Like a Bat Out of Hell

April 6, 2011 -

John Heald

The Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone is huge. I don’t know the dimensions but I do know it’s a labyrinth of docks, warehouses and offices. The thousands of shipyard workers do daily battle with the gigantic cranes that move pieces of ship around like Legos.

Walking in this environment is dangerous and you need eyes in the back of your head and the back of your arse. So, most of the workers use a bike or a moped to move from A to B and this morning……….it was my turn……… drive a moped from the yard office to the ship. It’s a distance of about quarter of a mile, so what could go wrong?

Well first of all it seemed to give great joy and happiness to the Italian shipyard workers. They all pointed, some laughed and some seemed angry at the sight of the fat bloke riding a moped. Now had I been seen riding one of their wives then maybe I would have understood the angry bit although the fact that I am British and was driving on the wrong side of the yard…….. probably didn’t help Luigi and his mates keep their hands in their pockets and thus being Italian ………….. having nothing to say…………..although sometimes an Italian man with his hands in his pockets could be talking to himself. Anyway, I digress.

Now, in my defence I should point out that I have never liked any kind of two wheel transportation. Even as I kid I hated my bike and when I got my licence to drive I ignored the calls of Honda, Yamaha, and Harley and went straight to four wheels.

But this morning I needed to get to the other side of the shipyard and so I borrowed a moped. Now had this been the UK or the States or Canada there would have been rules for me to follow. Which means that before climbing on board I would have had put on a high visibility jacket and spent the morning driving round some cones while a man called Brian explains which lever does what. Afterwards, you will be taken on the road, where you will drive about for several hours wearing clothes from the Blue Oyster Club…………..Police Academy movie reference.

But this is Italy where rules don’t apply, certainly on the road. Driving in Italy gives you a range of emotions from scary to bite the back of your hand before fainting in a puddle of your own urine and that’s the same here in the Fincantieri shipyard. But before the driving comes the getting on. The motorbike is not like a car. It will not stand up when left on its own. So, when you are not riding it, it must be leaned against a wall or a fence. I’m told some bikes come with footstools which can be lowered to keep them upright. But then you have to lift the bike onto this footstool, and even with the Vespa thingy I had this morning, it’s sodding heavy and it was like a 83 year old hamster trying to lift an elephant above his head. Watching me try to put the bike onto its footstool once again provided the shipyard workers with much merriment and if your Carnival Magic isn’t finished on time it’s because Luigi and his mates were too busy laughing their arses off at me and my moped.

Eventually I was on and then had to work out the controls. Some have gearlevers on the steering wheel. Some have them on the floor, which means you have to shift with your feet….. How bloody stupid is that?  Then we get to the brakes.  It appeared that on my borrowed Italian stallion they haven’t worked out how the front and back brake can be applied at the same time. So, to stop the front wheel, you pull a lever on the steering wheel, and to stop the one at the back, you press on a lever with one of your feet. Now considering I have all the poise and balance and mental capabilities of a drunken penguin, you can imagine how bloody stupid I looked as I started on my journey. It obviously takes a lot of multi tasking this moped riding thing and the only time I multi task is when I pee in the shower. But off I went and after just 10 yards I had to stop. Not because of the laughing Italians but because I quite frankly was scared that if I used only the front brake, I would fly over the steering thingy and be killed. If I would try to use the back one, I would use the wrong foot and change into third gear instead of stopping and drive into the water and be killed by drowning.

As far as the minor controls are concerned, well… get a horn and lights and indicators, all of which are operated by various switches and buttons on the steering wheel, but if you look down to see which one does what, one of the huge shipyard cranes will hit you and you will be killed. Oh, and for some extraordinary reason, the indicators (blog readers from Miami will have to Google the word indicators) do not turn off like in cars after you have gone round a corner. This means you will drive with one of them on permanently, which will lead Luigi who is behind you to think you are turning right. It will then undertake just as you turn left, and you will be killed.

I have discovered today then that driving a moped is nothing like driving a car and me thinking I can is the same as me thinking that I can play for the Miami Heat just because I have a pair of Nikes. And I imagine to do it properly and drive this on the road must be expensive. You need some tight leather pants, a pair of f**k me boots, a coffin and a headstone.

