Fat Thursday

April 15, 2010 -

John Heald

I have said a few times before here on my blog thingy that there are many differences between us Brits and you Yanks and Canucks. Apart from the obvious as in you don’t drive on the wrong side of the road and don’t eat Spotted Dick there is another big difference as well…… hitting what I like to call an “Ooops” moment.

I had one last night. After the first magic show (which is the best show on this ship by the way, it’s superb) I walked to the Pursers Off…….bugger…….the Guest Services Desk to collect my Morning Show Mail when I was stopped by two ladies who wanted a photo with me. Fine, and as they handed their camera to my assistant “Ugly Craig” I asked them where they were from.

They looked at me as though I had just asked them how much they weighed and had they considered saying no to the question “do you want fries with that.” Honestly, they were obviously upset and I had no idea why until one said “We talked to you at the Captain’s party and we told you we were from Dallas and we spoke about the TV show and how y’all loved it.”

Now, if I had been born American or Canadian I would have just opened my arms in a heartfelt gesture of apology and made some joke about it. But because I am British I just stood there letting out a series of Hugh Grant style crikeys and goshes.

The truth is that I’d completely forgotten about it, but being English it was impossible to say so. That would be like admitting you couldn’t remember someone’s name. Or calling someone a Sir when in fact…..they are a “Ma’m.”

Anyway, I apologized and took the photo knowing that these two ladies either thought I was rude or had the memory of a dead slug.

Here’s another area where you Yanks and Canucks are far, far ahead of us Brits………the Internet and communication. Let me explain what I mean……..you see, I am talking about how older people, people in their seventies, eighties and beyond all seem to be internet savvy whereas in the UK most of the people of the same age are as internet savvy as…….well………..that dead slug I mentioned earlier. I see older people all the time on our ships using the internet cafe and talking into cell phones. Holland America (or maybe it’s Princess, my memory is gone again) have a deal with Microsoft where they teach people how to use the internet and their classes are full of grey hair ………which is fabulous. That is not the case in the UK.

I remember when I tried to discuss the World Wide Web with my Mum, who has never used a computer.

A friend had suggested that I describe the web as “like a typewriter but with better graphics.” But my mum has never used a typewriter.  Someone else suggested I describe the web as “the world’s biggest self-service reference library, combined with an enormous telescope so that you can see into the bedroom window of any naked Latvian you fancy.” But that’s not the kind of conversation you can have with a parent.

In the end, I resorted to showing her how Skype worked and how she could talk to my sister and the grandchildren in Hong Kong but now I fear she regards the internet as a kind of free videophone.

Anyway, I digress. So, after I had taken the photo with the two ladies who had spent ages talking to two nights before but had forgotten about quicker than Tiger Woods forgets what hole he played last Friday I met the couple who had been the stars of my Marriage Show…… here they are………..George and Millie Butterfield.

The photos are taken from the video so my apologies for the quality and really don’t show their true character. Anyway, George and Millie have been married 56 years and are full of fun. When I asked the question to Millie about having any advice for the newlyweds on how to stay married to one man for 56 years she said “separate bedrooms ………we haven’t slept in the same bedroom for 30 years.” I asked why and she told me “He farts and snores and I grind ma teeth so we don’t sleep together and don’t get on each others nerves.” As myself and the audience laughed out loud George leaned over and spoke into the microphone and said “Fridays…….we are in the same bed on Fridays.”……….brilliant.

Anyway, I met Charlie and Mille in the lobby as I said and Millie had also mentioned that today would be her 85th birthday. I had sent Millie some chocolate covered strawberries and asked her what George had bought her for her birthday. “Oh she said, I got it before we came on the cruise, it’s a new laptop computer.”

This made me realize that the internet thingy has been a so brilliant for many older people, allowing them to keep in touch with their families and friends, especially when such families have moved abroad or work on cruise ships.

Babies can be held up in front of webcams and introduced to their grandparents or great-grandparents there and then, rather than on the annual trip home. Friends from all over the globe can be contacted in seconds. News, gossip, e-mails and photographs can all be exchanged without the trouble of going to the post office or feeling anxious about how much AT&T are going to charge you.

