Dress Sense

January 12, 2010 -

John Heald

I remember it well. I was with my mate Alan sitting outside my favourite pub in Southend On Sea (The Shorehouse) when someone pulled out of the parking lot in a Mitsubishi 3000 GT and accelerated smartly down the street. As the car shifted lumpily into second gear, I remember, even today, that we each looked at the other in an eye-rolling way and said: “What a wanker.” He’d bought a sports car and then specified it with an automatic gearbox. Which meant he hadn’t bought a sports car at all.

When I was a young man, I reserved a special kind of hatred for automatic gearboxes. They made all cars, no matter what they were, into lazy boy chairs with four wheels attached. Take away the pleasure of a well-executed downshift and you were taking away everything that mattered to a brilliant driving experience. Auto cars, even were the automotive equivalent of MacDonald’s. Convenient, for sure, but no burger, no matter how easy it is to eat in the street, can possibly be a match for a steakhouse-style porterhouse.

Things, however, have changed. There are all sorts of moments in a man’s life when he can truly say he has become “old.” The moment his first child is born. The moment he buys his first pair of slippers, hair growing out of your ears, a waistband that will not stop expanding no matter what you put in your mouth and an increasing bewilderment at the noises made by Lady Gar Gar.

But, actually, the real moment is when you say to a car salesman: “Can I have it with an automatic gearbox?”

I am old and therefore haven’t driven a “stick shift” as you say over the pond for a long ….long time. Yesterday though I had to take the Range Rover in for its yearly service to make sure it was ready for a few more months of slaughtering Peter the Polar Bear and his mates. The garage gave me what they call a “courtesy car” which considering it’s a Range Rover dealership I was taking my car to should have been a Range Rover……it wasn’t……it was a Ford ummmm………Thingy………and it was stick shift.

This meant that I spent the 30-minute journey home looking like a complete idiot. I forgot to put the clutch in when I stopped………I stalled the car…….three times ……… and then I came to a hill………..with ice on it…………….you probably heard me shout “bugger” over in Detroit.

Doing a hill start in a stick shift driven car is probably as foreign to many of you as it is for Paris Hilton not to wear her underwear as ankle warmers on a Saturday night. Certainly those who live in Florida will never have seen a hill before and ……..are there any American cars left with a proper gear box?

Anyway, a hill start is tricky at best but add the fact that I had not done one in a long time and that the roads were as slippery as RCI’s internet marketing department……..it wasn’t going to be a good day out.

It wasn’t……………and as I took the hand brake off the Ford Thingy and tried to find the biting point of the clutch……….I slid backwards and did and hit a Toyota behind me …………….I think it was a Toyota Enchantment.

Anyway I got out of the car to inspect the damage and was met by a lady in her 40’s who did not look a happy bunny. However, on inspection it appeared that the damage to her car was minimal…….I on the other hand had a smashed rear driver’s side light and a nice dent on the bumper……..sorry……….fender to go with it. And so we pulled our cars over to the side of the road, this time I revved the car so much to make sure I didn’t roll back again that I think I probably blew the engine.

Anyway, we swapped insurance details etc and then…………..bizarrely……….she insisted on taking a photo of me…………the cars ……………the damage and the tag number ………….. on her Eye Phone! I thought about adding some humour to the situation by doing one of those Jessica Simpson calendar shots by turning my underpants into a G String…….and have this lady take a photo of me draped over her hood with my voluptuous buttocks on display. She didn’t seem in the mood for that though.

In the old days we would have scribbled the information on bits of scrap paper, hugged and buggered off……..it was a trust thing. But now, I was now forever on her Eye Phone …….probably under the title……….”fat bastard that smashed up my car.” I will have to pay the £100 ($150) excess for the damage to the courtesy car and of course my thinking about automatic cars has completely changed. To me…….changing gear in a car is like having a remote controlled television and getting up to change the channel yourself.