In other words, your small moped, which has no trunk, no electric windows, no CD player and no bloody heater even, will end up costing more than an Aston Martin. Still, the tofu eaters probably like them because they are good for the environment because it takes only a quarter a liter of gas to get from your house to the scene of your first fatal accident.

So there you go. It took me 25 minutes to get from the yard office to the ship and I fell off and because I wasn’t wearing a pair of Ozzy Osborne leather pants I know have bits of skin hanging off my left knee. I felt such an idiot as Luigi and his mates stood and watched the show. Oh and let me tell you, trying to pick it up after you’ve fallen off it is sodding impossible.

And so I walked back to the yard office leaving the moped there and I have to say that when I got there the owner of the bike who incidentally is the ship’s staff captain asked where his beloved machine was. I told him that it wouldn’t start and that I had left by the ship. He apologised to me and now as I sit here I feel bad and hope that he doesn’t notice the scratches on it caused by crash. I also hope for his sake……..he doesn’t smell the saddle. Let’s get on with today’s Q and A shall we……………… dee amo.

Jullian Dee Asked:
John- reply please

I have been a member on Cruise Critic for three years and yes, there are those who do not like you or your blog but many do so please keep doing what you are doing. I am going to be on the Magic with you in two months time for her first cruise on May 1st from Venice and would like you to arrange a table for 2 for my wife and I as we celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary. We are in cabin 1017 which is a spa cabin!

John Says:
Hello Jullian Dee

I will be talking to Ken the maitre d and will ask him to arrange this for you. See you soon and I hope you have a wonderful anniversary cruise.

Best wishes

Kappa Alpha Maria Asked:
To respond to urgently


I sent you a request 28 days ago, and have yet to have a reply but other questions have been answered which makes my blood boil. It’s not like I need a table or am begging for a pathetic free gift like so many do but I need actual proper help which as a customer service representative you promise to provide. We sail on the Valor on April 23rd and with us will by my autistic son Marco. He is 12 years old and has Asperser Syndrome. This means he can have moments that may appear inappropriate behavior. I need to know if your staff in the children’s entertainment department are capable of recognizing this and won’t stop him coming. This is our first cruise with Carnival and I have high expectations. I hope this time you will reply.

John Says:
Hello Kappa Alpha Maria

I do apologise for the delay in answering. I should kindly point out that while I offer to help people here on my blog thingy and on Facebook that some things are best handled by our guest care department. This is situated in Miami and I hope as I was late in my reply that you managed to contact them. If not, let me assure you that our Circle C staff is well trained and used to looking after and entertaining children who have similar concerns as Marco. Please don’t worry, all will be well and I suggest that you talk one on one with the Circle C Director and discuss with her Marco’s needs, etc. I also am positive that shortly you will hear from Linda, Mum of DJ who has years of experience of cruising with her wonderful son and I am sure she and other bloggers may have words of advice. Meanwhile I will let the ship know of your arrival and please again allow me to apologise for the delay in writing back to you. I hope this cruise will be the first of many.

Best wishes to all

Karen & Bill Asked:
Hello John,
(please respond)

Remember the “Thing One” Onesie Bill (Dick Golden) and I got for you and Heidi for Kye? I mean it was appropriate due to her pre-name/name of “Thingy”, No?
Well, we never met Chris Jefferson, and since you are calling their little one “Thingy”…………. Maybe they would like one as well?

So I guess I need to make the choice, charge the camera, cell phones, etc or breathe while I sleep.

Not being able to use the CPAP (breathing) machine will mean that my wife and the rest of the people on the Lido deck cabins will have to put up with my snoring, and the captain will constantly be looking around for the ship that is sounding its horn.
Well that is enough for now. Keep up the good work on the blog (fantastic) and Facebook (stupendous). We will see you in May.


John Says:
Hello Karen and Bill

Please though don’t worry mate. You need your machine to sleep so please bring a power strip thingy with you in your carry on and explain that it is used for medical purposes so you will be allowed to bring it onboard with you. As long as the strip is in good condition this should not be a problem. We will all miss Chris and I wish him and his wife and thingy a wonderful life together. I have great memories of our time together and I hope to see you soon.

