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December 15, 2009 -

John Heald

So, as you know I am back here in the UK which means of course I had to fly which means of course I have a story to tell. It’s not about the passenger in 2B who sat next to me because there is nothing to tell….except……..he was the perfect passenger to sit next to. He didn’t say one word, slept for most of the flight and……..had no sense of smell which was a good thing considering the large BLT and egg sandwich I had enjoyed for lunch……….seriously………my arse sounded like a stuttering machine gun.

My story doesn’t even have to do with the over flamboyant flight attendant who told me that he had worked for American Airlines for 30 years, his favorite run was the New York to London route, I could have the chicken Kiev or the Steak Diane and that if I lost 50 pounds I would be “cute.”

Nope, my flight story is about something that normally I wouldn’t really have paid any attention to ….but now I am a Dad…………I looked and thought “bugger me……that’s going to be next year.” Yep, I am talking about having a baby on a plane. You see, normally I would have given this situation little attention but on my flight from Miami (voted friendliest airport in North America 2009……….my arse) it’s all I could think about.

Sitting in row 3 of the business class (I upgraded myself again thanks to my numerous flights these past 2 months) was Mum, Dad and the baby who I would guess was maybe 8 months to a year old.

I could tell they were nervous and I admit that normally I would have been nervous for myself should the kids lungs keep me up and stop my enjoyment of the in flight movie “Transformers 2″ starring Megan Fox’s bottom. But now I had Kye and I was part of the parents association.

At first all was well. He fell asleep during take-off and I could hear the parents congratulating themselves on producing the kind of baby who is unfazed by any change to his environment ………………………when he woke up and unleashed the screech from the very depths of hell.

Perhaps his ears were popping from the pressure. Or his gums were hurting. Or he was just plain pissed off that he wasn’t flying Virgin Atlantic. But he proceeded to cry and screech and scream and howl and sob and cry for the rest of the journey and suddenly his Mum and Dad were those people whom you all try to avoid on planes.

Babies at high altitude are much more frightening than snakes on a plane or sitting next to the French person who smells of Yak poo, the non stop talker, the snorer or the crop duster …….the last one being me of course.

Babies are noisier, their nappies are far more venomous than even that of a King Cobra thingy and you’re not allowed to chop off their heads. On top of the usual concerns about the hassles of flying with a young baby, there was of course the sheer concern that the kids parents had that their son’s chilling screech would have a serious effect on the sanity of the passengers……. And the structure of the pressurized cabin as though their son’s screaming was in fact some terrible new Al Qaeda weapon. Most of the business class cabin seemed to handle it well cocooned as they were in their noise canceling headphones. However there is of course always one ………. or in this case………….two………….as an elderly British couple across the aisle from me complained to Richard Simmons our flight attendant that “children should not be allowed in business class.”

It took all my experience of cruise ship lip biting not to say out loud that neither should rude Brits who should be more concerned with suing their Plastic Surgeon than worrying about a crying baby.

So I watched as Mum and Dad went through the long 8 hour flight to Miami. Not only did Iron Lung scream the whole time but he must have eaten an egg BLT as well because he shat himself at least 4 times during the flight. I know this because I was sitting close to the galley area and after his first poo Dad started to try and take the baby, the baby bag and himself into the toilet to change his nappy. Now we all know that airline toilets are only a little bigger than some of the cabins on the Norwegian Epic ……….but Dad’s luck was in. As he approached the WC my friend Richard the flight attendant said “why don’t you change him here?……..pointing to the floor of the galley.

“Are you sure?” said Dad.

He smiled his best airlines smile and said: “Of course.” And so for the rest of the flight Iron Lung had is pooed in diapers changed right there on the galley floor………right next to my chicken Kiev.

And as I said…….next year that will be Heidi and I and we will have to do the best we can when we fly to and from a ship with Kye.

Sadly, the government has banned some of the better sedatives available for children under six, presumably because the government doesn’t have children. Don’t panic. If you can’t dose them, dose yourself as the Mum and Dad of Iron Lung did on my flight it seems a Gin &Tonic or 8 insulated them nicely from reality……it may be therefore….that next year sees my return to drink.

