What Would You Do?

July 29, 2011 -

John Heald

The audiences in Europe are rather different than, say, a seven-day Caribbean cruise. One of those differences is that here on Carnival Magic I rarely have to deal with hecklers whereas in the Caribbean they are quite commonplace. However, last night at the show I faced one of the most challenging situations since we brought the ship out and more about this later.

There are some hecklers which are actually quite fun, but there is a limit to how much you can let someone try to take over a show. Now I’m no Al Ernst or Happy Cole or Ricky Gervais but I am quite happy to wade in and take someone on and I think for the most part I am comfortable going head to head with a guest who wants to be heard. The problem is that some guests enjoy the attention, even if they are being bollocked live on stage by me they just end up shouting absolute rubbish just so the focus and in some cases an actual spotlight remains on them. I remember when I first started as a cruise director, I wasn’t sure how to deal with hecklers. I was a bar waiter with the comedic timing of a stuttering hamster and really didn’t know how to handle the people who insisted on being part of the show. Was I supposed to ignore them? Did I have to keep taking them on until they lay on the showroom floor weeping and conceding defeat like a French soldier? Could I simply ask them to leave the lounge and call security, or would that be admitting that I was still actually a bar waiter?

I remember speaking to Gary Hunter and Bob Hamill, two established cruise directors, and I remember them saying that after an initial exchange, you can never win, and it’s unfair on the rest of the audience if you don’t do something. Some of our comedians have stock lines. The very funny Percy Crews has “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to deal with you, I’m a comic not a proctologist” or Billy Connolly’s classic: “The last time I saw a mouth like that it had a hook in it” There are other stages of getting rid of the heckler most of which a cruise director cannot do but our comedians at the Punchliner Comedy Club’s uncensored show can.

They usually involve:

  • Implying the heckler is drunk
  • Implying the heckler is childish
  • Implying the heckler is an idiot
  • Implying the heckler is ugly
  • Sexual insults, usually based on the heckler having a small gentlemen’s sausage.
  • Insults to their parents

So back to my situation which was far more complicated. This particular situation did not involve heckling at all but rather a disruption to a show as when last night I came out on stage there was a young man in a wheelchair with his parent or guardian sitting on the end of the row.

As I started my intro to the Groove Line show, he started to make guttural noises and then after a few seconds he shouted “hate you,” over and over again. If this had happened in my first week of being a cruise director I would have not known what to do. As it was I carried on regardless understanding the man’s disability, but it was disconcerting, and trying to negotiate my way through the constant interruptions.

Now, if this guest did not have such enormous physical and emotional challenges, I may have tried to make some sort of attempt at humour (which despite what a blogger said yesterday is spelt correctly, dammit!) but obviously that would be highly inappropriate. But I did wonder what I was supposed to do, not just for me but for the dancers and singers who were about to perform. It then got worse as he rolled his head around and started to yell at the top of his voice unintelligible words. There was nothing I could do but carry on, as best I could.

I cannot imagine the struggles this young 20-something man and his family must go through on a daily basis. To think that they had come hundreds of miles on a plane to get to the Carnival Magic, I am happy for anybody to come to see the shows, but if they are in a state where they are constantly disrupting the performance and distract everyone else in the audience, is it fair to other guests? I hope that I managed to deal with the situation as best as I could, but I think I need to seek advice again about this one from my blogging friends. In the end I said nothing but I could see as the cast came on and he carried on screaming and shouting that it was, even above the volume of the brilliant 70’s music of Groove Line, a disruption to other guests.

My concern is tonight when I have a show featuring Penny Mathisen who sings beautiful arias and Broadway tunes and other shows featuring jugglers and comedians, etc. If he is there again …….should I ask his caretaker to move him to the back of the lounge? I honestly don’t know what to do which is why…….I am asking you for your kind advice because now I have started to get complaints from other guests. What would you do?

Let’s move on to some Q and A shall we………………away we go.

Wayne Heintze asked:
John,

We saw Dean Gaines on one of our cruises a few years ago and have been trying since to find his schedule so we can book a cruise to see him perform again. We are going to be on the Dec. 1 sailing of the Carnival Triumph out of Galveston. Is there any chance he will be on that ship?

If you know his schedule I will book another just to see him! Thanks for your help. We are 1 cruise away from platinum. Carnival is GREAT!!!!!!

