One Last Bit of Magic

September 14, 2011 -

John Heald

It’s nearly time for me to go home and I shall talk about the ports and the ship herself in a moment. I will definitely miss the team here as they have been an absolute joy to work alongside. But as always they are younger than me and while we are friends and I would help them whenever asked, they will never become, well, you know…….best friends…..friends for life or BFF as spotty kids call it these days. Back when I was young, in the eighties, I spent every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the same group of eight mates. We would go to the same pub together and drink, laugh, drink some more, laugh a lot more and at one point we even formed a band. We all knew that whatever life presented that we would all be friends forever.

Had one of my friends been accused of spilling a beer over a man who looks like one of the ex- KGB, no-neck Russians we have on board this cruise who has muscles the size of Pamela Anderson’s knockers, than I would have stepped in, said it was me that did it and taken the beating……..however that would have made me feel extremely stupid today because I can’t even remember some of their names. How the heck did this happen, how did eight people who were as close as you could imagine suddenly….well……not be anymore?

I am sure the last time I said “See you soon” to them I truly believed I would. We had not had an argument, some of them hadn’t suddenly bought some sandals, grown beards and went to find a rare dung beetle in the Amazon, we literally just went home and never saw each other ever again. I had a quick look on Facebook and found a couple of them but still, why did we stop being friends? Bloody hell, I was best man in Tim’s wedding yet I haven’t seen him in 20 years. This is mostly my fault though because every time I go home from the ship on vacation what I like doing is staying in, watching TV, reading the paper and of course playing with my beautiful Kye.

Going out means dressing up, personal grooming and wearing nice clothes……things I do each and every day at work. If I do go out it’s once a week which means that I never get to see any of my old friends. When we are home we get invited out a lot and eventually after using up every excuse in the book, including being attacked by a rabid hamster and having a sudden onset of syphilis, I have to go.

I also have to say……….and I hope this does not sound pretentious……..but since the blog has 11,500,000 views and 18,500 on my Facebook page all of a sudden more and more “old friends” have started to get into contact. These calls all take the same form……”Hello, mate how are you?” ”It’s been too long, how’s Kye?” “Not made her a brother yet, ha ha?”………”I am doing fantastic”……”Really miss you”…….”We should get together”…..”Love your blog” ……… ”Come for dinner”……and oh yes, “Can I have a free cruise on the Carnival Breeze, please?” There is one bloke who we shall call David, because that is his name, who has started to call me after 10 years of nothing but silence, which was just fine with me. Let’s just say that on the list of people I would call to spend a night out with he comes just after the “We hate that fat bastard John” group on Cruise Critic ……..and anyone French. If I saw him coming toward me in the street I would start touching his bottom until he buggered off and if that didn’t work I would introduce Calvyn as my lover and ask if he wanted to join us tonight.

He has asked and asked to get together and Heidi being Heidi thinks we should and that it will be good to meet up again after all these years. But I don’t want to. Because through all his overtures of renewed friendship I know that he never paid for anything, it was never his turn to by a drink and we all thought he was tighter than a camel’s arse in a sandstorm. All he wants is a free cruise. But Heidi as I said seems determined and is planning a get together on September 25. This means I have one choice and that’s to call the British police and tell them that in 1983 David Cookson broke into Shoeburyness Comprehensive School in Essex, peed in the swimming pool from the top of the diving board and it was he that went to the principal’s office and drew a huge red gentlemen’s sausage on his door. That should take care of that friendship then.

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

Graham R asked:
John,

Can you tell me if I wanted to bring a remote controlled helicopter to fly around the deck. Would that be allowed? I am an avid modeler and to be able to fly one of my helicopters around the decks of the Carnival Glory would be a huge thrill. I don’t want to bring it all the way from Pennsylvania and then get it confiscated. Please can you tell me if I can bring it?

John says:
Hello Graham R,

This is a first. I think you must be the first ever to ask me this and you know what, I had no idea if you could or not. So I asked the captain and security officer and they had no concerns about the radio frequency but we do have a safety concern for the guests on the deck that if the helicopter should fall then it could injure someone. Therefore, from an overall safety perspective I am sorry but we can’t allow it. I hope you have a wonderful cruise though and please let me know if you have any other questions.

