Looking back

November 17, 2011 -

John Heald

Watching James Charlton do a brilliant job here as cruise director on the Carnival Magic reminds me of when I was his age and delivering the Carnival Destiny. James, like so many of the new breed of cruise directors, has the energy of the Energizer Bunny on speed. But as I walk around the ship and watch him work, I am also reminded of how things have changed.
Gone are the days when I could make an amusing farting noise over the PA system or in the middle of boat drill remind the guests that they should not allow the stringed bollocks on their life jacket drag on the deck. Yes, I am ashamed I used to do this and much worse, slipping in British words like bollocks, bugger, sod and git into my daily announcements.

It was oh so simple back then. You would wake up, do an announcement promoting the gift shop, casino, tours and spa and then bugger off back to bed before a spot of lunch and some sort of show in the afternoon. Today, the cruise director has to announce art auctions, on board cruise bookings, shopping talks, photo, steakhouse, Cucina, Cherry on Top and, and, and. On embarkation day I was always off the ship as were all the CD’s. Once debarkation had finished I would be in Hooters in Bayside Miami staring at the ummmmm……..menu. Now we have to stay on board for the most part and advise guests that they can’t go to their cabins until 1 pm and for them not to forget to put their keys in the cabin slot in order for them to turn the lights on. But hold on, bugger, its November 2011 which means I can’t even call it a cabin anymore, it’s a stateroom, isn’t it?

I also look at the signs we have all over the ship today that we never had before. “No smoking.” ”Watch your step.” Mind your head.” “No jumping.” “Swim at your own risk.” “PPE equipment must be worn.” “Separate your garbage.” “United States Department of Public Health has determined that eating uncooked or partially cooked poultry, meat, eggs or seafood may present a health risk to the consumer, particularly those who may be more vulnerable and don’t want explosive diarrhea.”

It’s the same on land though. My car has a nagging woman that lives in the bowels of the dashboard that tells me: “You are breaking the speed limit.” Seriously, unless you are a rocket scientist and know how to disable this, you are buggered every time you drive over 70mph which in the UK is the maximum freeway speed limit.

How can it have come to this…… A piece of sodding silicone has an opinion on how I’m driving?

I am surprised that this computer doesn’t have a gizmo that says, “Stop……..the blog you are writing is crap. Press delete and start again, you fat bastard.”

There are rules at the airport where you are made to take your pants off before you are allowed on an airplane. And while the security chap is having a good rummage around in my underpants he misses the man with bits of fuse wire sticking out of his shoe?

Then there’s the problem of watching a film at home. In the past, when we had video, we could simply whizz through the adverts and the disclaimers in which the actors and director take no responsibility for what they are saying. Not anymore. Now, if you hit fast forward, it says the operation is not possible. You will watch the disclaimer and if you dare to show this film to more than just your wife, if you dare to invite a group of friends to watch it, an FBI SWAT team will burst through your doors and windows and shoot you in the face.

Yesterday, Calvyn, the entertainment host, sprained his ankle while watching a Richard Simmons exercise DVD. It wasn’t a bad sprain but an entire Brazilian rain forest has had to be chopped down to allow for the paper work that James, as his department head, had to fill out asking about what shoes he was wearing (heels), the condition of the floor, how many hours he had worked and if Jupiter was in line with Uranus at the time of the incident.

James will then have to return the rain forest to the security and medical department who then send it to the beards at HQ. This isn’t just Carnival, it isn’t just the cruise industry, it’s the world. Ten years ago there would have been no paperwork and Calvyn would have hobbled around a bit, still smiling, still doing his job, and still singing Bette Midler tunes.

Let’s crack on with some Q and A

Cruiser1936 asked:

Cruise mag. had article on tipping. Listed all current suggested tips by cruise line. The new thing, certain cruise lines had NO tipping in specialty dining. Carnival was not mentioned.

Will be on Carnival Liberty 12/10. What is line’s suggested policy covering this issue?

Congrats on your award.

Thank you and keep up the good work and interest in the cruising industry.

John says:
Hello Cruiser1936,

Thanks for the kind words on the award and I am sorry that I have taken so long to reply to your question, I am really behind with questions. The steakhouse has a charge of $30 which does include the gratuity to the servers. This is the same for The Chef’s Table and of course if you feel that you have received excellent service, there is space for you to add an extra tip. But just to clarify, gratuity is included in both. Have a wonderful time on the Carnival Liberty.

Best wishes.