The next time you’re wondering what to buy your elderly parent or grandparent, steer yourself away from the lavender bath salts and head to the Apple shop.

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

Cathy Hampton Asked:
John – Please reply

I am sorry to bother you about something so trivial. I have purchased clothes aboard many Carnival ships and one shirt I really love. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit anymore because I have lost weight. This was a shirt on the Carnival Dream, December 3rd 2009 cruise. Is there any way to find out who distributes the brand “Cruise Wear & Co” on the ships? I called Carnival today and they were unable to help me. Thank you! Mrs. Canolli (that’s what you called me because we brought you a Canolli from Taormina!)

John Says:
Hello Cathy Hampton

I still dream of that canoli by the way. OK, let me pass you the address of the company we use who run our on board shops. They, if anyone, will be able to help you with your question. Congratulations on losing weight and if you ever find a sugar free canoli please let me know.

Here is the e mail address:  customer.service@starboardcruise.com

Best wishes
John

Norine Asked:
John Please Reply!

How does one find out, what the activities and contests will be on a given cruise. My husband and I will be cruising on the Glory leaving June 10th from NY. This will be our 14th cruise overall, our 7th with Carnival. In 2007, we were on the Victory and had Malcolm B. as our CD, fantastic by the way, he hosted a “BIG HAIR” contest and we had the time of our lives, it was the best cruise we were on, oh by the way, I won and Malcolm treated us to 2 bottles of champagne.

So I was wondering if I should bring a case of hairspray and my 80’s outfit and enter again.

Thanks for your help and LOVE Carnival!!!
Norine

John Says:
Hello Norine

I have never heard of the “Big Hair” contest before but what a great idea and it is no surprise that Malcolm thought of it as he is a great CD. I am in the process of collating a week’s worth of Fun Times for each ship and will have that ready as soon as I can as a permanent link thingy here on the blog thingy. Meanwhile, I thought you might like to see a sea day example from the Carnival Glory as an appetizer of what to expect.

Bring your 80’s stuff regardless……..there will defiantly be a right time and place to wear it on the Carnival Glory.

Anyway, here is a sea day example of the fun for all times you will be having on your cruise.

Best wishes
John

John R Asked:
Hi John, Please reply.

Have the Steakhouses become less popular lately? I know they changed the name from Supper Club to Steakhouse and a change is usually made for a reason.

We also noticed on our recent Glory Cruise (we had a great cruise) that the Steakhouse seemed to be heavily promoted both by displays of food and menus, as well as CD announcements during the week.

I guess that the poor economy may be taking its toll.

Cheers and keep up the great blog as well as the Q’s and A’s. I know you are behind, but perhaps you could get one of the numerous Stephanies to prioritize the questions if they are date sensitive. Just a thought.

I also am awaiting the date for the Blogger’s Cruise as well!

Regards,
John

John Says:
Hello John R

I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of the name change at first as I quite liked the supper club wording. It conjured up a night of romance, music, great food and service. Well, as usual the people with beards were correct as actually the name change made bugger all difference and number are staying high. Certainly the CD’s are promoting this a lot because like me they know what a bargain the guests are getting and we want to make sure that the guests know about it. I thought you might like to see the numbers for this cruise so far here on the Carnival Conquest.

As you can see the numbers are very high and by the end of the cruise it will be close to 600. The maximum capacity on one night is around 100 based on the opening hours of 6 pm – 9:30 pm. I am a huge fan of the Steakhouse and I encourage everyone to try it. I will admit though that I miss having the duos that used to perform there.

Thanks so much for the kind words. I am sorry that there will not be a bloggers cruise and maybe you could come visit me on the Carnival Splendor or in Europe on the Carnival Magic.

Best wishes
John

Dean Brewer Asked:
Hi John Please Reply,

John, I want to help you out since you do so much for us. I have noticed on the Cruise Director Schedule that in June there are some TBD on the Carnival Sensation, Fascination and Imagination. I recently (Feb 18-22) disembarked the Carnival Inspiration with Skippy so I am ready and willing to help out.

I am willing to take over on any of the three ships to help you out. Don’t worry, I will be on the Legend on 5/2/2010 sailing with Wee Jimmy (yeah, finally platinum) so if there is anything that you need me to fine tune I can get it from him.

