TAKING A LIBERTY BY SMOKING

November 30, 2011 -

John Heald

I spent a wonderful 25 minutes last night in perfect solitude. Kye was in bed, Heidi was watching TV and so accompanied by my Andy Macnab book, I retired to the toilet. It was nearly 30 minutes of total relaxation as I read about Secret Agent Nick Stone and his adventures delivering some shock and awe by shooting Somali pirates in the face before having rumpy pumpy with 27 Latvians…………….James Bond, my arse.

Anyway, once I had finished delivering some shock and awe of my own, I left the bathroom feeling pretty good and two pounds lighter. I headed to the living room in hopes that just maybe I might get some rumpy pumpy. Kye was in bed, I had mostly clean underpants on and having already disposed of the previous night’s chili, there was little chance of me letting one rip during the throws of our love making which for some strange reason seems to put Heidi off.

Yep, all was looking good, the scene was set for seven minutes of fun. Except it wasn’t. Because when I entered the living room, I found my wife……..laying on the sofa…….crying floods of tears …………OVER A SODDING TV commercial. It was for a store called John Lewis which is a bit like Macy’s. And I don’t mean she was just crying a bit, nope, she was blubbering huge snotty tears and as Niagara Falls fell down her face, I felt so, so, sorry………..for me…………because I knew my chances of getting any rumpy pumpy tonight were the same as The Pope.

Now I had seen this commercial over the weekend and apparently the whole nation is crying …… well, everyone except me, that is. I wonder if it will make you shed a few tears. Let’s find out.

OK, you’re crying, aren’t you? Well, let me tell you, there is something not quite right about that kid and I would love to see what’s in the box he is giving his Mum and Dad. My guess is his pet rabbit’s severed head.

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

Travlinguy asked:
Hi John,

Please tell me about the people who hold the seminars on shopping and give out the tips on shopping for gems. Is the tanzanite pricing that good in Mexico? Do these people work for Carnival? Do they get commission on what people buy on the island? Thanks for your help.

John says:
Hello Travilnguy,

I actually discussed this yesterday in the blog where I mentioned that we now have a new company we are working with who will provide the shopping ashore program. The stores we recommend do indeed pay a fee to be in the program. The young men and women who hold the shopping talks and sit on Promenade and answer the questions guests ask don’t work directly for Carnival but provide a service on our behalf. I have no idea how these individuals are paid or what, if any, commission they receive. The new company we are using is called On Board Media and we are very excited to welcome them to our ships. Please let me know if you have a follow up to this as I get the feeling you have other comments that maybe you wish to express and maybe concerns I can help you with.

Best wishes,

John

Benjamin Jaber asked:

So CCL has plummeted to new depths by allowing jeans in the steakhouses. I regularly eat at Grill 23 in Boston where I reside, one of the best steak restaurants in the world and where diners have a certain decorum and where jeans are not permitted. So imagine then, Mr. Heald, my horror whilst dining at Harry’s steakhouse on your Carnival Liberty ship when I saw men in jeans and women too. I asked the manageress why she allowed them in and was told that it was a new “company policy.” Hearing this, I declined our main course and my partner and I left. I have cruised three times with you and knowing this and seeing how your standards have slipped I shall be returning to Celebrity Cruise Lines. Note: I have sent a detailed letter to Mr. Arison your chairman of whom I am an acquaintance because he needs to know that his cruise company is rapidly going to attract a type of passenger who perhaps may be more at home at a Denny’s!