Time for today’s questions………….away we go

Jan & Larry Ritchie Asked:
John;

I have read and enjoyed your blog quietly from the sidelines never intending to write you. But. After the itinerary change for the Miracle (which we booked immediately) I was wondering if Carnival was going to increase the number of cruises to Bermuda. Would love to go there in June of 2011 for my retirement celebration. I noticed today that Holland something or other has a cruise there in June of 2010 and that rather than just being at King’s Warf will be docked in Hamilton and St George’s. These to me are the preferred docking points having been to Bermuda before. If you could make this happen I would treat you to pickled nachos at the Pickled Onion on Front St; in Hamilton. These are to die for.
We will enjoy your company on Dec 3 aboard the Dream.
Thanks for all you can do.
Jan & Larry

John Says:
Hello Jan and Larry

Pickled Nachos………….wow………now there’s a treat. I wanted to say first of all how glad I am that you enjoy the blog so much and that you continue to do so. As for Bermuda…..well having just returned from a day there before I joined your Carnival Dream I agree with you that it is indeed a marvelous place and nothing like I thought it would be. I have written in the blog before I think about the complexities that docking a ship there entails and how difficult securing a spot there is. However, I can also tell you that I agree with you that Carnival should if possible investigate the possibility of having more calls there…………in fact…..when 2011 comes around ……..whose to say you won’t owe me those pickled Nachos? I hope you had fun last week, it was great to meet you and thanks for sharing in the fun on your Carnival Dream.
Best wishes to you both
John

beentravelin Asked:
John (PLEASE RESPOND)

I have a question for you. On my cruises’ roll call a friend of mine was looking into buying a day pass to the spa on our new Carnival Dream and found out that due to so many people booking a day pass for $20 that they would now only be offering full week passes because the spa cabin guests (legitimate) complaint of overcrowding. I think it would be a shame if this wasn’t offered as a day pass anymore. Could you look into the facts of this and let us know something? I can see that only offering weekly passes would surely greatly reduce the overcrowding problem, but I’m sure a lot of folks couldn’t see spending the additional bucks if they were only planning to use it once or twice on a cruise.

Maybe the people with beards would consider simply raising the price for a day pass or maybe only offering a limited amount of passes as is done with the Behind the Fun Tour. And you could also keep it a secret and only let the bloggers in on it. Just a thought.

Anywho thanks ahead of time for looking into this and I hope you had a wonderful turkey day.
I’m sorry you can’t blog in your underwear anymore. Was the techie guy able to install Wifi in your cabin yet? You could always type it up in your cabin and then post it from a hotspot later. Even better, did you know that on WordPress you can write several blogs ahead of time and then set them to post on times that you specify? Just a tip, but I’m sure one of the 343 Stephanie’s have already clued you into this.

Oh, and have they decided to have FaceSpace pages created for all of the Cruise Directors yet? It would be so awesome to be able to contact them directly instead of having to put all of the burden on you when folks have a specific question for their CD. I’m sure it takes a lot of time out of your busy day to have to contact the CDs…..wait for a response…….then post the answer here, which may or may not be seen by the person with the question, unless they are a daily reader (like me). If they answered the question directly through the MyFace thingy then the requestor would get a notification and would be able to tell when their question was answered.

I do agree that they should have a separate account if they want to post personal stuff only meant for family or friends.

If it proved to be too much of a burden on each CD, you could remind them about how much you seem to get done in a day! Just kidding! LOL.

P.S. Give my love to Heidi and Kye and thanks again for all you do!
Your friend,
Rob

John Says:
Hello Rob

I am not sure where the information came from about the day pass not being available for the Cloud 9 Spa on your Carnival Dream as it is not true. Day passes are available and are sold on a first come first served basis for each day of the cruise. However, they were sold out of day passes by 10 pm on embarkation day during the voyages out of New York but this should not be the case now the ship is sailing the Caribbean out of Port Canaveral. By the way……..the selling price is $35 and I checked personally today with Mia the Spa Manager and she informed me that at no time since the vessel entered service has the Spa been closed to guests not staying in a spa suite.

