Self Service

January 13, 2010 -

John Heald

Well, it’s not been a great week so far. I became a totally crap driver and slid down a hill bumping into a Toyota…..and unfortunately it wasn’t one of those bloody tofu eaters’ favourites a Toyota Prius which maybe would have made me feel better. I got the bill for the damage today to the courtesy car I had borrowed while he Range Rover was being serviced….and sure enough while the insurance will take care of the damage to the other vehicle…..I have a $150 excess to pay.

I stood at the side of the road with my new best friend as we swapped insurance details and obviously during that time I got swine flu. OK…….it isn’t swine flu…….but I do have a runny nose, a sore throat, a head that feels like Keith Moon (the deceased drummer from the Who) is living in there giving it large on the drums………. and every few minutes my eyes fill with water. All the ingredients you need to make a convincing Nyquil commercial for the television.

This morning despite my severe illness I had to go to the hospital for my 6 month blood test where they test my sugar level, cholesterol (they will probably find bacon) as well as….. ummm ………other stuff.

So, that’s the picture painted then. I have the worst cold a man has ever had in the world…..I can’t drive a stick shift anymore……I have to get a small prick….at the hospital…….so generally I am feeling pretty crappy. So Heidi says “Oh, as you are going out can you pop to the supermarket.” I was about to tell her to bugger off but I had a coughing fit while doing so and before I knew it I was mincing around the local supermarket with my trolley.

Now, this was not my usual supermarket as I was in a different part of Southend having been for my small prick. Thus, when I arrived at the check out……I stood with my mouth open and I think I said out loud …….”What the f**k?”…….oops.

There were no ladies with nose piercings behind the registers scanning the bar code…………this was a self service check out thingy.

Now, I don’t know if you have these in the States or Canada. I certainly have never seen them before but this supermarket called Tesco’s had them………certainly does and I had no bloody clue what to do and I am sure they are designed with the specific intention of driving shoppers into a rage.

There are quite a few things about these barcode-hungry Terminators that make me want to go postal in the salad dressing aisle

The sign as you approach these lifeless automated check outs says that the “touch screen is easy to use.” I bought a Sharpie just so I could scribble “my arse” after the word “easy.”

I had bought just a few things including a melon and some prosciutto. The scales couldn’t tell the difference between the weight of a melon and the weight of 6 pieces of thinly sliced Italian pig.

Now…..while there is no actual person helping you, each check out has a Judge Judy type who glares suspiciously at everything you’re trying to scan in case you’re shoplifting your purchases or, worse still, taking more than one plastic carrier bag.

However, the single most hateful thing about self-service checkout machines is the voice that, when you place something completely expected in the bagging area, loudly informs you that there is now “an unexpected item in the bagging area.”

Where do they get these voices and it’s not just these check out thingies either. Some of the voices they use in the elevators on the ships are nice and pleasant. Some….especially the Carnival Splendor‘s …….use a dominatrix called Frau Wipenlashen who shouts “DECK SECHS” when you arrive on Upper deck.

Anyway…..back to the super market automated voice. The main reason this is so annoying is that, by definition, anything that one places in the bagging area has more than likely come from the shelves of the very supermarket you are in: a can of soup or a box of Nipple Pads. Thus, anything you have placed in the bagging area could not in any way be described as unexpected can it?

Granted, if I was to place in the bagging area a Mongolian Warthog or one of my Bobble heads or a pair of my underpants……..the machine might have a point. That would be truly unexpected.

However, if, as happened to me today, I place a loaf of whole meal bread in the bagging area, this should not come as a surprise to you should it you automated bastard. So just shut up with your stupid electronic announcements, repeated over and over, telling me that a loaf of bread is somehow unexpected, and do your job. I only wish I could surprise you with an item you certainly aren’t expecting, such as a hand grenade……….. With the pin out.

Time for today’s questions………………here we go

Marqueta Asked:
John or one of the 343 Stephanie’s

Please Reply (911 concerning Sea Miles Program)
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very prosperous New Year.

I received an email today from the Sea Miles people telling me that Carnival is no longer with them and that you are going to be promoting fun points and according to my email from Sea Miles they are going to be worth about a 1/3 of what the Sea Miles points were. The question I have of course is wanting to know is this true???? We have enjoyed the substantial savings by using the sea miles on the last two cruises that we have gone on with Carnival of course. If you would like to see the email that also has a little movie explaining the differences to us in the two programs, please tell me where to email it to. I wanted to make sure you had a chance to respond to this before the whole world does on Cruise Critic.