Best wishes to you both


Theo Asked:
Please answerTA Magic is my next cruise critic group as part of the Cruise Critic group. Could you set up a Veterans meeting for us as I am a Vietnam Vet and would like to meet others who have been serving. Thanks so much


John Says:
Hello Theo

There will indeed be a military service get together open for the whole ship to attend. I think this will be a very important event and I will be hosting this myself as we pay tribute to people just like you. See you soon

Best wishes

Len Hamilton Asked:
John – Please Reply

Our son is thinking about going for a job with Carnival Cruise Line. Some friends of ours said it probably won’t happen because the cruise lines don’t hire many people from the USA. Is this true information? I remember seeing a guy in the band who was from America but not many. My son is the sound engineer at our local church in Atlanta. Can you help him.

John Says:
Hello Len

Thanks for taking the time to write. Well, the comment about Carnival not hiring too many people from North America is not exactly correct. Although some of the service departments such as the dining room and housekeeping departments do not employ many North Americans, however, in places like guest services, entertainment department, gift shops, casino, spa and others we have lots of folks from the U.S. and Canada. If your son is interested in becoming part of the entertainment staff may I suggest he has a look at This will show him what the job is all about and how to apply and he can also check out as well.  Best wishes and good luck to your son. Maybe I will see him onboard one day soon.


Francis W Asked:

I need some help organizing a meet in greet on our cruise on the Magic. However, I don’t know if someone else has already contacted you about it. There are about 100 of us that have met on the cruise critic message boards. We are booked on the May 1st sailing of the Carnival Magic. We are a very lively bunch and are warning you that we will be taking over the piano bar so there won’t be room for any other passengers LOL.

John Says:
Hello Francis W

I think this may be old Francis in the sense that since your posted this on February 21 I have been helping arrange a meet and greet for this voyage. I may be wrong though because I am old and because I can’t remember things anymore. I think its best that I go ahead and arrange one anyway for the sea day and maybe if someone from this group is reading this they can advise me on FB if I have already done this or if they wish me to do so. I will be showing off the piano bar soon on the blog, it looks fantastic. Best wishes and see you soon


Grant Viljoen Asked:
John Please reply as this will help you.

Can you tell me how much you weigh? My wife says 300 pounds but I am guessing more. The reason I am asking is because I will be on the Magic with you on June 24. I am going to bring with me something that I believe in and that helped me to shed 78 pounds. It’s so good that I now sell it for a living and I know it can help you John. It is called Slender Wonder Weight Loss System, an HCG diet and medical weight loss program which treats the cause of obesity, low leptin levels. Slender Wonder is a safe and effective weight and fat loss program that has evolved over 35 years with tens of thousands of patients being treated successfully so John, let me help you please so you can continue to live and entertain us with your funny blogs.  Can I ask you to help me with a table for 4 for me and my family who are from South Africa by the way and are in cabin numbers 7388 and 7394. Thanks John and think about THE FUTURE

John Says:
Dear Grant:

Thank you for your offer of help. I am not sure how much I weigh. I think the last time I was 270 lbs., but was still wearing my underpants, which probably weighed 50 lbs themselves. I will speak to the maitre d regarding your table reservation and while I thank you for your offer of help, I must decline and must do this on my own. Best wishes and see you soon.



And on that note I am off to eat a huge bowl of pasta and entire loaf of bread. Meanwhile, let’s talk about your Carnival Magic.

Here’s my mate Vance to tell you some exciting news about the ship’s godmother, who was announced today.

I can’t wait until the naming ceremony which promises to be truly special and memorable. Stay tuned.

Well, on to other Magic news. Today, I met briefly with the management team and discussed what we would be doing with the different cruises regarding elegant night and The Chef’s Table. Here is what we have decided with the CT abbreviation for Chef’s Table and EN for elegant night. There are variations to ports etc. on the 9- and 12-day cruises but this will give you an idea.