I know that we looked into weekly passes and the reason we didn’t go that way was exactly as you guessed……….most guests book a day pass because they are using it just for the day and few guests would utilize the superb facilities for an entire week.

Thanks for the help with the blog stuff. The Carnival Glory will have her ship wide Wi Fi thingy installed at dry dock in February which will be great of course. I actually did write my blogs …… in my underpants……in my cabin but I needed to get online to look at the comments and answer questions and e mails which meant I had to put trousers on. My blogs are never as good when I have trousers on. The 343 Stephanies and one Jordan are looking at ways that the CD’s could have their own facespace page and I think your idea is one they are looking into. Regardless, I think it’s a good thing and hope that the people with beards get this sorted soon.

Thanks for the kind words and I send my best wishes to you and your family
John

Eva Bartolo Asked:
Pleasereply

Hi John. I don’t know where my other email went to but I never saw an answer to it so maybe it’s still out in cyberspace. As I had mentioned I’ve booked the Valor for January 17th going to Belize, Isla Roatan, Cozumel and Grand Cayman. It is Harold’s 70th birthday and I’m surprising him with bringing his sister and daughters on the trip (unbeknownst to him of course). I have two cabins booked 7221, 7211. His daughter, Michelle is traveling from England to join us and I had to really convince her to take a cruise since she’s afraid of getting seasick. I’ll have my package of Gravol with me just in case!!

I have a couple of questions for you. I’d like to surprise him with a renewal of vows on board with his family around. What do I need to do to try to make this happen? It’s only the six of us but I thought it would be nice to do when we are all together on the cruise. I’d appreciate any insight on this thanks.

Would you be able to arrange for a nice table for all of us at dinner time? I’ve asked for an early sitting.

What suggestions would you have for tours in Belize and Isla Roatan? I’m sure Danielle will do the Scuba diving (like she normally does) but we need something for the older ones!!! Not too much walking if possible.

Who’s the CD on this cruise? Would you happen to be on board at the time? That would be the icing on the cake if you were. What are the shows on board? What’s the Valor like? We’ve been on the Splendor, Freedom, Liberty, Miracle and Victory so what should we be expecting? (Besides the obvious excellent service….)

John any suggestions you can give me to make this a memorable time for Harold would be greatly appreciated. I really want him to remember this cruise for a while to come. Also is Carnival returning to Europe in 2011??? Is the Magic still being built for 2012?

Thanks John and best to you, Heidi and Kye. Have a blast on the Dream bloggers cruise (wish I could have made it). Take care of yourself and no more hot sauce please.
Regards
Eva

John Says:
Hello Eva

I seem to remember answering your question some blogs ago about the tours and which ones I recommend for you and your family. I posted the descriptions so I think our comments crossed there. Please let me know if you have any tour related questions. How wonderful that the family is all going to be together for this great cruise on the Carnival Valor especially as your daughter is flying in from the UK.

I think it will be great to do a renewal of vows and we have two packages available for you. Now, I won’t mind admitting that they are quite expensive but they are also very memorable and these private ceremonies hosted by the Captain will be the perfect way to celebrate your years of togetherness. Here are the details on the vow renewal ceremony so have a click here on this link thingy

http://www.carnival.com/cms/fun/weddings/pdf/vowrenewal08-09.pdf?icid=CC_Weddings_52

If you decide you want to do this please let me know and I will alert the ship and arrange it for you.

The Cruise Director will be Big Tex and I promise that he and all the staff will make this a great cruise for you all. Make sure you take Harold to the Steak House and I will ask Big Tex to send him a birthday gifts as well. Enjoy the shows……….don’t miss the far From over Show or indeed any of the performers. Have fun and I wish I could be there with you.
Best wishes
John

David Vigue Asked:
Hey John, Please Reply.

