Please Welcome To The Stage

July 13, 2010 -

John Heald

The World Cup is over and as LeBron James and the Miami Heat are not making the news as they are each day in the States the BBC has turned to slightly more mundane stories. For example British Airways announced that due to the strikes held by the flight attendants the airline will no longer be serving food to economy class passengers on flights of 4 hours or less.

This has prompted a lot of moaning and complaining and is surely yet another nail in BA’s coffin and one step nearer Air France becoming our national airline. But actually ………..thinking about it…………..who cares?

Will we really miss sawing away at a lump of mystery meat with cutlery they give maximum security prisoners in an environment full of other people’s farts be anything other than brilliant news?

I wish they’d do away with food on all flights. It would mean the plane wouldn’t resemble the aftermath of a kids birthday party the minute people have finished with their Labrador chasseur.

And what’s the deal with the three courses? What gave people the idea that the minute they sit down for a journey lasting only a few hours they must immediately stuff down a starter, main course and blob of snot pudding? It’s freakish, anyway, to try to recreate a “cruise ship experience” at 35,000 feet.

I’m pretty well aware that I’m not in your Carnival Dream‘s Steakhouse, thanks, because the bastard in front of me has fully reclined chair is pasted to my forehead and I’m a bird strike away from death. These are not things you usually worry about when deciding whether to have the porterhouse of the rib chop.

It’s not as if you forget that because the chap with a beard in 45E explodes his underpants when you’re hurtling downwards at 2,000 miles an hour just because the stewardess asks “chicken or beef sir?”

Oh, but it’s free, moan the moaners! No, it sodding isn’t. You pay in so many other ways, such as by having one inch of legroom, never seeing your luggage again and being forced to sit next to someone who snores, dribbles and smells like a baboon’s bottom. We should actively campaign for the end of airline food………the only good thing that could ever be said about it is that it comes in very small portions.

Time for today’s Q and A…………off we trot.

Dan Asked:
John, Please reply

I am new to your blog thingy and have found it very helpful. I will be off on my 2nd cruise on Aug 1st on the Conquest. It will be my wife’s 1st cruise. My daughter and Son in law will be joining us from Colorado. Is there something on this cruise that you would say is a DON’T MISS? We want to get the full experience of the cruise! On my 1st cruise on the Miracle was great but I did learn a lot after the cruise. I did not do enough research prior to sailing. Have read many things on Cruise Critic and feel better informed this trip, but if there was one thing you think we should not miss what would it be? Thanks for your time and effort on this thingy I for one enjoy reading it. We have a 2 yo and can relate to basrard teething as well!!!

Hope you get some sleep!!!!

John Says:
Hello Dan

Welcome to the blog thingy and thanks for the kind words. I just completed two very happy months on the Carnival Conquest and I am totally confident that this ship and her crew will give you and your family the most fun cruise vacation ever. Please don’t miss the Steakhouse. Did you do this when you sailed on the Carnival Miracle? If not then this is a definite must not miss. The shows, activities and events are all superb and the best advice I can give is each night before you all go to bed, take the following day’s Carnival Cape………..bugger………take the next day’s Fun times and decide as a family what you are all going to do.

Here is your itinerary:

Top of Form 1

Sunday, Aug 01 GALVESTON, TX 4:00pm
Monday, Aug 02 FUN DAY AT SEA
Tuesday, Aug 03 FUN DAY AT SEA
Wednesday, Aug 04 MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA 9:00am 6:00pm
Thursday, Aug 05 GRAND CAYMAN, CAYMAN ISLANDS 7:30am 4:00pm
Friday, Aug 06 COZUMEL, MEXICO 10:00am 6:00pm
Saturday, Aug 07 FUN DAY AT SEA

I would suggest that you book a table at the Steakhouse on Wednesday as it’s right in the middle of the cruise and will I promise be a very special night. Also, think about swimming with the stingrays in Cayman. Have fun in Jamaica on the river tubing excursion and eat some jerk chicken at one of the local restaurants close to where the ship docks. In Cozumel why not take a dune buggy and drive down a deserted beach before swimming and snorkeling in the tanzanite blue waters.

Watch a movie on the Seaside Theatre big screen and well……….just have fun. You deserve it.

