Cruising With The Sopranos

January 10, 2011 -

John Heald

My sister Suzanne and I have always had a relationship based on my teasing her relentlessly and her putting up with it as best she could. Once when I was 14 and she was 10 I told her that Mum didn’t love us anymore and had moved to Africa, when she had just gone to the local shop for some milk.

My sister has also has never forgiven me for the time I urged her to drink a glass of “strawberry juice,” only for her to discover it was blood drained from raw meat lurking in the family fridge. And my Mum still remembers the time I stuck bubble gum in her hair which had to be cut out.

Then there was the time when she was 15 and a boyfriend came to collect her. I told him she had been rushed into hospital because she had explosive diarrhea and was covered in spots and the doctors thought it was a rare tropical disease……..she was actually upstairs getting ready…… and we never saw him again…. good ……. because he wore leg warmers, had green highlights in his hair and was certainly far too comfortable with his feminine side. Anyone with brothers and sisters will have intense memories of sibling crimes committed against them.

Anyway, the reason I mention my sister this morning is because she is also an animal lover and believes all animals should be cuddled and given names like Fletch and Mr Poppy. Suedrip has just bought two white German shepherd puppies and if you like fluffy crapping machines then I guess you could say they are “cute.”

I had not seen the latest additions to her family until I returned from New York and when I did Suedrip looked rather nervous because I guess she was remembering her cat…. Silky…… and the hell I used to put the poor thing through. Now in my defence I did what I did based on the fact that with everyone else Silky was a purring, affectionate pussycat but around me she became quite simply the cat from hell whose sole purpose in life was to scratch me, bite me and piss on my shoes.

Well one day after a stealth attack that left me with claw marks down the side of my face I decided it was time for action. I was 15 at the time and addicted to two things one of which I cant write except to say that it’s bollocks……you don’t go blind…….the other thing was something called Space Dust. Now I know you have or had this in the States and Canada but for the life of me I can’t remember what you call it there. Basically this is candy that explodes in your mouth …………..what do you call it?

Anyway, Silky had scarred me for the last time so off I went to the sweet shop (candy store) and bought 10 packets of Space Dust.

Now the tofu eaters are getting ready to write and tell me what a bastard I am, thinking of course that I fed the candy to Silky. This would have been of course cruel. No……I didn’t feed it to Silky but instead sprinkled all 10 packets in her litter basket. In she went to do her toilet stuff and of course as soon as she did 10 packets of space dust exploded under her. She screamed, ran out of the basket, and through the cat flap and it was many many hours before she ventured into the house again.

For some reason, as I stood admiring Suedrips two new puppies I decided to tell Suedrip this story for the first ever time and she seemed to take it quite well and after all I thought, she is a professional middle aged woman, a successful banker and businesswoman who has held down a very important job and raised a beautiful family……..what could she possibly do?

This morning I found out that this thinking was a bit flawed. Because I had been ill I had not been out in my car for five days but this morning I ventured out for the first time to go get a newspaper and a repeat prescription for my sugar-free cough medicine. As soon as I got into the car my nose turned up at what was a disgusting putrid smell. Thinking it was probably because the car had been shut and not driven for sometime I set off to the shops but by the end of the road and with the window open the smell was overpowering. So I pulled over to investigate and it didn’t take long to find the source……….because there nestling in the foot well of the back seats was a white German Shepherd puppies dog turd…………with a ribbon round it……..on which was a gift card that simply read “with love from Silky.”

Time for today’s Q and A………off we go.

Thomas Rossini Asked:
Please Reply

Good Evening …

John… I feel as if I know you like a brother. What you have done for your fellow employees and passengers is more than anyone can hope for. I will be travelling on the carnival dream on Feb 19, 2011. I was checking to see if the CD schedule was out for that time of year but it is not. I do hope that you are the CD on that cruise as I would like to buy you a beer / champagne, buy you some new XXL thongs / Speedos and have a cigar while we sit in the Thalasso Spa and watch latvianwomanpart2… oh wait you have some pull… we can watch it on the pool side theatre Screen. But in all seriousness, if you are on the cruise I will be in cabin 11230 and would love to shake your hand and buy you a beverage and have you join us at the Chef’s table my treat.

