Simulating Fun

July 14, 2010 -

John Heald

One minute life is all rosy and happiness and contentment fills the air and then BAM……without warning………that’s me in the dog house. And it’s Heinz’s fault.

That’s because I did something shockingly terrible last night. Clearing the kitchen table I put the tomato ketchup in the thingy cupboard and this morning when Heidi went to put some on her scrambled eggs she went to the fridge……..couldn’t find it………and when I told her it was in the cupboard………I got a huge, massive bollocking. Now obviously there are two things to consider here. It is obvious to the detectives amongst you that I don’t usually have anything to do with the clearing of the table bit in much the same way as the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers has little to do with losing graciously.

But the bigger subject here is of course that Heidi said she would have to throw the ketchup bottle away because I had not kept it in the fridge. Refrigerator my arse!

And I laughed out loud, but then she showed me the label which, astonishingly, said, “Keep refrigerated. Eat within eight weeks.” What? I stood in our kitchen, my mouth wide open.

I’ve been smothering food in ketchup since I was a kid and it would no more occur to me to keep it in the fridge than it would our family hamster… Tim.

And yet for decades, by shoving them in cupboards where “pus and slime” congeals round the lid like a dead slug…………… I’ve apparently been putting my health “at risk.”

Now I am no scientist and I don’t have a beard but even so I think I have the right to say ………….. “bollocks.”

Ketchup is a “preservative.” You’ve got more chance of catching E. coli from French kissing Paris Hilton. I may be wrong do we really need to keep ketchup, mustard etc. in the refrigerators?

However, there is the appetiser of my moan meal today because here comes the main course ………………….sell-by dates. Heidi, my Mum and most of the UK live and breathe by supermarket sell-by dates and there is more chance of Heidi joining the Moonies than her ever allowing me or Kye to eat anything that is even a few minutes past that sell-by date. Personally I won’t chuck anything away until there are clear signs of mold or……….if something smells French.

Anyway, I am in the doghouse and thus I have been a grumpy sod so far today. My cause wasn’t helped when I asked a simple question to my wife and it was a question asked on behalf of all us men …….why can’t women apply mascara with their mouths closed. Why can’t you keep your mouths closed? My wife does it with her gob (www.urbandictionary.com) wide open, the dancers on the ships do it and I bet your wife, girlfriend or just to be politically correct your partner cannot put mascara on with their mouths closed. It’s one of those questions that will never get answered, just like:

Why do gynaecologists leave the room while the lady gets undressed?

Why are dogs astonished by their own farts?

And why, as I say each and every week during life boat drill, if the lifeboats are unsinkable even when flooded, why don’t we make the ships out the same sodding material?

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

Sheri Asked:
Dear John, (please reply)

I originally posted this on 5/21 and I’m afraid my question may have gotten lost as I haven’t seen a response.

First I have to tell you how much I enjoy your blog thingy, you never fail to bring a smile to my face. We have been a fan of yours since our cruise on the Glory in 2004 and reading your blog reminds me of that wonderful trip; I’ve never laughed so hard on a cruise! My husband and I are trying to plan a cruise with some friends we met on our Miracle cruise in 2008, we’ve decided on the Glory for next April and have discovered that most of the rooms on the ship have been grabbed by a travel agency who is planning a themed cruise for a singer. What we’re most concerned about is that this cruise be what we’ve come to know and love about our Carnival cruises. Are we going to have the traditional Caribbean music we enjoy so much on the Lido deck, the traditional entertainment including the Lido deck games? I don’t want to feel like I’m not on a Carnival cruise. I understand that the lounges may not be available every night, which is not a problem; I know that fans of this artist are paying a premium to see him. We also have another couple (first time cruisers) that wants to join us and I want to make sure they experience the same fabulous vacation we’ve had on our 13 Carnival cruises.

