THE PRESIDENT’S THIRSTY FROG

December 9, 2011 -

John Heald

One of the major travel companies here in the UK is in trouble. They are 1 billion pounds in debt and have had to go cap in hand to Mr. Merchant Banker for a loan is probably because of the economy but you can also blame the fact that they used a professional soccer player and his pop star wife to star in their commercials. Now remember this is a package vacation company who does a great job providing affordable vacations for Mr. and Mrs. Average. He stood on a deserted beach, his pants button undone, bare-chested playing keepy uppey with a soccer ball as his wife rode past on a white stallion. What happens after that I have no idea because like millions of other British televisions I am sure, mine was covered in projectile vomit. Having those two advertise this company would be like asking David and Victoria Beckham to advertise Cunard or us showing Angelina shoving a Guy Fieri burger down her mouth while Brad takes part in the hairy chest contest. Thank goodness then for Jim Berra and his team for keeping Carnival’s commercials real.

I have a feeling that this particular organization will survive, I really do. You see in the UK we still have High Street and shopping mall travel agents. These I think have mostly disappeared in North America but here in the UK they are alive and really are a British institution. One of the things that they specialise in are beach vacations in faraway lands for very low prices. And they use something else which many other vacation companies have stopped using as well………..the brochure. I know some of you lament the passing of the old glossy travel brochure but I am not one of them mainly because of the unrealistic and eerily similar photos. You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if all big travel companies use the same photograph of the same palm tree to illustrate each beach. It’s the same story with the people on the beach. They’re always dressed in silk and they are much thinner than the actual people you encounter on the beach. Carnival used to do that to some degree, as well. Remember the old Carnival TV commercials and printed brochures from the 90s? We would have supermodel beauties and gorgeous men in the piano bar sitting around the piano, dressed in tuxedos and Armani long flowing gowns drinking champagne. I never was fond of those commercials and always wanted to make one of my own. Where were the regular, not-as-attractive people? There are always Mr. and Mrs. Average in the piano bar. And where were the guests drinking beer and shooting slippery nipples. Where was the slightly drunk older lady who whispers to the male guest next to her that he makes her tingle and he loudly replies that it’s because one of her breasts was in the ash tray.

All the cruise lines brochures were the same as well and all had to include a photo of romantic evenings at a table for two set up, especially for you, on a balcony. Let me tell you something about eating on a balcony at night. I did it once. I got them to set a table up on the Carnival Legend and its nothing like you would think. The CD cabins on the Spirit class have balconies and I asked for a table to be set up for Heidi and I. First of all there is bugger all room and it’s actually as romantic as a turd in a Jacuzzi. And it’s windy. And there is nothing on God’s green earth that kills the urges to have rumpy pumpy quite as dramatically as a strong winds blowing onto your balcony ………after a few minutes Heidi’s hair looked like she had just rented a moped and everything you put in your mouth tastes of sea salt, including Heidi.

Now then there is the ocean. Look we all do this Carnival, Princess Norwegian Graffiti Line and the Nation of Bugger Off or whatever their commercials call them these days. Hotels do it, Caribbean resorts do it, we all sodding well do it. We always make the sea as blue, inviting and calm and it makes us want to jump in right away…….naked… But you never see someone emerging from the Caribbean Sea when shouting “What the hell was that?” because they have been stung by the occasional jelly fish and unless Calvyn is on the beach offering to go on the wound you are buggered. Plus, all the luxury resorts always show flower petals spread over your bed at night and, too many scented candles and bugger all on television. So if we do bring back brochures we must for reality sake include normal people in the piano bar and the CD must not look like Brad Pitt but look like a man with grey hair who has swallowed a beach ball.

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

Bill Mandel asked:

About 20 months ago you wrote that you had not yet read Brian Bruns’ book “Cruise Confidential.” I’ve now read that book and its sequel “Ship for Brains.” These books give a very interesting you-are-there understanding of ship culture below decks. I really gained a strong respect and appreciation for the work done by the crew and the tough conditions under which they operate. If you’ve read the books by now, I’d appreciate your reaction. If not, I seriously recommend them to you. Thanks for your attention and all your comments. (I’m sailing on Freedom in January.)

