Micky the Twit

August 15, 2011 -

John Heald

So being the brave soul that I am, I decided to hold a live Question and Answer session after my travel talk and after telling the guests last week that Jose and his mates were on strike and that we were not going to Palma De Mallorca but spending an overnight in Barcelona instead. I was ready and prepared for the onslaught to begin and had a crack security team standing by in case things turned ugly…..OK……..my crack security team consisted of Calvyn who is to security what Richard Simmons is to cage fighting.

There were 1,000 guests in the room and my announcement about Barcelona had been met with mixed emotions. My Q&A’s are done with staff members in the lounge with microphones so that the rest of the guests can hear what others are saying and therefore here my answers as well. This saves me having the guests stand in line and me getting the same old questions over and over again. All I ask is that the guests tell us their name and where they are from.

My first question came from a lady from New York who surprisingly asked: “My name is Gwen from New York. Where can I get perfume?”

Now, she obviously meant in Marseilles, France, the following day but I needed the session to have a relaxed feel about it as possible before the Barcelona questions commenced so I answered: “Macys – it’s on 5th avenue, on the 3rd floor I think.” Now many of the audience laughed but unfortunately she didn’t and told me and the guests so by saying: “That’s not funny……..be serious.” That’s a quote………..that’s what she said exactly. Oh joy.

But what happened next was even more surprising. I took two more questions about why we weren’t going to Cannes or Monte Carlo or Greece and then the fourth question of the afternoon really was a shock. Why is there no woman captain or senior officers? This lady really let me have it and would not give up the microphone. I explained that we did have a female guest services manager on board (and many others throughout the fleet, as well as several female hotel directors over the years) and that one of the Italian senior officers liked to dress up in women’s clothing at weekends but that didn’t please her at all and she then referred…….on the microphone ………to Carnival Cruise Lines………..as sexist.

Blog friends, I have to tell you that this question summed up this past cruise and I will lament on this more in a moment but first, let’s think about this shall we? Hold on, before I answer I need to pause the DVD I am watching which is called Latvian Women Go Naked In A Swimming Pool Filled With Jell-O. Of course we are not sexist. OK, we have no female captains and no female chief engineers but there are lots of high-ranking female personnel here aboard ship and at the Miami offices. Besides if I was really sexist I would say that if we did allow female captains, the Promenade Deck would be furnished with lots of scatter cushions and the smoke stack pink.

Anyway, after I apologised to the lady who asked the question the subject moved back to Barcelona and normal service was resumed and next up was a man representing a group of people from……..well I had better not say because if I do I will be accused of being anti ……….. never mind but I am not, I know that but bugger me……….this group were so rude and I have a good mind to send them my dry cleaning bill as I took them to one side after the Q and A and all of them shouted at once……….and covered my blazer in spit.

I will finish this part of the blog by saying simply this. Most of the guests were happy and had a brilliant time but I can tell you on behalf of the guest services desk, the maitre d’s and most of the crew that quite honestly, that this was one of the toughest cruises ever. Never mind missing Palma ……..it just seemed that there was a collection of guests who were just plain miserable and in some cases just plain rude. The brand ambassador side of me hopes that they will be back so we can win them around and try again. The other side, the human side of me hopes that they all suddenly get a fetish for climbing walls or rodents with big ears. Actually, no I don’t because no crew, whatever line they work for deserve to have guests like that on board. So instead let me say I hope they never set foot on a ship again…….and I hope they all get an itch that can never be scratched. Be mad at me, be mad at Carnival. Shout at me, shout at Ken or the guest services manager.

Two hundred cabins also removed all their gratuities. They were mostly Americans although British and Israeli guests also removed them and while some tipped in cash many did not. I have no idea if they did this because tipping is not in their culture or if they did it because we missed a port……either way it’s a real shame. This is a very rare thing and despite the fact that the crew provided the same service and fun as the previous cruise and less than 30 cabins removed gratuities, this cruise for whatever reason it went up to 200. Carnival Magic though remains at number one in the fleet as per the reviews and scores from the online card.

