Keeping It Live

June 28, 2011 -

John Heald

Billy Gates from Microsoft and whoever owns Dell computers (we shall call him Mr. Dell) are off my Christmas card list forever. I am not sure which one of them is to blame but let it be said on this day the 28th of June in the year 2011 that if either of them knocked on my Carnival Magic cabin door they would be greeted with my foot being imbedded in their arse followed closely by a monitor, hard drive and a keyboard still with the mouse attached.

I mentioned the other day that the I/S team had somehow miraculously managed to repair my computer and all seemed well. But this morning about an hour after having finished this blog I went to the bathroom and when I came out of the bathroom my computer had died. So, let’s get this straight. In the 10 minutes between me having a number two and returning to my desk, the computer decided it was bored and that it would commit suicide taking my blog and all my other work with it. I called the I/S chaps and they came down and did this and did that and shook their heads. I knew that it was all over though when one put a white sheet over the monitor, patted it on the hard drive and whispered “sleep well.” They then pronounced it extinct and carried it out slowly, heads bowed. I don’t know what happens to dead computers but I hope this one is crushed and turned into a piece of medical equipment that’s used in colonoscopies in Paris.

And so here I sit having to write this blog all over again which means my whole day is now completely buggered. Bill Gates and Mr. Dell my arse. Yes, yes, I know they have both given billions to charity which is, of course, very nice of them but how about investing just a couple more dollars in making sure fat British cruise director’s computers don’t just suddenly give up working. I am sure these men go to sleep at night knowing their money is bringing health and hope to those less fortunate than themselves which is of course everyone else in the entire world, especially the poor sods that own one of their computers.

Still, my anger is helped just a little by the fact that Bill Gates wakes up every morning and looks in the mirror and realises: “Oh bugger. I’ve still got this face.” And deep down, he’s still a computer geek, which means he has the personality of Harriet my hamster. I hope he also knows that every second of every day of every year someone is pressing “control, alt, delete” and calling him a complete and utter bastard as his system eats your files.

I bet they’re boring as well. I bet you would be bored stupid if you had to sit next to one of these people at dinner. Most of us try to light up a room for two reasons: because it might result in some rumpy pumpy, or it might make us richer. But if you’ve got more than a billion in the bank, chances are you can bounce around on top of whatever Latvian model takes your fancy. You don’t need to be funny, or passionate. You just need to yawn, give her something by Cartier, and hey presto, you’ll be playing wheelbarrows until dawn.

And there’s definitely no point talking, or listening, to other men because you’re already much richer than they are and all they want is some of your money. And you can’t be bothered with any of that because a six-foot Latvian super model has just walked into the room and you’re thinking of eating Caspian caviar out of her belly button. The fact of the matter is this. It’s very hard to be friends with someone from a different income bracket. You want to go on a Carnival cruise while their vacation is buying a private Caribbean island and filling it with peacocks, caviar and Latvians. You watch Gordon Ramsey on television. They had him round to cook for a private dinner party. And they paid him so much he agreed to serve the food himself……while wearing a pink g-string. See what I mean? Well, now put yourself in Bill’s and Mr. Dell’s shoes. They are two of the richest men in the world. That means they can’t be friends with anyone ….. Certainly not me ……not after yesterday. Now, I have a replacement computer. It’s another Dell and it’s powered by Microsoft or as I like to call them these days………Laurel and bloody Hardy. It’s hard to describe how angry I was when I lost all of today’s blog and all my photos of Kye and a lot lot more………….actually, I felt a bit like this

Time for today’s Q and A……here we go.

Vinita Brooks Asked:
Is there any reason why Carnival did not have any church services in the chapel on the Legend when I cruised? Why have a chapel if no Minister?

John Says:
Hello Vinita Brooks

You are correct of course that all the Spirit class ships have chapels and that for the majority of the year we do not have a religious program on our ships apart from the odd occasion when we bring on ministers, priests and rabbis to conduct services. We do have the chapel for guests to use as and when they need to plus it is used by groups who may require Bible study or bring their own leader with them to conduct services. I do hope you had a fun cruise though and if you have any other questions I am here to do my best to help.

Best wishes
John

M/M Robert C. Fasoldt Asked:
Hello John!

