Banter of the Seas

February 17, 2011 -

John Heald

Time to talk about a touchy subject………….cruise ship banter. First of all let’s define the word “banter” which the dictionary states is “to speak to or address in a witty and teasing manner.”

This kind of thing is commonplace on the ships and nowhere more so than in the cruise staff department amongst the dancers, entertainment staff and the musicians. I suspect that this is not just the case at Carnival but across the industry.

Just like other places of business, banter is very tame now though compared to where we were when I first started on ships, something that my mate Duncan the hotel director were talking about last night.

You see back then it was a massively male dominated industry, especially onboard. There were no female crew members in the dining rooms, no female bar staff and no female housekeeping personal either. It was the dancers, the spa and a few casino and pursers. And back then before the PC world which we now live in was born…..the “banter” was of a much stronger variety. Any woman who worked on board back then will know what I mean. “While, you’re down there, love” and “You don’t get many of them to the dollar” were commonplace. I remember very clearly a cruise director who I was a social host for saying to a dancer “Fancy some rumpy pumpy? No? Well, do you mind lying down while I have some?”

Did it offend? Possibly but most thought it to be funny and was often what got you through the day. The female crew gave as good as they got because I remember that the dancer who was asked by the cruise director for some rumpy pumpy took a glance towards his midsection and said “That reminds me. Must buy some cocktail sticks”……..and then they got on with the job feeling neither harassed nor discriminated against.

But that’s because it was almost never meant seriously or nastily. It was a game.

These days the banter still exists all be it in a diluted form and certainly some of the racier references have long gone. True sexism, true harassment is disgusting and should get the kick in the bollocks it deserves. But it would be a shame if we got rid completely of the banter that has spiced up ship life for decades. Because for many of us that would make life…. very dull indeed.

Time for today’s Q and A ……………off we go

Teresa Branom Asked:
Please Reply

Good Afternoon John,

I have been following your blog for several months now and have found it very interesting and enjoyable.  I have cruised with Carnival 7 times since 2000 and will be sailing on the Glory on 3/13/2011 with my 70 year old mother and 12 year old daughter. We will be taking our annual Grandmother, Mother, Daughter spring break vacation as well as a belated 70th b-day celebration for my mother and early 13th bday (3/24/11) celebration for my daughter. Wow…that’s one big party!!!

My reason for writing to you is that we will have early seating (we’re in cabin 7314) and would love to sit next to a window to watch the sunset. We have never been seated near a window and have always thought it would be nice.

I would appreciate anything you could do to help with this.

Keep up the great work you do for everyone!

Thank you,

Teresa

John Says:
Hello Teresa Branom

I am very happy to know you are enjoying the blog and I will certainly ask the Maitre D if he can assist with your request. I hope you have a wonderful celebration and a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes,

John

Dawn Asked:
Hello John!

I first have to say that I LOVE your blog. My husband and I are going on our 6th Carnival cruise, Feb. 26, 2011 on the Freedom. We are so excited as this will be our longest cruise yet (8 days, up till now the longest has been 5 days), and this is the first time we have gotten a balcony cabin. We have been married for 12 years, and never had a honeymoon, so this is our honeymoon!

We have late dining and would love to have a table for two, (maybe even by a window if possible?), and to have gifts in our room would be amazing! I am not one to ever ask for anything, but I thought with this being our biggest, and I’m sure best cruise ever, it was worth a try to see if you could make it even more awesome! Anything you could do would be greatly appreciated and I hope that we get to cruise with you some day.

Name- Dawn Green and Robert Green
Ship- Freedom
Sail Date- 2/26/11

Thank you in advance,

Dawn

John Says:
Hello Dawn,

I am very happy to know you are enjoying the blog and I will certainly ask the maitre d if he can assist with your request. I hope you have a wonderful honeymoon and a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes,

John

Crystal T Asked:
John (please answer this question)

I have been on 2 cruises with Carnival and need you to understand that the fact that you charge for sea sick tablets, band aids and paracetamol reeks of cheapness. I have also been on Princess and Royal Caribbean where not only are all these items free so is cough surprising, sun burn cream and ladies sanitary towels. Why did you stop handing out free pills and sanitary towels etc? Why is Carnival the only company that has these charges?

John Says:
Hello Crystal T,

Well we did indeed use to offer free sea sick pills and headache pills but now we do not. I cannot answer as to why or what other lines do although I was surprised to learn that other lines hand out free cough medicine and sunburn lotion. Anyway, we have an expert medical team onboard who will make sure the correct medicine is prescribed plus the essentials such as Tylenol, cough medicine etc is also available from the onboard gift shops. I don’t think there has ever been a period……when we have handed out free sanitary towels. I hope you have enjoyed your two Carnival cruises and hope to see you soon for cruise number three……..and maybe a quick visit to Walgreens before you do.

