PUSSY GALORE

June 22, 2011 -

John Heald

Normally I start the blog thingy with a tale of attempted humour or of personal woe. But not today. Today we start with a tale of courage and the yet another reason to cruise and that’s because you get to meet people like Charlie Brogan. I met Charlie at the start of the cruise and spoke to him at the welcome aboard travel talk because of his smile. He has of those faces that always seem to be smiling and it was smiling again when I met him at our veterans meeting yesterday afternoon. My guess is that Charlie has been smiling since the day he was born on September 2, 1922, in a place called Muscatine, Iowa.

When we hold these veterans meetings I start by paying tribute to those serving and those who have served and then basically allow those who wish to say a few words. Sometimes few will say anything and sometimes, like yesterday everyone wanted to speak. One of the first speakers was a young man who had just returned from Afghanistan where he is a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army and he spoke about his war and about his love, admiration and respect for his wife and two sons who had stayed behind and were here with him now on Carnival Magic. Then this young man whose name I embarrassingly can’t remember paid wonderful tribute to his fellow service men and service women. Then next up came Charlie and I will try and paraphrase what he said.

He addressed the young helicopter pilot and said words to the effect of “Afghanistan. Oh, no, I hate this war, I hate it,” he said “Sending our young men out there to get killed, and it’s nothing to do with us? Young men are dead and they’ve seen nothing of life yet. That’s not right, not right at all.” Now this wasn’t a political view, no not at all. If anyone has earned the right to have candid views on armed conflict, it is Charlie. He is 89 now and at the age of 21 he was at war himself, fighting on the beaches of Normandy knee-deep in sand and blood. He can remember the horror of it he told all of us sitting in the piano bar “as if it were yesterday.”

Charlie went on to tell us that he didn’t care much for that war either, but he did his duty. He was a trainee mechanic when he went to fight with the HHC, 90th Infantry Division. We all sat mesmerized as he told the 50 or so gathered there that “It wasn’t just confronting the enemy that was so frightening, but the occasional sight of colleagues succumbing to their terror and running back into the sea to try and swim back to the boats.” Charlie lost two great friends that day but said on the microphone “I will spare you the details but one minute they were with me, the next, they were gone.” He paused and as he told his band of brothers story tears flooded down his cheeks and looking around I could see he wasn’t on his own as others were also.

Charlie is on Carnival Magic with his wife Catherine of 11 years. This is the second time around for them both as Charlie, like Catherine lost his partner of many years and has found love again in Catherine and married her aged 78 years young. After the cruise Charlie and Catherine are going to London where Charlie’s few surviving comrades will gather for a final reunion and a boat trip from England to France. He has been to many of these reunions but sadly he told us “There are very few of us left and what started as a group of 200 plus is down to maybe a dozen or so of us. The thing about people who fight in war is that it remains with them for life, and it will be the same for these who are in Afghanistan now as it was for me,” he said. Charlie then rolled up his pant leg to reveal a long, scar that curves round his leg like the smile on his face. “This is where a huge piece of shrapnel from a shell embedded itself in me as I was running across the beach. I didn’t know it was there until a few hours later when I suddenly felt some pain in my calf,” Charlie told us. A medic offered to pull it out on the spot, but Charlie said he would rather wait to have it treated. The decision saved his life. The metal was touching an artery and he would have bled to death had it been removed.

By now the number of guests had doubled as people stopped to listen to Charlie and 100 people stood and listened enthralled at what they were hearing. He wasn’t being brash or saying “Hey look at me and how brave I was”………nope…….he was just sharing a story and was telling it brilliantly because it was a story told straight from the heart.

I wish I had taken a camera so you could have see Charlie Brogan who is without doubt a true life hero. This veterans meeting is important because I wonder if there is another environment where people like Charlie, ordinary soldiers who served their country get to talk in public about what they did. And for many of us it is maybe the first time we get to meet people face to face who were part of that “greatest generation” ……a generation that is sadly getting less and less each day. So if you see a veterans meeting in the Fun Times, why not go along. Not to glorify war but hopefully to meet someone like Charlie and shake his hand and say “thank you.”

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

Kiss27 asked:
Hi John,

I love your blog and I should mention that I work for NCL as entertainment staff. It makes me chuckle when I read your comments about other cruise lines and especially the Epic which I am currently on. She isn’t the most beautiful cruise ship but inside she has the best of everything and I wish you would come and see it someday. I would probably be in loads of trouble for telling you this but we had a meeting the other day with the “NCL Beards” and they mentioned you and that they were trying to find someone who had the ability to write a blog that would be as popular as yours. The y reoffered to it as the most popular blog in the travel industry so that should make you proud John. My question then is do you have any advice for me on how to start a blog as I really think I could do a good job. Thanks John and keep writing as I am sure there are many in the same line of work as you who really love it like I do.

