You Can Call Me Al

February 23, 2011 -

John Heald

When you stay in hotels as much as I have these past few years since I was anointed Brand Ambassador, certain things start to really get on your tits……….that’s a very British saying by the way and if I was talking about your tits I wouldn’t have used that word……….I would have used nerves instead of tits. But as they are my tits that I am talking about………I can say tits and nobody can say anything about it.

Take for example the arrival. At Carnival we will very soon be making the whole embarkation experience more exciting and fun and I will have specific details on this soon. I did mention on my FB page that there would be more prizes and lively and fun music and a prize for the 1,000th guest whose card makes the machine go ping. There is no such welcome at a hotel. Take the one I am staying at here in Miami, The Intermarrioyatt.

I have stayed here probably 20 times or more and am probably the only fat British bloke with a bent tooth that stays here yet the reception staff, even though I know all of them, make no effort to recognise me. There is no “Welcome back, Mr. Heald.” Nope……..there is bugger all and unless George Clooney stays there or I was to walk into reception naked with a parrot on my shoulder who screeches “Royal Caribbean My Arse” every 10 seconds……I doubt they would.

Carnival pre-books my rooms and yet as soon as I walk up to the desk the first thing they do is question my honesty. The receptionist doesn’t go as far as saying “Mr. Heald, I do hope you’re not going to sneak a robe into your suitcase or smuggle the Gideon Bible out of the hotel in your underpants” but it’s close. It’s the automatic “Can I have your credit card for any extras?’ that I dislike. Yes, I know many people would steal the bathrobe and yes we do the same on the ships ……..but that doesn’t stop me hating the coldness that hotels show when they do this.

I have rented a car this time and I cannot believe the parking charges. It cost me $23 a day to have my car valet parked. As I was walking out yesterday I noticed the cost on a discreetly placed panel by the entrance. Now if it was a topless Latvian called Luci Dickov who was parking it then maybe I would say it was worth it. But it isn’t. It’s a guy called Jose and he moved the seat forward as well……. the bastard.

Finally on today’s rant is the air conditioning in hotels. Why can’t they get it right? It’s either so loud that it sounds like an F16 is taking off next to your bed or it’s so quiet and that means that the air will be circulated behind the vent with all the force of an asthmatic hamster blowing through a straw.

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

Jill H Asked:
Please reply

John, I was on my first Carnival cruise and it was good but I cannot understand why you allow the crew to get on and off the ship with the passengers. This never happens at Disney cruise lines. There should be a different exit and entry point for the workers. I think it is unfair that paying passengers should have to wait behind the workers. I was on the Freedom last week and there were a group of 4 workers in the line ahead of me. It was already a long line in Cozumel to get back on the boat but made longer because I had the workers AHEAD OF ME. This is very unprofessional and I spoke to probably 50 other passengers who felt the same. Please stop the hired help doing this immediately as Disney does!

Thank you
Jill H

John Says:
Hello Jill H,

I understand that crew does sometimes add to the line to return to the ship. In some ports we have crew only gangways and in some ports this is not possible due to the logistics of the pier and space, etc. Crew are also told to make sure that they give way to the guests but I am also aware that sometimes this doesn’t happen mostly because the crew have very little time ashore and need to get back to work. I will bring this up to the ship’s command on the Carnival Freedom and I apologise for the inconvenience. I hope you had a brilliant cruise nevertheless.

Best wishes,

John

Kevin Oates Asked:
John please reply

I am new to the blog and have a question concerning the chefs dinner. We are taking our 3rd cruise with Carnival. The second being last year on the liberty and we are returning on the Liberty on May 14 this year to celebrate our 30th anniversary. I am wondering about the chefs dinner if it is something that we should consider since we do not drink alcohol and my daughter who is a trained chef has a allergy to mushrooms. She and I would do it as it is her desire to learn more of the ship and from the chefs. My wife and I will be doing Harry’s at least to help in our celebration our anniversary is in June but we due to work are going in May. I have enjoyed the blog. Our last trip in May this year was great the best vacation we have had in years which is why we are going back.

John Says:
Hello Kevin Oates,

Yes, yes yes. That’s three times a yes because not only is The Chef’s Table a brilliant seven- course dinner cooked by the executive chef and served in a private venue but it is also a chance to see the galley in full dinner-time operation. I say this because as your daughter is in the food business, this is something she must see. Please don’t worry about allergies as the chef will visit you the day before to discuss this and make sure that he is aware and replaces anything anyone cannot eat. The wine will also be replaced with whatever you would prefer. So go on, book it and I can help you do so here on the blog thingy if you would like.