Best wishes.

John


Joe Henry asked:

Just off a great cruise on the Glory. Wonderful staff. Many positive memories. But allow me to give you two comments for policy changes:

1) The Comedy Club. On Carnival Dream in April, the club was emptied after each show to allow a full new audience to come in. On Carnival Glory this week, the vast majority stayed from the first to the second (and to the third!) show. Many people were waiting outside and only a few were able to come in. I would suggest you implement the Carnival Dream policy fleetwide. If you have late seating dinner, you can almost write off the comedy club.

2) I could not believe staff was allowed to smoke during the safety briefing. We left our room on deck seven aft and entered the “crew only” staircase as instructed. It reeked of smoke! When we got down to Deck 3, we saw why: there were four crew members in dining room uniforms smoking cigarettes. Hundreds of passengers had to walk through the smokey gauntlet. Officers in white uniforms were directing traffic ignoring them. I cannot believe this is good, let alone legal, policy.

Can you please ask the “beards” to consider these issues? Thanks.

John says:
Hello Joe Henry,

Thanks for the email. Regarding smoking, the Deck 4 outside area is though the only place that crew can smoke since the new smoking regulations came into effect and I guess what we have to do is not allow the crew to smoke in the period leading up to the drill. We do allow them to smoke there but we should prohibit this as I said before and during the drill. Thanks for telling me this and we will get this changed. I will also remind the ships that the policy for the Punchliner Comedy Club is to clear the lounge after each performance and that is the only fair way to do this. Thanks so much for passing this valuable information and I hope you had a great time on the ship.

Best wishes.

John

Drake Ronsberg asked:
John,

I want to be a cruise director. I am a good singer and a great dancer and have been on three cruises. How do I get to be a cruise director and how quick do the promotions happen at Carnival? I am 25 years old and very funny. What do I do and where do I go to apply!!!!

John says:
Hello Drake Ronsberg,

Thanks for writing and may I suggest that you kindly go to the www.carnivalentertainment.com website and look at all the information there on the job of entertainment staff which is how all the CD’s start. Most cruise directors go through the process of entertainment staff to assistant cruise director and then, eventually, cruise director. There really is not any set time period for this but it can happen within three years or five, a lot depends on you, of course. I wish you all the best and maybe your dream to be a cruise director will come true.

Best wishes.

John

Lisa asked:
John,

I will be sailing on Carnival for my first time in Jan 2012. My mother-in-law has booked 16 of us on the Carnival Imagination. I am planning on making a goodie bag for the kids in our group (ages 9-17). Do you have any ideas of items I can include? So far I am thinking about glow sticks, sunglasses, candy, a lanyard to hold their cabin key. Also, does the Carnival Imagination have any theme nights? If so, maybe I can include items that work with the theme.

Thank you in advance for sharing your knowledge.

Lisa

John says:
Hello Lisa,

That’s a great idea and maybe you can include a scavenger hunt, as well, getting them to get signatures from an officer in a white uniform, a man with no hair, a bar waiter, etc. etc. There are no theme nights but maybe you can make one with funny wigs or hats. Apart from that, I would suggest that you add some decoration for their cabin door maybe. Have a think and let me know if you have any questions or if you need anything else. Congratulations on booking this first of what I hope will be many cruises.

Best wishes.

John

JetsfanTony asked:
John,

As football season is only a few weeks away I want you to make sure that the games are played on the giant screen when me and my buddies cruise the Carnival Dream on September 24. We sailed on the Carnival Freedom before and none of the games were put there and were in the small sports bar which upset hundreds of passengers and there was a near riot. I hope Carnival gets it right this time.

John says:
Hello JetsfatTony,

I spoke to the CD of the Carnival Dream and he will play the Sunday night and Monday night games on the Seaside Theatre but the daytime games will only be shown on the sports bar screens at the casino as we have live music and events on Lido for those who don’t like football. I hope this is OK with you and I wish you a wonderful cruise.

