Flying these days is about as much fun as spending a week in a Turkish prison. I already had a crap morning driving on snowy motorways to Heathrow. Once there I parked my car at the £200,009,876 a day parking facility and walked to check in where a 17 year old Virgin asked me if I had packed my suitcase myself. Oh by the way when I say the 17 year old was a Virgin I mean she works for Virgin Atlantic not that she was a virgin because she is 17 year old Londoner which means she obviously isn’t.

And then of course the fun really starts as it’s time to do the security dance. Belt off, bend my fat arse over to surrender shoes depriving myself of oxygen as I do. Place laptop computer and all jokes about exploding underpants in the tray and then walk through the magic arch to be groped by a 300 pound bearded security person called Martha. Yep, I was mentally prepared for this but I wasn’t prepared for what happened next because the UK government asked to see my thingy.

I’d made it through the magic metal detector, the Harry Potter wand and Martha’s massage. My carry on had been emptied of all food items and my hemorrhoid cream was deemed fit to be allowed onboard and I had passed the test which involved a chap wiping a tissue all over my lap top and bizarrely the zip of my carry on.

I was just looking forward to overpaying for a bottle of water and taking a poo when another man came over and told me that he’d randomly selected me to go through his brand new and very Star Trek ………..full frontal body scanner.

Now, let me just set the scene here. I had been up since 4:30 am. I had to say goodbye again to my beautiful girls. I had driven in blizzard like conditions. A 17 year old had asked me ridiculous questions. I had to remove my belt, my shoes, my laptop and a lady called Martha had touched me in a place that is usually reserved for my wife, Megan Fox and anyone from Latvia ……………….oh and I had a turtle’s head in my underpants. I wasn’t happy. And so I had a conversation with Barry the security chap as he led me to the scanner thingy.

JOHN: “Is this the one that sees you naked?”
BARRY: “Yes although you won’t be recognisable.”
JOHN: “What do you mean I won’t be recognizable. When I come out all mushed up and assembled back together the wrong way round and half melded with a Klingon like when the transporter goes wrong in Star Trek”
(Now I said this in jest and in fun but honestly………..I swear on all I love …….this was his reply)
BARRY: “If you don’t take this seriously, sir, I can have you arrested.”

And at that point I shut up because even though that statement was absolutely ridiculous it was also absolutely true. He could have me arrested and taken to a small dark room where I would be water boarded and hung upside down by my bollocks before being flown to some former Russian state……………….. and shot in the head.

I hadn’t made a terrorist joke, I hadn’t even mentioned that he might see more than he bargained for on his scanner because the chili con carne I had for dinner last night was now half in and half out. Nope……I had made some light reference to Star Trek and he had threatened me with arrest.

So me and my new best mate Barry walked in silence to the scanner thingy. I had to wait though because other passengers had been randomly selected including a 10 year old boy with blonde hair and blue eyes who looked about as threatening as a Pop Tart.

Then it was my turn. All I could think about (apart from the situation of my bottom which was getting desperate) was the Arnold Swazathingy movie. Now as I sit here on the plane writing this I can’t remember the name of the movie but its set on a planet in the future and he has to walk through a scanner that shows he is hung like a yak and that he’s carrying a few guns…..oh bugger ……….what the heck is the name of that movie? Anyway, I was led inside a quite claustrophobic closet-sized booth. I was instructed to stand, legs apart, facing forwards. Then I had to put my arms in the air, as though you are (ironically) surrendering to a terrorist with a gun and stand still.

I was then asked to turn round, so they can make sure my bottom didn’t have a terrorist hiding in it …………well actually it did have………..his name was ……thanks to last night’s dinner ………. Mushafa Shite
I was then told to step out again.

And with a quick “Thank you sir” it was all over. As I walked through the duty free all I could think about was what had happened to my naked portrait. Was it now deleted or had Barry made a print out of it to show his mates down the pub later that night “Oi, come and look at this fat bloke with a thingy the size of a baby carrot.”