Have a wonderful cruise.

Best wishes,

John

Sharon Perros Asked:
Hello, John! (Please reply, if possible),

I am a rather new to your blog, having found it after the Splendor fire. Your report was better than any Tom Clancy novel. It was a real page turner and I been an avid fan since. I look forward to your stories daily, and my husband is often drawn to my home office upon hearing me laugh while reading them – so thank you! Because of your blog I am treating my husband to a surprise second honeymoon and our first ever cruise on the Conquest and wanted to know if there is a vegetarian option at the Steak House. My husband loves meat but I didn’t want to go if there was nothing I could have. Thanks again for the daily laughs

Sharon

John Says:
Hi Sharon:

I am so glad you have discovered the blog thingy and I hope the laughs continue for many months to come. Yes indeed, there are vegetarian options for you in the steakhouse including a special main course so please do go as it will be a wonderful place to celebrate the second honeymoon. I wish you both a wonderful cruise and happy honeymoon. Thanks so much for the kind words

Best wishes,

John

Pete Gregson Asked:
PLEASE REPLY

It seems you have a lot of enemies at Cruise Critic and I am not surprised. I joined a few years ago and found it to be a place where people with a love of cruising could meet and talk and discuss and then things changed and suddenly people started insulting each other and I have not been back since. Here is what one wrote about you “I stopped reading it because of all the “gimmes”. Why they have to be posted, I’ll never know. The only one interested in getting a free cruise because mom died and I didn’t have insurance would be the guy whose mom died. Do exactly what your readers and clientele hate or are irritated by John.

I was called a “jerk” because I defended Carnival’s decision to charge the prices you do in the bars and so I left. It is strange how a place that is dedicated to the love of cruising has become so negative. So please don’t worry about the people over there who hate you and keep doing what you are doing.

Pete

John Says:
Hello Pete Gregson,

Thanks for taking the time to write and I am aware that there are a few over on Cruise Critic who really do not like me but I do think it is the few not the many and everyone is entitled to an opinion of course. I still think that Cruise Critic is a very important website but I wish even harder that I could understand why the minority have to be so cruel at times. Thank you for those kind words and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

Best wishes,

John

Karen St Hilaire Asked:
Dear John: Please respond

I LOVE LOVE LOVE carnival. We just back from our December 5, 2010 cruise aboard Glory…Everything was excellent. We did the wine tasting with food ($15 fee) we decided we don’t like wine but loved the experience. We ate at the CHIEFS TABLE ($75). Oh my God, that was totally amazing…We ate at the steakhouse ($30) ..I was in heaven…I don’t mind paying for extra services to do extra things… I wish they offered more…

We are doing a b2b cruise Feb 15, 2011 and Feb 23, 2011 on Carnival Miracle room 6131 week 1 room 6139 week 2. I can’t wait to go. This will make 9 cruises I am looking forward to my 10 very soon.I am thinking Hawaii out of California…

My question is about the pilot boat we always see from our balcony after we pull out of port… I think I heard that they have captains that get us out and in ports but how do they get off the ship, we don’t stop the ship. I was wondering if you could explain more about this!!! We have done behind the scenes tour before……which is well worth the money. I love to read anything I can between cruises about the ships, ports, or anything.

Back in 2007 we took our son for a Senior Trip that was a once in a lifetime experience, but now it is turned into at least 2 a year but each trip feels like a once in a lifetime trip….Carnival, the staff. the ships, the ports, meeting people who become friends in just 1 week……are all priceless…thank you for all you do.

John Says:
Hello Karen St Hilaire,

What a fantastic review, it really was a joy to read. I am so sorry that I am late in my reply to this and the indeed you are as I write on your back to back cruise. I have therefore asked Malcolm the CD to print a copy of this and send it to your stateroom. The pilot is responsible for the safe entry and exit to the port and he leaves the ship once the vessel is out of the harbour or depending on which port, sometimes he will remain on longer.

When he or she…..I have never seen a female pilot but I am sure there are some……..they will disembark onto the pilot boat while the ship is in motion as you said. The pilot will climb down a rope ladder which in rough seas and when the boat is pitching a rolling is a difficult and somewhat dangerous thing to do.

I hope you are having fun and I want to thank you for this brilliant review. Please write when you get home and tell us all about it.

Best wishes,

John

Tom Driscoll Asked:
John – Please reply if possible.

