Feeling Blu

February 10, 2010 -

John Heald

When you buy a ticket for a fun for all Carnival cruise you know how much it is and what you are getting for the price. You know that the price we charge is what you pay and what is included and what is not. There are no nasty surprises at the end of the voyage when you get your Sail & Sign bill…….unless your wife has bought a diamond the size of one of my hemorrhoids from the shops onboard. That is not the case with hotels.

I know this having been in so many this past year and I know this because I recently tried booking Heidi and Kye a room for the night at the Hyatt in Orlando.

It was my job to do this because Heidi told me it was “a man’s job” and that she was busy packing her suitcase and Kye’s as well…….which she seems a little stressed about.

So, being a man I called the hotel reservation line and after listening to Mozart’s Eine Kleine soddy Nacht Musik for 5 minutes I finally reached a human. Unfortunately I didn’t get to say anything for a few minutes because I had to allow her time to tell me the name of the hotel, her full name, that my call may be recorded and that she hoped I was having a nice day.

“Can I book a room please for my wife and my 8 month old baby?” I said.

That was a mistake as she then spent the next few minutes telling me that her daughter had just had a baby and her name was Zoe and ………….HURRY UP!

Three days later we finally got around to the booking and my new best friend told me “I can give you our best-preferred, direct-booking, special-value, super-club room deal of just $225 a night, sir. Except it won’t be will it because after sales tax and room tax and Obama tax and state tax and bollock tax the room will be nearer $300.”

Why do hotels quote you a price without including the many different taxes…..and while I am having a good old moan…..rent a car companies are just as bad. Just tell us the cost upfront. The end.

Actually, I am on a role now so let me keep going and talk about bell hops at hotels. I just don’t get it. We’ve carried our suitcases down the stairs and into the taxi or our own car moaning how Heidi has packed too much and then you get to the hotel and now you’re offering to carry our bags the last 10 yards from the front desk to the lift and from the lift to our bedroom. You even have a big wheelie thing to help you. And how much are you expecting as a tip for this? $5?……$10?

Last year I flew to Dallas for the big Beach Ball thingy and I was tired after a long flight and only had a couple of dollar bills. Boy did I get a snooty look from Manuel when I gave him $2 for wheeling my one bag to my room. I will never forget though what happened to Heidi and I at the Excelsior Hotel in Rome. We were on our Honeymoon and feeling generous I handed Luigi the bellhop a 5 euro note. The bellhop looked at the note, looked at me, then handed it back with the immortal words: “You obviously need this more than I do.” Thank goodness years of working with Italians allowed me to tell him to go forth and multiply in a perfect Neapolitan accent.

The other thing that drives me nuts about the bag boys at hotels is the fact that think that showing you around your room will somehow get them an extra big tip.

This is the bedroom and this is the bathroom. That is the television. This is the window. That is a telephone. Here is a light. No, I don’t know how to switch it on, but look, here’s a pillow. Is everything all right, sir?”……on the word sir he will open his hand of course. Bloody hell, I am jet lagged, tired and smell like the inside of Ghandi’s flip flop so unless my room has a secret button that opens a door to a load of Latvian lap dancers….. bugger off.

Still……I guess I have to say that a few of the cruise ship port stevedores can make hotel bell hops look like cuddly puppies.

Then there is the TV. They’re the size of a whole wall. And that’s fine. We’re on vacation and having a Plasma TV in our stateroom or hotel room makes us feel rich doesn’t it? I am sure our guests walk into their cabin and scream with delight because they have flat screen TV’s. And that is a good thing. And for the most part, the entertainment system on the Carnival ships is easy to understand….. well…… mostly.

However, we are in danger of getting like the hotels……..and we must not let that happen. Hotels have these soft-focus welcome video that nobody ever watches. It is almost impossible to stop it, and, if you do, you have to negotiate your way through a series of menus that load at the speed of a snail to find anything resembling an actual television channel.