Time for today’s questions……………onward and upward.

Luc Marchildon aka Tangocherie Asked:
Hello John, (please reply)

Having sailed on the Carnival Dream out of New York on 11/23 and having endured the chaos at the Lido buffet at mealtime due to overcrowding, I’m happy to learn that Carnival has indeed taken notice of the problem and has increased the amount of food venues to “liberate” the Lido. Unfortunately, I had to be a guinea pig in Carnival Dream’s “breaking in” process.
On another note, I must mention how pleased I am of the new smoking policy in the casino. It indeed was a pleasure to be able to enjoy the slot machines without having someone’s smoke whiff up into my eyes and nose. I trust that this new policy has been applied fleet wide?

Hopefully Carnival can add to the enjoyment of my cruise experience by allowing me the full use of my balcony without interference from other guests smoking habits. I thought Big Ed had a good suggestion, make one side of the ship smoke free.
I really enjoy your blog. Thanks very much!

John Says:
Hello Luc

Yes indeed, since the ship’s start up we have made vast improvements with regard to the service on Lido Deck. And I think it’s safe to say that with these improvements and the addition of the dining room brunch and the barbecue on the Lanai that we are where we need to be now. I will be posting a comment about this later in today’s blog. However, this does not help the fact that when you sailed you were disappointed about the lines you encountered and for that I sincerely apologize. The smoking regulations in the casino were in the beginning something that caused a lot of heated opinions on the blog thingy and I am glad that you, like most, found them to be fair. The comments we are getting from the ship show the same and as always Carnival will continue to look at the whole smoking subject carefully to make sure we always do the right thing. Thanks for taking the time to write and I hope you did have a great time onboard.
Best wishes

Melissa Ramsay Asked:
Please reply.

Hey John- Happy Holidays. I have a question for you. By the way, you happen to be the Best cruise director in the world, but I am sure you have heard that before :o) Here I go… Well this will be my 9th carnival cruise coming up in less than 2 weeks. I got a rate for an inside state room and later on found out that the price we paid through carnival was almost a 100.00 more than on a separate website. Well I called Carnival and guest care services helped me out and I was upgraded to a balcony. I was actually still paying about 20.oo more but thought it was a good deal. Well Today, I noticed on carnival website the same cruise leaving Jan 7th Carnival Destiny now has the balcony rate at 299 for a past guest, so I called to see if I could get a onboard credit for the difference and they refused. I asked the lady, so if someone books today they can get the same category cabin as me and pay less and she said YES! And that there was nothing she could do to help me. Obviously I love carnival and have shown that by taking all of these cruises with the company and am looking forward to my Platinum sailing coming up this year, but I think this was awful!!! Why should I have to pay more when I booked earlier? I think if you have a cabin and the rate falls for that cabin category they should honor it for the person already booked! Can you please help me out with this?

John Says:
Hello Melissa

Thanks for the kind words at the start of your posting and this again is one of those questions where I am too late with my reply as you will have joined the ship already. It seems though you may have a point worth following up on so I hope you get the time to read this. I know that pricing is time sensitive and that obviously does mean that there may be last minute price reductions…….not always…………but it does happen. I am sure there is a more factual based answer than the one I am giving you now so please allow me a few days to find out what the official company line is on this and I will then post it for all to read. I hope you are having (had) a brilliant time and I will be back to you on this subject soon.
Best wishes

mj gruskin Asked:
Please Reply.

Well Merry Xmas all. I need some assistance. I finally received the large Carnival blue towel that I have wanted for the longest time. It is the only towel that I fits around my waist and covers all the necessary parts. My wife bought it on her last Carnival cruise in November. But here’s the problem. It’s not like the ones that my wife and I get on board. Those are really absorbent and soft. Mine is rough and water virtually rolls of it.