Hope this helps.
Dean

John Says:
Hello Dean Brewer

I need a break here mate. Please charter a helicopter to join the ship tonight between Grand Cayman and Cozumel and you will then have the Bedtime Story to do. I will leave you my blue blazer and my underwear in the cabin.

Have fun.

Seriously, thanks for the kind offer and congratulations on reaching Platinum status. Please pass my best to Wee Jimmy.

Best wishes
John

Alan & Chris Asked:
JOHN PLEASE REPLY

Hello John, I haven’t posted in a very long time and for that I apologize. We just booked the Miracle for the New Years Eve cruise. We went on a New Years Eve cruise last year, on a different line (I don’t want to mention names but they had the letters MSC in their name) and discovered that there wasn’t anything special planned for the big night. I should have realized because their day activities were virtually nonexistent. Is it safe to assume that we will have a more memorable cruise this year? Our only previous trip with Carnival was with you in the Med on the Freedom. It was one our best trips.

I look forward to what you have to say. I think that Carnival will plan things differently for this cruise. Thanks John.

Our best to you and your family from Red Sox Nation!!
Alan & Chris from Boston

John Says:
Hello Alan and Chris from Boston

How can any ship not plan a big event for New Years Eve, I just do not understand that. So what did you do? Did the guests make up their own party? I have to admit I know very little about MSC except they are Italian and when we were in Venice I was told that we could not show anything on the Seaside Theatre Big Screen whereas the MSC Opera had theirs going full blast ……….bloody Mafia.

Anyway, I hope regardless of the most boring new years eve ever you had a great cruise and I hope that one day you will come and see me again…………..Carnival Magic maybe……. mmmmm …..got you thinking now haven’t I?

Best wishes to you both
John

Aly Asked:
Hi John, (please Reply) (do not post)

For the last 2 month I have been reading your blog and love it. You have two beautiful women in your life. You daughter is adorable. Hope you can see them soon.

I go in everyday just to read your blog, you are so funny.

I have been on 5 cruises with Carnival and May will be my 6th. I have also been on RCI and NCL but I always come back to Carnival, we always have so much fun.

John, I hope you can help me I tried customer service and also my PVP but they said they could not do it. I would like a table for 2 late seating dinning. If it is possible for you to do this thanks. I hope someday you will be the CD on a ship that I go on so I can meet you. Last year I was on the Liberty and Butch was the CD, he was very good but I hear so many good things about you that I hope next year I can meet you.

John Says:
Hello Aly

Thanks for the kind words and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog thingy. I have sent your dining request to Pablo the Maitre D on the Carnival Valor and I know he will do all he can for you. I wish you a wonderful cruise and hope to sail with you one day soon. Thanks so much for all your kind words for my family.

Best wishes
John

Jessica Neaves Asked:

My husband and I will be on Carnival Conquest (note I used full name of ship) sailing April 25th. Your blog thingy is a recent discovery for me and I think it is great. I believe we will be sailing with you and will be sure to recognize you. You will be know us, we will be up top with a bucket of beer!

We sailed this exact itinerary last year and had a great time at Sandals, Shipwreck and reef snorkel and Playa Mia Beach. We don’t have this trip’s excursions planned just yet.

My question or need for your help – Who do we see about a table for two if possible? Last year we were all alone but at a huge (12 seater) table and it felt a bit weird. A couple of nights in a group of 4 moved to our table – that was okay but really we would like to be just the two of us.

I thought your bit about being 45 was hilarious and very brave of you. So, to come clean we are 48 and 47.

Additional profiling info: married 29 years, sailed previously with Carnival, twice with Celebrity and twice with Norwegian. We are residents of Texas hence optimizing the drivable port of call.

If you need us we will be in cabin 8311!! Jessica and Bryan Neaves.

John Says:
Hello Jessica Neaves

I am glad you used the full name for the Carnival Conquest and thanks for doing so. I have asked the Maître D here to help you with your request for next week I hope that you have a great time and enjoy the hospitality of our friendly crew. Please let me know if you have any excursion questions. Have you ever been Zip Lining?