I have one small suggestion that perhaps you can pass along to those in charge of the gift shops. I wish that brand new ships would carry the gold laser cut ship’s ornaments. I started collecting these ship ornaments on our honeymoon in 1993 and twice I’ve been unable to purchase them in the gift shops of newer ships, once on the Valor (she was a year old on that sailing) and again last October on the Freedom. We’ve since sailed the Valor two other times and I’ve purchased my ornament from that ship and we’re booked on the Freedom next October and I’ll purchase my Freedom ornament then (assuming its available) Its just a little thing, but when I hang them on my tree every Christmas they remind me of our fabulous trips and the great friends we’ve met.

Thanks for all you do; you are truly a great ambassador for Carnival and a wonderful, caring human being. Personally, I love hearing about your adventures with Heidi and Kye, they’re a part of you and you wouldn’t be who you are without them. Have a great vacation with your precious girls.

Sheri

John Says:
Hello Sheri

I am sorry if I missed your posting and I am glad you took the time to re-send it. I checked with our groups department and there is absolutely no big group sailing in April on the Carnival Glory. I asked the 344 Stephanies to confirm this and indeed you have nothing to worry about as the ship will be in normal operation and all shows, events and activities will run as usual.

I know how popular these Christmas ornaments are and I have been trying to get them back in the onboard shops for some time and I think I have finally succeeded. These should be available across the fleet in the next few weeks right up to Christmas. We should make it a bit easier to buy things like this and I will be writing about this soon. Anyway, I am sure you are getting excited about your cruise and if there is anything else I can do for you before you sail please let me know. Best wishes to you all.

John

Sierra Asked:
Dear John,
Please Reply

Your check-up and ‘ordeal’ reminded me of a question I wanted to ask. My husband is a diabetic as well (type 1). In case of an emergency, does the ship carry glucagon pens? Also if his blood sugars go low in the middle of the night (happens sometimes) and we need help what number on the phone do I call? Is there a button that will connect me with the medical staff? We’ve never had an emergency, but I’d still like to know what to do in case something comes up!

Thanks so much and again congrats on your excellent HC1!!!! I don’t even know you and I’m still so proud of you. That is quite an accomplishment.

Sierra

John Says:
Hello Sierra

Please do not worry about any of this. Many diabetics sail with Carnival and the ship is well prepared to take care of an emergency and have the knowledge, medical equipment and drugs should they be needed. Now, I know that your husband will have to monitor his sugar levels carefully and if at any time he or you should require medical assistance there will always be a nurse and doctor just a call away. You can call 8000 or if it is an immediate emergency just call 911 and someone will be right there. Thanks so much for the kind words. I have pretty much cut carbs out of my diet and my levels seem to appreciate that even though my energy levels have been somewhat affected. Anyway, please let me know if there is anything else you or your husband need before you cruise and I send you both my best wishes.

John

Juan & Maria Santana Asked:
John please reply…

Earlier today we mentioned that although we recently took a 1-wk. cruise to Bermuda from N.Y. on one of the competition’s ships, we are still partial to Carnival and we already have some Carnival cruises coming up. Here they are:

Reservations already made for the following dates:

Sept. 11 – Caribbean Princess, 1-wk. cruise from N.Y. destination Canada and other East Coast cities.

Sept. 18 – Carnival Glory, 1-wk. cruise from N.Y. also going to Canada and other East Coast Cities.

One ship leaves from Brooklyn; the other from Manhattan. They have similar itineraries, but since they are new for us, we don’t mind to repeat them.

For 2011:

We are seriously considering the Bloggers’ 1-wk. cruise on the Glory in Feb. to make sure we get to see you again. Also, we are planning to on the Magic while she’s in Europe…. and we believe we’ll be able to catch you there too!

We’ll keep you posted if there are any changes or any additions for 2010 or 2011.

Warmest regards to you and Heidi & kisses to Kye. Keep enjoying your vacation…. although Heidi may put you to do some “hard labor” at home every once in a while! Make sure you graduate from nappy/diaper change school while you are there! Make sure not to take any more taxi rides with Kye!