Do I feel violated? Yes, a bit, but what can you do? This is the world we live in although I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to put that 10 year old kid through the machine. Pat him down and put him through the normal security check but that’s it. I wonder if we will ever see this kind of thing on the ships. Will one day all our guests have to go through this kind of machine? Maybe and not only will it enable us to see if anyone has some C4 implanted in their genitals but also and nearly as importantly it will allow us to catch all the smugglers who have bottles of rum and vodka taped to their inner thigh.

Now it’s time for me to do some Q and A. We are 2 hours into the flight and I have politely refused the in-flight meal because I had something to eat before I got on the plane and because the last thing my bottom needs after the chili con carne is some airline mystery meat. Anyway, I will try and get as much done here at 35,000 feet as I can but it depends on how long my battery lasts. “Why didn’t you bring a charger?” I hear you cry. Well I did but Virgin doesn’t have a plug that looks like a plug, you need a cigarette lighter plug thingy and obviously I don’t have one.

Anyway, let’s crack on for as long as we can with today’s Q and A.

David from Hilton Head Asked:
Please reply John

Just returned from the Conquest and the crew and the food were fantastic and the steak house was worth three times the $30. The one thing I have to complain about was the way the awful Texans dressed. It was disgusting that the maitre dees let them in the dining room on formal night in JEANS! There were at least a dozen that I counted. I thought this was not allowed. My question is simple are jeans allowed in the dining room yes or no? I posted this also on Cruise Critic and my fellow members all agreed that this was not right.

John Says:
Hello David from Hilton Head,

Well let’s start with me saying how happy I am that you had a great time and enjoyed the crew, the food and the brilliant steakhouse.

We certainly have become more relaxed over the years but on elegant nights we are not supposed to allow jeans in the dining room. However, having sailed out of Galveston on the Carnival Conquest I do know that Texans do like to dress down a bit and that a good pair of jeans is for some quite formal. It is hard for the maitre d to monitor what everyone is wearing and unless they come in wearing jeans with holes or shorts it might not be so obvious that someone is wearing jeans. Now it is also a difficult situation for a maitre d to go up to a table and tell someone to leave when they are wearing jeans. Shorts, baseball caps and tank tops……well that’s a much easier situation and the truth of the matter is that some maitre d’s will avoid confrontation with a guest if possible.

Now, I know that we have the lido alternative dining area and some may say that if we have a policy then we should stick to it and they are probably right. But I have always said that it certainly doesn’t spoil the enjoyment of my dinner if someone else is wearing jeans and if I may respectfully point out you started your post by saying how much you enjoyed the food which I hope in small small way compliments this point.

I had a wonderful time sailing out of Galveston and am looking forward to doing so again on your Carnival Magic and I hope you will join me.

Best wishes
John

Mal Gardiner Asked:
John, please reply if you get a chance. Please excuse the repost from a few days back, I forgot to put the “please reply” at the top.

G’day John, Mal here. We had the pleasure of sailing with you on the Splendor in 2008 from Dover via St Petersburg around to Rome (we gave you the Godfather picture that I drew) and have been looking forward to our next Carnival cruise ever since.

Well, success! We’ve booked our next back to back for November and December next year on the Spirit (our second back to back on her) out of LA – we get our first taste of the Mexican Riviera with a six day trip to Cabo, then follow it up with fifteen days roundtrip to Hawaii (my favourite place to visit by sea, both in the Navy and as a passenger). We were lucky enough to get a 7A balcony for both itineraries, so now it’s just a matter of checking the countdown clock! These will be numbers 5 and 6 with Carnival, so we’re well on the way to Platinum S&S cards now…

A quick question – Carnival Australia has said that this summer season will be the biggest for the company yet, with up to fifteen vessels sailing out of Australian ports at various times. This, of course, covers the Princess, P&O, Holland, and Cunard ships – but no Carnival vessels.

When are we going to see the big red whale tail down here? The only reason Alexis and I limit ourselves to cruising you guys every two years is the ridiculous cost of airfares – we prefer the Carnival brand and vessels, so that’s our choice. If there were a red funnel or two based down here, we’d be Platinum plus inside of three years. I realise that this may just be wishful thinking, but the cruise market is the strongest growing segment of the travel industry down here at the moment, and the very strong Aussie dollar, coupled with the current economic boom, means that people have money to spend on good holidays.

