When The Saints Go Marching In

February 8, 2010 -

John Heald

As you know, on Saturday, I went on a shopping expedition to Wal-Mart for essential supplies and nipple pads which was I must say a horrendous experience. I didn’t know where anything was but help was at hand because I saw the Wal-Mart greater chap who had an Ask Me shirt on. I did ask him and he knew where the nipple pads were. This was much different to the time I was shopping in a Wal-Mart near the Miami office. I asked the Wal-Mart greeter where something was just like his T Shirt suggested…….”Where is the hemorrhoid cream?” I asked. And he said………….“Que?”

So laden down with bags of diapers (which are very heavy by the way) I went across the street to a place called the Merritt Mall which is a small cute kind of mall in a Drew Barrymore kind of way. I needed a toy for Kye and couldn’t find what Heidi had told me to get at Wal-Mart and so looking like a pack mule with all my bags I headed for the toy store which I was told was located there.

And it was…And I bought Kye a couple of cute toys which she will enjoy eating a lot.

I then went to pay for them.

And that’s when I got a bit annoyed and I had to bite my tongue so that I didn’t have fly off into some consumer rage at being asked to pay 15 cents for the plastic bag to put the toys in. The assistant, in a Disneyesque, sing-songy “we’re all just trying to help the environment here” voice, announced that there was now a 15 cents charge for bags then suggested I upgrade by spending $2 on something she called “a bag for life.” Lest I had failed to grasp the essence of “re-usable” she added: “I use mine all the time because we are proud to be a green store!” She was very nearly an orange sales assistant because it was all I could do not to vomit on her.

Now I know we must all do our bit and I know how wasteful the world is when it comes to plastic bags but bloody hell……….I am not going to be lectured on this by a 20 year old sodding toy shop assistant. I already knew how hypocritical she was because of my Christmas toy experience.

Have you seen how much toy manufacturers use to fasten one small, lightweight toy into its box? Twisty ties, unbreakable plastic, molded trays all apparently designed by Chinese torture experts who believe it is essential to strap one teething plastic toy into a waxed cardboard coffin. Mystifyingly, the whole thing is often then caged within a clear plastic dome as if it is a carrier of some world destroying virus. Obviously, it is impossible to open. This is why so many parents can be found on Christmas Day weeping openly and making obscene gestures at new toys with bleeding hands.

Honestly, getting a bollocking from a toy shop assistant about “being green” is like getting a bollocking from the designer of the Norwegian Epic about wearing clothes that don’t match and that look ugly.

Oh by the way…………I am ashamed to admit this………….but I did in fact buy the “bag for life”…….not because I have gone all Al Gore……but because the shop assistant had a nice bottom.

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

CALLY D Asked:

My sailing date is 8/14/10 family of 5.

We plan on visiting Atlantis Water Park, but the price is little high to visit $120 for adults and $100 kids. PRICE TAG $540 A LOT OF MONEY FOR A 4HR VIST. IS IT GOOD THING TO DO?

John Says:
Hello Cally D

I am sure you are very much looking forward to your cruise and I admit straight away that the price of the Atlantis Water Park is not exactly cheap. But is it worth it? Yes …. absolutely. The hotel certainly dominates the skyline of Nassau and cruise ship guests are immediately drawn to it. It’s a massive 2,300-room hotel resort on Paradise Island. I remember Heidi saying her first impression of the hotel was of a huge pink and green wedding cake that had crash landed in the middle of paradise…………..not bad for a Dutch girl. But it certainly is jaw droppingly impressive…..especially the aquariums. Our Shore Excursion fact sheet tells me that he biggest holds 2.5 million gallons of salt water and 13,000 sea creatures, ranging from shoals of fabulous multicolored Nemos and his mates to hammerhead sharks and a mesmerizingly graceful manta ray. But it is the Mayan water park that is the scene stealer and if you and your family love this kind of thing then this is an absolutely must see. Centre stage is a mock Mayan temple, which contains five water slides, including a stomach in mouth, water-up-nose; 60-foot drop known as the Leap of Faith.

It is important to remember that the only part of the hotel with free admission…..is the casino…………what a shocker!

So yes, it certainly is in my opinion the thing to do in Nassau…..unless shopping for something made out of straw seems just as exciting.
Best wishes

Charles Fox Asked:
John (reply if you can),

I wrote to you previously about my previous cruises and mentioned that Jacquie Vasquez (Carnival PVP) and the Group Department at Carnival had provided exceptional service on my previous cruises and the one we were going on January 6, 2010.

