A Blockbuster Blog

January 11, 2011 -

John Heald

My local Blockbuster store has closed down and I am in mourning. Now I know some of you sandal-wearing, Mac-loving, tofu-eating animal-loving modern-day vegetablists are laughing at me right now saying “What? The fat bastard still goes to Blockbuster?” …….  but I don’t care.

Not only am I sad that the Blockbuster has gone but I also miss the days when I could rent films on good old fashioned videotape. OK, I will admit that becoming a Blockbuster member was a long sodding process. You had to show the 16-year-old boy in the shop your driving license and your birth certificate and then you had to drive to the shop and back again as soon as Bruce Willis had said “yippe-ki-yay, motherf****r”

However, renting a video is much, much quicker than the alternative we have today …… the DVD. At least, with a videotape you could press the FF button and miss through all bollocks at the beginning……..and then back up a bit, because you’d gone too far …………  to the actual start of the film.  Try this with a DVD, you get a little message on the screen telling you that the operation you have requested is not possible.

Yep, these days before the actual movie starts you have to sit through hours of warnings about what might happen in the film, and how the views expressed therein may not be in accordance with those of the distributor. And then you are told who the producers are. Usually, there are many, because these days every single film seems to be produced by 27 companies and executive produced by the star’s wife, who gets a credit too, along with all the people she approached for money. Couple all this to the time your machine takes to decide whether the disc is in the correct format and was bought in the right region, and the time taken from you turning the player on to the start of the film is about 10 hours. There are some films that are made in less time than it takes them to start. And of course do not ever show the DVD to more than a few people at a time or try to copy it because if you do a FBI SWAT team will fly in from a helicopter, throw a stun grenade into your living room and, once detained, send you to prison for 300 years.

Now I am sure there will be those bloggers who will tell me about the joys of downloading but this is pointless. Asking me to work out how to download something is like asking a drunken squid to unhook a bra.

In the old days I used to go to the audio visual manager onboard and ask him for a copy of the pay per view movies that you get in the cabins and for a case of Heineken Radu would oblige. However, this also has come to an end because the movies we show in the cabins and on the big screens on Lido are all digital…………………whatever that means.

It looks therefore like I will never be able to watch a movie ever again then and if I do it will take as long as it took to buy something on Amazon for my mother on the internet recently. My Mum is a huge fan of a musician called Andre Rieu a violin player who puts on extravagant musical events. Anyway, she saw his new show was on DVD so she asked me to help her buy it “online.”  She only asked me for help because my 7 year old nephew was at school and the dog was asleep. Anyway, first, we had to find her glasses, then we had to find her credit card and then we had to look up her postcode (zip code) and then she needed to pee and then her sister called on the phone and then two days later and a million stupid questions later, all dreamt up by someone with a beard we were told that the DVD was out of stock.

It’s things like this that drive me crazy in the same way that if someone on the ship gets in an elevator before those inside have a chance to get out. Oh this really makes my blood boil and my hemorrhoids flare up and I start to imagine what these rude guests would look like with my foot up their arse.

Sometimes it takes a lot of patience not to poke a guest in the eye for saying something stupid and I think that Gerry Cahill should allow us to have this option. For example …… if you are the first, second, third or fourth person that on elegant night asks the captain “If you’re here who is driving the ship?” then you are safe and will receive a polite reply and smile. But if you are the fifth person to ask that question then the captain should be allowed to twist your nipple……………………..really really hard.

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

CruzinMan Asked:
John please reply,

Reading post on your blog while I noticed a poster called Big Ed as well as host Mach making uncalled for comments that your readers shouldn’t have to read. I know it’s your blog thingy but there are families that depend on your blog for cruise information. Is there really a need to read the foul mouthing from Cruise Critic ego club “Big Ed or host Mach.” If they want to have a childish feud with this L Cat person let them do off your blog please. My grand kids read here as well as my family. Please John, don’t let this blog turn into another misfit board for Cruise Critic rants.