Sometimes there’s a keyboard, a strange keyboard with buttons that magically increase the size of your room bill. And, if you want to watch a film, just a normal film, not even a rumpy pumpy film featuring a George Hamilton look alike and a pair of Latvian twins …. it costs 3 billion dollars. Again I can personally refer to this when the Carnival marketing folks and I stayed at a Marriott in Boston when we visited our advertising agency. I actually had to call the front desk to find out how to work the TV remote control.

Channels featuring many and various ways to spend more money at the hotel were on screen and wouldn’t go away until I learned the “Secrets of the Remote” from some disaffected youth at the desk who plainly thought I was simple because I couldn’t figure out the complicated series of button pushing that would allow “regular TV” to be displayed on the screen. Please Mr. Marriott and Mr. Hyatt…..can we have a TV that has ummmm……..TV channels.

I truly believe that these posh hotels have small spy cameras in the rooms. How else can you explain that as soon as I am naked or sitting in on the toilet having a “pony and trap” (rhyming slang) the lady comes in to do the turn down service. Back when Heidi and I used to have rumpy pumpy I remember anytime we were in a hotel and in the middle of our 5 minutes of pleasure a whole procession of maids and maintenance men would show up… And all we have to stop the invasion is the Do Not Disturb sign that flimsy, lily-livered, pathetic last cardboard line of defense that nobody ever takes any bloody notice of in any case………except on our ships…………because we are better.

Enough moaning…………time for today’s questions…………..away we go.

Hi John,

I have a question that I hope you can answer. What has happened to the “fun” in the carnival fun ships? I have been sailing Carnival for 26 years now and I have noted a decline in the organized ship-board activities. There are hardly any poolside games…just trivia…trivia and more trivia. For awhile I felt like I was on another cruise line. How can Royal and other lines be having more “fun” than us on the fun ships? There have been many complaints on this same manner but nothing has changed. I guess Carnival doesn’t care. I know one thing they are definitely not the “Fun Ships” anymore.

John Says:
Hello Janeen Tilery

I have to respectfully disagree. The fun is everywhere and while we do indeed have some trivia games these are held because they are popular with our guests. You should see our Super Trivia game here on your Carnival Dream. Four teams of 10, a massive dice and loads of laughter and fun. I won’t bother listing all the fun activities and events that we have across the fleet as there are far too many. Maybe you could be more specific though. Have you cruised on RCI? And if so what do they do that you would like us to include. I hope you will take the time to reply.
Best wishes

Vincent Palmeri Asked:
Hi John respond if you can.

I’ve been on about 7 Carnival cruises and am working my way toward platinum! I’ve never had a chance to sail with you but would love to one day. My last 2 Carnival cruises were both on the Miracle out of NY. I’m currently booked on the Imagination with my gf for 1-25 out of Miami and we can’t wait. Now I just want to throw a suggestion out there for you to relay up to all the bearded ship design people. I wanna know why on all these new ships coming out none of them have a swim up bar! The ships are so big and yet the pools are so small. A nice big resort style pool would be awesome and I’m sure would be a money maker as well. Look at the swim up bar at Margaritaville in Grand Turk for example the bar was always packed with a crowd and the best part is not having to get out of the pool for a drink! I know there’s always waiters around but it’s not the same. I’ve been to many resorts with a swim up bar and it’s always a hit. I hope to one day see Carnival being the first line to do this. After all it is the fun ship! Thanks for your time John I have really been enjoying your blog since I discovered it. Vinny NY

John Says:
Hello Vincent

Great question. I am trying to think back to the older ships….Carnivale, Mardi Gras and Festivale to try and remember if they had a swim up bar…..but I don’t think they did. We did try out some swim up bars on the Carnival Destiny back in 1996 and while they were pretty popular with guests, it was tough on the bar staff and there were some logistical challenges as well and we decided not to include them on our two other Destiny-class ships, Carnival Triumph and Carnival Victory.