John Says:
Hello Thomas Rossini

Once again this post is a prime example of how ridiculously behind I am in my replies. As you will have seen by now the cruise director schedule is out and you will therefore have also seen that the cruise director for your Carnival Dream cruise will be the only and only Butch whom I know you will truly enjoy. It really would have been wonderful if we could have been together though and thank you so much for your kind words. I hope that one day this will happen and we can sit and have a cigar and talk about our love of cruising and Latvians. Have a brilliant time.

Best wishes

BrendaAgain Asked:
John, could you please reply if you have time?

I have a couple of things to mention,

1.) I don’t mind if people wish me Happy Holidays, Hanukah, Ramadan, Christmas, Arbor Day or whatever. If someone gives me best wishes on the holiday of their choice, I would not be insulted if it were not MY chosen holiday. It basically says to me that no matter what kind of heathen I may be, they hope I will have a blessed day in spite of it. I’m OK with that.

2.) Could you please discuss how it is that you know so much about animal scrotums? You mention their smell fairly often, and I can honestly say I am having trouble figuring out why skunks, elephants, etc, would let you get close enough to study their scrotal aroma. Perhaps you went to a zoo that had a Scratch-n-Sniff feature in the visitors guide?

Brenda Again

John Says:
Hello Brenda Again

It is interesting that you should write about what the crew say at Christmas time to the guests because I discussed this from my bed of sickness via e-mail with the Miami office yesterday. The reports are that the crew saying Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays was met with little concern. The CD of the Carnival Valor reported that they received just three negative comments from guests about the fact that the word Christmas was used and all three of those comments also featured concerns about Christmas music and the festive decorations. So overall I think we have a good balance and thanks so much for your support. Now as for my love of bottoms both animal and human……..I think quite simply………………I need help.

Thanks for the great post

Best wishes

Danny Stout Asked:
Hello John,

Please Reply — When you have time…..

First and foremost, I’m so happy that you are at home with your girls after your Splendorous adventure. It’s truly amazing what you and your team were able to do given the limitations. A truly amazing feat – congratulations to you all…and Carnival too. I’ve been regaling my nephew with tales of how food for 3000+ people was brought several stories up every day by the people working on the ship. I think he’s even more amazed to be going now than he was about a month ago.

I had written a few months ago about our upcoming time on the Liberty, sailing January 29th out of Miami. You said to email you back and that you might have a special treat for Anthony as he prepares for his first cruise and first flight. (It’s amazing that Kye is already a seasoned traveler!) Anthony is 14 and is a bit nervous about CircleC, but excited all the same. If it’s not too much to ask, me, my partner and my nephew would be most grateful if you could shoot an email to the Maitre’D on the Liberty to see if we could get a table for 4 by a window. (Booking ______, Cabin 7322 — our first suite!) We’ll show him (or her) our appreciation in the customary way. And thanks about the idea for baseball caps for treats. We’re going to get a TU (Tulsa University) hat for our Steward. (It cracks me up with people call them Stewarts. Ha!

I wanted to ask a question about practical jokes on the ships. I’ve recently been watching Ellen (the talk show host – I know you probably don’t get to watch too much TV) playing practical jokes on her guests. She scared poor Taylor Swift so bad she fell down! Well, I could sneeze and knock her down, but it was so funny I almost wet myself. It got me to thinking, what kind of practical jokes you might have been a party to on your 20+ tours on Carnival ships. Do you have any you can share?