Merry Christmas again,
Marqueta from Oklahoma (where the snow is going to be blowing through the wheat tomorrow)

John Says:
Hello Marqueta

I hope by the time you read this the snow and cold have buggered off and the wheat is growing well. I’m going to have to look into this and get back to you as I understand there are some new and exciting things happening in the marketing department regarding these types of guest loyalty benefits and that these new programs are going to be very special indeed. I will make sure I post any updates on this as soon as I have them. I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and my best wishes to you and the family.

Juan & Maria Santana Asked:
John, please reply…

Hi, John! It’s Dec. 23 & just 4 days ago we returned from our 1-week cruise on the Dream and it was absolutely marvelous! It was wonderful! The ship is a jewel! We enjoyed every minute of it! A week was not long enough to see and enjoy everything, so we know that as soon as the itinerary is changed, we’ll be sailing on the Dream again. Since we live in Miami Beach and we wanted to make sure we were in Port Canaveral at sailing’s time, we drove to Cocoa Beach the day before. It was a relaxed 4 hrs. 10 mins. drive. We stayed overnight at the Best Western Hotel in Cocoa Beach (7 min. drive to Port Canaveral). Upon arriving at the hotel we met several people that were there for the same reason… they were going to sail on the Dream with us…At that point we were told by the hotel clerk that the hotel provided parking for the whole week that we were sailing… plus shuttle service to/from the Port to their parking lot. All of that for $8…. That is a bargain, if you take into consideration that before we knew that, we were ready to pay $15 daily fee to the Port Canaveral Parking System! We heard that most of the Cocoa Beach hotels provide that service. The funny thing is that nobody told us that ahead of time because we believe nobody knew about it. Our AAA office in South Miami didn’t tell us about it when we reserved the Best Western Hotel thru them…. our Carnival sales rep wasn’t aware of that service either. We are stating that info here for the benefit of Carnival passengers like us that rather drive the day before the sailing from Miami or any other place and stay overnight at Cocoa Beach… Again, it only takes a few mins. From any hotel there to Port Canaveral.

Going back to the Dream, we wanted to share with everybody that it is a great idea to have the Comedy Club at the gorgeous Burgundy Lounge! That’s the one with the magnificent Venetian Carnival masks all around…. and bigger ones on the ceiling facing down! Beautiful! The attended the comedy shows and they were hysterical, we laughed like crazy! The 4 comedians were excellent. The wonderful Sports Bar by the Casino is just like being in Vegas! Great! The 4 Spas on Deck 5 (2 on each side of the ship like hanging out) were very popular… our stateroom was on Deck 9 and from our balcony we could look down to the overhanging Spas. The production shows, etc., were as always, fantastic. We believe that it was a great idea that the piano/singers that are usually on the Lobby Deck, now they are up on a special space on the staircase above the lobby looking down to the guests. This provided more space for dancing guests on the lobby floor.

The Lido buffet (I believe it’s called “Gatherings”) is beautiful too. The food at the buffet has always been great, but this time was out of this world! As I told you many times, we find that the desserts at the Lido are always better than in the dining rooms. The selection is bigger and they are absolutely scrumptious! My favorite is cheesecake, and every day they have a different kind of cheesecake…. so I’m always in heaven! My husband loved the new Pasta Bar on the 11th Deck. Pasta is one of his favorite dishes and he ate lunch there a couple of times and was raving about it! He said that the service was very well organized.

We met Todd, the CD, for the 1st time on this cruise & we had the pleasure of once again talking to James, his Asst., who we met some time ago when he was assisting Steve Knisley on the Liberty.

