Smoke On the Water – The Final Chapter

November 16, 2010 -

John Heald

I sat on the floor of the bridge at 9:30 pm bathed in the glowing emergency red lights that illuminated me like some fat and extremely ugly Amsterdam hooker. My head was pounding and my legs ached. I felt absolutely shattered and I couldn’t help but remember something I had read recently that said that stress has overtaken the common cold as the main reason for taking time off work. I was certainly stressed for obvious reasons and because I hadn’t spoken to Heidi all day and I knew right now she would be very worried indeed.

I am lucky enough to be able to be able to call home every day, sometimes twice a day and because I hadn’t and because it was already 2:30 am back home…..Heidi would be panicking. There was no way for me or any of the guests to contact the outside world and the one emergency phone was constantly open to the command centre. My only hope was that Heidi would have called the office and someone would have told her what was happening and that I was OK.

I was waiting to make my last announcement of the night and I suddenly remember feeling angry. I never get angry, really I don’t. Yet as I sat there nursing the cramp in my legs I distinctly remember feeling so mad. Mad at myself for getting diabetes and mad at myself for the things I should have said on the PA system and for the things I had said but probably shouldn’t have.

But I had to calm down and quickly as I had a big announcement to make and as I sit here in my underpants I remember thinking of people who had handled real stress and to put that into the perspective of what I was doing now. The Chilean miners for example or my grandfather who I never met who went marching off to war armed with a hipflask and a prayer and died somewhere in France. These days being stuck in a traffic jam seems to be an excuse to reach for the Prozac.

But as I sat there on the hard deck I realised what was not helping relive my stress was the fact that I had nobody to confide in, nobody to talk to. I depend on Heidi for this either in person or via the phone but now…..I had nobody…….I could only imagine how the captain felt. Successful people have a history of being able to cope. It’s important in life that you have people in your life that you can confide in when you need them most and as 10 pm came ever closer I had to force myself to not allow stress to become distress.

So, I tried to think of calming thoughts. Kye’s smile……..Megan’s bottom…..the fact that I’m not French …….and then it was time to tell the guests the news and not much of it was good. Here is what I said minus the jokes because I honestly can’t remember what silly stuff I said. I know I tried to intersperse the serious with the ridiculous but for now…….here is what the major points of the announcement were all about.

GOOD EVENING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. WELL IT’S BEEN QUITE A DAY HASN’T IT? I AM SURE MANY OF YOU ARE OFF TO BED NOW SO BEFORE YOU DO LET ME TELL YOU THE LATEST NEWS.

WE HAD A SMALL FLARE UP OF A CABLE EARLIER TODAY. THIS IS THE THIRD TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED AND IT WAS QUICKLY EXTINGUISHED. WE HAVE A CONSTANT FIRE SQUAD PRESCENCE THERE AS WELL. SINCE THEN THERE HAVE BEEN NO FURTHER INCIDENTS AND THE SHIP AND HER GUESTS AND CREW REMAIN SAFE AND THERE HAVE BEEN NO INJURIES.

HOWEVER, WE REMAIN WITHOUT THE BASIC SERVICES. WE HAVE NO AIR CONDITIONING, NO LIGHTING OUTSIDE OF THE EMERGENCY LOW LEVEL LIGHTING. THE ELEVATORS DO NOT WORK AND WE HAVE NO POWER WHICH MEANS NO HOT FOOD, NOT HOT DRINKS, NO SHOWS AND OF COURSE PROBABLY MOST IMPORTANTLY………NO TOILETS. WE HAVE HAD TO LOCK THE PUBLIC BATHROOMS AS THEY ARE NOT IN A FIT STATE TO BE USED AS YOU CAN IMAGINE AND OUR ENGINEERING TEAM CONTINUE TO MAKE REPAIRING THE VACUM TOILET SYSTEM A MAJOR PRIORITY.

NOW OF COURSE NO POWER MEANS NO PROPULSION AND WE CONTINUE TO REMAIN DEAD IN THE WATER. HOWEVER HELP IS ON THE WAY. DURING THE NIGHT THERE WILL BE TWO TUGS ON THEIR WAY TO THE SHIP AND THEY WILL ARRIVE EARLY TOMORROW MORNING. THEY WILL THEN TOW THE SHIP TO ENSENADA, MEXICO WHERE WE SHOULD ARRIVE LATE WEDNESDAY. WE WILL ALSO BE JOINED BY A UNITED STATES COAST GUARD CUTTER WHO WILL ESCORT US ON OUR JOURNEY.

