Same Cruise — Two Vastly Different Opinions

August 31, 2011 -

John Heald

I have, these past few weeks started a new ritual involving my morning coffee. You see, for the first few months here on the Carnival Magic, my lovely assistant Mel (who I’ll speak more about later) would at 9 am sharp bring my skim milk cappuccino, extra hot with two Splendas to my cabin. I would drink it, go through the mail and the business of the day and then sit down to continue my blog or, if I had been a lazy sod and slept in until 8 am, actually start my blog. This would mean that on a port day, of which on the Carnival Magic there are many, I wouldn’t do anything but work and sit staring at Mr. Dell trying to think of something worthwhile to write to you about. And so a few weeks ago, I forced myself to go to the coffee shop myself so I could walk a little and say good morning to a few guests along the way.

And so it was yesterday and while going to get my frothy coffee, I met a guest who I knew instantly was not happy. Funny isn’t it that after all these years doing this I can tell straight away who isn’t going to want to give me a big hug and say, “This is the best thing I have ever done.”  So, what can I tell you about this chap? Well, he’s British and lives in a place called Guernsey, which is a small island off the southwest coast of the UK and a beautiful place it is. This was his 17th cruise and his first with Carnival. And while he thought the crew was friendly, he hated the decor of the ship and was disappointed that we didn’t provide more European historic lectures. He also did not like the fact the ship was so big and he didn’t care for the people he and his wife were seated at with at dinner.

I asked him for his cruise history and basically he has cruises with Cunard many times and with P&O but only on their small ships and so I had to ask “Why are you here, then?” His answer was simple, “The price.” He had seen the cruise advertised in one of the British newspapers and couldn’t believe how much this nine-day cruise was and so very last minute, he booked it.

But even taking the brilliant value for money into the equation and having heard his list of previous cruises it was obvious that quite simply Carnival wasn’t for him. Sometimes certain people feel comfortable doing, eating, sailing on and wearing different things. I mean, would Her Majesty The Queen ever be found playing Zombie Death Race on her Playstationxbox? Would a pregnant Beeyonce turn up for the MTV awards wearing a full length tweed skirt and a cardigan knitted by her Great Aunt Jennifer? Can you imagine Calvyn as a cruise director on Cunard walking around the open decks as he does on the Carnival Magic……wearing his mankini?

People tend to know what suits them……..and what doesn’t. It is rare to find someone who has just finished reading The Complete Works of Shakespeare and has now picked up a copy of Cruise Confidential. So value for money is what brought this chap to Carnival but even that wasn’t enough to put a smile on his face.

And while I am talking about dissatisfied guests, I might as well tell you about this letter I received for my morning show last cruise. I haven’t had time to write about it yet what with hurricanes and stuff but it fits nicely into the start of the blog today. You may remember that last cruise we had some issues with people thinking we were in Venice for two days when it was only one day and so we changed it to an early arrival which made everyone very happy indeed. But that aside there was very little that didn’t go perfectly from the weather to the operation onboard. And so I was surprised when I go this letter.

The cruise from hell? The worst vacation of their lives? Have this family never had massive arguments because nobody remembered to pack the Monopoly? Have their children not get air sick and vomited all over a flight attendant? Did they all remember their passports? Was their luggage never lost? Did none of them ever eat some bad shellfish that gave them two days of diarrhea? Are none of the children so embarrassed by Dad wearing the briefest of Speedos on the beach? Is the air-conditioning working perfectly in every hotel bedroom they have stayed in? Did nobody get lazy about the sun cream because it was a bit cloudy and then blister like purple bubble wrap? Has dad never drunk a few too many pina coladas and spent rather too long talking to the Russian with the huge breasts. Surely a camera has been lost? Or a cell phone dropped in a pool.….or maybe because of the aforementioned shellfish you never made it out of the pool? No problems because Mum and Dad want some rumpy pumpy in the tiny hotel room just for once you little bastards, it isn’t all that much to ask, can’t you just go and play on your own for a bit like other children? And despite the fact that Carnival Magic has a huge water park with monster slides, a ropes course, outdoor video games, a basketball court, movies on a giant screen, swimming pools, an all day and late into the night kids activity centre called Camp Carnival ………oh and free sodding ice cream……….the kids are bored.

