Lost in Translation

June 20, 2011 -

John Heald

Well that was the week that was and today I start a new week of blogging and Facebooking. Those last few days were tough as everyone said exactly how they felt as non-smokers and smokers took up arms to wage war against the other and I couldn’t help but think…….was I to blame? If I didn’t have the blog and the Facebook page would it have gotten so hostile? But then again, that’s the Internet in a nutshell, isn’t it?

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter are all places in which people are suddenly prepared to share anything from heartbreak, marital discord and a diagnosis of syphilis to what they would like to do to someone who was smoking on the balcony next to their cabin. Look at me, I have confided that I write in my underpants and that a recent night of passion was a huge flop because of two Teletubbies and a purple sodding dinosaur. There was heartbreak on the ship over the weekend when one of the staff members here on the Carnival Magic discovered his girlfriend who is on the Carnival Liberty had broken up with him because her Facebook page stated “Relationship: not in one.”

But where does it end? Do I reveal too much? Are those folks who write that they hate the blog and me because of its content and my style………if I have one……of writing…..are they correct?  I guess though after starting this blog back in 2007 I decided the more personally revealing the blog, the higher the number of regular readers I would have. Is there then a temptation to expose more and more of myself, like a Latvian stripper peeling of her clothes? The blog now has more than 10 million views plus 14,000 mates are with me on Facebook and more and more and especially after the whole smoking thing I realise the more I make my private life public, the more I make the decisions the beards make at Carnival, the more I seek attention in the broad a manner I do, the more I am inviting not just the fun and the kind people, but the angry and aggrieved as well.

This of course is my decision and I stand by it. I really feel that you all want to know what’s happening on the ships and at Carnival. When I first started writing I began to quickly work out that writing about a guest’s irrational behavior and complaints, coupled with an offer to help where I could, attracted more comments and got more readers than the “another happy day at Carnival and everything we do is just perfect” variety.

The trouble is that, unlike face-to face conversation, we have no idea how what I write in my blog and on Facebook and indeed the comments you post are being received. I am no Sigmund Fraud or whatever his name was and I don’t have a beard but I think it’s safe for me to say that writing on Facebook or the blog or on Cruise Critic-type opinion boards make us “braver,” more forthright than we would normally be, the better to impress our personalities on others.

I once wrote that the blog saved my job. Heidi had just given birth to Kye and it was my first time away from them both. Until Kye was born I never realised I could love something so much as I love my daughter and missing her and Heidi ate at my soul. I would return to the cabin after a show and sit there with nobody to talk to and my girls thousands of miles away. The blog though helped me so much and when I am away from them it still does. have. Quite simply blogging and now Facebooking for me is quite simply……. the silent way to ensure staying sane sometimes. It can though take over if I let it. Last night I had to talk to a guest who was upset about one of the numbers in the Groove Line production show. It features a tribute to the brilliant Jackson 5 and has 4 lifelike puppets and………you know what I am not going to bother explaining anymore except to say that it’s the most popular number in the show and the surprise at the end is always greeted with huge applause and much laughter. Anyway, one couple didn’t like it and demanded to see me. And as I stood with them in the lobby listening to them shout and scream and make ridiculous accusations, all I could think about was not what can I say to make these guests happy and understand we meant no offence, but rather what a bloody brilliant story this is going to make for the blog. And that is so wrong.

So I guess this waffling is a way for me to say thank you for the feedback you gave me and the beards last week. There were hundreds of comments on the blog and many many more on Facebook. Your feedback regardless of whether you like or dislike what Carnival does and what I and other sat is vital. Feedback is what keeps you in touch with Carnival and Carnival in touch with you. Although there were times during the New York release and the smoking debate that I would have happily said “bugger this.” But here I am, still blogging and ready to answer your questions in my underpants once again……….let’s crack on shall we?

Helen Lane Asked:
We are going on Magic in August 2011. Are there any treadmills or other cardiovascular machines on the ship? There seems to be a running circuit which people will probably walk across and hot. Please reply, thanks.

John Says:
Hello Helen Lane

Asking me about what equipment is in the gym is like asking the Pope for a lap-dancing club recommendation. Luckily I know people and they tell me there are in fact 11 treadmills in the huge gym on deck 11 forward as well as other equipment that I have never seen. Seriously Helen the gym here is amazing and we have an outdoor gym as well on the SportSquare. I will see you very soon and if you have any other fitness questions please ask me.

Best wishes

Anthony Mecchi Asked:
John,I would like to do something special for my wife of 25 years, she has had a tough last year as I have been busy at work and this is our first vacation since January!  We will be on the Destiny on July 2nd and the day we are in the Grand Cayman islands will be the anniversary day. I think it would be great that when she returned she would find the cabin we are in which 2367 decorated and some champagne and anything else you can think of. My other question is that I have booked a tour of the stingray swim centre and it’s not with Carnival. The tour says we have to meet on the island at 8:00am so I need to be the first off the ship so that will need to be arranged. Do you do that or do I do that on the ship. This is our first Carnival cruise and we are very excited. I also want a table for 2 so it’s extra special and can you confirm by e mail so I know this has all been arranged.

