Piano Bars – Adult Only?

August 8, 2011 -

John Heald

Just a week or so after the terrible earthquake in Japan, I remember I had a Japanese guest on stage with me during the Welcome Aboard show and how I treated him so carefully and was nervous about saying anything that would cause him any embarrassment. I actually felt quite uncomfortable and a little nervous. But the guests were magnificent and applauded as one when I said that we were all thinking about him and his country during those horrific days. Well, last week it happened again and with the “bag lady” and everything else last cruise I haven’t had time to tell you about it. Except this time it wasn’t a Japanese guest I had on stage but a guest from Norway.

He was the first passenger onstage with me during my travel talk and was looking for his wife. I, of course, picked up on this and had some fun with him and made him come on stage and…. well …..never mind. What’s important is that we found his wife and the audience was laughing along but when I asked where he was from and he said Norway…….my whole demeanor changed …and so did the audience’s. The terrible attack by that right wing bastard was fresh in everyone’s mind including mine so again, as I had done with the Japanese guest……..I changed tact, my voice inflection and I said that we were all thinking of him and his country. And as they had done for Japan, 1,800 guests from all over the world……..applauded in their solidarity for this guest and his country.

Then, just today, I met some Norwegian guests on Lido when I was having breakfast with the girls and I found myself instead of saying, “Are you having fun?” or “What did you do in Monaco yesterday? ” or “Bugger me your wife is gorgeous, are they real?” I went straight into the “I am so sorry, how dreadful, it’s awful, I hope they cut his bollocks off and feed them to a moose” routine. As I was saying my words of deepest sympathy I sort of got the impression that my friend from Norway was…..well….sort of fed up with it because I guess that everyone he had met had probably said the same thing. And that’s a shame as if people are going to hear the word Norway and just remember this incident then they don’t know what an extraordinary country it is.

I have always wished that Carnival would send ship to the Norwegian Fjords. My friends the Bentleys did this on a Seabourn ship a couple of years ago and said it was simply stunning and indeed that is exactly what Norway is. I have been there with Heidi and anything with the word Norwegian in it should be thought of as exciting, stunningly beautiful………..well……..except if the word Epic follows.

However, it is cold and you spend all winter being frozen to death and all summer realizing that you live in one of the most jaw droopingly awesome places on earth…. Travel outside of Oslo and you will have no reminders of the civilization you left behind. The countryside is beautiful yet weird, the people are all good looking (the bastards), the weather defies belief and some of their laws and customs leave you scratching your head.

Norway has one of the best standards of living in Western Europe and a strong economy but bugger me it’s expensive. You pay $10 for a Diet Coke to accompany your plate of moose, reindeer or elk, which will be served to you by a lady who has completely see through skin. However, you will not be bothered by any of this because you will be too baffled that unlike the rest of the world…..…..night does not follow day.

In the world we live in, there are many uncertainties, but one thing we all relay on is that without fail the sun will set and day will become night. But in Norway, from the end of April to the middle of September, night is like turning your living room dimmer switch down a wee bit and in the month of June it doesn’t happen at all. It’s the most bizarre feeling to have it as bright at 4 am in the morning as it was at 4 pm that afternoon. Then, in the winter well blink and you will miss daylight which lasts just two hours. That means there is nothing to do but drink……..and boy can they drink.

But the Norwegians are not the biggest drinkers, no for that you need to go to their next door neighbors, the Finnish. There everyone gets totally and utterly smashed, soused, hammered, blotto, out-of-their-white-faces drunk. Their motto is that it is no use drinking the odd glass of beer now and then — it is like it is in Norway too expensive and a waste of time. So why not enjoy 30 beers and two bottles of vodka? And that is exactly what they do. It was the same with the shipyard workers who built the beautiful Spirit-class ships. Their work was faultless, the men and women who built the hull and welded the decks were the nicest most professional people in the world, and they built great ships but come the weekend they turned into binge-drinking nutters who would fill Coke bottles up with nine parts vodka and one part Coke………and that was to drink on the bicycle ride home…….some were so pissed (that’s the British pissed) that they rode home on their bikes…….backwards.

