The Splendor of San Francisco

February 14, 2011 -

John Heald

“These streets are my streets…………..punk.” I remember those words as if they were yesterday. My Dad and I religiously watched all the 70′s and 80′s cop shows from Ironside to Cannon, from Banacheck to McLeod and that one where Dick Van Dyke stars as a brilliant physician with an eye for a mystery, who regularly helps his thick as a brick son to crack murder cases ………… can’t remember the name of that one.

And of course Michael Douglas and the chap with the huge mole on the side of his nose in The Streets of Francisco. Ah, the good old days. Watching them pull up and be able to park a car the size of a Spirit class ship in front of anywhere they went in San Francisco still brings back great memories. I had a walk around the Fisherman’s Wharf area last night and I really do love the place. In San Francisco, you don’t have to pretend. You can come out. You can admit to the world ………. yes………….I am a fat tourist with a large white arse.

It’s not when I was in the Big Apple over New Years. There I was surrounded by busy New Yorkers and felt like I didn’t want anyone to know I was a tourist……..I wanted to fit in……….I wanted to be a New Yorker so I found myself walking around saying things like “You talkin’ to me?” and “Get the f&^%$ out a heeeeere.”

By contrast, after spending a few hours walking around last night I get the impression that the city is a meeting place for visitors from every imaginable city, country, planet and sexuality, so you can be yourself, whatever you are, which is wonderful indeed.

My 2 flights to get here were mostly uneventful save for the lady next to me on the 5 hour flight from Atlanta to San Francisco. She slept through the entire flight complete with the pillow, the blanket and the Zorro mask. The only problem was that every few minutes she would smack her lips together as though she was dreaming about eating something delicious. Now, considering her lips had recently received an obvious delivery of Botox and were the size of dinner plates and she looked like a member of one of those lost tribes of the Amazon you can imagine how loud her lip smacking noise was.

And I am sure you are all expecting me to have a good old moan about the service on Delta Airlines……………….but I won’t…………..I can’t actually…………..because there wasn’t any!

Anyway. I had a nice night last despite being on my own. The young CD Felipe and his staff all went out for a night on the town but as standing in a bar being forced to listen to deafening music and watching others drink slippery nipples and woo woos and talking about things I have nothing in common with such as fashion and rumpy pumpy…….I buggered off for some more alone time.

As I minced around I was surprised how cold it was. I know its February but there was a definite chill in the air. However, it is as I said a brilliant place. I imagined I would be mowed down by Steve McQueen in a Mustang or Nicolas Cage in a Ferrari 355 but it’s more likely you will be killed by some bespectacled librarian in a VW Beetle………it’s nothing like the movies.

Personally, I’m surprised that nobody in this land of opportunity has started up a Bullitt taxi service that crashes you down all of San Francisco’s hills…….with full revving sound effects included of course, so you don’t have to do your own vrrrooomming.

Another missed opportunity is that nobody has thought of producing postcards of Alcatraz with a pre-printed message — “Wish you were here.” It would save tourists like me the trouble of writing out the joke on cards for friends, family and a few people I actually would like to see in prison……..like the French……….the people from AIG who lost most of my life’s savings and the architect of the Norwegian Epic.

It’s time to answer some questions so……………..here we go.

Valerie Asked:

Please let us know about the ACD who will be filling in for the CD on the March 6, 2011 Freedom cruise. I was quite disappointed that it will be an ACD as opposed to either you or another CD. It is after all Spring Break week and your list doesn’t even have a name!I’ve sailed with some of Carnival’s best CD’s and only one of the ACD’s stood out so well that I still remember him. Thanks for all you do.

John Says:
Hello Valerie,

I apologise that I will not be the CD on your cruise but please don’t worry as the ACD who is now acting cruise director is a chap called Dan. Hopefully you will have seen his bio that I posted last week here on the blog thingy. Dan will really be someone you will enjoy and please do not miss anything Calvin the now ACD does. He is brilliantly funny and together they are quite the team. Have a brilliant cruise and please let me know what you think when you get back home

Cheers,

John

STILLMissingthesmokefreeparadise Asked:
John – PLEASE REPLY

Since you are concentrating on ACDs, I hope that, by the time you answer this question, I will have the answer already. What happened to Noortje, the wonderful ACD that Todd Wittmer had on our Transatlantic Cruise? I personally though that she would make a wonderful CD and hope that she is still with Carnival and on-track to becoming a CD herself.

Stillmissingthesmokefreeparadise

John Says:
Hello STILLMissingthesmokefreeparadise,

I copied and pasted your name as I didn’t want to have to type STILLMissingthesmokefreeparadise…..oh bugger………..I just did.

Noortje resigned her position a few months ago and I hear she is working for NCL now. I had a wonderful time with her and Heidi and Noortje became great friends. I am sure whatever she does she will be successful and we miss her here.