A.M. Mechi CPA
New York, New York.

John Says:
Hello Anthony Mecchi

I am also excited that you are taking your first cruise with us and I know that you will have a brilliant time. We can certainly decorate your state room for you and this though will have to be pre arranged and paid for by you through www.carnival.com/bonvoyage. There are loads of anniversary options and among them is the one where while you are ashore the crew will decorate your cabin. I will also make sure that I send her something from me. As regards the tendering ashore in Grand Cayman. Well the ship arrives at 8 am and the first tender is at around 8:10 am so that will be fine for you to be on and full instructions will be given by the cruise director and written in your on board program called the Fun Times. I would advise the people you are touring with that you won’t be ashore on the pier until 8:30am. That would be my advice. Have a great time and a happy anniversary cruise.

Best wishes

Bret McKee Asked:
Hey John

Where can I find a 2011-2012 CD assignments? We are booked on the Triumph in September and are curious who our CD will be on that cruise. Thank you


John Says:
Hello Brett

There is a list at the bottom of this blog thingy. Down there……all the way down……at the bottom ……..no, the other bottom…..there…….. yep under JOHN’S HELP DESK…..now click on that ….. that’s right and there you go. As you will see your CD will be the one and only Big Tex or as it says there “Jeremy Mayes” which is the name nobody calls him. He is a great chap and you will have loads of fun with him I promise. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Best wishes

Sue H Asked:

I really love your blog and read it every morning with my coffee and it brings me much laughter for which I thank you. There hasn’t been much laughter in my life recently since I lost my son in Afghanistan in 2009 and I still miss him very much of course. The reason I am telling you this is because I found a photo of him and you from a cruise we did on the Triumph in 2001. Joshua was 14 then and you and the captain had a photo taken with him on dress up night. I have finally gotten around to making his scrapbook and needed to ask you if you could find out the name of the Captain. We cruised in June of 2001. I know this may seem trivial but it would mean so much to me if I could write under the photo his name along with yours and Joshua’s. Thanks so much for this John. Joshua enjoyed two cruises with Carnival and we always talked about you and your shows which he laughed so much at like his Mom is doing sometimes with your blog.

John Says:
Hello Sue H

Oh, Sue. My heart is so heavy after reading that extraordinary post and I wish so much that I was there with you to give you a big hug and to sit and listen to you talk about your son and how very proud you must be of him. I did some research and in June 2001 the master of the Carnival Triumph was Angelo Los who is a great friend of mine and with whom I will share this with. If you can think of anything else that you might need, please do let me know and on behalf of the many thousands of readers of this blog may I say that we are thinking of you and your family and of Joshua who will all remember in our thoughts and prayers tonight.


Jim Ashmead Asked:
Dear John,

Our Cruise Critic Roll Call would like to have a Meet and Greet at 3:00 before our September 16 sailing of the Carnival Magic. We were wondering if the Red Frog would be a good place to have it. From the pictures I have seen, it does look like it could handle the regular customers plus our group of 100 or so.  If not, we could always spill out to The Lanai with our group.  Do you think this would work out for us?  Or do you have any other suggestion that might work out better?


John Says:
Hello Jim

We have had 2 Cruise Critic roll call meeting thingies in the RedFrog pub recently and both have been excellent and well attended. The RedFrog has a brilliant atmosphere and I think it’s a great first meeting point for you all and more than big enough. My only comment is that we have an orientation talk at 3:30 pm which covers the gangways, documentation and arrival/departure times etc as well as some things to do and not to do. Now this maybe something you may not be interested in and if not then 3 pm is fine or you can move to 2:30 pm if you wish. Either way we have plenty of time so have a chat with your group and let me know here or on Facebook. I will see you all soon.

Best wishes

Janey – OKGIRL Asked:
John (Please Reply),

I just saw the new ship pin being passed out on the Carnival Magic to Platinum guests…….how disappointing that they don’t have the ship name but only say “CARNIVAL PLATINUM.” Not really too thrilled with the change……….I guess they will go in the box with the 20 picture frames and 6 coolers that I already have… But to my question……Is there any chance that the beards will rethink this design and return us to the pins that have the actual ship name on them? Thanks in advance for your reply.

John Says:
Hello Janey – OKGIRL

Could not agree with you more Janey. The new generic, non-ship-specific pin is not what we should be handing out and I apologise that we are. Now, there are plans for a new pin. It is far more of a collector’s item and will be ship specific and will also represent Platinum status. These are being made this year and will be ready when we launch the new loyalty program in 2029 …… kidding. I say 2029 only because I have been promising details on this for a long time now but the beards will not be launching it until early next year when amongst other brilliant things will be the new pin. So please forgive the current one which is being used until the new one arrives.