ONCE IN ENCHILADA (I DO REMEMBER SAYING THAT) CARNIVAL WILL ARRANGE TRANSPORTATION HOME FOR EACH AND EVERY GUEST.

NOW SOME OF YOU HAVE BEEN TO THE GUEST SERVICES DESK FOR MORE INFORMATION AND PLEASE MAY I SUGGEST YOU DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME DOING THAT. ALL CURRENT INFORMATION WILL COME TO ME FIRST AND THEN I WILL LET YOU KNOW OVER THE PA SYSTEM IMMEDIATELY.

Now, just before I continue to tell you about the announcement I need to explain something. At this point (Monday night) no conversation had been had with the beards in Miami about what compensation we would be giving the guests as there were far more important factors to consider. Yet we had 150 plus guests who had gone to the guest services desk whose main focus seemed to be what compensation they were going to receive. And of course I was sure this was a major topic of conversation around the ship as well.

So what I was about to say next was one of the things that had been silently building my stress levels up and my sugar levels, as well. But I had made a decision to go ahead with this and based it on the fact that I had the utmost faith that Gerry Cahill our president and CEO and his team would do the right thing and that by me saying so would help calm the guests somewhat as well. And so the announcement continued.

IT WOULD BE SILLY OF ME NOT TO THINK THAT MANY OF YOU ARE ANGRY AT WHAT HAS HAPPENED AND I CAN TOTALLY UNDERSTAND WHY. YOU HAVE BEEN SCARED TODAY AND NOW WE ARE ASKING YOU TO LIVE IN WHAT ARE QUITE HONESTLY CHALLENGING AND UNCOMFORTABLE CONDITIONS.

ALL I CAN SAY IS THAT HOW SORRY I AM AND HOW WONDERFUL YOU HAVE ALL BEEN. I CAN PROMISE YOU THAT CARNIVAL WILL LOOK AFTER YOU AND TAKE CARE OF YOU. FOR NOW THOUGH THE FOCUS IS ON GETTING THE SHIP BACK TO PORT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

TONIGHT WILL BE DIFFICULT. IT WILL BE DARK AND THE PHONES WILL NOT BE WORKING. WE HAVE THEREFORE STATIONED MULTIPLE CREW ALONG EVERY GUEST CORIDDOR SO PLEASE, IF YOU NEED ANYTHING…….ANYTHING AT ALL, LET THEM KNOW. I WILL REMAIN ON THE BRIDGE ALL NIGHT SO IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION THEY CANT ASK JUST HAVE THEM CONTACT ME ON THE WALKIE TALKIE.

PLEASE TRY AND GET A GOODNIGHT’S SLEEP AND WHEN YOU WAKE UP TOMORROW WE SHOULD BE AT THE START OF OUR JOURNEY HOME. NOW, IF YOU WILL EXCUSE ME I JUST WANT A QUICK CHAT WITH THE CREW.

HELLO CREW……..I HOPE YOU ALL KNOW HOW PROUD WE ARE OF YOU AND ON BEHALF OF THE CAPTAIN I WANT TO TELL YOU THAT YOU HAVE ALL BEEN BRILLIANT. I KNOW WE CAN COUNT ON YOU ALL TO CONTINUE TO LOOK AFTER THE GUESTS AND EACH OTHER. GET SOME SLEEP TONIGHT AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WORKING THE NIGHT SHIFT PLEASE LET ME KNOW ON CHANNEL 7 IF YOU NEED ANYTHING LET ME KNOW.

SO TO ALL OF YOU FROM ALL OF US……………SLEEP WELL EVERYONE BECAUSE WE ARE ALL SAFE AND SOUND.

NIGHT NIGHT

And that was that and I literally slumped back to the floor and started nibbling on a sandwich. I had no idea how the guests had taken that announcement. Was I helping them or was I just getting on their nerves? I had no sodding idea and I hated that. And although I had faith in my bosses back in Miami……had I been presumptuous in saying suggesting Carnival would take care of them?