Best wishes to you and family this coming  Turkey Day.
John Williams

John Says:
Hello CruzinMan

I think you are referring to comments made in reply top some very cruel postings from someone called Lemurcat.  I must also say that both Big Ed and Host Mach are huge supporters of the blog. I also know them personally and that they will be most concerned that anything they may have written would have upset you or your family. I also wish to apologise if this is the case and I know that occasionally opinions vary here and that can cause some heated exchanges. So please accept my apologies and I truly hope that you and your grandchildren continue to enjoy the blog thingy.

Best wishes to you all
John

Brian Asked:
PLEASE REPLY

John,

I wanted to exhaust all means through Guest Care before asking you to try and do something about an issue I had while sailing on the Carnival Fascination. The explanation is a bit long winded, so please bear with me.

We recently (October 4th) sailed on the Carnival Fascination, and had an excellent time, to include the Chef’s Table (delicious!) and the Behind the Fun tour. Half Moon Cay was a bit of a letdown, we are not beach going folks and our cabana lacked power, apparently they are building a new bar or something. However, we were booked in an Extended Suite, which was amazing, the balcony was enormous. However, apparently, there is an Air Conditioning intake located between cabins U101 and U97 up inside the grate above the original balcony. I wish it was not an issue, however the noise generated by this intake was deafening, so bad in fact, my wife and I could not a) sit on our balcony and enjoy casual conversation without having to yell at each other and b) got headaches from the noise while attempting to use the balcony.

I did bring this to the attention of the Guest Services desk, and a Guest Services Officer did come to the cabin to observe the noise (my wife even got a video of me talking to her on the balcony, yes, she was blond and gorgeous). However, as I figured and as she stated, the intakes are a design (flaw) of the ship and there was nothing she or anyone else on the ship could do about it, but would double check with the ships’ engineers just in case. So I left it at that, but did state that we were unhappy with the noise and would like to complain about it as we could not enjoy our very large balcony, which we did indeed pay dearly for. We heard nothing else about it the rest of the cruise, and were either too busy or too tired from all of the activities to follow up at the Guest Services desk about it.

Once we returned home, I mentioned it in the survey I received via email and requested to be contacted about it. I gave it a week or 2 and then I contacted the Guest Care department to inquiry about it as well as to make the recommendation that perhaps Carnival should warn of excessive noise areas in and around certain cabins (such as U101 and U97 on the Fascination, not sure if this flaw extends to the entire Fantasy Class or not). I was given a case number, my info was taken, to include my email, which was repeated back to me, and was told they would be back in contact with me after speaking with the ship.

Fast forward a month or so, I had not heard anything back from the Guest Care department, so I decided to give them a ring. Turns out, they sent me a reply early in November, only it went to the wrong email (apparently a digit was left off the email address). So, the email was resent to me. Upon reading it, it stated that I had not brought the problems to the attention of the crew onboard (which I had) and it did indeed apologize several times about any issues that I “might” have had. It still did not mention any form of solution.

So I rang Guest Care again, and reiterated that I had indeed brought it to the attention of the Guest Services desk while on the ship, even had an officer accompany me to my cabin to observe the noise, and even had a video to prove it if need be. The reply I got and I quote “Well what do you want sir, do you expect compensation?”

Needless to say, I was speechless. After picking my jaw up off the floor, I calmly explained to the representative that no, I did not expect compensation, as I had stated in my original phone call, that I would rather Carnival develop a way of marking or warning guests when booking cabins if there is a potential noise hazard near the cabin they are about to book. I also stated that if she felt I deserved compensation, I certainly would not decline it, however I did not expect it- as I did indeed enjoy my cruise (for the most part), but certainly would not have booked that cabin had I known of the noise, and most certainly will not book any GS or ES on the Fantasy class ships in the future until I can confirm if the issue affects the whole class or not.

To this she stated, another quote here, “Sir I thank you for calling Carnival and wish you a good rest of the evening.” *click*

Now, I am not one to let one bad experience ruin my view of CCL or stop me from cruising on Carnival ships, but I thought maybe you would like to be aware of the situation. I do realize that the Guest Care reps are probably a little stressed here lately with the Splendor issues and all, but that did seem a little extreme.
I also wanted to ask you if 1) the a/c intakes are an issue on all of the Fantasy class ships, 2) if the issue is only limited to the Extended Suites or is deemed an issue to all of the suites on the Upper deck, and 3) if there is a way to, in the future, possibly warn guests when they are about to book a cabin that there is a noise hazard located in/near their cabin/balcony to include a/c intakes, being above/below common areas such as a night club or open deck, etc.