John says:
Hello Wayne Heintze,

Yes indeed he is and I was just talking about comedians above and certainly he is one I would say is guaranteed to have audiences laughing. The problem is that unlike cruise directors who are assigned specific ships the comedians and fly-on entertainers are sent to mostly different ships each week, especially now we have the Punchliner comedy clubs across the fleet. We don’t have a schedule yet for December but if you check back with me at the start of November here or on Facebook I will be able to tell you where he will be performing and if he will be with you on the Carnival Triumph.

Congratulations on almost reaching Platinum status and thank you for those kind words.

Best wishes.

John

Jets Cruiser asked:
John!

I cannot start to tell you how disappointed and angry I am that Carnival has given New York, my hometown, a small ship like the Carnival Miracle. New York people deserve better than this and it shows that Carnival doesn’t really care about us like other cruise lines that have their biggest and newest ships there. Give Florida or Galveston the Carnival Miracle but not New York. The post on Cruise Critic sums up what your customers think about this slap in the face.

The itineraries suck the big one, as well.

John says:
Hello Jets Cruiser,

I was surprised to read this and straight away I had to check with reservations about how the cabins are selling for this ship and its itineraries and it was no surprise to me that it is according to a top beard “selling very well.” Carnival Miracle is certainly not a “small ship” by any means – it’s 88,500 tons – and for many the Spirit class remains their favourite class of ship and the Carnival Miracle is first choice for many cruisers as well. I think the most important thing here is that you have a ship year round which shows that we do care about this very important tri-state market and who knows what the future holds. Sailing out of New York is an incomparable experience and it’s something I hope to do again before my time on ships is complete. I hope you get to sail on the Carnival Miracle and appreciate not having to fly to Florida or Texas.

Best wishes.

John

Baz asked:
John,

First let me say thank you for arranging that surprise for my parents on their 50th anniversary. You are a special man and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We had a fantastic cruise and the Carnival Inspiration staff was outstanding. I would like to mention our cabin steward Angelica from the Philippines whose smile and care made it so special for the four of us.

Thanks again John for all you do.

John says:
Hello Baz,

Thank you for those kind words and Angelica sounds like a very special crew member and she will be thrilled to see her name in writing here. I will make sure she and her supervisors read your words of praise. I am so glad you all had fun and thanks so much for taking the time to tell me.

Best wishes to all.

John

Sharon F asked:
Hi John,

I wrote to you THREE TIMES in so far this month and have not had the courtesy of a reply. You should get help so that your customer service is professional and quick to respond. My problem is that we are due to cruise on Splendor July 10 and need a table for two. My partner and I do not wish to be sitting with other passengers for reasons that are personal. This is URGENT. Please respond. Our details for the cruise are Bkg# **** in room # 1377

John says:
Hello Sharon F,

I wanted to make sure I apologised for missing this message and your previous two postings and I realize that now it’s too late because you have already sailed. I am around a month or so behind in my replies here and I am doing the best I can to catch up. Some requests do slip through like this on at this point all I can do is apologise and hope you had a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes.

John

Sarah Stowell asked:

Howdy John,

Just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog. Been following it since I heard about it on CC…….somewhere around the issues with the Carnival Splendor. We are booked on the Jan. 29 sailing of the Carnival Magic….sounds like you will be our CD…….we are so excited! But we will understand and still have a great time even if something changes and you happen to not be there! We are going with a friend’s co-worker…I sure hope that we don’t have issues like you mentioned in today’s blog…We love cruising though and don’t let anything change our plans.

When we get to platinum and milestone please feel free to sit us with anyone you want because I don’t have a feeling that we are any better than anyone else on that ship.

I have a question and not sure if you can answer it or not. But when we were on Carnival Conquest in Jan. this year we had a great headwaiter…Gaudencio (spelling?) or Mr. G as he asked us to call him…..we were curious if he would stay on the Carnival Conquest when she moves or if he will be on the Carnival Magic and if so if there is a way to be sat at his table again? He was the best ever! Thank you for your wonderful blog and letting us cruisers hear what is going on! Hope you are enjoying your time with your family and your upcoming vacation next month!

Sarah Stowell

John says:
Hello Sarah Stowell,

I will indeed be on this brilliant ship with you when you sail in January and I know that you are going to truly love your Carnival Magic. I also hope we meet in person so I can thank you for taking the time to read the blog. Mr. G is now in fact on Carnival Dream and is due on vacation in September and then he is set to return to Carnival Dream once again. I will make sure that your words of praise are sent to him though and I know he will be thrilled. If there is anything you think I can do for you before you sail here please do let me know.