There are so many features that I would love to see on our ships that we don’t have but at the end of the day not everything is possible. Carnival Corporation orders us a ship. The shipyard builds it and fills it with the designs and features we want and unfortunately space is at a premium. Take this ship, your Carnival Dream. It’s 130,000 tons and as big as I hope we ever build. Yet, we still only have so much space to use. Yes, we could build a bigger pool with a swim up bar but that would take away deck space……..space for chairs and sun loungers and that has to take priority. You see, for every one person who would like a swim up bar many more want to lay in the sun and for 4,000 guests to be able to do that we need a lot of dedicated space.

However, I agree with you that a swim up bar would be a great thing and I have indeed seen them at Margaritaville etc. Who knows, maybe one day we might try this idea again.
I congratulate you on nearing that converted platinum card. And I hope we get to sail with each other very soon.

My best wishes to you and the family

Nicola McCormick Asked:
Please reply

We are cruising on The Dream on 17 July this year. We will be in Orlando for 3 weeks before the cruise and will have a lot of luggage. Is there any way we can store the luggage we won’t need for the cruise?

John Says:
Hello Nicola

This is an unusual request and I had to ask a few people before replying. Unfortunately the answer is no and of course the reason is purely based on security. What a world we live in. Hopefully you will find another solution. Please let me know if you can think of any other way I can help you before you join your Carnival Dream.
Best wishes

Linda A. Asked:
Hi John! Please respond!

Sorry Heidi is not feeling well and sorry you have to change the poo diapers! However, you are the daddy so it’s time you did your share!

Just back from the Western Caribbean cruise on the Dream! We had a great time and the CD and his staff, the room stewards and dining staff all did great jobs and spoiled us royally! However, I do have one complaint. We had a room 9323 on Vista that was right below Lido deck. The room was great, but unfortunately you could hear chairs being dragged all day and night and people walking too! The engineers need to put more soundproofing between the floors to avoid this issue. We did call and report it and we received earplugs from guest services and they also compensated us for the inconvenience even though we did not expect to be. They were great! Did not want to overly complain, but did want to bring the problem to light (since you will be there soon)!

Thanks for all you do!(Especially being the good daddy you are to change the poo-poo diapers)!

John Says:
Hello Linda

This dragging of deck chairs is something that needs to be addressed. I met a guest this cruise who told me the same thing and while earplugs and a fruit basket are all well and good, having the guys lift rather than drag the chairs is the simple answer. I apologize that this happened and while it won’t help you now I want you to know that I am now on a personal mission to stop this from happening.

I am so glad to read that you had a great time and thanks so much for taking the time to write.
Best wishes to all

Grizel Asked:
Please reply.

I have been following your blog faithfully but intermittently over the last few weeks in between constant shifts of shoveling & brushing mountains of snow from the driveway & the car & hacking ice in temperatures of up to -17C.

The bad weather hit rural Lanarkshire more than a week before Christmas & we had a 16 inch snowfall while I was at work on 21 December. Despite owning a front wheel drive VW Jetta, I was unable to access my own driveway on my return home until a contingent of neighbours from our small estate, armed with spades & shovels (including my partner & me) embarked on a rescue mission of epic Arctic proportions. At length we were all assisted into our own driveways. A great show of true neighborliness.

Unfortunately our adverse weather prevented me from posting my Christmas/New Year card to Heidi, Kye & you as I was unable to access an uplift point. I now wish you all, belatedly, every happiness for 2010.

Your latest blog video on the Magic of Queen (& the CCL variety) truly has made my day. I have always loved their music & the video was a stark reminder to me of the loss of the flamboyant style & powerful voice of the one & only Freddie Mercury. John, I have been an official judge of pedigree Persian cats for a number of years and was in fact awaiting a train to travel home to Scotland from Peterborough following an engagement when the news broke about Freddie’s death. I was truly gutted but I am pleased that Brian May etc. has ensured that the Queen legacy rocks on to this day. Thank you for the memories.

I do hope that Heidi is feeling better & that you have become accustomed the nappy changing routine. After all, it is no worse than your own emissions after a Mexican buffet on board a CCL ship particularly if within the confines of your own stateroom.