During the night, while the passengers slept as did most of the crew (more on that later) the engineering team continued to work hard and the bridge remained a flurry of activity as they prepared for the arrival of the tug. Me…….well I just sat there and closed my eyes but as tired as I was, sleep avoided me like girls avoided me throughout most of my life.

It was then at 1:30 am that I had to do what I had been trying to hold off since about 2 pm the previous afternoon. And so I walked off the bridge back to my cabin. There is a bathroom on the bridge which considering 20 plus men had been peeing in it for the last 15 hours without being able to flush….. Smelled really bad. In fact there was a sublime moment as I stood and peed that I will never forget. I had my thingy in one hand, a flashlight in the other and the smell was overbearing. The stench was truly dreadful and trying not to think about it I started to sing ……. and sing really really loud.

I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles

I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I love Paris, why oh why do I love Paris
Because my love is here

And when I came out of the bathroom………..all the officers and sailors applauded.

But now I needed to do poo and on my to way deck 5, goodness me did I get a shock. First off all the realisation of just how dark the ship was extraordinary and then I saw something else which I had not been prepared for. The main theater which on the Carnival Splendor is called the Spectacular Lounge was full of crew sleeping. There must have been 200 in there with pillows and blankets. Others were sitting in groups talking softly while others were playing dominoes.

You see, while most of the guest cabins had balconies or were larger and were in areas above the water line; many of the crew had cabins below the water line and having felt how hot my deck 5 cabin was I could only imagine how warm the ones on decks A and B were. I also think that the crew had made this area a meeting point for themselves as well. It had become a place to talk about their feelings………….. and maybe their fears.

There were a few guests who slept on deck 9 with their duvets, etc. I took a quick walk up there and saw maybe a hundred or so. I am sure most of these were from the aft section of the ship where there was still a definite aroma of smoke. It was quite chilly though and I had the sudden inspiration to close the retractable roof and was on my way back to the bridge to ask them to do so when I realised we had no power so how the sodding hell were we supposed to close it then John you bloody idiot.

I returned to the bridge where I took my position by the command centre phone and waited for daybreak and the sight of the two tugs that would tow us to the promise land of hot food, hot water, coffee and toilets that didn’t have breakfast, lunch and dinner floating in them.

At 4:15 am I gave in. My eyes had bags big enough for Rosanne Barr to use them as hammocks and I knew that if I were to function properly the next day I would have to go to sleep.

I told the captain I would be back in an hour and that I would have the walkie talkie with me. The cabin was probably 80 degrees but I didn’t care. I flung myself on the bed and the moment I did I was gone……………..it was bliss.

Luckily I had realised I might be in a heavy slumber and worried that I might become Rip Van Heald I had turned the walkie talkie volume to the top and placed it next to my ear. It was a good thing because at 6:20am I was woken by an Italian talking in my ear………….something many women dream about of course.

1ST OFFICER: JOHN DO YOU COPY?

JOHN: UMMMM YES

1ST OFFICER: WERE YOU SLEEPING?

JOHN: NO OF COURSE NOT, I WAS DOING YOGA AND IN THE DOWNWARD CROUCHING YAK POSITION.

1ST OFFICER: COME TO THE BRIDGE PLEASE

I walked slowly up the stairs from deck 5 to deck 8 and while doing so I felt that this had to be good news. Maybe the chief engineer had managed to re start the engines and we would be back in Long Beach in time for lunch at Hooters. But my hopes of chicken wings and breasts were dashed as soon as I saw the captain’s face. Someone had definitely taken the jam out of his doughnut I thought. And I was right……….someone had.

CAPTAIN: ONE OF THE TUGS HAD TO TURN BACK BECAUSE OF ENGINE PROBLEMS. THE OTHER TUG WON’T BE HERE UNTIL 10 AM.

JOHN: ARE WE STILL ARRIVING ON WEDNESDAY?

CAPTAIN: NO, DURING THE NIGHT WE DRIFTED WITH THE CURRENT ABOUT 60 MILES AND WITH ONLY ONE TUG AND DEPENDANT ON WEATHER CONDITIONS WE WONT ARRIVE UNTIL THURSDAY

JOHN: OH, FOR F**K’S SAKE

This was going to be a body blow to the guests who had like me thought “OK, one more day and we can get through this.” But that one more day was now 2 more days.

