How Not To Get An Upgrade

February 7, 2011 -

John Heald

As you now know I am going to be leaving the beautiful Carnival Freedom on Saturday for another flight…………..another six hour flight in a metal tube breathing in other peoples farts.

And I will be doing this in coach! A lot of people on the blog, on Facebook and in person always say “Ahhhh…… must be flying business class?” When I reply “Business class my arse,“ they seem horrified.

“But you CAN’T fly coach, it’s ridiculous,” they cry. “You’re Carnival’s brand ambassador and a smooth talking senior cruise director……bet you could talk the airline into giving you an upgrade.”

Bollocks can I.

It’s impossible these days to get a free upgrade because not only will I be trying but so will many, many other passengers be trying the same thing. Begging, pleading and occasionally demanding an upgrade has become an obsession.

I tried once and as I did I realised how pitiful I must have looked to those in the line behind me as the fat British bloke tried flattering to death a bored check in person, who had heard it all before and from far better looking men then me. When she told me a simple “no upgrades” all hope that I might be able to creep beyond the blue curtain buggered off…….. and I was left in row C490…….next to the toilets enjoying 8 hours smelling either the chicken or the beef.

I fly a lot and have seen it all………. faking a bad leg…….. playing tonsil hockey with their partner in the line and pretending that they have just got engaged. And of course this free upgrade obsession is not only a flying thingy but a cruising thingy as well. I asked the chief purser how man …….bugger…………….I asked the guest services manager how many requests for an upgrade he received yesterday during embarkation………..have a guess ………. go on ……….I did and I was way wrong. I guessed that 20 guests had asked for an upgrade ……………the actual number ………. 53. That is 53 guests who thought that they would try to get an upgrade from an inside deck 1 cabin …………to the penthouse. And just like when people ask the nice lady at the check in desk for an upgrade using the normal excuses, so too are there the standard reasons as to why they should get one.

Their travel agent said they would get one. The cabin is too small and they are claustrophobic and can’t possibly stay there. They know Carnival’s owner Mr. Arnerson and he said that they would get a suite.

Listen…………I would love to fly business class …………and occasionally I can use frequent flyer points when I am on British Airways to do so, but internal flights across the States………forget about it. I would like to fly business class only because I am already tired of flying and I would love to stretch out and be able to sleep a bit.

But when I fly I see that for most flying first or business class all that matters is how far away you sit from the commoners in coach. Some people say it’s all about the extra legroom like I just did but for some that’s total bollocks. It’s about being a flying snob. With a first or business class ticket you’re granted not just more leg room and a hot towel but the right to feel superior to the people behind you in “goat class.”

So I won’t be trying to get an upgrade. I won’t try wearing a tie or breaking my economy seat on purpose. I won’t be borrowing one of Carnival’s wheelchairs and pretend not to be able to walk to get a better seat on the plane or a ride on one of those airport carts that go beep, beep, beep, beep as they thunder along..

I guess in a way it’s no different to asking the spotted youth behind the counter at McDonalds for a Big Mac even though you have only paid for a quarter pounder. You’d never insist that J.C Penney gives you a pair of Calvin Klein underpants……. when you’ve only paid for a pair of Fruit of the Loom tightie whities.

So, it’s coach for me and at least I will sit in the last row at the back of the plane knowing that if we hit a mountain……………the bastards in 1st class will be the first ones to die.

Time for today’s Q and A…… we trot.

T.H. Kelly Asked:

My girlfriend and I will be on the Magic in August and going to Venice as one of the ports. I want to propose to my wife there and then take her for a romantic dinner. I have booked the gondola tour on Carnival but then need to go somewhere to celebrate that she hopefully said yes. Do you have any suggestions. We were on the Conquest with you and along with the cabin steward Sylvi you were the highlight and we are looking forward to seeing you again. Love your blog and Facebook updates


John Says:
Hello T.H.Kelly,

Well first of all thanks for the kind words and congratulations on your choice of your Carnival Magic and a gondola in Venice…… can any girl resist that? Venice is of course the City of Lights and I have to be honest the city that can have some of the slowest service in the entire universe. Yes, the universe, because even if you found the restaurant in Paris that had the slowest and sometimes rudest service in the city………and that’s most restaurants in Paris…….it would still be better than the service in Venice. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Venice and there is no more jaw dropping sight in the world than sailing into this incomparable city……except seeing me naked ….………. that’s pretty incomparable, as well.