My current gripe is that Carnival ships have little in the way of Webcams to allow CCL lovers to follow ports of call in real time. P&O, Costa & other lines that are part of Carnival PLC seem to be way ahead of the game in this respect. Today, I was able to access Dream & Freedom only & the other two CCL ships’ Webcams have not been updated since November 2009 because of satellite problems.

Maybe I am just getting frustrated about having to wait 4 months for my BtoB on C Victory or maybe I need to Dream that Magic will intervene & transport me to the Destiny, Ecstasy, Elation, Fascination, Imagination & Inspiration carpet that I need to keep me afloat until I embark on my next fun trip.

It will be total Freedom to me to enjoy the Glory, Miracle & Spirit of Triumph when I step on board the C Victory that represents Legend & Pride concerning the best cruise line I know. I will miss the Celebration & Holiday trips that introduced me to the world of Carnival from a wee place in Scotland.

Please pass on my regards to wee Ralph Valente.

John Says:
Hello Grizel

That is so funny. Not in a ha ha way but in as funny “I was talking to the office about web cams only yesterday” kind of funny. I absolutely 100% agree with you. I know that we have many many people who read this blog as well as many friends over on Cruise Critic and around the world who would love to see more web cams. And so I hope to be able to tell you soon that all our ships will have this facility and we can catch up with our sister lines that you mentioned in your posting. It was a strange winter and the only sign of global warming in the UK was the heat generating from Kye’s diaper. I hope things are quieter weather wise at home and next time you put the kettle on……..think of me.

Thanks for taking the time to write and my best wishes to all.

Stephanie Asked:
Dear John, (please reply)

I have been glued to the TV the past few days watching anything and everything on the situation in Haiti. My heart aches for these people and the suffering they are going through. I was wondering if Carnival had any plans to donate to the Haitian relief effort. I’m sure you have plenty of employees from Haiti, and they need all the support they can get right now.
I’ve heard what the other guys of the seas is doing in response to this situation, and while I truly commend them to their very generous support and donations, the fact that they are still docking at their private beach in Haiti almost immediately after of the most devastating natural disasters ever recorded makes me wonder if they are being run by the same loonies at NBC (the same ones in charge of the whole Tonight Show fiasco). I keep having horrible images in my head of passengers asking “could you get me another umbrella drink”, not realizing that the person providing them with service has had their entire family wiped out a few days ago. Also over 4,000 prisoners escaped the national prison during the earthquake, so safety is another concern. While the tourism they are bringing to the country is great, couldn’t they wait a week or two for things to settle down before continuing with their regular routine?

This whole situation has also had me thinking about the other ports of call that many cruise ships make each week. Most passengers on a cruise only see the lush beaches and rainforests that their excursions take them to, and do not realize that a few miles away it’s not the same happy picture. Although Haiti may be the worst of them all, a lot of the countries in the Caribbean could be in a very similar situation due to the lack of basic education, low wages, and limited government support (ex: the absence of building codes/regulations, health care, etc). I have heard many stories of cruise passengers using their day ashore to volunteer in some way at local orphanages or schools. I searched around on Google and found that Holland America has a program called Cruise with a Purpose where they team up with non-profit organizations to provide excursions for their passengers so they can participate in volunteer activities while visiting a port of call. I’m not sure if this program is still in existence, but would Carnival ever consider a similar offering? While some people prefer to go snorkeling while in port, there are a whole bunch of people who prefer to see what everyday life is like in these exotic places. I think with the spotlight now on Haiti, such a program would prove to be very popular among passengers on your vessels. It is just an idea, but maybe it is something you could bring up the next time there is a meeting with the head honchos. 🙂

All the best to you & your family.

John Says:
Hello Stephanie. What an unusual name.