Please let me know all about your cruise when you get home and I hope the teething is over before the cruise.

Best wishes to you all
John

Tim (9/11 patch guy) Asked:
John, (Please reply)

Been there, done that. If you are put under, you wake up and it’s all over. As I write this you are probably there and being prepped. As far as the Stress test goes, don’t stress it. Run a little, they take a few pictures, run a little more, more pictures, and it’s over. Can we get some 8×10 photos and maybe some wallet sized pictures of the colonoscopy???

How about putting the Carnival Breeze in New York? I love the Miracle, but we deserve a year round ship. What do you think?

Thanks,
Tim

John Says:
Hello Tim

The stress test was stressful and while there may be a few who may enjoy close up photos of my scrotum I am sure posting photos of my colonoscopy would produce nationwide synchronized vomiting.  Carnival Breeze seems ages away but pretty soon we will have to start thinking about where she will go. Cruising out of New York is an extraordinary experience as I experienced recently on your Carnival Dream. I think however that some improvements need to be made with the embarkation and debarkation experience before we put a Dream class ship there again. With the gangway only available on deck 0 it made for some serious congestion. That aside Carnival loves cruising out of the Big Apple and I hope one day we get to cruise together so I can properly thank you for the patch that meant so much to me.

Best wishes
John

Ryan P Asked:
John (reply)

Cruise Critic members as mad as all hell about the new charges for single cruisers. What with the pillow chocolates being cancelled and the ban on booze being carried on the ship it means that you will lose many of us to your competition.

John Says:
Hello Ryan P

I hope you have seen my previous blogs where I have addressed the subject of the single cruiser. If not I will apologize again as I know it has caused some disappointment. I have sent everyone’s thoughts on this to the people in charge. These new rates have though brought us in line with many other cruise lines and I hope you will look at the big picture when choosing who to cruise with including of course the one at the top of the list……value for money. I am not sure what you have read on the Cruise Critic boards but we have not canceled the chocolate mints and they are available fleetwide.

Thanks for taking the time to write

Best wishes
John

Kathy Phillips Asked:
Please reply

John,

Just a little over 90 days now and Robert and myself will be sailing with you on Sept 26th. Last year when we were on the Valor we had Eva as the casino host. She was wonderful. What a pleasant surprise we had when we boarded the Splendor in the fall and found she on our casino host again. We were wondering if perhaps she will still be on the Splendor. In the past we have spent way too much time in the casino but we know with you as the CD that is probably not going to be the case this cruise. We can’t wait for the Welcome aboard show and The Bedtime Story. Enjoy your time with Heidi and Kye. We are bummed that they will have left 2 weeks before we sail.

John Says:
Hello Kathy Phillips

Oh my goodness……..don’t let the casino manager hear you say that you won’t be donating at the blackjack table because you are at my shows. Seriously, it will be great to see you and I am really looking forward to my time on the Carnival Splendor. I know Eva really well and she is exactly as you describe her. She is currently on the Carnival Conquest. I hope you will leave me a note at the guest services desk saying that you are a blog reader so I can send you a little something.

Until then I send best wishes to you and the family.
John

Jill Asked:
Pleasereply

John, you mentioned that you have been to Barcelona many times and you could give recommendations on hotels and transport. Please, I would love to know what you would recommend. We are going on the Magic next year and I would like to know good places to stay pre cruise and if there are any good companies that provide shuttle service. You are wonderful to keep writing while you are on your vacation. This is not an emergency and an answer is not necessary until you get back to work. Thank you for helping us.

Jill

John Says:
Hello Jill

I love Barcelona and am thrilled that it will be a home port for your Carnival Magic. I would be honoured to be your guide and starting in September I will be highlighting each port here on the blog thingy.

I can tell you that there are lots of great hotels in Barcelona and I have always stayed at Le Meridien Barcelona. It’s right in the heart of the Las Ramblas district and just 10 minutes from the port where your Carnival Magic will dock. The taxi fare should be no more than 10 Euros from hotel to the port. This hotel will also have you close by the hop on hop off bus stop that will take you everywhere you want to go including Gaudi’s cathedral and the Gothic district. There will be shuttle bus services from the airport to the port and back and I will post information on this as soon as I get it.

We will be talking more about Europe and your Carnival Magic much more in the days ahead.