Best wishes and see you in January.

John

Louise Samatani asked:
John,

The new smoking changes you wrote about are not nearly enough. Why are cruise ships so far behind when it comes to protecting people’s health? Putting me and other non-smokers in a room full of smoke is the same as putting me in a room with a gang of criminals armed with knives and guns as both will kill the innocent. The casino on the Carnival Legend was a disgrace and I had to walk through it with a towel covering my mouth and nose and I saw other passengers doing the same. Your statement today said that 90% of your passengers do not smoke yet Carnival panders to the 10%. Get a grip Carnival. Second hand smoke is a killer and the people who smoke are themselves killers.

John says:
Hello Lousie Samatani,

I can see that you have very strong opinions on this subject as do many of course. Not to repeat myself, but the new smoking regulations, while not including a complete ban, have limited the places where smokers can smoke. And unlike our previous policy, for the most part, they are not in areas where non-smokers will have to walk through to get to other parts of the ship. Case in point the casino on the Spirit-class and the cigar bars on Conquest- and Destiny-class ships. Thank you for writing and I am positive the next time you cruise you will notice a big change.

Best wishes.

John

Satisha asked:
John,

I have booked my first ever cruise and my son is going with me on the sensation. He is 9. What is the earliest I can give him to the children’s camp and how long can he stay at the night. Do they do meals for the kids or must he eat with me. Is this free or do I have to pay?

John says:
Hello Satisha,

Congratulations on booking your first ever Carnival cruise and I know you will have a great time on the Carnival Sensation. You can drop your son off at Camp Carnival from 9 am and, yes, they will feed him lunch with the other kids on Lido. I am sure you will all want to have dinner together in the dining room to spend some quality time together and after dinner you can take him back to Camp Carnival where he can have fun with the Night Owls program. There is a charge for this but he will have loads of fun and you can too.

Here are the details:

Owl Jams – a night of high-energy fun that runs from 10 p.m. to midnight and aimed at two- to 11-year-olds. Cost is $13 per child plus gratuity.

I wish you a brilliant family cruise vacation.

Best wishes.

John

D. Mann asked:
John,

As a former purser, I consider Captain Cutugno an old friend of mine. Please tell me how I can get in touch with him. Also, I am about to book a cruise on Carnival Magic and would like to do so while he is still Master. How long will he be master of Carnival Magic (when does he go on vacation?) Also, how would I find out about other friends of mine – whether or not they still work for Carnival? For example: Aaron Thomas – hotel director; Shahnaz Kashanipour – hotel director; Keith Bunton – hotel director; Vivianna Nata – purser; Carol Lyman – accountant; Ute Pollig – purser. I would appreciate a reply to my email in the event you don’t care to publish this. Thank you!

Regards,

Darren Mann

John says:
Hello D.Mann,

Thanks for getting in touch and I have sent your details to all you have mentioned except Aaron Thomas who no longer works for Carnival and I have no forward address or details for him. Shahnaz is now in the Miami office, Keith is on Carnival Spirit, Ute is in the Miami office as is Carol Lyman and Vivianna works for our agency in Italy. The captain actually left today on vacation and I will be sure to pass on your kind regards.

Best wishes

John

Grayson asked:
Hi John,

As a Platinum cruise I would like to know if you have priority seating at the shows as Royal Caribbean give their VIP passengers. Surely we should have the benefit of not having to scramble for seats after dinner.

John says:
Hello Grayson,

I was not aware that Royal Caribbean gave priority seating to guests who have their version of the Platinum card here at Carnival. We truly value your loyalty but I we do not allow seat saving for anyone in the main theatre and have no plans to have a reserved area for Platinum guests. Thanks again for your loyalty.

Best wishes.

John

David Wunderlin asked:
John,

My wife and I are “repeat offenders” with your great Carnival Cruise Lines. We had the fantastic opportunity to share The Chefs Table w/ Panda on our last voyage out of Tampa on the Carnival Legend and were the 1st group to partake of that way cool event. We booked that at the shore excursions desk on that cruise. We were so impressed that we want to do it again on our Glory Sailing out of New York on 9/17/2011. However we do not see it listed as an opportunity. Can you help us ensure we can get a seating for that. Our Cabin: 1067, Our booking: *****?? We have never had such a fabulous dining experience. And huge kudos to Panda and his team.