Bye for now and God bless the 3 of you!

Juan and Maria Santana
Miami Beach, FL

John Says:
Hello Juan and Maria Santana

Cruising is without a doubt a major part of your lives and your loyalty to Carnival and our sister brands is extraordinary and we are very grateful indeed. Congratulations on booking the cruises mentioned in your posting and I hope you will join me on BC4 and on your Carnival Magic in Europe. Thanks so much for the kind words for the family and I really do hope we get to cruise with each other soon.  Best wishes to you both.

John

DeeDee Asked:
reply wanted to the following question.

Me and my husband will be coming on our second carnival cruise on august 25th. We really want a table for 2 so we can spend quality time together. Can you do this? We are in cabin 2362

John Says:
Hello DeeDee

Yes I can help you with this and I will send your request to the maître d’ who will do his best to accommodate you. Have a wonderful cruise.

Best wishes
John

Susan Asked:
Dear John (please read and reply if you can)

I just came home from my Carnival Liberty Western Carib. cruise, and let me start out by saying THANK YOU for the ships on a stick and champagne. My friend was so surprised and so touched, and I couldn’t believe that it actually happened! I knew you said you would take care of it, but being the cynical New Yorker that I am, I didn’t fully believe it. Although we were both a little distracted when we first came into the room by the wonderful suite that we had lucked into. The room is gorgeous, it will be so hard to go back to sailing in the inside cabins that I usually book.

The only problem with our suite is that it seemed to be haunted by a room cleaning ghost. Every time we would leave, the room would be a mess, and when we came back, it would be clean. But we never actually saw anyone ever cleaning it. And this ghost was also quite adept at folding towel animals, every night we had a new one, although the poor animal usually lost its head pretty quickly because we would try to figure out how to do the same thing.

Our dining room staff was amazing. Gaspar, our headwaiter, took great care of us. When we took the champagne to the dining room for dinner, he made sure that our glasses were never empty (although the flip side of that is I don’t remember what happened after the starters….). But he really was great, always managing to joke with us, our food always came out hot, and we never saw him without a smile on his face.

I also want to acknowledge the medical team, if I may. This is the first time in all my cruises that I needed the medical staff. I got bitten by some little critter in Cozumel, and what I thought were mosquito bites turned into something not very pleasant, to say the least. I’ll spare you the details, but the doctor and nurses there are really great. And I was impressed with how much they actually have available on board, and just how many things you can treat. It makes sense with so many people on board, but I never really thought about it before.

Also, if you don’t mind me taking up any more of your blog space, I want to thank the cruise director Butch for putting together a great cruise. I was fortunate enough to spend my New Years with my sister on the Carnival Liberty, and at that time, my sister was going through a bit of a tough time. But she credits the cruise that we took to putting her back on the right path, she had such a great time then that when we got back to the real world, it carried over. So she wanted me to thank Butch when I saw him, which I did early on during the week. But I want to thank him again for this cruise. He had so many activities planned, it was hard to figure out what to do first. And I heard many of the other workers on the ship say some pretty great things about him as well. I remember one night when the casino was helping me pay back my sail and sign account (I love finishing a cruise with more money than I started), when Butch came on the loudspeaker talking about something or other. The blackjack dealer went on about how he is such a great person to be around, makes everyone feel valued and important. To me, I would think those off the cuff, unprovoked responses are more significant than when someone puts you on the spot asking what you think about a person. I really don’t know how he does what he does, he was everywhere all the time, and still had time to talk to whoever wanted to talk to him. It seems like he could probably single handedly keep the coffee shop in business. He kept us smiling and laughing all week, and with what my friend and I do, it gets easy to forget how to have a good time when you’re dealing with sick cranky people and forced to stay awake for more hours than you would think are humanly possible. I have a feeling that the next time I’m awake for my 26th hour straight and need to go to my happy place, I have a feeling that happy place may be the Carnival Liberty, so if you could, would you be kind enough to thank Butch for giving me a happy place?