The Norwegians are different than us in other ways. Take the sauna. Norwegians love the sauna and most of them use saunas every day and not just at home. Most companies provide a café maybe, a vending machine and a water cooler but in Norway most companies ignore these and instead make sure every office has a sauna and instead of starting the day with a skinny crapafrapacino and a bagel, the average Norwegian office worker starts the day naked, sitting in a sauna talking to Mr. Oleg Nipples from accounting and yes……..they are naked. Some of you are for sure going “yuccchhh” right now and some of you are planning your immediate move to Norway.

Heidi and I went to Norway in January 2006 to a friend’s wedding and I can tell you that in January ……..in Norway there was a definite shrinking issue because of the cold if you get my drift and as a result I was also peeing nonstop for four hours. The bottom line is despite the cold and the naked people in the office sauna, Norway is a beautiful country created when God was in a really good mood.

All this rambling is leading up to the point that I am trying to maker which as usual has taken me forever to tell you. You see, my first reaction was that hearing the guests were from Norway was to give them a large dollop of sympathy. And this of course cannot help but remind me of the posting from blogger “RPG” who as you may remember is a NYPD officer who will be sailing on Carnival Miracle September 11 and is very upset that the ship will be pausing to watch the memorial lights be turned on. I have been thinking about this a lot and still believe that we are doing the correct thing and that having the ship be part of the 10th anniversary remembrance service is what most of the guests want and will appreciate. But I can also see his side. I am sure that when he introduces himself to people outside of New York or Manhattan even that eventually, when they discover he is a police officer that eventually 9/11 will come up in the conversation. And that must be for someone who lived through and who watched friends and colleagues who didn’t live through it……a truly emotional and in a way exhausting experience. There was of course a brilliant sense of spirit that grew instantaneously in New York in the days after the event. I have read that there was an extraordinary feeling of togetherness, whether it was just supporting friends and family, watching the televisions that appeared in hotel lobbies and on street corners in the hours afterwards, or giving money or food to the nearest fire station, or just hugging strangers in the street. All of us were affected that day and I’m sure most of us know somebody from New York who was affected one way or the other, as well. Everybody felt the same loss. I may be totally wrong here and indeed I will send a private e mail to blogger “RPG” later today. My gut feeling is though that he just wanted to escape the pain, the memories and the intense feeling of sadness and he chose to achieve this by getting on a Carnival ship to have fun and to sail away from the intense feeling of sadness and I will do all I can to make sure that happens.

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

Judy asked:

I have to agree with Flagmaster65 about the wait staff in the dining room especially the Monet. 14 of us went on the Conquest (third time) and during one dinner I apparently was not eating my steak fast enough for them and a waiter came to the table, grabbed my fork and knife and proceeded to cut up what was left my steak. I set there in amazement that this had happened. Come to find out the wait staff was trying to hurry us up so they could clear our table for the 8pm cruisers.

John says:
Hello Judy,

It’s not that I doubt you Judy one bit I want to make sure that this is absolutely clear. You are saying that the waiter took your knife and your fork from your hand and cut your steak into pieces? You didn’t ask him or her to, they just did it because you feel they were trying to get you to leave the dining room? If this is correct I urge you to tell me your sailing date, cabin number, etc., so I can address this with the ship’s senior management as this is obviously not only wrong but will probably lead to disciplinary action. I sincerely apologise if this is what happened and although there is limited time between the two sittings this is obviously very, very wrong. I hope to hear more from you soon.

Best wishes.


Dennis Hanovich asked:

We will be sailing with you on the 9/16 sailing. Our flight back to Houston departs at 8:40PM the day of debarkation. What excursion do you recommend that day that will take our luggage to the Barcelona airport? Look forward to seeing you.

John says:
Hello Dennis,

It will be a pleasure to see you soon here on your Carnival Magic and when you leave the ship there are two excursions I would recommend. First there is the Barcelona Highlights which does exactly what the name suggests including, of course, visiting the Gothic District and the extraordinary Gaudi-designed cathedral, Segada De la Familia. However, there is a second option which is to go to Montserrat which you ascend by train and once there you can explore the monastery and breathe in the peace and the quiet and enjoy the amazing views. The excursion will return you to the airport around 4 pm. I hope this helps and if there is anything else you need please let me know.