Can you please check with whomever is in charge of laundry and get me some advice? What is the secret? What can I do to make it just like the ones on board?
Thank you.
MJ Gruskin
Clearwater, FL

John Says:
Hello MJ Gurskin

Wow…………now that’s a question that I have no idea how to answer. I will certainly ask the chap involved in managing our laundries and see if they can help provide an answer. Is it the same towel as the ones we give guests on the ships that they are responsible for to bring back to the ship? The ones we provide on Lido Deck? Please confirm this via a quick posting on the blog thingy and I will get back to you. Thanks and maybe some of the bloggers have an answer meanwhile……………..Big Ed?
Best wishes

Canuck Cruiser Asked:
Hi John, PLEASE REPLY when you find time. No rush.

Hi Stephanie’s……………..Merry Xmas.

Got your reply that Ken won’t be on the CARNIVAL DREAM for our Jan. 30th cruise. Disappointed but we understand everyone needs a vacation……….and that’s why we’ll be on board.

You mentioned if there was anything you could do for us……………….well there is.
We prefer dining at a big table with lots of fellow passengers. If it’s possible for that to be arranged we would greatly appreciate it. We are confirmed for the late sitting @ 8:15 pm and would like the ground floor of the rear dining room.

Thanks John for the assistance and I will drop you a line at guest services when we board. Looking forward to a wonderful cruise and the “bedtime story” BTW……….please say HI to my new friend here at home Paul P. from Amherstburg. He’ll be on the Jan. 23rd sailing with you and is a fellow blogger as well.

All the best for the holidays,
B&D from Canada
Looking like a white Xmas for us this year. Yahoo!

John Says:
Hello Canuck Cruiser

Thanks for recognizing Ken. He has indeed worked very hard and is definitely in need of a vacation. I have sent your table request to the ship and I am sure the Maitre D will be happy to assist you. I will see you on our Carnival Dream.
Best wishes

missingthesmokefreeparadise Asked:

Just returned from our cruise on the Carnival Pride and I cannot speak too highly of the professionalism shown by the staff during a difficult cruise.

As you are aware, the East Coast of the US was hit by quite a snow storm last week – nothing like docking in Baltimore in 20 inches of snow.

We cruised back on the southern end of the storm – even though the ship should have been attending the Friends of Bill W. meetings, it really was not bad, considering the winds hit 70 mph at times.

As for Kirk and the absolutely lovely Jaime – what great people. I felt I already knew Jaime from her letters and know she will be a great CD in the future. As for Kirk, as we said good-bye, I told him “I had made a new friend”.

There are elements of the Carnival Pride that make me scratch my head – the decor is not particularly my favorite – but the biggest problem remains the smoke from the casino. Every time we went through the atrium, we ran into a wall of second hand smoke.

I did love the way the Promenade weaved its way through the ship, rather than being a straight shot – it seemed like you were going from village to village.

All in all, it was another great cruise on Carnival – cruising out of Baltimore in December was totally different than cruising from Miami because of the temperature and snow.

John Says:
Hello Jon

Thanks for the report and especially for the kind words about my friends and Carnival’s first couple Kirk and Jaime. I know that the smoking issues we face in the Spirit-class casino areas are ongoing and certainly the policy on your Carnival Dream has shown that there is a solution. This subject is being discussed by those at the top of the Carnival tree and let’s see what happens in the near future. It was a difficult cruise by the sounds of things with the weather but I am thankful to the Captain and crew and to you for being as always so positive. I will make sure that the ship reads your review.
Best wishes to you both.

Vic Asked:
John, Please reply.

I am an experienced Carnival cruiser, and am getting a little concerned with the comments on the Dream, on which I am booked on 15 May 2010.

1. Is the entire casino non-smoking, or are there sections allowing smoking and sections for non-smoking?

2. Are there any plans to address to traffic flow in and around the Lido buffet? There are a myriad of complaints, even for the overall positive feedback left by some, about the congestion around the buffet.

