Sweet Home Alamarriott

May 3, 2010 -

John Heald

So, here I sit, yet again at another bloody airport waiting to fly economy cattle class to Mobile. Houston airport is much like any other and it’s hard to describe what it is I hate so much about them. Is it the toilets that always smell like a herd of buffalo have had a pissing contest in them?

Is it the shops or the food outlets that charge $11 for two slices of bread with some “meat” between them? Maybe it’s just simply the fear of dying or when the check-in lady asks me if I have packed my own suitcase resisting the urge to reply: “Do I look like I’ve got a sodding butler?”

No, the worst thing is other passengers. Take the lady who is currently sitting opposite me now here at gate 27. She has just spilled one of those huge jug thingies that keep drinks cool or hot all over the floor. So, instead of trying to find some way to clean it up she has just moved seats leaving a puddle of Cokeish liquid all over the fake marble.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s my mood following the security check I just went through. Of course no one wants to remove their belts and outer garments with legs spread wider than Paris Hilton after a few vodka and Red Bulls, to endure light petting with an electronic wand. But it’s preferable to being sucked out of a 737 at 30,000 feet because a suicide bombers underpants has made a Fruit of the Loom size hole in the fuselage.

I have done this enough times to know what I can’t pack and having had my name tag taken last year at Heathrow (because the pin at the back could have been used as a weapon) I thought I had remembered everything……………but I was wrong. I stood there, in my socks, waiting for my carry on too emerge from the cave and when only the cat litter tray with my raspberry and my laptop came through and not my bag……..I knew that the mall cop had found something. She had ……………… my cigar cutter. What a total and utter idiot I am. I packed late last night and after having to wear that bloody Dolly Parton dress at the Legends show so my mind was definitely elsewhere. But it was too late. My cigar cutter was a major find and now I was taken to the “special table” where someone with two iron badges came over and told me to open my bag.

She removed the cigar cutter from the front pouch. My friend and 348th best comedian Al Ernst talks about the time that they found a pair of “oversized” nail clippers in his bag and how the security chap held it above his head “like a fishing trophy.” I have always laughed at this but you know what……….that’s exactly what she did…………..it was like she had discovered Osama Bin Laden hiding in my carry on and she even called over another mall cop to have a look.

Now, are you telling me that I am the only person ever at Houston George W Bush airport to have forgotten to pack his cigar cutter in his checked luggage? Well, it would have appeared so. By the conversation that ensued.

MALL COP                            WHAT’S THIS

ME                                          A CIGAR CUTTER

MALLCOP                             YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE THIS IN THE              AIRCRAFT

ME                                          I KNOW, I FORGOT IT WAS THERE

MALLCOP                             REALLY?

ME                                          UMMM…….YES……..I WAS DRESSED AS DOLLY PARTON           LAST NIGHT AND MY HUGE FAKE BREASTS TOOK MY MIND OFF AIRPORT                                           SECURITY REGULATIONS………..HA HA HA HA

MALLCOP                             THIS IS NOT FUNNY SIR

ME                                          SORRY

That’s exactly what happened and the next ten minutes she went through my bag asking about why I had so many pills. I explained that it was metmorphin for my diabetes and she then went through my finger pricking kit and every single item in my bag. And then I got the full pat down from a male colleague………..and I mean full!

Once she had finished searching my bag she told me she was going to confiscate my cigar cutter. I asked her if there was any way I could get it back as it had been a gift from the staff on the Carnival Splendor after our time in Europe together.

I think the shake of the head and the verbal “ah ah” followed by a sucking noise with her lips was security speak for “bugger off “………….so I did…………..one shoe on, one shoe half on, my carryon bag in disarray and my beautiful Calibre cigar cutter now sitting with toothpaste tubes, nail clippers, hair gels, bows and arrows and other confiscated items.

I had been stupid by leaving the cutter in my carry on but bloody hell………..that lady was so mean, so flippant and obtuse. I had to unpack and rebuild all the electrical appliances in my carry on, and had keyhole surgery performed on my abdomen complemented by deep searches on all my orifices………..because of a sodding cigar cutter. I know that September 11th is the one size fits all excuse for absolutely everything but should it be an excuse to be rude ………….. nope ……………….not in my book.