Best wishes and see you soon.


Jbfann asked:

I had written to you on Facebook and requested a table for two for our honeymoon and to make it special for us John. Well we got the table but that was it. The cruise was terrible and all the passengers were complaining that the drinks were watered down. Not once did me or my bride get tipsy. The crew was rude and unhelpful and nobody spoke English. My full review is posted today on Cruise Critic which means that millions of people will read it and hopefully be warned away. I suggest you get your head out of your ass and realise you work for a company that has big problems.

John says:
Hello Jbfann,

Thanks for writing and I am so sorry to read that you had such a bad experience. I do want to say that while we can always improve on service, the suggestion that we watered-down drinks is, quite honestly, ridiculous. However, I read your review and see that you had a delay in getting to Half Moon Cay and we certainly owe you an apology for that. I am sure the “millions” of Cruise Critic readers understand that sometimes, with port arrivals, things can happen that cause a delay. Again, I am sorry that this happened on your voyage. I am glad that you got your table for two as you requested and that despite the problems that you will think about the good times you had. I wish you many happy years together.

Best wishes.


F.T. and family asked:

My family and I will be cruising on the Thanksgiving week with you on the Carnival Magic. There are four of us and we need a table just for us and not with other passengers. We like to keep ourselves to ourselves and not have to find forced conversation with strangers who I am positive will not have the same likes or understanding of what we as a family talk about at dinner. We are in cabins 10225 and 7435. The other request is an unusual one. My son is 19 and is attending The School of Visual Arts in New York. He is the most talented painter you will have ever seen and I know you have art auctions on the ship. My son Adam is prepared to help with a lecture in modern art and will show some of his pieces as well which we will bring with us. I don’t know who to contact for this so can you point me in the right direction? Your passengers will snap his work up immediately. I look forward to hearing favorably from you as soon as possible.

Thank you!

John says:
Hello F.T. and family,

Thanks for letting me know you will be joining me here on the beautiful Carnival Magic. I will certainly help you with your table request but as we are a few weeks away and because I don’t want it to get lost, please can you write to me here again five weeks before you sail or 10 days before on my Facebook page. I have given your details to the people at Park West who run our on board auctions and they will contact you should they allow your son to do as you requested. I wish him well in his chosen career and I wish you all a brilliant cruise. See you soon and please don’t forget to remind me about your table.

Best wishes to all.


Marcia Hager asked:

I was wanting to book the Carnival Miracle out of New York on September 11 after reading that the ship would be able to see the dedication. I was wondering which side of the ship do I need to book a balcony on to be able to see the lighting? Thanks so much for your time. I really enjoy reading your blog.

Marcia Hager

John says:
Hello Mkarcia Hager,

I was just talking about this voyage at the start of the blog today. I am sorry it’s taken me a month to reply to this and I hope you are still able to book. The skyline of Manhattan and the ceremony will be on the port side which is the left hand side of the ship facing forward. Have a wonderful and memorable voyage.

Best wishes.


Patrick Shanahan asked:

Hi John, please reply.

We sailed Spirit to Alaska 5-10-11. This was our first platinum cruise and we were excited that we had achieved that status. After we finally boarded every expectation was met or exceeded as platinum truly does mean something aboard the “Fun Ships.” Now the bad. Embarkation at pier of Seattle was a nightmare, from the time we arrived (1:15 pm) and dragged our own luggage inside. I thought priority check-in and priority boarding meant something; apparently at port of Seattle it means nothing. My wife is a special needs guest and by the time we boarded (3:30) she was done in. THERE WAS NO SPECIAL TREATMENT FOR NEITHER VIP NOR SPECIAL NEEDS GUESTS. We were treated like snail **** and when I got pissed and told the agent how I felt he handed me a little blue card that said VIP. He acted like it was the keys to the city and told us to show it as we pushed our way to the front of the boarding line. (He called it weaving and, of course, we would never do that) By the time we got to our stateroom my wife was in pain and tears, and just wanted me to find our luggage and go home… I wrote a letter to guest services explaining what happened and when I got no reply I called (6-28) and talked to a lady with a condescending attitude who scolded me like a school boy for writing to the wrong department. I was told that my letter should have gone to Guest Desk Care. Like I was supposed to know. Anyway, she told me SHE would straighten out the folks at Seattle. She had no record of my letter and didn’t know what happened to it. I expected an apology and a little sympathy but instead got the feeling that she couldn’t care less. I am booked again on Spirit 10-21-11 and hope Long Beach is better organized than Seattle.