Just a thought and here’s hoping we see “Carnival Something” cruising out of Fremantle or Sydney sometime soon. Me, I’m just counting down to November 27 2011 when we cross the brow into the Spirit atrium again and forget the world for three weeks.

Please pass my best wishes and condolences to the crew for yesterday’s incident – we lost a young able seaman over the side on my last warship in 2002, and it’s a terrible thing to happen to any ship’s company.

Cheers mate, and best to Heidi and Kye,
Mal and Alexis Gardiner

John Says:
Hello Mal Gardiner,

First of all let me tell you that the godfather picture you so brilliantly sketched is staring at me right now as it sits on my cruise wall here in my little office at home. Thank you again for that wonderful memory and I hope you have some fantastic memories of our time together in Europe.

Many congratulations on booking your back to back on the Carnival Spirit and her brilliant itinerary will be thrilling for you. I have as you know spent some time in the Mexican Riviera and if you need any advice on what to do and see please let me know.

I realise that my Australian friends have a long way to come to experience the fun for all style of Carnival cruising and I truly appreciate this. Australians are really catching cruise fever at the moment and as you said our sister company P&O are having a boom time at the moment. I guess the biggest compliment to Aussies and how much they love cruising is to mention that when any new ship comes into Sydney Harbour the crowds gather and when that ship is a Cunard ship ……. well thousands line the harbour walls.

You asked if Carnival will ever send a ship to Australia. Well…………..if you asked me 10 years ago if a Carnival ship would ever sail in Europe I would have said “no.” So my answer to “will Carnival sail to Australia one day is simply “ never say never.”

My apologies in advance that you lost the ashes……..that’s cricket for my North American friends and I can’t explain it because by the time I had finished many of you reading this ………… will have died.

Best wishes and hope to see you one day soon.
John

Catherine Thomas Asked:
John please reply,

First off I am sorry that you are feeling so bad. Have you tried a Nettie pot and saline to help with your sinuses? It really works. The other thing is that you are doing a bloggers cruise next Feb. are you going to be the cruise director? We are doing a B2B on the Glory on the 23rd and 30th of Jan. 2011. Will you be on the ship, or is there going to be another cruise director? As well I didn’t get an answer about my question re: the Chef’s table and my allergies. Will they not take me because I can’t have fish, wheat and alcohol?

John Says:
Hello Catherine Thomas,

Yes indeed, I did try the Nettie pot and apart from it providing me with a truly weird feeling it really did help. I will be the CD for the bloggers cruise but George Solano will be the CD for your two cruises. You will love George and I know he will give you a great time. Please don’t worry about your allergies. The chef will visit your table the night before you enjoy the brilliant Chefs Table experience and will discuss your allergies and make sure you are not served any fish, wheat or alcohol. I hope you have a brilliant time and if you need anything please let me know

Best wishes,
John

Stuart Zaikov Asked:
John please reply,

I am a member of CC and must say I can only speak for myself and sometimes my wife.

We sailed on the Liberty last week Oct 2 and had an outstanding time despite more problems with the weather than ever before (15 Carnival cruises.

Food was outstanding. My wife has major food allergies and she always works with the social host of the DR to pre order the next night’s food. Slovokia was the social hostess and we remembered each other from the Freedom last year. She is outstanding and a true credit to Carnival. She was great ordering her dinner and making sure it was food she could have without causing migraines. This is one of the things we love about Carnival.

The rock band Blood Power was outstanding. We loved the comedy club so much we missed most of the shows in the main lounge.
The R rated shows get very crowded and you need to get there 45 minutes before the show for good seats. People were all over and must have been many more people in the lounge than it could safely hold.
I know you want a more intimate setting for the comedy club but moving it to the main lounge would be great for your guests.

I must say that we did walk out on the welcome aboard show. It is the same show we have seen about 10 times in the past few years and think that you should definitely freshen it up.

Due to high winds we had to skip Grand Turk and that was a bummer. However the Capt and crew handled it very well and substituted Nassau for the next day. Not our favorite port but the passengers loved it.

We do find the Capt celebration to be a waste of time and certainly liked the old version much better. Walking down the promenade we spoke to several ships’ officers who stood around looking very bored. I will not mention names but went over to one and I asked if they were as bored as they looked and the answer is yes. Had a very nice conversation and learned a lot about the dept they ran. The crew manager thanked us profusely for taking the time to talk to them as everyone else just walked back and forth.