John


Gary Hayman (LeVoyageur) asked:

John,

I’m a long time cruiser with 27 (mostly Carnival) cruises under my belt (I’m sure you have a couple more) with three more Carnival cruises currently booked. I am an occasional cigar smoker (as I know you are) who looks forward to having a daily cigar while on a cruise. I really did appreciate your posting a listing of ‘cigar OK areas’ on the various Carnival fleet ships not so long ago. I just returned from a Carnival Victory cruise (9/4-10/11) and unfortunately would like to report that the Black and Red Seas Lounge was NOT a “full time” cigar friendly location. At times it was used for private functions and some other ‘non-smoking’ ship activities. No problem, I can understand that.

At other times (not all), when available for smoking, there were no ashtrays to be found in the designated Black and Red Seas Lounge — even behind the bar. [I had to go to the Lido deck to commandeer one — not wanting to leave ashes on the table or on the floor.]

Also, on Deck 10 starboard side, an area designated for outdoor smoking, including cigars, there was only one small ashtray receptacle screwed to the bulkhead — to be used by all smokers. [There was one other at a distance by the elevated band stage.]

SUGGESTIONS: [You may want to forward these to your ‘beards’ in Miami.]

1. [EASY TO DO] If there is a designated ‘cigar space’ on a ship that will be used for other purposes during the day and night AND cigar smoking will not be permitted in the room at that time, then early in the morning someone should post a simple notice at the door of the room identifying which hours cigar smoking will not be permitted for that day. This will better help the cigar smoker in making his/her plans for the day. [If you could do it for the entire week that would even be better.]

2. [EASY TO DO] Have the staff make sure that during times when cigar smoking is permitted in those special rooms, that abundant clean ash trays are available. This cuts down on possible carpet burns and fire risk.

3. [FAIRLY EASY TO DO] Install several more ‘butt buckets’ on Deck 10 starboard side for the convenience of all smokers, including cigar smokers. This can prevent large crowds of smokers huddling around one small metal receptacle in the permitted smoking area.

I hope to meet you on one of my future Carnival adventures — and enjoy a cigar together.

Gary Hayman (LeVoyageur)
Greenbelt, Maryland

John says:
Hello Gary Hayman (LeVoyageur)

Well, as you may know, I am a cigar smoker myself and let me say at the start that I miss the cigar bars terribly. You may also have seen that the subject of smoking has been passionately discussed on my Facebook page these past few days as well. Let me address your points and let’s start with the smoking lounge, the Black and Red Sea. When we announced the new smoking polices, the lounge on deck 5 aft was already blocked some months in advance by our groups department for group functions, etc. This is no longer the case and there is a clear and present memo to all ships that, come December 1, the smoking lounge will be used just for that, smoking only and include nightly entertainment and live music. This policy is now in effect and we have to it seems improve on the ashtray situation as what you described needs immediate change and I shall make sure this happens, I promise. I don’t like the buckets, they are an eye sore but we do I agree, need the larger, deeper cigar ash trays which we have here on the Carnival Magic on the Lanai and I will ask that these make their way to other ships as well. The bottom line for me is that we have made the smoking changes yet we must accommodate smokers and non-smokers alike. Thanks for the great feedback and for your loyalty and I hope that we will indeed have a great cigar together one day very, very soon.

Best wishes.

John

Georgie asked:
John John John!!!

I’ve sent you more than several messages and I do realize how busy you are. We recently returned from the Aug 14 – 26 Carnival Magic Med. cruise. We loved, loved, loved it and we miss you very much. Of course I had several little “negatives,, but way more “positives.” Here’s my repetitive question that I’ve asked you before but have not gotten a response yet. We want to book the new Carnival Breeze cruise I believe it leaves June 3, but we don’t want to book it until we find out who the CD is going to be. We’re hoping it will be you. Please let me know. If not the Breeze, what ship will you be assigned to next? Thanks and love “The Marino’s” from Boston.

John says:
Hello Georgie,

Again, my apologies for the long delay in answering this. I am indeed going to be the CD for the Carnival Breeze and I am hoping you will be there with me. There are some new and exciting features that we didn’t have on the Carnival Magic and so I hope you will be with me to see them. I am glad you had fun and if there is any feedback from your European cruise that you think I should know, please do tell me. Truly hope to see you soon.

Best wishes,

John

Amarnath asked:
John,

We were on the cruise with you in Europe. Our cabin was the suite 7300 and beautiful but as someone originally from India, I need you to know that Indian food on the Magic is cheap slop made for unsuspecting tourists and your Indian chefs that make it should be ashamed.

