Behind Enemy Lines

May 23, 2011 -

John Heald

We have a stag party onboard the Carnival Magic this week………..but it’s not like you would imagine a normal stag party to be. There are 14 men all here to celebrate the forthcoming marriage of Simon Garthwaite who on June 11 will be marrying Gillian in Sioux City, Iowa.

I know this because I met these lads at my welcome aboard talk yesterday and they were all wearing T-shirts with their nicknames on them which included “Dommy Bear”……….”Dado” “………”Big Foot”……..and the intriguing “Sugar Britches.” So obviously I had to investigate and that’s when I discovered it was a stag cruise to celebrate their best pal Simon Garthwaite’s wedding. Oh by the way, Simon is 70 years old and his pals…….well the youngest “Dado” is 67 and the oldest “Bobo” is 74.

How utterly brilliant is that?

I mean, where do you start with this? Well, let’s start with the fact that this is a stag party outside of the normal ones you read about. The chaps have decided to come on a Mediterranean cruise and to see the sights of Pompeii, Rome and beyond. There’s no Latvian lap dancers and no chance that Simon will be stripped naked, tied to the smokestack with a toilet brush sticking out of his bottom.

But the real celebration here is that Simon who lost his first wife 17 years ago to cancer is a true representation of today’s seniors. It was my travel talk and I had 5 ports to chat with the guests about but in the short time I had I learned that Simon met his new wife to be on-line, which is why his T-Shirt read “Silver-Surfer.” I asked how many of his 14 friends were single and looking for love……quite a few put their hands up. The audience applauded like crazy and I suddenly knew who was buying all that cut price Viagra we get offered in our e mail boxes every day.

Time for today’s Q and A……………away we go.

Kim and Emily Shockley asked:

Financially, this year has been much more difficult than last year, but I found that we can still squeeze the Splendor into our budget by forgoing the balcony spa room for an interior cabin and we’re even bringing a friend along who has never cruised before. Emily has absolutely NO IDEA (it’s a surprise!) that she’ll be spending her 22nd birthday just like her 21st. I cannot wait to see her eyes light up like that again! The doctor just found a “nodule” in her lung that appears to be cancer and I can’t imagine her spending her 22nd birthday any other way.

John, thank you for all the laughs you gave us on the last cruise. We even enjoyed turning on the TV to hear you say things again – the second time around! Hilarious! If you have any way of doing so, please let me know if Russell, Jason, or Tyler will be with us October 2nd through 9th.

We’ll miss you!

-Kim and Emily Shockley

John says:
Hello Kim and Emily,

I was sad to read about your friends problems and straight away let me say that I wish her well and hope that the cruise will allow her to relax and prepare for whatever challenges she may face. I wish I could be there with you and in fact it will be a whole new group of people led by brilliant cruise director Todd Whitmer. I would like you to see if you can contact me here a month before you sail or a week before if you can write to me on Facebook as I would like to send you all a little something as a bon voyage gift. Please try to do this if you can.

Best wishes to you all…..especially Emily.


Mo Cruiser asked:

You continue John to be the subject of discussion on cruise critic forum boards and you got lots of support about a comment that was made about your daughter. But as one cc poster richstowe said in reply to another poster kebell99 comment that you made it a big deal “So you are right but I bet very few saw the offending Hildegard post until he made it the centerpiece of his next blog. He promoted this stupid (but mild) insult against his daughter. It’s the same thing he does with a post he gets from someone who says they are from CC and demands this or that. He loves to respond making the CC site look like it’s full of kooks.

I happen to agree with them both and you knew exactly what we’re doing when you posted the comment and it was all for sympathy from the people whose lives are sadly spent hanging on your every word! Don’t know whose sadder you or them.