I looked out to sea. The weather couldn’t make its mind up what it wanted to do. It wasn’t raining but it looked like it really wanted to. I looked at the captain. He didn’t say anything and I had nothing to say either. We both knew what each other was thinking, words therefore were unnecessary.

A few minutes later I was back in the cabin and decided to take a shower. Now I am not one for personal grooming and I have documented here on my blog thingy many times that if you were to open my bathroom cabinet you would find soap on a rope and hemorrhoid cream. But I do love hot showers. They are a wonderful place to escape the phone the guests and the raspberry. It’s just me and my Head and Shoulders.

But of course we had no hot water and if I hadn’t smelled like an elephant’s scrotum I probably wouldn’t have had one. But I did and here I am to tell you that as I washed myself with freezing cold water I tried to take my mind of what had happened and what was going to happen so I thought of Kye and Heidi who were at home and who were no doubt concerned. I hadn’t been able to call them and suddenly under those jets of icy water I felt another stream of water running down my cheeks.

GOOD MORNING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. IT’S 9 AM AND I HOPE YOU MANAGED TO GET SOME SLEEP. I MANAGED AN HOUR DURING WHICH I HAD AN EROTIC DREAM ABOUT CRISPY BACON……….LOTS OF CRISPY BACON………AND TOAST ………. AND EGGS OVEREASY AND……………..PAUSE FOR HEAVY BREATHING.

WELL I HAVE SOME VERY IMPORTANT NEWS AND IT’S THE NEWS YOU HAVE ALL BEEN WANTING TO KNOW………..KURT WARNER WAS ELIMINATED FROM DANCING WITH THE STARS.

WELL, THERE IS OTHER NEWS AND I AM SORRY TO SAY THAT ONE OF THE TUGS THAT WAS DUE TO ARRIVE THIS MORNING HAD TO ABORT THE MISSION DUE TO ENGINE PROBLEMS. THE OTHER TUG WILL ARRIVE HERE SHORTLY . NOW BECAUSE WE ARE DOWN TO ONE TUG FOR NOW AND BECAUSE WE DRIFTED 60 MILES YESTERDAY IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO GIVE YOU AN EXACT ARRIVAL TIME BUT UNFORTUNATELY IT WILL BE SOMETIME LATE ON THURSDAY.

CARNIVAL WILL MAKE SURE THAT WE PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION FOR ALL OUR GUESTS REGARDLESS OF IF YOU BOOKED YOUR RETURN FLIGHT THROUGH CARNIVAL AND ALL TRANSPORTATION COSTS WILL BE REFUNDED. THIS I KNOW IS A HUGE BLOW FOR EVERYONE BUT LETS ALL STAY AS POSITIVE AS WE CAN AND AS ALWAYS I REMAIN HERE TO BE YOUR EYES AND EARS AS TO WHAT IS HAPPENING. BY THE WAY…..IF ANYONE HAS UNDERPANTS WITH TWO OR MORE X’S ON THE LABEL………….CAN I BORROW SOME……………MEN’S …… WOMEN’S ……. DOESN’T MATTER.

By the way……….just an FYI……..five guests dropped underpants off at the guest services desk …………..and one …………….and yes I swear this is true…………..was a ladies pair. Who knew they made G Strings that big?

And so now we come to the part of the story where I am going to change tact. I realise this is one heck of a long thingy but there is so much more to cover. Over the next two days lots of things happened so rather than flip flop between them I am going to address the subjects that I feel need to be heard about what happened onboard. I have seen and read the breaking news as Channel 7 presents “Ship of death and take us live to San Diego as passengers get off ‘the cruise from hell’” before cutting to a story about a jet skiing dog.

There has been some truth and loads of bollocks written and rumoured and so I want to take you through what life was like onboard and what did and didn’t happen. They are in no particular order and I have included any mistakes I feel I have made and how God forbid if we ever had to go through this again…………how we could improve.

So, you may want to put the kettle on and make a cuppa tea first because ………..here we go.

