TEN YEARS AGO

September 9, 2011 -

John Heald

In yesterday’s blog, we spoke about kids on our ships and I said how well behaved most of them are. Well, yesterday evening I went to Lido Deck for dinner at the alternative dining with one of the beards that is sailing this week and both she and I saw a child misbehave.

Now I should preface this by saying that the laws and regulations of the world will soon state that you will be sentenced to life in a Turkish prison if you accidentally tread on some nearly extinct insect, you will not be able to have rumpy pumpy without the government’s permission, cheese will have to be marked with a government health warning, you will be prevented from telling jokes about men, women, Catholics, President Obama and people selling diet pills, and smoking in your own home or car will be punishable by death.

Yep, the laws get stranger and more ludicrous each and every day but it was as I watched this kid on the Carnival Magic’s Lido Deck that the law I wonder about the most is how should you discipline your child if he or she behaves like a total brat?

Back to the story. Shahnaz, our Operations Director, and I watched a 10-year-old boy take a handful of pasta off his plate and hurl it at his Mum hitting her squarely in the head. She sat there with pasta in her hair looking like Whoopi Goldberg and as the tomato sauce dripped down her face she looked like she was about to cry. The pasta was thrown because she dared suggest to her son that he stop playing his portable Playstationendobox thing for a few minutes while he ate his dinner. Now if I had thrown my pasta at my Mum, not that she ever cooked pasta, I don’t even want to think about it, not to mention I would be banished to my room for two years. The punishment for the kid was …. well ……. nothing. His Mum wiped the pasta sauce from her chin, picked the long strands out of her hair and just carried on.

Obviously, watching this scenario, I turned my thoughts to what I would have done if Kye had done this. I think not only is it right to chastise our offspring for willful disobedience but I was chastised not only at home, but at school when I was a child and through that I learned respect. Just my honest opinion but I am, I guess, just an old fashioned chap and today telling a kid no is cruel and unusual. Having seen poor Pasta Mum, I have decided that now Kye is two years and four months old I’ll be starting a unique program in which I will give Kye pocket money but take a bit of it away for every time she misbehaves. If Kye is really naughty I will dock a whole week’s payment so she owes me. I will then take her Barney cuddly toy into custody as security on the loan. Every house should have a super nanny “naughty spot” where children are exiled for bad behavior and every time she has a tantrum and while she is there I dismember Barney with a power drill. I am going to put all my valuables in a closet along with dangerous belongings. Kye must understand that in that closet are monsters and if she opens it, she will be cooked and eaten by Cruise Critic trolls. I need to show Kye a photo of an ugly scary goblin……….Judge Judy will do.

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

T Kahn asked:

Another brilliant blog, John, you really must write a book. Can you help me with a problem, please? I just returned from my fifth Carnival sailing, this time on the Carnival Freedom. My wife and I had a great time up until the last day when we left our camera in the internet station. I realized a few minutes after I had left and rushed back but it was gone and the three people there said they had not seen it. I checked all day at the front desk but it had not been handed in. The camera is a Cannon EOS 60D and contained all our photos of the cruise plus our daughter’s graduation the week before. I know this is a long shot, but can you check with the ship and the lost/found office? Is there one at your HQ? We were on the Carnival Freedom that left on July 17 and our cabin was 7339.

Thanks, John, for anything you can do.

John says:
Hello T Kahn,

Thanks for the kind words and maybe one day I will indeed write that book. I have checked with both the ship and with our Miami office but I am so sorry to say that no Cannon EOS camera was handed in that cruise. I know that often it’s the photos more than the camera that people want returned and I wish that whoever found it had been honest enough to hand it into the guest services desk. I wish there was something I could do for you and I hope that you will let me know if there is anything you need.

Best wishes.