3. Granted this is a new ship and possibly and experienced crew, how are you planning to address the service issues in the main dining area addressed by so many passengers?
I look forward to hearing from you. I am concerned enough that I am considering re-booking on another cruise ship. So, I hope you have some good feedback to provide.
Best regards,

John Says:
Hello Vic

It seems that there are still those who have read the early reports on your Carnival Dream and are therefore duly concerned. I should point out that while some of the reviews were certainly justified many were not and some were written by those who want to try their best to scaremonger. Well, in a moment you will read one of the latest reviews sent to me by one of the board editors of Cruise Critic Host Mach. In it you will read what a truly brilliant ship this is and that you have nothing to worry about. Why not also take the time to read my blog on the ship and the 250 reviews posted on their as well……..the link thingy is:


There were lines in the beginning but as I explained at the top of today’s Q and A these have all but disappeared. The service levels are, according to the review cards the guests fill in, of the highest standard and while I understand your concerns I will respectfully remind you for every one negative review I can show you many, many more positive ones.
I promise you will have the very best of times.
Best wishes

Norman Horovitz Asked:
John – Reply requested as soon as possible

My wife and three children will be sailing on the Valor on 24th January and want a table for the family together with no other passengers. It is my youngest son’s birthday on the 25th and understand you send free birthday gifts and I would like you to please send this to Zack during the elegant night dinner.

We are looking forward to our second Carnival cruise.
Norman Horovitz and family

John Says:
Hello Norman

I have sent your dining request to the Maitre D on the Carnival Valor and have asked Big Tex to send a little something to Zack. It will probably have to go to your state room though so you will be able to give it to him on my behalf at dinner. I truly hope you have a brilliant second cruise.
Best wishes to all

Carmen S Asked:
John, (please reply)

Well, I’m officially 1 month away from my birthday cruise. I’m excited to cruise but not about turning 30. I’m disappointed that you aren’t going to be the CD after all. You were supposed to be my icing on the cake. Oh well, maybe next time then. I hear good things about Todd and am sure I will be pleased. Although he will be hard pressed to beat my last CD Butch who is by far my favorite so far.

When I last wrote you told me to write you back closer to the cruise and that is what I’m doing. Hope you have a Happy Christmas and a great new year!!!
Carmen Shannon

John Says:
Hello Carmen

I am so sorry that I won’t be your Cruise Director but you will have Todd as your master of ceremonies and he is our very best. Hopefully though we will run into each other and we can have a chat. Have a brilliant cruise and happy birthday.
Best wishes

Peggy TC Asked:

I truly understand that EVERYONE deserves a vacation a year if not more, however… We were (are) really looking forward to having Ken on the Dream as our maître d’. We will be on the February 6th sailing is there any chance he is just taking a little vacation?? As I have been reading the blog for almost a year now having you on the Dream while Todd is vacationing is a great extra bonus. Looking forward to sailing and hoping you will still be doing your Bedtime show!?

John Says:
Hello Peggy

Ken is not returning until March from what I understand. I know you will be disappointed to read this but please don’t worry, you will have a brilliant cruise and please don’t forget to come and say hello. I will be doing the bedtime story for sure and I hope you enjoy it
Best wishes and see you soon.


That’s all for today and as always my thanks to everyone for taking the time to post your comments and for your patience with me for the time it takes to answer them.

Now, I have been documenting here on the blog thingy just how cold it has been here in the UK. However, reports from my friends in Florida tell me that they have also been forced to say “Global Warming My Arse”…….actually…………I guess they would have said “Global Warming My Ass.” Yep……..mate friend Chris has had his heated seats on his car…….and Super Spy PA 007 is wearing thermal underwear.

With this in mind I want to share with you these amazing photos taken by our great friend Radu. Have a look at what happens when the water temperature is vastly different to the outside temperature.

Extraordinary…………and as always thanks to Radu for sending these to me…………..they make great screen saver thingies.