Also, I want to let you know that the Fascination is a wonderful ship and she has an AMAZING crew, to include Dezzi (very wonderful personality) and our head waiter VeJay. They even made our 14 year old son at home in the MDR when he went solo to dinner while my wife and I were at the Chef’s Table. Here it is, almost 2 months after the cruise and our son STILL remembers VeJay (I had to ask him his name as I forgot it!)!

Thanks John, both for listening, err reading, and for any help and/or insight into the Fantasy class that you can provide!

-Brian

John Says:
Hello Brian

I am very grateful to you for bringing this to my attention. I’m really not in a position to comment but send my sincere apologies and have sent this to a vice president for her attention. You will therefore be contacted shortly. I was very glad to read how much you enjoyed your cruise despite the cabin situation and I hope that you will consider coming back to Carnival soon. Please let me know if I can help further.

Best wishes
John

Derek W Asked:
For a reply and table reservation for cabin 8342

Me and my partner are going on the Dream on the 29th of January. We want a table for 2 that is quiet. Does Carnival have friends of Dorothy meetings like Royal Caribbean and if not we will need these arranged as well. You can contact me by e mail.

Derek

John Says:
Hello Derek

I have asked the maitre d to do his best to help with your table request. We do indeed have Friends of Dorothy meetings daily and the time and locations of these events will be listed in your daily program which is called the Fun Times.

Have a great cruise

Best wishes
John

Jim Asked:
Hi John – PLEASE REPLY

I’ve heard that Ron Pass will be the Piano Man on the Inaugural launch of “Carnival Magic” when she sails in late April. Any chance that we can get him back for the TA Crossing in late October??? That will be cruise number 29 for me (unless I get another in between February and October) and all with Carnival. I sailed on the Freedom TA with Ron and what an amazing time that was. He is the best that I have seen!! Thanks for your time!!

John Says:
Hello Jim

Yes indeed the one and only Ron Pass will be entertaining guests on their Carnival Magic. I am not sure how long he will stay but I hope it’s the whole time we are in Europe and then for the trans-Atlantic and I will certainly ask him to stay for the 16-day voyage to Texas. I hope we meet personally on the crossing.

Best wishes
John

Kristin Asked:
Dear John,
(PLEASE REPLY)

Thank you so much for allowing us readers to cruise vicariously with you each day!

My husband and I share the same birthday (Oct 28), so when the time came to select our wedding date, we chose that same day to celebrate. We try to take a trip each year during our birthday/anniversary week and this year, along with another couple, we chose a cruise.

We sailed the Victory 10/24 – 10/31 and had the pleasure of singing along with today’s highlighted piano bar host – Justin! He is loads of fun! We stopped by the Irish Seas Piano Bar almost every night for some great camaraderie and hilarity! Justin really got the crowd going…especially a group of young ladies from Boston…I think they may have started a fan club I hope he continues with Carnival – we’d love to see him again! (BTW – Thanks a lot for putting Sweet Caroline back in my brain…I had just about worked it out of there:)

One more comment before I go…Our cruise on the Victory was my first Carnival cruise…I only had two previous cruises under my belt – both on the Disney Magic – and I must confess that I was a bit of a snob! When the decision was made to take this cruise with Carnival I was very hesitant – I had the opinion that it would be a huge let-down having experienced the amazing service and attention to detail of Disney! Wow – was I ever wrong! I was absolutely blown away with our Carnival experience! The ship, the service and the ports-of-call were all top notch! Several folks made our voyage the wonderful experience that it was – Karl with a K (CD), Adrian (our room steward), Justin (piano bar), Glen (guest services)! Kudos to all!