John says:
Hello Mo Cruiser,

I can’t win here can I? If I don’t post this question and ignore you then you will think that I am running away from your question and if I do post it, which obviously I have, I am giving further publicity to a comment that was mean, hateful and written my someone with the personality and brain capacity of a dung beetle. And I will be accused once again that by posting this I dislike Cruise Critic. Let me make this as clear as I can. I don’t post the comments…….the beards in the office do and I do not see them before they are posted. I get 10 questions a day to answer and had it appeared in my 10, I would have trashed it along with my daily offer of a bigger thingy. The beards made a mistake and they are very sorry and we have moved on. My daughter and my family are out of bounds. The end. As for what Kebell99 and Richstowe said, well they have their opinions which they are absolutely entitled to but they are absolutely wrong if they think I wanted this……… wrong that maybe they are both worthy of being called “kooks.”


Tom Pazdernik asked:

Please, this is my third time writing to you. My son and his new wife will be cruising on the Freedom in June as newlyweds. This is their Honeymoon. When my son was little, and I took him on his first cruise… He got to meet the Captain at our table and it was a special moment, please is there a way I can arrange for a special toast by the Captain in some way to celebrate there just getting married. It would be a full circle. This is my only son and I want to do something special (other than the norm) for him on his cruise. Please… it’s a dad thing. Please e-mail mail on who I can further talk too or who I can contact on the ship. Thank you for whatever help you can provide!!

John says:
Hello Tom,

I am sorry that I have not replied before but I am glad we still have time to try and do something for your son. Please can you send me their names and cabin number either here or on Facebook and I will do my best to arrange something for the proud newlyweds. Please send me this information as soon as you can and don’t worry, I understand the proud Dad thing perfectly. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes to all


Marcus Washington asked:
Hello John –

I am now totally hooked on your blogs and face book page even though I have never cruised. I live in New York and have ridden the car past the ships to look at them my question is why is carnival not like visitors for the day. I tried but they won’t let me come on the ship at the ship port in New York. Please can you help me because we are too poor to cruise I think but I dream of coming on to see you and where everything is.

Thank you John.

John says:
Hello Marcus Washington,

Thanks so much for those very kind words about the blog and Facebook and I hope you continue to enjoy them. I really wish we could help you come and see the ship but this is one of those areas that is completely out of my control. You see, security is very tight both at the port of New York and on the ship which means that we have very strict rules about visitors. Sorry, I am afraid this just isn’t possible. I hope one day your dream comes true and you cruise with us and that we will meet on day as well. Until then I hope you continue to enjoy the blogs.

Best wishes


Zanzibar 121 asked:


As Carnival did not send me a review card can you pass on my compliments to Cruise Director Tex who was so much fun. He really looks like he loves his job and compared with the lady CD we had on our last cruise whose name I can’t remember but whose voice was so irritating that passengers would cove their ears when she spoke he was fantastic. He spent 10 minutes just chatting to me and my wife after the show one night which was great. Our waiter Jimmel was the best we have had in 3 cruises and even though we never saw our cabin steward our cabin was always clean and tidy and had fresh ice 2 times a day. Overall I would say the Triumph crew was the best we have had. I do have one question though and that’s why do Carnival not use self service with the bacon like all other breakfast items and why do you have those ridiculous screens on the buffet lines so you have to stretch to get food.

Thanks John.

John says:
Hello Zanzibar 121,

Thanks so much for the kind report and I will be more than happy to send these words of praise to the people you mentioned. It is always nice when you read positive comments about the crew and that they made a difference and as for Tex…….well you are right, he is a fabulous CD and I am very proud of him. Now to the bacon, well we started this a couple of years ago because unlike the other breakfast items that guests would take in normal portions, they would take loads of bacon, most of which never got eaten and therefore was wasted. That is why we now have a server place the bacon on the plate. There is no limit to how much you can get so always ask for more if you want and they will be happy to give it to you. Now as for the screens, these are called “sneeze guards ” and do exactly what the name suggests and are required by United States Public Health. I hope you had a great cruise and thanks again for the kind words for the crew.