My wife and I are VIPs and have been on countless cruises with you as our Cruise Director and try to take cruises that you will be on. We just booked the 14 day repositioning/Panama Canal cruise out of Tampa on the Inspiration departing on December 3rd.  It would certainly be a pleasure if you are our cruise director.  Will you be on that cruise??

We hope so,
Bob and Naomi Fasoldt

John Says:
Hello Bob and Naomi Fasoldt

First of all thanks so much for the kind words and your loyalty to Carnival. Unfortunately I will not be on the Panama Canal cruise with you but I know that it will be a brilliant voyage. I do hope that one day soon we get to sail together again and until then I send my very best wishes to you both.

John

Brenda M Asked:
I am a Platinum card holder and my next cruise on the Paradise will be my 14th but I still have to come to this blog of yours to get a confirmed reservation for a table for 2. Why don’t you have a concierge service like American Express? I am a Platinum Card Holder with them and when I need something I call a special line. Carnival should have this service for me as well. I need a table for 2 guarantees for my friend and me for the Paradise. We cruise on July 1st in state room M77 and once again this is my 14th cruise!

John Says:
Hello Brenda M

Well that’s not such a bad idea actually, a Platinum and Milestone dedicated call line. I shall certainly bring this up with the beards for you. Meanwhile I will ask the maitre d to assist you with your table reservation and he will do his best to honour this. Thanks so much for your loyalty and I hope cruise number 14 is the best yet.

Best wishes.
John

Ruth and Malcolm Doyle Asked:
My wife and I have both just read the bestselling book Cruise Confidential and it has put us off cruising with Carnival again. How can I vacation with a cruise line that either treats its workers like later day slaves or allows them to treat life below stairs like Sodom and Gomorrah? I have passed the book to some friends of mine so they can see for themselves and they have cruised with Carnival three times. You should be ashamed.

John Says:
Hello Ruth and Malcolm Doyle

Using Cruise Confidential as a guide to cruising is like asking me to guide you round a gym. Or like reading a book on Cage Fighting by Richard Simmons. Or a book on Nuclear Physics by Paris Hilton. Or a book on Great Lap Dancing Clubs of the World by The Dalai Lama. It’s fiction, pure 100% fiction. That’s a promise from a crew member who has worked “below stairs” for nearly 25 years.

Best wishes
John

Paul Wenzel Asked:
Hi John,

My wife and I just returned from our first cruise. We were on the Fascination on the 14 May sailing. I just want to send thank you to some of the staff that made our first cruise special. First in the dining room our “supercharged” maitre’d Joseph was funny and help make our dinner time enjoyable. Our wait staff “V” from India and I Wan his assistant were the best and always made my wife and I feel special. The cruise director Henne and his staff were fantastic. Really entertaining. Jay the karaoke host was over the top funny. Please pass our kudos to the appropriate people. Thanks,

Paul and Missy.

John Says:
Hello Paul Wenzel

Thanks so much for this great review and it is one that I will pass to the ship. I know that those mentioned will be thrilled at what you have said. It sounds like you had loads of fun and that makes me very happy indeed. Best wishes to you both and hope we see you on board again soon.

John

Carrie Peru Asked:
Dear John,

Just wanted to say thank you for your blogs! They are fantastic and I appreciate your humor and honesty! My husband and I will be sailing the Magic on Sept 27th. I hope that you will be on the ship! I have two questions if I could ask you please. My first is about shore excursions in Rome I can’t decide on Rome at its best or Highlights of Rome and the Vatican Museum. Rome at its Best goes inside to the Coliseum the Highlights excursion reaches the Sistine Chapel which I am interested in as well. Can you please give me your opinion it will help me make a difficult decision. Also in Naples I am undecided on doing the Positano, Sorrento and Pompeii excursion or Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri. I just don’t know which would be better to do the drive all the way to Amalfi or to visit the Island of Capri. Please let me know John I would seriously appreciate your input. Thank you and I am really enjoying your blogs, but am fairly new to them.

Cheers
Carrie

John Says:
Hello Carrie Peru

It won’t be long before you are here with us on your Carnival Magic. I can tell you that both excursions are amazing and it is I know so difficult to decide. I have been on both and while the Coliseum is outstanding I truly think you must see inside the Vatican to experience the sheer presence it has and of course to witness close up the incomparable Sistine Chapel and the extraordinary work of Michelangelo. In Naples, it has to be Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri which lets you see all three of the must see places in the Naples area. Those would be my choices. Please let me know if you have any other questions and I will see you soon. Best wishes

John

Jose Marquez Asked:
Will Carnival ever return to printed brochures as I really miss them?