It was one of the hardest cruises I have done in a long time and probably in hindsight it wasn’t the best idea to do an overnight in Barcelona which added a bit of fuel to the fire. In hindsight I think we (I) should have planned a day at sea but we (I) thought we were doing the best thing for the guests. There were some very difficult guests on board and the lady who complained about no female senior officers……scared the crap out of me. I think given the chance she would have gladly cut off my gentlemen’s sausage with a pair of blunt nail scissors…….and thrown into one of the Mongolian woks!

Time for another Q and A.

Bob asked:
John,

What is the current status of the Mexican ports? Specifically Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

Thank You

Bob

John says:
Hello Bob,

First of all my apologies to you and all the people I am answering today as I am a month behind in doing so. We continue to monitor the situation in Mexico and we continue to hope that one day we will return to Mazatlan as it is a great port but we’re not sailing there at the moment. Puerto Vallarta is also a great port and Carnival continues to send the Carnival Splendor and Carnival Spirit there. As I said it is a fluid situation and I’ll keep you posted here on the blog on what transpires. \

Best wishes.

John

William Johnson asked:
Hello John,

Hope you had a good break. Question from UK regarding booking on carnival.com. We have sailed twice with Carnival and booked through a travel agent having researched on carnival.com. You mentioned on the bloggy thing some months ago that the beards were looking to promote Carnival to the UK travelers more. The UK web site carnival.co.uk has very limited range of cruises, e.g. currently up to April 2012- I am looking at June 2012 so I tried via carnival.com- no luck; computer says no as it needs me to insert a US zip code. So my question is twofold, can a UK resident book via Carnival.com and secondly is there any move to keep the UK website up to date with the US one? Thanks and if we can sort this may see you on Carnival Breeze next year.

John says:
Hello William Johnson,

It’s applicable that you should ask this because this cruise, as I will be writing about in a moment, we have the largest amount of British guests we have ever had on the Carnival Magic. There is no doubt that the UK website is antiquated compared to the North American one and that’s why on October 1, a new website will be launched for the UK which will parallel carnival.com. I will be posting more about this closer to the time but I promise you will be very happy indeed and this whole zip code thing that UK cruisers find so frustrating will not be a concern anymore. Thanks so much and I hope I get to see you next year on the Carnival Breeze.

Best wishes

John


Tasha M asked:

John,

I agree with what David F said today that the servers and cabin people should speak better English. My cabin boy on the Carnival Sensation did not understand anything. I told him I wanted the bed moved against the wall so my 3 year old son would not fall out off the bed but it took three times me telling him before it was done. The waiter did not understand that I wanted a baked potato well done and crispy and I had to send it back twice on a four-day cruise trip. The crew did not speak English and I know you hire them because they are cheap labor but you should hire Americans for crew who serve the passengers.

John says:
Hello Tasha M,

First of all I hope you had a fun cruise and my apologies for the concerns you had with the crew. I would point out that all of our service crew all has to speak a certain level of English as per United States Coast Guard regulations so I am surprised that the waiter and stateroom steward did not understand your requests. It is very rare on any cruise line to find large numbers of American service staff but I will pass your comments onto the ship and my apologies again for the problems you encountered.

Best wishes.

John

Sunbeam Cruiser asked:
John,

If you are going to have homosexual and lesbian meetings each day as you said in your blog today why then don’t you have bible study or prayer meetings every day. I cannot believe that you and Carnival openly support homosexuality and lesbianism but not prayer and the opportunity to worship.

Oh and John I am a PLATINUM guest and will be sailing on the Carnival Dream for cruise number 14 on the Carnival Valor on September 3 and my husband and I would like a table for 2. This time we have a beautiful cabin 7363 and anything you can do for us would be appreciated. Please consider what I said. If you are going to have places for these kind of people to meet then surely you should have a place where believers in Christ can meet and worship together.