John says:
Hello Bill Mandel,

Thanks for your post Bill and in fact I have read parts of Cruise Confidential and as those who worked with the author will tell you it is 90% fiction and 10% fact. It’s a well written book I will give you that but I know the author well and I can tell you that while I admire his writing skills he is a fictional author. I have worked at sea for 25 years and I can assure you that most of what he describes didn’t happen, doesn’t happen and won’t happen. Remember that I was onboard with him during the period he describes. I hope people will buy the book but I hope they will treat it as a fictional tale because in my opinion and the opinion of many, that is exactly what it is. Thanks for writing and I wish you a fantastic time on the Carnival Freedom.

Best wishes.

John

Dennis Johnston asked:
Dear John,

Recently, (The Sept 25th cruise), we went on a little Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Carnival Magic. I cannot say enough about the staff on board the Carnival Magic. We had put together a party of some 15 people from around North America. Perhaps I need to start from the beginning. The personal vacation planner we originally started with somehow one day was no longer there a Kimberly May step in as our vacation planner, gathered all of our records and handled all of our needs and coordinated everything for us. When we arrived at the ship, check-in was a breeze and on board we were immediately met by our cabin steward Antinno. Who along with his entire staff fulfilled our every room need. I had asked in advance for you to pre-arranged some ships on a stick which were awaiting us in the room and used for various competitions amongst the group, including an unexpected competition at the RedFrog Pub. Then we went to dinner. Here we were impressed again by the table which awaited us. We had asked if it were possible that we (15 of us) at least have two tables close to each other. We were all seated together at one tong table in the dead center of the aft of the ship watching sunsets every night as we cruised to our next port. Here we were delightfully served by a staff led by Danielle. Not only was Danielle and his staff a delight to have served us he took it upon himself to even to entertain us with some table magical fun. Lets us not forget the Maître d’ on the second level who made it by our table more than once during the cruise Then there were the days at sea where we found a wonderful home at the RedFrog Pub. It became our meeting place and there we found a wonderful person who almost became our personal waiter. He was from the island of St Kitts I believe, and always made us feel at home.

People can complain all that they want. In our group we had one purse pick-pocketed robbery happen, we had a return boat trip missed from a tour, who obtained another way back and didn’t miss the ship, During the cruise we had a detour for a couple of medical evacuations we even had a choking happen on some food, not to mention it rained our first day in Barcelona and was cloudy on the day we left. From reading your blog that’s many reasons for people to complain. I am sure that Carnival was responsible for everything that happens — the weather, the pick pockets, the sickness. Sorry, not here, not today. That’s simply nuts. Carnival proved time and time again that they provide not only quality service but quality FUN. Not one item could be blamed on Carnival other than a great trip and great fun. Several of us have cruised four or five times on Carnival. Perhaps not on the top of your list as “preferred” customers. Some even with other lines. But not one of us would be complaining about the things that Carnival has no control over. Because the things that Carnival does control they do, so very right. We are all looking forward to our next Carnival cruise hopefully in 2013.

By the way, most of us were wearing shirts which we had made prior to our trip, couldn’t count the number of times we could of sold them.

On behalf of our entire group I would like to stay Thank You to you and your staff plus the staff of the Carnival Magic for making it possible to have a “magical” experience in Europe. I know that’s an overused word, but never the less it is the appropriate word. Some of the people you deal with onboard and in the blog, well let’s just say their elevators do not go all the way up to the top floor. Just realize that for every dummy or rude in considerate person you deal with there’s hundreds that do not speak that will carry nothing but wonderful positive memories for their entire life. All created by Carnival.

Sometimes people need to realize that it’s the team that makes it all work and everyone I met worked hard to bring even the smallest of smiles to people’s faces. As a Brit you often use the term “brilliant.” Well Carnival has out done itself with the Carnival Magic. The ship, the crew the support staff all are “brilliant” and from all of us,

Thank You.