Thanks so much for a posting that was written with both care and with passion. I won’t comment on the RCI ships that continued to sail to Haiti directly after the earthquake but I will say that the industry as a whole has done wonders supporting the people whose lives will never be the same again. As you know, Carnival Corporation & plc donated $5 million to the relief fund and Carnival Cruise Lines has shipped urgent supplies to the island as well. I was not aware of the Holland America program which sounds like a great cause and I salute them for having it. Carnival works very closely with the FCCA which is a nonprofit organization trade organization composed of 15 member cruise lines operating more than 100 vessels in Floridian, Caribbean and Latin American waters. They do wonderful work and if you would like to find out more have a pop on over to their web site at http://www.f-cca.com and for more information on their charitable work have a read at http://www.f-cca.com/foundation.html
I want to thank you again for your kindness and let’s hope that with the help of the cruise industry and many other organizations that the people of Haiti will start to see a speck of light at the end of the dark tunnel they are in.
Best wishes

SoBelle129 Asked:
John: Please reply…

I have two clients sailing on the Carnival Dream with you on April 17th. They are upset because when we booked the cruise the Dream was going to be stopping in Nassau. Now Nassau isn’t one of the ports and Isla Roatan is the port that’s being substituted for Nassau. My client is in stateroom 8408. Could you arrange for John Stottlemire and Abigail Sanders to have dinner in the Steakhouse one night during their cruise? John Stottlemire is 28 years old and he just buried his father a month ago. His mother died when John was nine years old. Abigail and John are also personal friends of mine. I’m also their travel agent who booked their cruise. I’m also a Platinum cruiser with Carnival as well. Please reply back to me and let me know if you can do this favor for them regarding the Steakhouse. Thank you. Leslie

John Says:
Hello SoBelle

I am not sure what happened but checking my records the cruise of April 17th has always been a western itinerary and Nassau was never supposed to be one of the ports. Anyway, I am sure they will have a great time on this wonderful ship and respectfully I will also say that Isla Rotan is a more diverse than Nassau. I can indeed make a booking for them in the Steakhouse but….and I may be reading this wrong……..are you asking if we can do this on a complimentary basis? If so, I am sorry to say that I am not able to do this. I will however make sure that they have a great time and that I send them a little something to say welcome aboard.

I was so sorry to read about the passing of Mr. Sottlemire’s father and please send him my regards.

Thanks for all your support and best wishes to all.

Laura Asked:
John-please reply

My husband and I were on our Carnival Dream November 15, and loved it. Had one minor issue that was resolved by the hotel manager and will continue sailing Carnival, especially now that I am platinum. In fact my daughter and I have a cruise booked on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore Feb 14.It will be 20 years ago that week that her and I went on our first cruise to celebrate her birthday so we just had to cruise again that week to celebrate her birthday the same way.

Could you maybe arrange to send her a small gift to acknowledge her birthday that week? We will be in a cat 9 cabin (figured 2 women needed the extra room) I just wish you were the cd on the cruise like you were 20 years ago. You must have been little more than a child back then.

Anyway, love your blog and love Carnival. Keep up the good work!

John Says:
Hello Laura Teeter

Isn’t that Platinum card fantastic? I am sure you are enjoying all the benefits it brings. I will be happy to ask Jaime to arrange a birthday gift and I hope the snow melts away before you board the Carnival Pride.
Twenty years ago……….yep…………I was 17.

Have a great cruise
Best wishes to all

Marcus Asked:

It is 3:44 PM on Saturday, January 16, and at this moment, I should be onboard the Fantasy getting ready for departure. However, the ship is delayed and hasn’t even reached port yet. I understand that things happen, but my issue is with guest communication. There has been no sort of notification provided by Carnival, even though Carnival has our email & phone numbers. It should be a simple matter to have each voyage’s contact info available for a mass notification of delays. Fortunately, I live 30 minutes from the port. But, I still had to drive all the way there just to find that the ship was not there, and wouldn’t arrive for hours, much less reach the point of boarding for the next voyage. Surely this is a simple task to accomplish that would provide much better guest relations. As it stands, I’m at my home waiting, but I have to call Carnival repeatedly to get status updates. In this age of instant communication, these sorts of status updates should be provided by Carnival, instead of thousands of guests having to call in for status reports.

Hopefully, we will still be able to board sometime this evening. This is my second cruise with Carnival, and I’m taking four first-timers along. So far, this is not a great first impression for them. But, I know that once we get aboard and get going, we will have a great time.