Now we have to tell you about the great experience we had that turned to be “the icing on the cake” on this cruise. We accidentally met Honduras’ President Roberto Micheletti, Dec. 15 on the pier of magnificent Mahogany Bay cruise terminal. We were walking on the pier returning to the Dream when we saw these “important looking individuals” coming from the ship. My husband right away recognized Pres. Micheletti and called his name aloud twice. The President turned his head and smiled surprised that he had been recognized and a lady who was part of his group nodded “yes” to my husband. Then I loudly said twice to the President in Spanish: “Felicidades!” (Congratulations!). He seemed very happy and satisfied with our expressions of recognition. I told the group that we were Cuban Americans and that we – as well as many of our relatives, friends & neighbors – were very proud of the Honduran people and the way they handled the very difficult situation they recently went thru. My husband ran with the camera towards the President and asked him if he could take his picture, because nobody at home would believe us if we didn’t have one! He said yes and my husband took a picture. Then the Pres. asked an officer (a General) that was with him to take a picture of my husband with him (so we could show it to our friends/relatives in Miami). Then I approached the group and the Pres. asked my husband if I was his wife. When he said yes, the President also asked me to join him and my husband for another picture. We found President Micheletti very nice, friendly and gracious. The reason for him being on the pier was the inauguration that day of the Mahogany Bay cruise terminal, Carnival’s joint project with Honduras’ businessman Jerry Hynds. Since it was the 1st time the Dream was visiting the Island of Roatan, that’s why they celebrated that day its inauguration. We believe that Pres. Micheletti and his group were given a tour of the magnificent Dream and they were coming back from the ship when we met them.

John, pls. excuse the length of these comments, but we couldn’t keep quiet after this interesting and unexpected experience.

Kye’s pictures with you and Heidi are beautiful. She is getting to big!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!
The Santanas of Miami Beach

John Says:
Hello Juan and Maria

What a fantastic review of your Carnival Dream and it whets my appetite further to be her Cruise Director on the 30th January. I hope the few sceptics who are concerned about some of the negative comments that have been posted here on the blog and on the cruise boards will read this and realize that she is a truly brilliant vessel. How thrilling to meet the President of Honduras and this is I am sure an experience you will never forget.

I will make sure that the ship’s senior management get to read this review and I thank you so much for your continuing support of the blog and of course Carnival Cruise Lines.
My best wishes to you both

David Binder Asked:
John, (Please reply)

I am loving the blog. One quick question for you, I am on the pride on July 18th 2010. Could you tell me who the CD is? I saw that you posted the CD list up to June. And I like to thank you for that. Have a great holiday.
Thank You
David Binder

John Says:
Hello David

As you may have seen we have posted the CD schedule on the right hand side of the blog thingy. The schedule goes up to June as we have not yet completed it for the rest of the year. I would think that by April we will have the rest of the year finalized and I will be able to tell you whom your CD will be for your cruise on the Carnival Pride. Thanks for the kind wishes and my best to you all.

Kathy M. Asked:
Dear John, Please reply.

I need some advice from you John, since I am a solo cruiser, I have been thinking about making a reservation in the SteakHouse on the Carnival Splendor, but I am concerned that since the SteakHouse is always full and is really set up for couples and families, I just don’t want to reserve a table only to find out later that a couple was denied a seating because I took a table for two. Do they have anything set up for solo cruisers to maybe share tables?
Give my love to Heidi and Little Kye.
From your #1 Bloggy Thingy Friend
Kathy M.

John Says:
Hello Kathy M

Please don’t worry. We have had quite a few solo diners book a table at the Steakhouse and certainly it is no worry for you to do so. Hopefully you will meet new friends onboard though who you will be able to share the magnificent Steakhouse experience.
Best wishes as always

Catmama044 Asked:
Please reply:

In my last post I forgot to ask what ship Josh “Big Sexy” will be on in January? Was looking forward to seeing him again.

John Says:
Hello Catmama044.

I had the pleasure of watching Big Sexy work during our fun day at 30 Rock in New York and he really did a wonderful job motivating the crowd, Josh is off on vacation in January and returns in late February. I hope you have a brilliant time on the Carnival Miracle and enjoy Malcolm as your Cruise Director.
Best wishes

Larry Asked:
Hey John, please reply.