See you soon

Best wishes
John

Lynda Ulrich Asked:
Dear John,

You asked me to remind you that we are sailing on the Carnival Elation for the Panama Canal cruise. This is our 21st cruise in 51/2 years and we’ll be milestone next year. I asked you to send my dear husband (Bob), a little something as this is our 40th wedding anniversary. We’ll be in cabin R-12.

Thanks again and I’ll write a review of our trip when we get back. I know it will be great, they all are.

Sincerely,
Lynda

John Says:
Hello Lynda

Thanks for the reminder. Have a brilliant cruise and please write and tell us all about it.

Best wishes
John

Andrew Asked:
Hi John, Please Reply (Sailing in 3 weeks)

My wife and I are looking forward to our first truly relaxing vacation since our honeymoon on the Valor in 2007 (my first cruise ever). Since 2007 we have taken hectic exhausting vacations, planned to cruise each year but didn’t and become avid fans of your blog which has become a daily staple for me and a weekly pleasure for her.

We are currently looking forward to our May 1st cruise on the Dream which can’t come soon enough and will probably end too quickly. Our one regret is that you won’t be on the Dream as seeing you in action live is now on our to-do list.

This is my first time commenting on your blog and I have a couple questions and one request.

Q 1. When we sailed on the Valor in 2007 the cruise director (acting?) was a very entertaining young lady that went by the moniker Kelly G. What’s become of her, (she isn’t on your handy CD chart) is she still with Carnival?

Q 2. How far ahead does Carnival plan ship itineraries? I’m wondering where the Valor will be in June of 2012 (in time for our 5th Anniversary).

Request: As this is an early Anniversary trip for us, we were hoping we could get a table for 2 in the dining room. Could you put in a word with the powers-that-be for us? We’re in room 7360, Late seating.

Thanks Muchly, Read you later,
Andrew

John Says:
Hello Andrew

It is great to hear you are a blog thingy fan and I hope that this vacation will be a wonderful mixture of fun and relaxation for you both. Let me see if I can help you with your questions.  Let me start with Kelly G. You know I have never heard of her and neither of my colleagues here on the Carnival Conquest. I have sent an e-mail to the office though and hope by the time I have written the blog today I will be able to help you. Your Cruise Director on your Carnival Dream will be Todd Wittmer and watch out for the partnership of Todd and his assistant James, they are loads of fun.

I have asked for a table for two for you and I know the Maitre D will do his best to help you with that.

Itineraries are planned a long time in advance. We need to look at pricing and how popular a new itinerary will be and of course with so many ships in the industry securing a berth at a port of call has to be done as much in advance as possible. So, right now Terry Thornton and his team are looking at all the fleet for the winter of 2011 and the start of 2012 and I will let you know what is happening as soon as I know.

Have a great time and relax and have fun

Best wishes
John

PS – just heard back from the office that Kelly married last year and now lives with her husband in Argentina.

That’s all for today. Thank you all for the continuing support of this silly blog thingy and for the comments that show how much you enjoy it. Just to clarify my mistake yesterday, my first cruise on the Carnival Splendor will be August 8. I hope some of you will join me.

There have been some stories on the cruise boards that Carnival has been cutting items like the chocolates on the pillows, etc. As I mentioned a few days ago this rumor is not true and I found it fascinating therefore that when I read this report of an RCI cruise which was sent to a friend of mine that indeed it is RCI that has stopped (allegedly) putting the little buggers on the pillows at night. Anyway, here is a review of a cruise which was sent to a friend of mine who works with Princess Cruises.

After growing accustomed to CCL-brand lines (HAL, Princess, Cunard) over the past 15 years, we recently had occasion to sail a few trips on RCCL; the most recent being a ten-night Passover cruise on Jewel of the Seas to Panama Canal.  While it was a nice cruise, some of the differences in the products were readily apparent.  While RCCL may benefit short-term from the cost savings, there may be adverse long-term effects (particularly in light of social media communication afforded frequent cruises through outlets such as Cruise Critic).  Moreover, these may provide strategic marking opportunity to your brands. Observations included:

1-RCCL does not permit shareholders to combine shareholder credits with past passenger or onboard booking discounts.