All of the crew always said hello when passing and thought they were very happy in their jobs.

For the first time we did have priority tendering back from HMC and appreciated it.

All in all a very good cruise and certainly feel we had good value for our dollars and can’t wait for our next cruise January on the Miracle.

One last point. Food in the supper club is excellent but the real cost is not $ 30 pp. It is $ 30 plus the cost of the excellent dinner plus tip in the DR that we are already paying for.

We hope to sail with you sometime.
Stu

John Says:
Hello Stu,

Thanks so much for the wonderful review and it was great to read that you had such a great time. I won’t comment on every point you made but with your kind permission I would like to touch on a couple of things.

First of all I know that the Captain’s Celebration is not as popular as the old style although the let’s also say the reason for this is of course the free drinks are not there as they have been moved to the last afternoon and the fun farewell. It was the free drinks that drew many people to the promenade and that’s what people miss for sure. Now if the senior officers looked bored then they need a good talking to for sure and I am going to copy this to the Vice President in charge of this class of vessel who like me will be so disappointed to read your comments.

The Welcome Aboard show that you referred to I guess means the dancers section which is the same on every ship and has been for some time. I totally agree that this needs to change and I promise that it will.

I am not sure I understood your remark about the steakhouse being $30 and that not being the real charge. The gratuity is included in the $30 and I think you may be saying that the gratuity you pre paid for the dining room staff is still honoured even though you are not in the dining room that night. If this is what you meant then you are correct but please don’t forget that you have the absolute right to adjust your gratuities should you wish to do so.

You review was superb and I want to thank you so much for taking the time to write it and for your loyalty to Carnival. Please let me know if I can do anything before you cruise again.

Best wishes
John

Sandy L Asked:
HI JOHN – Please reply

I’m the group leader for two Cruise Critic group cruises. We are doing back to back cruises on the Carnival Miracle on January 30/11 and February 7/11. At the moment, we have around 40 people going the first week and 120 going the second week. That itinerary change to Aruba, Curacao, Grand Turk and Dominican Republic has proven to be very popular which is evident by the number of people who are joining us for the second week.

I love the Spirit class of ships, having been on the Carnival Spirit four times (with the wonderful 15 day Hawaii round trip out of San Diego booked for 2012), the Carnival Pride once (the fantastic repositioning cruise through the Panama Canal in 2009). With the two cruises coming up on the Carnival Miracle, I don’t doubt that I’ll be onboard the Carnival Legend eventually.

I was wondering who is going to be the cruise director on the Carnival Miracle for these two weeks? Your current list only goes to the end of December. Will Malcolm Burn still be the CD, and, if so, what can you tell me about him?

Is it possible to get in touch with the CD (or someone else) to arrange an area for our group to hold a “meet and greet”? While the first week likely won’t be a problem, given the numbers, we could have close to 100 people attending the second week’s meet and greet (Feb. 8).
Thanks for your help, John. I appreciate all that you do for your blog readers.

John Says:
Hello Sandy L,

First of all let me say a big thank you for booking your back to back cruises on the beautiful Carnival Miracle. You will fall in love with Aruba for sure and along with the other destinations she calls at her itinerary is one of the very best in the entire fleet. The CD schedule is just about ready and we are making last minute changes as we speak. I can’t confirm just yet who is going to be the CD but I will soon. Regardless I will ask the groups coordinator to block a lounge for your meet and greet sessions and also ask whoever is the CD to place a listing for them in the Carnival Cap……….bugger………..in the Fun Times. So have a wonderful time and my best wishes to you and all the Cruise Critic folks who are sailing with you.

John

Sherryl R Asked:
Dear John – Please Reply

My family and I got hooked on cruising a number of years ago when my brother passed away and we could not bear Christmas at home without him. So we decided to take a cruise – my Mom, my Grandmother, my two sisters, my 52 year old Uncle with Down’s, my roommate and myself. The next year we lost my Mom and my Grandmother, so we went again with the five remaining family members. And now we cruise every year at Christmas! We’ve mostly traveled on the Conquest, but are looking forward to the Magic next Christmas!