John says:
Hello Sunbeam Cruiser,

Many thanks for your loyalty and congratulations on cruise number 14 and a big thank you for your loyalty. I think you are referring to a blog I wrote in which I mentioned or indeed answered a question about the Friends of Dorothy meetings which does allow our gay and lesbian guests to meet in one of the ship’s lounges. And certainly when asked we are always happy to provide a lounge for guests who want to use it for bible study and prayer groups, etc. Unfortunately we rarely have a priest onboard to conduct services but if asked we will make sure we arrange meeting times and if you need this for the cruise on the Carnival Valor please let me know or just ask your Cruise Director Goose and he will arrange it for you. Have a brilliant time.

Best wishes.

John

Dennis Hanovich asked:
Hi John,

We’re booked on the 9/16 Carnival Magic sailing. When we return to Barcelona on the 25th our flight back to Houston does not leave till 8:40PM. We’ll be schlepping luggage so what do you suggest we do as far as excursions, etc?

Thanks.

John says:
Hello Dennis Hannovich,

It will not be long until you are here and please don’t worry about that late flight. I would really suggest the Montserrat excursion. The peace and tranquility of the monastery and the views from atop the mountain will be the perfect end to what I hope will be a brilliant time. The excursion will take you and your luggage there and return you to the Barcelona airport at approximately 4 pm. Please do let me know if you have any other questions and see you soon.

Best wishes

John

Kevin Potash asked:
Hi John,

Just returned from Carnival Magic and mostly it was a fun time. John, I had heard so much about you but honestly I have to say I don’t like your humor. I found you crass and immature and I would have preferred you be more informative and classy rather than try to be funny all the time. My favorite director is Ken Rush from RCI who could teach you a think of two about how to be a professional entertainer, host and performer. There is an ongoing vote on Cruise Critic about who is the best cruise director but there is no doubt that you will not get my vote which still goes to the one and only Ken Rush followed closely by Sinan on NCL. These are the best in the cruise industry John and they “look” like cruise directors where as you don’t John. I won’t say anymore than that as I don’t want to be cruel but I think you know what I mean.

I will say that the food was just as good as RCI and the steakhouse was very good value for money. Our waitress Martina was one of the best we have ever had and Ken Byrne was an excellent singer and dining room host. The only other comment I have is that the Carnival bed is not as comfortable as RCI and you need to get their coffee machines put on your Lido. RCI uses Starbucks coffee as their free coffee at breakfast etc but the coffee on Lido deck was undrinkable. Overall we enjoyed our cruise on Carnival Magic.

John says:
Hello Kevin Potash,

Ever since I started as a cruise director with Carnival I knew that not everybody would find my humour funny and I am still very much aware of this today. I am very sorry that you did not enjoy me and I can understand why you enjoy Ken Rush. I have never met him personally but his reputation of being one of the very best in the industry is well known and I know he introduces all of their new ships. I would love to see him work as I am sure I could learn a few things from him. I don’t know Sinan as this is the first time I have heard his…….or ummmm ……. is it a her……name. I am though thrilled that you had Martina as your waitress, she is one of our very best and I am not surprised that you thought she was so good. I also had no idea that RCI served free Starbucks on their Lido deck. I know they have a Starbucks on their ships but assumed you paid for that. We get comments from time to time about our Lido coffee but certainly I would not describe it as undrinkable. I do hope you had fun and thanks for your fair and honest review and I truly hope we see you again.

Best wishes,

John

D. Pettit asked:
John,

I need to make copies of professional pictures taken on my cruise. I was told that I need a release from Carnival Cruise lines in order to make copies at CVS. Where can I get a photo release form?

John says:
Hello D.Petit,

I have not heard of this before so let me check and if that’s the case (which I honestly don’t think it is) I will ask someone to provide you with what you need. Let me see what I can find out and I will let you and everyone know. And here is the answer from a beard in Miami “Guest Care can provide a release letter, all the guest needs to do is call and request it.” So there you go, please call into Carnival and we will take care of this for you. I learned something today.