I have some friends sailing on their Carnival Dream this week and I will be looking forward to their review. And my thanks to Host Mach from Cruise Critic for sending me this review from a guest.

Brief review. This is our 7th cruise. (6th on Carnival) – The other being the Mariner of the Seas Inaugural.

Embarkation was flawless. We were on the ship by 11:20. By a mile the best entertainment at sea. Dancin’ In the Streets was in a class by itself. All the comedians were good but Al Ernst just hilarious. CD Todd Wittmer was always a part of the fun and very approachable. He was probably my 2nd favorite CD (only behind Corey Schmidt – Conquest 2002 Inaugural). Funny thing is Todd was a social host on that cruise and Chris Jefferson was assistant CD so that was a great lineup. Social hosts Simon and Amy were excellent. Assistant CD James was just OK.

Although I have not been on a Spirit class ship yet, I prefer the layout of this Dream class over any of the others, especially the promenade and Lido decks. I prefer Carnival over RCCL and the others in nearly every category, but I still prefer the actual ship (Mariner of the Seas) over any of the Carnival ships I’ve been on primarily because of the promenade layout and parades.

There was never really a line for the waterslide or mini-golf. We were aware that Dancin’ In the Streets was popular and we always like good seats so we got there 45 minutes early, and there were several people there already. The early show lower level was about full a half hour before the show started.

The ONLY area that there was a bit of a line was the Lido deck pool grill but only for a short time and it went fast.

I had read many reviews on the Dream prior to our trip and many weren’t very good. I can’t figure those people out. I really think that some people will have a good time 95% of the time but have one minor thing go wrong or maybe have to wait in line a couple minutes and they write a bad review as a result.

Parasailing in St. Thomas was a blast but we really enjoyed Bernard’s tour in St. Maarten even more. I’d be happy to answer any questions.

For those of you about to sail the Dream I know you’ll have a blast, and for those in the decision process…GO FOR IT.

We were initially booked on the Oasis for this same week but switched due to cost…and I’m very glad we did.

Sorry about the font size being bigger on part of that review………..my computer did this and I can’t seem to fix it…………………bugger.

We have quite a few new Cruise Directors at the moment and they are all doing a brilliant job. However, as I did back when I was a virgin CD some find the comments that guests write about them on the review cards………….very personally indeed.

Obviously if a guests says that something the CD said was not suitable or that a show or event was not good enough then the Cruise Director should take this matter to heart and act upon it. Then there are comments that are a little more difficult to face such as ones that I and most CD’s will get. These include that the CD was not funny or not visible or that another CD on a previous cruise was much better. These comments are difficult to handle and it is easy to let them get to you……..I know I used to. Now though I have learned to come to terms with the fact that while 99 people will think that you are funny…… one person will think you are as humorous as gangrene……….and that person will be the one that takes the time to tell you so by writing a comment on the review card.

The 99 people who thought you were funny……..will usually write bugger all. I try to teach the new Cruise Directors to look at the overall picture and not to worry too much.

However, if the same comment is constant they need to examine what they are doing.

Sometimes though this can be baffling. I had an e-mail from a well known Cruise Director this week. He is not new to the job and if I asked you to name your top five Cruise Directors he would make most people’s list.

However, it seems that he has gotten a few comments recently…..on the same subject and that subject is…..what he wears on stage! Yep…his clothes. These comments say that he is dressed too casually and that he looks scruffy. Now, I should point out that he has been wearing the same kind of clothing for some years. This includes a polo shirt and dress shorts or pants while around the ship during the day and while on stage hosting a travel talk and a smart dress shirt and dress pants at night. On elegant night he wears a suit.

Bizarrely, he has received a total of seven comments over two cruises saying his dress sense is “not appropriate” and so he wrote to me for advice.

Now, this is a difficult one because actually the company does not have a written “dress code” for us Cruise Directors. And what tends to happen is that the CD will usually dress as best suits his or her personality.