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

Scott Nickle Asked:
John Please Reply.

Re the “unofficial” bloggers cruise:

I’ve gone a bit off cruising with Carnival because of their surly, unhelpful, and generally unpleasant Miami office staff, but if you plan to come all the way to my state to cruise, I’m certainly interested.

Do you think Heidi, Kye, and the wonderful piano guy Ron Pass can also be there? For me, that’s the trifecta!

I’ve sailed on that cruise route twice, once in February and once in September and I definitely recommend that you try to schedule it during the cooler months. In September I took a walking tour of Old Mazatlan which was very interesting, but it was so hot they had to scoop me up in a bucket and pour me back onto the ship! 😉

John Says:
Hello Scott

Well, let me start by apologizing if you feel that the Carnival shore side folks are not helpful. That is truly disappointing to hear and if you have any specifics you want to write to me about so I can help, please let me know.

Heidi and Kye will be sailing with me for the month of September on the Carnival Splendor. We are already checking airline prices and they will be both with me which of course makes it so brilliant for me. I can’t promise that Ron Pass will be there. He is always first on my Piano Bar entertainment list and hopefully we will be reunited once again on the west coast.  I have heard that it gets hot and so Heidi and Kye will have to stay cool but we are all looking forward to seeing three brand new ports and experiencing the west coast audience………………of which ………….I hope you are one.

Best wishes

Crow Asked:

Hello again! We sent a message shortly after participating in the Blogger’s Cruise last Nov on the Dream. We asked about a copy of the Bedtime Story from your last cruise on the Glory, five years ago….. “Pants on the Floor, pants on the floor….”. You were going to check to see if you had a copy in your loft. You also suggested that we send you a request “a little closer to the sail date” for our daughter’s wedding and you would see if there was something you could do to make it even more special. They are getting married on the Legend on May 16th. Her grandparents who she hasn’t seen in 11 years and who will have just had their 60th anniversary, along with us (her parents) and her brother will be sailing with the bride and groom —— their room is on the other end of the ship !!! We’d sure appreciate anything you could/ would do…… We look forward to sailing with you again and are watching to at a time when you are serving temporarily as cruise director.

Thanks so much —

John Says:
Hello Crow

I am glad you reminded me about your daughter’s wedding and I am sure as the time approaches you are all getting very excited and possibly a little nervous.  It is probably a good thing that they are at the other end of the ship as…..ummmm……..well………….it’s their honeymoon….nudge nudge …………wink wink.

Can you send me their names and cabin number ASAP via one of the 343 Stephanies and she will pass that info me so I can send a request to the ship to have something delivered to their state room.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Best wishes to all

Msqpon – Jo Myerly Asked:
John, Pleasereply

Hi John, Yes please do a mini Bloggers cruise on the Carnival Splendor out of the west coast. We live on the east coast and I am bored to tears with the east coast ports of call. Take me someplace new. Last year during the swine flu thingy we flew to LA to do one of the replacement cruises to Vancouver. It was wonderful. We had a great time.

I vote for the September 5th sailing. It would be over Labor day. Hopefully the west coasters will go and the east coaster will go too. For us flying to LA is only a little bit longer flight.

Jo Myerly

John Says:
Hello Jo Myerly

Well, as you have given a date of September 5, let’s see if anyone else is interested in sailing as a mini bloggers group then. Please let me know here on the blog thingy if you are. The three ports are new for me and I know that our Senior Vice President Terry is looking for new destinations all the time. Did you see the new Carnival Spirit run with a two day call in Cabo? Anyway, it will be great to see you as always and my best wishes to you and Dave.


Dan Green Asked:
Please Respond

By the time you read this and respond I am sure the schedule will come out with CD for the 2nd half of the year. We were on the 3/13 Dream cruise and see why everyone ranks you as the best CD that wears a thong. Even Dick Little would be proud! It was also great to read your 4/7 blog that you might be the CD on the Splendor. We will be on the 10/17 cruise and it will an added bonus if you are on there.