I guess my point is this……..In the same way as having your nipple pierced isn’t for everyone, occasionally you are going to meet someone who doesn’t have a great time no matter what you do and in the case of the two people I have written about today it’s safe to say that Carnival and moreover cruising just wasn’t for them, just as vacationing in Paris isn’t right for me or indeed for anyone with a good sense of smell.

Time for today’s Q and A…………… we go.

Tom Barrick Asked:
There is a question being asked on the CC boards that I thought you should be aware of and help us with your thoughts. The question is how much should we “tip” the maître d? Many are saying that they earn a big salary and if that’s true how much do they earn john as this would help many of us decide if we tip or we don’t. A few Cruise Critic members feel that the maitre d should be tipped regardless of the above as they make things happen in the restaurants.

John Says:
Hello Tom Barrick

The maitre d’s are indeed, like many of Carnival’s shipboard employees, paid a salary by the company, and tips for the maitre d’ are totally at the discretion of you, the guest. Now I am not obviously going to say how much they earn and I am sure you understand why I can’t. Tipping the maitre d is standard practice within the industry and I think the only guideline I can offer is that if you do not think that he or she made a difference to your dining room experience, then you should not tip. If, however, you had maitre d’s like Ken, Manuel, Miguel, Desi or one of our other excellent dining room managers, then I am sure that you will want to give them something. How much? Well, whenever I am asked this, I always say that $5 per couple is an average amount but at the end of the day, it’s up to you. I am sorry that it has taken me almost a month to reply to this but hopefully the subject is still “live” on Cruise Critic and you can post my answer there.

Best wishes

Tracie Gower Asked:

My family will be sailing with me on a big reunion cruise on the Carnival Splendor on September 18. We have multiple celebrations. It will be my 50th birthday, my husband’s birthday and our anniversary. Then we have my sister’s birthday and my other sister and brother-in-law will also be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. The other celebration is of my parents’ 48th wedding anniversary and my father-in-law has his 70th birthday just before the cruise starts. Please can you leave something in our cabins as a thank you for sailing with Carnival and to help us with our mass celebrations. The cabin numbers are:

6227  Tracie and Grant Gower

2311  Tina and Bill Rojenski

2390  Tania and Steven Allatt

6335  Mary and Grant Gower SR

6373  Justine and Frank Daniels

Please note that my parents (6373) do not drink so do not send alcoholic gift.  We are all looking forward to a great time.

John Says:
Hello Tracie Gower

It’s great to see that you are all spending these wonderful celebrations together with us on the Carnival Splendor and we are honoured that you are. I will send something nice to your cabin Tracie which I hope you will be able to share with the family. I wish you all a brilliant time.

Best wishes.

Greg Dolezal Asked:
Hi John,

This is more of a personal compliment than a question.  I just wanted to thank you for your blog and sharing the experience on the Carnival Splendor. A friend of mine pointed me to your blog last year and when it came time for me to book a vacation to celebrate my parents 35th anniversary on this summer, I chose a Carnival cruise. I am taking 11 people on this trip and am most excited. I was so impressed with how Carnival handled themselves during this challenge, and more specifically, your blog and sense of humor and professionalism through the ordeal.

I am looking forward to my first cruise in 20 years, and have no doubt it will be a great trip since we are going with Carnival!

John Says:
Hello Greg Dolezal

Thank you so very much for those very kind words. I realise that the Carnival Splendor incident put the ship and the company very much in the public eye and thanks to the calmness and understanding of the guests and the brilliant dedication and tireless hard work of the crew; it was a story with a happy(ish) ending. I am very humbled by your words and I hope you will let me know if there is anything I can do for you before you cruise with us. I wish you the very best of times and thanks once again for writing to me.