John Says:
Hello Jose Marquez

I know there are others who miss them as well but there are no plans in this online world we live in to return to the printed brochure.

Best wishes
John

Patrick Casey Asked:
John,

I am not too sure you can help me but I hope maybe you can. My wife and I have run in to a serious issue and let me explain. We are taking a cruise in October and we planned on taking my wife’s grandmother but due to the fact that she was born in Mississippi and she can’t find a birth certificate we are left in a quandary. I have tried talking to people at Carnival and they have no answers. I was hoping that maybe you could point me to someone that has the answers as to what we can do to get this resolved. I think we would be willing to walk on fire to be able to bring her along but we just need a little pointing in the right direction. Do you know of anyone at Carnival that can help us get this figured out?

John Says:
Hello Patrick Casey

I checked with my friends at Carnival and unfortunately, if she does not have the birth certificate she will need a passport to sail as per U.S. Customs & Border Protection. Now I see you are sailing in October so hopefully this will give you enough time to get one. However, can she get a passport without a birth certificate? That’s something you will need to ask. I do know that I sincerely hope you can get this sorted and maybe public records have a copy of her birth certificate. It would be wonderful if she could sail and experience this cruise with you all. Please let me know if you think I can help with anything else.

Best wishes
John

Janet V Asked:
John,

Sailing on the Glory in July and we are all angry that we have not been informed about the bed bug infestation that the ship has.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1329452&highlight=bed+bugs

What assurances do you have that the ship has this under control and if not will you guarantee your passengers full refunds if they are bitten?

John Says:
Hello Janet V

I didn’t open the link because I felt it best to cut to the chase and ask the housekeeping manager and senior officers on the Carnival Glory. Here is what they reported.

From: GLORY HOUSEKEEPING MANAGER
Sent: Monday, June 27, 2011 1:10 AM
To: MAGIC CRUISE DIRECTOR
Subject: RE: Bug Report

HI John

We did not have any bed bug activity onboard the Glory

Housekeeping Manager, Carnival Glory
Carnival Cruise Lines

We are always very open and honest with things like this and in the rare case where bed bugs are found we have a very strict regime under which that cabin will be treated and deep cleaned. So please relax and look forward to a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes
John

Claire P Asked:
John,

Thank you for a wonderful cruise on the Carnival Magic. There are so many highlights and I will mention them in my full review. Just quickly to say that Marina was outstanding and the best waiter we have ever had and me and Ron already miss her charming smile. Your morning shows with Calvin were hysterical and of course your shows prove that you are still the best CD there is. How you manage to be out and on stage as much as you are and still blog and do your Facebook updates amazes me. One negative and that is the Russian passengers. I have never seen such rudeness and the way they pushed into line at the buffet and shouted at the crew was awful. I know you wrote about this but you were to nice John, they are the worst passengers I have ever sailed with in my 21 cruises. But we had a great time and now are looking forward to our next cruise on the Paradise and the Panama Canal. Love the Magic she is a beautiful vessel. Well done Carnival!

Claire and Ron

John Says:
Hello Claire and Ron

I am so thankful to you for taking the time to write this great review and yes you are right, some of the Russian guests were not the nicest people to other guests and the crew. That aside I am so happy to see that you had fun and I will make sure Marina sees your words of praise, Calvin too. I look forward to reading the full review and wish you both a brilliant time on the Carnival Paradise. Best wishes

John

Wendy Williams Asked:
Hi John,

I have been reading your blog off and on for a few years.  Love your humor (that’s how I spell it!!) and your wit.  Oh – and I also enjoy Cruising with Carnival!!  (Hi Beards! *wave*). So, I have a complaint.  It seems to me that everyone comes to you to ask you for things, tables for two, free stuff, making the rain stop while at port – and man oh man, if you fail to deliver they want you crucified and burned!  That is my complaint.  You are one of the hardest working men I have seen…you put up with SO MUCH BS, and very little thanks.  Has anyone ever offered to do anything for you?  Ever?  John, is there anything I can do for you?  Send you some new underwear?  Run an errand?  Make reservations for a table for two for you and your wife at a nice restaurant the next time you are in Miami?