John says:
Hello Benjamin Jaber,

Thanks for taking the time to write, Ben, and I am thinking that maybe you are not a regular reader of the blog as maybe you don’t know how utterly against dress codes I am. There is a place for elegant still, but only just as from what I have seen many like to dress up, eat their dinner and then change back into casual clothes as quickly as possible. Things have changed on land as well because in days gone by you couldn’t go anywhere without going home first to get changed. Restaurants would turn you away if you weren’t wearing a tie. Gentlemen were required to wear jackets. Shorts were for sports only. My dislike for dress codes comes from the time when in 1999 I was turned away from a restaurant I booked for a romantic dinner with Heidi because my trousers were made from corduroy. The money in pocket was as good as the man whose trousers were made by an Italian fashion house yet because I had corduroy trousers on, the maitre d’ thought I might be the sort of chap who might run off without paying or possibly get my thingy out and urinate on someone’s sautéed potatoes. And now we are letting our guests eat in the steakhouse wearing jeans. And respectfully, Ben, I have to ask, why not? Who says that to enjoy the company of your family and friends and to enjoy a fine porterhouse steak you need to be mummified in starch? I respect your point of view and obviously I hope you don’t spend your hard earned vacation time with another cruise line but at the same time I feel differently than you. It genuinely baffles me because if you reach a point in your existence where you leave what would have been a wonderful meal at our steakhouse then, well………maybe Carnival simply isn’t the right vacation choice for you and those are words I don’t think I have ever written on this blog before.

Best wishes.

John

Gerry Clarke asked:
John,

Just got off the Liberty, yesterday a.m. We had a nice cruise. The CD Kirk was OK but he is not you. I believe you may have ruined us. We sailed with you last year on the Carnival Splendor, in September a few weeks before the fire. Both me and my wife agree that the service on the Splendor was exceptional, and that the service on the Carnival Liberty was just OK. The exception on the Liberty was our dining service, Margarette, she was amazing. Quick question– has Carnival changed their coffee? I love a nice cup of coffee and this trip the coffee was horrible (that is when it was available and the machine wasn’t being washed). The only coffee that was decent was from the Jardin Cafe where it had to be purchased. John, you do a great job, and I look forward to sailing with you again in the future.

Be well.

Gerry

John says:
Hello Gerry Clarke,

Let’s start with the coffee. You know, I have sailed on P&O, Princess, Cunard and Costa and one of the things they all have in common is that the Lido deck free coffee is not exactly something that makes you go “mmmmmmm.” The same, of course, applies to Carnival’s coffee as well. I am a coffee snob and I will only drink coffee from the Coffee Cafe’s on Promenade deck which I personally think is better than Starbucks and the best coffee I have had on any ship was indeed on a Costa ship which, being Italian, should come as no surprise. Yes, you have to pay extra for these cups of crapafrapacino but they are exceptionally good. So why do these Lido cups of coffee not taste as good as they should? Is it the water, the coffee mix or a mixture of both? I don’t know but I do know that I think we have to try and do better and that’s why yesterday I posted your comment on Facebook and asked everyone for their opinions which, as you may have seen, nearly 400 others seemed, for the most part, to agree with you. I have since sent those comments to the beards, so thanks for bringing the subject up. I am glad you had a fun cruise and I hope one day we can cruise together again and chat over a decent cup of coffee. Let’s see what the beards can do.

Best wishes.

John

Dana Bland asked:

Was just on Carnival Pride for seven nights…serious language barrier with staff, many cannot understand or communicate with guests effectively, in Serenity section, towel attendant could not understand request for towel or that whirlpool temp was cool. I get this to some degree as my travel companion is from Iran, but still expect some level of understanding. Changed from late seating to YTD, attended first two nights when neither waiters introduced themselves and service was frigid and portions were doll-like, switched to Mermaid buffet which was mostly like slop with the exception of Friday, I think “lasagna” Florentine was served on buffet along with chicken parm. Breakfast buffet was reliable but same thing, most mornings, best thing about the cruise was our awesome room steward, Noel, we tipped extra as he anticipated our needs daily, and Serenity was awesome, likewise a very informative bar tender at the lobby on embarkation day. Half Moon Cay horseback riding excursion staff amazing while Grand Turk snorkel staff begged for tips which was tacky. Enjoyed vacation overall (have extremely stressful job in healthcare) but a lot of improvement needed in dining; both dining room and buffet. Cruise director Trevor was forced/annoying and the young lady at Liars was awful, spoke as if she had marbles in her mouth, had to leave, comedian on Tuesday night was a scream! Again, overall, great vacation but with the exception of a few; most crew appeared unhappy, not eager, and we could barely understand the Italian captain’s accent.