Thanks again for all you do. I know you have a million and one things to do, and it’s much appreciated that you take valuable time out of your schedule to help those of us with special requests. It’s truly a Carnival personal touch. (This’ll be my third Carnival cruise, and I don’t ever see myself going anywhere else. Unless I win the lottery, then I might buy some space on the Residensea 🙂

Warmest Regards,
Danny Stout

John Says:
Hello Danny Stout

Thank you so much for mentioning the great job both the shipboard and shoreside personnel did with the Carnival Splendor fire and the way they looked after the guests. Please tell Anthony not to worry and that he will have the most fun he has ever had. He will make some fantastic new friends while you all relax and have fun yourself safe in the knowledge that he is having a great time. I will certainly send Anthony a little something and have asked my friends the maitre ds to do their best with your table reservation request. The ships are indeed a breeding ground for practical jokes and I will be happy to share some with you over the next few days so please keep an eye out for that. I know you will all have a brilliant time and I hope you will tell me all about it when you get home. Best wishes to you and all the family


Rhonda Asked:
Dear John (please respond)

I am sorry it has taken me so long to pass on a heartfelt thank-you to a Carnival Freedom crew member but I really could not let it pass. On Oct 3, 2010 we sailed the Freedom. My Sister and her Son and I paid for the behind the scenes tour with Kimberly as our guide. What an interesting time we had! The tour was wonderful, and Kimberly was so knowledgeable. As we entered the bridge the entire group was awestruck. I made the comment to Kimberly that my 18yo son, who could not take the tour as he has Aspersers and uses a wheelchair for cerebral palsy, would have really loved seeing the bridge. Wouldn’t you know that a few hours later I received a call from Kimberly that the Captain had invited my son for a personal tour of the bridge! Kimberly escorted us there and even had the ships photographer on had to capture his absolute wonder. The Captain and all the bridge crew introduced themselves and gave Kris the grand tour. What a wonderful group of people. Can you please send Kimberly my heartfelt thanks and make sure the suits at Carnival know what a gem they have on the Freedom. Thank you. Rhonda

John Says:
Hello Rhonda

I wanted to take the time to say a huge thank you for letting me know about this brilliant example of just why the Carnival crew are quite simply the best in the business. I will make sure that Kimberly sees your words of praise as will the captain and the beards in Miami. Thank you once again and best wishes to you all


Carolyn Asked:
Please, please reply

John, I’ve been reading all your blogs for the last week about the Splendor and thinking about how many ships you must have been on in all your years with Carnival, lots…. Anyhow, my husband and I had our first cruise on the Fascination 2 years ago. We are both 62, don’t ask me why we waited this long to do a cruise, we love them and can’t get enough of it. We have now done 4 in 2 years and our 5th one is on the Splendor Feb. 6th, hopefully you will still be there. However, my questions is this. On our first cruise we had the most remarkable wait staff we have ever had. Our head person’s name was Mel. I still remember every dinner and how we looked forward to our time in the dining room with him, we wanted for nothing. I know that Carnival employees thousands of people and you probably don’t know half of them, but if you know “Mel” and if you know what ship he is now on I would really appreciate the information. I would book a cruise on that ship just to have him take care of us at dinner again. While our wait staff after that cruise has been outstanding, no one was like Mel and we would really like to see him again. Longshot I know, but do you know if he’s still on the Fascination or another ship now?

John Says:
Hello Carolyn

I am glad that you have found the time to read the blogs and the time to post as well. I had this comment in my in box for a few days because I had to ask personal to investigate your search for Mel because without a last name it is very difficult. In fact they have drawn a blank because the thinking is that Mel was probably a shortened name. However, they did find a Melaranie who is from the Philippines. He was on the Carnival Fascination at that time and if this rings a bell I can tell you that he is currently a team headwaiter on the Carnival Elation. I hope this helps and if you have any other information that you think could help confirm that this is the chap you are looking for please let me know. I hope we see you both again soon on another Carnival cruise.

Best wishes

G and E Crouch Asked:

I am so angry having read today’s forum about smoking because as a smoker yourself you have taken the side of the passengers that smoke. This is both unprofessional and you deserve a reprimand at the least for doing so and I have written to Gerry Cahill telling him so.