But if you can learn to laugh at the Manuel from Fawlty Towers type service the food is pretty special. Try Il Galliano just off St. Mark’s Square but if you want to really celebrate then you have to go to Harry’s Bar..I know lots of people who say that Harry’s Bar is their favorite restaurant in the world. What’s even more astonishing is that a fair proportion of them are Italian.. The menu, including the fabled Chef Emm’s risotto and carpaccio is amazing but remember a meal there is about the same as a four day cruise…I went one time with Heidi and my friends the Bentleys and the food was some of the best I had ever tasted……but that probably had something to do with the fact that they were paying. Anyway, when you get onboard lets chat and I will update you on the restaurant scene……….but maybe that night…… should consider the steakhouse………….value for money it’s the best place to eat in town.

See you soon.

Best wishes

Peter Du Pree Asked:
Reply please

I was on the Valor last week and I found the decor to be really tacky. I am a Canadian and was disgusted at the fact that everything celebrated America when you have many passengers who are not American. It seems your designers put no thought into this or they don’t care about Canadians. On the good side Elvietta our waiter was the best we have ever had and the Steak house was well worth the money. My question is why it was so hard to get the program in French. My Mother speaks no English and I wanted to get the daily program in French but they never came. The menu was available for her but nothing else. I was angry at having America rubbed in my face and as a Canadian I felt a second class citizen on the ship. America does not rule the world so why do they rule your ships? Even the shows have the American anthem in it.

John Says:
Hello Peter Du Pree,

I am trying to remember the decor of the Carnival Valor and can’t think what it was that made you so upset for which I apologise. But let me assure you that each week we carry hundreds if not thousands of Canadian guests most of whom have the very best of times. We should have been able to provide though a copy of the Fun Times in French and I am surprised that this was not available. I will make sure I pass this comment on to the ship along with your praise of the stateroom stewards and the steakhouse.

Our Canadian guests are really important to us and I hope that you remember all the good things that you and your family enjoyed on your cruise and come and join us again.

Best wishes to you all

Monique Asked:
Dear John,

I am a travel agent and I have some gay clients sailing on Queen Mary in May. They will be celebrating their wedding anniversary on board and have heard that there is an anniversary celebration that is given to couples sailing within 2 months of their anniversary. This is supposed to include a bottle of champagne, a signed note from the Captain and a photo, all free! I am not sure if this will apply to my clients as they are gay and I need to make sure that the ship understands the situation

Can you help me with this.


John Says:

Thanks for letting me know about your clients. I will make sure this post reaches my friends at Cunard and that they are informed of the situation. Please wish your clients a wonderful voyage and if there is anything else I can ever do for you please let me know


Catherine W Asked:

John, please reply. I am so excited, I just booked the May 22nd sailing on the Magic with you! It will be my third Carnival cruise and the first for my sister-in-law, who will be traveling with me. I have a question for you – the ship docks overnight in Venice, so does that mean that we will be able to stay out late and be able to get back on ship or do they lock us out at a certain time? I know it’s a stupid question, but I’ve never been on a cruise with an overnight port. Thanks for your reply, and I can’t wait to meet you in May!

Catherine W.

John Says:
Hello Catherine W,

Congratulations on booking your Carnival Magic and I am thrilled that you have done so. Isn’t it funny that in today’s blog there have been two questions all about Venice? Anyway, yes the ship is there overnight and you can come and go as many times as you like while we are there. I will provide a brief talk on Venice once you are onboard and will explain all about how to get around Venice.

See you soon.

Best wishes

Sea2see Asked:
John. – reply

Thanks to your failure to answer my question in time my fears of being put at a table with non desirables came true. I had asked you for a table just for me and my partner but you never responded in time. This meant that we sat with a family whose kids were obnoxious and ruined every dinner. Your blog is a customer service tool and it failed to provide any of that for me. We won’t be asking you for anything else. Why waste my time. The air conditioning in cabin 1428 was too war as well.

John Says:
Hello Sea2see,

I am so sorry that I did not see your request in time. I answer 50 questions a week here on the blog thingy and probably 50 or more on Facebook each week and am really doing the very best I can. Once again my apologies and I hope despite your table disappointment you had a fun time. I am here should you reconsider and need to ask me anything. I will also make sure I pass on your comments about the air conditioning to the vessel as well. Thanks for taking the time to write.

Best wishes,

Fran from New York Asked:

I had posted a question THREE TIMES and I STILL haven’t received a response. So here it is AGAIN

We are in cabin 7288 on Dream sailing Feb 12. It’s our 25th anniversary and we will need a table for 2. Do you send anniversary gifts as well?

John Says:
Hello Fran from New York Nancy,

I didn’t see the first two requests but am glad it was third time lucky. I will ask the maitre d to do his best to assist you and I will be happy to send you an anniversary gift.

Have a great cruise.

Best wishes,

John Seacrest Asked:
Dear John (Please Reply)

E & E have done such a wonderful job filling in for you on the blog thingy while you have been away. I have a request that I hope can be accommodated.