Unfortunately, the cruise is over, but we all had a wonderful time. There were 34 of us cruising together (we had 16 cabins booked) and I didn’t hear a single bad comment from anyone.

We were aboard the Carnival Spirit, and the first day was my beautiful wife and my 2nd anniversary. I wanted to let you know that the flowers and other items I had ordered were delivered and in our room upon boarding. Thank you for taking your time to pass that request on to the ship.

Our cruise was fantastic. We had not previously sailed to the ports we visited, so everything was new. The excursions we had booked were great. The food (as always) was superb. My wife and I were fortunate enough to have dinner with the Captain (Giovanne Donato) and some of the senior officers. It made my wife’s day. It was a very good experience. The Maitre d’, was Mister Vivek and he made it a point to stop by our table every night. Super dining experiences.

Our Cruise Director was STU Dunn. STU did an outstanding job and was very visible during the entire cruise. My wife loved his Dolly Parton impression at the “Legends” show the last night of the cruise.

Now that our cruise is over, we will start working toward and planning our next cruise. We can’t wait.
Charles Fox

John Says:
Hello Charles

Thank you so much for your review and that this time the bon voyage gifts were delivered on time. I will make sure that your words of praise are forwarded on to those onboard the Carnival Spirit who made this cruise so special.

Please let me know if you need any help planning your next fun for all cruise.
Best wishes to all

Helena Asked:

We are taking our girls on their first cruise April 3rd on the Carnival Dream. This will be our second cruise. Last year my husband and I took our first cruise on the Carnival Glory and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves after I got past the jitters and being sick the first few days. LOL We are very excited to take our girls on this cruise. My daughter will be graduating this year so this is part of her graduation gift. Is there anyway you can arrange for us to be seated in the center of the dining room where they can see the entertainment? Where we were seated on the last cruise, we were unable to see.

Also, I would just like to say I am very pleased with how the crew members handle allergies. I have a food allergy and the maitre d was very accommodating. I am trying to make this cruise as special as I can for both my girls and my husband since this will be our 21st anniversary. Anything you can do to help make this cruise special, would be greatly appreciated!!!
Please say hello to Heidi and Kye.

Looking forward to hearing from you! 😮 )
Thank you,
Helena Fedak

John Says:
Hello Helena

I am sure your Carnival Dream will give you smooth sailing and you won’t have any sea sickness. Just remember should the unlikely event occur be sure to order peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which are the only thing that tastes the same coming up…………as it does going down.

I will certainly do all I can to help you with your dining assignment and in our Maitre D’s Ante and Klaudio I know you will find some wonderful hospitality here. Please speak to them if you have any allergy questions.

I hope your daughter has a terrific graduation cruise and you all have a fun time.
best wishes

rickey coffey Asked:
Dear John,

I am interested in whether or not the Dream is sailing in the year-2011. My wife and I would like to go to Rome-Italy. So, I would like a response back. I am interested in Carnival Cruise lines. I am always on the website, I am that committed to knowing a lot about Carnival. Please, reply.

John Says:
Hello Nicky Coffey

Your Carnival Dream will be sailing in the Caribbean in 2011 however her sister ship the Carnival Magic will be joining the fleet in 2011 and will spend a full season in the Mediterranean sailing on 7, 9 and 12 day cruises. Why not pop on over to www.carnival.com/magic and have a look at the amazing itinerary which included ports such as Venice, Dubrovnik, Rome and Monte Carlo.

If you have any questions about this or anything at all I remain at your service.
Best wishes

Gary Woollam Asked:
Hi John – Please Reply

We are the two scousers from Liverpool. I spoke to you on your show on The Legend, in October. Well, we enjoyed it so much, WE HAVE BOOKED AGAIN. !! This time The Miracle, on 5th Dec 2010.

What can we expect..?
What is the ship like?
Who is the CD..?
Gary Woollam
Come On You Blues
Ps Hope you liked the shirt!!

John Says:
Hello Gary

I remember my two Everton fans really well and the shirt is here with me. Congratulations on booking the Carnival Miracle which is the same class (Spirit) as the Carnival Legend. The layout though is the same although the interior is a different design to the Carnival Legend.

The Cruise Director schedule for 2010 is only complete up to June but as soon as it’s done for the rest of the year I will let everyone know. I have never had the pleasure of being the Cruise Director of the Carnival Miracle but I can tell you that for many people reading this blog thingy that the Carnival Miracle is their favourite vessel. Anyone who has sailed recently like to comment on that and help two Liverpudlians out?