My baby sister passed away last December just a few days after her 50th birthday, so we had to take our cruise on the Fascination without her. Carnival assisted us in changing the reservations and were very helpful. But the cruise was a downer. Not because the crew wasn’t wonderful – they were. But we missed my sister.

We are cruising aboard the Conquest on 12/19/10. My birthday is the 20th and we hope to celebrate in style. I’d love it if I had a special note on my birthday! And maybe they will have the sugar free warm chocolate melting cake by then! I found out in May that I am diabetic and I am trying hard to get healthy so my sister won’t lose another sister too early.

Thanks for all you do for us Platinum Cruisers – we love the special perks. It would be really great if they could add a free portrait. It wouldn’t cost Carnival too much. It could even just be the embarkation photo.

Sherryl

John Asked:
Hello Sherryl,

I was so sad to read of your recent losses and I send my deepest sympathies to you and your family. I hope that this coming cruise will bring you some joy and happiness and that you will remember the good times that you were able to enjoy with your sister on previous cruises. We don’t have the sugar free chocolate melting cake just yet but you can expect a little something from me for your birthday. I wish you all a wonderful time.

Best wishes
John

Judy Asked:
Please reply at your convenience.

First of all, feel better soon. I second the suggestion for chicken soup.

When you talk to the beards about food requests, can you please add something about the wonderful chicken salad sandwiches they serve at afternoon tea. I don’t know why they’re not also available at the deli. I’ve written about this in my post-cruise emails, but thought I’d post a note here also.

Love the blog thingie. See you on board the Magic next October.

John Says:
Hello Judy,

Do you know I didn’t know we served these at tea time. However now you have mentioned them I will have to check them out and I will certainly ask the beards if they can be served at the deli as well. Tea time is a wonderful experience but we really need to do our best to increase attendance at this event. Anyway, thanks for letting me know and I will let you know if what happens. Best wishes and many thanks for the very kind words

John

Mark Levine Asked:
(REPLY REQUESTED WHEN CONVENIENT)
John,

I have enjoyed reading your blog thingie very much, and appreciate this behind-the-scenes look at what you do…well…behind the scenes!
My wife and I just finished an extraordinary experience on the Carnival Conquest which sailed October 3rd. For us, it was very much a food cruise.

Much has been written here about the new Chef’s Table, and my wife and I certainly took advantage of it. The price is a bargain, and the whole experience was like being in a Food Network episode of Iron Chef. We received extraordinary appetizers, watched the galley in full speed, had a demo of how the most popular dessert is made, and were treated to a narrated, 7-course gourmet meal narrated by the Chef de Cuisine. Champagne and wine were included in this extraordinary evening. There were lots of extra surprises and gifts. This was a true highlight of our cruise.

But this was not by any means the only highlight: We also dined at the The Point. The food was incredible, and the atmosphere very intimate. Also, the sommelier, Amit, was amazing. We had brought a special wine on board with us, which he impressively and expertly decanted for us.
We had already met Amit at two wine pairings – A great activity on board, and one which we enjoyed thoroughly. I hope every ship in the fleet has someone as skilled as Amit.

And this wine pairing inspired what I thought would be a terrific activity to add to the many on the ship:

We all know that one of the things to buy in the Caribbean is rum. We also know that one of the things to buy in Mexico is tequila. For me, I know very little about rums and tequilas: I would think a very popular onboard activity might be a rum tasting and a tequila tasting, each a day before the appropriate port was reached.

In fact, we did buy some rum in both Jamaica (Appleton) and Grand Cayman (Tortuga, actually made in Jamaica), but were too intimidated to buy any tequila in Cozumel.

We also truly appreciated the efforts of our Monet dining room waitress, Bernadetta. She made us feel very special and taken care of.
We haven’t booked our next cruse yet, but then the dust has hardly settled on this adventure yet. And we’re already picking out new ports of call and possible dates!

Maybe when we next cruise, the rum tasting and tequila tasting will be ready to go!

Thanks again for all you do, John!