Best wishes to you and Mrs STILLMissingthesmokefreeparadise

John

Debbie James asked:
Hi John,

Please read and respond. I checked my profile on Carnival and also my husband’s. There are 2 cruises missing from both of our records and an additional cruise missing only on my profile. Our first Carnival cruise was on the Carnivale in March 1987 and our second was on the Jubilee on March 6, 1988. The third cruise on the Holiday in May 1990 shows up on my husband’s profile, but not on mine. I contacted Miami and was told I had to produce a sign and sail card to get credit. I got news for them – on our first cruises they didn’t issue them and then on several subsequent cruises they collected them at debarkation. I do have a picture of me watching my son shaking hands with the Captain on the Carnivale and it clearly says TSS Carnivale in the corner. As for the Jubilee cruise I have 2 pictures with Jubilee in the corner and I found the Carnival Caper paper from embarkation day on March 6, 1988. (Boy was that fun reading – purser only open 8am to 8pm, set up onboard account at the purser after embarkation etc.) I also have a picture of my husband and I on the Holiday. Since they already gave him credit for that cruise I would think that would be a no-brainer, but not according to Miami. I would be more than happy to send in the original photos and Capers as I am sure they would suspect photoshopping on a copy if it would get the credits. It makes a difference – with those credits I would be Milestone. I have several extra cruises because I took my Mother for several birthday cruises until she died. Any suggestions on who to direct my next attempt to get credit to? 
I would like to get it resolved before our May 23 cruise on the Ecstasy. And, thank you so much for getting the Chef’s Table reservation on that one.
Debbie

John Says:

Hello Debbie,

Thanks so much for taking the time to write and things at Carnival have really changed haven’t they since your first cruise back then. I will send your concerns to the right person who with the photo evidence should be able to help you. I hope you have some wonderful memories of your cruises, especially those with Mum who you must miss very much. So I will send this on and please let me know what happens. I hope we sail together one day soon.

Best wishes,

John

Joseph Pujol Asked:
John Please Reply!

My girlfriend and I are cruising on the Carnival Pride on March 13, 2011. Could we please ask a favor in obtaining us a table for two (possibly overlooking the middle of the dining room if available), which we would really love as we never get to spend time together as she goes to school away from home, and I am in the coast guard usually away from home as well. We have been looking forward to spending 7 days together for months! You helped us last cruise we went on and we really appreciated it! Love the blog, and all the time you put into it and with helping us, you definitely are a reason we will always stay loyal to Carnival. We are in stateroom 6218, and have the 8:15 late dining. PS: Any recommendations on things to do in Freeport?

Thanks John!!!

John Says:
Hello Joseph,

Thanks so much for the wonderful service in the U.S. Coast Guard. As you know I have plenty of reasons to say thank you for all you and your colleagues do. I will certainly ask the maitre d to assist and wish you both a wonderful cruise

Best wishes,

John

Carnival Platinum Cruiser Asked:
Reply Wanted

John. I read your response to Kathy about tipping and as usual you are talking total garbage. I have been on 21 carnival cruises and never tip the cabin cleaners. I don’t care what you or others may think about this because I am secure in my convictions. Why should I tip. I don’t tip the cleaners who service my hotel rooms. The price of that is in the hotel stay and it’s not my fault that Carnival is too cheap to do the same and pay the cabin boys and cabin girls a salary and insists that I should have to put my hand in my pocket. I take off my tips for the waiter as well and if they meet my high expectations then I tip, if not, I don’t. Tipping is an individual right.

I still get the towel animals and the chocolate mint and a clean cabin twice a day yet tip nothing. I suggest others follow my way of thinking.

John Says:
Hello Carnival Platinum Cruiser,

First of all thank you for your 21 cruises with us and secondly I could not disagree with you more. Each and every crew member is paid a salary by Carnival and yes, these salaries are complemented by tipping procedures and that is important to know. In the case of the stateroom stewards I cannot even compare the wonderful work they do compared to hotel service but I can tell from the tone of your posting that even if I were to list the differences it would make no difference to your thoughts I am sure. I will remind you that you are one of only a few……a very few…..who do no tip anything and yet I bet that even though you tip nothing that the service has still been exceptional…….right? Anyway, as you said, tipping is voluntary and each and every person has the right to decide if they pass on a gratuity or not. I wonder what the other bloggers think about this post?

Best wishes
John

Kathy Berman Asked:
Hi John,

I don’t know if you can help me but I a going to give it a try. My husband our three children and our dear friends Tina and Brian were on the Dream this past summer. We were on the July 17th to 24th cruise. It was a long talked about and planned trip. Our friend Brian has faced many health problems since he was born with cystic fibrosis, a liver transplant at the age of 22 and most recently he was a diabetic. He has a great love of sailing and since his health wasn’t as good as it used to be he agreed to a cruise hence our cruise on the Dream this last summer. He had canceled two other vacations in 2010 due to his health but by the grace of God he was able to go on this cruise. We all had a wonderful time and the memories will last us a life time. He was truly a light in our lives and will be missed greatly.