John says:
Hello Kiss27,

Well, I am indeed honoured by those wonderfully kind words. I should start by saying that although the Norwegian Epic is as ugly as a boil on a baboon’s bottom I have heard many tell me that the ship’s facilities are fantastic, especially the entertainment options. Anyway, what advice? Well, there are two sorts of blogs I think. There is the one that talks about how wonderful everything is all the time or there is the blog that is honest and open and prepared to get its arse kicked every now and then. Now I am not the right person to say which is best as it would only come across as self pandering. However, I will say that if this blog has been successful it’s because Carnival has allowed me to be honest, open and frank, although the disclaimer in the top right corner helps them allow me to do this. Please, write a blog. As you and I know each day brings a story whether it’s here on the Carnival Magic (a non-ugly ship) or there on the Norwegian Epic (a ship that looks like the front end was designed by Stevie Wonder) and those stories deserve to be told to NCL’s many loyal customers. Be yourself, be honest and most of all …………write in your underpants………the words will flow so much better. We all wish you well and if we see an NCL blog soon we will know it’s from Kiss27.

Best wishes,

John

Lynn Guthrie asked:
John,

Is there a reason you have ignored my question? I posted this on the blog on May 2 and still no answer so I will try again hoping you will have the decency to back up your claim to helping people. I asked for a table for 2 for me and Mother on the Legend October 17 2011 in cabin 1289. Last time on the Legend we had the worst table and the people on it ruined the cruise for us and I won’t want this again as Mother was very upset. She uses a motor scooter so one by the door would be best. Can you respond?

John says:
Hello Lynn Guthrie,

I promise you I didn’t ignore your question. I am sent 10 everyday by Eric the Beard and answer whatever they put in front of me so please don’t think I didn’t answer yours for any specific reason. I see you are not cruising for a few months yet and also although I will ask the maitre d to assist you today I do suggest that you write back to me here on September reminder with a kind reminder.

Best wishes,

John

Linda Grayson asked:
John,

Can you tell me which excursion will be the best for my DH and me in Rome. We sail with you on June 24th and my husband and I both have walking difficulties. Is there something we can do that will let us see the city without too much walking?

Thank you John.

John says:
Hello Linda Grayson,

I am glad I saw this before you sailed next week and I will answer in the hope that you read this but just in case you don’t I will make sure I put this information in your stateroom when you arrive on Friday. There is an excursion called Easy Rome and it is basically a stop at all the major sites, Coliseum, the Vatican and more for photos with very little if any walking involved. I think this may be perfect for you and your husband. I will see you soon and please let me know when you are onboard if you need anything. Have a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes,

John

Lou Ann Christiansen asked:
John,

We are on the May 13, 2012 Magic cruise out of Galveston. I was thrilled to see that both you and Blood Power are currently on the Magic. Any chance both you and Blood Power will be on our cruise? That would make our day. We think you are a special cruise director and Blood Power is the best band we have heard on board on any of our cruises. This cruise will be celebrating our 40th anniversary & my 65th Birthday–but you’re never too old to rock & roll!!! Look forward to hearing from you.

John says:
Hello Lou Ann Christiansen,

Thanks so much for those kind words. Yes, Blood Power is indeed a fantastic band and will be here until November and is then going on vacation. The bands 2012 schedule has not been completed yet but there is a very good chance they will be here again next year and I will of course let you know as soon as I can. I unfortunately won’t be here because I will be on Carnival Breeze. I do know that you will have a brilliant time and that you will love this great ship. Thanks so much for the kind words and I do hope we sail together soon.

Cheers.

John

Paul asked:
Hi John, Please Reply

The only reason I ask that you reply is so I can know that the correct people learn of our wonderful wait staff I Wayan Ramia (THW) and Jose Gallavdo (TW) on our recent Carnival Miracle Cruise (May 6 – 14). My wife and I travelled with our 22 month old son, and 10 other friends and family and we were all seated at the same table. Wayan and Jose went above and beyond anything we have experienced on any of our other previous 4 Carnival cruises. All in all, they made our cruise that much more memorable, and we will always remember them. It was our first time on this class of ship, and one word is WOW, we loved the layout and how it set up for us, the kids pool was fantastic and the ports (Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, and Nassau) were all fabulous. Malcolm and his staff were amazing as well, but Wayan and Jose stood above all. We look forward to booking our next cruise and will do so this week. Hopefully one day we will sail together.