If smokers want to cruise why doesn’t Carnival give them one of the older ships so they can all cruise together and give each other cancer? The fact that you as a Carnival employee support smoking onboard is disgusting. We cruised on the Fascination in November and it was three days of which we were had to put up with hundreds of rude smokers blowing poison in our faces. Smoking is for people with no control, no caring for themselves and others. How can you support this? I will be taking action and won’t be on your boats again until smoking is banned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Garath Crouch

John Says:
Hello G and E Crouch

I am so very sorry that you are so upset by the issue of smoking. In my defence I truly do not believe that I have “taken the side of smokers” but have in fact written many times that I support the current policy that has limited smoking facilities onboard and have gone one further than the current policy by saying that it is my opinion that smoking should probably not be allowed inside the cabins with the exception of the balconies. Although smoking policies continue to be updated, at the moment there are no plans to change the smoking policies on board and overall I think we have a middle ground that has allowed us to make both non smokers and smokers reasonably happy. It is though a challenge and one that will spur more and more robust comment in the future for sure.

I hope you had a brilliant time on the Carnival Fascination despite your concerns and that you can look back on the fun and the service that hopefully will persuade you to return to Carnival one day soon

Best wishes

MoMo Asked:
Hello John,

Please respond.

I have to admit that my DH and I cruise Celebrity all the time because they have very few children on their ships. We do not like children and we are not people who want to cruise with loads of unruly ones that we read about every day on Cruise Critic. My DH and I have talked about cruising with Carnival though. So my question is will Carnival ever have a ship that is adults only. I really think you should as you will attract a better class of passenger for sure.


John Says:
Hello MoMo

It would be fantastic to see you on one of our ships and I promise that you would have the most fun you have ever had. Carnival is proud to be the most popular cruise line for the families and we have no plans to have a ship that is dedicated to adults only. Now we do have times when the kid count is lower and these are usually times when the schools are open. I will also say that for the most part the children who cruise with us are very well behaved and that our brilliant Camp Carnival, Circle C and Club O2 programs keep the kids safe and give them a brilliant vacation as well. So think less and worry less about the children on board and think more about the brilliant value for money that a Carnival cruise brings and the absolute fun that you will have. Best wishes to you both


Angie Asked:

John 17 of us just got off the Carnival Dream on Saturday November 20, 2010. This made my 7th cruise (all with Carnival) and we had 8 first time cruisers with us and some this made their third. I must say we all agreed that the Dream is a beautiful ship.

We enjoyed our cruise director Josh Waitzman very much. We had the best dining room staff Hari and Franklin was great and our room steward was Marco he was just as wonderful.

We only have one complaint and that is why the main dining room has started allowing the men to wear shorts and at time tee shirts. Even at times the women were in shorts as well. Those of us that are returning cruisers found this to be very different than when we had crusied before. We like the dressing up on formal nights and wearing nice clothing on non formal nights.

This was my second husbands first cruise and he is now hooked we will be saving and taking our family again in two years and it will be on a Carnival ship.

John Says:
Hello Angie

I am so very glad that you had such a great time on your Carnival Dream and I will certainly pass on your kind words to those mentioned. I am interested in your comments on the dress code in the dining room. I know that we have a relaxed dress code on the first night because of luggage delivery but unless guests have lost luggage shorts should not be allowed in the dining rooms after that. T-shirts……..well that’s a different story and as long as the shirt is not a tank top then yes we do allow them if they are well presented. Please let me know about the shorts and when you saw people wearing them. Most of all I wanted to thanks you for your loyalty and that we will see you and your wonderful family again very soon.

Best wishes to you all

Joseph Petrovski Asked:
John reply please as soon as you get this.

I have often been disgusted by your sexual and rude references on this blog. If you bothered to ask most blog readers you would find come here to find out what’s happening in the world of Carnival and not to read your immature toilet humor. USA Today wrote that you were “outrageously inappropriate” and maybe this will get you to stop writing filth and concentrate on information and fact.

John Says:
Hello Joseph Petrovski

I apologise that you find this blog offensive and that you have found it necessary to write and tell me so. I had a quote from the LA Times sent to me from a blogger last week where the writer had also mentioned that she thought my blog was “lurid” and I guess that USA Today feel somewhat the same. This though is who I am and while I apologise sincerely to anyone I ever offend (except the French) I don’t think I will be able to change the way I write my blogs……. I would in fact rather stop writing altogether.