Best wishes.

John

Lynn Myers asked:
Hello John,

I read on Cruise Critic today that Carnival is going to start charging for bringing bags on the ship like the airlines and that the evening room service where the bed is made will be canceled as well. Does Carnival really not want my business anymore?

John says:
Hello Lynn Myers,

I think the author of that particular Cruise Critic thread had been smoking a pair of my underpants before they wrote it as both are absolutely rubbish. I am sorry they wasted your time and got you all flustered for nothing. I am also thankful that by telling me you allowed me to tell anyone else that may have read this that it’s total and utter bollocks. I hope we see you again on one of our ships where your bags will be freely brought onboard and where your stateroom steward will make your bed twice a day every day……even if you haven’t slept in it.

Best wishes.

John

CrimsonTide 101 asked:
John,

Me and my buddies are going on the Carnival Triumph in March 2012 and we wanted to make sure that the March Madness games will be shown on your giant screen. You will have lots of spring breakers who will be very angry if not.

John says:
Hello CrimsonTide 101,

OK, I have to admit I had to ask Uncle Google what “March Madness” was as I didn’t have a clue. I hope I am right in saying you mean college basketball games and if that’s the case, I can tell you that some of the games will be shown if they are shown on the major networks or ESPN. What I can’t promise is that they will all be shown on the big screen on Lido as we have a full movie and concert schedule there but they will be shown in the sports bar. I hope you have fun and I see by your screen name that you love Crimson Tide as well. It’s a great movie although not as good as The Hunt For Red October. I hope you and your buddies have fun.

Best wishes.

John

Steve O asked:
Dear John (please respond, when you have time)

I wanted to give you a little rundown on my latest Carnival Triumph cruise that departed on June 25. As you know, our mutual friends, Carolyn & Don were also onboard. It was SO much fun. As I’ve told you previously I really love that ship and its crew. Embarkation was easy. Carolyn & Don are, of course, Milestone and I’m but a lowly Platinum ……we breezed right through VIP Check In. Linda Powell’s buddy Robert checked me in and he and Dolores who work there are so friendly. Embark was good, I love that uphill walk on the boarding ramp.….I actually tried to catch a ride with Carolyn on the back of her scooter but she didn’t seem too thrilled with that idea. Stopped to say “hi” to Farid at Guest Services….I refer to him as “Mr. Personality.” Then we went right up to Lido for some lunch. Immediately I began to see crew that I recognized from the April trip. That is so fun. A couple of my favorite dining room hostesses were working up there, Llianna and Nicoletta. Then ran into one of the Senior Team Waiters Gede…..we first met him when we did BC3 in May 2010 with you and Sexy Craig. Gede is such a super guy.

I ran (well, waddled really) down to “see” the maitre d’ at 1 pm. Wanted to see what table he’d assigned me. Of course it was the delightful Jean Pierre (tell Ken to look out, he can really sing too). He almost fainted when I told him I had a German salami (on ice) in my carry-on. Even without that gift he had already seated me at a perfect round table….actually the very same one I had in April. What a guy. I went down to deck zero, I mean deck 2, and found my cabin and guess what? I had the same cabin steward, Maynor from Costa Rica, that I had in April. He actually called my name when he was so far down the hall that I couldn’t tell who it was. He is not only a great steward he is SUPER friendly and fun to visit with. He had already loaded my cabin full of goodies from you and Tex….you guys went OVERBOARD but I was thrilled, thank you. I always send myself flowers and the medium fruit basket so NEVER had there been a little inside cabin with that many gifts in it.

Off to late dinner and perfect table mates. A couple from Olive Branch, MS and a family of five from Albuquerque. We had so much fun. I even talked some of them in to doing The Chef’s Table. That event was done THREE times on that five-night cruise. Our waiter was Alphonso and he’s VERY friendly and very efficient. By the way, the couple from Mississippi had never been on a cruise, it was cruise #1 (and they loved it).