Best wishes and thanks so much for your loyalty

Aleja Asked:
Today your blog had a comment from someone who cruised with Carnival on a boat from Miami and the family did not understand anything as they spoke no English. I had a similar experience when I went on the ship for my Quinceañera, cruise for my sister’s birthday last year on the Valor. We were a group of 280 Cuban Americans who had older people with us who did not speak English yet the ship people made no effort to speak Spanish. The older generation does not speak any English and if Carnival advertises in Miami and cruises from Miami then some shows, some information must be given in Spanish. Hispanics now make up about 60 percent of Miami’s population. Please do more and you will get more business from Miami people. These are my observations.

John Says:
Hello Aleja

First of all I have attended many Quinceanera celebrations on the ships and they are truly beautiful ceremonies that show the proud sense of family tradition that is embedded in the Cuban culture. I do realise that each and every week on all our ships that we carry guests of many nationalities, some of whom may not speak English. While we do provide translated dinner menus and Fun Times, the language spoken on the ship is English and all the shows, announcements, etc. are made as such. I do hope you had a great time and your sister I am sure looked stunning in her white dress. Best wishes


Andrew Slater Asked:

I have been reading on Cruise Critic about how drills for lifeboat muster have become really unorganized and that hundreds of passengers do not attend and the crew does nothing about it not enforcing them to attend, letting people walk away, and even allowing talking and drinking at the muster stations. This if true is a serious matter and must be addressed.

John Says:
Hello Andrew Slater

Please allow me to forge the pleasantries and cut right to the chase. The suggestion that we are diminishing the level of importance we place in the drill is also far from the truth.  Simply put, we must take the drills seriously because if we don’t our ships wouldn’t sail…..period. That’s because the drills are held within the requirements of United States Coast Guard regulations. All the guest staterooms are checked by the stateroom stewards as are the balconies, behind the shower curtains and they even look under the bed and in the safe to make sure nobody is hiding.  The security staff will walk the lounges and open decks making sure everyone goes and we stop all bar service and all activities until the drill is over. Guest safety is still our priority before anything else and if any crew member was ever found not making that so he or she would be in very deep trouble. I can honestly say that in my 24 years at sea the training all the crew receive regarding guest and personal safety has never been greater. However I will say this. If anyone feels that while they were at the drill that there were ways we could improve it please let us know immediately because as I said……the safety of our guests is absolutely our number one goal.

Best Wishes

Rochelle Washington Asked:
Can you tell me who the comedians will be at the Punchliner comedy shows for our cruise on June 23rd. we were on the Fascination last year and the comedians were really funny. Our favorite was Percy Cruise and we were hoping he would be there.


John Says:
Hello Rochelle Washington

Percy Crews is indeed one of our funniest comedians and the Punchliner comedy club has been a massive success for sure right across the fleet. Here is the line up for your cruise and you once again have 2 very funny comedians.


Thu, Jun, 23 Canaveral Welcome Aboard Show Michael Macy / Allyn Ball
Fri, Jun, 24 Nassau Curves Deck Party
Sat, Jun, 25 at sea Far From Over Michael Macy / Allyn Ball


Have a brilliant time.

Best wishes


That’s all for today.

Well you nearly didn’t get a blog today because this morning, June 20, 2011 my Dell computer woke up and decided it was bored and that it would piss me off. I sat here at 6:40am, in my underpants and turned Mr. Dell on and……nothing. All I got was a blue screen. No annoying chiming tone as windows loaded. Nothing. My screen was as empty and devoid of life as Bath and Body works shop in Paris.

I think I have mentioned here in this blog thingy of ours once or twice about the people who work on ships who never get the praise they deserve. The nurses and the doctors for example or how about the dishwashers and Ketut who is as we speak trying to coax a pair of my underpants into the laundry bag with one of those snake catching sticks. These are true cruise ship heroes and they deserve a lot of credit.

But what about the IS people or the IT people or the Geek Squad as we sometimes call them ……. out of ear shot, of course. Well you have a blog today because my computer which apparently had more viruses than the National Convention of Prostitutes was saved by I/S Manager John and his team whom I wanted to thank sincerely for all the work he and his team have done and will do here on the Carnival Magic.

Here they are

Miroslav Kljuskovic (Asst. I/S Manager), Katharina Jauch (I/S Fleet Supervisor), John Staker (Sr. I/S Manager)

Front Row:
Sheldon King (Asst. I/S Manager)

Ketut is now standing over my underpants, in a face mask, swearing at them in Indonesian.