My question for you: is there a way we can take you to lunch at a port (so you don’t have to have a table from one) or dinner. This will be our 9th Carnival cruise and love meeting everyone on the ship and learning about life on the boat. I have worked in the hospitality industry for almost 25 years and nothing beats the value of a cruise. If I could find a way to package the energy of the Carnival team and apply that to our restaurants we would be the best. You do a great job and love reading about your ups and downs with Guests. It is a tough industry when you play by the rules that the Guests are always right. Yea!!

One more question – we are going with another family and were wondering how we link our Reservation numbers so we can have a table all together at dinner. There will be a total of 7 of us.

Hopefully you are on the Splendor and we can meet in person!
Dan, Lynnelle, and Alex

John Says:
Dan Green

Thanks for those kind words. I had a lot of fun on my Carnival Dream and I am glad you did to. We will be together on the Carnival Splendor in October and thanks so much for the generous offer and I hope to be able to take you up on that. It is so great to hear from a hospitality industry expert like yourself just how highly you rate the Carnival crew and of course I agree, they are still the biggest icon of a Carnival cruise vacation.

I would be honoured (spelt correctly) to help you with your table reservation request so please could you post again on September 1st with the state room numbers and names so I don’t forget .

Thanks again for the kind words and I look forward to seeing you all in a few months.

Best wishes to all

Slickabrina Asked:

People seem to believe that West Coast cruisers are unable to fill the ships that are based here and that these ships regularly fail to sail full. It has been suggested that the West Coast is unable to produce a significant volume of cruisers. Personally, I think this is a load of bollocks because if there wasn’t any profit to be made, I would think there would not be a single Carnival ship on the Left Coast.


Hoping to sail on the unofficial blogger’s cruise…

John Says:
Hello Slickbrina

Well, it looks like Royal Caribbean do not agree as they will soon be leaving California completely. There are concerns about the struggling Californian economy for sure and yet Carnival keeps the Carnival Paradise and Carnival Splendor there year round and you also have the Carnival Spirit in the winter months. That’s pretty good don’t you think?

And for 4 months you will have me…………..are you going to cruise when I am on the Carnival Splendor? I truly hope so

Thanks for writing and thanks for the correct use of the word ” bollocks”.

Best wishes

John R Asked:
Hi John, (Please reply)

You asked to see if folks eat the chocolates provided each evening by the stateroom stewards. We always eat ours (not necessarily that evening) or take them with us. We feel it is one of those little things that make up the entire cruise experience on Carnival!

There may very well be a lot of people who leave (or discard) the chocolates but there may be some ways to help reduce this waste.

Suggestion #1: On the first evening the steward could leave a card with the chocolates asking of the guests would like to continue receiving the chocolates OR stop receiving them.

Suggestion #2: Provide a bowl of chocolates in the Dining Rooms and people can take them as they exit if they would like them.


John Says:
Hello John R

You will be happy to know that after some inventory issues with the chocolates, all ships have them. I also should mention that I heard from a guest this last week on the Carnival Conquest that NCL no longer gives a turndown treat.

I hope this makes you smile.

best wishes

John R Asked:
Hi John, (Please reply)

We are disappointed that there is no 2010 Bloggers Cruise as we have been wanting to take part in this for a long time.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to join you in February 2011 since we will be cruising on our Carnival Liberty on March 19th, unless of course, you decide to make the 3/19th on the Liberty the Bloggers Cruise. LOL!


John Says:
Hello John R

I know that choosing the Carnival Glory as the 2011 Bloggers Cruise meant that the Cruise Critic group booked on the previous weeks sailing on the Carnival Miracle could not go. Unfortunately, this is what the beards choose for me. However, maybe………….maybe I can pop over to the ship for a few days to see you all. I will work on this soon and will be in touch with host Mach regarding this.

Best wishes to all

DaveG Asked:
John –

My wife has finally convinced me to take her on a cruise. It will be our 18th anniversary, so simply math will dictate that it took her almost two decades to coerce me into spending a week in what to me had always seemed like a hotel laid on its side and set adrift in a rolling ocean.