Best wishes.

John

Paul Romanow asked:
Dear John, (Oh, dear, it sounds like I am breaking up with you)

With things having gotten back to normal (darn, that stuff in the office was still there when I got back) after a wonderful two-week European vacation, the last week of which was a fantastic time on the Carnival Magic’s July 17 cruise, I have a chance to comment on the cruise. We were amazed that you and the captain were able to completely re-arrange the itinerary on all of three hours notice of Monte Carlo being closed the next day. It would have been so much easier for Carnival to just throw an additional sea day in and skip Monte Carlo, but the effort taken to retain the port of call was much appreciated. And we were very glad that you decided to keep everyone informed on the mayday call. We were among the hundreds lining the rails that night, and the captain was brilliant in maneuvering around to provide a portable sea wall for the vessel in distress. I don’t think the poor pizza pirate chef has ever had to serve as many pizzas at 2 am as he did that morning. The rest of the cruise as wonderful, as well as all of our excursions (booked through Carnival), from going to the top of two volcanoes and seeing Stromboli erupting, to seeing how the other half of the other half lives in Monte Carlo. Our wait staff (table 517, Southern Lights) was marvelous as were our cabin attendants (6419, 6495). Though we never got the chance to meet up with you (understandable with nearly 5,000 guests aboard), we always enjoyed seeing and hearing you at the shows, on the PA and on the TV. (I wonder if the Atkins managed to board their flight home on time?). This was our second cruise (the first being with Disney eight years ago, when the kids were wee ones), and we are certainly looking forward to cruising with Carnival again.

Thanks to you, the crew and Carnival for a wonderful experience.

Paul, Joanne, Thomas and Heather

John says:
Hello Paul Romanow,

Please don’t break up with me, I won’t do it again …..promise. I am really glad that you have taken the time to write as that cruise feels so long ago. The captain did indeed do a brilliant job in maneuvering the Carnival Magic to protect the yacht from the rough seas and both on board made it home safe thanks I think to his efforts. I will pass on your thanks to those mentioned and I hope that we will see you again very soon.

My best wishes to you and all the family.

John

Uptown Cruiser asked:
Hi John,

I for one don’t understand the near hero worship you have on this blog. It’s quite pathetic to see grown men and women thinking that you are their friend. If I want a table I do it the proper way and tell the maitre d’ at embarkation what I need and they always do it. But as I know I won’t get an answer from Carnival’s customer service I am also forced to write to you. My last Carnival cruise was on the Carnival Triumph and one area that didn’t impress me was the lack of food after dinner. On RCI there is a buffet every night and yet on Carnival it’s pizza or you starve. Also you might want to check cabin 1365 as the AC was so cold I had to stuff a towel in the vent. I told the cabin steward but nothing was done.

John says:
Hello Uptown Cruiser,

The only thing I will say about your opening lines is that they are my friends and if you ever need me to help you with anything I am here. I have asked the ship’s management on the Carnival Triumph to check the air conditioning in that cabin and see if it needs adjusting. Sometimes there is little your stateroom steward can do and often what is cold for some is not cold enough for others but I apologise that it was extreme for you and I will get it looked at. We used to have late night buffets but with our late night snack, 24 hour pizza, and 24 hour room service, I don’t think the word ‘starve” can truly be used for anything that we do on board our ships. I do hope you had a great cruise and that if you do need to contact me again that you will know I am here to help.

Best wishes

John

Karen Lian asked:
John,

When will Carnival put out information on the Carnival Spirit once it gets to Sydney? We keep calling and no one can help, we want to do two cruise stays in Sydney for two or three days and then get back on and cruise for 10 or more days. May have to go to another lines, can someone help us PLEASE.

John says:
Hello Karen Lian,

That’s an excellent question and of course it deserves an answer. I have posted this to a senior beard and I hope to have an answer for you very soon and will post it here as soon as I do Karen. Please allow me to apologise for the delay as final logistics are being put into place for our first journey to the Land Down Under. Thanks for your kind patience.