I have seen the Cruise Director in question and he is slim and good looking enough (the bastard) to be able to wear a polo shirt on stage. Me………I can’t as when I wear a polo shirt I look like I have Rosie O’Donnell’s head stuffed down it.

So, should this CD wear a suit at all times. I do because I have no choice but should he. Does a good suit and tie get you great comments from guests? Would my ratings go down if I started to dress like Sir Elton John.?

Anyway…………..my advice is to carry on as normal for now and keep an eye on the comments and see if this was a random bollocking.

However……there is one other option. A few years ago it was mentioned that Carnival was considering having Cruise Directors wear white officer uniforms. I know some of the lines already do this and I for one would rather wear a loin cloth and I sparkly “I Love Richard Simmons” T-Shirt……then a white uniform.

There are some CD’s……..the metrosexual ones who look good in everything they wear. And so as always it would be interesting to read your thoughts on what you think a CD should be wearing on stage …… casual…….smart……..or do you prefer the white uniform idea? I look forward to reading your thoughts.

So, as I mentioned yesterday Heidi and Kye will be sailing with me for three weeks on your Carnival Dream. Planning this though is fraught with stress and worry. First of all we have the flight itself. I am currently trying to find an airline that doesn’t charge three billion dollars for a business class ticket so Heidi and Kye have some room which will I am sure make things more enjoyable for them both……..although I doubt the laptop brigade of business class travelers will be too impressed when Kye decides to do her Ozzy Osborne impression……or when she decides that airplane food sucks and craps herself…….four times. With today’s new laws about what you can and cannot do on a plane very much in the news I worry that her bone-chilling screech might have on the structure of the pressurized cabin and that the screech would have us arrested under suspicion of deploying some terrible new al-Qaeda weapon.

Then of course there is the “what do I travel with?” conversation which already has become a heated one. Even before Kye was born traveling with Heidi was always ummmm……..interesting. I mean………look at what she carries in her handbag each and every day and that will tell you what it’s going to be like traveling with Kye. I have wasted weeks of my life standing outside the front door in the freezing cold waiting for my wife to find the keys in her handbag. And then there are the many years I waste waiting for her to answer her bloody cell phone.

Normally it rings for 2 days before she finds it nestling at the bottom of her bag, underneath a receipt for something she bought in Holland……when she was 15.

These days, if I suspect her phone might be in her bag I write a letter instead. It’s quicker.

Delta Force thinks they have a tough time trying to find Osama Bin Laden, who is holed out in a cave somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan. But really they should thank their lucky stars he didn’t choose to hide out in my wife’s handbag. God, I’ve just thought of something. Maybe he did. Maybe he’s in there now, with his AK-47 and his video recorder. Maybe he’s using the cell phone she lost two years ago to supply Al-Jazeera with news.

The idea that a handbag has something to do with style is bollocks by the way. If you have been smacked multiple times with the ugly stick and you have only one tooth there’s no purse in the world that will mask the problem……….unless you wear it over your head.

Anyway, Heidi has her mammoth sized Meow Meow or something handbag which already weighs 300 pounds. But now she needs the dreaded diaper bag. This is Kye’s version of the Jack Bauer man bag and contains everything she needs should she need to take down a terrorist or two. Then there is the stroller and then her clothes. Last night Heidi told me that “she doesn’t have anything to wear for the cruise.” Obviously I thought that she meant her………as in my wife………but nope……….she meant Kye. “What do you mean she doesn’t have anything to wear?” I asked…….I mean …….she’s a baby …….not Victoria sodding Beckham. Well, that was me in the doghouse as Heidi then bollocked me at my lack of understanding of what Kye will need to wear on the ship and in port.

So, at the time of writing I have to pay thousands of dollars for a business class ticket ………hundreds of dollars for my Armani-clad 8-month-old daughter…….and goodness knows how much in excess baggage.

Is it worth it?…………….Absolutely!

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.