John


Virginia Milheim asked:

Hi John,

I am going on my seventh Carnival cruise in September. I am striving to become a Platinum member since I only have a few more cruises to go. My question is, does Carnival recognize past guests on other cruise lines, such as Costa, Norwegian, RCCL, or other lines that are no longer in service? It would be great if they did, then I would have my Platinum card already. I enjoy Carnival the best of the others I have cruised on, as well as my husband. Thank you very much for taking time from your very busy day to write your blogs, Facebook, and answer silly questions like mine. The blog stories are very interesting & you do a good job writing them.
Keep up the good work.

Virginia Milheim

John says:
Hello Virginia Milheim,

There is no such thing as a silly question here and even if there is yours does not even come close to some I have been asked. The simple answer is no, we don’t take into consideration cruises on other lines with regard to our Platinum loyalty program. Each line is individual and we can’t merge them I am afraid. I am sure it won’t be long until you reach your Platinum goal, Virginia, and I hope that happens very soon. I am here should you ever have any other questions.

Best wishes,

John

Greg Babstock asked:
Hi John,

I’ve become a rabid follower of your blog and love your honest day-to-day observations of life on the sea. Now I’m hardly a marathoner, half marathoner or anything of the sort, but I do enjoy a good run a couple times a week. What are the chances of there being a port “excursion,” perhaps managed by the fitness staff, of organized runs around some of these exotic locations? I don’t know if safety and security would be a concern. Just an idea. It’s a good way to earn that visit to the buffet later in the evening…Thanks so much, John, and looking forward to the Dream in a mere 121 days….Cheers!!!!

Greg Babstock

John says:
Hello Greg Babstock,

“A rabid follower.” So now I have this image of you sitting at your computer, foaming at the mouth and howling occasionally. Seriously, that’s an excellent idea and I wonder if it’s something we could actually do? I know the fitness instructors and I run three or five miles every port day so why not invite guests? I will ask Greg and let you know what they say and hopefully the next time you cruise we will have this as an option. There is though a good chance that if you cruise on the ship that I am CD on, that I may not be able to join you on the run due to an ankle injury, my carpool tunnel syndrome and my bleeding hemorrhoids. I will see what the chaps have to say and if there is anything you need before you sail again, please let me know. Thanks again for enjoying the blog.

Best wishes.

John

Martha asked:
John,

I was in a group of seven couples that cruised with you on the Carnival Splendor in July 2008; the fabulous itinerary included St. Petersburg and Estonia – it was just wonderful. Last year we enjoyed a cruise on the Carnival Valor, and in October my husband and I will be taking our four children on the Carnival Dream cruise of October 1. I now have a request to be seated at a table for six? It would be nice to spend this quality time with our family. Please do not forget to do this. I know how busy you are but this is a priority and it would break my heart if this did not get done as we rarely get together as a family and now that we are we are doing so on Carnival.

John says:
Hello Martha,

I remember that itinerary well and those two ports along with Amsterdam, Warnemunde, Helsinki and Copenhagen, made for a brilliant cruise. I am glad you continue to sail and I have asked the Carnival Dream maitre d’ to do his best to get you a table for six. I hope you will have a brilliant family cruise vacation.

Best wishes to all.

John

Jon Ralph asked:
Hi John,

Love the blog. I do not have any issues with Carnival as we have always had a splendid time when we cruise with you guys. You are our cruise line of choice. My comment/suggestion revolves around Carnival Glory’s itinerary. It’s a real shame that Carnival does not travel beyond Saint John, New Brunswick or Halifax, Nova Scotia on its Eastern Canadian route. I live in St. John’s Newfoundland and we currently have a rapidly developing cruise port. We are frequently visited by Princess, Norwegian, Cunard, etc. St. John’s is a beautiful city and the list of excursions goes on for miles. Myself and my wife cruised with Josh Waitzman last year and during a recent conversation he agreed that Newfoundland should be included and stated we needed to let the head office know. I could not find an email address on the Carnival website so I thought you may be able to pass this along. Thanks for your assistance this past spring in helping us get a window seat in the dining room on the Dream.

Already looking forward to a future cruise.