Best wishes.

Nicole Y Asked:
Hey there John,

I have been reading a lot on your blog thingy and Facebook pages lately. You really make me want to sail with you, but until then, I have to keep to my close to home sailings. I am sailing October 15 on Carnival Triumph, I am in room 1039. I contacted you earlier about The Chef’s Table but I have heard that you love to take care of other passengers so I have a small request for you. I see there are several suites open on our cruise still. As I am a returning passenger, I was wondering if you would be able to upgrade me. I have never had the luxury of a suite but would LOVE to experience it! Whatever you can do would be appreciated.


John Says:
Hello Nicole Y

You will have a great time on the Carnival Triumph and I checked with the ship and your Chef’s Table reservation is confirmed and they had advised me that the confirmation email was indeed sent. Sometimes, though, it ends up in that wonderful spam box. Anyway you are all set and I wish you a great Chef’s Table experience and hope that one day we get to sail together. The bad news is that I have no say over who gets an upgrade so I am sorry that I wasn’t able to help you with that. Have a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes.

Andrew Du Pree Asked:
Can you explain to me why I had to wait an average of 10 to 20 minutes on five nights out of our seven on the Carnival Dream for anytime dining? This is not acceptable. I am a gold member of NCL’s Latitudes Club and I see no reason why if they can get their freestyle dining right with no wait time, then so can you. We have another cruise booked on Carnival Miracle from our home city of New York and I trust there will be no similar wait this time.

John Says:
Hello Andrew Du Pree

I am very sorry that on five occasions the dining team on Carnival Dream was not able to seat you immediately. Your Time Dining is becoming more and more popular and there are certain times during the 5:45pm – 9:30pm schedule that it does get a bit busy and guests do have to wait sometimes. Hopefully during the time you had to wait you were invited to relax in one of the ship’s lounges and given a beeper thingy so you knew when your table was ready. I do hope that you are enjoying the convenience of having a ship homeport in New York and that you have a wonderful cruise. My apologies again for the delay.

Best wishes.

Darren Asked:
Hey John,

My brother is 14 and has special needs he has autistic so can he go to Circle C place when we get on the fantasy ship. I like your blog.

John Says:
Hello Darren

Thanks for writing to me mate and I am so glad that you did. Yes, of course, your brother can use the Circle “C” club. Our staff is used to helping kids like your brother and I know he will have a fun time. Please can you show your parents this so they know, too? Thanks again Darren for the kind words and for being a loving brother. I hope you all have the most fun ever.

Best wishes.

Michole Schneider Asked:
Hi John,

I have been following your blog for the last seven months when my first cruise was booked for me and my best friend/roommate Dawn and our daughters Brittoni and Mystie. This is a celebration cruise for us, as just over a year ago my friend nearly died. What kept her motivated to recover (and it has been a long road) was the fact that her mom (also on the cruise with us) promised her that we would go on an all girls cruise as soon as she was recovered and able to travel. We added our daughters (18 and 20) as part of the celebration to celebrate their graduations and birthdays. I would love it (and I am sure they would too) if you could please send them a little something if you have the time. We sail on Carnival Inspiration September 19 and we are in room V10 the girls are in V12. Thank you for your time, and thanks for all you do.

John Says:
Hello Michole Schneider

I am glad your friend made a full recovery and that you are all able to cruise together. I will send you something and wish you all the most wonderful time. Thanks for the vey kind words.

Best wishes to all.

Hazel K Asked:
Hi John,

Thank you so much for the great news that Carnival is coming to Boston. We booked straight away and have four cabins on her first cruise. I wish you could be there John. We love your blog and sailed with you on the cruise where the rude drunk girl came on stage and made rude signs behind your back and tried to take her clothes off.  Love the blog and love love love Carnival for coming to Boston.