1. Tugs
Well let’s start with one of the heroes and when I first heard the name of the tug that was allegedly coming to our rescue I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or vomit. That’s because as has been well documented………….the name of the tug was the Chihuahua…..named after the smallest dog………in the world. After all we had been through they sent the Chihuahua. Hearing this news was like hearing Mel Gibson is coming to your son’s bar mitzvah. How the heck was she going to pull the Carnival Splendor, 3,299 guests and 1,200 crew? Maybe when she arrived she would look more like a Rottweiler than…..and with apologies to Chihuahua owners ….. a rat.

10 pm arrived and the decks were packed with people wanting to see the massive titan of a vessel that was going to tow us to San Diego. Well, when she arrived I am sure 3,299 guests, 1,198 crew, one Italian captain and one fat British cruise director all probably said in unison…..”Oh ….. my….God.” And as my ex-girlfriend Sarah once said “It’s tiny, how is that going to get the job done?”

As she sat under the bow she dwarfed by the ship. I gave her as much hope of pulling the 113,000-ton Carnival Splendor as a stray Chihuahua dog has of survival after falling asleep outside a Korean restaurant. But I was wrong. After a lengthy hook up procedure the little Chihuahua started to pull and once she got pulled us as easily as pulling a greased stick out of a pig’s bottom. She was simply brilliant and without her and her captain and crew we would…. well who knows. So just in case her captain and crew are reading this let me say a huge “grasyarse” (spelt correctly) because your little Chihuahua became a pack of sleigh dogs and pulled us all the way home. On Wednesday morning we were joined by another tug. I have no idea what she was called because I told the guests her name was the “Shitzu”……and our thanks to her captain and crew, as well.

2. United States Coast Guard
What a fantastic sight it was on Tuesday morning when a 150-foot USCG cutter appeared on our portside. I think I speak for everyone when I say that seeing them gave everyone a lift in spirits. They were there to look after us and to chaperon us all the way to San Diego. While most of us think of the ocean as a place to relax on or eat out of or swim in, thousands of men and women from the United States Coast Guard will board their boats and helicopters, knowing that they may face huge waves, blizzards, gales and sub-zero temperatures. Lives will be saved. When they have finished, they will go home and wait until the next call-out. Remarkably, these men and women will not be expecting public recognition for their bravery. But then, as one of the young lieutenants I met on the Carnival Splendor told me……..”We are not in it for the glory.”

We often talk about the armed services but as often as we do we fail to remember the USCG. Well that didn’t happen last week because as the small boat carrying a dozen U.S. Coast Guard personnel arrived on the port aft of the ship…….a huge cheer (instigated a bit by me) went up for them as they boarded. They were there to advise and to help and their presence and that of the their ship which stayed by our side gave all the guests a wonderful secure feeling. When we arrived back in San Diego I made a few announcements over the PA system thanking many different groups of people……one of the loudest cheers was for them. And as I sit here writing this …………..I am giving them another huge cheer now.

3. United States Navy
If seeing the United States Coast Guard cutter was an awesome sight then having the USS Ronald Regan aircraft carrier 200 meters off the port bow was a sight of biblical proportions. We had been told that a ship from the US Navy was on its way to help us with some supplies and to make sure everything was OK but nothing prepared us for the awesome sight of the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered super carrier. Their crew seemed as interested in us as we all were with them as they lined the decks taking photos of the stricken cruise ship as we in turn took photos of the ship and her crew that has seen much more serious action than their current mission. In the next few days I will be posting some photos of my experiences these past few days and the ones of this ship and her crew will steal that particular show for sure. They of course helped with the transportation of 20 pallets of food and provisions sent by the home office and we all owe the captain and her crew so very much………not just for the day they spent with us………….but for so much more.

4. Toilets and Living Conditions
Well here we go then and let me start by saying that there is no doubt that the living conditions aboard the Carnival Splendor were challenging in many different ways. Obviously the first thing I need to talk about here are the toilets which for all of Monday and the wee hours of Tuesday didn’t flush. And when toilets don’t flush…….they smell. There is no reason to hide this fact because that would be just silly. The stateroom stewards worked so hard to use chemicals to make things better but there is only so much you can do. The toilet system works with EVAC suction. There are 5 units which power the toilets throughout the vessel and with no power….. they simply don’t work. So yes, Monday and Tuesday were very difficult days and all the reports you have read in the press are true with the exception of one person who told Fox News that there were bags filled with vomit lining the corridors. That is a lie. The end.