John says:
Hello Amarnath,

I was very surprised by this comment as our Indian chefs take huge pride in what they do and never ever have I seen such a comment. Still, I don’t know much about Indian food except I love it and that too much gives me ring sting. I will pass on your comments and thanks for taking the time to write.

Best wishes.

John

Hilary Whitworth From Toronto, Canada asked:

I will be sailing on the Carnival Dream next week and on the Monday which is the 10th it is Canadian Thanksgiving Day. I called Carnival to ask about the celebrations for this event and was disgusted to find out that Carnival does nothing at all. I then asked if they celebrated the American Thanksgiving day and discovered there is a huge meal and lots of special events. Why does Carnival treat Canadians like this? We are as important a country as America and are respected the world over and most importantly Carnival takes our money which it appears isn’t as good as the money those from the United States give you. What do you have to say as I am very angry about this?

Johns says:
Hello Hilary Whitworth From Toronto, Canada,

I can indeed see how upset you are and I apologise that we don’t have a special meal for Canadian Thanksgiving as we do for the American celebration later this month. Our Canadian guests are very important to us but the ships do, though, carry more Americans and most sail from the States. Nevertheless, I will forward your comments to the beards in Miami and see what they say. By now you have returned from your cruise and I hope you had a wonderful time and I will see what we can do about this.

Best wishes.

John


Wendi Gregson asked:

John,

My DH and I will be on the Christmas cruise on the Carnival lation. Will there be a priest on the boat for midnight mass?

Thanks

John says:
Hello Wendi Gregson,

I’ll have to check on this but from what I understand, there won’t be a priest on this particular voyage, Wendi. We will ask amongst the guests if anyone is willing to help us with a service and conduct one for the guests and if so we will arrange the lounge and everything else as we have a full priest service kit on all the ships. I hope you have a wonderful time.

Best wishes to you both.

John

Samantha Easter asked:

Can you tell me what I need to do to make sure that my dining table is not a booth or a chair with no arms? I am a very large lady and don’t want to be having to be asked to be moved. Here is my cabin number on the Paradise, M23. I have sailed Norwegian line before and they deliver pizza to the cabin, does Carnival do this?

John says:
Hello Samantha Easter,

I have written to the maitre d on the ship and he will make arrangements for you to have a chair with no arms so that you will be totally comfortable. Carnival does not have delivery to the cabins but our pizza is open 24 hours a day and is delicious. Have a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes.

John

Amanda asked:
John,

I went on the Carnival Freedom end of March to beginning of April 2011 with my husband and two year old son. One of our servers at dinner was named Marc. I did fill out a comment card, but wanted to make it known how wonderful he was. He paid attention to every detail of what my son would and wouldn’t eat. After the first time of me cutting his food, or setting aside the fruit he didn’t like on his fruit plate, Marc would bring it the nights after cut up for him or bring him extra fruit of the ones he liked. My son warmed up to Marc and my son looked forward to dinner every night just to see Marc. Please let Marc know he made our first but not last cruise a wonderful experience, and I cannot wait to go again.

John says:
Hello Amanda,

I certainly will and it sounds like Marc made a fantastic impact on you and your family and he will be thrilled to read this. He also helped you decide that you wanted to cruise again with us which I hope you do soon and if there is anything I can do for you, please let me know.

Best wishes.

John


Tom Dodson asked:

OK, new to reading your blog so today you had a person upset cause you didn’t send ‘precious’ a gift and a birthday cake and she had to stand in a line for 20 minutes (guess she felt entitled cause she is a ‘platinum’ whatever that is); another wanting you to send them something for free for another precious and another griping about worse trip ever and on and on and on. What’s wrong with these people? They’re on a vacation that many people would die for and they focus on some petty thing like no free stuff. We’re off on our 17th cruise (our 4th with CCL) in less than two weeks on the Carnival Freedom and while I’m sure not all things will go perfectly, just being on the open seas with my loved one is all I need. So thanks in advance for what I’m sure is going to be a great time and no, don’t need a thing from you.

John says:
Hello Tom Dodson,

I opened the door to allow people to ask for special requests some time ago and I encourage my readers to ask if they think there is something I can do to make their Carnival experience even better. However, you are right, a few do abuse this to a certain degree and do so by demanding and in my personal opinion doing something even worse and that’s completely ignoring the words please and thank you. Thank you, though, sir, for your kind words and your loyalty to Carnival and I hope that if you ever do need anything, you will let me know.