After reading the blog today, you again referred to changes that would make the Carnival Fun Ship more fun. Today was elevator music. Another time it was CNN out by the pool. And so on. Well I couldn’t agree with you more about adding more fun to the already “Fun Ship Experience”. I also picked up that your CD meeting on the Imagination with the folks from Miami was also focused on Fun and onboard revenue. So, I think I could help. I noticed on the last 2 cruises that I took on ships that had the “Steak House” were not being used to capacity. This was especially true on the Pride, as they even took the “Behind the Fun Tour” there to show us how special it is. It is special I’m sure, but is it fun? You also noticed that many passengers use the Lido Restaurants for their dinner, and we did that with the grandkids on 3 nights, so they could have more fun. Let’s face it; the food in both the dining room and Lido deck is outstanding.

So here is my idea, and you get to take the credit for it. Scrap the “Steak House” fine dining, and convert them all into “Hooters”. Or at least Hooters style of dining. My wife and I went to Hooters on her birthday, (she is in her mid 50’s, but don’t tell anyone) it was her pick. I mean we could have gone anywhere and she wanted to go to Hooters. Because it is fun, and she wanted wings. Now if you have never been to Hooters, it is a very simple concept, lots of beer, ribs, wings, burgers, etc. and of course those beautiful Hooters girls. (You may even forget about you know who’s bottom). Make sure that there is a smoking section, plenty of TV’s with sports on them, and lots of “Country Music”. It could open earlier, and stay open late. It would without a doubt be a hot spot on all the ships. And, it would be fun. Dressing up for dinner is not all that fun for many of us, and now that Carnival has changed from “Formal Night” to “Elegant Night”, someone at Carnival must agree.

Love the blog thing, and the Carnival Fun Ships, and I wish you and your wonderful family all the best this Christmas Season.
Your Mate,
Dave Vigue

John Says:
Hello Dave

I am sure there are 183 people who just cruised with me on their Carnival Dream Bloggers Cruise who are all having a good giggle right now. That’s because Carnival CD Stephanie Meads who was sailing with us to assist with the group……used to work for Hooters …… and oh boy …… did I have fun with that. She no longer works there of course and we are grateful for her support!

While many of us chaps reading this would be able to think of two reasons as to why this would be a great idea there would be no doubt many women with beards and wearing suits who would think that this would not be a good idea. I wish everyone was like your wife because then maybe we could consider it but ………alas……….they are not. However, I will bring the idea up to the people at the top and I will keep you abreast of the situation. I could only imagine what the rest of the cruise industry would say if Carnival changed their Steak Houses to a Hooters …………the nipple…….sorry………….ripple effect would be massive.

I do agree with you though and seriously this time that maybe on some ships our Steak Houses could be more fun. I discussed with the bloggers this week about the dress code which is now more relaxed and we no longer require cruise elegant clothing except on cruise elegant night. I think a more fun style SteakHouse with country music etc may work on ships out of Galveston say…..and that idea is certainly one I can bring to the table. The Hooters one…….in all seriousness ………I can’t……….as I would just look a big tit by doing so.

Thanks for the great post and kind words.
Best wishes to you and the family
John

Kathy M. Asked:
Dear John, Please Reply.

I was reading your blog today (11/25) and were asked by John when Carnival will be putting another ship in Europe. This is what I have figured out and I think I will end up being right. The Carnival Magic will be placed in Europe. The reason that I say this is that the talk has been to put a ship there in 2011, well that is when the Magic would be completed and also what better way to start back in Europe with a brand new ship. It will also save the cruise line money for having to bring her all the way to the States only to send one of them back. I know that Galveston, Mobile and some others are hoping that they would put the Carnival Magic in their home ports, but I don’t think it would be feasible to do that right now with our economy being so bad.

I would also like to respond to a letter from Bobbie Sue. She wrote about people who will complain about just anything and I agree with her about that, but I feel that Carnival must be doing something to please more positive people then people who are unhappy in life. When someone starts talking to me about all the bad things, I will then ask them this, “Well since you have pointed out all the bad things, I would like for you to tell me all of the good things that you have found.” Well most will start telling me all of the good things then I say to them, “Well the good things out weighed the bad, so it must not be as bad as you think it is.) And they think about it and they end up agreeing with me. Sometimes it does change their attitude about something and other times it doesn’t, but at least I made them aware of the good things that went on as well.

