August 12, 2011 -

John Heald

A few days ago I went on board the incredible Queen Elizabeth which was docked in Livorno next to the Carnival Magic. I am no doubt going to delve into my limited bag of superlatives here and repeat myself, as well as start with a naughty word and I therefore I apologise. But bloody heck, the Queen Elizabeth is simply gorgeous, beautiful and quite simply oozes class, comfort and tradition.

I had seen the ship under construction but to see it completed was just amazing and I was simply gobsmacked at how beautiful she is. If you don’t know what gobsmacked means it is simply that time when you stand in front of something but nothing happens, you just stand there looking stupid with your mouth wide open stammering to find the right words. It reminded me of the time when I first saw Megan Fox’s bottom. What surprised me though is that there were 200 children on board, the Lido deck looked no different to the one I had just left on the Carnival Magic. There were kids swimming, giggling and having fun, while a dad stood by the pool blowing up a huge green floating crocodile. How lucky are those kids to sail on the Queen Elizabeth. When I was their age we went camping and I had to poo in a bucket.

While the fun and laughter was happening on the pool deck, the Cunard tradition of high tea was being served in the Queens Room. This involves pots of tea, using proper tea, not tea bags, accompanied by fresh cream and jam-filled scones, finger sandwiches and treats. It is a room to watch the world go by from, to dance and fall in love with your partner all over again. Look, I know Cunard may not be for everyone but I will say this: Don’t think it is just for the rich and famous to sail on — that would be a huge and silly mistake to make because this is a ship for all to enjoy and whether it is a trans-Atlantic crossing, one of her exciting voyages to the Med, Caribbean and ports around the world. It is quite simple — if you love ships then you must experience the Queen Elizabeth for yourself.

I was led on the tour of the ship by the Deputy Captain Hamish and the Hotel Director Jackie along with the Chief Engineer whose name I have embarrassingly forgotten. But they were all very gracious and showed me how proud they were of the ship. Along the way we stopped and looked at some gorgeous models of past Cunard greats including of course the Queen Elizabeth 2 or QE2 as she was better known. She was a ship I never got to see and, of course, I never will even though Heidi desperately wants to give me a chance to. You see, Heidi wants to go to Dubai — it’s on her bucket list but it’s really not on mine to be honest. There are certain places that are on that list. Sydney, Shanghai and Cleveland, Ohio, among them. But not Dubai, as it is full of shops and too bloody hot for my tastes and you all know how much I despite the heat.

My friend just went there and Heidi saw a TV program where some Z-list British model called Jordan who is famous because she has breasts the size of the Alps went there and my wife said, “It looked ammmmmazing.” She started to waffle on about the great shopping it offers, I can’t help thinking that you can also shop very well in Southend where we live. Then there is the climate, I can’t help thinking that 48C is too hot for a huge tub of lard like me and when then she mentioned the brilliant restaurants but I just ate at the steakhouse here on the Carnival Magic and it was brilliant, one of the best meals I have ever had. Plus, it didn’t cost $8,000 as it would in Dubai, it cost $30……well, actually it cost me bugger all because I charged it to Carnival…….. thanks Uncle Gerry.

“But it has beautiful beaches,” my wife remarked. Oh brilliant – a beach. I hate swimming and I hate sunbathing and I hate the do-gooders who try and slide me back into the water. I guess then that Dubai is Las Vegas without the rumpy pumpy and the gambling. And of course Dubai is where the QE2 now resides. She is moored on the famous Palm Island and was to serve as a hotel and events centre, having gone through the kind of makeover that MTV’s Pimp My Ride normally reserves for old Cadillacs. But I guess they ran out of money which is quite sad because now she sits there. Alone and unloved. But as much as I would have loved to have seen the old girl, I guess given my lack of desire to visit Dubai, I guess I never will.