Patrick Shanahan

John says:
Hello Patrick Shanahan,

Comments like this are so important and while it is great to see that you enjoyed the cruise and the platinum extras, it was sad for me to see the concerns you had when boarding. In my opinion the cruise experience starts at embarkation and the fun and the service you expect to happen on board should also be emulated during the check-in process. Please, would you apologise to your wife on my behalf and I will be sending your comments immediately to the people who need to know and will make sure we improve our operation in Seattle. Thanks for telling me, my sincere apologies and my thanks for your loyalty.

Best wishes to you both.


RossY asked:

I want to bring some clarity to the problem you obviously have. You are fat. You are obese and as soon as you accept this you will start on the road to your new life. My guess is the reason you are so big is unhappiness, anxiety and thinking about food as a friend and comforter rather than merely as useful fuel. You can’t do anything about your face and how you look or your age, but if you’re so incredibly fat that people are writing to you on this blog and offering to help you then you should accept it or try going on a diet. It is that simple John. I am from Canada where the government is trying to end obesity unlike America where the crazies live and where laws ban fattism and where doctors aren’t allowed to tell any fattie they should lose weight for health reasons. So John, admit you are a fattie. A big walking pot of lard and you may live to write this blog for a few more years.

John says:
Hello RossY,

Reading between the lines I think you are trying to be nice and help me so I thank you very much for that. I know that I have to lose weight and I am trying to as best I can and slowly, very slowly it is working. Thanks once again and also you should you know you are the very first person ever to call me “a big walking tub pot of lard”……..brilliant description.

Best wishes.


Robert Sapp asked:
Greetings John!

I notice you’ve dropped several hints about upcoming changes to the Carnival customer loyalty program. Do you have any idea when these new changes might be announced? And in this age of corporate cost cutting, should we assume “changes” means “you’ll get less and you’ll like it!”?

Warmest Regards,

Robert from Pensacola

John says:
Hello Robert Sapp,

I am sure that you know that I have been apologising for some time that we have still to tell you about our loyalty program. It’s been a long time coming and I am hoping that soon I can start telling you about what we are going to do. I can tell you that it won’t be less and for those with platinum and milestone status less is definitely not what will be coming. I wish I could tell you more but on this one I have been told to wait by the most senior of beards. Until then I thank you for your loyalty and hope to see you on board very soon.

Best wishes.


Jake Gee asked:

Do any of the suites on the Carnival Dream have DVD players? I am sailing on my own in suite 7373 on the Carnival Dream and bringing my own “films” to watch and want to know if you have players in the suites. I sailed with you on the Carnival Glory in 2004, John, on the cruise where we had to spend an extra day on sea because of the hurricane.

John says:
Hello Jake Gee,

We don’t have DVD players in the suites but we do have interactive TV with pay per view movies that I hope you will enjoy. I checked with the techs here and unfortunately it is very difficult to hook a standard portable DVD player up to the TVs in the cabin. I remember that cruise well Jake and I hope your cruise on the Carnival Dream will give you fun and be storm free.

Best wishes.


And that’s all for today. Pot of Lard……….absolutely sodding brilliant.