Best wishes
John

Geri & Jack Asked:
Hello again John – PLEASE REPLY

I forgot to ask you if the C Magic will be doing a B2B in the U.S.A. again before she sails to Texas? I sure hope so as we enjoy them soooo much. Have done many now. When do you think we will know?

Have a great day!
Geri
See you on the C Splendor Sept 12 hopefully, yes?

John Says:
Hello Geri and Jack

You will indeed see me on the Carnival Splendor in September and I hope you will leave a note at the purser’s off……..bugger………..at the guest services desk for me so I can send you a little something for being a blog reader.

Your Carnival Magic will finish her trans-Atlantic cruise in Galveston, Texas and then begin what is sure to be a successful life cruising to the Caribbean. You can do a back to back voyage like this from there as many others have done on the Carnival Conquest who as you know is currently sailing on these voyages. I really look forward to seeing you in September and I will do my best to make sure you have the most brilliant of cruise vacations.

Best wishes to you both
John

Theresa from NJ Asked:
Hi John, (Please Reply)

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my post a few months back. I posted about my son being terrified to going on a cruise we have booked on Nov 6th on the dream, and how wonderful it was to see your blog about how prepared the crew is for any mishap at sea. Anyway just thank for taking the time to answer.

I have a question if you don’t mind. What do you think the earliest time to book a flight home should be? I don’t know what time the Dream gets cleared by customs and such and what time we actually start getting off.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Hope you are having a wonderful vacation!!

Thanks for your time,
Theresa from NJ

John Says:
Hello Theresa from NJ

You are most welcome and I hope his fears have subsided somewhat and if your son has any other concerns that you think I can help with please let me know. Personally I would never book a flight before 1 pm. Although you can get off the ship on the self assist option there are always variables such as delays onboard or on the 45 minute or so journey to the airport and looking at your watch every minute to see if you are going to make your flight is not a pleasant feeling at all. So, if you can I would go with a flight from 1 pm onwards. I will be here should you have any other questions.

Best wishes
John

golfmom98 Asked:
John (or one of the Stephanies),

Please reply or just make a note.

A few days ago you so graciously said you would send my son a surprise while we are on the Ecstasy in August celebrating 5 years being brain tumor free. I cannot thank you enough for that and for the information on the behind the fun tour (that I will be booking the moment we hit the ship). I just got word today that our cabin has changed we are now in cabin E106 I probably just made your job harder and I apologize for that but I wanted to make sure you knew of the change. Enjoy the rest of your vacation and say Howdy to Heidi and Kye from all of the very happy bloggers in Texas!!

John Says:
Hello Golfmom98

Thanks for letting me know and please don’t worry as I have sent this information to the cruise director and my good friend Steve Cassel who will make sure your son’s trophy and medal will be sent to the correct cabin. Have a great time and I send my best wishes to you and all your family

John

Jo Asked:
Dear John, (PLEASE REPLY)

Do you know if Norfolk, Va. is in the line up to get a ship full time? We built a great cruise terminal and even named it after Half Moon Cay. We scared away RCL. What else do we need to do?

Also, I am sailing on the Destiny on 10/4/2010. Do you know if the Aqua Boats excursion is really already sold out? I looked at it one day and it is gone now. Seems early to sell out. I understand if it is. Just wishing it wasn’t.

Have a great day,

Jo

John Says:
Hello Jo

I recently wrote I think about cruising out of Norfolk and how fabulous it was and how I had to make sure that the guests took no photos of the naval ships docked there. I am not aware of any immediate plans to put a ship in Norfolk but that certainly does not mean it will never happen. I will send this comment to our Senior Vice President Terry who makes these decisions and remind him that there are lots of Carnival fans in Virginia. I will check with our shore excursion department on the aqua excursion………..can you confirm the port please?

Thanks for taking the time to read

Best wishes
John

Beth Flynn Asked:
John, Please reply –

Just wanted to know….if you say ‘schedule’ instead of ‘schedule’…do you also say ‘school’ instead of ‘school’?

A reality show on a ship would be wonderful! What a great way to dream of the next cruise!