Best wishes,


Darlu asked:

It will be my 25th anniversary when we board on the Dream on May 28th and on our four cruises including 1 already with carnival we have never had a table for 2. Cabin number is 7379 and do not put us with other pax as we don’t want that for our anniversary. It needs to be a special week so that’s why we need for 2 only!

John says:
Hello Darlu,

Congratulations on your 25 years together and I have emailed the Maitre D who will do all he can to assist you with your request. Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please………..have a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes,


Fred asked:

Simple and quick question: Is the Iced Tea at the buffet on Carnival ships caffeine-free???

John says:
Hello Fred,

Simple answer……I checked and the tea is not caffeine free. Please let me know if you need anything else. Best wishes


Brett Gooch asked:

My wife and I will be cruising on the Magic on June 24. Our question is about the Red Frog food as we both love pubs. My wife though has a severe allergy to wheat/gluten and to dairy (milk) ingredients. I saw the food you mentioned in the blog and we are both eager to try out this exciting menu. I was hoping we could give me a quick outline of what menu items would be appropriate for her dietary needs. Could you please send a short list of the items that DO NOT contain wheat/gluten or dairy? (some common wheat/gluten ingredients include wheat flour, soy sauce, barley, and oats ; Some common milk ingredients include butter, cream, cheese. EGGS are okay!)

Thank you so much for your time in this matter.

John says:
Hello Brett Gooch,

I asked the chef and the only food that we serve that you can eat is chicken wings and the onion rings which are cooked with corn starch, the other items are dredged in flour and then cooked in oil I am afraid. Have you had a chance to speak to our special needs desk before your cruise starts so you can let us know your details and so we can make sure your wife is not served anything she should not have? If not please do so and also speak to the maitre d when you board and he will make sure that your wife is well looked after. Please let me know if I can help and you will love the ship and of course the RedFrog Pub. See you soon.

Best wishes,


Kopstein asked:

Can you tell me why Carnival has no discount for Florida residents? If you did maybe you would get my business.

John says:
Hello Kopstein,

Sorry, while I realize we have all different promotions and pricing programs, I really don’t know the answer to this question about resident rates so I am checking with someone in the office. Regardless of the answer we get I do hope that you will come and cruise with us though and discover the brilliant value for money cruise vacation that we offer.

Best wishes,


John Davis asked:

Hi John,

We have been on nine cruises (mostly Princess and NCL), but never on Carnival. I am planning a cruise for our 40th anniversary and wife’s birthday (won’t say which one) next March and the Miracle and Freedom are at the top of my list mainly because of their itineraries. I really like them both. For a first time CCL cruiser which would you recommend? We like good food, relaxing and seeing interesting ports when we cruise.

Thanks for your advice.

John says:
Hello John Davis,

Both Princess and Holland America are wonderful cruise lines and I am sure you will have enjoyed them both. But I do hope that as you plan your next cruise vacation that you will think of us here at Carnival. Now both the ships you mentioned are fabulous. Carnival Miracle is smaller and has a wonderful ambience about her while the larger Carnival Freedom is packed with all the bells and whistles. As for the ports, well that’s a tough one as they both have great itineraries but I would look at Carnival Freedom and her eastern Caribbean route which includes St Thomas, San Juan, Antigua, Tortola and Nassau. Regardless of which one you chose I promise you great fun, great food and brilliant service and if you have any other questions or need my help, I am here for you. Best wishes and hope to see you experience your first fun for all cruise …………… very soon.


That’s all for today.

I have been communicating these past two days on Facebook regarding my announcement that I will not now be the cruise director on the trans-Atlantic cruise. I must have typed the word “sorry” a hundred times or more but that still isn’t enough I know to make it any better for some. I don’t want this to drag on anymore than it has to but I do understand that there are many blog readers who don’t read Facebook and that’s why I needed to make sure that I apologised again here on the blog thingy and let you know that I am truly sorry for disappointing you. I will do all I can to make it up to you over the next few months.