I’m open-minded, I like to think, even if it takes awhile (say two decades or so) for me to come around. In any event, I booked a balcony cabin on the Legend for an end of May cruise. I had to have the balcony as a fig leaf for my forfeited masculinity in having given up the cruise battle without gaining any ground in any of my other battles. Most notably a huge HDTV for my own use, herself having fully purloined the first one for her own almost exclusive use.

So, at long last, here’s the question: while she’s ecstatic about the idea of the cruise, I made the mistake of showing her pictures of the accommodations. She has no problems at all with the balcony cabin, but much as with diamonds, to a woman bigger is better. If you believe that stuff about size not mattering, you’re naive. She asked if we could upgrade to a suite. I. naturally, balked at the additional cost. She is wondering if there comes a time before departure where un-booked suites, should there be any, are offered to folks like us at a slightly (or significantly, which would be my choice) reduced cost.

Can you shed some light on that for me?

John Says:
Hello Dave G

Congratulations on booking your first ever cruise and I am sure you have lots of questions so I am honoured (spelt correctly) that you have contacted me here on the blog thingy. The balcony was a great choice and sitting there having your cabin delivered breakfast and later that night sipping on a late night glass of wine will truly enhance your cruise and hopefully give you both a chance to reflect on the 18 years that you have loved each other…….all accompanied by the sound of the ocean.

Upgrades are as elusive as a bar of soap with the words “made in France” written on them. And while you may call Carnival and see what they can do for you please don’t wait any longer as probably, if not definitely, the ship will be sailing full. Occasionally the upgrade fairy as my friends on the blog like to call it will call but it is a rare thing indeed. You also need to tell your wife that the stateroom you have booked will be perfect for the two of you and with that balcony, well, you will want for nothing.

I hope this helps and I hope that your first cruise is one you will never forget and will be the first of many.

My best wishes to you both

Shenika M. Asked:
Dear John (Please Reply when you have the chance),

I was just watching a video on YouTube of the Carnival Splendor sailing from LA and it made me think of a question. I’ve seen many videos of sailaways on different Carnival ships and some have sailaway parties and some just have Caribbean music coming through the speakers. I was wondering does Carnival leave it up to the Cruise Director to decide if they would like to do a sailaway party when departing from the homeport? There have been parties on both of my cruises and I feel that it really sets the tone for the cruise.

John Says:
Shenika M.

That’s funny that you should ask that because I was just talking about this with Chris from our head office. We decided to bring back the sail away music that we always played from the bridge and in fact starting next week on the Carnival Fantasy I will be playing “Anchors Aweigh” through the PA system. This always sets the tone and then we revert to the Caribbean music on lido deck and the entertainment staff who on all ships are supposed to give our guests a wonderful sail away experience.

Thanks for asking and best wishes

That’s all for today, more tomorrow of course and thanks for a great week of comments.

Well, it’s 7:45am and here I sit……………..in my underpants…………….in room 907 of the Marriott something Hotel, in Mobile, Alabama. After the drama of me losing my cigar cutter the flight was bound to be delayed and of course………….it was. This, according to the announcement from Continental was because the plane was there but the crew was not, they were coming in from Memphis which had she told us “been suffffferrring from nasty weather.”

So, I sat there, bored and my extra hour and ten minutes of waiting was made more frustrating by the man next to me who was on his Eye Pod listening to whatever crap he was listening to…..but he had the volume so high I could hear the “cha boom, ra ara ra cha boom” bollocks and as much as I tried to tune the noise out I spent the whole time trying to figure out if he was listening to Snoop the Doggy or Bach.

The flight eventually took off and the only comment I have about it is that if you see the word Express on the side of the aircraft as in “Continental Express” you know that it’s going to be a bloody small plane with seats not designed for fat bastards like me. The leg room was Ryanair small and I already had my knees pressing into the seat back. Then after takeoff the sod in front of me reclined his seat which meant my legs were now pressed back into my stomach and if I had been naked I would have looked like a yawning hippopotamus………picture that for a moment ……………lots of pink.