After dinner we caught the Welcome Show and waved at Tex. He’s a smoothie and really gets the crowd going. Of course we ran into ACD Charlie…….he so nice and so many laughs. Carolyn, Don and I hope that CCL will be looking to get him up to the “big chair” one of these days. He’s really a treasure John.

Speaking of The Chef’s Table it was THE BEST (so far). The executive chef now is Allan Gomes and he really does a fantastic job with this. Of course you already know that the galley tour during dinner service is worth the entire $75 to me. I was instantly recognized by three of the young chefs…..poor things hadn’t been able to forget me in the two months since I appeared there in April. On the Carnival Triumph they serve the dinner in the library, and to me, it is the perfect venue. The only thing that disappointed me was that NOTHING broke in the galley while we were there. Darn, I told them I like to hear a few broken plates like all the other times. The F&B Manager, Mario, said, “Just stay a few more minutes, IT WILL happen tonight.”

Wow, this is way too long BUT I wanted you to know how much fun I had. Oh, Tex & Charlie invited the three of us to have lunch with them on the final sea day. THAT was so great….a super honour (spelt correctly according to you). Rather like being invited to dine with her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip or YOU actually 🙂

As I said earlier, I love the Carnival Triumph and her crew. They haven’t seen the last of me this year, the poor sods. I intend to surprise them a couple more times. I hope they’re ready for that.

Your OLD mate,

Steve O

Johns says:
Hello Steve O,

Another brilliant review and I shall pass this immediately to the ship and let them see just what an impression they made on you. All those you mentioned are one of the reasons why Carnival stays at the top in what is a very competitive industry. I loved the fact that you referred to dining with Tex and the staff as like dining with the Queen and I am sure they enjoyed it just as much as you did. Thanks so very much for taking the time to write and by doing so you will encourage others I am sure to cruise on the Carnival Triumph and will have those you mentioned smiling from ear to ear.

Best wishes and see you soon.

John

That’s all for today.

Well I am not going to talk anymore about last cruise and concentrate on the now. So far it is going well but, this is a different cruise as well as you will see now when I show you who is sailing.

Total Guests – 4,643 – which by the way is our largest count so far

FRENCH 162

DUTCH 86

RUSSIAN 293

PORTUGUESE 62

ITALIAN 46

GERMAN 81

ISRAELI – 284

SPANISH 418

CANADIAN 718

BRITISH 1,038

USA – 1,347

OTHER – 392

So where do we start here? Well certainly there is only one place and that’s with the French count of 162 which I have never seen before which has meant the translation of Fun Times into French and has had the housekeeping manager running around trying to order more air freshener. Then we have 293 Russians and all I can say to that is “Oh joy” and lots of other nationalities, as well. The other thing that stands out is that there are 1,038 British on board. This week is traditionally the busiest get away week in the UK and it’s great to see that Carnival is finally attracting big numbers of UK guests as I think the product we have truly suits them. More on this in the week here on the blog.

Let’s look at the kid count.

Now this cruise is also a little different so let’s have a look at where we are going and who is entertaining them along the way.

A bit different with a call to Savona instead of Livorno which means we run tours to some beautiful places.

Here are the most popular:

Portofino Pleasures
• Explore the beautiful and picturesque resort of Portofino
• Enjoy the boat ride from Santa Margherita to the bay of Portofino; marvel at the green vegetation; the wild rocks and little inlets
• Visit the famous Piazzetta where you can browse through elegant boutiques and small, colorful streets (on August 16th some stores might be closed – national holiday in Italy)

Santa Margherita, Portofino & Camogli
• Visit 3 wonders of the 2 gulf in this wonderful full day excursion
• Enjoy the boat ride from Santa Margherita to the picturesque bay of Portofino
• Explore famous Piazzetta and free time
• Sail back to Santa Margherita where you will have free time to explore this small town
• Travel to colorful village of Camogli, famous for its brightly painted houses and a network of alleys and covered passageways

And look at that, three sea days at the end of the cruise which means wonderful Med cruising. So overall we look like we are in for a great cruise and my only concern is that so many of the guests won’t understand me or some of the shows.