Let’s take a break and see who is sailing with us today on voyage MA12052211.

GUESTS: 3879

Canadian: 716
Dutch: 67
Russian: 211
Portuguese: 12
Italian: 9
Japanese: 109
German: 35
Spanish: 67

Let’s see where we are going and who will be entertaining the guests this cruise:

Sun, May, 22 – Barcelona: Jeff Jena / Russ Nagel dep @ 5pm
Mon, May, 23 – Marseilles: Welcome Aboard Show 7am-5pm
Tue, May, 24 – Savona: Groove Line 7am-8pm
Wed, May, 25 – Rome: Activities / Seaside Theatre Jeff Jena / Russ Nagel 8am-10pm
Thu, May, 26 – Naples: Penny Mathisen (West End Vocalist) 7am-7pm
Fri, May, 27 – Messina: Destination Unknown – Magic Show 7am-4pm
Sat, May, 28 – at sea: Greg Scott (Violinist)
Sun, May, 29 – Venice: Activities / Deck Party arr @ 7am
Mon, May, 30 – Venice: Guest Talent Show / Bedtime Story dep @ 12noon
Tue, May, 31 – at sea: Niels Duinker (Comedy Juggler) Will Marfori Jerry Goodspeed
Wed, Jun, 01 – at sea: Marcus Jefferson (Vocalist) Will Marfori Jerry Goodspeed
Thu, Jun, 02 – Mallorca: Win (Opening) 7am-5pm

So as you can see we have Palma de Mallorca as a port and that’s the night we open “Win,” the third of our shows featuring the dancers and entertainers. We did this show on Carnival Elation but here…….it’s going to be a little different and I will tell you more about that in a blog later this cruise.

This cruise we have 31 guests with missing luggage. Some but not all will be arriving today in Venice. We have done our best here to look after them all and last night I personally went to meet the Hodges who are blog and Facebook readers. There is Mum and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa and the three children and out of the 7 suitcases they checked in with at Houston they only have 2 that have arrived. They flew via Frankfurt and now have only the cases for 2 of the kids. Apparently the suitcases are still in Houston and never made it to Frankfurt. They will now be sent to Rome which is on Wednesday.

Anyway, we are doing our best to look after them and all the other guests who have no luggage. Mr. Hodges asked to speak to me so I called him in the cabin and their major concern was that they couldn’t eat in the dining room because all they had were jeans and T-shirts that they had flown in or bought from the gift shops. Obviously I told them that this was something they absolutely should not worry about and that they could go to the dining room as they were. He was very glad to hear this and it made me remember that the last time I was in Europe and we had high numbers of missing luggage that I used to announce that it was OK to eat in the dining rooms and that people would understand and so I think I will make that announcement once again, tonight. I was going to go off in a rant about dress codes again but I won’t. What I will say is that we have bugger all in the shops onboard. What I mean by that is that we have no underpants for women and men or even a universal pair and shoes. Yes, we have t shirts and stuff but underpants and basic clothing……..nope, we have bugger all. And while I certainly understand the logistical concerns about stocking all sizes of clothes and shoes, not to mention styles, considering the amount of lost luggage on European cruises, it is something we should at least consider.

As you can see we have 5 ports in a row there and that was one tough travel talk I had to give yesterday. As well as meeting the stag party and having fun with the guests I have to talk about currency, how to get on and off the ship and loads of other bits and pieces and that’s even before I get to the ports themselves. My travel talks are not historical talks. I certainly try and give as many facts as I can about each site we visit but with limited time and the fact that I am as intelligent as a root vegetable this is not always enough and occasionally last cruise I got a comment that my talk didn’t contain enough history about the places we are going to. And they are right, they don’t. But with the schedule like it is and no sea days and only 40 minutes before I have to start the safety drill……..I have bugger all time.