I have stayed in so many hotels over the last few years that I now have a Marriott Rewards card and compared to Carnival Platinum rewards………….it basically means I get bugger all.  There’s a priority check-in section where I waited behind some rope, on a bit of carpet. There were Alabamian staff in shiny suits who said things like “If there’s anything else at all for y’allllllll” before giving me a credit card key that makes lots of whirring noises when I put it in the lock but would not, no matter what I did, open the sodding door………..so down I went to reception, dragging my two suitcases, to stand on my bit of carpet while the lady in the shiny suit apologized to me.

As she put another bit of plastic in the machine thingy she asked me “Where are y’all from” ……. I said “New York” thinking that hearing my British accent she would say ” y’all ain’t from New York.” But obviously she believed me because she started to tell me how she was in New York last year when her boyfriend took her to see a musical called “Wicked”……..I smiled and pretended to give a dam but considering had been up since 6 am, had my rectum prodded by a mall cop, my favourite cigar lighter taken and sat on a plane with a teeth grinder and I needed to talk to the Arabs…”Mustafa Shite”….I was in no mood to hear about Karen’s trip to the Big Apple.

Anyway, eventually I was in the room. And like every other Marriott room in the world it was exactly the same. There’s no obvious button to turn off the fan, which sounds like a 747 jet. The light switch by the bed turns all the lights off, except one. Which can only be extinguished by hitting the bulb with your shoe. The plug you need to charge your cell is always behind the 300 pound bedside table, and the “tea and coffee making facilities” are designed to ensure you can’t make either. Oh, they did provide me with a time machine though because I opened the mini bar and saw what a Diet Coke will cost in 10 years time.

Oh and the pay movie system was down and even Latvian Rumpy Pumpy Mega fest was unavailable. I called the front desk who said they would check on it and call me back. They never did.

Compared to our ships hotels like this (not just Marriott but other business hotels) I think, are the most miserable, soul destroying, soulless, energy sapping, places in the entire world. I’d rather stay in a Turkish prison.

The people here in Alabama that I have met so far though have all been very friendly. They all speak the same as the people I met on the Carnival Conquest. I wasn’t certain if I would be joining the Carnival Fantasy in Mobile today as there was a possibility of a home port deviation because of the dreadful, disastrous oil spill. Obviously there is a massive operation going on to try and stop the slick from hitting land and we were waiting to hear if the port was closed. But, the latest news is that the ship is here. Watching the news it seems right now that the blame game seems as important as stopping the oil. Doesn’t much matter whose fault it is. Let’s hope they can get the well shut off and they can get the oil slick cleared up. The shrimp and crab industry worth billions is just going to totally wreck the good people of the Gulf Coast especially those in Louisiana still reeling from hurricane Katrina.

Well, I am very excited to be joining the Carnival Fantasy. I have ordered breakfast which I fully intend to charge to Carnival and then Ugly Craig and I will make our way to the ship. I hope I have a cabin. Sometimes I have to wait until after sailing to see what is available and that means have nowhere to go and can’t unpack which is a pain. Apart from that I just want to get stuck in. It seems that there is a big ceremony in Charleston when we arrive for the first time and I will be hosting the event. Apart from that I am excited mostly for being the CD of a Fantasy class ship again and I just have to get through the boring handover week.

So tomorrow, please join me for a Fantasy blog and I also have some astonishing photos from Radu on the Carnival Elation. OK, it’s time to head over to the ship.

I just spoke to my actor friend Kevin on the SKYPE thingy and he told me he has been voted by People Magazine as being 1 of the 100 most beautiful people in the world. I remember the first time met Cunard’s celebrity chef Todd English that he had been voted onto the same list. Now Chef English is definitely a ladies’ man. Has the look in his eyes of someone who has had rumpy pumpy with loads and loads of women. Some of them in kitchens, in moments of wild passion after making a really good mushroom risotto or something. Both men are OK looking I guess but if you want to see beautiful…………….here’s beautiful.

There will be the first blog thingy from the Carnival Fantasy tomorrow.

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.