John Says:
Hello Wendy Williams

How wonderfully kind you are and no, I don’t need anything because this post has already given me so much. Your kind words keep me going and to know what I do is appreciated means more than you will know. If there is anything I can ever do for you please let me know. Thanks once again and my best wishes to you and your family

John

That’s all for today.

And for those who haven’t seen this yet, lets have a look at what they are doing on the Carnival Paradise……its flash mob as filmed by Peter the Hair

I mentioned on Facebook that I had been dealing with a very irate guest and she has continued to be on attack mode the last 24 hours as well. There are a lot of nasty things in the world. Seeing me naked, seeing me naked standing on my head using my bottom as a vase and seeing your computer lose all your work. However, pretty high up on the list of nasty things is a mum who wants her daughter to be “a star.” And so right from the start of this cruise I have been bombarded with letters and messages and phone calls from Mrs. Stagemom. She wants her 11-year-old daughter to play the flute or the piano because she is “gifted.”

Now I had offered her the chance to do this during the Camp Carnival talent show but Stagemom thinks that this is not good enough for her child and says she must perform on the main stage and with the orchestra. Now maybe, just maybe I would have relented and allowed her to play in the adult talent show but the problem is we are not having one this cruise. We have professional entertainers every night and there is no room for a talent show. So, I met with her and told her this was the case and then came the shouting, the screaming, the tantrum and the tears…. that’s the mum by the way…….not her daughter. Then came the most ridiculous comment of the cruise so far when Stagemom said “The only reason we took this cruise was so my daughter could take part in the talent show.” Now you don’t need me to analyze that one do you, it speaks for itself but it reminded me of another comment that has stayed with me these past few days and something that generated many hundreds of comments on Facebook last week. And it was all to do with live music.

Now I should start by saying that after half a lifetime of consistent failure that I know I was not born to be a musician. I suppose I should have seen the signs at the age of eight, when I attended Heycroft Junior School in Essex. Like most of the kids in the UK, we were issued with Dolmetsch recorders. I remember all the other kids could play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, while my own instrument emitted nothing but a shrill peep and a worrying quantity of warm spit. The recorder, I decided, was pretty much a girly instrument so, by the age of 11, I was playing with the trombone. Sometimes, I would blow so hard into the mouthpiece that I saw stars and nothing would come out except a sound that can only be described as a wet fart.….you know the one all of us do after sitting at the meal table for hours eating everything insight and then finally we stand up and…..bweeeeeeep. My Dad and I have contests at Christmas to see who can do the loudest.

After a while, I laid the trombone aside, consoling myself with the thought that you never saw a trombone player in a rock band. So I took up the bass guitar. One year later I was fired from my mate’s rock band that on the not unreasonable grounds that I was the only would be bass guitarist in history who could not play the opening bars of Smoke on the Water. But here on the ships we have and always will do support live music however it worries me that kids of future generations will one day believe all music comes from an Eye Pod thingy and not from the hearts and minds of brilliant live musicians.

Anyway, back to the comment that was all to do with the music we have on Lido deck. In years past we have had a four-piece band there but now it has been changed to a duo. That’s when I read the comment on Facebook that stated the author would not cruise Carnival ever again because we have two less musicians up there. Now while I support this chap’s passion for the music he obviously loves, to say that it’s not the food, the service, the fun, the ports, the entertainment and shows, the relaxation and the affordability and value for money he cruises carnival for but for how many musicians are in the band on Lido deck……..well that in my humble opinion is………well …..bonkers.

So let’s address this subject shall we? Years and years ago we had four-piece steel bands. These were nice. They played nice steely drum music like “Yellow Bird” and “The Big Bamboo Song” but after a while…….every piece of music sounded the same and became……….well slightly annoying. So then we went to four-piece reggae bands. These were much better and played a whole variety of Caribbean music including all the favourites that people expect to hear. Then we made another change but before I write about that let me talk about something very important ……………cabins.