One final question, have you decided when you are going to do your bloggers cruise for 2010. I need to know so I can book a handicapped room and since there are not very many of them, I need to get mined book ASAP.

Please send my love to Heidi and Little Angel Kye!
Have A Happy Thanksgiving!!!
From your #1 Bloggy Thingy Fan,
Kathy M.

John Says:
Hello Kathy M

Time will tell if your detective work on Europe and Carnival’s return there is correct and of course I will be the first to confirm or deny this Miss Marple as soon as PA 007 lets me know.
People have the right to complain and its constructive criticism that will continue to keep Carnival the World’s Most Popular Cruise Line.

However, there are a tiny element of people who have learnt that making complaints whilst onboard may entitle them to something for free and this is something that happens not just at Carnival but industry wide……….and that………….in my humble opinion is our own fault as the industry has allowed this to happen.

However, this is as I said a tiny minority of people and most of the time people’s comments are justified. I hope people will continue to tell me via the blog thingy what we do right and what we do wrong.

Thanks so much for your post and your continuing support of the blog thingy. I will talk more about bloggers cruise 2010 soon
Best wishes
John

Marie Wolff Asked:
John: (please reply)

Thank you for the Thanksgiving good wishes. All of us are thankful for so many things like our families and our beloved countries. We are also thankful, as I know you are for the many young people who are sacrificing their lives to make our world a safe place to live in. I am glad Carnival takes the time to mention all of our armed forces.

My husband and I will be happily sailing on the Carnival Miracle on December 6th. I had a question of you and I hope you can reply. I know for a fact that someoftheseas ships have a very good hand cleansing ritual before embarking on the ship at every port, and , also outside of every dining area. My question should you care to answer is, will there be a hand sanitizing system on the Carnival Miracle when we sail? As we are all concerned with H1N1, and other virus, I am hoping Carnival will have something in place.

I hope you enjoyed your Turkey dinner, and, I wish to convey my best regards to the lovely ladies Heidi and Kye.
Marie

John Says:
Hello Marie

This is one of those questions that I have to start my answer to with an apology. As you can see you will have just returned from your cruise on the Carnival Miracle and I am late therefore in providing you with the information you asked for.

However, I feel I should reply regardless. Hopefully you will have seen on the ship that there are hand sanitizers located outside the dining room, on the lido deck in front of the food self service stations and in public areas like the Guest Services Desk area………and of course at the entrance to the gangways.

I am sure you will have also have heard the Cruise Director reminding guests that it is the constant washing of hands with warm water and soap that continues to be the best prevention to avoid illness.

This policy is in place fleetwide and at the time of writing we have had no outbreaks in recent months on any of the Carnival ships. I hope that if all the guests and the crew follow these instructions that this fact will remain. Thank you for the kind words and I truly hope you all had a wonderful cruise.
Best wishes
John

Jim Burke Asked:
John (please reply)

I read your comments where you never met a referee or umpire. I’m an Arbitrator, which is a sort of referee. I hear labor disputes, and your correct about having 50% of participants upset with decisions issued. Having a thick skin is helpful, same as in your position.

My wife and I have sailed with Princess many times and enjoy the line, but Princess is geared to older folks. I intend to take my wife, two daughters and four grandchildren on a cruise with Carnival next July out of Baltimore. I hope to accommodate everyone in three cabins. My inquiry.

Does the Carnival Pride have inside Cabins that will accommodate 3 people? I intend to reserve one suite and two inside cabins, if possible. I’m making this reservation due to all the positive comments about Carnival I’ve read on your blog.
Thanx
Jim

John Says:
Hello Jim

Thanks for the insight into your world which just like a referee or umpire sounds extremely challenging as you try and make both sides happy. The Carnival Pride does have inside cabins that will accommodate 3 people and further details on this can be found at www.carnival.com/pride.