Let’s talk about Monte Carlo. There is no doubt that this port is one of the most popular and when guests here wake up for their first morning on their Carnival Magic and they see this tiny principality they are totally gobsmacked. As well as the buildings and the landmark casino and the Formula 1 track there is no doubt that the stars of the show are the mega yachts that sit in the harbour. The likes of Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas, Paul Allen and various Russian billionaires and their 18-year-old Amazonian girlfriends dock their gleaming white floating palaces next to even bigger ones owned by Saudi princes and kings.

Many of the yachts look alike and I am sure somewhere there is a very rich man who will be saying……..ummmm…….that’s my yacht……..oh no bugger…….it isn’t. But a few days ago the biggest yacht in the Monte Carlo Harbour was not The Lady Moura but the Carnival Magic. OK, calling this ship a yacht is like calling Megan Fox’s bottom ….well a bottom. But there was no doubt that we were the biggest for sure and took our place in Monte Carlo harbour and it was a sight to see. As indeed you will see now through the lens of Mr.Radu.

Have a look at these:

Brilliant photos once again from a true genius with the camera.

A moment ago I apologised again for the long delay in the release of the new loyalty program. I had mentioned this many months ago and was very excited about what we were going to do. Then there was a delay in the beards releasing the information and some new IT programs had to be written and now it won’t be ready until the start of 2012. This was my fault and I have of course and quite rightly so been ridiculed and bollocked accordingly by people with the words “Ugo” and the like in their screen names.

Along the same lines, a few weeks ago I was asked about the remaining dates for 2012. I know that many of you like to make your cruise plans well in advance and that is why I do my best to keep you informed. Carnival likes to open up sailings for sale with at least 18 to 24 months notice. Currently, all our ships, except Carnival Freedom, Carnival Glory and Carnival Valor are open through April 2013.

No one is more eager to get these open than us but the truth is that the process can be quite complex and I had a discussion about this on Friday with a senior beard who explained why the dates I had promised on my Facebook page had come and buggered off again. You see, in additional to operational factors that need to be worked out, port authorities need to coordinate berthing requirements with our competitors and formal approval must be secured from local governing authorities. At times, the approval process from local commissions can take longer than they themselves expected, as has been the case with these three ships. OK, that was the official response and there’s not much more to it than that but………..go on……….play detective and come up with your own conspiracy theories. Anyway, I am very sorry for this delay. Rest assured we are very focused on getting these sailings open through 2013, and expect this to be completed by the end of August. In the mean time, thanks for your patience. I know the delay will be worth the wait when you see what we are doing. I think sometimes I am a bit eager to get the information out to the thousands of you who read the blog and Facebook. Sometimes I need to keep my big mouth shut until I have the actual information……..maybe I need to stuff a pair of my underpants in it.

It is a very interesting cruise for sure with so many different languages being spoken around the ship. The North American guests are all exploring the ports while again today the Brits and the Dutch and the Germans, who have all probably been to Rome before, are still on board. It’s now 10:14am and as I sit here in my underpants there are still 823 guests onboard which is a very high number and shows that once again the ship is the destination.

One of the decisions we will be making this week is if or not to make the piano bars a place for adults only. It has been noted by my fellow cruise directors and by some of you as well that since we announced that the piano bars were all non-smoking, that more and more mums and dads have been bringing their children there. Now we love to see families spending time together but is the piano bar the right place for this to happen? I asked this on my Facebook page and there were close to 500 immediate responses I think many saying no children after 10 pm and some saying that there should be no age limit. What’s really interesting about this is that as divided as the opinions were on Facebook they were also divided amongst the cruise directors, as well. The entertainment beards in Miami asked for their opinion giving them the options of:


And as I said, close to half wanted to see them as a place where families could be together ………. which I found very interesting indeed.