Best wishes.

John

That’s all for today and as I head to my one week break I want to thank you all for your comments. I will keep you up to date on all that’s going on here and on Facebook and after the week away I hope to give you more news in the coming weeks about some exciting projects here at Carnival.

You learn something new every day and a lot of the time it comes from guests who tell me things here and on Facebook that I never knew. For example, a guest pointed out that there was no Gideon Bible in his cabin. I did a little checking on this and am told that this change has been around for a couple of years now when we began provide bibles available upon request via the guest information desk and also have multiple copies in the ship’s libraries, which is standard practice on some other cruise lines I’m told and it’s worked out very well. For those who want to read the bible on board, all they need to do is simply ask their stateroom steward and he or she will deliver one to you. I’m sure many of our guests don’t go into the cabin and before checking the view from the balcony or what’s in the mini bar or if the bed is strong enough for a marathon session of rumpy pumpy before boat drill, look for the Gideon Bible. But they are still on board ready for when you need one. And this blog is the only place in the world where you will find the words rumpy pumpy and Bible in the same sentence ……… ooops. Still, I am a believer and I know God has a sense of humour…….and I bet she spells it correctly, as well.

So this will be my last blog for a week or so and the girls and my eyes and my arm are all grateful that I am taking a week off. I shall be seeing a specialist about my Carpool Tunnel thingy although I have to say that the acupuncture really did help. Yes it still hurts a lot but the tingling has gone completely now. Anyway, I shall go to the doctor and also have a diabetic eye test which on previous blogs I have told you involves these awful drops being squirted in your eye that leaves me crying like an Oscar winner. But that’s not the thing I am dreading the most ………nope…………that title goes to Dr. Drillerkiller……….the dentist.

Sometimes, I wish I was an elephant, not just because they have huge thingies but because if they are left alone they would never die. They have no natural predators and unless they are shot by some total bastard big game hunter they would never die and the world would be overrun with these incredible creatures. That’s why Mother Nature decided to say that when Mr. and Mrs. Elephant lose their sixth set of teeth it would be time for them to go to the elephant graveyard. I know this because I saw it on a BBC documentary called Blue Planet ……. extraordinary stuff by the way.

Humans are different. The enamel substance that coats our teeth is the toughest, most resilient parts of our bodies. I mean, look at these police forensic type programs. The guys can pull a body out of a swamp and even though the body was shot, stabbed, chopped up, bathed in acid and put through a mincing machine, one look at the teeth and they can tell us who the body was, who killed him and what his favourite cruise line was.

It seems therefore that people are obsessed with teeth…..…..and I am not. When I was very young I slipped on some ice, landed on my face and bent my tooth back. My Mum took me to a dentist called Dr. Steiger. He spoke with a heavy German accent and I will always remember that he had huge hands. I hated him. One time he opened my mouth and as he was looking around, dropped the mirror thingy down my throat. I couldn’t breathe and he was panicking, my Mum was panicking, I was turning blue and luckily the dentist assistant turned me upside down and managed to get hold of the end and pull it out….…accompanied by lots of diced carrot. And that was that, it was my last visit for many years to a dentist. My Mum tried to bribe me with toys and food but I would go, sit in the chair and refuse to open my mouth….. After a while…… they just gave up.

Later, as a single man I went to the dentist only once when I had a toothache that had lasted for days and only when the options were go to the dentist or shoot myself in the head. I went in Cozumel where the dentist said that all my teeth would have to be filled except three. I told him to “el buggero offo” and just take the bad tooth out. So, he pumped me full of that nova stuff and all the fear and tremor of the incident when I was young returned……….and so did my previous night’s dinner as I decorated the dentist and his chair in a bright coat of orange.

For the next 10 years, I didn’t go to the dentist at all and it does not seem to have made a difference. I have not been visited by Mr. Stinkybreath…..at least nobody has fainted when I speak to them because my breath smells like a skunk’s underpants. Then, I met Heidi and my teeth world changed as I was surrounded by an army of electric toothbrushes, floss and various toothpastes. Heidi also insisted that I have a dental check up every six months and because I am scared of her……I go. But when I do go I sweat, I shiver and often before going my head is buried in the toilet. Yes, I know I smoke cigars although since that avenue of pleasure was taken away with the new smoking rules my cigar smoking is virtually nonexistent these days.