John says:
Hello Paul,

It is with a big smile that I reply to you because I know that you will make I Wayan and Jose’s day when they read your words of praise. It sounds like you had a wonderful time and you can see why the Spirit-class is a favourite of so many. Thanks again for taking the time to write and I will make sure all the right people see this.

Best wishes to all.

John

Mikey Brown asked:
Sir John,

Like others a reply here will be good. I guess I am getting tired of hearing about the Mazatlan thing. I too spent two days in Cabo and yes I would’ve liked to go to Mazatlan or another port. But considering the circumstances of what is going on in Mazatlan, I applaud Carnival and the other cruise lines for pulling out until the situation stabilizes. And I feel like I am beating a dead sodding equine here but if one reads the cruise contract, the line has the option to alter the itinerary. I received advanced notification from Carnival as to the itinerary change and in my mind neither Carnival nor John Heald has anything to be sorry for. Ship- Passenger- Crew safety is numero uno. As far as the comment of John’s little doggies, all I have to say is – c’mon little doggies, its time party. WHO LET THE DOG’S OUT!!!

Sail on John, you rock!

John says:
Hello Mikey Brown,

Brilliant posting mate. You know, canceling a port as popular as Mazatlan is a huge decision for the beards to take and lots of study and thought went into it of course. Finally it was decided that under the circumstances it was decided to bypass the port for the time being and add an extra day in Cabo which I think for the most part has been well received. I appreciate your understanding mate and as for the doggies reference, well I don’t care what others think. The people who take their valuable time to read this each day are my friends and after all……..a man’s best friend is a dog.

Best wishes and hope to see you soon.

John

Debi Schwartz asked:
John,

My son and his wife left yesterday for a 5-day cruise aboard the Inspiration to celebrate their 1 year anniversary. Due to flight cancellations and delays, they did not get to the Tampa airport until 3:25pm. They were in touch with the “running late” crew at the port and I had placed a call to our wonderful cruise planner, Tyrone Robertson. Please pass on a very heartfelt THANK YOU to the captain and staff of the Inspiration in Tampa that held the boat until they boarded at 4:10pm! I know they didn’t need to, but their kind gesture and caring nature was beyond superb. Thanks again for re-confirming my belief that Carnival is the BEST cruise line in the industry. As a VIP cruiser with Carnival, I have always spoken highly of Carnival. This is simply a testament to your greatness. Please pass on my thanks. And be assured, they’ll listen to me next time when I say “go in the night before”. 🙂

John says:
Hello Debi Schwartz,

This is a great read and when I started it I wondered how it would end. While we’re not always able to hold the ship depending on a variety of factors, but I’m glad it ended happily for your son and his wife and with a loyal Carnival cruiser singing the praises of our shoreside staff. I shall make sure Tyrone gets the recognition and thanks so much for letting me know. I hope they had fun. Thanks then for all those kind words and for your loyalty to Carnival. Long may that continue.

Best wishes to all.

John

John Nunez asked:
John,

I have been trying to get someone at Carnival to respond to my letters. I was on the Dream when we missed Roatan because of high winds. This was a lie because the winds were not high and the Royal Caribbean ship docked. I have a wind gauge on my watch and it showed just 8 knots which means the Butch the “cruise director” lied to us. We missed the port and my family and I missed the one and only reason we booked a cruise which was Roatan and for that I should be compensated.

John says:

Hello John Nunez,

I am very sorry that nobody has contacted you although hopefully by the time you read this that will not be the case. While I respect your watch must be a complicated one to have a wind gauge on it I respectfully would say that the instruments we have on the bridge that cost many thousands of dollars and are linked to specialist equipment are more accurate than your Timex.

However, I understand it is always disappointing to miss a port and I apologise that this had to be so. I should also point out that the RCI ship docks at another area that has an easier entrance and while our Mahogany Bay area is fantastic, it does involve a passage through a narrow channel guarded by rocks on both sides. I know the captain would have gotten into the port if he thought it was safe but he obviously did not. I do hope you had fun though on the cruise and that you have some wonderful memories.

Best wishes,

John

Bearcol Cruiser asked:

What’s the story John? Is Carnival putting a ship in Savannah like they are suggesting on CC?

John says:
Hello Bearcol Cruiser
I have heard that Savannah is working on a beautiful new port complex and I hope to see it one day. However I can confirm that there are no current plans for us to place a ship there mate but it is a great city and I wish them all the best.