John Says:
Hello Hazel K

The last time I was on a ship in Boston there was something called a “big dig” going on. Is that finished yet? I had a wonderful time there on Carnival Triumph and we are so glad that we are able to have Carnival Glory there as well. I remember the cruise you are talking about well and that young lady was so drunk that she remembered nothing and was so embarrassed when she saw herself on TV. I think I may have written about her in the blog as well. I wish you a wonderful cruise and hope we sail together out of Boston. Have a wonderful cruise.

Best wishes.

Mary Ann Benedict Asked:
Hi John:

This was our sixth cruise and you are the best. After debarking from Carnival Magic, my family asked if I bought the DVD of the cruise. I, of course, did not and now would like to.  Is that still possible? More importantly my family and I would like to purchase a copy of all the shows you hosted. The first day, welcome show, second meeting on Thursday about shore excursions and the change in ports, but most of all your morning shows with Calvyn.  We had so much fun watching and really want to share with our relatives that have never been on a cruise so they can see how much fun it is. (We won’t tell them that not every cruise is that much fun as you can’t be on every ship.) Please, please let me know if these requests are possible, I very much regret not asking while on board.  Thank you and look forward to cruising with you again. P.S. take good care of Calvyn he deserves it.

John Says:
Hello Mary Ann Benedict

What a wonderful post and both Calvyn and I are honoured (spelt correctly) to read this. He is truly one of a kind and I love hosting the shows with him. The sad news is that we don’t have the master copies of the shows anymore. I am so sorry. I do hope though that you will come back with us again soon and bring your friends and we will do our best to make you laugh and give you the best cruise ever. Thanks again, you just made Calvyn’s day.

Best wishes.

Mr. Fletcher Asked:
Can you tell me if Ken the Singing Maitre d will be on Carnival Magic’s TA as I want his dining room. If he is I am in cabin 1384 last name Fletcher. I am a single passenger and was on the TA with him on Carnival Splendor and Carnival Liberty. I like to sit with single ladies as I am an entertainer by profession.

John Says:
Hello Mr. Fletcher

Ken will indeed be the maitre d on the Carnival Magic’s trans-Atlantic crossing and I have sent this to him to make sure you are seated in his dining room for 16 days. I am sure he will do his best to find you some lucky ladies to…..ummmm……..entertain. Best wishes and have a brilliant voyage.



That’s all for today.

Let’s take a break as we have some more comments to digest in a moment and while I go to the bathroom and leave Ketut a little something, why don’t you enjoy some brilliant photos of Florence from Mr. Radu who I am happy to say will be working on a calendar for 2012.


As you know Hurricane Bastard affected many of our ships’ itineraries last week and thousands of cruise ship guests on Carnival and other cruise lines had their vacations disrupted. As I reported in the blog on Monday, our shoreside staff and the shipboard teams all worked diligently to ensure the guests had the best possible time, missed ports were replaced when possible with alternative destinations and most importantly the ships and those on board were kept safe. Strange then how two people from the same voyage can have such different opinions which are brilliantly highlighted by these two comments.

Monika Kieca Says:
John Heald and the Beards!

