of DJ) Asked:
Captain Scala: (please reply)

We have had the wonderful pleasure of sailing with you several times. (and I was honored to get to sing to you on the Fantasy earlier this year…..sorry it was the Titanic Song. I promise that was not planned …. it was just the next song up on the karaoke rotation.)

My question is: is it more difficult to navigate the Mississippi River out of the New Orleans port (which I know you have done many times) than sailing from other ports that open directly into a bay or into the ocean?

My father was a river boat pilot on the Mississippi River for many years (before he started his own shipyard) and loved the unique challenges of the river.

We look forward to sailing with you again!!!

Linda (Mom of DJ)

Captain Scala Says:
Hello Linda.

Good to hear from you again and thank you for taking the time to read my blog and post a question:

Each port has its own tricks, whether it is local weather, the narrow channel, the predominant wind or the strong current, but undoubtedly, the Mississippi River presents more challenges all together than many other ports we go to. The nine hours transit says it all, not only because the Captain has to be on the Bridge for almost the entire time, but also because of the heavy traffic, the many bends and turns and the visibility which may often be reduced to zero due to heavy fog. Although local Pilots are very skilled and experienced and our ships are all equipped with the newest and most sophisticated navigational equipment, we all on the Bridge have to be very attentive and use all the Bridge Resource Management skills for the entire duration of the river transit. From next March I will be back in New Orleans on the Carnival Triumph, so if you are planning to cruise on the Triumph in the future, please let me know and I’d be happy to discuss what we do to accommodate the river transit. Looking forward to see you again.

Cheryl Asked:

I loved the photos that you posted. My question is about the ship’s horn. What is the protocol for using it? I love hearing it and yet there are some ports that I never hear it used when departing. Why is it used or not used when arriving or departing from a port and what do the number of blasts mean? While on the Carnival Splendor in St. Thomas last year the Carnival Victory was leaving at the end of the day and it seemed the two ships were talking to each other with the horns and the passengers on both ships were loving it! Thanks for blogging and taking our questions. It gives us a rare opportunity to get some nautical facts.

Captain Scala Says:
Hello Cheryl.

Thank you for your comment and for your kind words. It gives me a great pleasure to be able to answer your question.

The ship’s horn is used primarily to communicate or warn other ships or boats about one’s intentions or asking what the intentions of another ship/boat are, either in good or bad visibility, it is also used to warn passengers while on the open decks whenever an emergency arises i.e. General Alarm or Man Overboard. Besides the “official/required” use, the ship’s horn (fyi, every ship is required to have two horns, one electric and the other one air powered) is also used to salute another Company vessel like in your case when the Carnival Victory and the Carnival Splendor were together in St. Thomas. In this case, I imagine that the ship that left the port first, blew the horn three times (three long blasts), the other ship responded with the same signal, then again the ship that initiated the salute blew the horn once (one short blast) and finally the other one responded with the same signal (one short blast). It is a ritual to show respect to another Captain who’s either just a colleague and/or a friend. Some ships use the horn also to call the attention of passengers who are still doing some last minute shopping in the terminal and the ship is about to leave!! In this case there is no rule as such as it depends on how anxious the Captain is, since he/she doesn’t like to be late!!!!!

Vivienne Paige Asked:
Captain Scala, Please Reply.

Were you on board when ID’s, Boat Drill cards etc: were all handwritten? Was it ever one of your duties as 2nd Officer?

Captain Scala Says:
Hello Vivienne.

Thank you for your question. Fortunately (for me) when I joined Carnival in 1995, ID’s and boat drill cards were already printed. However, I heard stories from my fellow colleagues of being in the safety office for hours in order to hand write hundreds of boat drill cards every cruise. This duty was usually carried out by a third Officer.

Barry Asked:
Captain Scala, Please Reply

What would you tell someone brand new to cruising is the most important thing for them to know?

Captain Scala Says:
Hello Barry.

Thank you for your question. What I suggest to all my passengers when they first join a cruise ship, is to familiarize with the location of their “muster station” and the way they can reach it. In this respect we conduct a mandatory “Safety Briefing” (typically upon departure but as per international and US coast guard requirements it can be conducted within 24 hrs from departure). During this briefing our crew will guide passengers to the muster stations and will also show them how to properly don their lifejacket. The Cruise Director will also give them some more information over the loud speakers. Also on the back of your cabin door your may find a sign showing you exactly the primary and secondary way on how to reach your muster station. If you still have any doubt, I encourage you to ask any of the crew members about any of the safety procedures.

Knowing your new home for the next few days is obviously something you may want to do right after you board the ship. Besides giving you a “deck plan,” we have many crewmembers stationed in different key areas of the ship who will wear a red T-shirt saying “Just Ask.” They will answer any question you may have and you will find this service really helpful in particular if you are a first time cruiser.

Once you have done that, you are set to enjoy your cruise vacation. You will also receive on a daily basis the “Carnival Caper” listing all the activities that will take place around the ship. I suggest you keep it in your pocket during the day, not only to find out what’s on and where, but also because it tells you which restaurants and buffets are open 24 hrs a day!

Cruzin2some Asked:
Captain Scala Please Reply.

I know that Carnival only uses Italians to Captain their ships. Do you think that this is fair that only Italians get to captain these beautiful ships and also get to live in Italy which is so beautiful and drink Barberra which is my favorite wine and eat pasta made by the women that are also so beautiful. Italians get to wear the best shoes and clothes made by Italian designers. Why can’t I be Italian? You are so lucky.

Now for my real question. How often do you get to visit home where all these wonderful things are as a captain is away an awful lot of the time. Does your wife and family ever get to travel with you?
Thanks in advance,
Thje Cruzin2some
James & Nancy Enslow

Captain Scala Says:
Hello Nancy and James.

Thank you very much for your comment. It makes me feel really proud to be an Italian. I am presently working on a three months on/off contract which actually gives me the opportunity to spend enough time with my family considering what my job consists of. To make things easier for us, all Carnival shipboard employees have the possibility to bring their families on board for a limited amount of time per contract. My wife and I used to work together as she used to hold the position of Hotel Director on board. We met on the Tropicale in 1997 and just two years ago my wife retired because she was pregnant with our daughter Sofia who’s now 15 months old. Obviously I miss them terribly, but when I chose to pursue this career, I knew one day I would have to go through this stage, so now I spend most of my time off writing stories about my life as a long time sailor to keep myself occupied ..(smile)

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.