And thank you so much for the little video clip today. I am from Grass Valley California and it was nice to see someone from there. 🙂

John Says:
Hello Beth Flynn

If my father were writing this he would say that we speak the Queens English in the country where the language was invented………but then again he still writes with a fountain pen and has tea every day at 4 pm…………it’s the law.

I am glad you enjoyed that video clip and I am really looking forward to my time in California on the Carnival Splendor. Considering what happened the last time we had a reality show on the ships I think it will be a long time before we see one on our vessels again.  Best wishes and hope to see you soon.

John

That’s all for today and thanks for the comments on bingo. There are no plans to take this activity away as it something the guests seem to still enjoy it and still attracts a huge numbers of players. What we do need to do is to look at the prizes and the scheduling and these are two of the subjects that I will be discussing. Your comments on this subject were very interesting indeed and will be used as points of reference and suggestions during the call. I will let you all know what happens.

I hope you enjoyed Radu’s photos yesterday and here are the next batch as he continues his trip around the Yucatan Peninsula.

By the way…….the sunset photo is absolutely epic.

Just before I continue lets pause a moment and remember the family of the young lady who was tragically killed in St. Thomas yesterday. There will be time to comment on what happened but for now please join me in thinking of this young girl whose life was tragically taken away from her. Nothing I can write can adequately describe the pain her family are feeling today and will probably always feel. All we can do for now is remember them in our thoughts and prayers.

If Simon Cowell ever says that cruise line entertainment is second rate I shall insert Piers Morgan in him. There is no doubt that each line has their own concept of what cruise ship entertainment should be and certainly Cunard has taken their concept of ocean liner shows to an incomparable height onboard the Queen Elizabeth. Have a look at these two videos and discover a world of comedy, west end shows, The Odd Couple, bowls, deck tennis and…….. Shakespeare.

My thanks to our man in London and Cunard’s President and Managing Director Peter Shanks for sharing those with us and the theatre company idea is absolutely terrific. Don’t forget that I will be writing live from the Queen Victoria very soon.

I was talking to Butch last night. He is currently the CD on the Carnival Liberty and will be replacing Todd on his Carnival Dream on August 1. He is very excited and a little nervous about becoming the CD of the flagship and following Todd who has been a part of the ship since her beginning.

A few months back our Director of Entertainment Chris Prideaux and I discussed who should replace Todd and we both thought Butch would be the perfect choice. If you go back a few years the CD’s were sent to which ever ship needed a cruise director when their vacation was finished. This meant that no thought was put into the type of CD he or she may have been and the question of would he or she suit the demographic of the guests onboard was never asked. And while it may not have been a concern across the entire fleet it was in some cases for sure. Nowadays Chris and before him Roger put a lot of thought into who should be on what ship and I think for the most part we get this right.

Anyway, I was talking to Butch as I said and as well as talking about his new ship we also discussed a subject that had him really upset and had resulted in him second guessing himself. You see, Butch had read a review of him on the cruise boards and it was a review that was truly nasty. The writer basically stated that having cruised on the Carnival Liberty that Butch was the worst CD he had ever seen. I read the review and what upset me was that it there was no substance to it. What I mean by this was that it used words of a very, very personal nature that anyone who had this written about them would find upsetting. Cruise Critic and Cruise Mates reviews are so useful and a brilliant way for the lines to discover what people think……but I just wish people would remember that the crew, and particularly the CD’s, read them.

Saying that a CD isn’t funny, or saying that she wasn’t visible enough or that he or she was not as good as a previous CD or that they just didn’t like their CD…….well those comments are useful and will empower the reader to become a better person and a better cruise director. But taking a review beyond that and make it personal and full of hatred………..well that’s just cruel.

I am use to it…..I get them all the time here on the blog…..here’s one from someone called Russ Stokes who wrote me an email (I would love to know how he got my Carnival e-mail address ) yesterday saying “Your blog is pathetic and self pandering. Give it up now and get a gym membership.”

That was ……..and it made me laugh………and I should indeed get a gym membership but I don’t think I have ever written about pandas.

But this isn’t about me, it’s about the CD’s. Criticize them, tell them how they can improve…. but please remember……they are human and being entertainers………they can be extremely sensitive. And yes………..I am trying to protect them…………and make absolutely no apologies for that at all.

Butch, you will do a brilliant job on your Carnival Dream and I have read so many great things about the job you do mate……..you are going there because you are without doubt one of our very best cruise directors which I am sure some of the readers here will verify.