Best wishes

John

Larry from Laredo Texas Asked:
(Reply please)

Our Conquest cruise we just returned from was our best ever and the crew, the food and the shows were fantastic. But I do have one concern that I want to bring to your attention. During dinner one night I saw the assistant maitre de shouting at one of the waiters and wagging his finger in his face. I have no idea what this was all about but the part of the dining room all saw this happen and were shocked by it. Please can you let someone know about this as it was very unprofessional?  Apart from this we had a fantastic time and we will be back.

John Says:
Hello Larry from Laredo Texas,

This kind of comment makes me so upset. There is absolutely no excuse for this and I truly appreciate you taking the time to tell me. I will make sure that I pas this onto the ship’s hotel director so that he can personally address this with the team. I thank you again for letting me know and I am very glad to hear that apart from this awful incident you had a brilliant time.

Best wishes,

John

William Jordan Asked:
Hello John – reply if you wish

Just off our first Carnival cruise on the Fascination after several years with RCI. It was fun comparing the two lines. I enjoyed our time on Fascination a great deal and thought the food (especially the seafood and fish) was more than enjoyable. I was pleased to find some traditional desserts like Baked Alaska on the menu. I guess I am old fashioned!

We already briefly corresponded on my number one suggestion — add the current outside temp to the info screen on the television.

There was very little upselling on Carnival which surprised me. I had expected a slightly more aggressive sales pitch for the “extras”. An example — we were never asked if we wanted to purchase wine at dinner. The first night someone came around as we were sitting down and asked if we wanted to buy some sparkling water, but that was it. It’s not a problem and when I requested a wine list on the second night one was provided. I have to admit my surprise was when a wine list was not presented on the third night even though I had purchased wine the second. Oh well. Like I said it’s not a complaint just an observation.

I truly enjoyed the Chef’s Table. My wife and I decided that we would do the Chef’s Table on the Fascination since this ship did not have the steak house. Our thought was Chef’s table now and steak house in September on the Valor. I think my wife and I are leaning toward doing both on the Valor. It was a lot of fun and a really memorable experience.

You had assisted with a request for a large table in the dining room which we had. Thank you for your help. Our maitre d’ was very nice and accommodating. This was the first cruise where the maitre d’ was more memorable than our wait staff.

We took advantage of the sushi offerings every night and enjoyed the choices. My wife and I had several servings each before dinner. This led to another big difference between Carnival and RCI. When we would finish with a plate, staff would not come and remove the plate in either the casual restaurant or the sushi area. I don’t have a problem removing plates myself, but there really wasn’t an obvious station to put them somewhere. On RCI the staff was almost too quick in removing plates.

Our room steward was attentive and our room was kept clean. If we had had a special request I am confident it would have been honored no matter how demanding. Fortunately, we really didn’t have any needs above beyond the room being kept tidy.

My wife could not care less about what the menu would be each evening. I like to know in advance. On Carnival a book menu was set out on the ship’s display for people to review. On RCI the individual pages were posted in an actual display on the wall. It was nice on RCI because more than one person could preview the menu at a time. It was kind of uncomfortable having someone waiting for you to finish or worse making someone uncomfortable while waiting for them to finish previewing the menu. It’s not important, just a difference.

All in all we had a good time. The weather was chilly — too chilly to swim. Our only real disappointment was having to miss Key West because of the stormy weather. Nothing we could do about that. We were never truly uncomfortable onboard the Fascination.

When I add up the experiences we had on Fascination with comparable cruises on RCI I have to give the nod to Carnival. Especially considering the price point is a fair amount less — you’re dollar for dollar comparison makes a lot more sense now that I have been on a Carnival cruise.

I told my wife that when we take our 100th cruise we get an onboard credit for the cost of the cruise. She might have rolled her eyes at me a little but I could tell she wouldn’t mind 99 more!

John Says:
Hello William Jordan,

It is always fascinating to read a review by someone who may also be a fan of another cruise line and yours was a brilliant example of this. Both lines do things well and at the end of the day I think it all comes down the value you get for the money you pay. If I understand you correctly the menu idea is that on RCI they present you with a menu for the entire cruise rather than just that night. If this is correct it is a very interesting idea indeed and I will pass this along to the right people in Miami. I wonder if there is a reason we don’t do this. I can’t think of one.