But anyway, why do I need to have someone poke around in my mouth with a huge screwdriver? It h has proven that my teeth will last 1 million years after I am six feet under. Nobody has ever died of tooth decay, it’s the other parts that pack up first yet most of us don’t go to the doctors for a full service. But even then people still go to the doctors for nothing. I have to go for my company medical otherwise I can’t work on board. But there are some men who actually go to the doctor and say “Hello Doctor Longfinger,” I feel wonderful, no aches, no pains. I have never felt better but can you please strip me naked, have a good poke around and then please shove a video camera up my arse …..Just to look around.” That’s wrong and it’s the same for dentists, as I believe you should only go there when something is wrong.

But teeth have become an obsession for so many people. Here on Carnival Magic we have teeth whitening experts who promise our guests that they can after just one treatment look like a local news TV anchor. I know my teeth aren’t the nicest. One is as bent as a dog’s back leg and thanks to coffee and cigars, they are a little on the yellow side. But that’s mostly because while I am not afraid of being on stage and facing hordes of angry guests because we missed a port and have fear of spiders, snakes, muggers, monsters or Calvyn…I would rather cover my body in gazelle fat and wake up a sleeping lion by tickling his testicles with an ostrich feather…..than go to the dentist.

But I am a minority. These days so many people are not happy with the way they were born and the way the look. Botox, bigger breasts, smaller breasts, plastic surgery, replacement surgery, thingy enlargements, bigger bottoms, smaller bottoms, cosmetic surgery, teeth whitening, hair replacement…..the list is endless. I sometimes thing that God must be sitting on his cloud looking down at us and thinking that his people have gone absolutely bonkers.

So time to reminisce. And before I do let me say what a wonderful time I have had here on the Carnival Magic. It has been difficult at times to bring out a new ship and blog and Facebook and there were a few comments here and there these past few months that suggested that I wasn’t “around the ship enough.” While these comments are commonplace for all cruise directors, these days what with all the behind the scenes stuff we do, there have been times that because of my commitments that those one or two people that made those comments were absolutely correct and I will work to improve this next year.

You know, it was 24 years ago in August 1987 that I walked up the gangway of the M/S Holiday into a world I knew nothing about. Not just because I had lied in my interview by saying I knew everything about wine and cocktails, but the world of cruising, something I had absolutely no contact with in my 22 years. As the years went by, I left the bar department and discovered something called a microphone. This was also a foreign object to me and at first I tried to be the same as others I had seen using it……and I failed. Then I realised that it just made my voice louder and I relaxed, was myself and people responded with laughter. And so, I became a cruise director and at that time it would have been easier for me to join Chippendales. Cruise directors didn’t look like me. They were handsome or beautiful or both. They sang, made things disappear, juggled, danced or wooed the ladies with their perfect smiles and tight buttocks that were encased in Armani tuxedo pants.

Cruise directors were not ugly looking ex-bar waiters who were less talented than a dead hamster. Yet, someone gave me a chance and even though I have highlighted guests who shout and guest who scream and guests who try to sell me pills and want their laundry done for free because they got rained on…….. my journey has been one of fun and each and every day I pinch myself as a reminder that I am the luckiest sod in the world. And as I sit here in my underpants writing this blog, the last one from the Carnival Magic for a while, I have to say a huge thank you to all of you for your company these past four months. You have put up with my bad moods and we have shared in the continuing story about life on the ocean waves. I am heading home on Friday and will take a week away from the computer which both Heidi and Kye will appreciate and so will my left arm which still hurts despite the intervention of 12 pricks………I don’t mean the French Rugby team………..I mean I had acupuncture.

I must also thank the beards who still allow me to have a free hand on this blog even though there must surely be times when their bottom cheeks squeeze together as they read something that I probably shouldn’t have written. But the blog continues with 11,750,000 views and joined now by the 18,400 on Facebook which means you must still be enjoying my silly musings and for that I thank each and every one of you.