I just got back from the best vacation that I’ve ever been on!! I was on the Carnival Victory from Aug. 21-28. When we got to our room on Aug. 21, there was an announcement made that we cannot leave the ship, due to the weather conditions. We were a little upset because we had planned on going to CVS to get some bottled water and then doing some major shopping in Old San Juan. Soon there was another announcement stating that we will be leaving San Juan hours earlier than scheduled because a hurricane was on its way to the area. We then went to the Caribbean Lounge where Matt, the CD, told us that we will be having two days at sea and not going to St. Thomas, as planned.  “Oh, great!” we thought. What a terrible way to start our vacation! We were very, very wrong!!!!!!I cannot tell you how many times the captain and the cruise director apologized for this change in schedule. They made sure that everyone on board was happy despite this issue. They gave us updates on the situation, constantly. How can anyone possibly be mad about this? It was out of their hands and they went above and beyond to apologize and thank everyone for their understanding.  Aside from the hurricane, there was also a medical emergency onboard. Again, we thought, what else can go wrong on our vacation?? And again, we were wrong. I would like to tell you why.We came on board Carnival Victory excited about the ports of call, the food, and the sun. As the days went on, those things became less and less important. What really mattered to us were the people that we met – the crew. I would like to give the people that went above and beyond their jobs some credit, as it is well deserved!!Katerina, from Macedonia – She was working at the casino on the first night of the cruise. She was very friendly and helpful. And brought us delicious drinks, of course! When we saw her working in the Caribbean Lounge the next night, we made sure to sit by her. She remembered us and seemed just as happy to see us as we did to see her! She was absolutely amazing through the entire cruise – very nice, funny, friendly. She is someone that I would be friends with at home.Stanislav, from Bulgaria- He was working at the pool on the days at sea. He always made sure that we had our drinks and were happy and having a good time. He was very nice and just seemed like a warm, genuine person. We constantly had questions for him (about the drinks, the ship, what has going on that day, etc. etc.) and he answered them all with a smile on his face! (If he was annoyed by us, we never knew!)  When we didn’t see him for the next few days, we were sad! We really missed him! We finally saw him working at the past guest party, and we literally screamed because we were so happy to see him!

Raymond, from the Philippines (I think?)- He was working on the Lido deck when we first met him. Not only is he absolutely adorable, but he is the funniest person that we met!! He is very animated and entertaining! And very sweet and kind! We would often be walking around the boat and hear our names, and turn around to see Raymond smiling and waving at us.

Luisito and Astawa, from Philippines (I think?) – They were our waiters in the main dining room.  They were both always happy and helpful. They always asked how our day has been. If they saw us outside of the dining, they would always check in on us to make sure we were happy and having a good time. I actually cried when saying bye to them!! PS- Astawa is a great dancer!

The people that I have just listed were the super stars of our cruise, but there were a few others that were pretty amazing, too!

Marion, from Romania – He was the maitre d in our dining room. I have been on two cruises before this one, and on those cruises, I had no idea who my maitre d was. This time, I knew him and I liked him!! He was very nice – greeted us when we got in, went around to every table every night to see how things were, and said goodbye when we left. He also participated in the entertainment that the waiters did, which I thought was really cool. Every maitre d should be like Marion!

Jan, from Poland- He was the hotel director and we had to meet him because we are Polish too! What a great guy! Also very nice and friendly (I’m seeing a pattern here!) I’m sure that he is one of the busiest (if not, THE busiest) person on Carnival Victory, but he still took the time to talk to us. We really appreciated this!

Donkey, Turkey, and Sparkles – They were the entertainment crew and boy did they entertain! Again, they were nice and friendly and absolutely hilarious!! There were many times that we would be laughing so hard, we would be crying! They really made the cruise memorable. And what I really liked about them is that they were approachable. We would see them randomly through the cruise and would almost always stop them and chat or take a picture and they didn’t seem to mind.

Matt from England – He was the cruise director and from my understanding he was filling in for Karl. Matt was the best cruise director that I have had. The others were good, but he was just better!! He is very cute and very funny. Just like the others in the entertainment crew, we stopped Matt on several occasions to chat and take pictures, and he seemed happy to do so. Also, what I liked about Matt was that he (like Marion) joined in on whatever the entertainment crew was doing. He danced and played games too. I think this is why everyone on-board loved him – from young kids to grandmas!

Thank you for reading this, and sorry it was so long. I just wanted to let you know that this cruise was what it was (amazing) because of the people working on it. If I had seven sea days, it honestly wouldn’t have mattered to me, because I was so happy meeting all of the people that I told you about. And if I could take time off of work, I would book this same cruise right now! And I would go on it soon, so that the same crew is still on it!!  I wish everyone the best. And I really hope to see them again in the future!


And then there is this one…………from the same ship and the same cruise.