I was glad I was able to help with your table reservation and I will make sure that everyone on the ship gets to see your comments. Thank you for taking the time to write and I am sure that many people reading this will find it a great read as well as you compare both the lines you have cruised on. I hope we get to see you again soon and please let me know if I can help.

Best wishes,

John

Appletise Asked:
John, Please reply

Could you tell me who the cruise director will be on the Splendor in March please? I hope it’s you. Our last CD was a girl called Jenny. She was ok but her voice got to me after a while.

John Says:
Hello Appletise,

I wish I could be here but it will be Felipe. I posted his bio last week here on the blog thingy and I hope you read it. Have a brilliant time

Best wishes,

John


Nancy McQuarrie Asked:

Dear John – Please answer if an answer is possible…..

Thank you so very much for the reassurance that Ryan and I shall be able to sail together!!!! You are fantastic, and I am your forever grateful #1 fan! And yes, I am so very proud of Ryan and of the kind praise you have given him (buttons popping..).

I understand, of course, that this will happen only if the Splendor actually sails her first post-repair voyage on Feb. 20. Since I will be traveling from home on Feb. 6 with pre-cruise visits in Arizona and California, have you, or any other human now walking the earth, any idea when notification would be given *if* she is not, in fact, repaired and able to make this voyage? It is my hope to require only one airfare for this trip. Any thoughts, hope, or heads-up most appreciated! Thanks again for all you do for Carnival guests and families!

Your friend,

Nancy

John Says:
Hello Nancy,

As you know we spoke on the phone last night and Ryan said you were pleased to hear from me. For those who do not know Nancy’s son Ryan is a part of the entertainment staff here on the Carnival Splendor and he did such a wonderful job during the fire. I wish I could be with you and I know that Ryan has managed to get you onboard and that you are ready for a great cruise this Sunday.

Best wishes

John

SallyOwl Asked:
John please reply

Dear John

Like you I’m having computer trouble, and the start of my very long and complicated letter to you appears to have decided to go to you before I finished so I’m starting again, and hoping that the Moderation Magicians delete the premature version.

I began by explaining that this letter of thanks was incredibly overdue, because after we disembarked from 31 days on the Carnival Spirit on 8 October 2010 we toured the USA and Canada for another two months (achieving our dream of eventually visiting all 50 US states – a 12 year project) before returning to Australia. We had intended to write to you at the beginning of December, but by then you’d been through the dreadful experience on the amazing Carnival Splendor (on which we’d sailed around South America for 49 days in 2009) and we thought that you deserved a rest more than you needed our thanks – and also because we wanted these thanks to come to you personally.

John, it’s hard to express how wonderful our B2B2B to and from Alaska and Hawaii on the Carnival Spirit was. It began as we walked towards the embarkation desk in Seattle, as we heard our names called by Marco, former photographer on the Carnival Splendor, who remembered us after nearly 18 months Luz, another Carnival Splendor photographer, also greeted us by name). Then, when we arrived in our room there was a basket of fruit, champagne and a ‘ship on a stick’ waiting for us with your good wishes for our upcoming 25th wedding anniversary. Thank you so much!

We got to the dining room, to find our seating just as we’d requested – thank you again – and the wonderful Fernando (maitre d’) waiting for us – he and his assistant, Natalia, became friends – they’re absolutely brilliant at their job. Wherever we went on the ship we were treated superbly. CD Stuart Dunn, and his staff looked after us superbly, as did our room crew and Kevin from China and the others on the Customer Service Desk. Our Head Waiters, Karnita from Bali and Katerina from the Czech Republic and their assistants could not be faulted, and the care which Karnita and Wayan gave a nearby lass with severe developmental problems could have been used as an example for the whole Carnival fleet. On our actual anniversary the Dining Room crew ordered a cake for us as a gift, and a group of our ‘special’ crew – dining room staff and some partners – presented us with a wonderful home-made card and a gift they’d bought for us after dinner service was finished!

As a former teacher-librarian, I had a few suggestions to improve ease of use of the library, and John and I spent a short while sorting and tidying the books, and meeting those concerned with our suggestions. We expected nothing at all for that, as we counted it as part of ‘giving back’ for the wonderful time we were having, but from then on we were showered with chocolate-covered strawberries, petit-fours, fruit, wine etc. – we truly cannot express our thanks for everything which was done for us. When we left the ship, after one cruise to Alaska, one from Vancouver to Hawaii, and one from Hawaii to Ensenada/San Diego, we almost felt bruised by the hugs of staff.