But after I’ve praised this company for so long, I do have one major complaint. It’s a huge problem that needs to get solved right away. You see, after 7 days, we got kicked off the ship. They wouldn’t let us stay on for another round! I was even willing to just sleep out on a deck chair on the Lido, I don’t need a room! And still, I was forced off that ship, and had nowhere else to go except for a stop at South Beach for one final beach day and then to the airport to go back home. And really, I don’t think that’s fair. In fact, I’ve been so upset by this, the only thing that could possibly make the situation better is a free cruise right away 🙂

But in all seriousness, I do have one small suggestion. Would it be too much to ask for a water fountain to be placed on the jogging track? If there is one, I didn’t find it, and it can get pretty dangerous jogging in the hot Caribbean sun if you can’t get to water easily. And if it’s not there, you may not even think about it until you’re completely dehydrated. I know on several occasions, even when I was out on the track bright and early, it would get so hot that I would have to cut my run short, and after going all the way down to the Lido for some water, who would want to go back to finish jogging?

Anyhoo, sorry this is so long, but I really had a brilliant time, and I wanted to share that with you and the rest of your readers.

John Says:
Hello Susan

Thanks for taking the time to say thank you and I am glad you got the little gifts I had promised you. That was a brilliant review and I can’t believe that they kicked you off the ship after seven days……………how rude.

It shows that I have spent little time by the jogging track when I say that I had no idea that there wasn’t a water fountain up there. One would think it would be one of the first places we would put one……….I will definitely bring this up to the beards and see if we can add them. Your review praised many of the ship’s crew and I will make sure that they all get to see what you have written. I was really pleased to hear that you enjoyed Butch as the cruise director. The timing for this could not have been better so thanks especially for that.

So I hope it won’t be too long before you join us again for another fun for all cruise and until then I send you and your friend my best wishes.

John

Paula Asked:
Hello, John

I saw enjoy your time at home from the kitchen to the teething. We are sailing on the Freedom Aug 28th. This is our first vacation let alone first cruise. My husband, myself, my 13 year old and my 11 year old son. I was wondering I know there are behind the scene tours, and galley tours. I was wondering I have a 13 year old who is a dancer not only on stage but in her heart, She also auditioned for America’s got talent, although that didn’t go her way. There is always this year. My question is there tours of the back stage of the shows, where she could see costumes up close meet the dancers ask questions about their dance experiences and working every night doing shows on a cruise. This is what this child wants to do when she grows up. Dance for crowds.

Any way enjoy your time at home the little ones only stay little for so long

John Says:
Hello Paula

Thanks for the kind words. I am sure as the days get closer to your first cruise that the excitement is growing. While we don’t have weekly backstage tours outside of the Behind the Fun tour I will ask the dance captain to have a chat with your daughter and let her have a quick look behind the curtain and backstage. Can you send me her name and cabin number please via another blog posting and mark it for STEPHANIE and she will send it to me. Maybe one day she will be one of our brilliant Carnival dancers.

best wishes to you all

John

Bonnie Boatner Asked:
Dear John, please reply.

First, I read your blog today and had to laugh at the way you described those “bastard teeth”. I remember those days well, and can recommend rubbing a very small amount of sweetened bourbon on Kye’s gums, and then add a shot for Heidi and yourself. Should help you through. And, good luck with your tests, the prep for the colonoscopy is far worse than the procedure itself.

I actually do have a Carnival type question. Why do the powers that be keep changing the website? It used to be quite user friendly, easy to navigate.