Please accept my apologies

Best wishes

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

Why don’t you have a uniform like Gary Hunter???


John Says:
Hello Tim

For those who don’t know what my friend Tim is referring to, let me explain. Gary Hunter was my mentor and is now a CD for Crystal Cruises. On those ships the CD is a 4 stripe officer and wears the white uniform. I am not sure but I think very few cruise lines have their CD’s in uniform, certainly none of the Carnival family do. It was discussed a few years ago when one of my colleagues suggested it. He did so because of course he is metrosexual and uses product in his hair and has manicures and would look great in white. Me though……well I would just look ridiculous. However………let’s ask your fellow bloggers, Tim. How many of you would like to see the CD dressed in a uniform? I hope you are well Tim and I hope we sail together one day soon.

Best wishes

That’s all for today and I have asked Eric the Beard to send me any questions that are time sensitive to the front of the line. Please though keep the comments coming as they are read by many of Carnival’s senior beards.

Time for a break and we continue with our look at the young and exciting Assistant Cruise Directors who make your cruise activities so much fun. Today we go to the Carnival Inspiration and meet TJ SWART.

I am from South Africa and am currently on the Carnival Inspiration ending contract as ACD 10 January 2011, but will stay on the Inspiration to roll out the Entertainment Staff College starting 24 January.

I started working for Carnival in 2004 as a bar waiter. After the first contract I decided never to do this again, but after a short two week vacation, I missed my ship family so much that I had to return. I worked in the bar for another three months after that and then applied for the job as a “social host.” Within two weeks I was transferred to the Inspiration and never looked back again.

As an entertainment staff member this was the perfect job for me. Not only did I get to travel the world, but I also got to meet all these different people from different countries and cultures, whilst getting paid… In my almost six years with Carnival I got to go to Hawaii, Alaska, Europe, Mexican Riviera and of course the Caribbean.

While I was working on the Carnival Fantasy as an entertainment host I was asked if I wanted to be the trainer for the new Entertainment Staff College. I jumped at the opportunity because I love a new challenge and I feel that I can bring something to the new hires that will make their experience on ships just as great as mine has been.

In the past six months I was working on getting the training manual ready, and jumping from ship to ship helping out as ACD where I could. This journey took me to the Carnival Destiny, Carnival Liberty and now of course the Carnival Inspiration. Back to where it all started!

While being an ACD the activity that I think guest should not miss is my game show. It is wild and crazy and you never know what is going to happen. I might feel like making you dance for a prize or sing along to the music, I sometimes don’t even know what is going to happen. Then my hairy chest contest is also a huge hit….. Need I say more?

The best part of my job as a trainer is to be part of the future of Carnival Cruise Lines. The “young” hosts I’m going to train will be the future cruise directors of the fleet and   that makes me proud to think that I will have a part in their making.

So as you can see not only is TJ a brilliant ACD but has been chosen to help start the Entertainment Staff College. This is where all new entertainment staff will come to train and learn about the job. At the end of the training period some will be offered a job and sent across the fleet but some others will not. I doubt this will happen too much because I know Chris in the office has a brilliant eye for who is qualified for this job and those who are not. But for the CD’s this is brilliant because rather than get a brand new person who we have to train on the job, the college will allow the CD’s new staff members to have already learnt what to do and nearly as importantly they will have learnt all about ship’s life and the challenges that this brings. I worked with TJ on the Carnival Fantasy last year and I can totally understand why he has been chosen to open the college. Good luck TJ and congratulations.

Well as you know I have been sick these past five days. In fact all but one of the Carnival staff who went to the New York event returned with the plague. Maybe this was because we all stuck our tongues down each other’s throats when the ball dropped. My friend Jen from PR was so sick she hasn’t had a glass of red wine for 8 days.