Our blogs from the Carnival Spirit, especially the one describing Carnival’s care of a group of hearing-impaired passengers, have brought comments from readers (mainly friends) from around the world. We think that we must be Carnival’s most fervent ambassadors!

John, none of this would have happened had you ignored my frantic plea after our booking for the B2B2B was first accepted, then cancelled in a 2am phone call. The assistance you arranged for us made this wonderful holiday possible. Thank you so very, very much.

John Says:
Hello Sally Owl,

Please allow me to apologise for the delay in answering your beautiful words. Let me start by thanking you for your comments on the library and it seems we have to do better there and thank you for helping us tidy up etc. That is so very kind of you. I am so glad all went well and there is no need to thank me as that is what I am here for. I want to thank you though for handling an annoying computer and being able to sit down and write this wonderful review. I remain here at your service should you ever need my help.

Best wishes to all

John

Cantoncruiser Asked:
John – REPLY!

Do you have Jewish wine available in the main dining room and at the bars on the Valor? I certainly hope so!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

John Says:
Hello Cantoncruiser

Yes indeed we do. We have a brand called Manischewitz and it is available from the dining room and selected bars on board. Please let me know if you need anything else.

Best wishes,

John

Dennis Moore Asked:
Hi John, (Reply if you wish)

First of all…Happy New Year! I know it is going to be happy for me because I just booked my 3rd Carnival Fun For All Vacation in the last 10 months. And by the end of January I will have booked the 4th cruise which we will be taking in September with a group of family and friends. That will make a total of 4 cruises in 16 months. Can you tell how excited I am about the Carnival product? The fun and value just cannot be beaten.

I am writing to you today with a request. My wife and I will be on the 3/3 sailing of the Carnival Inspiration (cabin R17). We booked this cruise because we needed to get away for some alone time. Our family has had some trying times recently and she and I decided to take some time to get away and relax. We will not have cell phones or computers and will be totally out of touch will anything and everything at home. Just what the doctor ordered! So, since this vacation is for the two of us to just unwind and spend some quality alone time together, I was hoping you could help us secure a table for two in the main dining room. Normally we love to meet new people and enjoy their company. But this trip we would like to just be together and enjoy each other’s company. Unlike some who post requests that are thinly veiled demands, I certainly understand if we are not able to get a table for two. It certainly will not diminish our enjoyment of the vacation. But if possible we would be very grateful to get a table for two this time around.

Thanks so much for all you do. I love to read the blog and your facebook posts. It makes the time between my cruises go by faster reading about you and your guest’s adventures each day. It is clear that you love your job and have a passion for what you do. And it definitely shows that you have a true fondness for the people you meet on the ship and on the blog. I hope that one day soon I will get the opportunity to sail with you and the pleasure of meeting you in person. Until then please remember….(Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, He Steals From The Rich And Gives To The Poor)

All the best to you and your girls!

Dennis Moore

John Says:
Hello Dennis Moore,

I am sitting here, in my underpants singing the Dennis Moore song. Anyway, I appreciate your need to spend some quality time together and therefore I have asked the maitre d to help you with your request. I hope you do relax and have fun and sing the Dennis Moore song as you skip down Promenade Deck.  Best wishes to you both

John

That’s all for today, I will be back with more tomorrow. Yesterday on my Facebook page I received a few comments about a link on Cruise Critic that was apparently talking about me. I had no intention of addressing this because up until now I had not read the subject matter. Then I saw there were a few comments had been posted on the blog about it as well asking for my reply so reluctantly I read the link thingy…………..and I really wish I hadn’t.

Here is the link.

Look, this is my fault I guess because I continue to post all the comments the blog gets sent and reply to all those posts that have a JOHN PLEASE REPLY mark on it. But to suggest and I quote “doing this purposely to remove or reduce any influence that CC has” is quite ridiculous. I have said this many times and I will say this one last time because honestly……..I am getting sodding bored repeating myself but this link thingy has given me no choice but to do so again so here goes.

The vast majority of the people who read Cruise Critic are my friends. The site itself provides brilliant information about Carnival, cruising and the industry we all love and I have nothing but respect for the majority of people who read and post there many of whom are readers of this blog.

But for some reason there are one or two who do not like Carnival, me or the blog and I am utterly sick and tired of having to defend myself to these individuals. I post what is sent to me and reply when asked, despite some posts being less than kind. If you don’t like me or what I do I totally understand and respect your opinion.

But don’t expect me to lie down and ignore outrageous claims like this one. It is hurtful and based on utter bollocks. The end.