However, it saddens me to write or say our dear friend passed away on December 28th. He will be truly missed. Know my question for you. We purchased lots of pictures on the cruise but not the tape. Is there any way we can get a copy of that tape now? I regret not purchasing it then and was hoping if it is possible you could help. Thank you for your time. I am hoping for a Happy and Healthy New Year for all.

Kathy Reilly-Berman

John Says:
Hello Kathy Berman,

I was so saddened to read this news and I want you to know that you are all in my thoughts. Unfortunately though we don’t keep master copies of the videos onboard and so there is nothing I can do to help which makes me feel sad indeed. I hope you can hold on to the wonderful memories you have and once again I am thinking of you. Please let me know if you have any other requests you think that I may be able to help with.

Best wishes,

John

Mary Ruppert Asked:
Dear John, (Please Reply)

I would like to ask your help with something that is important to me and my family. My dad passed away on Christmas day, and he was a true-blue Carnival cruiser. He went on 15 out of my 20 Carnival cruises with me and my kids and loved every one of them. I am booked on the Blogger’s Cruise on the Carnival Glory next month, and I would love to arrange a simple dedication so I can scatter some of his ashes at sea. Can you help me arrange this? Doesn’t have to be any big deal, just a time and place for 4 of us to do it. Any morning or night of the cruise would be fine. He was in the Navy so I have arranged for his remains to be buried at sea from one of the ships deployed from Jax, Fl. but dad’s happiest days late in his life were on the Carnival ships. We all love the sea because of him. I am a proud Navy brat still and began sailing when I was 6 weeks old. Sixty years later, I still long to be at sea.

I am so looking forward to meeting you on the cruise. I missed the first 3 blogger’s cruises, but not this time! Thanks for anything you can arrange for me,

Mary

John Says:
Hello Mary Ruppert

I will be more than happy to help you with this and in fact it would be an honour. I am going to copy the environmental officer on the Carnival Glory on this as he has to help with the correct paper work……..yes……..the men in high visibility jackets have created loads of paperwork for this. But we will help you and it will be, I hope, a wonderful send off for someone who sounds like he was a wonderful father. Someone will be in touch when you board and I will see you soon Best wishes and my sympathies at your loss.

John

Lewis from PA Asked:
Reply please John ASAP

Ship Imagination

Going on her on March 21st and need table for 6 by the window
Cabin E21 and E27

Need to know you get this so need immediate response wanted

Lewis

John says:
Hello Lewis,

I will do all I can to help.

Best wishes,

John

Lisa Asked:
John, PLEASE READ, AND REPLY…

Just an FYI:

We (my family of 7) sailed on the Fascination 12/16/2010. We have NOT received an email comment “card” yet.

Thanks!
Lisa

John Says:
Hello Lisa,

May I ask if you checked the “I want to receive e-mail contacts” portion of your booking form which means that we will then send you a card? Saying that and you did and still have not gotten one please let me know and I will have one sent. I must say that we continue to have some concerns with this system as not everyone who wants a card is getting one. Please also know if you have any praise or comments please let me know here and I will pass along for you. I hope you had a great cruise

Best wishes
John

That’s all for today.

Just a quick note to say Happy Valentine’s Day to you all. I always hated Valentine’s Day when I was younger as it was just another reminder that I was an ugly bastard and girls found me as attractive as boil on a baboon’s arse. Heidi and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day as her dad passed away on Valentine’s Day in 2005. I am thinking of my wife and her mum and brother today and feel guilty as ever for not being there with her.

Well here I am on the Carnival Splendor and it is great to be back. Before I get into some of the facts and things that have happened I want to tell you about the crew. You see, from the moment I walked up the gangway where I was met by security I have been welcomed as warmly and as I can ever remember.

You see, although approximately 50% of the 1,200 crew were not here during the fire itself 50% or so were here and everyone I have met who was have all been…….well…….they have all been thanking me and saying how much they appreciated…….I can’t write anymore on this because it will only sound like I am pandering and I am really not. It was just so humbling and I wanted to share that with you. There is a special camaraderie between the crew who were here during the fire and I expect there always will be.

As well as the 1,200 Carnival crew and the dollop of Carnival shoreside management onboard, there are 236 technicians onboard. These technicians are not just here for the work in the engine room. You see, the ship has been in full dry dock mode with deep cleaning inside and out being carried out, mirrors being replaced in most of the guest cabins, a new dance floor being laid in the aft lounge and lots of other important work.