Now, it’s so vague, I’m afraid new users may get frustrated and give up. Here is a for instance,

We shop for cruises based on where we want to go and when we can go. Used to be you could get all of this on the screen at one time and compare different ports and ship itineraries. Now you have to do several different searches. That, I can do. But you can no longer see the shore excursions available until you actually book. I know what’s available in many ports, but we were looking at a cruise that included Dominica and another with the Panama Canal these are ports we aren’t familiar with, cannot find a way to access the shore excursions.

Now I know this, in the grand scheme of things, may seem small, but…it was a great website two revamps ago…now, not so easy to use.

Thanks again for all the great information you provide, we are on The Fantasy soon with a group of about 65 close friends and new acquaintances, cant wait

John Says:
Hello Bonnie Boatner

That’s brilliant….sweetened bourbon……we don’t have any of that in the house….will Bacardi do?

I know that the marketing team have been working hard to keep carnival.com fresh and up to date. However, I also know that Stephanie and her team will really appreciate this feedback and I will be sure they get to read it today. Our website continues to win awards and thanks to comments like this it will continue to do so. I will let you know what they have to say.

Thanks for taking the time to write and for these simple suggestions which make a lot of sense.

Best wishes to all

John

That’s all for today and I will be back with more tomorrow. The bingo comments that were added to Monday’s blog have been sent to everyone on today’s conference call and they will prove very valuable as we discuss ways to improve the bingo experience for our guests.

Time for a break and let’s continue with our “Radu Season” and show you some photos he took this week of the Carnival Legend and Carnival Inspiration. I think you will agree with me that these photos show just why he is our senior and best photographer.

As well as bingo being a subject of today’s (tonight my time) conference call we will also discuss the bar department and the onboard shops of which I will write about tomorrow. There have been some huge improvements in our bar service and product in recent months and this is thanks to the new men and women who have joined us in recent months. One of the biggest improvements is with the bar menu itself. We had the same one for a long, long time and it badly needed refreshing. And I think the new one is exactly what it needs to be by portraying fun and including some very quirky and cool anecdotes within.  And some of our beverage choices have been huge hits especially our new martinis that have strange names such as a “dirty martini”………I will leave you to insert your own jokes here.

But as I did when we talked about bingo I need your help and suggestions about what you would like to see in this regard. Now……….obviously we would all like cheaper drinks on land and at sea and while I won’t be silly enough to ask you not to write that you think the industry’s bar prices are too high I would ask that you tell me what you would like to see. Are we missing a type of cocktail or a brand of beer? Is our bar service lacking in certain areas of the ship or do we have it just right. Please remember that your comments will be read by those at the top and I really would like your opinions. I have one special suggestion for your Carnival Magic which I have been trying to get for ages and we shall see if I can get it done….I think you will like it….. a lot.

Well, as some of you may know I started my career with Carnival in the bar department in August 1986. I had blagged my way through the first interview as a bar waiter with consummate ease. The only difficult moment was when Wayne Kozack, the Carnival beverage director who was interviewing me, asked if I knew what a sex on the beach was……I was about to say that since that because I was uglier than an inside out wart hog……..I hadn’t a clue about sex on a beach, a hill, on the back seat of a Mini…….in fact ……..anywhere ….when I realized that it was some sort of drink……..so I said “Of course,” smiled……… and got the job. If that interview was easy then the one that the Bar Manager Colin Campus gave me to become a wine steward on the M/S Holiday was even easier. It went something like this.

BAR MANAGER DO YOU KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT WINE?
ME YES
BAR MANAGER GOOD – THAT’S YOU PROMOTED TO WINE STEWARD THEN

I of course knew absolutely bugger all about wine. Back then I did actually drink the odd glass but most of the wine I did drink came with a screw top and had a picture of a Blue Nun on it or if I was really living the life style of the rich and tanned I would treat myself to something with a cork.

My life as a wine steward was short lived probably because I didn’t know anything….I mean anything about wine. The only thing that got me through it was a bit of banter and a few jokes plus the fact that most of the guests back then wouldn’t know if they were drinking Chateau Laffite Rothschild or Chateau Mad Dog.