So after a month of preparation and three months in operation it is time for me to bugger off.

Carnival Magic is in a way a new beginning for Carnival Cruise Lines. It was the first ship that was influenced by the gang of new beards who under the watchful eye of Chief Beard Gerry Cahill, Ruben, Lynn, Jim, Mark, Gus and their teams have designed new features, marketed them and here they are on this brilliant ship. The RedFrog Pub, Skycourse, Cucina de Capitano have been a brilliant success and I can’t wait to see the guest reaction once we arrive in Texas. But it’s not just the new areas that are here, it’s far, far more than that. The Lido Deck is wide and open and the best designed one yet. The branded areas are amazing, especially Cherry on Top and the Cucina’s incredible value has had 1,400 guests enjoying a meal there on a 12-day cruise. It’s hard to put into words but having been at sea for so long I look for the certain special in a ship, something that makes really good sushi wonderful and if you will excuse the reference……a plain old shrimp less so.

I have delivered a lot of new ships for Carnival and I have visited a lot of our corporation’s ships and while they have all been exceptional only one truly made the hairs on my bottom stand straight up and she was the Queen Mary 2 which still makes grown men clutch their private parts in excitement. But the Carnival Magic has the same affect albeit for different reasons but simply put, never have I had so many positive comments about one of our new ships. Never has one of our new ships, especially those that sail in the Mediterranean, reached the number one spot in guest review results. Yep, she really is that good. There are still things we can do better and we are making subtle changes along the way but right from the start Carnival Magic has been a ship that our guests and, just as important, our crew absolutely adore.

Then there are the ports here in Europe. Monte Carlo, Rome, The Vatican, The Coloseum, Naples, Tuscany, Florence, Pisa, Sorrento, Capri, The Amalfi Coast, Dubrovnik, Venice, Taormina, Mount Etna. Palma de Majorca and yes……even Marseilles. Imagine having visited all those places. You get off your tour bus tired but fulfilled and there in front of you is not some faceless hotel and the prospect of packing before more security checks at the airport and yet another flight but this gleaming ship, your ship ready to cocoon you with friendly service, ready to excite you with the evening’s entertainment, ready to refuel you with great food. Imagine, no packing and no flying. You just lay your head on the pillow of your Carnival Comfort Bed as the captain takes you to the next exciting destination while you rejuvenate ready for the adventures tomorrow will bring.

So congratulations on this brilliant ship must go to Gerry Cahill and his band of beards. Now Gerry isn’t one of those corporate presidents who spends his evenings being carried around promenade deck in a sedan chair, waving his diamond encrusted Rolex out of the window. He lives his life like you and I……..except with more fish. He saw that what you wanted was new spaces and a chance to use huge slides and swing on ropes and eat in a family-style restaurant and drink a pint of beer in a pub. Yes, Carnival has changed direction somewhat and yes there are a few who may not like it but let me say that I have spoken to hundreds, yes hundreds of guests here and many more on Facebook and the blog and they all say that the Carnival Magic is our best ship yet. And it is.

You know there are times when I have had to review a Cunard or Seabourn ship and while I relish those chances I also am aware that when I post it on my blog that some of the readers will wonder why I’m reviewing a ship that many people may never sail on. I do this because despite what some people say, there’s no harm in dreaming and it shows the incredible diversity of this great corporation. Yet when I review the Carnival Magic I know I am talking about a ship that has something for everyone. It is by far the best of our ships because there really is room for 4,500 guests without it ever feeling like there are 4,500 guests on board and without it looking like a floating parking lot.

Yes there are those who will say that other ships have ice rinks and are huger but if you apply the cold steel of logic to your choice of a cruise and factor in the extraordinary cost of the cruise ticket itself ….. It is absolutely impossible to come up with anything better. Until the Carnival Breeze is launched, obviously.

Goodnight and see you in a week here and on www.facebook.com/johnheald.

Your friend always
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.