Last cruise we had lots of Russians which means we had lots of line pushing and nipple tassels. This week we have lots of British which means we have lots of pleases and thank yous. So many British people are now sailing with Carnival. They love the food, the spectacular entertainment and the value, of course, given the US dollar is weaker than non-alcoholic beer to the pound, meaning they have money left over to buy T-shirts that show where they have been. British people love to show off where they have been on holiday and will wear T-shirts with Carnival Magic and Barcelona and Dubrovnik on them with great pride and…..to show off to their friends the Smythe-Jones.  People love the British tourist. We are polite, sun burnt, non-complaining tourists and nobody loves us more than the Americans.

Now I know the following does not apply to any of my friends reading this blog but there are some people who still think of us in a fairy stereotypical way. We all wear bowler hats to work ……that’s if we can get to work with all that fog ………it rains every day (that one may be true) and that at 3 pm every day the entire nation stops to have a cup of tea and eat cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off. If only that were true and it wasn’t in fact a country where binge drinking is a national sport, David and Victoria Beckham are worshipped as gods and where parts of our cities are only safe to walk around at night if you have hired a tank.  I want to clarify something and ask your opinion on this but first …………. here’s why.


Guest approached me on Lido during breakfast to comment on the bacon service. Guest said he should be able to serve bacon himself because he likes to choose himself which piece. Guest was very upset and so I allowed him to point out what he wanted. Guest told me that he was very unhappy that bacon was rationed and guests could not have as much as they wanted.


This is an old story isn’t it and I like the guest, love to choose the crispy bits, the bits that look good. But of course he cannot because we serve it to our guests. We don’t ration it though. Ask for as much extra as you feel you want. The reason we serve bacon this way is to keep food waste down.  For some reason it’s the bacon that most people take huge shovelfuls of, yet eat only a small percentage. They don’t do this with eggs, sausage, ham or the prunes even. It’s just the bacon. The server will give you two pieces…..if you want more……just ask……the server will then give you two more pieces …….. if you want more……..the server will give you two more pieces……if you want more…….. the server will smack you over the head with the tongs and tell you to go to the gym. So then bloggers my question to you is……….does this really bother you. Should this be on my list of things to bring to the beards attention? Please let me know.

Now every now and then a something will happen on the ship that I report here on the blog and when I do I know that as I sit here typing it at least half of you will think I am making this up, that’s its fiction. And if I was on the other side of this blog there would be times that I would say “Bollocks, the fat man is making this up………surely.” But you can’t make stuff like this up. Nope ………this is real life…….. real Carnival life.

So yesterday, like today we were in Venice and in each port of call we have a port agent, which is basically a company that that takes care of our needs. They are our liaison with local authorities and provide various transportation, medical and other assistance as and when we need it. We publish the agency number in the Carnival Capers because if……oh FFS…….the Fun Times so that if guests are in real trouble and need urgent help they can call. We explain that this number is to be used only in an emergency.

So we all know that Venice is a city on the water connected by canals and alleys and it can all be a bit confusing. Lost tourists are a familiar sight in Venice. You see them blocking the bridges eyebrows knitted over maps that Stephen Hawking would find difficult to comprehend. But eventually they find their way back to St. Marks Square and back to the ship. But yesterday, a middle aged couple from Illinois called our ship agent using the emergency phone number. The agent Anna answered and the call went like this

Anna                           “Ci”

Mr and Mrs. Illinois    “We are lost in the alleys. My wife is frightened. Please come find us.”


And then he added the most wonderful line that defies belief, because he said…….”Can you hurry up as we have a reservation at the steakhouse at 7 pm.”

The sheer audacity of the “hurry up so we don’t miss dinner” is what makes this comment so brilliant. Anna did not go and get them but she talked them out of the area where they were and onto the water front so they could catch a Vaparetto. It would be nice in closing to say they gave her a warm thank you, came back to the ship and laughed about getting lost in Venice over a porterhouse. But they didn’t. They went straight to the guest services desk and said this:

Sent: Sunday, June 19, 2011 6:58 PM
Subject: Unhappy about instructions in Venice

Good evening everyone,

I just would like to pass along the comments received by guests in stateroom______ as she was quite upset. She stated that no information was given about directions so she and her husband got lost and had to call for help. Guest said the lady on the phone would not come and get them and they had to listen to her on the phone to get back. People they asked on their way did not know the direction or did not speak English. Mrs. ____says Carnival should have crew members around Venice stationed to help lost guests. Guest is demanding refund of call she had to make from her cell phone which she said her US phone company says is $54. Thank you and best regards.


So to return to the top of today’s blog, there are times when I think to myself why keep going, why put myself in the firing line as happened last week. Yes, one of the reasons I keep going is that the feedback you give me which I give the beards is invaluable. But there is another reason ………..and it’s stories like the two guests that got lost in Venice and who blame us for doing so. That’s the reason I keep writing and hopefully that’s one of the reasons why you will keep reading.


Your friend

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.