We are on the Carnival Dream on March 5th – 12th with 5 other family members. You assisted us in getting our Chef’s Table reservations set up. While we are on-board the group will be celebrating 3 birthdays.

Would there be any chance of having CD Butch stop by our table at one of the dinners to say hello and wish my fiancée Karen a Happy Birthday. Her actual birthday is on 3/7 but I think that is the night of the Chef’s Table. Any night would be wonderful and I am sure she would remember it as a very special gift.

Our cabin is 7377 and we are confirmed for early dining.

Thanks so much for all you do.

John Says:
Hello John Seacrest,

Yes indeed Eric and Everett the beards have done a brilliant job for me and I am so thankful to them and their tofu lunches. I have sent your request to Butch who I am sure will be able to stop by and say hello. I hope you all have a brilliant cruise and have time to tell me all about it when you get home.

Carlynn L Asked:
Please help me and reply

My 14 year old son Carl has Asperger’s syndrome. I went on another cruise last year (not Carnival) and the staff at the kids club seemed hesitant to let him take part and it was rather an uncomfortable time. We had to see the hotel manager and sign a waiver etc. We will be going on the Victory in June and I would like to know if I will have the same problems on this ship.

Thank you
Carlynn and family

John Says:
Hello Carlynn,

I was so sad to read the problems you had on your last cruise and let me say that I promise you will not have any similar concerns when you cruise the Carnival Victory. Our Circle C staff look after and entertain many children who have similar concerns and they will be ready to look after and entertain Carl. I know there are some readers of the blog thingy who have children with Aspergers and maybe they would like to pass on any advice in the comment section below.

Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns

Best wishes to you all

Bandmaster Jack Asked:
Please reply John

I am a high school bandmaster and will be going on the Paradise with my band for spring break. We are scheduled to perform a concert onboard and would like permission to put this in the daily program and invite the ship to come and listen. My travel agent says that this is not possible so I thought I would ask King John.

Thanks for anything you can do

John Says:
Hello Jack,

King John……that’s funny. Of course we can do this for you Jack and I am sure the guests will enjoy this. Please can you send me the sailing date and the group booking number here to the blog and I will arrange this for you. I hope you all have a great time

Best wishes

That’s all for today and I will be back with more tomorrow. Now a while ago I promised that I would post some PDF thingies of the Carnival Capers from around ……. bugger ……. the Fun Times from around the fleet. Well we will start today with of course the Carnival Freedom.

Now I should point out that Eric the Beard is working on a drop box thing in which these will be permanently stored and by the end of March I intend to have the whole fleet in there. I know many of you will find this useful so you can see what night we do what, arrival and departure times and all the information that they have within. So here then are the current 6 and two 8 day cruises of the Carnival Freedom.

You can find the FunTimes PDFs here.

We are in Key West today and as I sit here in my underpants on Promenade deck writing to you it will come as no surprise to learn that agreeing with the beards to let Dan take over as CD this cruise was a huge sodding mistake. Not because he didn’t do well because he did. He really did. But as I sat watching his show last night I realised again that the time when I can stay on one ship, being a cruise director, for a full contract cannot come quick enough.

Dan’s welcome aboard show went well as I said but like any CD doing this for the first time he was a nervous wreck. The welcome aboard show is the first impression the guests have of the cruise director and sets the tone on how he or she will be perceived for the rest of the cruise. That’s why it is so important for the cruise director to make a good impression on that first night to make sure that guests have a great time, the listen to the info. that the CD provides and participate in all the activities on board. Anyway, Dan did well. I had a few notes for him which I hope he will take to heart when I meet with him shortly.

Now on Saturday I had posted something on my Facebook page about Superbowl. There had been some discussion amongst the management here on the Carnival Freedom about showing the game in the main lounge as well as on the Seaside Theatre Big Screen, aft lounge and sports bar.

I had said no to this stating that not everyone wanted to watch the game and that we had to give guests an alternative. And so we did not cancel the welcome aboard show and it was a good job because there were approx 200 – 300 people there for the events starting at 8 pm, 500 plus for the bingo before the show and around 800 for the show itself. So it was the right thing to do.

Before I talk about the game itself let’s talk about another brilliant “nipplegate” type moment at the Super Bowl yesterday. I am of course talking about Christina Arachnophobia and her forgetting the words to the national anthem. I honestly had no idea she had done this until I read the news this morning because as soon as I saw her I reached for the cabin TV remote control and hit thee mute button to spare me the inevitable pain. When she sings I can feel you can feel the enamel peel from your teeth unlike last year when that wonderful lady whose name totally escapes me sang such a wonderful rendition of it after suffering the terrible family tragedy.

There was no doubt the game was popular though as you will see from these photos.