John Says:
Hello Marcus

I was aware of this situation and I only hope that once you boarded that you had a great cruise. I truly appreciate you taking the time to write to me as it seems that we may need to improve on communicating such happenings to our guests. I have sent this to our CARE team and someone will respond. Please let me know if you have a follow up to this or if there is anything else you need.
Best wishes

LorrieB Asked:

Dear John,
My family of 7 will be on the Carnival Ecstasy February 15-20, 2010. I’m wondering if the ship will be celebrating Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) and to what extent. We love this celebration.
My second question is on a personal level. Two weeks ago I broke my knee cap and tore tendons and ligaments. We are bringing a wheelchair for me use around the ship. I hate to say this but I have never really paid any attention to the handicapped accessible areas even when my mother cruised with us this past November. We tried to get moved to a handicapped room but there were none available. We were even willing to go to a suite but again, none were available. Will a regular cabin have enough room for me to maneuver around in a wheelchair? Just wondering. I’m a bit of a worrier!!!!!
Thank you in advance,

John Says:
Hello Lorrie B

Please do not worry as all will be well. I am so sorry to hear about your accident and hopefully those ligaments will heal soon. Access for guests who use wheel chairs is to pretty much all areas and I know that the crew will assist you with whatever you need. The stateroom may be a tight fit for the chair to move around in but honestly I shouldn’t concern yourself.

I am sure Steve Cassel your Cruise Director will have a great Mardi Gras party planned and now that the Saints won the Super Series Bowl thingy the party will be even bigger.
Have a great cruise
Best wishes

That’s all for today and there will be more tomorrow. As you saw from Marcus’s post I am up to January 16th now and will continue to answer questions as quickly as I can. By the way, just in case anyone is wondering……..although I doubt anyone is…….the total views for our blog thingy stands at 5,835,983.

I must admit I was a little put out by the suggestion that Carnival has “lost the fun.” It’s hard ……actually it’s impossible to accept that having seen two huge standing ovations for the Dancin In The Street show and then watching a brilliant laser show on deck followed by 300 people in a conga line and then many more dancing the night away under the stars while hundreds of other guests laughed out loud at the comedy club and followed that by singing their hearts out at our hilarious kamikaze karaoke party……… and that was all in the space of just four hours. Sounds like fun to me.

There is one cruise line I rarely mention anything about……..no not Princess ……….. although I do wish they had a blog as they are a brilliant cruise line who I really think would benefit from a regular behind the scenes offering. Nope, I am referring to a line that 99% of you will never ever cruise on yet……is probably one of the best operated …….with some of the best features……cruise line in the world……..I am referring of course to AIDA.

Now, some of you may automatically scrolling down looking for references to Megan Fox’s bottom……..but don’t because I am about to introduce you to a brand new ship that Carnival Corporation is so very proud of………….the AIDAblu.

Let’s have a look at the ship pictured here in Hamburg, Germany a day before the naming ceremony.

I love the AIDA ships, I love their uber-modern designs and the way everything just flows …….I imagine Bill Gates house looks just like this inside. There are no doors to enter lounges and guest areas……………one just leads naturally to the other.

I have visited two AIDA ships the AIDAbella and the AIDAdiva and the colour schemes are fresh, rustic and earthy and as you would expect being German, everything had been thought out down to the smallest detail.

The Theatrium which, as you may remember replaces the normal theatre, seen on most cruise vessels is simply stunning. It sits right in the middle of the vessel and guests can walk through, sit and watch one of the nightly shows and …….if it’s not their cup of tea ……….or beer …… leave …. without disturbing anyone. Having no doors means that all the show’s rehearsals are open to the public, as is the broadcast studio and many other areas usually marked “crew only.”……and I think that’s just brilliant.

At the top of the Theatrium are huge rotund seats that you can stretch out on like a bed on a private plane. You can start the night off by watching the amazing hire wire trapeze act and when that’s finished swivel the chair around, face the ocean, plug in your headphones and watch a movie.

Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that are the best and nobody does simplicity better than AIDA.