Time to talk about two Mickys. Did you know that our Micky Arison is on Twitter now?…….Yep, I was talking to a beard and they were telling me again that I should be twittering and then said that our chairman was and would be using it to talk about the industry we all love so much.

So follow him or twit with him or whatever you call it at Twitter – @MickyArison

I have feeling that for those of us who love cruising, the insights of the chairman of the world’s most successful cruise company should be pretty fascinating.

I said I wasn’t going to talk about last cruise again but that’s not strictly true because I have to refer to the little walk Heidi and I had on Saturday while the ship was in Barcelona. With Kye having fun at Camp Carnival, we decided to take a walk along the pier rather than around the ship as I didn’t want to get shouted at or covered in spittle. So off we went along the pier and to look at the Disney ship that was docked with us bow to bow. Before I continue let me say I have nothing but respect for Disney. I know bugger all about their shipboard operations but I do know that their land parks are incomparable and provide amazing entertainment to millions of people. I say this because yesterday I lost two friends from my Facebook thingy because I made a joke about the old Micky Mouse song……you know……

M…. I …… C ….. K ……. E …… Y ……. M …….. O …. U … S….E……………and yesterday I spelt the last word incorrectly and instead of saying

M….I……C…..K…….E……Y…….M……..O….U…S….E…………….I said ……… M …. I …… C ….. K ……. E…… Y…….O……..U….S…O….B

Well, that was a mistake because I got a massive bollocking from some of the readers and two de-friended me as quickly as a Frenchman de-friends a stick of roll-on deodorant. It seems you can make fun of the French and say Judge Judy is a lap dancer and talk about my underpants but saying anything wrong about the mouse and you are the devil.

So then , before I continue let me say once again that I think Disney are an amazing company and yet I also have to comment on what I saw yesterday because as we walked down the pier I could not believe what I was seeing. The Disney ship was on turnaround (embarkation day) and one would expect it to be full of kids screaming in delight when they see Mickey is standing by the gangway to meet them. Well the kids were there all right, hundreds of them getting out of the buses and the taxis to go through the terminal but they were not alone. Until you have watched cruising adults regressing so far back into childhood they could practically be wearing diapers you cannot know the true meaning of a behavior that could only be described as …… ummm ………….dare I say “strange?” I hadn’t realised that there are adults in this world who subject themselves to the ordeal of Disney without children. Honestly, I had no idea. There were women in their sixties wearing Minnie Mouse ears. Grown men wearing Micky Mouse shirts and Goofy shirts and Donald shirts. I have seen some people get excited when their bus or car or cab draws up to a Carnival ship but bloody hell you should have seen it yesterday in Barcelona.

Couples in orgasmic spasms of ecstasy because they’ve seen the Disney ship and caught a glimpse of Donald Duck hanging off the side of the smokestack…………And, no, not a child or grandchild in sight. These people probably don’t drink or smoke or use the ship’s casino (if there was one), but they would trample a seven-year-old underfoot to beat them to a photo opportunity by the lido pool with a giant rodent.

Maybe I just don’t understand well enough the thing that is Disney. It can bring out the spectacular best in children but from what I saw on Saturday it can make adults go absolutely bonkers. I have been to Disney in Florida and no doubt as Kye gets older I will have to go again although personally I would rather have rectal surgery. But if we do go I won’t be one of those parents who shove their offspring into the path of any passing Disney character, Eye Phones capturing the moment but ignoring the fact that they’ve just shoved someone else’s crying toddler to the floor. Yep, as I said, I am sure Disney Cruise Line’s operation is as brilliant as their-land based theme parks but after what I saw yesterday…………give me a sixty year old guest in a Carnival funnel hat any day.

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.