Almost Back To Normal

November 18, 2010 -

John Heald

It’s hard to remember anything about my last cruise on the Carnival Splendor outside of  what happened early Monday morning. I remember the poor guests whose luggage fell in the water thanks to some not so skillful forklift driving skills of a Long Beach stevedore. But apart from that most of Sunday is a bit of a blur. However, I do remember a beautiful 11-year-old girl who was part of my Sunday show and the reason I remember her is because of her name.

Up until the last few days before our daughter was born Heidi and I had many a heated discussion about what we were going to call her. My first choice was actually Sophie which is a good old-fashioned English name. We also discussed Alexandria which eventually we said no to because she would of course have become Alex. In the end we went with Kye because that’s what Heidi wanted and what Heidi wants Heidi gets…….. because that’s the law.

Naming a child is a huge decision to make and these day’s it seems that you can now call a child anything that comes out of a bag of Scrabble letters. I am sure we have all met people with exotic names like Mercedes, Chardonnay, Seniquiere…… and Jennifer. Absolutely anything will do, except perhaps names like O.J., Adolf …………. and anything that sounds slightly French.

I bring this subject up because I had this young lady pull the raffle prize out of the bucket at the Fun Ashore, Fun Onboard talk. I asked her how old she was — “11,” she replied. I then asked her name and I kid you not when I tell you she said “Candle”….. I thought she said “Candi” so I asked her again and she said “Candle.”

She had obviously been through this scenario before because even without me asking her to, she spelt it out “C  A  N  D  L  E.”  Now obviously this little girl was 11 years old and what could I say but “What a beautiful name, you were called after a candle burning bright and lighting up a room while my name is John, named after a toilet.”

But what I was really thinking was “What the heck kind of name is Candle?” Maybe she was conceived by candlelight, maybe her mother had hot wax poured onto her nip…….. never mind….. but Candle…….. poor kid?

As I said, Heidi and I had many a good chat about what we were going to call the then “thingy.” What makes it even more complicated is that it is difficult to name something that doesn’t actually exist. And even if you wait for the head to pop out, you still only end up with a baby that looks exactly like every other baby that’s ever been born. I’m surprised nobody has ever called a baby “Will you stop crying so I can get some bloody sleep” or “Noisy Sod.”

Parents today have millions of options what to call their children and yet amongst all the name possibilities Candle’s parents chose Candle. But there is another problem. If you have to give your daughter a name without knowing how your 8 pound bundle of poo and sick will grow up to look like. Will she be a Megan Fox or a Judge Judy? And that’s before we get to the problems of geography, because you can call your son Jesus if you live in Chile or Peru but not if you live in Valdosta, Georgia, or Southend-On-Sea, Essex.

The next problem for Candle and children with other “different” names like Prada or Diet Coke is that they will no doubt come across other kids who will not see anything in their names except a chance to subject them to some name calling and possible head down the toilet experiences. Personally I don’t think you’re interesting if you name your son Moon Unit or your daughter Blackberry. I think you’re cruel and making up for the fact that you’re called Bob or Mary. Bob and Mary are nice names……. calling your daughter after a piece of burning wax……. is just plain bonkers. And what the heck were Englebert Humperdink’s parents thinking?

Oh by the way as Candle left the stage I made a little farting noise over the microphone…… and I said that she was “A Candle In The Wind”…… everyone laughed……. except her Mum……. oops. That’s cost me another fruit basket……. which by the way, is the name of Candle’s brother.

During the last week and my long winded Smoke on the Water blogs we welcomed many thousands of new readers. In fact during the 6 days of posting this account of what happened we received a total of 453,181 visits to this blog!

Now I am sure the vast majority of those new readers have realised that there are far more interesting things to read than our blog thingy. However, if by chance a few of those readers haven’t buggered off to read CNN, FOX, MSNBC or then I should explain what is about to happen.

Each day people post comments on the blog and some ask me for a reply or ask for assistance on a forthcoming cruise. I then answer 10 questions every time I write a blog. Now before Smoke on the Water, I was about 3 or 4 weeks behind and now I am even more so even though I answered an extra large batch last week. The questions I am about to ask were posted on October 15 and were obviously written well before the Carnival Splendor incident.