The first example are there two smoking bars……..they are both…..inside /outside bars ……… This means that you can smoke indoors without having anyone come up to you and beat you over the head with a cucumber because you are smoking……there are no doors…….the smoke just goes outside hurting nobody except the odd seagull who instead of looking for a piece of bread is now on 20 Marlboro Lights a day. I am not saying we copied the idea here on your Carnival Dream but our Lanai is uummm ………. das similar.

They have dartboards and pool tables and oh yes…..the absolutely brilliant 4D theatre. For a small fee, you are given a pair of 1950’s glasses and sit in big leather chairs and watch a series of 4D movies and cartoons. The chairs move up and down, side to side and when one of the characters gets eaten by a giant rat…..so do you and when that rat belches our hero out of his mouth jets of steam and water sprinkle lightly down on you from above…..honestly it is amazing ………..and so simple.

German’s love their food and, as you may remember, they love this “club ship”- buffet style dining at the pizza, Italian, and Asian, Swedish or multi-choice buffet areas. Beer and wine is included as are soft drinks and the food is top quality. Sometimes the word “buffet” can disguise the fact that the food may not be as elaborate as in a regular dining room but not here……….not on AIDA.

I wish the blog thingy came with “smell-a-thingy” so you could have enjoyed the sights and smells of the Market Buffet I experienced when I visited the two AIDA ships and that can also be found on the AIDAblu. It really does smell like a market…the fruits blending with the hanging meats and the smoked fish that blend with the two dozen types of fresh tea that guests shovel into a bag and dunk into tea pots. This…and I mean this with the greatest respect…has to be the best buffet at sea. AIDA also has a premium contemporary restaurant and Steakhouse, both with sumptuous menus and inviting chairs.

Oh, talking of chairs……yes, here I go again about chairs…..at the stern of the ship there is a room with huge, deep sofas that say come and rest your buttocks on me ……….. well….I mean the chairs don’t say that and there’s no sign that says in German “kommen und reston das buttocks on mich”…but that is what you will want to do.

Guess, as well, what music and entertainment they have put there while you are relaxing and reading your Mercedes manual?…Bugger all..….less is more and there is no music, no distraction……just you, a big sofa bed, your book and the sea …. just as it should be.

Germans love to be outside and the AIDABella has many areas to eat, drink and be merry in the open air. Their Lido deck has a huge stage where the cruise industry’s most famous parties are held. These include stage shows from the performers, costume parties and a massive laser light show. I really have to see this one day as everyone I know who has seen it says it is quite remarkable.

There are many other areas of the ship I could write about, the bar by the tender station, the huge florist shop, the AIDA bar shaped like a star, the gymnasium, the fact that you can rent bicycles on board to take ashore. This now has been complemented with a bunch of Segway thingies so you can….ummm….Segway around the ports of call.

You see the problem is I cannot tell you how good this ship is……….just like I couldn’t when I explored the Queen Mary 2. I just don’t have the vocabulary. I just end up stammering and dribbling and talking wide-eyed nonsense as though I have just seen Megan Fox naked……on a Segway………being chased by AIDA President Michael Thamm………also on a Segway………also naked.

The other problem is this. None of you are likely to ever sail AIDA…….and why would you? It’s a German ship designed for German people with everything written and spoken in German and you see that’s a real shame. It means that you won’t get to see what is quite possibly one of the best designed, most simplistically brilliant cruise vessels I have ever seen………and one that I wish we could translate into …….. Well ……….English.

Here are some photos of the AIDAblu:

Highlights of the naming ceremony and a virtual tour of the ship can be found at


Back here on your Carnival Dream the cruise is going very well indeed. It’s the same itinerary basically as I experienced on the Carnival Legend except we call at Costa Maya instead of Grand Cayman. It’s certainly a busy cruise for the guests with the four back to back ports. I must say that I am a bit old fashioned and am more of a fan of the old sea day, port, sea day, port, sea day, port sea day itinerary. But I can understand why this four port cruise is so popular. We are here in Belize today and I have just finished tendering guests ashore. It’s a complicated operation that requires the guests on a Carnival excursion meeting in the main theatre and those on independent tours or who just want to go ashore needing a tender ticket from the aft lounge which is called the Burgundy.