2-The quality of food, particularly beef in specialty restaurants, was noticeably better on CCL brands.

3-On RCCL (non-suites), toiletries have been reduced to a shampoo canister and bar of soap.

4-RCCL no longer provides pillow chocolates (Ben, now 10, placed a question in the comment box, asking when they will be brought back. The CD, on his “morning show” answered by saying “They were removed because people would wake up with chocolate stuck to their cheeks…”)

5-On a Passover cruise, there was no matzoh available in the specialty restaurants or Windjammer buffet (we did not eat in the main dining room, thus cannot provide that observation).

6-We’ve been to Panama Canal on both Princess and HAL this past year, both r/t Ft. Lauderdale, and have made partial transits on each.  RCCL does not enter the canal, and only provides shore excursions (in which passengers can observe CCL-brand ships in the locks!).

7-RCCL has very limited in-cabin movies (repeating the same few movies all week) and provides others at substantial pay-per-view cost.

8-The physicians on RCCL (and CEL) are from Philippines and Eastern Europe.  I love telling people how HAL also has Filipino physicians…but only for the crew!  The British accreditation of the medical facilities on Princess and Cunard is really a big deal.  I can’t tell you how impressed I am with your commitment to quality in this area, and am always available to you as a resource to do anything I can to provide recognition/promotion of these resources.

In conclusion, after nearly 130 cruises, we’ve grown accustomed to the standard of quality set forth by HAL, Princess and Cunard. Indeed, after all of these years, and all of these cruises, we had one of our best cruises experiences last November on Island Princess.  While recognizing that these are “premium” products and Royal Caribbean is more “mass-market” the difference in quality, service and value is notable.

I hope that this information was of some value.

With kind regard

Now, I write this not to slam RCI (well…..maybe a little bit) but more as a tribute to Cunard, Princess and Holland America and indeed Carnival. Strange isn’t it that some people think of us as the ……well…….to use a favorite term of a certain cruise lines CD’s………Wal-Mart of cruise lines. Strange then that it us that gives all our guests a full amenity basket in every stateroom including shavers, toothpaste, Tylenol PM, Pepcid, shower gel and shampoo …….note: I am pushing to get hemorrhoid cream added to the list. Strange also that RCI does not give a chocolate anymore either. Anyway, I will say no more as I don’t want to gloat…… will leave that for all of you to do.

So good morning and as I sit here……. in my underpants……. at 7:30am………. Here we are in Grand Cayman tendering guests ashore because there isn’t a sodding pier you cheapskates ……………. sorry………….again.

Today is especially a challenge because it is very windy. This means the captain although at anchor has to stay on engine all day. So, rather than drop anchor and turn the engines off he has to constantly maneuver the ship to compensate for the strong wind. As usual there are 5 ships here today all anchored closely next to each other which makes windy conditions difficult.

The wind has also affected the excursions as all the Stingray excursions have been canceled due to rough seas. We offered to provide patches and Dramamine for the little buggers but the chief Stingray refused.

Seriously though we had 409 people booked to go on the various excursions that go to this superb site and that’s 409 people who are obviously very disappointed.  The weather is overcast and humid and I am sure the guests are having a great time despite the challenges of the day.

And now, get ready to be amazed.

Guest: Mrs………..Ref: 830016091A
Cabin: ____ Booking#: ______ Added-Changed: 04/14/10 – 04/14/10

UNHAPPY WITH COMMENTS MADE BY CRUISE DIRECTOR

Guest came to the desk saying that she wanted to make a complaint against the Cruise Director. GSA was told that during the marriage game show that John had made cruel jokes about big people. Guest asked for meeting with CD

Tasked to CD

I read this and tried to think of what had happened in the show. I mean, it was on Tuesday and today was Thursday and well…..I couldn’t remember what I said. And so at 12:30am, just after I had had read the sodding incident report (big mistake) that was me……..sitting in my cabin ……….  in my underpants………..watching myself on TV. And for those of you who do not know this, I would rather have Stevie Wonder give me a colonoscopy ………than watch myself on TV.