Best wishes,

John

John R asked:
Good Morning John,

Do all Carnival ships have the capability to heat all the swimming pools? Which ships (other than Alaska) do actually heat the pool? Cheers!

John says:
Hello John R,

The pools on the Spirit, Destiny, Conquest, Splendor and Dream classes can be heated and in fact the ones here on the Carnival Magic were for the first two cruises. They are heated in Alaska and they will be so I am sure on the Carnival Pride in Baltimore and on the Carnival Miracle now she will be out of New York year-round beginning next year. I am still trying to find out which ship will replace the Carnival Spirit in Alaska when she moves to Australia in October 2012.

Best wishes,

John

Gordon Harmon asked:
Hey John,

I have to get a few things off my chest. By the way, I’m a travel agent. A client just returned from last week’s Elation cruise. He had a fantastic time noting the great service and food on board. His only ‘downer’ comment was about his bar tab. Has Carnival considered a beverage package like Princess and Costa offer to include beer, frozen drinks, sodas, etc as one package?

Many of my colleagues are not Carnival fans. They complain about Carnival’s aggressive sales techniques. The perception is that agents are not important to Carnival. Honestly, I haven’t been overly excited to offer Carnival, BUT I’m changing my mind. I toured the Freedom last April while at CruiseWorld 2010. Your postings are insightful and entertaining. And now, I’ve had my first Carnival client return with positive reviews – and for an older ship to boot. Thanks again to Carnival for taking such good care of my client, and to you for helping build the relationship.

John says:
Hello Gordon Harmon,

Thanks for writing and I think the first and most important thing to say is that Carnival always has and always will care immensely about our travel agent partners. We simply would not be where we are without you. It’s also great that you are coming around to the Carnival way. It is so frustrating to us to read that an agent doesn’t like Carnival even though they have bugger all idea about what we provide. However, it seems that you may have some issues that deserve some instant communication and I will send this to someone if you agree and have them contact you for a chat. We don’t have any drink packages unless it’s for a large group. I am so glad your client had fun and if you allow us to, I promise more of your clients will have the same Gordon. Thanks then for your support and I am here should you need me for anything.

Best wishes

John

That’s all for today and thanks so much for the great comments.

Now, as you saw the other day, the men and women of Carnival’s internet market department have recently won a big award beating all the other beards across the land as they were voted the Best Brand Presence on Facebook. One of the many reasons this was achieved was due to the extraordinary success of Carnival’s Facebook page which currently has 880,000 likes or friends or hits or slaps or whatever they are called. So they are only 120,000 short of the magical 1 million mark. Well the beards have just launched a new sweepstakes on Facebook called the FUN-A-THON and it’s all about helping them them reach a million fans.

To celebrate they are giving away 24 Prizes in 24 hours on Facebook (every hour on the hour). The beards are keeping 23 of the prizes a secret……..though I wouldn’t rule out a free lap dance by yours truly…. However, I can tell you that the Grand Prize is: A trip for two on your CARNIVAL MAGIC. All you have to do is “Like” there Facebook page and then fill out the short form here. You must do those two things before July 5th to enter. So tell your friends, tell your friends friends and tell you friends friends friends but don’t tell the friend you pretend is your friend but who you really think is an idiot and has breath like a camel’s bottom. Don’t tell her. Good luck……….and let’s hit that million.

Well about three or so months ago I was approached by a gentleman from Cruise Critic and then another and then another all part of the Carnival Miracle’s sailing from New York on September 11, 2011. They had asked for the ship to be delayed in sailing so that they could be part of the ceremony at ground zero to mark the 10th anniversary of that tragic and unforgettable day.

Now this wasn’t just a case of saying “Yes, OK.” It involved meetings with United States Coast Guard, New York Port Authority and other agencies. You see, in order for this to happen we had to arrange a new departure time which meant that people like the ropes men (the guys who release the lines), the pierside security staff and other workers would need to stay longer. Then there is the Hudson, a very busy water way and they had to make sure that the Carnival Miracle’s new departure time would not affect any other traffic. So, there were lots of issues involved. I tell you this not to say “Look what we have done and look how good we are”…….well………maybe a little bit ……..but mostly to say that we agree with those who requested this that we should honour this date and stop the ship to pay our respects to those who lost their lives.