Time for some Q and A…

Sarah Strauss asked:

At the end of our cruise on Carnival Valor, we were told by the cruise director to leave our luggage in the corridor, until it was collected later that night and taken to the cruise terminal the next day where we had to collect it. We had expensive electrical equipment and expensive clothing and gift items to take home to New York in there and were not happy at this arrangement, as the suitcase was left overnight on the boat somewhere that was not secure I am guessing. I felt that Carnival was asking us to invalidate our travel insurance by doing this. I therefore insisted that the luggage remain in the cabin until it was picked up the morning we returned to Miami but I was told we could not do this unless we were prepared to take our luggage off ourselves which was a ridiculous suggestion. I asked to see the secure area for luggage storage but this was also denied. In the end we took our chances and put our three pieces of luggage outside the cabin but it gave my husband and me a sleepless night. I suggest you adopt a policy similar to what RCI use where the staff takes off the luggage with trolleys on the morning you arrive. There is also the case that Miami being the drug capital of the world anyone could have slipped something into our bags.

Thank you!

John says:
Hello Sarah Strauss,

First of all, I hope you had a wonderful cruise on the Carnival Valor. Please don’t worry about your luggage. Remember that you may lock it and that it is stored in a very secure place in what we call our marshalling area before it is taken ashore. And as you mentioned we also offer a self assist program where guests can take off their own luggage. I was not aware that Royal Caribbean offers a third service where each guest has a staff member with a trolley to take luggage ashore. I was surprised when I read this as that would mean many hundreds of trolleys and extra staff plus, as far as I am aware, the crew is not allowed to work ashore due to immigration laws. I may be wrong there though. Anyway, please don’t ever worry about your luggage, it’s safe and secure and of course once again I do hope you had a brilliant time.

Best wishes.


Bill Trollinger asked:

My wife and I have cruised about 13 times — number 14 is coming up in October. We are starting to see the same shows every time we cruise. Our question… How often are the shows changed on each ship? We sail from Jax most of the time or from Norfolk, Va… Just wondering.

Bill “Rick” Trollinger

John says:
Hello Bill Trollinger,

First of all thanks for your wonderful loyalty to Carnival and the shows are usually set for a five- year period. Changing a production show is a massive undertaking and can only be done when the ship is in dry dock so we try to do this when the ships are out of the water. While we change the variety acts and the comedians most cruises the shows with the cast and the brilliant scenery and effects are as I said much more difficult to change. But we do change them and already during the last 12 months, five of our ships have had new shows and others will follow. There will be a new Carnival Legends show across the fleet very soon. Thanks again Bill and I hope that I get to sail with you soon.

Best wishes,


Eric asked:
Hi John,

I hope you enjoy your time off. I was looking at booking the Carnival Miracle on its last cruise from FLL before it goes to New York. This is on April 2, 2012 for eight nights. However, I notice that the next cruise isn’t until April 12, 2012. Will there be a two night transition cruise to NYC on April 10-12?


John says:
Hello Eric,

I had a wonderful time at home, thanks for asking. There will indeed be a two-day transition to New York but it will be what we refer to as a “deadhead,” which means a voyage without guests. This is mostly because of a maritime law that does not allow guests to sail from a US port to another US port without visiting a foreign port along the way. Thanks for writing and we are very excited to be using New York as our newest year-round home port.

Best wishes.


Margaret Balla asked:
Hi John,

As a past Carnival cruiser I have recommended Carnival to family members and friends. I have booked at least 10 family and friends over the last couple of years. I am about to book six family members on the Carnival Breeze’s June 3, 2012, departure. Four family members who sailed on the Carnival Magic’s maiden voyage commented there were no Broadway production shows. Are they mistaken or is this true? Your reply would be appreciated as these shows have meant so much to me. I would not like to recommend something that is not true!

Thank you.