When people write to tell me they are booking a cruise because of what they have read here on the blog thingy I feel so humbled. Princess Cruises are fantastic and I am a huge fan of their product and I hope you will feel the same after your cruise on the Carnival Pride.
Please let me know if there is anything else you need.
Best wishes
John

Linda Silverstein Asked:
Hello Mr John

I am sailing with my husband and three children on the Liberty for the holiday cruise on December 19th. We need a table for 5 on the late seating time by the window.
I was told to contact you for this. Please e mail confirmation no later than December 1st.
Linda

John Says:
Hello Linda

I have sent an e mail to the Maitre D on the Carnival Liberty and have asked him to do his best to accommodate you and the family. I apologize that I cannot e mail confirmation to you though.
Have a wonderful time with the family.
Best wishes
John

Terry B. Asked:
(Please reply) Dear John,

Hope you will be able to spend some time at home with Heidi & Kye over the holidays.
And speaking about your home, when will we find out about Carnival’s plans for Europe? There is a group of us that met on the Splendor, (you were there!), who had booked the Liberty in Europe, as you know we didn’t make that cruise together, now we are hoping that Carnival will again sail in Europe. We are ready to make our 2011 plans. It would be nice if we could give ourselves a wonderful Christmas present by booking a Carnival European Cruise!!!
Take care John, and
Our best to Heidi & Kye
Terry

John Says:
Hello Terry

I know that so many people, including myself, are anxious to hear if Carnival will be returning to Europe in 2011. I can tell you that it looks good as our President Gerry Cahill told the press that it was a very good possibility during a recent event on your Carnival Dream. It would be an honour (spelt correctly) to join you for another European adventure.

I hope to have confirmation on this very soon

Best wishes
John

That’s all for today and I will of course answer more tomorrow as I attempt to catch up.

Let’s do the news and there is quite a bit to catch up on as I didn’t post a blog since Friday. I know many of you enjoyed the Panoramic video from the deck of the Niew Amsterdam that I posted last week. So I know for sure that you will enjoy the new ones of the bridge and the engine room which again have been shot in that Panoramic style…………why do I keep typing the word Panoramic with a capital “P” by the way?…….buggered if I know……….anyway……here is the link to the videos

http://www.hollandamericablog.com/

The launch of a new ship is always a special moment and it is even more memorable when the launch is accompanied by fireworks and with arguably the most famous opera house in the world as a backdrop.

Congratulations P & O and congratulations Australia

OK, there have been a few questions about the Early Server thingy over the past few weeks and I had promised to post a frequently asked question list and some basic facts about this superb program which I know is very popular with so many. And so here is all you need to know about the Early Server thingy.

Early Saver 101
• Early Saver is a pricing program that provides our guests the lowest rate available
• For 3-5 day cruises, program is available 3 months or greater prior to sailing; for 6 day or longer durations, 5 months or greater before sailing
• To secure the Early Saver rate, a full non refundable/non transferable deposit is required at time of booking
• It is our only promotional program that provides a rate protection feature – if guests find a lower Carnival advertised rate up to two business days prior to sailing, the difference will be posted as an on board credit or can be used towards the purchase of an upgrade (space permitting)
• In order to take advantage of the rate protection feature, direct guests (or their travel agent if booked by a travel partner) must submit an electronic price protection form (found on carnival.com) indicating the OBC or upgrade preference
• Once the form is submitted, an automatic acknowledgement is sent letting them know we received the form – no duplicates or follow up calls are necessary. Once validated, a new confirmation will be within two business days reflecting the OBC or the upgraded cabin
• A $50 pp change fee is applied if a guest wants to change to another ship/sailing date OUTSIDE the standard cancellation period
• Standard cancellation penalties apply – however, if the penalty is less than the deposit amount, the full non refundable deposit is penalized
• Early Saver terms and conditions are printed on booking confirmations and are not waived under any circumstances