I tell the guests in my travel talk which by the way now has the posh name of the Fun Onboard Fun Ashore Presentation that if there is one place to take an excursion…… it’s Belize. The reason Carnival and ships from other lines come here is not the downtown area which is……..well…….let’s just say it needs a lick of paint here and there. The shops on the pier are excellent. There is a Diamonds International there providing sparkling enticement to come in and spend, spend spend. But apart from that and a few souvenir stores, once through the pier area……….it is a bit ummmm ……….. run down.

Nope, the reason we go there is for the barrier reef which surrounds the island providing brillinat world class snorkeling. Then there are the Mayan ruins, the River Wallace, cave tubing and more. Most of the excursions in Belize are sold out. There are four ships in with us so we only have a certain number of spots. My advice if you are on an itinerary that calls here is pre book your excursion and if you need help deciding which one ….. please let me know.

The weather today is a bit overcast but that’s typical for Belize and by midday it will be as hot as penguin in a microwave.

After my stomach rubber yesterday it was so nice to meet Laurie and Doris Gilson ………. although how I met this couple was rather different. I had finished doing the “bows” of the second Dancin In The Street Show and was walking through the lounge which was now all but empty save the cleaning crew….and a man fast asleep……..his head thrown backwards……….mouth open wide. Now, when I saw this my heart skipped a beat. He was an older chap and ……….well………you can imagine what I thought. One of the cleaning crew was obviously thinking the same as me because she was walking over to him as well. The first think I did was gently shake him to see if he was ……. well…… not dead. He wasn’t………because he snorted……….and woke up.

He looked at me and smiled a wonderful smile and my blood pressure dropped a few points knowing that he hadn’t buggered off to the Fun Ship in the sky. I asked him if he was OK and he told me yes and that his wife had told him to wait here while she went to buy last night’s elegant photos. I was about to say “oh, OK then” and continue my rounds but something told me I should stay with him. And so I asked him if I could sit down and he said yes. I asked him if he enjoyed the show and I got a big “Oh yes.”

I asked him where he was from and discovered he was from Plantation, Florida but originally from Pennsylvania. He then asked me where I was from and I told him and then he said something really funny. Now, at this point I should mention that I had just introduced the show and as mentioned had brought the show to an end from on stage as well. I never wear a name tag on stage as it…….well…….I just hate wearing a name tag on stage. Bearing that in mind the man looked at me and said “Are you enjoying your vacation?” …………it was obvious that he had no bloody clue who I was……..brilliant. So, I said that I worked on board. “Oh, what do you do,” he asked…….without thinking I said “I am the aerobics instructor.”

He smiled………….and nodded.

I was about to tell him I wasn’t but his smile showed he was contented and I left it that and we chatted about life, his marriage of 59 years to Doris and how he had spent 11 years in the US Navy serving in WWII. After about 10 minutes Mrs. Gilson returned. Unlike her husband she recognized me immediately and after I had told her about my aerobics instructor joke she laughed and told me “He’s deaf, probably didn’t hear you.”

When I got back to the cabin I looked up their details. Mr. Gilson is 82 years old and is today the proud owner of a photo of the ship signed by the Captain and I as well as fruit basket, a solid gold plastic trophy and the thanks of us all.

That’s what is so wonderful about this job I have. One minute you are getting your stomach rubbed and trying to stop yourself twisting the guy’s nipples for doing so and the next minute you meet a man like Laurie Gilson. What a job I have.

So today’s blog featured the beautiful AIDAblu, written from the sexy and gorgeous Carnival Dream and here in Belize we are docked across from the sleek Crown Princess ………. and on the over side of the coin I just saw new photos of the Norwegian Epic ……… and while their product is I am sure excellent…………in a world of beautiful cruise liners it looks like it’s been hosed down with a massive and sustained burst of fire from the ugly gun.

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.