My friend and I are regular repeat guests and booked on the Dream on 5-21. We invited two new cruisers along with us and booked them a cabin across the hall. We all have the Early Saver rates. While I do not need to change my booked at all, one of the other two in the separate room have a dilemmna. One of them just found out they cannot go due to a personal family issue. The other person still wants to go. I have read conflicting posts that no name changes are allowed. Since the one friend does not want to pay the entire fare themselves nor go alone, they were wondering if the other person can be switched out for someone else. Also, in the instance nothing at all can be changed, would my one friend be forced to change rooms if the other person does not show up? I appreciate any help you can offer. I hope you are feeling much better as well.

Thanks,

Tom

John Says:
Hello Tom,

I recently asked for a 101 on this Early Save thingy as I really don’t understand it fully. While I take the time to learn more I have sent your request to someone in Miami who can help you. I hope you have a great cruise and please let me know if I can help further.

Best wishes,

John

The Granger Family Asked:
Please reply,

Mr Heald, I was directed to you by my travel agent Diane from AAA Travel and this may seem a strange question but it is very important to us. We will be on the Liberty in May and are concerened that we may be the subject of some ridicule. We are a devout Christian family and always sing grace in Praise to the Lord before every meal. If we do this on the ship will others laugh or will the mangers ask us not to? Please could you put my fears to rest.

Thank you Mr Heald

John Says:
Hello The Granger Family,

Please do not worry. I can promise that the dining room staff will in no way ask you not to give thanks before a meal and I’m sure no one is going to laugh……..so please don’t worry and enjoy what I’m sure will be a great cruise.

Best wishes to all

John


Mia M Asked:

Hi John (REPLY, TIME SENSITIVE) –

Table for 8 is what I am asking for on the Valor. This is a make or break for if we cruise with your company again. We have cruised Celebrity 7 times and are giving you a chance. We ALWAYS get a table for 8 with the best waiter so I hope and I suggest that Carnival does the same for us.

SAILING DATE MARCH 27TH
SUITE#S – 7300, 7324, 7332

John Says:
Hello Mia M,

The good news is that unlike Celebrity it seems I don’t have to worry about giving you the best waiter because all our waiters are the best in the industry. I will certainly ask the maitre d to get you a table for 8 and I am sure that your first Carnival cruise will be the first of many.

Have a brilliant time.

Best wishes,

John

Rev Barb in Canada, eh? Asked:

Is it possible to add another couple to this reservation???
If so – Carol and Murray Bateman, 12 March 2011, Carnival Dream Cabin No. 7333

John Says:
Hello Rev Barb in Canada,

I take it this is for The Chef’s Table right? If so I have sent a message to the ship and they will add 2 more spaces. If not, please let me know otherwise Best wishes………eh.

John

That’s all for today and I will be back soon with more here and on Facebook.

Yesterday I forgot to post any Fun Times because I have the brain capacity of an ameba. So with apologies for that, here are the Fun Times from the Carnival Destiny.

(Download Fun Times here.)

I think about the Carnival Splendor a lot and I don’t think I have mentioned that having spent a week with Felipe the CD of the Carnival Splendor, I know he is the right choice for that ship. He is eager and proud to be there, passionate and full of ideas and as I said, I am certain he will be brilliant. I gave him as much advice as I could, including trying to save some money. The young CD’s do tend to splash their cash. We have a young, newly promoted cruise director colleague of mine who shall remain nameless but who has a collection of watches. Yes, a collection. But despite this he has just spent thousands of dollars on a watch made by something called Brietling. He showed me his new watch recently and explained that this company makes timepieces for fighter pilots and space shuttle commanders and people who parachute from helicopters into power boats for a living. Well that will be handy then for when he’s hosting a deck party then won’t it? But we do have a wonderful group of young and talented CD’s and with George and Chris leaving soon and Tory leaving this week…….there are three full time slots open. I wonder who will get them?

One rising star for sure is Entertainment Host Ryan who we visit now for an update on what is happening onboard the Carnival Splendor during her first voyage since returning from dry dock. Here he is.

Hey John!

Hello again from the Carnival Splendor! We’re calling a close to our first Fun Day at Sea….and what a day it was! As we head south of winter the skies are blue, the ocean is clear and calm, and the puffy clouds overhead seem to be welcoming the Carnival Splendor back to these familiar waters after three long months of repairs. I was headed to the main Lido Pool today and was surprised to find a large group of guests intently looking out the starboard-side windows of the Splendido Restaurant, of course I’m always curious as to what our guests are up to, so I jumped into the crowd and saw immediately what was the fuss….a group of dolphins were jumping and swimming beside the ship and putting on quite the show for these lucky passengers. Corny as it may be, I like to think that even the dolphins are happy to see us back where we belong!