Sorry to say that due to certain things the wife and I will not be joining you for the Jan 31st cruise, we had that cruise booked for a year and were looking forward to the following, #1 meeting you, #2 being on the brand new Dream, #3 our first PLATINUM cruise and lastly but most importantly celebrating our 20th anniv. We have rebooked on the Triumph for a 5 day cruise for Feb 1st we were so disappointed that we had to cancel the Dream but I guess that’s life anyway I was hoping that you may be able to do something a little special for her, she is a very special woman (has to be to put up with me for the past 20 or so years, lol) and I do love her dearly. I had some plans of my own for the Dream and am trying to change them and make them work for the Triumph (can the captain make a short stop at St Maarten or would that be a bit much to ask) she is a romantic and sees only the good in life but recent events has left us very stressed out and she needs relaxing thanks for reading this. Thanks for any help see you soon

John Says:
Hello Larry

I am so sorry that you will not be joining me on your Carnival Dream and I hope everything is OK with you and the family. I would be honoured (spelt correctly) to ask George Solano your CD to send your wife something on my behalf and I hope you both have a superb and fun cruise on the Carnival Triumph.
Nest wishes to you both

Jordan Asked:
John (please reply if you have time),

I met you back in March, the week you were leaving the Valor. I really enjoyed meeting you and talking with you. You are a wonderful man, and you make so many people smile every day. I posted this awhile back, but it may have gotten lost in the shuffle (no biggie!) but, Thank you for helping me with the project I had for school. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to help a college student out.

One question though, what happened to “Charlie Davidson” or “David Tancock” the CD that took over after your departure? I haven’t seen any reviews on him anywhere from any recent cruises.

Best regards to you, and to the cute, charming Gary that was your ACD on the Valor. He is a brilliant young man and will do great in life.

Happy Holidays to you and your beautiful family,

John Says:
Hello Jordan

Thanks for the kind words at the start of your post. I had a wonderful time on the Carnival Valor and it was great meeting you as well. Sorry if your original post got lost or my reply is later than it should be. David Tancock changed his name to Charlie Davidson and is currently serving as Assistant Cruise Director on the Carnival Inspiration I believe. Gary is soon to be a full time Cruise Director and I am very proud of him. I hope your college days continue to be fun and if you need anything else please let me know.
Best wishes

Ange Asked:
Hi John (please reply),

Just wanted to send a quick hello and say that I enjoy the blog very much. I didn’t think I would ever be prompted to reply to something on here quite honestly (technically I am “working”), but the part of your blog today about one of the CDs being a bit low made me a bit sad. I can only imagine how hard a job that is (I tend to just ignore whiners and complainers, but I can’t imagine having to deal with them every day… and having to plan enough fun to keep thousands of people amused for days on end either)…

I’ve only taken 3 Carnival cruises so far, but I was lucky enough to take them all this year, and of course I am now hooked. On my first cruise on the Legend in January, Jen was the CD and while she was lovely, we were a big group and pretty much made our own fun without taking part in many of the ship’s activities.

I’ve also sailed on the Freedom and the Dream with Todd, and I found him to be a brilliant CD – so I hope it’s not him who is down in the dumps from all the complainers getting off the Dream. I was thrilled when I heard that Todd and James would be on the Dream in fact. We were on the second European sailing and I can’t think of a single thing to complain about – everything was exceptional; the ship, the food, the staff, the ports of call… best cruise ever, without question. I feel a bit bad actually because there were so many excellent people we met on the Dream, I’m quite sure I didn’t leave any comments on the card about Todd and his staff. So if you wouldn’t mind forwarding this along, it would be much appreciated. (Even if it’s other CDs that are down in the dumps, who doesn’t like to be told they are doing a great job 🙂

I really enjoyed that Todd and the entertainment staff was very approachable and were always out and about around the ship. The Morning Show that Todd and James do was a guilty pleasure each morning for sure 🙂 I also really liked that there was a variety of activities, not all of which were geared at older age groups… something for everyone really. I’ve only ever talked to Todd briefly, but the thing I noticed most about him is that he seems to genuinely like and care about the passengers, all of them – even those that really deserve a kick in the pants… or a muzzle 🙂

Happy holidays and safe travels,

John Says:
Hello Ange

Thank you so very much for taking the time to write these uplifting words about the Cruise Directors and I will make sure that they get to read your words of praise. Todd is our best Cruise Director and in James Dunn we have a future star Cruise Director and he is ready now to burst onto the scene. Thanks again for writing this marvelous post which I know both Todd and James will find rejuvenating.
Best wishes

That’s all for today. Those questions were posted on Christmas Eve so you can see I am still behind. However, there is one question I received to my Carnival e-mail address yesterday that I wanted to reply to immediately.