John says:
Hello Margaret Bella,

Thanks so much for recommending Carnival to your friends and they are going to have the very best of times on the Carnival Breeze. I think the word “Broadway” show is a bit confusing because this conjures up book shows like Phantom of the Opera and Le Miserables. We have stepped away from Broadway-themed shows but there will be three brand new shows on the inaugural of the Carnival Breeze. On the first cruise of the Carnival Magic we only had one of the three shows ready and that is something that we were all very unhappy about but we just ran out of time. We have all made assurances that in no way shape or form will this happen again on the Carnival Breeze. Thanks once again for the kind recommendation and if there is anything else you need please let me know.

Best wishes.


C DOG asked:

CCL has turned into the government……..The more you give them the less you get…CCL is turning into the biggest yuck for your buck. This is a quote from my Jessemon on Cruise Critic and is something that I agree with and the full version is here and other similar comments.

You talk about having the ear of Gerry and the upper management. Well, I suggest you shout into it that people are leaving Carnival in droves and I am one of them.

John says:
Hello C Dog,

You know I promised myself and the readers that I would not reply to posts like this but sometimes I just can’t help myself because your post has no substance. What does “yuck for your buck” mean anyway? Having read the first page of the link you posted I see that most actually said they love Carnival and the food is excellent. Also you say you are leaving Carnival but it’s hard for me to help persuade you not to when you don’t tell me what your name is and you’re hiding behind the name C Dog. So if you or Big Jessie have ways that you think we should improve, then I promise I will give it my full attention because we need to know where those improvements need to be made because criticism like that is invaluable. But please do me the honour of telling me your real name and your cruising history with Carnival so I know I am not wasting my time talking to an elf-like creature with a huge nose and wart covered face that lives under a bridge next to a stream.

Best wishes.


Robert Bannon asked:
Hi John,

I recently booked a cruise with Carnival and thought it would be best to book my flight through Carnival as well. I could not have been more wrong! A few days before departure I was called by my daughter in Baton Rouge informing me that because of her severe kidney stone problems the doctors were going to take the baby five weeks early right at the end of my cruise. So instead of going home after the cruise I needed to go to Baton Rouge. I called Delta and they said they had no problems changing my return flight (without penalties, because it was a medical emergency of sorts). In the process of changing the flight they realized that Carnival had booked them and they would have to request the change. Well we know where it goes from here. Your company refused to do anything to help me thus costing me an added expense of around 700 dollars to book a one way flight from Miami to Baton Rouge for my wife and I. This was my first cruise with Carnival and it seems they wanted to make sure it was my last. I understand policy but considerations should be made at times for certain circumstances. Very disappointed.


John says:
Hello Robert Bannon,

I was so sorry to read about this and I am glad you brought it to my attention though as I certainly do not know all the details of what transpired. I want to provide you with some answers and, most of all, I do not want this to be your last cruise with Carnival. I will make sure this gets to the desk of the vice president in charge of guest services and one of her team will be in contact with you. I hope your daughter is well and please send her my best and someone will call soon.

Best wishes.


Andrew Poulson asked:
Hello John,

I am sailing on my first ever cruise with Carnival and was told on Cruise Critic that you can organize the captain’s table for me. I will be with my wife and we will be in cabin 6232 and our booking number is ***** It is our 18th wedding anniversary and my wife turns 50 so I think we are deserving this. Can you get this done?

John says:
Hello Andrew Poulson,

I think there may be some confusion here as I don’t take reservations for the captain’s table. I am sure that your friends on Cruise Critic meant The Chef’s Table which I do take reservations for. This is a seven-course dining experience, as well as a galley tour, and the cost is $75. It is quite simply an absolute brilliant experience that I truly recommend. If this is what you would like please let me know and I will be happy to book this for you. I wish you both a wonderful anniversary cruise.

Best wishes.


WendiT asked:

You complain about missing your wife and daughter yet you have a great job and loads of money and see amazing places. I work as a waitress and will never be able to afford a cruise and never get to see the places you see or earn the money you earn. I applied five times to get a job on the ship but Carnival won’t hire me. You have it good so quit yer moaning.