As I have mentioned before the engineers were making the return of the toilet service one of their main priorities and when they realised that getting propulsion back was not going to be possible Chief Mario and his team worked on the EVAC system. It was 1 am on Tuesday when I got a call from Duncan the hotel director who by the way was totally brilliant throughout this whole situation. Duncan is from the UK and so our conversation was ummmm……very British.

DUNCAN: JOHN, GREAT NEWS AND NOT SO GREAT NEWS. I AM WITH THE CHIEF AND HE HAS MANAGED TO DIVERT POWER FROM THE EMERGENCY GENERATOR TO THE TOILET SYSTEM AND THEY WILL NOW WORK.

JOHN: THAT’S BRILLIANT NEWS MATE – I WILL TELL THE GUESTS NOW

DUNCAN: HOLD ON THEIR JOHNNY BOY – ONLY EVAC 1, 2, 3 AND 4 ARE WORKING – NUMBER 5 IS TOTALLY WANKERED (MEANS KAPUT, BROKEN ETC)

JOHN: THAT’S THE AFT SECTION RIGHT?

DUNCAN: YES…….LET’S MAKE AN ANNOUNCEMENT TELLING THE GUESTS ON THE FORWARD AND MIDDLE SECTION THAT THEIR STATEROOM STEWARDS ARE NOW FLUSHING THE TOILETS AND THAT WE SUGGEST TO THE AFT SECTION THAT THEY USE THE PUBLIC BATHROOMS ON DECKS 3,4,5,9 AND 10 AND 11 AND ASK THE GUESTS WHOSE TOILETS ARE WORKING NOT TO USE THE PUBLIC BATHROOMS.

JOHN: OK MATE

And that’s exactly what I did and it was a difficult announcement to make. Telling the majority of guests that their toilets were working again was tainted by having to tell 200 cabins that theirs were not and to use the public restrooms. The cabins in the aft section were in the same area where the fire was located and so they definitely got the worst of it for sure. The engineers miraculously got EVAC 5 working and that meant all of the toilets were now working. But there is no doubt that when they were not it was very unpleasant indeed and for that I am so very sorry.

Living conditions on a whole were as I said challenging. Walking the stairs was for some people extraordinarily difficult, myself included. Living in an inside cabin in the dark must have been hard. Luckily the outside temperature was not so high but even at 75 degrees, not having air conditioning left everyone feeling hot and sticky with only the thought of a freezing cold shower to look forward to. Obviously there was no power which meant no shows but that didn’t stop my team putting together all day activities which they did through a bull horn. There were trivia contests and games and scavenger hunts and dance classes and the musicians all put on acoustic performances which I am told everyone really enjoyed. I was very proud of my team and I owe them a lot. Overall I think its fare to say that the day time was fine but at night…….well that was the time when I think guests really just couldn’t wait to get to land……..and who can blame them?

5. Food
The chef and his team under the management of Renil, our F&B manager, and Duncan, the hotel director, somehow managed to feed 3,299 people and 1,200 crew under the most extreme circumstances. We had no power which meant of course no hot food so the 80 chefs complimented by the waiters made sandwiches and salads morning, noon and night. Some sandwiches were very good indeed and some were not. But they could only work with what they had and considering what they had was limited at best…….well I think they did a marvelous job. We had no power to the freezers which meant so much food was spoiled and how sad it was to learn that hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of food was written off as spoilage. I read a report on CNN that said we served mayonnaise sandwiches which is not correct.

The fact that they managed to give the variety of cold food that they did was stunning and I salute their work and endeavors. However……I must say that I would rather eat boiled yak thingy ……. than ever have to eat a sandwich again. Subway my arse.

6. Spam
When I was at school I loved Spam. It was offered every day and on Friday things got really exciting as it was offered……in batter. Spam was so popular Monty Python wrote a song about it which I used to sing while standing in line to order Spam for lunch……..Spam was part of my world and I embraced it with open arms.

Now I am older, I hate Spam and if someone put it in front of me just the smell would make me feel sick.

I guess my hatred for this mystery of meats must have been shared by some boffin who when the Internet was invented decided to call all the crap and unwanted e-mails that nobody wants “Spam” and when I returned home from not having any internet on the Carnival Splendor my inbox was full of the bloody stuff.