Thank you again for all you do!
Kristin (a Carnival Convert)

John Says:
Hello Kristin

If you could see me now you would see that I have a huge smile on my face. Actually it’s a good thing you can’t see me now because I am sitting here in my underpants. Anyway, I loved your post and how you were expecting an average time or worse on your first Carnival cruise but were shocked and wonderfully surprised to find it a brilliantly fun experience. I have not sailed with Justin but it seems like his reputation is well deserved. I will also make sure all the people you mentioned get to see your words of praise.

I am so glad that you are a Carnival convert and I hope that we see you again soon ………. maybe on October 28 2011.

Best wishes to you both
John

Susan Alaimo Asked:
John, Please Reply.

First, I want to commend you and the crew for doing a wonderful job handling the Splendor incident. I didn’t hear a negative comment about it in the press. Also, I really, really, really enjoyed your account of it on your blog. Hope that you are enjoying your well deserved rest with your family. I wrote you a couple months ago for the first time. You probably don’t remember, but I told you about my first cruise being on the Carnival Mardi Gras (1983). Also, that I had gotten a group of friends together to do the TA on the Magic (and that you being CD was the deciding factor on choosing that cruise).

I had mentioned to you that I was surprising my hubby, Matt, with a cruise for his 60th birthday present on the Princess Emerald (due to your great review).

Anyway, last month was his birthday and I told him about it (I was bursting. I couldn’t keep the surprise to myself any longer.). He was quite pleased with my gift. We are excited about this cruise but still a little apprehensive about leaving Carnival. We’ve been Platinum since Carnival originated the program, and we’ll miss our perks. But we’ll survive. You had asked that I drop you a note & let you know when our cruise was…It is on the Princess Emerald on Jan. 17th. (Cabin E517).

Although my husband doesn’t read your blog a lot (he’s not that into the computer), he gets a daily blow by blow briefing from me. It would be really sweet (& funny) if you would send him a birthday greeting. He is already suspicious of why you are my Facebook friend. We are look forward to returning to Carnival for Magic’s TA in October and meeting you. Finally, please don’t change, we like you just the way you are.

Thank you for being you.
Sue

John Says:
Hello Sue

I do indeed remember your post and I am so excited for you to experience the wonderful Princess product. Please tell your husband he will have a great time and I am going to ask a friend of mine at Princess to send you a little welcome aboard gift from me. Have a brilliant time and I will see you on your Carnival Magic. Best wishes to you both

John

John T Bird Asked:
PLEASE REPLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Re smoking. By 2020 smoking will be banned everywhere. Cars, public spaces, parks, golf courses anywhere and everywhere people gather. If people want to smoke they will only be allowed to do so in their own homes. Smoking is a disease and disease must be eradicated. Carnival had better get ready to change or go bust. I won’t cruise until smoking and is banned on your boats

John Says:
Hello John T Bird

Thanks so much for your insight into the future and sadly you may be right. As for now Carnival continues to do its best to accommodate smokers and non-smokers alike. Let’s see what the future holds and maybe there will also be a ban on eating red meat, drinking alcohol and looking at DVDs of Latvian women doing naughty things on a pool table.

Best wishes
John

Stacy Asked:
Please Reply

So I am one of those people you referred to in an earlier entry that started reading your blog due to the recent Splendor “happenings” and ended up loving it! I am here for good now and I have a quick question:

I have been patiently awaiting next year’s CD schedule to see if you will be on our July 3, 2011 Mediterranean cruise on the Carnival Magic? This will be me and my fiancé’s honeymoon and that would seal the deal on making this the best honeymoon ever!

Also, being it is our honeymoon, is there anything special we can do onboard to celebrate? I would love to surprise my soon-to-be hubby with something special.

Thanks for being you,
Stacy

John Says:
Hello Stacy

Welcome to the blog and I am glad that you have joined this great community of wonderful people…………mostly. I will indeed be onboard and hope that you will take the time to leave me a not at the guest services desk when you board the ship so that I can send you a honeymoon gift. Please let me know if you need anything else and I will see you and your new husband soon.

Best wishes
John

Jetsfanfrank Asked:
Can you confirm that the NFL Playoff games will all be shown on the Valor? Immediate reply needed.