This is a subject that last time I tried to explain I was ridiculed on the cruise boards for basically making this up. Well, I am not and it often makes me laugh out loud when people refuse to believe that people who actually work onboard the ships may know just a tiny bit more than someone who sits behind their computer in their mother’s basement posting as though they are cruise experts. So, here are the facts. There are 1,351 crew beds onboard …… not cabins…….beds. Each department has a budget, a budget based on the number of cabin beds. For example:

The department with the highest budget is food and beverage with a total of 674. Then there is housekeeping with 266. Then there is entertainment with 62. This is the budget that the beards in Miami have given me.

So, I have 62 beds in which accommodate musicians, dancers, technicians, entertainment staff and me. OK, some may sleep in other people’s beds occasionally but that’s what I have……..62 beds. And this is the same on every ship in the fleet. The number may be higher or smaller but that’s what we have. Therefore, when we are planning what entertainment we are going to provide you onboard we have to do so within this parameter. So, what did we do across the fleet within our budget? Well, first of all, we took two people out of the calypso/reggae bands on Lido and made them all duos. We then replaced those two people with either another duo that were more flexible in the variety of music they could play or two guitar vocalists such as the brilliant Danny and Tim who play here on Carnival Magic. We replaced the string trio with a Latin trio and added a singer to the orchestras.

Now don’t get me wrong. I agree with some on Cruise Critic and my Facebook page that they miss the four-piece bands and I can understand why. Look, I would love to have more live music but I can only use the cabins I have. So please, to the people who write comments that we can just add more and that using the cabin as an excuse is a lie….…..please don’t write this because you are wrong and honestly you look silly talking about something you don’t understand.  I promise that compared to other lines, Carnival is one of the biggest supporters of live music in the industry and having checked with the Miami office today, I can report that we currently have 430 musicians working on our ships.

Yes, we have made some changes and we will make more I am sure. But I guess the main point of writing this was to show you that Carnival really does love live music and that when we want to add something we first have to look at our budget and see if there is room. And if not, then we change things around as was the case with removing two from Lido. I truly hope this clears this up.

Now on the other hand there is still the argument about what’s better, steel drums or Caribbean/reggae music. Many have already let me know their thoughts on this and I hope more will as well. I will say two things if I may though. The first is that some of the most successful bands we put on Lido are the party bands like Blood Power that play here on Carnival Magic. And that there are times when I walk across Lido that regardless of what live music we have ……. it seems many guests don’t care………because they are listening to their Eye Pods anyway. However, saying all that I admit here and now that I miss the jazz trios and not just because they were part of the cigar bars which as we know have ceased to exist. It wasn’t always that way though. For years I hated jazz and the whole bepbopapooscoobydoo thingy got on my nerves. You see, I was brought up on long hair, screaming guitars and yes…..a flute player…..not Stagemom’s daughter but Jethro Tull’s Ian Andersen. Jazz to me always seemed…..well a bit lame.

But then I came to work for Carnival and started to appreciate live music that didn’t come from Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar or Rick Wakeman’s keyboard but from trumpets, saxophones and pianos. And then a musical director called Jordan Nunes gave me a birthday present. It was a cassette……yes, yes I am old……..the ultimate Miles Davis album Kind of Blue. And that was that. I began to appreciate, enjoy and eventually love jazz. And with a cigar…….well it was the perfect combination and I used to enjoy joining guests there for a Monte Cristo and conversation and to listen and nod in time to the syncopated beats of the brilliant jazz trios.

But jazz wasn’t for everyone so we got rid of them and changed over to Latin trios. Now I know this kind of music is much more popular with the guests and I have seen this with my own eyes and it was the right decision to make. Me, personally……I can’t stand Latin music and would rather listen to a cat being nurtured with a blunt knitting needle.

Look, as a cruise director and as brand ambassador I have to accept and embrace change and help you do the same. Was replacing two out of the Calypso band with more versatile musicians we could use around the ship the right thing to do?…….yes, absolutely. However, taking my CD and brand ambassador hat off for just a moment, I will say this. Taking away the jazz trios and the cigar bars has left me feeling just like the title of that brilliant Miles Davis Album I just mentioned.

So live music…….it’s how it’s meant to be played. But I will leave you with this one important fact. Do you know which lounge produces more revenue on all our ships more than any other lounge?……it’s not the piano bar……not the main show lounge……not the disco-night-dance- club…..not the four-piece party band venues…….nope. The one entertainment area that produces more revenue across the fleet than any other…………is karaoke! Take from that what you will.

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.