Today was so chock-full of fun activities and things to do I hardly know where to start. Everyone is out and about, joining in the fun, and making the most of their week-long vacation. The highlights today were definitely on Lido Deck; Master Mixology Competition, Ice Carving Demonstration, Deck games, and of course, the ridiculously popular Men’s Hairy Chest Competition! A beautifully tropical frozen concoction won the Mixology judges over, and immediately you could see the icy pink treat being sipped pool-side while the guests soaked up some of the first real sunshine of this cruise. I’m always happy when the weather begins to warm up towards Puerto Vallarta…it means Mexico is getting closer and the stresses of home are just a passing thought between lunch #1 and lunch #2. Sweaters and scarves are replaced with bikinis and tanning lotion, jeans and socks are shunned for a pair of flip-flops and the ever-present (and ever grotesque) men’s Speedo. Speaking of men who reveal a bit too much on Lido Deck, the Men’s Hairy Chest Competition was a roaring success for this cruise. We have crowned the Carnival Splendor’s onboard Chewbacca for the next 7 days, and boy is he a hairy one. It was “all hands on chest” this afternoon while our fearless female judges put these bushy boys through the ringer of manly challenges.

I absolutely LOVE hosting the activities on Splendor’s Lido Deck, it’s a very unique open deck plan, and quite unmatched when it comes to showcasing our wonderfully talented bands, hosting group activities, and for people-watching by the pool. It even has a retractable dome that can cover the entire deck and the big screen theater in case of inclement weather (which I don’t think we’ll be needing on this cruise for even a second). Inside the ship our guests were learning all about Fun Aboard the ship and Fun Ashore at our ports of call with our Cruise Director Felipe and spinning through trivia challenges with my fellow hosts; Christy, Amy, and Michelle. I even got the opportunity to meet a wonderful group onboard that all religiously follow this relatively unknown blog thingy on the internet…hmmm.

On the Promenade tonight we had our Captain’s Celebration and the first Cruise Elegant Evening of the week, after coming in from a day at the pool I’m always impressed by how well our guests can clean-up! Snazzy suites, tailored tuxedos, formal dresses, and sparkly tops were the mainstay in the ship’s lounges…even the children in ruffles and bow-ties walked with a certain skip in their step that only comes with knowing you look like a million bucks. The cameras were flashing on every deck as the ship’s photographers snapped up guest’s pictures like the Los Angeles paparazzi. Captain Giorgio Pagano looked like a proud papa walking into the El Morocco Lounge to greet the room and offer some eagerly awaited face-time to the celebration attendees.

The Spectacular Lounge was a bit chilly this evening, but got really hot, really quick when the curtain went up for our jaw-dropping production show VROOM. The singers and dancers in the Splendor cast will never cease to amaze me with their raw talent and endless energy. As the night carried on there was no shortage of things to do…laughter rolled from the Punchliner Comedy Club, sing-a-longs jammed out of the piano bar, and the night owls partied in the Red Carpet dance club till the early hours of morning. It’s “business as usual” here on the Carnival Splendor, which means that anything can happen and there are exciting surprises around every corner! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

Ciao for now

Ryan McQuarrie
Entertainment Host
Carnival Splendor

Thanks Ryan, it’s so good to hear that the ship is doing what she does best. We look forward to another update soon mate.

Well, yesterday we had our final meeting for the bloggers cruise on Sunday. My assistant Stephanie is already onboard the Carnival Glory and has done a full inventory of all the gifts the bloggers will be getting and I will join on Friday in Grand Cayman (build a sodding pier you cheap bastards) and then on Sunday some other beards will join me.

We will have the head of carnival.com, Jordan Topbeard, as well as the man responsible for the new blog format and much of the support I get here and on Facebook, Eric the Beard. On camera we will have Peter the Hair who will be updating those of you who are not joining me by slapping on daily videos of what we are all doing. Also on hand will be Chris Prideauxbeard who is the director of entertainment and the senior manager of online content and experience and tofu and long time friend of the blog thingy, Stephanie Leavittmoustache.