What about the piano bar entertainers? What do they want? Well I asked Jim who plays here in Carnival Magic’s piano bar, and he feels that it should be an adults only location and I have a feeling that some if not most of his colleagues would agree. I went to the piano bar last night at 11:45 pm after the Destination Unknown Magic show and there were at least 20 children of all ages there. I guess “bedtime” for a nine- to 12-year-old has changed somewhat since I was their age when I was in bed by 8 pm ready for a full day down the mines or cleaning chimneys at 5 am ………we were so poor we lived in a shoe box in the middle of road …… sorry……..I went into Monty Python mode there. Seriously though, as I stood in the piano bar last night I couldn’t help but ask myself was it right for children as young as five to be in the piano bar or any bar for that matter at close to midnight? I am not saying it isn’t, I am just asking you, I guess. But things have changed since I was a lad. Of course I grew up and celebrated my teens in the eighties. Being a teen was different then. In the UK we were obsessed with bleached denim, jazz-funk and Top Gun. Everyone was into cuddly aliens like ET and we all wanted to move to Miami where according to what we watched on TV we would have been shot in the face in a matter of minutes by Crockett and Tubbs. We didn’t pierce our faces with a staple gun nor did we ever have the chance to go on a cruise and enjoy what the kids of today get to experience……the lucky bastards. So anyway, let’s see what the beards decide about the piano bars and I will let you know the moment that decision is made.

It’s a joy having Heidi and Kye here but it’s also hard to juggle writing a blog and keeping 16,000 people happy on Facebook and being a CD and performing shows and running a department of 60 plus. It’s hard because nothing else matters as much as Kye and when she wants to sit on my knee and watch a DVD while I tickle the back of her neck (she loves that) everything else is suddenly not important. We are in Rome today and usually this is the day I can get caught up with everything but Kye is a major distraction and in case I haven’t mentioned this before…… I love her with every ounce of my being. She is growing so fast. She talks using four of five words in a row and even though those sentences might not make sense “Dadda more bath dance Kye,” she is growing before my eyes far too quickly. Unfortunately, though there is one thing she hasn’t grown out of and this will serve much delight to Big Ed and his Krewe who ridiculed me about this on Bloggers Cruise 4. Yep………my daughter still loves it despite my attempts to move her onto Dora the Explorer or Peppa Pig or The Sopranos.

“Dada Barney, Dadda Barney” she said to me at 8 am this morning which means I have to put her Barney DVD on, she sits on my knee smiling and singing while I sit there…….hating the bastard purple thing even more. I despise Barney the bloody dinosaur. His sickly, purple and green skin tones, his creepy little arms and dazzling white Californian dentistry and his sidekicks Baby Bop and BJ who look like the products of a nightmarish relationship between The Elephant Man and Judge Judy. And please…….”BJ”……is that the best the producers could come up with ….. are they having a laugh or what?

I hate the loved up, everything is just perfect in the world and nothing ever bad happens message. I hate the way Barney’s creators borrowed all the technical know how of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show and removed all the wit, bludgeoning children with the vomit-inducing world’s worst song “I love you, You love me, We’re a happy family, With a great big hug, And a kiss from me to you, Won’t you say you love me too?” which is the musical equivalent of putting your fingers down your throat.

The Navy Seals who shot Bin Laden a few weeks ago allegedly used this as a white noise weapon before storming his house. And all the other songs are crap, as well. The episode I watched this morning had a song called “Let’s Be Good To Our Pets” and one about a dog called “B.I.N.G.O.” During both songs a perfect dog sat next to a perfect child. The dog didn’t take a crap on BJ’s foot and the child didn’t once stick his finger up his nose, pull out a huge green slimy booger and feed it to the dog. Barney’s world is as fake as most of the Russian breasts you will see on Lido this week.

I hate Barney’s “Oh silly me” manner which is meant to be ever so adorable but is actually just put there to complement the highly dosed up on sugar, overacting kids. Dinosaurs are supposed to be fierce, rip-your-head off creatures that make kids scream in terror. It would be great, just once, to see Barney have a Charlie Sheen moment and when little Britney aged four from Los Angeles looks up at Barney and says “I Love You Barney”…….the purple thing picks her up and eats her.

I love dinosaurs….the fierce and deadly Tyrannosaurus Rex. Death with wings, the pterodactyl and the Norwegian Epic of the dinosaur world, the very ugly brontosaurus and the dinosaur that ate only spicy food, hot curries and had hemorrhoids………..it’s called a megasorearse.


Your friend,

The Fat Pot Of Lard

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.