So this is the tentative plan that has been approved and how we expect this will go barring any changes from the various authorities involved. We are planning to delay departure and sail around 6:30 pm, with lighting of the memorial scheduled for 7:12 pm. We would then slowly arrive into the position near the ceremony location. When I was approached by the Cruise Critic group to do this I wrote to the beards and have to admit I didn’t think there was much chance of it happening as changing a ship’s itinerary is a huge deal. But the beards grasped it with both hands and met with the authorities in New York and here we have the result which I hope most will appreciate. My thanks then to everyone at Carnival who was involved with this and for the understanding of United States Coast Guard, New York Port Authority and other agencies for making this happen.

In yesterday’s blog I wrote about the fact that the medical centre here had asked me to mention in my announcements the dangers of sunburn and this morning I saw firsthand how awful this is. I had pooped (spelt correctly) down to the medical centre to grab some sugar-free throat lozenges as I have a sore throat and a bit of a cough and cold. I think I have eboli or swamp fever, Heidi says it’s a cold.

Anyway, while I was down there I me a chap in his early 20s. He was from “Up State New York” and while I won’t mention his name here I can tell you that he was the walking poster child for sunburn. His arms, stomach and face were a shocking red colour. And worst I could feel the heat emanating from him so much so that I was tempted to shove an egg and a few rashers of bacon on him and have breakfast. Obviously we would have to have a crew member serve the bacon from him rather than help ourselves.

Seriously though his sunburn was so bad in fact, that he was being given proper medicine and not just told to rub some of that green slime you often see people applying. Anyway, it was sort of ironic that I had met this guest after the request to announce and having met him and having read some of the comments on yesterday’s “Summertime Blog” about the seriousness of sunburn you can bet I will be giving it my full attention.

Just one more day with the girls then and on Friday Heidi and Kye will be flying home. Please don’t worry, I am not going to bang on about how much I am going to miss them. I will save that for another day. I do feel guilty about leaving the house management to Heidi though because it’s a lot of work. I don’t mean buying scented candles and scatter cushions, no I mean paying the bills, organising the upkeep and most of all dealing with the neighbour!

I mentioned him over Christmas and how he put up his Christmas lights in mid-November and how there were so many it illuminated the entire street. He is, and I struggle to come up with a better word for this……..weird. He never says hello, washes his car on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays even in the rain and as we haven’t seen his wife for a few months we suspect he has her buried under the patio. He seems to be devoid of any emotion and is known locally as “Tony” because that is his name. Now Tony does have one love and this brings me back to Heidi. Oh …….hold on, I don’t mean he loves Heidi……no, I mean it’s something Heidi is going to have to deal with and that’s Tony’s love…….his cats……all five of them……….and that’s the problem because his cats use our garden as a toilet and it’s disgusting. I have to admit of having evil thoughts about the gang of Crips cats that use our garden as a crapper. Cheeky bastards. I bought a sonic repeller when I was last home but the cat gang know that I’ve spent a lot of money on a it mainly because I keep shrieking out of the window “50 f*****g pounds this cost me” – so they leave steaming piles of poo beside it every day to mock me.

What a waste of money that was. We put it on its stick in the garden and immediately two cats gathered round to have a sniff. They must have texted all their cat friends because soon more of them were coming to have a look. It did nothing to scare them, in fact it seemed to make them even more relaxed. A check revealed that one had relaxed still further and had dropped a sausage right next to it

So I’m turning to you because I am not sure what to do. I’ve spent more time than is healthy worrying about this and sometimes when I’m inspecting the flowerbeds I hear the little sods sniggering behind my back and flicking one paw in the air. When I turn round they look away, whistling. They just don’t care and I am sure I saw one cat bring a copy of Latvian Cats in Suspenders Weekly to read while he was doing his number two in my garden.
Annoyingly, they don’t even bury what they squat down to produce. I thought cats were supposed to be proud? Tony’s cats are so lazy that mowing the grass throws up a confetti shower of sliced turds that takes the fun right out of the barbecue I was talking about in the blog yesterday.

It all came to a head just before Heidi and Kye came to the ship because one of the little bastards dropped a turd in Kye’s sandpit. I do not want to discover Kye playing with pieces of feline poo saying “Dada, Kye make face!” I need your help then. Do you have any suggestions?

Heidi being Heidi says she is going to confront Tony next week but I am worried that she will end up under the patio as well. I am only one step away from buying a high pressure hose. If it carries on much longer I shall repay Tony in kind and when I am home in early July I shall order an extra hot Vindaloo Curry and let him wake up to find a surprise on his doorstep. Maybe Heidi is right……maybe it’s time to buy a dog. I’m thinking rottweiler…..or maybe a lion.

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.