Here are some FAQs that may also be helpful:
When does a service fee apply?
• Service fee applies ONLY when you are moving to ANOTHER SHIP/SAILING DATE outside of the standard penalty period. Name changes are not permitted with the Early Saver promotion
If my friend cancels and I’ve paid for our deposit, will I be able to use the FCC?
• No. This promotion is non-refundable / non-transferable. The person that cancels is the person who will receive the FCC (not the person who paid for the booking)
Can I use my future cruise credit as an on board credit?
• No. In the case of a cancellation, the future cruise credit will be applied to a future sailing.
If my friend cancels and I’ve paid for our deposit, will I be able to use the FCC?
• No. This promotion is non-refundable/non-transferable.
What’s the difference between Early Saver and Best Price Guarantee?
• The difference are a few – main things you should remember
o Early Saver Promotion
Guests can request price protection up to 2 days prior to sailing
If reservation is paid in full, guest can choose to upgrade or onboard credit
Non-refundable deposit
o Best Price Guarantee
Guests have 48 hours from time of booking to find a lower price
CCL will give them 110% of the difference in onboard credit
Best Price Guarantee only applies to publicly available CCL rates
When does the penalty start for an ES booking?
• As soon as payment is received (non-refundable deposit) penalty kicks in
Can I change an early saver reservation to a non Early Saver promotion?
• No. Once an Early Saver booking always an Early Saver booking

My thanks to Vicky Rey, the Vice President of the Care Team who works closely with the blog thingy for sending me this information. If any of you have follow up questions on this topic please let me know and I will answer them for you………..well……..I won’t answer them as it would be as pointless as asking a Frenchmen if he prefers a roll on or spray deodorant. But I will get Vicky and her team to answer your Early Saver questions for you so please let me know.

Weren’t those photos from last week absolutely brilliant? I have a few more to share with you and let’s start with the last group of Radu’s island photos ……………this time from Grand Turk.

There will be lots more video footage from the bloggers cruise this coming week as Peter the Hair has lots to edit together and as soon as he has finished we will post here for all to see. Talking of “all”…….here is a group photo of the bloggers who joined me on their Carnival Dream last week.

I have lots of stories and lots of memories from last week and I will be sharing some of those stories with you in the next few days…………..oh and before I start with today’s………..a big thank you to Captain Scala who covered Monday’s blog for me. I can see that you all enjoyed his writing and there will be more from him very soon I promise.

I want to say hello to one lady whose name I just cannot remember. I know that she had two beautiful children and they came to all the blog events. Their son was around 5 I would say and their daughter maybe 15 months and both kids were so gorgeous and when I gave the boy a medallion he had the same reaction as I would have if someone gave me an Aston Martin.

Anyway, we were talking toward the end of the cruise and she told me of the awful story of her excursion in Tortola. It appears that the boat that they went out on was old and didn’t look safe and at one point it nearly capsized leaving her and her family as well as the rest of the passengers scared out of their wits. She told me that the boat had just 12 lifejackets between the 20-plus people onboard which is of course outrageous.

Now, it will come as no surprise that this was a privately booked excursion and not booked through Carnival and we shall speak more on this subject shortly. The reason I am writing this though is because I promised the lady that I would mention this story in the blog and warn people about this company in case others are tempted to book the tour.

However……..like an idiot I have forgotten both the guests name and the tour company they used. Perhaps she or her husband will read this and post a comment marked JOHN – TOUR INFORMATION” and share their experience.

Now there may be some skeptics out there that think I am using this story to plug the virtues of booking an excursion through Carnival………and they would be wrong because I am saying whatever cruise line you take please book a tour through the line.

“OK,” say the skeptics, “He is just saying this to make the corporation money”…….well, wrong again. Yes of course we have to make money and we do make a good deal of it from organized tours but that has nothing to do with this segment.

You see, thanks to Uncle Google I can make a web site………..call myself………”International Excursions of the World” Corporation…………………advertise a snorkel tour in the Caribbean …….. do some research and charge $15 less than the organized cruise ship tour for a Stingray tour………..knock a few bits of 2 by 4 together………….call that a boat…………..buy a few life jackets from an auction of sea going memorabilia from the 1940’s…….and that’s it………you have a tour company.