Cheers,

Dana.

John says:
Hello Dana Bland,

You know some people still accuse me of only posting the shiny positive reviews here on the blog but that, of course, is nonsense as this proves. I was very surprised, Dana, by your comments as the Carnival Pride was voted the number one ship in the fleet for the month of October based on comments and review scores from the guest comment cards. I have sent your comments to the captain and the hotel director although I think the word “slop” is out of context to what we serve on the Lido Deck. I was very disappointed to read that you ate there because of the “frigid” service and that is simply not right and we will make sure the right people see this. I am glad to see you enjoyed your stateroom steward as well as other crew and that you had a fun cruise. Thanks for taking the time to write and if there is anything you think I can do for you, please do let me know.

Best wishes.

John

Freed & Jean Dietrich asked:
Hi John,

We cruised with you four yrs ago on the Carnival Freedom. Getting ready to go on cruise #30 with Carnival. Just love it. CD’s and their staff are just great.

John says: 

Hello Fred & Jean Dietrich,

Thank you so very much for your tremendous loyalty and I hope cruise number 30 was the best yet. I also hope that we get to sail together very soon. Thanks so much for the kind words.

Best wishes to you both.

John

Jim Meyers asked:

Please forward to the proper managers.

We sailed on the Carnival Spirit departing Los Angeles on 9/23/11. The dining room staff; Team Leader Bosco, Assistant Team Leader Donny and Trainee Bojan did an outstanding job waiting on us. They made us feel at home and valued as a guest each time we ate with them. Bosco and Donny were very knowledgeable about the food menus and readily answered questions and made appropriate suggestions. They were prompt in serving us and always brought us exactly what we had asked for. The service they provided should make Carnival proud of these three employees. They truly uphold the Carnival tradition of outstanding service. Trina and I have been on five cruises and always had a great dining experience. By far, this was the best service we have had provided to us anywhere.

John says:
Hello Jim Myers,

I have sent your comments to the vice president in charge of the Spirit-class ships who will add his words of praise before sending them to the vessel. Thank you so much for taking the time to write them and I hope that we will see you again on one of our ships very soon. I am very proud of the crew you mentioned and they will be so proud to see their names here as well. Thank you once again.

Best wishes.

John

Leslie Henry-Mellor asked:
Good Morning John,

We just returned from the Carnival Legend cruise of 9/25 to 10/2 and wanted to share my comments and experience. To put it in perspective, my husband and I have cruised 23 times, 21 on the Carnival. This was our 5th cruise on the Carnival Legend. We spent our last two on the Carnival Dream and were really looking forward to a smaller ship again.

The crew was fabulous as they usually are, all very friendly and seemingly genuinely concerned that we enjoy our cruise. I would like to mention a few that were outstanding.

First was Eko our room steward. He was fabulous. I would leave a note each morning for anything special we would need such as items needing pressed, taking our laundry, or leaving an extra bucket of ice to put our wine in, and was never disappointed. He knew our names and always greeted us as we came and went no matter how busy he seemed to be.

Another I would like to recognize is Monica at the service desk. We had difficulty with the interactive TV and could not access it. She promptly sent a technician who gave us another remote control. That didn’t solve the issue so she said she would send a technician to review the entire system but couldn’t tell me when that might be. I told her I would go to the dining room to review the menu for the night. She insisted instead that she would read me the menu. She called again two minutes later apologizing that she had mistakenly read the “old menu” and then read the current one. That is service above and beyond in my opinion.

We had anytime dining and for the first two nights our service was adequate but not outstanding. The prime rib has really gotten thin, by the way.

The server promised to return with au jus and horseradish and never did. I went to the hostess station to request it and by that time the prime rib was very cold. On the third night we were seated in Cid’s section. He was very outgoing and energetic. The service was outstanding and the food was served hot and without a wait. Of course, we requested him each night after that.