Jon

John says:
Hello Jon Ralph,

In 2002, I was cruise director of the Carnival Legend and on our way back from Europe to New York, we stopped for an overnight stay in St. John. The guests had a brilliant time and I was given the key to the city as was the captain by the mayor who as I remember had a beard and wore shorts to the ceremony. It would be wonderful to go back again and I will certainly pass this onto the Miami office and I truly hope that one day we will return to your homeland. Thanks for all the kind words and I hope to see you soon.

Best wishes.

John

Peggy Martin asked:
Hi John,

A fairly quick question for you, but I have no idea who to ask. Six of us are sailing Dec. 18 for a Christmas cruise on the Legend. We will be on a totally different itinerary than the Carnival Legend normally has (Key West, Grand Turk, Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman). We have found so many great Carnival excursions to take that are listed on the main Carnival site. But none of them show up on the booking site where we can purchase the excursion. Is there anyone at Carnival that can help us? I’ve written to the excursion department and they say…”Wait til you’re on the ship.” Seems kind of late, could be filled up and also you don’t have anything to “put under the tree.”

Thanks, John, have a great cruise and relax, you deserve that part of a cruise also.

Peg

John says:
Hello Peggy Martin,

I didn’t know Carnival Legend was doing this brilliant run at Christmas time, it sounds fabulous. I spoke to Martin, our shore excursion beard, in Miami who told me that these excursions will be fully available to purchase online by October 12. Please have a look at them and if you have any questions, please let me know. I wish you all a wonderful cruise.

Best wishes.

John

RavenJohn1 asked:

Can you tell me who the comedians will be for our Carnival Imagination cruise on September 23? My wife has a birthday on the cruise cabin M109. She is 50. Can you send something?

John says:
Hello RavenJohn1,

The comedians who will be starring in the Punchliner are Adam Hunter and Anthony Acosta. I don’t know Adam but Anthony is a very funny young man and his adult show is exactly that, adult, so please bear that in mind. Enjoy the shows and enjoy the cruise.

Best wishes to you both.

John

Melissa Dekle asked:
Hi John!

My husband and I just returned from a five-day Western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Inspiration. We had a wonderful time and the crew was wonderful. A special shout out to our waiter, Francis, who was awesome and to the senior hostess (I think that was her title) Yanna. My husband has food allergies and Yanna came to our table each evening at dinner bringing the next evening’s menu. She helped my husband select what he wanted to eat and made suggestions as well. Everything was taken care of and his meals (and mine) were wonderful. The maitre d’ in the Mardi Gras dining room was extremely nice and came by our table to see how things were going. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and look forward to another cruise sometime. Our only suggestion: On the Serenity deck it would be great to add a couple of ceiling fans, if possible, just to circulate some air around the upper chairs. Our question: Another passenger made the suggestion that he would love to see an adults only cruise. I don’t know if that would happen but we wondered if Carnival had ever considered making one section of one deck “adults only.” We love children but when you go away as a couple, it would be nice to have a section of cabins where there were no children. Just a thought. Anyway, love your blog and hats off to the crew of the Carnival Inspiration for a job well done.

John says:
Hello Melissa Deckle,

Thank you so much for taking the time to send in this review and it’s one I will pass straight to the ship so that Yanna and Francis can see your words of praise. The ceiling fans seem like an interesting idea so I’ll pass that along to the higher ups and see what they say. I don’t think you will see Carnival or any of the other major cruise lines advertising an adults only cruise. You see, while there are certain times of the year where the number of children on board is low, every cruise line realises that they need to appeal to families and it would be a very brave move indeed for any of us to say we are not. I can see the appeal though and the subject of children on board is something we have discussed here on the blog these past few days. Anyway, most importantly, I am glad to see you had fun and I thank you so much for the great review.

Best wishes to you both.

John

That’s all for today and I will be back with more soon. Thanks again and if I haven’t gotten to yours yet, I will ASAP plus you can always contact me on www.facebok.com/johnheald.