Now, I am supposed to have a filter thingy for my Yahoo account but it filters bugger all and today when I checked my e-mail I had 56 slices of Spam.

This morning when I logged on to my computer, my inbox was stuffed to overflowing with messages, none of which ever has anything to do with work or messages from friends. Most are from companies offering me Viagra and loans to pay for it. Then there are e-mails from someone I’ve never met telling me that they had sex last night with someone called Melissa.

I also was threatened with violence today by one of those awful e-mails that states that if you don’t forward it on to at least 10 people you will get the bubonic plague…and die. Today’s such threat came in the form of a beautiful waterfall and beneath it a poem about love for your fellow mankind and how we must all embrace our fellow man … then in small print at the bottom were some words telling me that if I didn’t forward this e-mail than I was a complete and utter scum with no more right to live on God’s green earth than a dung beetle……who writes these things?

Anyway the press has made a huge fuss about Spam. Let me confirm that we ordered cold cuts and amongst the baloney, corned beef, pastrami and ham they also sent us Spam. It was never served to guests or to crew and those who said it was are misinformed.

7. Kids
I felt so sorry for the kids. They had been looking forward to pools and slides and fun and games and sand and beaches and swimming and fun. They got very little of any of that. On Monday when the fire broke out everything was happening and I didn’t have chance to think about the kids. But on Monday I opened Camp Carnival, Circle C and Club O2. Yes they were warm and yet just getting the kids playing and keeping them occupied really helped I think and the youth director and her team were fantastic. I also asked the chef if we could feed the kids there rather than have them stand in line. He agreed of course and this really helped although their constant requests for nuggets, pizza and fries made us all feel so sorry for them. While Mum and Dad understood what was happening a four year old doesn’t and that must have been so difficult for the parents to explain. I have to admit that I was giving silent thanks that Heidi and Kye and disembarked a few weeks before all of this happened.

8. The Bars
As soon as the fire was out and the guests allowed to return to their cabins we opened the bars for complimentary sodas and water but no alcohol was served. At that time we had no idea what was going to happen next and if later that day another fire had broken out and we had to put guests at their muster stations the last thing we want is hundreds of people sponsored by free Bud Light. However, once the ship was under tow we made the decision to open the bars on a complimentary basis. And they remained free until we arrived into San Diego. Amazingly we didn’t have any incidents with excessive drinking. Yes, there were some happy people for sure but I think in the back of everyone’s mind was that they to didn’t know what was going to happen next and therefore were pretty responsible.

9. Other Free Stuff
Well I had made plenty of announcements that contained bad news so when I got to tell the guests that they were all getting a full refund, a free cruise to the value that they had paid for the one they were on and a full refund on all transportation costs and that Carnival would provide all guests that needed a hotel on Thursday night with a complimentary room……..well even I could hear the cheers and applause from the bridge.

All Sail & Sign purchases from the very start of the cruise were also waived and the man that bought a Tag Heuer watch from the gift shop must have been one very happy chappy indeed. Carnival didn’t sing its own praises about this but I will…….because it is a very generous thing to have done. The only person who is upset is a certain guest who wrote me a letter that on Sunday night his wife had seen a diamond ring in the gift shop for $2,100. He was going to buy it but his wife said she wanted to look in Mexico first…………oops.

10. Mistakes
Well there is no doubt that as a CD I learned a lot from this experience and as a company I think we learned a lot as well. Obviously as I don’t have a beard I can’t speculate as to what caused this to happen but in time we will all know and this knowledge will help the tofu eaters makes sure it doesn’t happen again and if it does they can find ways to make sure our number two’s disappear when we press the button.

As for other mistakes, well we realised we had made a huge one when we only opened the dining room for lunch and dinner on Monday. This caused Harry Potteresque lines and that caused people to get grumpy. This was a big mistake and one we rectified for all the meals the next day.

There was also mention in the press that I didn’t mention the word fire. Well they are right and wrong. If you remember part one of my memoirs you will remember that the initial reports were that the fire teams could only see smoke………there were no flames. And that was the message I conveyed to the guests. The first time I mentioned the word fire was when the cabling ignited. Maybe some people found this misleading for which I apologise but I was only trying to provide the guests with the facts and not to expand on them or speculate as to what might be.