John Says:
Hello Mark Levine,

Back in the days when I liked a tipple, rum was one of my favourites and the Appleton Estate rum was one of my very favourites. I am so very happy you found this brand and the Tortuga rum as well in Grand Cayman. I only drank tequila once and ended up walking back to the ship in Cozumel wearing my own underpants as a hat singing I’m A Little Goblin………..never again.

Your review was fantastic and one full of praise for the crew who made your cruise so very special. And what a brilliant advert for The Chef’s Table and it’s one I want to thank you so much for. I am sure that others reading this here will now think very seriously about trying it for themselves. Thanks so much for taking the time to write and I will be sure to send this to everyone you mentioned. I hope we get to meet one day soon.

My best wishes to you and the family
John

Janet Sammons Asked:
John, please reply

When I read on your face book page that a lady had complained about you smoking in the cigar bar, I posted that I knew you would apoligise to her.

My question is this. WHY would you apoligise for that? You were not breaking the rules, you were not doing anything you shouldn’t have been doing. She however was in the cigar bar, and whining because you were smoking!

I am so sick and tired of people whining about smokers smoking when they are only smoking in the designated areas. And I hate the fact that you apologised to her when you did nothing wrong. People act like they are holier than thou, and treat crew and other guests with such disrespect because of this all deserving attitude they have.

The customer is not always right. They are only right when they are right. I would have told her in a professional manner that you were smoking your cigar in the designated, and that is certainly allowed.

John Says:
Hello Janet Sammons,

That’s just the way I am I guess. The lady who complained had every right to as a customer and I was apologising mostly for upsetting her which regardless of whether she was right or wrong was something I hated had happened. You are correct, she was in a smoking area but as the most visible person onboard I have to be careful what I do and what I say. Apologising to her calmed her down and that was the main thing I needed to accomplish because she was really, really angry.
Thanks for thinking of me.

Best wishes
John

Cruiser from NY Asked:
Hi John (Please Reply),

This may be a little late, but I’d just like to tell you how much I enjoyed my cruise on the Carnival Valor from 8/22-8/29. From the moment I stepped on board, every crew member greeted me with a smile and a “hello”. My cabin was great, much bigger than the one I had on the Freedom of the Seas a couple years ago. The food was absolutely amazing, especially the Sushi Bar. Everything we had was fresh, and delivered with a smile! Our waiters, Jose and Igor were great, and my grand-parents all the way from Denmark (speaking little English) enjoyed the cruise as well.

I can say that while my RCI cruise was nice, my Carnival Valor cruise (first Carnival cruise I’ve ever been on) was better, and I felt you get more for your money, at affordable prices, than RCI.

Thanks for writing a blog, I know you are very busy, and also, thanks for giving my family and I a vacation to remember. We WILL be back on a Carnival cruise in the near future!

John Says:
Hello Cruiser from NY,

It’s never too late to read a comment like that. I wanted to say a huge thank you for taking the time to write and seeing that you had such a brilliant time makes me very happy indeed. I will make sure Igor and Jose see your testament of praise and I hope we see you soon onboard another fun for all ship.

Best wishes,
John

That’s all for today and so far my battery warning message hasn’t flashed up yet so I won’t watch the movie The Expendables for the moment and press on with the blog thingy. Time for some important news on registering for the Bloggers Cruise number 4 – here’s Eric.

Hey bloggers! Want to get a head-start interacting and having fun with fellow Bloggers Cruise 4 attendees… before you get anywhere near the Carnival Glory? We’ve used all of our beardy knowledge of computer thingys to build a special page here on John’s blog where you can get to know your fellow bloggers, while at the same time helping us beards get a sense for who will be onboard this cruise.

Just click “Bloggers Cruise 4 Roll Call” tab up at the top of John’s blog and fill out your contact information in the comments section at the bottom. Tell us as much or as little about yourself as you want, but to give you a few ideas, we’re thinking e-mail addresses, Facebook profile links and Twitter usernames would work. If you want this information shared on the page so fellow cruisers can find you around the interwebs, write “public” at the top of your post. If you write “private” — or nothing at all — we won’t post it to the page; we’ll just keep it for our records.

After you submit your information, you can also use the comments section to discuss BC4. So submit your information and start talking amongst your cleanly-shaven selves!