Also joining me will be my friend and top comedian Lewis Nixon and Carnival’s 358th best comedian Mr. Al…….oh bugger ……hold on. Sorry, I just heard that our President and CEO Gerry Cahill will now do a 30-minute comedy show entitled “Funny Words you can Make with numbers on a Calculator” ……..so Carnival’s 359th best comedian Al Ernst will also be joining me and talking of Al……..here is a segment from Alivers Travels written especially for the blog.

Good Morning! I do say ‘Good Morning’ as my writing begins, it is 7:15am, and I am typing the netbook from lido on the Carnival Sensation… It is not often at this hour, that I am awake, and not dropping my pants at airport security, trying to make a flight to another show… (Somehow, that just didn’t sound right…) Needless to say how beautiful it is to just enjoy the breeze, quiet, and relaxation of heading into Freeport.

As I glanced at the USA Today, I read in the travel section that records had be set several days for Carnival reservations, as the official term is the ‘Winter Wave.” I would call it the “rookie awakening.”

Most of the readers of John’s Blog are “Big Leaguers.” They have cruised as much as I have, and sometimes tell me things that I didn’t know about a port or the smallest details of the differences on the ships in the fleet. Now think back to your “Rookie Cruise” …….Wow, what a difference a few cruises make. Now, we know it all, never surprised, and always have the right answers.

My thought then went to Spring Training for Baseball, as this is one of my favorite times of the year….…and there are “Rookies,” who have been invited to the major leagues for shot at making the “Big Club”….…and how similar those feelings might be to a rookie cruiser.

A Rookie Cruiser has spent the ‘off season’ getting in training……with luggage, the perfect cruise wear, and of course the paperwork together for the big day……The night before travel they have a tough time sleeping, and they open the bag and add and subtract stuff until the minute they walk out the door.

The moment arrives, after all that, you can still see the mouths drop, and the eyes grow wide as they first see the size of the ship…Once on board, the rookies can be spotted easily…Most have some type of matching outfit to align them to their team, they walk on the ship and just stop…as no amount of research can match the reality of being in the ‘Big Leagues.”

They find there ‘locker room’ (cabin)…open every door, press every button, and look at the cabin safe thinking it is a microwave oven. Then it is out to the ‘field of dreams’ if they can ever make it out of the hallway as they the search for an elevator begins.

After an hour, they meet one of you, a veteran…and then you have a decision…do you “haze” this first timer? Or do you actually safely land them at the right place? Do you send them to the pizzeria when they looking for the casino?

So, this is where the story is all yours…whether this is your sixth or 600th cruise, I challenge you to go back to your rookie season on every trip…Feel that anticipation, the amazement, and the wonder of what we have all built together. That will make every cruise special…and when you run into that “rookie,” let them feel a part of the team. I promise, you will never lose your spot in the big leagues, and maybe you will be the “MVP” of that trip…at least to that rookie who you got to the right buffet line.

To those of you going on the bloggers cruise, I look forward to our time together, and just to let you know while you are at Punchliner Comedy Club, I have five completely different shows…Taken some of the old stuff, and did a ‘dry dock’ on some material, added many new bits, and the five shows tell a story…’A View from the Cheap Seats’.

Be safe, have fun, and see you soon.

AL

Thanks Al. It will be great t see both Al and Lewis again and as well as performing at the Punchliner comedy club we will all be doing an evening at the improv…….should be fun. So all is set for BC4 and I will see some of you there. For those who are not, I promised to keep you updated on FB and with video blogs here. Although I will not be able to write every day I will keep posting the Fun Times for the fleet through next week.

Tomorrow I will be on Facebook only and flying on Friday. It was fascinating reading your comments about the dress code and it seems many of you disagree with my opinion which is great. I love provoking good conversation and I love reading your views and ideas. There are no plans to change the current codes though and I wonder if we ever will? The one thing that nobody will ever be able to sell me on is why what someone else wears will change the experience and the food you have and you eat.

I couldn’t sleep last night so I went channel surfing and came across PBS and the Antiques Road Show. Have you seen this? If not it’s brilliant and you should. All those ladies with their knee high stockings and their house in the Hamptons imagine their Ming Vase was made by the Emperor Ming himself. But the expert, backed by a team of researchers, the internet and the Smithsonian invariably finds some tiny little detail that proves it was actually made by an unemployed man called Fu King in 1974 in a shed in Chicago. And is therefore worth only $1.99.

Oh they all try to look pleased with the valuation. But they’re not. Inside, every single one of them wants to smash the vase over the bearded expert’s head.

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.