I need a break.

Let’s meet some of the people who are making sure that this beautiful ship is ready to welcome guests once more.

CAPTAIN GIORGIO PAGANO

HOTEL DIRECTOR DUNCAN PUTTOCK

GUEST SERVICES MANAGER JOANNA “THE HARE “HARTLEY

HOUSEKEEPING MANAGER LINDA LAZAR

SENIOR MAITRE D MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ

These are just some of the department heads who have worked so hard and have been on the Carnival Splendor since the fire and throughout her time in San Diego and San Francisco. I will feature the chief engineer soon……….he’s been a little busy though.

Well there is still so much to be done here before the big travel agent function on the 19th. Felipe is working hard on the Fun Times for the night talking of Fun Times it is time to see what is going on onboard the Carnival Elation as we feature their Fun Times.

(Click here to access the Fun Times.)

Anyway, as I said there is lots to do here and the sea trials today have so far gone very well and everyone seems very happy. There are members of the United States Coast Guard with us as well as members of Lloyds Registry. This I find to be very assuring and I am sure you do to. We have done emergency stops, we have done hard turns and diesel generator blackout tests and everything so far as I said has gone to plan and we will be home Saturday morning.

I want to say a huge thank you the people of both San Diego and San Francisco. Both cities have given us the warmest of welcomes and have looked after the crew especially. I know Carnival has said it is committed to supporting the west coast and I hope that in the years ahead we will see the famous Carnival funnel in both San Diego and San Francisco.

There will not be a blog tomorrow. I am so sorry but time won’t allow and although I mentioned to you recently that I would probably go to three blogs a week now I have 10,000 friends and a billion questions on our Facebook page….…I still feel a little guilty about not writing a blog every day.

Well, very shortly myself and the captain will be addressing the crew and thanking them for all they have done. We will also be telling them what to expect on Saturday and I will be having some fun with them as I have translated a joke into 9 different languages. It’s not really a joke but an inside joke about “rice” and refers to what the crew said they missed the most during the fire. And so I have a play on words with this and will be attempting this 7 word joke in:

ENGLISH

SPANISH

ITALIAN

INDONESIAN

FILIPINO

THAI

RUSSIAN

CROATIAN

ROMANIAN

HINDI

Thank God there are no French onboard.

I will let you know how it goes. One thing is for sure………this crew has worked so hard and I am so proud once again to be standing with them.

So lots for me to do today and I have to answer 3 billion questions on the Facebook page.

I also need to apologise.

Joeseph Mert Asked:

I was sent a comment you made in your blog today by close friend and fellow NCL cruiser. I was amazed that Mr. Arison allows you to write scandalous remarks about a company you nothing about. The Norwegian Epic is far from how you described it and I have written to Mr Arison and the president of Norwegian Cruise Line Andrew Stuart demanding disciplinary action be taken against you. Maybe it is jealously or maybe you are just ignorant but either way you should be ashamed.

Joseph Mert

John Says:

Hello Joseph

Please allow me to apologise and I am totally sincere when I say that. I never want to upset anyone when I write my blogs and the fact that I am apologising in public rather in a private reply to you demonstrates that.

I have though never criticized the NCL product because a) I know very little about it and b) what I do know is that I have spoken to many people who have sailed on your ships all of whom have told me many positive things about their experience.

I think though you are referring to my reoccurring references to the Norwegian Epic and my suggestion that she is not exactly a beautiful ship. And while I am sure inside, she offers excellent entertainment, service and a variety of food choices……it would be hypocritical of me to suddenly say that this Judge Judy of a ship has suddenly become Megan Fox. There must have been a moment when someone walked into an important NCL board meeting and said, “Well, everyone. This is what it’s going to look like.”

Why did no one present say, “Are you joking?” or, “Have you gone mad?” or, “Did you just smoke a palm tree? But the NCL board didn’t They just sat there thinking, “Yes, there have been cruise ships in the past that were designed to look like dolphins so why should we not now have a ship that looks like dolphin that has had an office block dropped on its head.”

I wonder if anyone ever said “Yes. It was me. I designed the Epic.” So while I must apologise again for upsetting you Mr. Mert, I cannot apologise for my comments about the ugliness of the Norwegian Epic. A beautiful ship full of freestyle choices inside but outside…….the second ugliest thing in the world……beaten only by me……..lying on a beach naked…legs spread …. with a small……….very small……sombrero covering my thingy.

Before I go, lets have a look at the stunning Serenity deck which was added during the Carnival Valor’s recent dry dock.

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.