I know you will have a great time and if there is anything I can do for you please let me know
Sorry about the loss to the reds 🙁
best wishes

Long Tall Sally Asked:
John – please reply

I just returned from a cruise on the Sensation and was not happy with the cabin steward. We were sleeping one morning when he knocked on the door and woke us up. It was only 10:30am and we were on vacation and he did the same on the morning we had to get off the boat when he knocked on the door at 8:45am. This was not the way to treat people.
Sally H

John Says:
Hello Long Tall Sally

Obviously I am very sorry that you were disturbed by the stateroom steward while you were sleeping. By the way, I have to ask, did you have the “do not disturb sign” on the door? As for the morning of debarkation I am afraid to say that we do need to have guests leave their cabins as they have to be prepared for the next cruise. I hope this did not spoil your enjoyment of your cruise and that overall you had a great time.
Best wishes

Dave Carson Asked:

I want to book the Pride this fall. Can you tell me John’s dates as CD on Carnival Pride?
Thank you!!!
~Dave Carson

John Says:
Hello Dave

There will be a Dear John letter very soon from Jaime the current CD on the Carnival Pride and she will give you a great insight as to what is happening on that great ship. I will be there in the fall ……..wow that was very American ……….I mean the autumn. It is sometime in September and I will be there until November. Please give me a little time to confirm the dates to you and I am honoured that you are considering sailing with me.
Best wishes

Susan O. Asked:
John, please reply if possible.

We’re on the Freedom on 2/13 (our 6th Carnival cruise…going for platinum….loyal to the end!).

I’ve read a couple of ships are offering a “Chef’s Dinner” and am wondering if it’s available on the Freedom. We’ll be sailing during our 27th anniversary and my husband is a real foodie and would LOVE this if available. I believe it’s available on the Ecstasy and Dream.
Thanks in advance….your sense of humor makes me smile every day!

John Says:
Hello Susan O

Thanks so much for your loyalty to Carnival and it won’t be long until that Platinum card is yours. The Chef’s Table is currently only available on the Carnival Ecstasy and your Carnival Dream but there are plans to do this on other ships soon. Please make sure that as a foodie your husband tries the Steakhouse………..it is truly superb.

Thanks for the kind words and best wishes to you both.

Bill (Zydecocruiser) from ZydecoCruiser.com Asked:
John, Please reply

Ahhh. One of my favorite subjects – FOOD!

I read that on some Carnival ships – even some without a Steakhouse restaurant, that a special Chef’s dinner with wine pairings is available for $75.

The two that I saw mentioned were Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Dream. Is this available on all Carnival ships? If not, how about Carnival Sensation?

How does one book this special dinner?

John Says:
Hello Bill

As you can see from my reply to Susan O above there is indeed the new Chef’s Table available on both the Carnival Ecstasy and the Carnival Dream. I hope you saw my review of this on a blog last week as well. I would love to say I got to try the experience of this specially created menu that is enjoyed in the galley while it is in full operation …… but I haven’t because it has been sold out on all three of the evenings that we do it. We have separate comment cards that we give the guests to complete.

Here is what the guests are saying:

I know you love your food and hope that you get a chance to sample this wonderful culinary experience.

My best wishes to you and Elizabeth

That’s all for today. Those replies were to questions that were asked on January 15 and 16 so as you can see I am still some weeks behind. I may have to sacrifice a blog this week to just answer a triple load of questions.

Anyway, please keep the comments coming as I truly enjoy reading them all.

And so another cruise starts and before I talk about this one I should finish off with a few words about the last cruise. Friday was a very busy day as I mentioned in my brief blog thingy. The response at the debarkation talk was excellent with the audience standing and applauding the hard work of the crew. Then unfortunately later that night we had a sudden outbreak of vomiting on the ship…….nope……..no one was ill…… the vomiting was caused by me…….appearing…..in my Dolly Parton dress in Carnival Legends.

There was though a serious note to the day as many guests scrambled to try and arrange flights and transportation to areas that were expecting heavy snow. And of course they awoke this morning to find that the promised “snowmargedon” had arrived leaving many with canceled or delayed flights and leaving Al Gore looking pretty silly.

The snow had an effect on this cruise as well because we had close to 80 no shows from the East coast. Some will join us today in Cozumel and some will not, reminding us all of the massive importance of travel insurance. I know many of you who read the blog thingy are from the snow affected areas so stay warm and remember……when building a snowman the carrot doesn’t only have to be used for the nose.