Helen Brompton Emailed:
Hello John

I apologize that I am writing to your direct e mail which I know you won’t like is often mentioned on the Cruise Critic message boards. I do feel that you and the people at Carnival need to know about a thread of messages that have been written under the title of how to avoid the muster life boat drill. I think it is wrong to try and do so yet I appear to be one of the few who do not seem to think it is important. I wondered if you would comment on this please. As a frequent cruiser I am concerned about this trend. I enjoy your blog and thank you for all the help you give everyone.

John Says:
Hello Helen

While I normally don’t reply to questions and or comments that are sent to my e mail I thought that I should reply to this one immediately. I haven’t read the thread thingy you refer to but if there are indeed people discussing ways of not attending the drill then quite honestly these people are idiots.

Why oh why would anyone not want to know how to save their own life in an emergency? And can you imagine the scene, God forbid it should ever happen, but while everyone who attended the drill would know exactly what to do the ones who didn’t would be a danger to themselves and others by having no bloody clue. It is of course easy to say “I have cruised many times before so I know” but of course things change, each class of ship is different not to mention that it is law that all guests attend the drill as per United States Coast Guard and international maritime laws.

The staterooms, balconies and bathrooms are checked by the state room stewards to make sure everyone does and anyone refusing to do so is reported to the ship’s command who then have the option, should they wish to do so, to take appropriate action.

I am sure this thread you refer to was written and commentated on by just a few and I am sure the very wise people who read Cruise Critic will all know the importance of the drill.

Thank you for bringing this to my attention and maybe I could ask Host Mach to add my comments to the thread thingy.

Best wishes

OK, time for a break and visit to the toilet for me…….and while I am sitting on the throne reading Latvian Girls In Suspenders weekly I will leave you with one of the 343 Stephanie’s slide shows featuring the brilliant Carnival Sensation and her Captain and Senior Officers….. OK ……see you in 30 minutes.

OK, I am back………………..three pounds lighter………I hope you enjoyed the slide show and for those of you sailing on the Carnival Sensation soon you got a chance to not only enjoy the photos of the ship but to meet the Senior Officers who along with their crew will make sure you have a tremendous time.

I truly am looking forward to being the Cruise Director on your Carnival Dream. I mean, there is so much to look forward to. I have been answering a lot of questions recently about the smoking policies on board which have been, for the most part, very popular indeed. Although I try and answer these questions subjectively I am sure I tend to favour the non smokers. This of course is very much on line with the way of the world. However, it easy to forget that your Carnival Dream offers a lot to the smoker as I was reminded today by a friend of mine who is sailing on there this week.

Mr. and Mrs. Bentley are friends of mine from the UK and both are non smokers. Yet this is the e mail I received from Mr Bentley yesterday.

“This ship is a paradise for smokers. They are always just a few steps from the outdoors.”
The Bentleys

By “just a few steps from the outdoors” he means the Lanai of course. There are wonderful outdoor smoking areas on the port side and if you walk further aft you will discover large, comfy chairs outside of the Dance Club.

So, while we may have reduced the smoking facilities in the casino the opportunities for smoking outdoors (where many believe it should be limited to) are much more than on any of our ships.

I for one will be enjoying the odd cigar on the Lanai…………….don’t tell Heidi.

As I said at the top of this blog thingy I have not had a good couple of days and as I write to you now, a torrent of snot is flowing from my nose onto the keyboard. What with all that’s happened and with my pending goodbye to the girls I have been feeling a bit down. Yet none of this matters anymore as the news from Haiti puts all of that into prospective.

You know back in the eighties and early nineties Carnival used to send our ships to Haiti and indeed Royal Caribbean still sends ships to their private island situated at the Northern tip of country.

However, many of us have sailed past there many times and probably not given it much thought. From what I am told though by people who have been there that it is despite the military coups and the corruption that is widely reported on the news……..a beautiful part of the Caribbean.

Haiti is different to most of the other islands in the region. All of the Caribbean islands with a history of rule from America, Holland & the UK are so much more advanced and it appears that Haiti has been left behind with lack of investment and poor leadership. Hopefully now nations will pull together and rebuild from this horrific earthquake with better construction standards.

The pictures I have seen today show the devastation that this earthquake has caused. And you can’t help but think that is always the most vulnerable people in the world that are most hit by natural disasters and wars…to make them more and more poor and vulnerable. The people of Haiti are in our thoughts tonight.

Vous êtes tous dans nos prières

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.