John says:
Hello WendiT,

You are right of course – except for the loads of money bit. I do need to realise that there are people like you who would love to be a cruise director on a ship that takes you to so many places. I can’t ever apologise for saying I miss my family, though, because I do and maybe part of me does write this because I want to hear from others that they understand. I hope that you follow your dream and that one day I will see you on a Carnival ship. I wish you nothing but happiness and success.

Best wishes.


Janice Macfadyen asked:
Hi John,

First off I love the blog and you are so funny that I often think you should have your own TV show. You may remember me and my husband from the Carnival Magic. We were the couple who lost their luggage and you provided my husband Frank some T-shirts as the shop had none in his size which was very disappointing. I wanted to say thanks again and that your kindness to my husband was amazing. He did not want to leave the cabin as he was embarrassed but those three shirts you gave him allowed him to enjoy the ports. John please can I thank Daria (hope I spelt it correctly) at the guest services desk who tracked down our missing luggage and got it delivered to Venice. You and the Carnival crew were outstanding and we will be back.

John says:
Hello Janice Macfadyen,

I remember you both of course and I was glad to be able to help your husband. Usually the gift shop stocks XXXL but, of course, the cruise you were on they were out of stock. I will certainly pass your kind words of praise to Daria at the guest services desk and I do hope that you will indeed be back with us again soon…….this time with your entire luggage.

Best wishes to you both.


And that’s all for today. Thanks once gain for all the great comments.

So here we are today in France and specifically the port of Marseilles when actually we were supposed to be in the port of Palma de Mallorca. But because of a strike by bus drivers, coach drivers, port workers and men with silly moustaches…….we are Las Buggered. Instead, we are here in France today and tomorrow we will arrive in Barcelona. The captain sent a letter to all guests and it was translated into Russian, French, German, Dutch, Spanish and Japanese as we have a very high international count on this cruise. Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone amongst the crew who speaks Hebrew for our Israeli group and this led to one lady telling the guest services supervisor how ridiculous this was………in perfect English.

Anyway, I think this was the right decision. Well before I get into this that lets look at the options. Firstly I should say that so many people think that when you miss a port you can just pick a place on a map and go there.

Yesterday in my Q&A session a lady asked if we could go to Greece. Yes I said……and maybe we will have time for a stop off in Singapore, as well. Have a look at the map of Spain. Find Barcelona and then look for ports around there where we could go and still be back on time for Sunday’s debarkation and embarkation to start on time so that we don’t impact the guests on the next cruise. The choices are limited and, even if you do find somewhere, then you have to make sure a berth is available which with so many ships in the Mediterranean there often is not and you also have to make sure that the ship will fit inside the pier area.

So, then as I said, our choices were limited and here is what we spent a long time yesterday looking at:

A) Remain at sea – This would have been the easiest option. Yet whenever we do this either here in Europe or in the Caribbean there are those who say Carnival does this to make money in the casino, etc. etc. What they forget is that we lose thousands of dollars in excursion revenue plus have to refund the government taxes and fees to every guest on board. Let me say once again that we only make the choice to stay at sea if there are absolutely no other options. So, in discussion with the office we decided that having guests paid their money for a European cruise, a sea day was not the best option here.

B) Overnight in Marseilles – This was quickly excluded as the ship docks in an industrial port so there is little to do around the vessel and there’s a chance of being breathed upon by a Frenchie.

C) Proceed to Monaco (Monte Carlo) – Even though we had been there already this cruise Monte Carlo was one of the only ports we could have called at but the pier was taken by another cruise ship so that was out too, then.

D) Visit Cannes – We did this on Carnival Liberty and Carnival Freedom but it involves a tender operation and it was difficult enough with 3,500 guests on our Conquest-class ships but with 4,500 guests on the Carnival Magic, it would have been a very long and difficult operation so it was decided not to.