Well, let’s see who is joining me this cruise on their Carnival Dream.

Guest Count – 3,889
Non US or Canadian – 351 including 86 from the UK and 39 from Israel

Under 2 Years 7
2-5 Years 46
6-8 Years 39
9-11 Years 66
12-14 Years 62
15-17 Years 40
18-20 Years 23

Past Guests – 2,417

So here we are heading to Cozumel. It’s 7:40 am and here I am in my underpants having remembered to close the curtains in case someone sees my thingy. Then again………I haven’t seen my thingy for the last few years since I built an awning over it.

Yesterday we were at sea and while the weather was mostly nice with the clouds doing battle with the sun it was again very windy as it was most of last cruise. Unfortunately we had to close the two bigger water slides which is never good but……..safety must prevail.

Also sailing this week is the Super bowl group of 1,232. This is a group of football (not soccer, the one where they don’t use their feet) fanatics who had a private performance of the World Series Bowl Final thingy in the main theatre which on your Carnival Dream is called the Encore.

This gave me a bit of a dilemma. You see, the game was shown last night which is usually our main elegant night featuring the Captain’s Celebration, shows and of course lobster and prime rib on the menu for dinner. I therefore decided to change the elegant night to another evening. This wasn’t as easy as you would think because on this itinerary we have four back to back ports of call…..Cozumel, Roatan, Belize and Costa Maya. And all of those ports with the exception of Costa Maya ate ones where the ship sails at 6 pm.

But I didn’t want everyone to miss the elegant night and of course all the trimmings I just mentioned and so I had to change the elegant night to Cozumel. That’s not ideal but at least the ship could enjoy the game, dressed in football watching attire and not have to decide between the World Series Bowl Final thingy or elegant night.

Of course this means swapping menus, schedules and all the departments have to change accordingly which is a big job but as usual they all did a superb job.

And so on to the game. Well, the Super Bowel…….sorry……..Bowl group had the main theatre from 4 pm to 11 pm and not only watched the game on the big screen in the lounge but also had raffles, entertainment and that gave the proceedings a brilliant atmosphere. The only problem for me was that as Carnival Groups department had given the Super Bowel……sorry……Bowl group the lounge, this meant that we could not provide a show that night in the theatre. Therefore I scheduled as much as I could in the Ocean Plaza and around the ship and we had 5 performances in the Carnival Comedy Club.

However, the place to be if you were not watching the game with the Super thingy group was the Seaside Theatre Big Screen on Lido Deck 10. We provided beer and bar specials and a menu which I am told is usual Super Bowl fare…………here it is.

Grilled Steak Sandwich
Cheeseburgers and Fries
Spicy Breaded Chicken Fingers
Tempura Shrimps
South Western Spring Roll
Hot Dogs with Cheese, Chili and Fried Onions

And here are some great photos of the event.

It seems everyone enjoyed the coverage and all the extras we provided…….. well ……… nearly everyone.

Guest: Mrs. ————-Ref: 846002191A
Cabin: ____Booking#: ____ Added-Changed: 02/05/10 – 02/05/10

Mrs. _____ came to the GSD very angry and refused to wait in line. She said that she should have been told that there was no elegant night as she would have disembarked the ship before left Port Canaveral. GSA explained that we had changed to Cozumel for elegant night. Mrs. ___ wanted to speak to Hotel Director and said that she should get a refund as there was no show and because she had come on the ship because she does not care to watch football.

Tasked to HD and CD

I hate comments like this because in a way she is right. Group business is massively important to every cruise line and every cruise line is actively trying to get more. But there are times when it does cause some concerns for us onboard. Anyway, I called the lady and we met and after I explained that she would not miss out on any show because I have re scheduled the one that we would have shown last night ….she was fine. Good, I thought….right up to the point where she demanded she be compensated to the tune of $150. She did say though that she would be happy with dinner for her and her husband at the steakhouse and an upgrade to a balcony cabin. I hope she likes the fruit basket.

She was the only guest who made a comment although again…….she had a fair point I guess. As I told her, she won’t be missing out on the Extreme Country show as I have added that to the last night’s entertainment lineup.

During the game I wandered around talking to guests and watching the game as much as I could. While I don’t understand the game itself too well, there are certain things that I truly enjoy.

The national anthem is a special moment in the pre-match thingy. I thought country singer Carrie Underwood did well but couldn’t understand why the commentator kept mentioning Tony Roma’s………was she sponsored by the……or does she just like ribs?