Anyway, having said that let’s crack on with today’s 10……. away we go.

Sean Barry Asked:
John Please Reply,

I will be brief, I know you have lots of requests so I won’t take too much time. How early can one make reservations for the “Chef’s Table Experience” onboard the Splendor. We have just made our reservations for the 7 day cruise on the Splendor to the Mexican Riviera departing on 5/8/11 and there will be 6 of us in all. Also what is the cost? Is it too early? When do you suggest requesting a reservation?

Thanks for your help
Sean Barry

John Says:
Hello Sean Barry

The Chef’s Table can be booked as much in advance as you need. In fact for all those people who have booked their Carnival Magic I should point out that I will be taking reservations for The Chef’s Table beginning January 2.

Please can you send me another post marked CHEF’S TABLE RESERVATION and please also include the sailing date, your cabin number, the number of spaces at the table you need and an e-mail address you wish the confirmation to be sent to.

The price is $75 and includes an exclusive seven-course meal prepared by the chef and served in a private dining room. There are also some surprise gifts and of course the galley tour itself, champagne reception and the most fabulous hors d’ouevres you have ever eaten. I cannot recommend this culinary experience enough. Thanks for booking the Carnival Splendor and I will be here should you wish to make a reservation

Best wishes

Bugs Asked:
Dear John (Please Reply),

I wrote a few weeks ago about a recent cruise, but forgot to put “please reply.” My question was in regard to the surveys at the end of a cruise. When I did not receive one I asked at the Purser’s Desk (it will always be the Purser’s Desk to me) and was told they are no longer given to the passengers, but that I would be contacted by email. I had only one small issue having to do with Camp Carnival. My main interest was being able to commend some outstanding members of the crew who truly went above and beyond. Never did get the promised email. Is this how all the ships are handling the survey, or just Carnival Sensation? Another question has come up. I bought a number of Future Cruise certificates before the single supplement went to 200%. At the time of purchase I understood they would only be redeemed at 50% for a solo cruiser and understood it was to offset the 150% rate. I booked the Oct 16 Grand Med and Oct 28 Transatlantic and paid 200% for each sailing. Apparently the Future Cruise certificates will still only be redeemed at 50% even though I paid as if a second person was sharing the cabin. This does not seem fair. Your comments please? Enjoy your blog, please keep them coming.


John Says:
Hello Bugs

The comment card that was is no more and has been replaced with a review card which is e-mailed to the guest once they are at home after the cruise. I know that when we first started this that not everyone was getting their card and some were disappointed by this. Usually this was because like you they wanted to praise the crew or make us aware as to how we can improve. Hopefully now though most of you are receiving your cards online. I suggested recently that a website be set up where using their booking reference etc as log in thingies, guests could access the card and complete the survey. I will follow up on this soon.

I have to admit Bugs that I don’t understand how exactly the future cruise certificates work. I do know that it is a fact that the solo traveller pays more and therefore I would like to ask someone who can answer this for me and I will have them contact you. I want to thank you for your loyalty to Carnival and for taking the time to write. If you haven’t received a review card and would like me to address any issues you had, please let me know here on the blog thingy.

Best wishes

Janey – (OKGIRL) Asked:
John (please reply when you can),

Last week on the Conquest, Sam (entertainment staff) showed me a really cool picture on the front of the crew magazine that showed a picture of that bulb thingy that protrudes right at the water line in the front of the ship and perched on top was a sea lion!!!!!! It looked like he was in his rightful place and was ready to set sail….… It reminded me of all of the fabulous pictures that Radu has taken and I was wondering if he took that one and if so could you post it here?

I would like to make it my screen saver. In fact that brings me to another thought. Is there a place to go download screen savers of Carnival images?

Thanks for all you do, and we’ll see you on BC4!

John Says:
Hello Janey – (OKGIRL)

I haven’t seen the photo but I am guessing the magazine you are referring to is called Seaview, which is our employee newsletter produced by our shoreside team that is sent out to every Carnival employee, both aboard ship and corporate offices. It features stories about onboard events and other employee happenings and I know that every year we hold a photo contest. I will try and find out who too the photo and see if we can post it here on the blog in the next few days. I am very much looking forward to BC4 and hope that until then you will keep reading the blog thingy.