Let’s meet another of our brilliant piano bar entertainers. Here is Brad Alexander from Toronto, Canada.

Bio: In April of 2004 I went on my first cruise as a guest on the Carnival Fascination. I played an Elton John song in the guest talent show on the last night, and then played a few songs in the piano bar afterwards. The entertainer at the time suggested that I send my promotional material to the office in Miami as they were looking for entertainers at the time. Not a month later I got a call from the entertainment director for Carnival offering me a job. Within a year I retired from teaching piano lessons and started with Carnival full time, and have never looked back.

My show is very interactive and I love getting the room singing and laughing. The best part of this job is seeing people have a great time because of my efforts, and getting to enjoy the ports of call during the day with my friends on the ship.

Most requested song: Piano Man, Billy Joel.

Thanks mate and having worked with Brad I know just what a major asset he is to the ship’s entertainment program.

The man next to me is asleep. He is American and his name is Gordon. I know this because he introduced himself to me as I sat down. I thought he was going to be “a talker” but after a little bit of a chat about the weather and the snow and that he couldn’t wait to get back to Cape Coral, Florida, he put his headphones on and is deep into a movie.

Anyway, tomorrow (or today as you are reading this) I will have my first long day of meetings with another dollop tomorrow. Then it’s off to Tennessee to St. Jude Children’s Hospital for a special visit which I will be telling you about later this week so there is lots to look forward to.

I want to quickly talk about a few shipboard things if I can. First of all there is the subject of the electronic cigarette. I had a message from a cruise director friend of mine who is desperately trying to quit smoking. I won’t say who this is but I have known him some time and I know that he is a heavy smoker. So along with the patches, etc., which by the way Carnival gives any crew member who wants to quit smoking for free, he has started on the electronic cigarette. Anyway, here is a section from the email he sent me.

“I was using the “e cig” on the lido deck during deck party and talking to guests when a lady told me that she was angry at me for smoking in a non smoking area. I explained that that the smoke coming from it was not smoke but was water vapor but she and her friend said that it was still dangerous. She has since written a formal complaint which is in CRS. Do you know what our rules are on this?”

OK, let me quickly explain that CRS is our incident report which is put together by the guest services folks. Now from what I understand this CD is correct and it is indeed just water vapor and that it is harmless. As to what our policies are…….well…….from what I understand and from what I have experienced on the ships I have been on recently we allow them pretty much everywhere except the dining rooms. I think a lot of the stigma with this comes from a lack of understanding about them …………………do you all agree?

One thing though I did explain to the CD who wrote me the e-mail is that while I applaud him for trying to stop smoking I think he has to be careful when and where he uses the electronic cigarette. I mean, he would not have been at the deck party with a real one so maybe he has to think about that a little as well which by the way in a return e-mail he agreed with. It looks like this electronic smoking device is getting more and more popular though and if it helps people quit then that of course is a good thing. As you saw from today’s Q & A, smoking has been and most probably always will be a subject that divides opinion.

I also wanted to put this comment in the centre of today’s blog because I think it’s very, very important. Have a read of this:

Michelle De Silva Asked:
John Please Reply

My family is in the process of booking our first Carnival cruise and while doing research I came across your blog which I read every day. We are going to be on the Freedom going to Panama and Costa Rica and I know we will have a great time. I am though worried about my son Andrew who is autistic. He is 14 years old and I want to know if he will be allowed into your camp for his age and if the camp staff has experience with working with autistic kids? We really need this vacation and even though I spoke to someone at Carnival on the phone who said it would be ok they didn’t really seem to know so here I am asking you for your help.

Living with Andrew is both rewarding and challenging and I just want this to be a great vacation for me and my husband and our daughter Annabel as living with Andrew is sometimes exhausting. We love him so much and just want this vacation for him as well as us and that it is a fun time for Andrew.