I understand that some people even tune in just to watch the adverts. A blog dedicated to those will be forthcoming. But, I have to ask…..$3 million……for 30 seconds……is it worth it? I mean……..aren’t most people in the toilet during the commercials getting rid of the first quarter’s Taco Bell?

Anyway, I saw a few and although noting really stood out, I did see one with a group of men walking over a hill in their underpants……which obviously I loved.

The Halftime Show. Well, the most famous of these was of course Nipple Gate when Justin Trousersnake got rid of Janet Jackson’s support and all hell and one nipple broke loose. I was hoping that this year Megan Fox would have a wardrobe malfunction and her jeans and underwear would fall off. But she wasn’t in it ….so who was.

Yes ………the Who…….no…….not the Prime Minister of China…………you are thinking of the wong………get it?………wong………thing. I am talking about THE Who. These aging rockers haven’t had a hit since 1975 but personally I thought they did a great job ………. and Pete Townsend didn’t even have to show his nipples.

The Super Bowl is a multiple orgasm of showbiz and commerce, and the MVP ……….the Most Valuable Player thingy ………traditionally goes to Disneyland……when he should, of course………………… go on a Carnival Cruise.

Unlike proper football or “soccccccer” as it’s pronounced by my American blogger friends there is little or no chance of having your head kicked in by a supporter of the other team. You’ll never meet a nicer bunch of supporters than American Football fans. Light-hearted, passionate and knowledgeable, most games don’t have home or away stands like we do in the UK at our football stadiums…. instead the fans mingle, inevitably arguing like school children before reconciling over a chest bump and a cold Bud.

The uniforms are brilliant. OK the shoulder pads are a bit eighties and the players may look like they are wearing one of Joan Collins dresses from that program Dysentery …. but the ladies seem to like them as do the men who are not watching the cheerleaders bottoms. Yes, I know I may have mentioned here on the blog thingy that they’re big girl’s blouses and how in England we play Rugby and…. we do it without padding. Of course in England we prefer to have a cauliflower ears and broken noses in rugby…… A problem unheard of among American sportsmen…..unless you are an ugly sod anyway like Tom Brady!

I am glad I got to see the game here in America though unlike my mate Danny who is a huge NFL fan. He is watching on the BBC who has their own commentators …………….. British commentators…………who know bugger all about NFL………….and is the same as asking Al Michaels and John Madden to commentate on a game of cricket.

Danny and my British friends didn’t get to hear Jim Nantz say “Peyton Manning steps out of the shotgun. It’s a pump fake, the defense come at him with a full on blitz….. Manning looks up and sees Reggie Wayne is open the throw…what a catch ….a shimmy move and Fitzgerald is free……he might go all the way….he does… TOUCHDOWN COLTS!”

Nope……….the BBC commentators will no doubt will be more ………. ummmmm ……… British.

“It’s a beautiful day here in Miami, Florida…….. unlike the snow we have had here in the UK this winter as ……..ummmm….the quarterback seems to be doing a funny dance with his left leg and now he has the ball and oh I say it’s a jolly good throw to the tall one who is running very fast toward the goal sticks. Two rather large men are chasing him but one seems to have eaten far too many pies and has fallen over…….oh now the tall one is doing a funny dance so I think he has just scored a goal………….spiffing play old chap.”

Well at the end of the night it was the passengers who were cheering for the New Orleans Saints who were dancing on deck while the players can look forward to diamond encrusted white gold bling that should keep their retirement home payments going when they auction it on eBay.

And so it was a very successful night for both the private Super Bowl group and the rest of the guests. And even though we didn’t have the main show because of the group function, even those who did not want to watch the game had a great night. The live music was very popular especially at the Ocean Plaza where we have our new rock n roll/country band Blackjack and as you will see now……..the comedy club was also a huge success.

1,777 saw the comedy shows which will be repeated tonight of course for those who were watching the game. Oh…….and I mustn’t forget that the stars of the ship last night were the bar staff for keeping the demand for beer etc coming and those who once the trophy was presented and the guests went to bed………cleaned up the decks and lounges so that when they woke up this morning…….you would never have known that there was one hell of a party there the night before.

I know bugger all about American Football……give me basketball any day. But ………. even I have to say that I am ecstatic that the trophy is on its way to the Big Easy so soon after its devastation by Hurricane Katrina. Last year the bloggers and I did our little bit to help rebuild New Orleans and we all hope that this win will be a rallying point for those still suffering from the aftermath of the hurricane.

Your friend

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.