There are other areas for discussion for sure. Should I have told the guests to bring their life jackets with them when I asked them to move to the open decks? The crew were in theirs after all. Ultimately, they didn’t need them but should I have insisted? I am still second guessing myself over this. As I mentioned, it was very dark with no lighting. Does this mean we should suggest to guests to have a flashlight with them when they come on the cruise? I want to be open and honest here but honestly, I think for the most part everybody, both on board and shore side handled the situation brilliantly.

There were guests that had specific challenges, such as having no power for PAP sleeping machines. There was little we could do about that but we need to look at ways that we can improve here. I read some comments about people worried about medicine, such as insulin, which needs to be refrigerated. I want to insure you that while the cabin refrigerators were not working, the one in the medical centre was supplied by the emergency generator. This meant that we were able to store guest’s medicines for them. If you were on the cruise and you saw something that you feel we could have done better, please let me know.

Crew
From the moment the fire alarm sounded to the helping the last guests ashore with their luggage, the crew were epic. I saw a 20 year old dancer carrying a suitcase from deck 7 all the way to deck 0 and then she went back to do it again. I saw a line of 50 food and beverage employees form a human chain to supply lido deck with food from the stairs on deck 3 all the way up to deck 9. I saw 4 photographers carry a lady in a wheelchair from her cabin to breakfast, lunch and dinner and I saw spa therapists patrol the corridors at night to make sure everyone was OK. I saw staff members handing out medallions and trophies to children telling them they had won the “Brave Award” and I saw every single crew member give their all. In my 24 years at sea I have never been in a situation like this and I have never, ever been so proud to be part of a team as brilliant and as historic as the Carnival Splendor crew.

Guests
Yes, there are those who said they will never cruise again and referred to their 4 days on board as “hell.” But I am sure this was a kneejerk reaction and probably one experience by mostly first time cruisers. I hope they take advantage of the free cruise so they can truly experience what we all know to be the most fun vacation in the world. But overall, the guests were fantastic. They understood, they listened and they were kind to the crew. They were also thankful, I think, to the way they were treated both on board and by the way our shore side team looked after them both with compensation and care.

When I told the guests we would arrive into San Diego earlier than expected there were huge cheers but as they left, people looked up to the bridge and waved and cheered and some blew kisses and some shed tears. It was an emotional time for everyone. A mixture of worry, uncertainty and adventure. I want to take this opportunity to thank those who sailed on the cruise of November 7 and I hope that you will book your complimentary cruise soon and I hope that I am lucky enough to be the cruise director when you do. I have a Bloggers Cruise on February the 27 on the Carnival Glory. Book that one and you get a free sandwich.

The Future
As you can see, today we announced the cancellation of a number of cruises and this will leave many very, very disappointed, for which I send my heartfelt apologies. It is my intention now to join the Carnival Splendor for one week on her first cruise back in service. I feel like there is unfinished business there, so I intend to be her cruise director for that first week back, maybe some of you will join me.

The press were looking for a story, a story of hundreds of angry guests spitting venom towards Carnival Cruise Lines but the only story they could find was Spam and that’s because Carnival, the world’s most popular cruise line, did the right thing. It’s 4 days I will never forget and these memoirs have attracted close to 400,000 views on the blog in the last few days with a over 8 million views overall. I appreciate everyone taking the time to read my musings. Tomorrow, I will take a day off and on Thursday will return with a regular blog about life and the Fun For All cruising so hopefully some will stay with me.

During the fire I did my best, I did my very best to keep people calm, informed and in good spirits. I have no idea if I succeeded but hopefully I did. I can tell you I was scared and worried and through it all, all I could think about was my wife and daughter and how scared and worried they must have been but the ship arrived safe and there were no injuries and nothing else matters.

I like to make one more apology before I go — to Ketut, my stateroom steward, who at the best of times hates cleaning my bathroom. So I can only imagine how he felt when he entered the cabin today for the first time and saw the results of me peeing in the dark. I can only hope he did not call the bridge for the Alpha team to come and put out the smoke, pouring from 4 days worth of unwashed underpants.

I will see you all on Thursday and thank you so very much for being my friend.

Goodnight,
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.