Best wishes

Vicki H Asked:
John (Please reply)

My husband and me are due to go on the Spirit to Mexico in December and there is lots of chat on Cruise Critic with members recommending we cancel all our shore excursions due to the violence in Mexico. One member told us that if Carnival felt there was any danger they would not go there but other Cruise Critic members are saying Carnival doesn’t care and will go because they make money.  I don’t know what to believe and am thinking of cancelling my cruise. Please help me!!!!!!!!!!!!

John Says:
Hello Vicki H

While I greatly respect the opinions of everyone that writes on Cruise Critic it is an opinion based site much like this blog is. However, in this case the person or persons who wrote this are totally wrong. Carnival cares………. of course we do and to say otherwise is bonkers. We monitor very carefully all the ports of call we go to and if needed take immediate steps to insure that our guests are safe.  Yes, there have been some issues in Mexico, however the incidents are not in tourist areas and the places our ships call at. So the bottom line is that we only have your best interests at heart and will always put the safety of our guests first. I know you will have a fantastic cruise and enjoy the beautiful and diverse ports of call.

Best wishes to you both

Lemurcat Asked:
Reply needed

You must be feeling so embarrassed and so stupid. You spend all those blogs making fun of RCI and the fact that they charge for steaks in their MD and then Carnival does it as well. Proves to me that you are a jerk and this blog is pathetic. What do you have to say about that then Heald?

John Says:
Hello Lemurcat.

Well ummmm………….not really. That’s because the main difference here is that our delicious flat iron steak is still available every night on every ship and there is no extra charge. There is also no extra charge for the lobster either. The steaks we are charging for are on vessels that do not have a steakhouse and therefore it gives our guests a chance to experience these amazing cuts of steakhouse meat.  And remember, this is a test.  Thanks for taking the time to write.

Best wishes
John the Jerk

Tom-n-Cheryl Asked:

These were your words from the Oct. 5, 2010 Blog:

“So as I grow old it’s the chap with flashlight that becomes my role model and not the Porsche driving Botox-filled 50 something’s. Although saying that….I would still love an Aston Martin ……..and I bet the 50 something toned and tanned men get more Latvian rumpy pumpy than a fat bent-toothed droopy-eyed cruise director….. mmmmm ………. actually ………… forget everything I have written so far………….it’s total bollocks.”

Yet when I look at your updated photo on the blog, your teeth don’t appear “bent”! Perhaps someone is trying to “spiff you up a bit” since you are, after all, getting up in years, LOL 😉


John Says:
Hello Tom and Cheryl

Yep……. those for sure are not my teeth. I have been given Hollywood smile instead of my usual bent toothed coffee and cigar-stained grin. Still……. one can dream

Best wishes to you both

Cheryl Donofrio Asked:

Hello John,

My husband and I are travel agents, and each year we do a fund-raiser cruise (on Carnival of course) to benefit our church. Every year since 2004 we’ve done this, and I always requested 2nd seating, and it was never a problem – until now. Half of our group – 9 people in fact, told me that they need to be on 1st seating. One lady has a medical condition where she has to wait 4 hours after eating to go to bed. (I knew about her condition, but didn’t know about that bit.) The others all want early seating for various reasons. I called the group department as soon as I realized there was a problem, and switched them to “your time dining”. Then the dining coordinator talked we into wait listing for early seating. I’m just afraid that they will get put into late seating because there will be no room in early seating, and they’ll all get mad and, well…I see these people every week at church. I don’t want them to think I’m an incompetent nitwit, or something. I’m throwing myself on your mercy. Is there anything you can do to help? Please?

Your Friend,
Cheryl D. (I was on the Blogger’s cruise out of NOLA.)

P.S. The group number is ______, the ship is the Carnival Pride, and the sailing date is Oct. 31, 2010. Thank you again for whatever help you can give.