Thank you so much
Michelle and family

John Says:
Hello Michelle De Silva,

I know that you only posted this comment recently but as you are debating whether or not to book your cruise I thought I would bring you to the head of the line and reply to you straight away. I imagine living with Andrew brings you a mixture of laugh/cry moments and can understand why you all need a break. I can assure you that our Circle C staff are well trained in making sure Andrew has fun and stays safe during his cruise and that we have families with autistic children who sail with us all the time, some read the blog and may wish to comment and give you some encouragement. Meanwhile, I have passed on your e-mail address to the head of our children’s program and she will be in touch with you soon so that you can discuss exactly what needs Andrew may have and set your mind at ease. So please go ahead and book and I promise that all of you will have a wonderful family vacation. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Best wishes to you all
John

You know its answering questions like that and knowing that you are helping someone that makes all the hard work I put into this blog thingy so worthwhile.

OK, going to switch off now and watch a movie. I am glad Gordon is wearing noise canceling headphones because I just let the last of the chili con carne go………I do not have a very happy bottom today. See you in Miami.

Here I am in Miami……………..eventually.

I stood in line at Miami airport far more confident than usual that because I wasn’t getting on a ship as a crew member and that armed with my return ticket to London this Saturday that I would not have to go to the “special room” and be given something no Miami immigration officer had ever given me before……………a “welcome to the United States”………..welcome my arse.

After standing in line for 45 minutes I reached the CBP inspector whose name I can’t mention obviously but who I can say was a total and utter wanker (www.urbandictionary.com).

He took my past port and put it through his computer scanner. So far there had been no welcome or smile or any kind of verbal contact but that’s OK I thought…….I’m here on business and to visit some very sick kids. All will be well……………well my arse.

CBP INSPECTOR: YOU’RE A CREW MEMBER?
JOHN: WELL YES BUT NOT THIS TIME I AM IN MEETINGS AT CARNIVAL HQ AND THEN FLYING TO TENNESSEE AND BACK TO LONDON ON FRIDAY
CBP INSPECTOR: BUT YOU’RE A CREW MEMBER?
JOHN: YES BUT I’M NOT GETTING ON A SHIP
CBP INSPECTOR: SO WHERE ARE YOU STAYING?
JOHN: HILTON HOTEL
CNP INSPECTOR: WHAT’S THE ADDRESS AND ZIP CODE?
JOHN: UMMM…….UMMMMMM…..IT’S NEAR THE PORT OF MIAMI

After saying this, the CBP inspector closed my passport and pressed a button which caused a red light to flash and that’s when I knew………..I was heading for the special room.

I couldn’t believe it. I tried asking him why but he grunted “go with him” pointing towards a colleague. Honestly it took all my will power not to tell him what a total bastard he was and take the deportation that would follow. But I didn’t and I headed for the special room. This man had no grace, no manners, no humour, no humanity and the sort of IQ normally found in farmyard animals but there was bugger all I can do about it.

I sat in the special room for 50 minutes with 30 or 40 other naughty people and then my name was called out and I approached the desk where another soulless man handed me back my passport without a word. Why Miami why? Why is it your colleagues in LA, Texas and the other places I fly in and out of do their job politely. Yes, they have a job to do and I totally understand and it’s a difficult one for sure………. but do they have to do be so flippant and downright rude?

Anyway, here I am though in the hotel. Despite the rudeness of my non welcome I do love Miami. And if I wasn’t so tired I would take a stroll sown Ocean Drive and South Beach. I would watch Roller-blading Latvian supermodels glide past and watch with jealousy the endless Aston Martins and Bentleys cruising down Ocean Drive taking in the buzzing art deco seafront. It’s really no different to Southend On Sea, Essex UK.

Everyone who comes here tells me they see someone famous but even though I have been here many many times I have never seen anyone famous……except the one who played the boss of the two Miami Vice cops. Where’s Jay Z and his pet lion or Jay Low and her breasts? It’s the only place in the world where yellow Hummers make complete sense.

Well, I shan’t be joining the finely toned couples straight out of Sex and the City and the Latin girls in minuscule pink outfits, taking the world’s smallest dogs out for their evening poo because it’s 3 am UK time and between my body scan, an arse full of chili con carne and Inspector Barstardinez……..and I am exhausted………..I am so tired in fact I can’t even be bothered to turn on the TV and pay $14.99 plus tax for some Latvian rumpy pumpy.

Goodnight
Your friend
John

PS – there won’t be a full blog tomorrow because I will be in meetings all day but I will post some FB stuff during the day and let you know what’s happening and post a video “hello” on the blog

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.