We were delighted as we usually are to see familiar faces that we had seen on previous cruises in the casino. Most had been promoted. They all remembered us from our previous trips we had been on even remembering which ship. We, of course, lost our money but we enjoyed the staff and the casino very much as we always do.

Last but not least, I need to give a big thank you to your Head Chef Panda. We participated at The Chef’s Table again this trip and the menu was the same as it had been on the Carnival Dream. We also had a fabulous meal on the Carnival Dream but Panda was more outgoing than the previous chef making this a wonderful night. The food alone is enough to get me to pay the additional charge as it is truly five stars. Panda’s concern that we were enjoying our experience and his interaction made it that much more memorable.

I don’t want to end on a sour note as we truly enjoyed our cruise, but I do have one thing to complain about that really upset my normally easy going husband. As a cigar smoker yourself, I think you will understand.

We have no problem with the changes in the smoking policies. We always book a balcony and try to be courteous of our neighbors. As you know, though, in the Fun Times it also lists Satchmo’s Lounge as an area where one can smoke cigars. My husband left the casino for a bit to go to Satchmo’s to enjoy a cigar. It wasn’t just any cigar but a full bodied cigar he had spent $23 on in the last port. He lit his cigar and had been enjoying it for five minutes when a person from the spa came in and informed him that they would be presenting a “wellness” seminar and he would have to put out his cigar. John, you know that you can’t just relight a good cigar and still get the same enjoyment so of course this was very upsetting.

Nowhere in the Fun Times under the smoking policy does it mention that there would be an exception to the smoking policy in case of an event. Why they would even hold a health related event in one of the few areas of the ship that smelled of smoke is beyond me to begin with.

Maybe you could question the thought process of those on the Carnival Legend as I am sure those interested in “wellness” didn’t enjoy the smelly lounge any more than my husband appreciated putting out his fine cigar. At the very least, the policy stated in the Fun Times should be amended to indicate exceptions. Seeing my husband upset, I did mention the incident to the service desk and they asked for my room number. I thought that my husband would get a form of apology of some sort but we were never contacted. So we are back home for the first day post cruise doing the dreaded things like unpacking and getting ready for work tomorrow. Please thank all involved for our wonderful vacation.

Darrell and Leslie

John says:
Hello Leslie Henry-Mellor,

Very simply, let me say this. If we are going to advertise a smoking lounge then that is exactly what it has to be. The end. I will promise you here and now that this will be addressed and that I will make sure that this stops immediately and I apologise sincerely to you and your husband and his fine cigar. I am very glad that you had fun and that the cruise was a success despite our mistake and I will make sure the ship also sees your words of praise. Thank you once again for sailing with us and as you can probably tell, things like this make me quite upset. Best wishes to you both.
John

PS – Please keep reading as I have some breaking news for you re this and thank you again for telling me about this situation.

Launa Solomon asked:
John,

My parents received six chocolate covered strawberries from you as a gift for their 50th wedding anniversary and yet I read on your Facebook that other passengers had gotten 12 chocolate covered strawberries and wondered why my parents had not warranted the same?


John says:

Hello Launa Solomon,

All I can say is that I send a request to my colleagues on the ship and they send what I ask of them. Sometimes I specify how many strawberries and sometimes I forget and therefore they send the standard amount which is six. I am sorry that you feel slighted by this but really you shouldn’t and I do hope that your parents had a wonderful anniversary cruise.

Best wishes to all.

John

Paula Whipple asked:

My second cruise on Carnival was fantastic! The trouble started when my husband left my wallet in the room safe…100 miles up the road! Yikes…I could not contact anyone…Guest services/lost and found could not be reached until Monday morning…That was the 19th of September…well it seems my wallet went on another cruise…but No ONE could tell me if my wallet was even in the safe or its whereabouts…every time I called, I got the same runaround…As of yesterday, I learned that there is a container with items tagged and bagged from the week of my cruise on The Legend now in Miami…Could they tell me if my wallet was in the container?…of course not…It seems that when I am on the ship it is all about customer service and happiness…but when you get off, Heaven Forbid You Leave ANYTHING behind! The crazy thing is I knew where my item was and only my husband’s credit card or ship security could open the safe…I would be sleeping better if they would have at least contacted me and said they had opened the safe and my wallet was now bagged and tagged….but as of this time I have no idea what the “item” was they found and bagged and tagged in our room…No, Carnival has not once contacted me about the process of what is even happening. The week we were on the cruise we had friends who booked us on a Carnival cruise out of Charleston next Sept….part of me wonders if I will get my wallet back before then???? I know it was my mistake not to check in my purse before we got off the ship. Carnival needs to rethink its policy when a returning and an already booked for ANOTHER cruise customer has a problem…like leaving behind her wallet in the room safe. I hope they do not charge me for the second trip my wallet took!

John says:
Hello Paula Whipple,

I am sorry that this happened, Paula, and I am surprised as in recent months the comments about our customer service team have been glowing. It seems though that we need to improve our lost and found procedures and rest assured I have sent this to the shoreside team so they can investigate and contact you accordingly and I apologise that this level of service has not been offered to you so far. I know I am late in answering this but someone will be in touch. I hope you had a great cruise and I am here should you need anything.

Best wishes.

John

That’s all for today…………….quite the collection, wasn’t it?

As many of my British bloggers will tell you, Americans are brilliant at customer service, while the British are mostly absolutely not. One of the reasons for this is because in the UK, complaints are so rare as we don’t like conflict. I don’t mean in a French run for the hills kind of way but in a, oh, my steak wasn’t cooked right but I won’t complain, we just won’t come here again scenario. I know Americans and to a lesser extent Canadians think of us British as polite people who, when not queuing politely or reading Charles Dickens, are drinking tea with our little fingers raised in the air. Obviously, this is bollocks but……….we are very polite and complaining to a Brit is as foreign as deodorant is to the Frenchies.

Anyway, I recently stayed in the Intercontinental in Miami as you know and before I left last week I completed the comment card that was left on the desk next to the overpriced room service menu……………$19.95 for a burger and fries………my arse. Normally, I ignore it but this last time I had reason to complete it because I had three days of back to back problems and being too British to kick up a fuss face to face I decided to write it down. My TV had not worked for two days of my stay. The air conditioning sounded like an F16 Jet taking off and one of the days my room wasn’t cleaned at all. Anyway, I filled the comment card out and thought little else about it until I opened my emails this morning to discover that the next time I stay there I will be upgraded and have a complimentary meal for two at their restaurant. The matter was resolved without a single angry word being exchanged.

This leads me onto the review card and I know some of you are still frustrated at not getting one. Just to clarify for our new blog readers that the current system has approximately 40% of the guests from each cruise receiving an online card. These guests are randomly picked by Mr. Dell and are sent to some of those who have checked the “yes” box where it asks on the booking form about “do you want to receive electronic mail, etc.” I still wish we would have an online survey available for everyone and using your booking number that you could log on and complete the form and I will continue to mention this to the beards.

These days though things are different and the last time I mentioned this to the beards they kindly reminded me that not only do they take great interest in what you say on the review cards but that they also take just as much interest in what is said on the social media sites.

We now have a team monitoring the following.

These are the four places where this team reads what you are saying and what you are talking about and so obviously I encourage you to use these sites to express your opinions and to tell us about your cruise and how much fun it was. So our social media sites have become as important as the review cards although it is the review cards that provide us with the ratings, the scores that each ship receives for its customer service and here are the top five ships for the month of November:

1. Carnival Valor

2. Carnival Liberty

3. Carnival Conquest

4. Carnival Imagination

5. Carnival Freedom

Interesting that the Carnival Liberty is pushing close to the top now that she has her Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades plus it will be interesting to see how Carnival Magic does in December as she is already a huge hit in Texas.