Lots of great feedback on the new menus but it appears that I forgot to post the four- and five-day rotations. Here is a link thingy to them as provided by Eric and Everett the beards and I have used the Carnival Ecstasy as an example.

As you know, I will be leaving here in a week’s time and I have been spending time with the soon-to-be cruise director of the Carnival Magic James Charlton. James has been an ACD for some time and this is his chance to shine. James is from West Yorkshire which is a beautiful part of the north of England and like many from “up there,” James has a great personality as I have seen these past few months.

There is no doubt that he is a little nervous about taking over as CD on the flag ship in Europe. I say this as he seems to have worn nothing but brown pants, but he has nothing to be nervous about. I have spent time with him, helping him and praising him and giving him some advice which he will hopefully take under consideration. I remember my first few months and if I had been judged on what I achieved those first few weeks, I would have been writing a blog about flipping buggers………..because I was total rubbish.

I gave James the same advice I had been given….just be yourself. Don’t try and copy another CD’s style……..just be yourself. I also suggested he doesn’t change too much as we have a good and effective entertainment program here. But he will because it’s the law. Each CD will join a ship and always say to the current CD, “I’m not going to change a thing” and that, of course, is total bollocks as every CD is different and will always think that they can do better by changing things around. But I have nothing but the utmost confidence in James and I know he will do a brilliant job.

Here he is:

Well, over the weekend, millions of people around the world will be pausing to remember the 10 year anniversary of September 11. Gosh, has it been 10 years already? You know, each and every day on a cruise ship can be pretty much the same. Yes, you sail to different ports and yes, you meet different guests but the structure of each day is very similar. This means that many of my memories over the last 24 years of working on the ships of Carnival have become a bit disjointed and while I will remember a situation or a guest, I won’t always remember what ship that situation happened on or what ship I met that specific person on. There are a few memories though that will forever be clear and present. The Carnival Splendor fire. The day I proposed to Heidi on the Carnival Imagination. The Latvian casino dealer on the……..oh, bugger …….never mind. And, of course, the Carnival Triumph on September 11, 2001.

Yep, I will never forget that day as I am sure none of you will either. We were aboard the Carnival Triumph, I was in the cabin, in the shower, when Heidi walked in the bathroom and said, “Think you had better get out of the shower, something terrible has happened.” My immediate thoughts were “family” and as I jumped out of the shower I could see that my usually calm wife was ashen white. I looked at the television as like millions of others, I watched the world change. I sat, aghast, watching the image of smoke pouring out of the top of one of the familiar Manhattan buildings. I sat glued to the images coming via satellite across the Pacific. On CNN – or was it a feed from NBC? I forget – the commentators were speculating wildly about the cause. Several minutes passed. Then in a blur, a small dark object flashed in from the right of the screen. The second tower belched flame and debris from its middle. Oh, no… Oh, no … Please no. This can’t be real. This mustn’t be real. It is too hideous to imagine.

My wife joined me watching on the main television changing between the four live transmissions from the U.S. that the ship’s satellite was receiving. They showed the second impact again — in slow motion. How many people were there in the buildings? Who was doing this? Then CNN crossed live to a new picture. I don’t know how much time had passed. It was the Pentagon, they said. It was billowing with gray smoke. War.

I sat holding Heidi’s hand hoping that any minute that someone would say that this was a trailer for some Hollywood action picture…….but they never did. I seemed to be in a trance, then Heidi looked at me and I will never forget what she said…..”John, you need to tell the passengers.”

It was just after breakfast time and the Carnival Triumph was sailing the Western Caribbean spending the day at sea heading to Grand Cayman. I was due on stage in an hour to tell the guests about the fantastic beaches of Cayman and the fabulous Dunns River falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I called the captain, one of my best friends, Angelo Los, and told him what was happening and that I was heading to his cabin. I remember walking out of the cabin to the elevator passing crew members who also had no idea what was happening, each greeting me with a cheery, “Good morning,” which I tried my best to reply to.