Now obviously that is a bit extreme……..or is it? You see, that fictitious tour company if real would be answerable to nobody….certainly not the cruise lines and I have seen and heard of so many people who are so happy that they have saved some money by booking independently …….. but so annoyed when they get back to the ship at the experience they have just encountered.

Remember, tours booked onboard are through operators who are accountable and whose equipment is checked continuously and whose product is scrutinized each and every week to make sure that tour is exactly what it says it is when you purchase it.

So, will you find it cheaper on the internet………….perhaps. But will that saving of a few dollars give you peace of mind………….the assurance that what you are paying for is what you will get …………….and that you are booking through a reputable company…….well experience ……………. not personal opinion……………allows me to tell you the answer to those questions is no………….. it will certainly not.

Yes we want to make money from our excursion program and yes our tours may be a bit more expensive than some of the internet offerings……….but they are high quality experiences vetted by our company, tour operators in communication with us if you’re running late, and you certainly will never be on a snorkel boat that has 12 life jackets between 20 passengers.

I am sure some of you have questions and comments on this subject and so I encourage healthy debate here. What is your opinion………….I hope you will let me know.

Well, here I am at home and have returned to freezing temperatures and the only sign of global warming is the heat emanating from my credit card after I bought the Heald family Christmas tree………bloody hell $80 …………and you still have to decorate it yourself.
The company that delivers our heating oil. As you’ll understand, this has thrown the household into a complete social tizzy. We weren’t aware we were on Christmas card terms with the Total Butlers.

However, disaster struck this morning when Postman Pat delivered a Christmas card from our Bank Manager……..and all hell has broken loose. Mr. Middleton is not on Heidi’s Christmas card list………….I mean…………..why would he be? We speak from time to time, of course. Every so often, I call the bank and say, “Hello, it’s the Healds here. Could we have some money, please?” And a man in Bombay says, “No, bugger off,” and that’s that. Apart from that, we’ve never even been to their place for drinks and nibbles. Perhaps the card is from his secretary and is massed produced to all the customers……except its hand signed.

The point is, this Christmas card from the Barclays Bank is a worrying development. Did they send one last year? Should we send one back, perhaps including a short newsletter of the year’s main events in our family (May: had a baby……….July my hemorrhoids flared up)?

This unexpected card has got me worried about who else will be expecting Christmas greetings. Should I send one to the butcher or what about the lady I buy my newspaper from? Will Gerry Cahill feel left out if he doesn’t get a card?

My problem is this………how do I weasel out of sending Christmas cards at all without appearing to be a grumpy miserable bugger?

Last year I was writing furiously each evening up until about December 23, when I’m afraid I exploded. “I’ve had it with Christmas cards,” I said to Heidi. “If I’ve left anybody else out, well, that’s just tough.” I didn’t really expect anybody to notice that they’d dropped off our list. Most people, I assumed, were too busy trying to remember whether they’d sent a card to their Bank Manager. But Heidi said people do notice…………a lot.

We have recently had a postal strike here in the UK and I had great hopes that it would take away the burden of having to send cards at all. No cards would arrive, and people would understand. We would take pleasure in phoning and Facebooking and Twittering. My hopes were dashed when the strike was settled. What happened to decent union militancy?

Even the simplest thing about cards is fraught with social difficulty. Do I use the words “Season’s Greetings” in case I cause offense to non-Christians?

Frankly, I’m beaten and that meant that as we had no spare cards in the house of I went to the shop to give more of my money to Mr. Hallmark and later this week Mr. Middleton my bank manager will get a Christmas card from the Healds…………..and as it’s been a tough year for him……….I put a £5 note in there for him.

Words cannot possibly describe how it feels to be home with the girls. Heidi is the perfect Mum and has raised a perfect daughter whose eyes could melt the coldest heart. It took her a few seconds to recognize me but as soon as I started singing the song I have sung to her twice a day every day over the phone these past two months……..she smiled………..she giggled………..and I was putty in her hands.

Goodnight
Your friends
John, Heidi and Kye

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.