I wrote yesterday about who joyful it is to be able to cruise with your parents………even if you are in your thirties or forties and beyond. It got me thinking how what our older guests do these days are so different to what they did when I first started as a CD.

Yes, we still have older people onboard but these are a new generation of older people. Old people are now a certainly fitter than they used to be in the days of Glenn Miller and I Love Lucy. My Dad is 70 million years old but there’s not a hint of incontinence yet. He spends hours in the garden and when Mum lets him he will spend days on end in the “doghouse” which is his workshop were he will build furniture and model trains…… If I am as fit and as coherent as my role model father is than I will be one lucky old man.

Elderly people, then, are no longer content with a hardboiled egg and a nice view of some trees. They want to get down to the local DIY superstore for paint and a large hammer. On cruises it’s the same thing…….the days of sitting on deck wrapped in a blanket, reading Jane Austen and sipping cups of warm cocoa before going to bed at 7 pm have been replaced.

Now, they are on deck, sunbathing…….some still wearing bikinis and Speedos….. The Jane Austen book has been replaced by Dan Brown and Tom Clancy. They no longer want to hear In the Mood but want to twist and shag to the sounds of the Beatles and Motown. Yep, cruising for seniors has come a long way and Carnival ships is a place where they can really let their hair down……..or take it off and leave it in the cabin.

Professors at Harvard and Oxford University are brilliant minds and know nearly as much as God. But ask them why women will spend a week’s wages on a pair of shoes or watch America’s Next Top Modelbitch and watch the blank expressions steal across their faces.  Heidi just walked in and told me she had bought a new pair of shoes. Normally I don’t care and me and my underpants just keep on blogging. However, something told me……..call it a sixth sense……..that I should ask how much. I did……..and I came round about 20 minutes later.  £164….that’s $247. I hate using exclamation marks when I write but…….Bloody hell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I do not earn enough money for her to go out and spend $247 on a pair of sodding shoes and when I asked why she had bought them she told me “I don’t have a good pair of summer shoes” ………………summer shoes my arse.

Now, you would think for that price that they come with air conditioning and a satellite navigation system. We are not out of the credit crunch thingy totally and there is talk of the UK having something called….double dip and that horrible awful non fun word that begins with “R” …………no……..not Royal Caribbean…………I mean recession.

Heidi has loads of shoes that are more than still wearable. The heels haven’t fallen off and apart from the one that was buried in my arse after I pissed over the toilet seat last week, she still has two of each.

Do you remember the days when you rented a video for the evening and then sweated over the fine the 16 year old spotty lad at Blockbuster would give you when you forgot to take it back? Now, everyday there’s a line of people in Sam Goody spending $30 a pop on DVDs. People upgrade their cell phones when they don’t like the ring tone any more, and buy disposable cameras like you used to buy disposable razors.

In the old days as a CD I used to be responsible for the shopping ashore program. I used to send many hundreds of people to buy diamonds, watches, black coral, pearls and souvenirs. This was a high pressure part of the job as we used to have to visit each store in each port of call and basically get beaten up by the store owner would complain that last cruise they only made 3 billion dollars.

Some would lie completely and say they had no sales. I would then produce a piece of jewelery where a stone was missing or the clasp was broken and watch the owner squirm as he said “Oh, no sales apart from the $5,000 tennis bracelet” and then offer me a Diet Coke. The program these days is run by a team of professionals and run superbly and I urge you to visit the talks onboard and take advantage of the discounts that the recommended stores still give. There are still massive bargains out there and the shopping specialist will guide you to them.

There was always one thing though that made me chuckle when I was a doing the shopping promotions though.  It involved T-shirts that have a black and white print on them…….and that change to color when the sun comes out ………..and……cost $25 a shirt.

I always used to think to myself………why not go to the shop next door who are offering 3 T-shirts for $25 and that in rain, fog, sleet or snow are always in full colour.  I once showed a T-shirt that changed colour in the sun at one of my talks. I held it over a U.V. light and the black and white print changed before everyone’s eyes …………. Oooohhhhhh ………..they went.

After the talk a lady asked me “Will the t-shirt work in Ohio?”

Goodnight
Your 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.