Seriously, though we have all been quite ill and on Thursday last week I was so bad that Heidi insisted I go to the doctor. For those of you who don’t know ……I hate going to the doctors …….I would rather suck Judge Judy’s toes than go to the doctor. But because I had a temperature of 100 and was coughing up giant lumps of green ……..Heidi insisted because she was worried I had flu………swine flu even. Now being diabetic I am supposed to get a flu shot because that’s what the white coats recommend. You see, my immune system is weakened and is as likely to fight off a cold than Tiger Woods is likely to fight of a lap dancer’s lady garden. I had intended to get a flu shot onboard the Carnival Splendor when they came onboard……..on November 7……but I got a little busy that cruise and never got a chance to get one.

I was worried therefore that Heidi might have been right and that I did in fact have swine flu. And men in nuclear spillage boiler suits will want to know if I have had any contact with Mexican pigs. And then, when they’ve gone away, I would die having never gotten to see Megan Fox’s bottom or tell you the exciting news about…….oops sssshhh John.

Flu is nasty and claiming you have it when all you have is a cold makes you look ridiculous so when Doctor Ramitin asked me what was wrong I just said I had a cold. But what I had in fact was a chest infection and a throat infection and worst recorded cold in the whole of human history and I am defying medical science by being here, at my computer, writing this blog.

I am allergic to penicillin as well which doesn’t help but the Doc did give me some other antibiotics which made me drowsy and made my pee orange. I still don’t feel 100% and as I sit here, shivering now and then and with a tickly cough, I can’t help wondering why there is still no cure. And whether or not a beard might be on the brink or creating one.

We have been to the moon, invented the George Foreman Grill, devised the Eye Phone and created the Queen Mary 2. But still no one knows how to tell a cold to sod off. Anyway, I apologise for being away so long and I am determined to give you a full week of blogs. By the way, talking of doctors I want to share this comment with you.

Meadow Soprano Asked:
John Heald _ reply please

I’m having a very minor procedure a few days before my cruise at the end of the month, and will be stuck with 4 stitches. I called Carnival to see if the “doctor” on board could remove the stitches, and was told there was no way as this was “against policy.”  What can the “doctors” do on board? I’m a little disappointed at the prospect of having my stitches removed in Cozumel a third-world country. I intend to post this on Cruise Critic and get their support and hope you can help me get this done and with no charge as I am already a paying passenger.


John Says:
Hello Meadow

I hope your procedure goes well and that you are well enough to cruise. I checked this morning with our medical team and indeed unless it is urgent the doctors will not take your stitches out. The ship’s medical staff is onboard to look after guests who get sick or hurt themselves while onboard. Since doctors are independent contractors, there are fees incurred here which is why insurance is always recommended. Now having been to the doctor myself recently and having seen your comment amongst the huge pile of questions I have been asked to answer I thought I might touch on your point as to what doctors do onboard.

We have a total of 24 senior physicians, and 28 ship’s physicians, who rotate through the ships on contracts that range from four to six months. We have approximately 90 registered nurses working for us at any given time. All our physicians and nurses have to had emergency and critical care experience, and are certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support. Most of our physicians and nurses come from the UK, South Africa, Europe or Australia and New Zealand. Our infirmaries exceed the CLIA/ACEP guidelines and are designed to treat and stabilize most emergent medical conditions until we can get the patient to the hospital. Our medical teams deal with everything from seasickness and colds and flu, to heart attacks and injuries from falls or accidents. One minute they may be advising a mother on how to treat symptoms of a sore throat in a child, the next running help manage a guest in an emergency situation.

So Meadow, this is the life of the cruise ship doctors and nurses and hopefully having read this you will have a better understanding of what they do. I should also point out that the medical facilities in Cozumel are hardly “third world.” However, none of this matters because having just realised that you are affiliated with a particular “family,” I can promise that you will have no problems in getting your stitches taken out and you will also be upgraded to the penthouse and your drinks will all be free. Please tell your father I tell Tony I hope we see him on his Carnival Magic. This will be the best cruise ever……can RCI match a Carnival experience? ……………. “fugeddaboutit”!


See you on Facebook and here on the blog tomorrow


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.