So a successful night all round………except I am an idiot. I know I am helping Dan who is just starting his career but ………I really really miss the microphone.

I did watch a bit of the game and I have to say some of those chaps are as big as freight trains. How do they fly to games? Not in coach for sure and even first class seats wouldn’t be big enough for some of them. Maybe they get about on those troop carrier planes that the US use to move Jeeps and tanks about? They should go one stage further. If you dressed these man mountains in US Army uniforms armed to the teeth and got them to wander about the streets of Kabul, then I am sure the Taliban would bugger off pretty damn quickly.

I always feel sorry for the specialist kickers when they get ummmm…….I don’t know the right word. You know……….when these skinny sods are jumped on my thousands of pounds of muscle. I don’t know the correct term for this but I am sure seeing this the term the kicker uses is “I am about to enter s**t street.” Or maybe there is a simple cry of…………..Mummy.

The game was shown in the UK because American football is popular in my home country as is the NBA. The problem is we don’t have anyone who understands the game well enough to give a decent commentary and when they do saying “Oh what a splendid touchdown, well played Mr. Running Back” doesn’t seem right somehow.

But then again it’s the same when Americans think they can start talking English. There is a chap here on the Carnival Freedom in the orchestra who I have known for some time who every time he sees me calls me “mate.”

When he does I’m filled with a sudden desire to insert my foot in his bottom. Americans cannot say “mate” any more than Germans can say “squirrel.” And it’s even worse when a Brit tries to speak American, we that we sound idiotic when we use the word “bucks” instead of “dollars.”

The gold medal winner on trying to speak with an English accent must go to Kevin Costner in Robin Hood. He tried hard for the first 20 minutes of the film then just gave up and returned to his American twang. I realize it must be hard. My friend Kevin I think does a good job in masking the fact that he is a kilt-wearing, haggis-eating Scot when he speaks in Grey’s Anatomy as does the guy from House.

We all know that there are differences in the meaning of words in English and American…… the popular ones such as fanny and tart are well known. However, I heard a doctor use a word this morning that I truly did not understand. This morning on CNN there was a story that made me sit up as a doctor described the condition of a patient.

A young chap who had been using his cell phone on the third story of an office block when the elevator doors opened. Without looking, he stepped through the gap only to find the lift ……. sorry……….elevator…… wasn’t actually there.

In the resultant fall he broke his back in two places, punctured a lung and snapped several ribs. But even so, doctors on this morning’s news described his condition as “comfortable.” Now look. Someone lying on the deck of his private yacht being massaged by three naked Latvian supermodels is “comfortable.” Someone lying in a Californian hospital with a broken back and a shattered rib poking through one of his lungs just isn’t. Crumpled would have been better. As would miserable, broken, or pissed of.

Yep, there are many differences in our languages as my friend and Carnival comic Lewis Nixon found out when he went to London for the first time. He was in a hotel and as he walked to his room he heard an English lady say to her colleague ´Timothy, will you knock me up in the morning.” Which in proper English means “Will you wake me up in the morning?

Lewis not understanding this shouted across……”Hey…….why wait to morning, I’ll knock you up right now.”

So back to the game and the decision not to show Ben Doublechesseburger getting his arse kicked in the main theatre was the right one as I have already discussed in today’s blog and apart from getting up at 6:30am to pass through Immigration and not getting my new deck 6 cabin until 5:45pm, it was a day that was going well. Right up to the point when I got screamed at and sworn at by two readers of this blog who told me that they “had booked this 6 day cruise” because I was going to be the cruise director. So there I stood, by the entrance to the aft lounge being called a son of a b**ch and other charming names. I did all I could to apologise and explain and when I ultimately said “what can I do to make you happy?”……….the reply of “a 50% refund” shocked me.

It’s difficult to write the many different emotions I am feeling about this. The pride that me being and then not being the CD….the anger at being sworn at so loudly and with so much aggression that the assistant food and beverage manager came over and asked if I needed assistance.

I told them that I would need to consult with the office and that we should meet tomorrow morning before they went ashore in Key West or after they returned. They chose to meet me at 5 pm and I will do so in the presence of the guest services manager. Why will he be there ……… well maybe shouldn’t tell you because there is a chance that they may read this blog but after the verbal bashing I got last night and the dreadful and spiteful names they called me in a public area……..I feel I have no choice.

You see I asked the GSM to check on his computer and the reservation system he has access to. A reservation system that shows that this couple booked this cruise here on the Carnival Freedom in July 2010. I didn’t know nor did I announce I would be on the Carnival Freedom …………….until early December.

When I discovered this I was really very angry……but now I have calmed down a bit ………… and I have to say…………now I just feel sorry for them.

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.