Yesterday on the blog I received some feedback about the smoking policy on the Carnival Liberty. For those of you who have been in prison and have no idea what I am talking about, let me just quickly remind you that we are testing a new system in which the RedFrog Rum bar and the surrounding area has been designated non-smoking. As you may be aware, the new smoking regulations start December 1st but do not include the removal of smoking areas on Lido Deck 9 on any of the ships outside of the Carnival Liberty where the test continues for a few more weeks. No, yesterday I received another comment that there was nowhere for smokers to sit outside and have a cigarette or indeed a cigar. They had the aft mid lounge to smoke in but outside things were far from comfortable. On land, the ban by bars and restaurants on smoking and having to stand outside like a naughty dog every time you want a smoke, has caused many to give up. Smoking has become like a Masonic lodge. We have our secret signs. Our equivalent of trick handshakes. We use tricks and nods and winks to establish a bond with other smokers then huddle around the lone ashtray with our band of brothers and sisters. And that’s how it was on the Carnival Liberty and that upset me a bit. So after a quick call to a beard, we have changed this as you will see from these photos.

So now we have comfortable chairs and tables and constant up keep of ash trays and cigar ash trays as well. There will also be dedicated bar service to the RedFrog Rum Bar and the BlueIguana Tequila Bar. I know it’s not the same as smoking at the bar, I realise that but in today’s climate, it offers a place to sit and smoke outside as well as the places we still have inside. I know non-smokers understandably would prefer us to smoke outside and so we must provide smokers with a comfortable environment for them to do so. That’s why the Dream class and the Lanai is so perfect. Anyway, the balance to find a happy ground for non smokers and smokers alike continues but I have to be honest, of course, and say that this is never ever going to be easy and we will never make everyone happy when it comes to smoking.

You may have also read a comment above from Leslie about us holding an activity in the smoking lounge, a spa wellness activity no less which is like holding a Weight Watchers meeting at a KFC. Ridiculous. Anyway, another example of instant reaction thanks to your comments here as shown by this e mail from the Carnival Legend hotel director.

Hello Mr. J

It is not a nice comment at all, we will move the spa activities to another lounge, as this is the only indoor cigar smoking lounge on SP-class ships… Thank you for sending the comments.

Regards,

Guna
Hotel Director, Carnival Legend
Carnival Cruise Lines

He is right and we shouldn’t force non-smokers to attend an activity in a smoking lounge and we shouldn’t ask smokers to stop smoking there so we can hold the activity. This policy has been sent to all the ships. Next on my list and based on your comments, is to improve the coffee on Lido, that’s on my call sheet today…………………..vacation, my arse.

Obviously, I am a smoker, I smoke cigars and have done so for 15 years now and the smoking ban here in the UK makes it impossible for me to smoke one anywhere outside of my garden or in my car. Now I know I should give up, I really do but I don’t drink, I don’t cheat on my wife, I don’t own an Aston Martin and I don’t have any hobbies although apparently dog walking is on the horizon. So what do I do to relax? Well, when I am on the ship, I watch the odd movie or I make fun of Calvyn. But mostly I go and sit outside the RedFrog Pub or somewhere and smoke a cigar. I am not saying I am any better than any other crew member because I am absolutely not. But after 25 years at sea and to stop me from going insane and to allow me to sit with guests and chat, I smoke a cigar. I shouldn’t………but I do.

Here though it’s different. I have a very small circle of friends and none of them smoke. That never used to be a problem and I remember the days when I would pop round to a friend’s house or go to a dinner party and as the spotted dick was served, the host would place an ashtray in front of me. Those days are gone and even when you are allowed to smoke, there’s a sense still that you shouldn’t– that if you do, you’ll be the only one. Lighting up a cigar at someone’s house is a bit like whipping your thingy out and asking someone to measure it.
I have no will power, I can’t give up. The idea of walking past a cigar shop with nothing but my head to stop me going inside and buying a beautifully rolled Opus X is as ridiculous as placing a naked supermodel in front of Tiger Woods.

Anyway, I got way off subject there and the point I was trying to say was that even if you don’t get a review card, please use the four sites I mentioned above to express your views, wishes and opinions because Gerry and his band of beards are truly listening to what you say…………. and of course so am I.

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.