John Says:
Hello Cheryl Donofrio

This is one of those questions that has escaped me because you have already sailed. I am so very sorry and I wanted to personally tell you this and hope that you all had a great cruise despite me letting you down. I am going to hope that you all got on OK despite the differences regarding the dining times. Please let me know if you have the chance that all was well and once again my sincere apologies.

Best wishes

Jill Fritz Asked:
Hi John! Please reply…..

First let me say I love reading your blog daily. It always has me laughing after a long day at work!! We are booked on back to back cruises on the Destiny Jan 20 & 24. I was wondering if you could give me any info as to what actually occurs on the 24th when we return to Miami and get ready to sail again. Will we leave the ship? Will we have to check in again? 4 of us are Platinum and 2 are not. I was just wondering who goes where and what all will happen. The second part of this cruise is with the Cruise Fools group and is all inclusive so it should be soooooo much fun!!

Thanks for any help you can give me John!! Have a great day!

John Says:
Hello Jill Fritz

Congratulations on booking your back to back cruise on the Carnival Destiny. Now on the 24th all the guests who are sailing on the next voyage will have to pass through Unites States Customs and Border Protection checks. However once that is done you will proceed directly back to the ship, have your new photo taken for your Sail & Sign card and that’s it, there is no need to go through the check in process again. I am sure you and the brilliantly named Cruise Fools group will have loads of fun. I look forward to reading your review.

Best wishes

Chris Packard Asked:

What percentage of the bars on the Carnival ships will remain smoking when Carnival is all done with these changes? It is looking more and more like my Wife and I will have to look for other venues of relaxation for the few days we get together each year as I don’t feel it is right to expect us to leave a bar where we are trying to have a good time to walk basically outside in the wind and weather to have a cigarette. Oh I understand that we can go to what one or two other bars and have a smoke and then if we can find a seat say back in the piano bar we can go back and enjoy a bit more music.

We had in fact just decided to book a cruise on the Carnival Splendor but will not be because it would not be a very splendid vacation for us. I also understand that the loss of revenue from just the two of us will not make any difference to Carnival Corp so it doesn’t really matter. Carnival is doing a great job of telling smokers they are not really welcome with the additions of adult only areas that we have to leave to have a smoke, the doing away with smoking Cigar bars and yes I understand that this was just a test but the thought was there and now a couple more places that forbid smoking.

Also what is it with not allowing electronic smokes except in smoking areas? If a person is using one of them it is probably because they are trying to quit and now you send them to be around other smokers. BOY that is as helpful as telling a person that is quitting drinking they have to sit at the bar. On the bright side I enjoy your blog and read it every day because it makes my time here in Iraq pass with at least a laugh a day. It is also a very informative place to come to find out about all the changes being instituted.

Keep up the great job and we both will be looking forward to sailing with you again as we did in the Med on the beautiful Carnival Freedom where I got to share a few minutes with you in the cigar bar.

John Says:
Hello Chris Packard

Let me quickly start by letting you know that with regard to the electronic cigarettes, Carnival’s policy is that it is allowed in all public areas minus the main dining rooms. This means you can smoke it in all the bars and lounges and casino and in the cabins, etc.

Smoking continues to be a thought-provoking subject and I understand both sides of the argument. As it stands now every ship has an indoor smoking area and we do not make guests smoke only outside. These rules are of course more liberal than those on land and specifically at land based hotels and resorts where smokers are indeed for the most part forced to stand outside.

I promise to keep you informed if and when anything changes. My personal opinion is that we need to keep one lounge smoking and make it a fun place to be. What we don’t need to do is subject people who don’t appreciate cigar or cigarette smoke to have to walk through it to get to another location. Carnival will continue to do it’s best to provide environments for both smokers and non smokers alike. I hope we get to share some cigar time soon. Best wishes and thanks for writing


Jaguarmassive99 Asked:
John (Please Reply)

Will you please confirm if the rumor on Cruise Critic is true that Carnival is going to take the Fascination away from Jacksonville? This is so bad if it’s true. We have sailed on her 5 times and love the ship. Please tell me it ain’t so


John Says:
Hello Jaguarmassive99

I am happy to confirm that there are no plans to take the Carnival Fascination away from Jacksonville. So go now and book cruise number 6 and thanks so much for your loyalty.