Rob Buchan Says:
I have just arrived home from my cruise with my wife on Carnival Victory. This was supposed to be a special cruise to celebrate my retirement after 30 years as an educator but what it in fact became was a badly managed cruise that did not deliver what was promised in our cruise contract. I know Carnival cannot control the weather but the way things were handled by the people on the boat was inexcusable. We suddenly found that we were leaving the port of San Juan at 6 pm. No announcement was made until we were all told to go to a lecture by a young man who seemed very nervous and unprepared telling us that the ship had to leave early as the captain was worried about the hurricane coming. The way he said this made everyone think that the hurricane was heading toward us and all the passengers were anxious and some downright scared. We were also told that the port of St. Thomas was canceled and we would have two days at sea. This is not what I paid for. Knowing that the hurricane was in the area, Carnival should have canceled the cruise and given everyone a refund plus maybe a discount off a further cruise. I have been reading that this what other cruise lines did but Carnival did not. They put their passengers in danger and did not provide the ports they promised. On board the crew was miserable and obtuse and information about what was happening was impossible to find. I am so disgusted with what happened and I can tell you that Carnival can expect to hear many more such complaints as I heard similar dissatisfaction from hundreds of passengers who like me were trapped onboard. I expect to hear favorably from you in regard to this seven day farce.

So there you go. Mr. Buchan, in case you are reading this, I have passed your comments to our guest services team in Miami. I want to apologise that we had to cancel St. Thomas and I am sorry to read that you did not have fun. Obviously as you correctly said, Carnival cannot control the weather and unfortunately we were forced to cancel a port of call and spend an extra day at sea.  Thank you for your 30 years as a teacher (which I hope is what educator means) and someone will be in touch very soon. I do hope that when you look back on what happened you will remember that there were some good times and that Carnival and the ship’s captain changed the itinerary in the interest of keeping you and the other guests safe. Best wishes and enjoy your retirement.

And a huge thank you to you Monica for this brilliant review that shows how you think the situation was handled and that your disappointment in missing St. Thomas quickly turned into the realisation that the ship was putting safety first and that you sat back and let the brilliant crew serve and entertain you. I have sent your words of praise to the captain and hotel director and they will make sure those mentioned get to see just what a difference they mad to your cruise. Thanks so much for taking the time to write and your understanding. Your spirited response to this situation is to be applauded.

Opinions, everyone has them and they continue to be fascinating to read. We started out with two guests here on the Carnival Magic who simply are not suited to our product and finished with two opinions about the same cruise both as different as comparing Megan Fox’s bottom clad in a Chanel G-string and my bottom clad in a pair of XXXXL underpants from Wal-Mart. Some people may wonder still why I post negative comments about the company I work for and indeed negative posts about me and my beach ball stomach. I always thought that the danger would be that I would make this blog a bit self-pandering and right from the start I promised myself that if I was going to continue that I would always post the good the bad and in my case the ugly.

And finally today it’s time for a horror show. Faithful bloggers, do you remember the bathtub scene in the movie Fatal Attraction where you think Glenn Close is dead but then she pops up again even more crazed than before? Well, when I woke up this morning and read my emails I felt like Michael Douglas trapped in that bathroom. Here is the email that our shoreside staff received this week at CCL HQ.

From: —————(CCL)
Sent: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 11:39 PM

Subject: Mrs__________

Hello John

Mrs.____ contacted us with a bizarre claim stating that you gave the guest the wrong weather information and the heavy rain damaged and ruined her clothes. She also has attached medical documentation that alleges she caught “walking pneumonia” because of the wrong information you provided. Do you remember this guest and if so please provide me with any documentation you may have regarding her time on board. I have copied the guest services manager as well.

Thanks and Kind regards


Yep, this is the lady who thrust her wet clothes into my chest and demanded I laundered them. It’s also the same lady who may have and I have no idea how, have accidently received her laundry back with a pair of my underpants in the bag. I had thought Rain Woman was no more and yet, lo, here she was risen again. Sorry but there really is nothing else to say here but to finish the blog with a simple……..Oh FFS!



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.