Cordially,

Dave Wunderlin

John says:
Hello David Wunderlin,

“Repeat Offenders”……love that title. Yes, of course, I will send this to the ship for you today. The Chef’s Table experience continues to grow in popularity and I am glad that you enjoyed it so much. I wish you another great time on the Carnival Glory.

Best wishes.

John

That’s all for today.

Time to feature Mr. Radu and some gorgeous photos of the Cinque Terre region of Italy.

He is so talented, isn’t he? I am trying to encourage him to make a calendar for next year featuring the ships and ports of call.

Sometimes, I think my job is nearly as difficult as being a Jehovah Witness with a terrible stutter. Take a look at this.

Guest: Mrs. _________ Ref: 019614459A
Cabin: _____ Booking#: ___________ Added-Changed: 07/27/11 – 07/27/11
Subject: PLAYING BINGO?
Guest wrote following in a letter addressed to the captain:
“Your bingo games are boring. I am a professional bingo player. Why not play some that would let us play more than five numbers at a time? We are adults, play making. Double cross, eight pack, two four-pack. What you play… is child’s bingo. I have played three times and won nothing because the games are too simple. I expect a refund of $40 as there is no chance to win and the game was not advertised before I paid for the cards.”

It would have been quicker and easier for her to write a letter that just said:

Dear Fat Bastard,

I have won bugger and I want my money back.

Sincerely,

An Unhappy Bingo Player

Well, of course, she is not going to get her money back and I have to say I think that the fact she thought the captain was in charge of bingo to be absolutely brilliant.

John: Deck Officer Captain, we have some rough seas forecast tonight, should we put the stabilizers out?

Captain: Don’t bother me with trivial items like that, can’t you see that I’m busy. In the B column, Frank Sinatra’s favourite number, B2…….2B 2B 2B she had three boobies where they should be two (sung to “Strangers in the Night”)

Well, this will be a quick blog today as it’s a sea day and I have the morning show, travel talk for Venice and Dubrovnik, marriage show and elegant night to come. Yesterday we were in Naples and from around 3 pm the heavens opened and a huge thunderstorm engulfed the area for three straight hours. I have not dare look yet to see how many guests are blaming me for this and whether or not I will once again be told I have ruined people’s clothing and be forced to send hundreds of pairs of knickers and bras to the laundry.

I did read a report about a couple who rented a car in Naples and on the way back stopped at a gas station to fill it up, just as the contract they had signed told them they must. Unfortunately, they did not read the signs or understood that the car was a diesel one and they filled it up with regular petrol which meant the return journey was spent with the car jumping around like an epileptic kangaroo until eventually it stopped on a busy road.
The police became involved and I have seen the police in Naples……oh my. They all wear smart uniforms with Ray Ban shades, shiny leather boots and pristine white pants that look more like tights….in fact they look like actors from a porn movie rather than police officers. The whole incident cost them 480 Euros in costs and the tow truck. Ouch.

They were very brave to even attempt to rent a car and drive in Naples which has to be one of the most dangerous and nerve-shattering places to drive in the world. Another……is Miami. I hate driving there, I really do. I would rather tell a room full of little persons to sing It’s a Small World before asking them to pop onto Lido deck with me for a spot of little person tossing than drive in Miami. I-95 simply makes me crap myself. It truly does. You can be in the middle lane and no bugger will let you out into the inside lane even though your indicator is flashing telling everyone you want to get off at the next exit. You indicate and you beg and when the exit to the Miami Beards Head Office is there you have no choice but to throw your car into the inside lane. This usually brings forth a torrent of horn blasting, finger and hand gestures and if you are really unlucky……….some 9mm bullets being fired at you.

Talking of cars, you may know that I have a Range Rover at home in the UK and despite the fact that it is allegedly responsible for killing the world’s polar bear population, I really like it. Obviously I would prefer an Aston Martin in much the same way I would prefer Megan Fox’s bottom to be waiting for me backstage in a thong later tonight rather than Calvyn in a pair of tidy whities. But the Range Rover will do — except apparently it won’t.

Heidi has decided that we will get something different as it costs loads of money to fill up with petrol which at the moment is more expensive in the UK than diamonds. She also finds it too much of a “man’s car” — whatever that means. Anyway, she has been looking and has decided she wants one of those family wagons minivan things. Oh FFS! Especially the one she likes has sliding doors and a DVD player for Kye and hybrid tofu engine. Heidi said she loved it and at aged two years and three months apparently Kye loved it and my life is now officially over……… I am just one step away from incontinence.

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.