Think of the ship not having any air conditioning inside her for many weeks. Not having air flow inside can cause horrible problems to carpet and fittings and thus much of the ship has new carpet for which a special team is onboard to lay. Some of the busiest people are Linda the housekeeping manager and her team who are now slowly getting the cabins prepared for guests once again as well as deep cleaning all the public lounges. Everything, I mean everything is covered in plastic sheeting. Chairs, carpet, fixtures, decking, glass doors, stairwells, cabin stewards……..everything is covered and this covering will only come off the day before we arrive into Long Beach. That day by the way is late afternoon on the 18th and we will be leaving San Francisco early morning on the 16th.

As for what has happened down in the engine room, well what can I say? I haven’t had too much time to chat with Chief Engineer Messina and the technical chaps from Carnival HQ but I can tell you that having seen the damage down there directly after the fire and seeing where we are now, ready and prepared to re-enter service……well it is quite simply extraordinary. They cut a huge hole in the side of the ship and maneuvered a brand new diesel generator the size of which you will see shortly into the engine room. Before that they had to run an unbelievable 200 miles of cable but not before dismantling the old engine, remove 200 miles of old cable and goodness knows what other amazing work. You know, Carnival has taken some stick about how long it has taken for these repairs to be completed but being here now, seeing the work that was involved, well 3 months or so doesn’t seem that long really.

Now when we realised we need a new diesel generator we didn’t just call the local Pep Boys. We had to have one built to specifications and then get it here to the ship. And that itself was needed to be done as quickly as possible. Normally this would have be sent on a ship but that would have been too slow. So we flew it here on the world’s largest cargo plane and it was quite a spectacular sight………………as you will see now.

And now exclusively here on the blog thingy we can go inside the engine room of the Carnival Splendor and see how the new engine was placed inside.

Splendor Engine Room


Yesterday we spent the day with the men and women of United States Coast Guard who carried out a day of strict testing. I won’t go into too many details here but we had blackout tests and diesel generator tests and CO2 distribution tests and I am happy to say we passed them all.

And so this means that we can depart as I mentioned on the 16th and head home to Long Beach. I wanted you all to know all of the above because I have had quite a few people mention that they were a little nervous about cruising on this ship.

I can understand this to a certain degree but also want to say this: To those of you who have booked to sail on the Carnival Splendor you are getting a ship that has been thoroughly tested and will continue to be tested on the journey to Long Beach. These tests have been carried out by the best in the business, Lloyds Registry, the United States Coast Guard, The NTSB and the finest engineers in the business many of whom work for Carnival Cruise Lines. Plus you are getting a ship that was only two years old before the incident but who after weeks of deep clean, new carpets and more, looks like she did when I first saw her in the shipyard in Italy. Put all of this together and add the massively important fact that Carnival is committed to cruising from the West Coast…….well you have brand new vessel, sailing to brilliant ports of call……and this is something that we should be shouting from the rooftops. Carnival Splendor is ready to return to service and on Saturday February 20…. she will do………..have you booked yet?

Tomorrow I will tell you all about some of the other work going on in here plus I will have more photos of the Carnival Valor dry dock and an interview with the new cruise director of the Carnival Splendor.

My mate Vance from PR is always telling me that the travel the press read my blog………and he is right. Here is my mate Captain Greybeard (yes he has one and its grey) who posted this on his popular column.

Thanks Captain and I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Steve Read another British cruise journalist and friend to many of us and he will be missed.

Well, it is nearly time to go but not before I tell you about one last travel story from this past trip to San Francisco.

I preface this tale by explaining that I was a little bit grumpy the last few days and some of that spilled over to be a my Facebook replies to some folks from Cruise Critic who doubted my some of the things I was talking about and expressed their doubts in what I perceived to be a cruel way. I let I them get to me and I shouldn’t have but I was going through one of those “I really miss my girls” moments.

This was mostly due to the fact that I had heard Kye say “Dadda” over and over and over again on the phone as tough she could not understand why she could hear me but not see me……..it really got to me.

Anyway, Kye has very much been in my thoughts and she still was as I arrived in Atlanta on Saturday for my connecting flight to California. I had two hours to kill so I went to TGIF’s and ordered some lunch. As I sat nibbling on my Santa Fe salad and some boneless chicken wings I saw a man in his late twenties sitting on his own. He was dressed in US Army fatigues and had the ISAF badge on his right arm. He was talking on his cell phone and obviously talking to his son or daughter. He was telling them that he loved them very much and that he would see them in 7 months and that 7 months was not a long time. As he said this solitary tear fell down his cheek.

Here then was a man who judging by the ISAF patch was heading to Afghanistan to serve his country. He wouldn’t be on a luxury cruise ship or staying in a nice hotel. He would be in harm’s way…..serving his country. Seeing this made me feel so guilty and put into perspective what I was doing and what he and many thousand more like him were doing.

I paid my bill and without telling him I asked the waitress if I could pay his bill as well. It was the best $21 I have ever spent.

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.