Last cruise we had 5 reported cases of Carnival Magic guests being pick pocketed all in Rome. So I have stepped up my warnings about this and as we had a minor road incident where some guests had rented bicycles to cycle around Rome and had a bit of a bang which left them with stitches and a loss of deposit, I have also added some road safety tips to my talk as well. Things are very different in Europe to the states. If someone flashes their lights it’s a polite gesture giving you permission to come through ahead of them. In other countries such as Italy it means “I am not stopping for you Mr. Tourist” and you won’t realize this until you wake up in hospital eating mashed potatoes through a straw. Changing lanes on an Italian road is as dangerous as creeping up on a sleeping lion, lifting his tail and tickling his scrotum with an ostrich feather. If you don’t change lanes and drive to slow they blow their horn and ram you at the same time.

You will not be surprised when I tell you that the worst place I have driven in a rent a car is France. This is because if you do get caught speeding and they discover you are in a rent a car and a tourist they will impose such a huge fine on you that you will have to sell your house and all your worldly possessions to pay for it….….if you don’t pay they will take your car on the spot ……….. and your wife.

Speaking of the French, we don’t get many French people on the ships either here or in the Caribbean, they don’t seem to do foreign holidays, and with good reason because as long as you stand down wind of the place. France is one of the most beautiful places on earth so why go anywhere else. Today your Carnival Magic is docked in Marseilles and unbelievably the locals seem very happy to see us and are even handing the guests pretty Provence flowers. In all seriousness they have gone further than any other port we have called at so far which is……..ummmm ……….extraordinary

Our guests are enjoying the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral and some are on excursions to one of God’s best days, Provence. It’s simply gorgeous there and with its healthy living style of fruit and olive oil and rolling hills with the naked women on the beaches just a few miles away its obvious why so many come here for their vacations including the French themselves. Today this busy French port town is hosting a Carnival ship for the first ever time and there seems to be lots of fuss about.

So here I am……..behind enemy lines. Shortly I will be hosting the plaque ceremony which is as pointless as a snooze button on a fire alarm because no bugger will speak English and even if they do they won’t admit it. So I shall go there and welcome the mayor of Marseilles, port officials, the head of customs and the minister of tourism and not one of them will have a sodding clue what I am saying.

So we have one of our guest service associates to translate for us. She is from Montreal so she probably speaks a different kind of French will probably upset them even more. But I shall try and break the ice and I will open with a bit of comedy just for my Frenchy friends……..they will love this. My idea is to do the whole ceremony speaking like Inspector Closseau. He was a genius wasn’t he…….my favourite was this simple bit which still today is totally brilliant.

Clouseau: Does your dog bite?

Hotel clerk: No.

Clouseau: Nice doggie.

(Dog bites Clouseau)

Clouseau : I thought you said your dog did not bite!

Hotel clerk: That is not my dog.

Anyway, here is my opening line of my speech at this morning’s plaque ceremony during which I have to tell them there will be a plaque exchange, followed by lunch at 12:30 pm where the chef has prepared duck a la orange. Then this will be followed by a tour of the ship on their own and we have deck plans in case they get lost on their way to the RedFrog Pub.

Anyway, here is what I will say said in heavy French accent like Inspector Closseau and I suggest you do the same when reading it…

“Gid moaning. I was pissing by La Spotlight Lounge and thought I would drip in to say allo. After la plaque ceremoniiie at half pissed 12 we have la lunch and la chef has made dick in orange sauce. Then you have la tour of le ship and I give you a mop in case you want to take a leak where you are. Be sure not to miss our new pub, which we named after a sun burnt man from Paris.”

Anyway, in case things don’t go my way and the Frenchies don’t laugh, I have asked Preston Bircher our entertainment production manager to fire off a couple of pyrotechnic shots in the lounge which will result in their immediate surrender…….and Micky Arison will own Marseilles.


Your friend,


P.S You can find the Fun Times for the Carnival Magic here.

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.