Best wishes

And that’s all for today. Please make sure if you need anything arranged for a cruise to allow as much time as possible…..maybe even 8 weeks in advance as I hate to disappoint people. I must also say that the comments you all wrote about the Carnival Splendor incident were absolutely brilliant and especially the ones about the crew and how much you appreciated their hard work. I want to say a special thanks to the people who were actually on the ship during this challenging time. Your compassion for each other and the crew was extraordinary and I have collated all your reviews and passed them back to the ship and Hotel Director Duncan who is still there. He is going to make sure they are all posted on the ship when she returns to service in January.

A lot of you have asked about the crew who were serving on the Carnival Splendor and what will happen to them. Well, a skeleton crew will remain on the ship. These will include people to cook meals for the technicians who will be on the vessel these next few days and some housekeeping staff. Most crew though will be reassigned to other ships and I suspect that when the ship does re-enter service that many of the crew will not have been onboard during the incident.

One crew member who is determined to be there is me. I feel so guilty having left her in that state and need to put proper closure on my time there. I have asked Carnival to allow me to do this and so far they have agreed. I also left some unwashed underpants in the cabin as well as my hemorrhoid cream and my Latvian Women in Suspenders DVD and I want all of them back.

Before the start of the now infamous November 7 cruise on the Carnival Splendor I had lost a battle…..a battle to save someone from my department being fired. I had done my best to counsel him and get him through his problem with alcohol but I failed and that made me feel so mad at myself. Carnival has a very strict policy with its crew and how much they can drink. But this chap……well it went well beyond that. I spent time with him talking and begging him to get help because he was so very good at his job and a wonderful person to be around……when he was sober. He is moderate in most things, except booze. I really tried helping him through a detox period. I banned him from the guest lounges and the crew lounge but without medically qualified supervision I guess it was never going to work. I asked his cabin mate to keep an eye on him and let me know what was happening. But how could we keep watch on him day and night? And then something happened that resulted in me having no choice but to relieve him of his position. Words can never describe watching a forty year old man cry like a baby and beg you not to fire him….. to tell you that he has no family or home to go to and that even though you have no choice you really want to give him a hug and one more chance. But I couldn’t. The rules are in place for obvious reasons as we saw just two days later. I mean how could this chap have helped the guests during the fire and indeed, how could he have helped himself?

My hope is that he will get help, professional help and change his life for the better…… but my heart tells me that things are only going to get worse for him and the drink will one day soon take his life. I failed him and I feel a total bastard for doing so.

On much happier note your Carnival Magic is as you know under construction in Italy. One of the people who often get to see her long before the rest of us is my mate Preston Bircher, who is the technical manager for all our amazing shows. He designs the lighting and oversees the construction of all the entertainment spaces onboard. Preston is currently in the shipyard and sent me a few photos which because he has a beard were taken with an Eye Phone. Here they are.

The man himself


Starboard-side Lanai


The symbol of fun


20-story gantry crane


Custom-made yellow elevator lifts pre-built staterooms into the ship!

I am going to visit the ship in January and before then I am sure Preston and his Eye Phone will be sending us more photos. Don’t forget to visit the ship’s very own website at

I can’t wait to see her and I will be featuring much more about her in the coming weeks. Tomorrow I will feature an interview with our brand new Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Mr. Mark Tamis. He has an incredible background in the hospitality industry and I know you will truly enjoy what he has to say. I hope you will all join me for that.

Yesterday I did an interview for Cruise Critic. The questions were as I expected and I understand the fascination with what happened. I am though now I think wanting to move on and you will see during next week’s blogs I will be writing less about the past and more about the present and the future.

However, before I do move on I realise that while apologizing to the guests who were onboard and those whose vacation plans have been changed that I forgot to apologise to two people who deserves my most sincere apology. They are Richard Fain, chairman of RCI, and Adam Goldstein, the company’s president and CEO.

Their brand new ship and the world’s largest cruise ship the Allure of the Seas arrived into Florida last week and I am truly sorry that all their plans for an exuberant and extravagant arrival were ruined. You have to feel sorry when a billion dollar brand new cruise ship is taken off the front page……………. by a $3 can of Spam.


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.