I reached Captain Los’ cabin and we both, for some reason, hugged as we spoke no words. Just hugged……It was one of those moments where it seemed the natural thing to do. I headed for the bridge to make the announcement. I imagined everyone having breakfast on Lido, sunning themselves in the already searing Caribbean heat, laughing and joking with their families or having a late morning in the cabin after a night of fun in Cozumel. I was about to change the memories of their vacation forever.

I pressed the emergency button which sends the announcement into every guest and crew cabin and every public area…….The bing bong of the PA sounded …… and I told 3,000 guests and 1,000 crew. A lot of what happened after that is a blur, but here are some random memories. I had the news playing all day on the big screen in the main lounge as guests watched, cried and prayed together. I remember sitting with the Cabrini family from New York who were on the cruise to celebrate an anniversary. Their son was a New York firefighter, they were inconsolable as they tried to contact him…….I never did find out but will always remember sitting with the family in their cabin, 6242, a cabin that if I ever pass now on any ship, the memories return.

I remember how hard it was for the families on board like the Cabrini’s who because of the flying restrictions, could not get off the ship. I remember calling my Mum and Dad who were worried about me. I remember holding a Q&A session in the main lounge and one guest wanting to “arm himself” and buy a gun in Jamaica because we “are at war.” I remember arriving in Cayman the next day and most guests not getting off the ship. They just watched the TV’s and waited.

It was then that I had the most difficult choice I have ever had to make as a cruise director. Should I continue with the program of shows, fun and activities or, like Letterman and Leno, cancel the shows? I agonized over this for hours and finally I made a decision. I called all the guests into the main showroom after sailing from Cayman and before dinner……it was 5 pm. Every seat was taken, guests were standing and sitting on the floor and the stage. I was very nervous as I said that it was my belief that if we canceled all the “Fun Ship” entertainment that indeed whoever had committed these horrendous acts would be the winners and in a miniscule way they would have beaten us. I asked the audience if they agreed…….I had no idea what their reaction would be……the answer?

STANDING OVATION.

And so the cruise continued and even though the tears continued every show, every joke, every piece of music was greeted with applause and laughter like I have not heard since. I wish I had the names of every guest who was with me that cruise so I could say thank you for helping me get through one of the biggest challenges I have ever had as a cruise director.

At the end of that cruise, we held a simple service in the main theatre. It was thrown together quickly and with the help of some guests who offered to say words of prayer and a little speech from me and the captain, the theatre was full as full can be. I had asked the production singer Heather, to sing a song and before the National Anthem I asked her to sing this.

When you walk through the storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark
Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Tears flowed in the audience and tears flowed on stage as well.

As you know, we are delaying the departure of the Carnival Miracle so that guests on the ship can view the ceremonies in New York Sunday. I am sure it will be a special moment full of emotion on the ship and of course in New York as well. As you know, I was in New York over the New Years Eve period and it is the most amazing, incredible, incomparable city I have ever been to. However, talking to my friends that live there and were there during 9/11, I had a clear sense of its invulnerability that the “We can stand up to whatever you bastards throw at us” is not as strong as the last time I was there. I can only put this into what I think has happened in my home city of London where the feeling there is similar. Not just because the towers were destroyed or because of the tube (subway) bombings on 07.07.07, but thanks to the events which followed in the wake of the attacks including financial panic and the credit crunch thingy, both cities seem to be always looking over their shoulder. But as a friend and born New Yorker told me last week as we chatted here on the Carnival Magic, “New York is a fragile city which has rebuilt itself as it always has and always will.”

And so here we are, 10 years later, the Carnival Magic will be there in New York and all the other ships will remember this day of unspeakable tragedy on board. The Stars and Stripes will fly in the lobbies and atriums. The captain or the cruise director will make a short speech over the PA system. And guests and crew will be invited to pause for thought and if they wish…..pray. And then a minute later, the fun will continue because it must. The fun must always continue because if it stops, well, those bastards will have won.

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.

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