As you can see from the schedule, it was difficult to decide when Elegant Night should be. However, here is what we’re doing:

Barcelona, Spain 5:00pm
Monaco 9:00am 8:00pm
Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 8:00am 10:00pm
Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy CT 7:00am 6:30pm
Naples, Italy 9:30am 9:00pm
Messina (Sicily), Italy EN & CT 7:00am 4:00pm
Fun Day at Sea
Barcelona, Spain 5:00am



Barcelona, Spain 5:00pm
Monaco 9:00am 8:00pm
Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy CT 7:00am 7:00pm
Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 7:00am 10:00pm
Naples, Italy 7:00am 7:00pm
Messina (Sicily), Italy 7:00am 6:00pm
Fun Day at Sea EN
Palma de Mallorca, Spain CT 7:00am 4:00pm
Marseilles, France 8:00am 6:00pm
Barcelona, Spain 5:00am



Barcelona, Spain 5:00pm
Monaco 9:00am 8:00pm
Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 8:00am 10:00pm
Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy CT1 7:00am 6:30pm
Naples, Italy 9:30am 9:00pm
Fun Day at Sea EN1
Dubrovnik, Croatia CT2 7:00am 7:00pm
Venice, Italy 2:00pm
Venice, Italy 7:00pm
Fun Day at Sea EN2
Messina (Sicily), Italy CT3 7:00am 4:00pm
Fun Day at Sea
Barcelona, Spain 5:00am



Barcelona, Spain 5:00pm
Monaco 9:00am 8:00pm
Savona, Italy 7:00am 8:00pm
Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 8:00am 10:00pm
Naples, Italy CT1 7:00am 7:00pm
Messina (Sicily), Italy EN1 7:00am 4:00pm
Dubrovnik, Croatia 12:00pm 8:00pm
Fun Day at Sea
Venice, Italy 7:00am
Venice, Italy CT2 6:30am
Fun Day at Sea EN2 & CT3
Fun Day at Sea
Barcelona, Spain 5:00am


I will post the other variations soon, but that covers most of the cruises. We are definitely offering you wonderfully long periods of time in the ports of call which I think is brilliant. I haven’t looked at the transatlantic crossing yet, but will in the weeks ahead.

For those of you that wanted to book The Chef’s Table, please note I will start taking reservations on Monday. So starting this weekend, I will start taking your requests. What I can’t do, is guarantee which night you will go, so please don’t put a preference, however, this choice will be given to you once you get on board by the maitre d’.

Yesterday, I spoke about one of the Carnival Magic’s many new innovations, the RedFrog Pub, and today I want to talk about SportSquare. Now obviously having me write about sports and fitness is like asking Tiger Woods to write about impotence……but here is what you will find on our brilliant SportsSquare area.

I am not going to post photos because work is still going on and I don’t want to post them until all is ready.

Anyway, at the SportsSquare you will find and be able to enjoy these brilliant features:

  • SkyCourse: 2 separate ropes courses – the first ever on a cruise ship – with 460 feet of elements and 20 courses total, each named after a bridge in one of our homeports. We will allow 22 guests per session, however, we will not be responsible for any ruined underwear. This is going to be a thrill seekers paradise.
  • We will debut the “Turf on Surf” nine-hole two-level mini golf course which will be open from 9 am to 9 pm. There are some unique features about this which I will show you when I post pics later. Putting contests, night putting, and lots of surprises and fun with some unique equipment!
  • SportSquare will also feature a pool table, 2 foosball tables and a ping pong table. This area also will feature the SportSquare bar, large TV screen and more.  It will be a great place to sit and watch Europe go by.
  • Then we have the SkyCourt featuring baseball, soccer…bloody hell I’ve gone American ………I mean football ………….oh and yes……. volleyball.
  • Finally, we have SkyFitness, featuring boxing/heavy bag workouts, a VitaCourse, and various machines used for showing off…..sorry, I mean getting fit.  Boxing gloves will be available at the SportSquare bar and the SkyFitness center is open 24 hours a day just in case some chap with a 6-pack, a protein shake and nipples the size of Texas wants to work out at 2am.

This is a wonderful innovation, I know so many of you are excited. The best part of SportSquare is that you can enjoy all of this while listening to the incomparable sound…..of the sea.

So that’s about it for today and now I have to bugger off to a meeting and then find time to FB and take a numero 2. Talking of which, how come that a country that made the Vatican, the Coliseum, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Sophia Loren ……..can’t make a decent bloody toilet.




Your friend
John Heald Blog_5232

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.