When I was a wine steward we had wines from France, some from California and a few from Italy the most popular of which was Lambrusco. I still remember this for two reasons…….it was $9 a bottle and we called it Italian Coca Cola……it was our best seller. Nowadays, our restaurant and steakhouse wine menus are diverse and offer something very special to suit all budgets. Thank goodness though that I am not a wine steward today though as our guests are much more knowledgeable and because it seems every country in the world now produces wine.

I am way out of touch with what wines are in these days. I’m told Chile makes a decent drop these days, but I imagine that they also make a lot of stuff that will leave you with a huge headache. And how are you supposed to know which is which? Which will have you spending the night driving the porcelain bus and which will feel like silk worms are having rumpy pumpy on your tongue? Wine bottles should come with honest opinions of the experts. They should be allowed to put honest opinions on each label…… “This is a brilliant wine…..drink lots of it”……….or “I would rather sip on a bottle of the contents of Kye’s diaper then this”

My favourite part of being a wine steward though was the hours and the fun we had. We worked maybe 5 hours a day…….we cooked in the wine cellar using little stoves and…..please don’t tell anyone about this….we would accidentally drop a bottle of good red wine every night. The wine would be reported on the “Breakage Sheet” and that was sent to the F & B Manager…….we never lied or misled the boss…..we really did drop it….but only after it was empty….ssshhhhh.

I am told more and more of our guests are drinking wine with dinner these days and that’s great news. However, I also see that some still prefer a beer with dinner as well and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Our fountain soda card has been around for some time now. What do you think of this? Do you use it and again……..are there any improvements we can make here? So, get your beverage thinking caps on and let me know any thoughts you have. Thanks as always.

I am not particularly looking forward to this afternoon as I am taking Kye for her MMR shots. I have been reading a lot on this subject and it has been a subject much discussed by Heidi and her fellow new Mummies. I have asked Uncle Google if I she should have the combined vaccine or not and the worry is because Dr. Andrew Wakefield had published that this vaccine could cause autism in children. He has since been struck off the medical thingy here in the UK but…..it is still a worry.

Anyway, we are going ahead and this afternoon I will take Kye to the doctors for her injections. I have a feeling she will be braver than both Heidi and I.

You know, Costa Cruises has a fantastic Formula One race car simulator on their ships and it’s a huge hit with their guests. And while we have discussed putting a NASCAR simulator on the ships I have a better idea……..let’s put a cruise ship simulator onboard the Carnival Breeze.

Let’s have guests be the Captain and try and experience what it is like to dock the ship in ports like Ocho Rios, Puerto Rico, Venice and for real beginners……….Grand Cayman. Seriously, wouldn’t that be brilliant? Now these simulators already exist and many of the industry’s captain’s use them to try docking a new class of ships or a new port of call. One of the most popular is in Fort Lauderdale and is called Star Center. I have been there and the simulator is extraordinary and a slightly less complicated version would be a real hit I think onboard. Have a look at the simulators our Captains use………..here is the link thingy.

http://www.star-center.com/Gallery/360.htm

The reason I thought of this was an advert I saw in a magazine recently that offered a chance for a “team building exercise” where employees can go to Heathrow Airport, sit in 747 jet and, for only £130 a head, the nice people at British Airways will treat them to an “air crash,” where they’ll experience an exciting nose dive and authentic smoke-filled cabin through which they must crawl to “survive.”

Two questions. First, if it’s an exercise for those bastards at AIG who stole my life savings, is there any chance of the plane crash not being simulated?  Second, why would any employer waste their money on this bollocks? And how is this team building?

Anyway, back to my idea…….the cruise ship simulator. I think it’s a bloody marvellous idea and I intend to present it to the beards……. Wouldn’t you like to see how difficult it is to dock a 130,000 ton ship? Level 12 could include ramming the Something of the Seas in Cozumel.

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.