John Says:
Hello Jetsfanfrank

I checked with the CD Goose and yes the games will be shown subject to transmission. They will either be on the Seaside Theatre Big Screen or in the sports bar as well as on the stateroom TV’s. I apologise that the reply was not “immediate” as I am behind in my answering questions.

Have a brilliant cruise

Best wishes
John

Riley Asked:
Dear John – Please reply (when you have a chance)

First of all, I absolutely LOVE your blog thingy and have been reading since the inaugural voyage of the Freedom in 2007. We had a conversation about blogging and you told me about yours and it is GREAT. Although I haven’t cruised with you since, I hope to again one day. Just one question: I know the whole Dream class ships is/was called the Pinnacle Project. I’ve seen online computer generated pictures of a Carnival Pinnacle. Is this an actual ship that will sail in the future? It looks like it would be AMAZING and an extremely fun ship (no pun intended). Thank you for all you do John, and keep up the good work!

-Riley

John Says:
Hello Riley

Thanks for those kind words and I also hope to sail with you again one day soon. The Pinnacle project was Carnival’s plan to build a huge ship which at the time would have been by far the biggest ship in the world. For a variety of reasons the project was scrapped and it was then decided to build Dream class ships rather than Pinnacle class, something which as a CD I am quite happy about. So Pinnacle plans are now in the same drawer as the plans to use Mel Gibson as our spokesperson and the plans to include naked trampolining as an onboard activity. Best wishes and I truly hope to sail with you again soon

John

That’s all for today…………………well………………..mostly.

During the last few days it seems I have been sent thousands of comments (OK, 7 comments) all of which are exactly like this one.

Mary Kreg Asked:
Please reply

I read on Cruise Critic all about the changes that Carnival is making that will mean that I will cruise with another company from now on. I can’t see how Carnival will survive now that your room will only be serviced once a day and like some shopping mall you will be expected to clean your own tables on lido after a meal or snack. The lobster gone unless you want to pay for it. Here is what other members are saying about this.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1332840&highlight=turndown+service

Mary

John Says:
Hello Mary

Well I had seven different comments about this and all but one had the same link from Cruise Critic attached. So let me start by apologizing to the 6 people whose comments I won’t be posting as they are all basically the same.

Well Mary, you are correct, there are indeed some drastic changes coming immediately if not sooner — the stateroom stewards will not be providing a turndown service anymore because we will be using them as dancers and Ketut and his mates will swap their housekeeping uniforms for feathers and G-strings. Yep, the lobster has gone, too – in fact all seafood items have been taken off the menu although we will allow guests the $20 package which includes a rod, reel and bait and a reserved spot on Lido from which to fish from. We will however charge an additional $5 per fish to cook it for you.

Sorry Mary………that was cruel but you can I hope understand that sometimes you have to just laugh at these ridiculous rumors that are started by people with bugger all life and that have the brain capacity of an amoeba.

Please don’t worry and I hope you will continue to enjoy the fantastic service, fun and affordability that a Carnival cruise has and always will provide.

Switching subjects, I wanted to talk about bed bugs. You see my friend Host Mach from Cruise Critic sent me a message a few days ago that there was a thread thingy on the boards about an infestation of the little buggers on the Carnival Ecstasy.

Well, here is the official word on this from our VP in charge of housekeeping:

We checked logs on the Carnival Ecstasy for the past six months and we have had no confirmed case of bedbugs on this ship.  Often, guests who have been bitten by sand flies, mosquitoes, or jelly fish larvae attribute the skin irritation to bed bug bites.  Carnival has extensive procedures and protocols for the detection and treatment of bedbugs. This includes an active surveillance system in place, as well as a thorough inspection and preventive program for its 27,000 staterooms that while not perfect, assists in the early detection of bed bugs.  Bed bugs love to travel and arrive at the ships in hand bags, folds of clothes, luggage, planes, trains and cars.

I stayed in a hotel in New York a few weeks ago, a very posh hotel I might add and one of the 244 Stephanies who stayed in the same hotel came away with bite marks on her legs. I remember my Mum always saying the same thing to me and my sister Suedrip as we went to bed. Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite these days that saying is a vital warning when parents put children to bed clothed in long-sleeved pajamas, trousers and socks to protect them from the silent little bastards that share their bed.