Best wishes.

John

Paulette Janus asked:

Just returned from the Carnival Fascination and we had a fab time. Only down side was the weather which was rainy and dull most of the time but we had fun and please as we did not get a comment card, can you tell Dani and Emanuella that they were the best waiters we have ever had in five cruises, they ROCK !

Thanks, John.

John says:
Hello Paulette Janus,

I am glad that despite the bad weather that you had so much fun and of course I will let Dani and Emanuella know just what stars they are. I hope we see you again soon and that your next cruise is one full of sunshine.

Best wishes.

John

And that’s all for today and in fact for a few days. I will explain what I mean soon but first, a recap. These last two months have been a bit of a whirlwind for me. It started two months ago when I sat on a virgin…………….sorry…………..I mean sat on a Virgin plane and flew to New York for the press conference for the Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades. In New York, I stayed at the Standard Hotel that had glowing blue lights around the crapper and ceiling to floor windows. This provided great views of the New York skyline for me and because there was no door on the shower it also provided great views for those living in the apartment building opposite of me washing my dangly bits. The press conference was a great success and the reviews on 2.0 have been exactly what we had hoped. I had received some ridicule from readers of another site before the details of Fun Ship 2.0 came out. The fortune tellers over there had predicted that it was just a fat man’s hype and that it would be a load of nothing. It wasn’t of course and suddenly those who had forecasted it would be a bunch of bollocks were silent……….an apology post was never expected.

I met George Lopez who was very funny and enthusiastic about his new role of Curator of Comedy but in my opinion the star of the show was Guy Fieri. It was obvious that his passion for cooking and his sheer determination to create the best burger in the world to serve on Carnival ships were the perfect fit for our product and you, our guests. Guy Fieri and Carnival go together like a horse and carriage, Laurel and Hardy and Paris and rudeness.

So once we had told you about the upgrades, it was time to leave New York and fly to Miami, this time on American Airlines and of course in coach. The flight was marred by man in front of me reclining his seat so that my nose was pressed against the back of his seat. Why is that that the moment some people get onto a plane they morph into total bastards? Scientists could measure on a tachymeter the time it takes from checking a suitcase to becoming a selfish sod. Actually, it starts before they get on the plane. I love it at check-in when, passengers ensure they leave it until the last second to get their documents…………..don’t worry, mate………there’s all the time in the world and it won’t annoy those waiting behind you at all. Oh, and once seated, please immediately fasten your seatbelt and sigh loudly when you have to unbuckle and stand to let other passengers in. Take just as long as you need over putting your bags in the overhead locker. Be sure to remove your shoes. No one minds the smell of cheese wafting up their nostrils.

Yep, my flight to Miami was awful and of course, as usual, the idiots including the seat reclining man in front of me, has to stand up and take his seatbelt off the second the plane lands even if the light is still switched on. Drives me bonkers, that one does.

So back in Miami I had meetings with the beards about what I would be doing in the following weeks and I blogged and updated my Facebook page from the Miami office and the Intercontinentalmarriotthyatt Hotel. I have stayed there so many times now that everyone knows me and knows that my Spanish is at the same level as Rick Perry’s memory. Bit it’s a nice hotel although it does have one truly annoying feature, the room’s remote control. All hotel TV remotes are quite honestly blood annoying. The one at the Intercontinentalmarriotthyatt Hotel is awful. The management doesn’t want their guests to steal them, so it supplies remotes from the 1980’s, then disables the buttons meaning that the TV gets stuck permanently on the hotel’s own “info channel,” a looped film in which a middle aged couple smile lovingly at each other across a table in the hotel accompanied by pornographic music You try and change channel but nothing works so you throw the sodding remote against the framed print of a dolphin and then when it shatters, you notice that the previous guest had stolen the batteries anyway.

My next port of call was Freeport, one of six flights I would take there; in fact I have been so many times to Freeport now that I have been granted an honorary degree in hair braiding from the University of the Grand Bahamas. I won’t mention American Pringle, I have moaned enough about that but sitting my flaccid arse in that seat and asking the seat belt to fit comfortably around my wait is the same as asking a French general to give a lecture on how to attack.

The flight was worth it though as Peter the Hair and Jay I Like Guys (Burgers), Mel and I got to see the before, during and after work that the 1,000 plus contractors and crew worked on and miraculously completed in just two weeks. Seriously, to knock down four bars and one grill area and replace them in that short a time is a bloody miracle. I don’t mind admitting that I was already preparing in my mind a blog apologising for the delays etc., etc., and was ready to receive another barrage of, “Told you so fat boy” mail from over there. But it was completed and so then came the best week of my two months of flying, sailing and hoteling and that was the cruise on the Carnival Liberty.