And as I sat there, in my underpants, nibbling on some cheese and a cracker I had to wait for my Morning Show to finish and the Marriage Show to start because they play on channel 27 on a loop thingy. God it was excruciating having to watch myself and I was bored. The DJ who is from Montego Bay had brought me some jerk pork from home which I had scoffed down a few hours before my forced TV viewing and I could feel it building a road through me. I was so bored waiting for the show to start that I put my bottom against the wall that separates the Hotel Director’s cabin and mine and unleashed the dogs of war………..the wall shook………….I laughed …………..I am waiting for him to tell me if he heard it or not.

Eventually the Marriage Show started and I watched myself talk to George and Millie and then the honeymoon couples and still no fat jokes. Then as I spoke to a Honeymooner I suddenly remembered what it was. The ladies name was Gail and her husband Ted was a ummmm ……. big guy. And so as he came on stage I offered my hand to shake and then as I have done many times before I said “let’s do a big people greeting” and we bumped stomachs. He laughed, I laughed, the audience laughed. Obviously one person didn’t laugh…….and she went to the desk to complain.

So, armed with that knowledge I went to bed and this morning at 9 am I called the lady’s cabin. I hoped she would not already be ashore as I wanted this situation dealt with as soon as possible. Luckily she was there and I arranged to meet her in the lobby.

When the lady arrived I saw that she was a very large lady indeed. I had checked her details on the manifest and saw that she was 26 years old and I went to the meeting ready and prepared to apologize.

We sat down and I immediately told her about last night…..not the wall shaking monster fart ……. but me watching myself on TV bit and how sorry I was if she was offended by the tummy bump.  I also pointed out that in case she had not noticed that I was not exactly skinny and that it was as much self deprecating humour (spelt correctly) than anything. And then I stopped talking and waited for her to say that she understood and that she had been a bit upset but appreciated me taking the time to talk to her.

That’s not quite what happened.

Here is how the conversation went and by the way…….she screamed so loudly that Eva, the Guest Services Supervisor came from behind the desk to see what was happening and she therefore is my witness.

ME                              So please accept my apologies

HER                            No I won’t. You should not make fun of fat people. It’s a disease and you                                          don’t make fun of people with a disease

ME                              Please calm down, don’t upset yourself like this. I……(she interrupts me)

HER                            This ship is ridiculous. The chairs are too small, my cabin is too hot and                                          then you humiliate me

ME                              I don’t think I did

HER                            Yes you did. There are lots of people on this ship from Texas and                                                 ……………..

Well then she goes into a whole speech that I can’t remember or be asked to type out here how Texas has an obesity problem and that we as a cruise line should be sensitive to this. Now, she is really screaming and bits of froth are forming at the corner of her mouth as she then launches a triad of abuse at poor Eva about how all the staff onboard are laughing at her behind her back.

Now at this point I am feeling sympathetic for her and am truly trying to calm her down and move away from disagreeing with her and concentrate on what I can do to make her cruise more fun. And I am in the middle of saying this when she stands up looks at me and says:

“I will be writing a letter to the newspapers about this because you (wagging her finger in my face)………………are the fattest.

I nearly said, “No, you are fattest………….. By about 150 pounds.”……….but I didn’t.

And with that she walked off leaving Eva and I dumbfounded.

Now, it doesn’t take Sigmund Freud to realize that this young lady has some serious personal issues and I should have just left it there but I couldn’t. And so I tried to follow her, apologizing and asking her what I could do for her but then the swearing started and well…….I knew that it was no use.

And so I sit here now in my cabin typing this to you wondering how a tummy bump had made this lady hate me so much that she called me a “motherf*****” and all sorts of other names and had called the lovely Guest Services Supervisor Eva ………a “bi**h.”

I am not the fattest…….but I can attest that I can’t see my thingy without the help of a mirror or a Latvian….

I didn’t let it get to me though and I sent the young lady a hand written note of apology, a solid gold plastic trophy, a fruit basket……….. and a family size bag of Doritos. Of course I didn’t send her the Doritos. But I did send her a letter of apology and I hope she is able to cure the demons that are making her life so miserable.

I feel so very sorry for her.

Goodnight
Your fat friend
John

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.

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