I have a friend who lives in New York and she was telling me about how they hire a special dog to come to their apartment. “Did the dog scratch?” are words every New Yorker dreads hearing because this is a sign that you have bed bugs. She told me that she how enormous, itchy welts had covered her entire body, and at first she’d thought she’d been bitten by a mosquito.

How do they travel? Well it seems that like all forms of transportation. You can be the unlucky person who sits in the airline seat after someone who has bedbugs. They get into luggage as well as on clothing.

Like being mugged, winning the lottery or living next door to a serial killer, you never think it will happen to you. Especially if you’re like we are onboard obsessive about germs and dirt.

So while there are no outbreaks and no reported infestations, the cruise industry, like the hotel industry are fighting back hard to make sure we send these little buggers back to where they came from……………….Paris probably.

Time for a break and let’s continue to meet more of the great Assistant Cruise Directors we have at Carnival. Today we visit the Carnival Liberty and one of my very good friends and a brilliant ACD. Here is Kevin Darby.

My current ship is the Carnival Liberty until June 11 2011. Not yet sure on my  next ship.

My Journey as ACD begins on the Splendor where I was a tier 2 host. I was lucky enough to join the Splendor on its first 12 day itinerary in Europe. While on the Splendor each member of the host team was given a task and was in charge of that task for a period of time before rotating to another i.e. port Manning, host schedule, and accommodations. This widened my knowledge of the ACD job role and when leaving the Splendor I was more confident as a host. After leaving  the Splendor I went to the Legend where I passed my tier 1 assessment and started to work and focus on the role as ACD. Working very closely with the  cruise director and assistant I was able to further my understanding and knowledge of the CD role and therefore when the opportunity arose to cover as ACD I jumped at the chance and have never looked back. I have now been assistant for almost 2 years and love every minute of my job.

If a guest sails with me I would say that they should not miss The Liars club or  Game show mania.

The best thing about being ACD is being the go to guy to get things done. This is what I love most, the fact that people from all departments ring you because they know that you will know the answer or get back to them with the right answer immediately

Thanks mate and congratulations on your continuing success, I see great things in your future…..especially if you add the word Carnival in front of the ship’s name you lazy sod.

Look out for Kevin everyone…………he will be in the big chair one day soon.

Thank you for all the kind words and I am getting better. I went back to the doctor today and he has given me one more weeks of anti-bollocks and also gave me the flu jab ……… ”It’s only a little prick,” he said……………….”It’s cold outside,” I replied.

I know I usually end the blog with a poor attempt at humour but not today. You see the news here is dominated by the shooting in Arizona and it is interesting to see what my fellow Brit’s think about it. Obviously they are all shocked and heartbroken for those who lost their lives. It has though once again had the British news commentators talking about guns and why America continues to allow them on the street. This is not something I think they understand fully because you have to have lived in or with Americans as I have to understand that the right to bear arms is a considered constitutional right.

I was having this discussion with my father this morning. “Why not get rid of all the guns?” was his plain and simple thinking. My argument was that If there were more guns about maybe someone could have drawn down on this bastardly coward and reduced the carnage. How is it these bastards never attack army bases or shooting ranges, maybe someone will shoot back? It is always the defenseless, who suffer from these loners, and once again all the signals were being sent out from him and once again he did exactly what it said on the label. Two retirees fought, brought down, then pinned down an armed man and that is truly remarkable.

Look, I don’t want to start any political argument here on this blog thingy but I do know that it is read by thousands of people representing the broadest selection of people. So, selfishly I would like to ask your opinion on this subject. What, if anything, can be done to insure incidents like this do not happen? I would really appreciate your thoughts ……… and so would my Dad.

Well tomorrow I will have some news for you about a Carnival ship and a new destinat ……….. sssh……….join me tomorrow for that and much more.

Oh, one more thing. I thought I would show you the comedy clip that was voted the funniest on British TV over the last 20 years. It will be interesting to see what my North American friends think of this.

It comes from a show called Only Fools and Horses.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63rcdLeXiU8

Goodnight

Your friend
John

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.

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