E) Go to Valencia – This was the only port that the captain thought we could possibly get to but after the captain checked and it was too far and we would not have been back to Barcelona until the afternoon.

F) Go to Barcelona – We knew this would upset a few guests, especially those from Barcelona and those who had already purchased a pre-cruise package.

So those were our choices and therefore we went with an arrival tomorrow in Barcelona. Now I have made it clear I think that this has been by far the most challenging cruise this season so far and while I knew that many guests would appreciate this decision that some definitely would not and I was right. So far we have had 12 cabins voice their opinions either at the guest services desk or in a letter to the captain or myself.

It’s important therefore that I relay to all the guests that our choices were limited and when the guests get back this afternoon from Marseilles, I will be basically reading out what I have just written above so they know what our options were. I can totally understand why a few are not happy and it’s my job tomorrow to make sure the guests have the best of both worlds. By this, I mean that I plan a whole day of fun, music and shows and keep the ship as though it was a sea day with the added advantage of just pooping (spelt correctly) off the ship for some tapas in Las Ramblas. We also have a full excursion program and this includes Barcelona tours and tours to the incomparable Montserrat.

It will be very interesting indeed to see how many guests do go ashore tomorrow and I will post updates regularly on my Facebook page. Later today I have to speak to this guest:

Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 12:04 AM
Subject: Cabin___

John, guest came to the desk very angry about the decision to go to Barcelona. Mr___ feels that we should offer free drinks all day. Please note that guest also is the person who you spoke to about the Bruce Springsteen contest and the winner not being American.

Oh joy…….I had already spent 15 minutes talking to this chap about the fact that he felt it was inappropriate for a man of Indian decent to portray Bruce Springsteen in the Carnival Legends show. He didn’t win (the eventual winner had a voice as tuneful as a 1975 Ford Pinto) but he had fun and his personality was infectious which is why the audience chose him to be in the show. Amazing isn’t it how some think that things like this can be cured by free drinks.

Look, I don’t want to waffle on about how difficult this cruise has been because as always the vast majority is having the best vacation ever, but there have been challenges for sure.

Here is one from yesterday’s security report.

Received a call from ———–to proceed to deck 10 aft pool as there were female guests who were having issues regarding deck chairs. Immediately, proceeded to the said area and noticed 2 female guests were complaining against a Russian-speaking female guest who was later identified as.

Upon inquiry, guest ———- stated that she was using a deck lounge chair and in between she went to use the ladies room. When she returned from the ladies room, she saw the Russian guest occupying her deck chair and further noticed her stuff that was on the deck. When asked, the subject female guest claimed that it was her deck chair. She further stated that the subject Russian female hit the shoulder of her cabin mate Ms. ——- who is from the United States. On inquiry with ——–, she added that the subject ———- also pulled the strap of her bathing suit from her shoulder and snapped it back, causing a red mark.

Who says the cold war is over? Seat saving…..yep. Well this is the danger of guests removing things from chairs. How do you know when they have gone for a wee wee or when they have gone for a one-hour massage or to the casino. That’s why we have to do a better job and we are developing ways to try to alleviate this as we speak. That being said the guest was Russian and as I have said before they have spent their lives lining up for 12 hours for a piece of bread and so they have absolutely no problems jumping to the head of the line at the buffet or throwing someone else’s stuff on the deck, taking their deck chair and giving their bikini strap a good ping. It’s a good thing the security officer arrived when he did or we could have seen some serious hair pulling and nipple twisting.

Yep, it’s been one heck of an interesting cruise and next cruise we have 344 Russians, 230 Israelis and 1,030 British. So based on that then we will have a cruise full of Lido deck warfare, loads of complaining and with more than a thousand of my fellow Brits on board, we must be prepared for riots on Promenade Deck and looting from the gift shops.

Wish you were here.


Your friend,


Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.