Seeing the guests, watching the guests and listening to the guests rave about the new Lido with the RedFrog Rum Bar and the BlueIguana Tequila Bar was brilliant. Seeing the pools open until late, finally, was a thrill and most of all, seeing Lido Deck become a destination and not something that Jose and his deck steward mates would close down at 6 pm was a personal highlight for me and I know as we make this so on other ships, it will be a highlight for you as well.

The EA SPORTS Bar has rejuvenated this space as has The Alchemy Bar rejuvenated the somewhat tired wine bar on deck 5 aft. Chef Sanjay’s spicy recipes for tacos and burritos at the BlueIguana Cantina thrilled guests and annoyed the Chief Plumber and of course there was the star of the Fun Ship 2.0 show………..Guy’s Burger Joint which lived up to all the hype and then some by producing simply the best burgers at sea and possibly on land as well and serving them to our guests………for bugger all extra charge.

In between all of this, I have had meetings and discussed shrimp and smoking, chair saving and CD schedules. I have spoken to 200 plus PVPs and 200 plus call center folks. I have met bloggers and welcomed over 20,000 on Facebook and passed 12 million views here on the blog. I have introduced one of the biggest bands in the world and ruined many a good pair of underpants while doing all of this. But it has been fun, brilliant fun and I continue to be so honoured to be Carnival Cruise Lines Brand Ambassador.

So what’s next? Well, on Sunday, I shall return to my friends at American Airlines who will fly me from Houston to Miami. On Monday I will meet Adrian Fischer who is the new vice president of entertainment and spend some time with him explaining the role of the cruise director who I still feel plays an important part to your cruise.

Then on Tuesday, I shall fly home to London and finally see my gorgeous wife and my precious daughter again where after hugging them and asking Heidi to wash the underpants I have been flying and crop-dusting in for the last 10 hours, I shall buy a dog, have surgery on my carpool tunnel thingy and watch Kye’s new favourite TV show. It’s called Peppa Pig. This is where a lazy, obese, bumbling male pig is invariably making a tit of himself. Heidi has told me Kye loves to shout, “Silly Daddy Pig!”…………….oh, joy.

So, as usual, at this time, I am going to ask you for a favour. I will Facebook on Friday and Saturday and Sunday (before and after my flight) but from Monday November 21 to Monday the 28th, I will ask your permission for a week away from the computer. Not Facebooking and blogging will mean a lot to the family and help this arm which needs a rest. I will then return to a patter as follows from November 29. Facebook updates and requests and questions as normal, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. No Facebook at the weekends. Blogs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I hope this is OK and on behalf of my arm and my girls, thanks so very much.

It has been a great two months and I have seen the new beards really put their mark on the cruise line you all love. The future is going to be even more exciting with some big news coming at the start of 2012 and of course the Carnival Breeze which I can tell you is going to be sensational.

I should say thanks to all those who have read the blog and have liked me and my underpants on Facebook. I should also say a huge thanks to my assistant Mel who will leave to be ACD on the Carnival Conquest and has done a wonderful job as my assistant and I thank her so much for all she has done. I gave her an appraisal and a score of 95 out of 100………..she lost 5 points because she refused to help me apply my hemorrhoid cream. My next assistant is Calvyn who I have no idea will be as good as Mel but at least I know for sure he will gladly do what Mel refused.

So that’s about it for today and my last blog until the 28th. It has been, as I said, a fantastic two months and I am already looking forward to my time back here as CD, Bloggers Cruise 5 and of course, a full European season on the Carnival Breeze.

In parting, I want to say this. I know things that I can’t tell you yet, things about the future of this company and the future of your favourite cruise line. Gerry and the new beards have given us Fun Ship 2.0 and will continue to provide you with new features and spaces. It is their plan, their promise to change the usual Carnival fun from the missionary position to something far more exciting. I have seen this on the Carnival Liberty and I see it here on the Carnival Magic and you will see it on the Carnival ship you sail on.

Yes, we will make mistakes and, yes, we will make a few decisions that will have some up in arms but the product keeps getting better and the price keeps providing you with the best value vacation in the world. The Carnival Cruise Lines of today and tomorrow will be designed to put a huge smile on your face from the moment you book. I hope to see you all smile very soon.

Thank you so much for allowing me a week off.

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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