Dennis Johnston

John says:
Hello Dennis Johnston,

What a fantastic advertisement for the Carnival Magic, her crew and the European cruise experience your post is. I am going to make sure that everyone who needs to see this will and they will enjoy reading it as I did. It is easy sometimes to forget that for every one person who is not happy with what we offer there are many hundreds who are so thank you for that kind reminder. I am so glad you had fun and I hope that you and your friends will consider doing it all over again on the Carnival Breeze next year.

Best wishes to you all.

John

Jessica Bogan asked:
Mr. Heald,

I hope you’re doing well, sir! I know you are extremely busy, so I will get straight to the point. I am sending you a note in regards to being a previous Carnival employee. I was a social host onboard the Carnival Triumph from 11/07 to 5/08. I realize that most ex-social hosts would go on any other vacation than a cruise, but I have to admit that I still love cruising! My parents are platinum guests and we have been cruising for years and years. I’ve been on two cruises since my contract on the Carnival Triumph and we will be cruising on the Carnival Magic January 15th. I am just curious if there are any perks that Carnival might consider for ex-employees. The only thing I am aware of is family/friend discounts for persons currently employed, but what about something for someone in my position? I figured this is a long shot, but it was worth asking. Maybe some kind of shore excursion discount, bar discount, anything? Thanks in advance for your time, I don’t want to take too much of it!

Cheers,

Jessica Bogan

John says:
Hello Jessica Bogan,

Thanks for writing and I truly hope you enjoyed your time as an entertainment staff member and it’s no surprise that you still enjoy cruising. While we don’t have any discounts for ex-employees if you want to send me your cabin number on my Facebook page two days before you sail I will be happy to send you something to wish you a great time. Thanks Jessica and I wish you much success in the future.

Best wishes.

John

Joe D asked:
John,

I am asking for a favor from you to help make my cruise special. We are taking my daughter on a cruise on the 12/30 cruise on Carnival Imagination. This will be the first New Year since she lost her fiancé who was killed in Afghanistan while serving with the US Army. Please could we have a table for three as I am sure emotions will be running high and I think it best that we dine by ourselves? Thanks John, I have just discovered your blog and it is fun and informative and you seem like a person with a big heart so I hope you can get this done. I didn’t know what details you needed so here is our booking number and names. Thank you John.

John says:
Hello Joe D,

I was so saddened to read this and I am sure the cruise is indeed going to be one of mixed emotion. I will contact the ship and make sure that you have your table as requested. I send my best wishes to you all and I hope that the cruise will bring you some valuable family time.

Best wishes to you all and my deepest sympathies to your daughter.

John

Bernie Calvelli asked:
Dear John

Do you know what ship Captain Rassello will be on in 2012. My husband and I were on the Carnival Glory with him and discovered that he is from Procida in Italy and that’s where my parents were born. We became good friends and had been emailing each other but I think he may have changed his e mail as I cannot seem to get hold of him. We want to book a cruise again and would love to be on the ship with Captain Rassello.

John says:
Hello Bernie Calvelli,

He is a wonderful man isn’t he and I was just with him on the Carnival Magic. His schedule says that he is due to return to the Carnival Magic in a few weeks time and past that I don’t know where he is going. I think its best that I send Captain Rassello your e-mail address so that he can contact you and you can hopefully work out a way for you to sail together. Please let me know if you have any other questions and I hope you get to work this out.

Best wishes.

John

Mr. Chris asked:

You wrote about rum runners on your blog today and I wanted you to know that last month on the Carnival Freedom I used water bottles for clear alcohol and nail glue to seal the space between the cap and the little ring that separates when you open the bottle. Looks like an unopened water bottle and fooled your security staff. No way am I paying your stupid prices on drinks and as you will see from this link, the rum runners are winning the battle.

John says:
Hello Mr. Cheap,

I am sorry that I can’t post your link but I have an agreement with myself not to post anything from Cruise Critic. As for your successful smuggling mission I send you my warmest congratulations as I do to everyone who manages to smuggle liquor onboard. Oh when I say congratulations I mean congratulations for coming across as though you are 16 years old because if that’s what you intended, it worked. I hope you had a wonderful cruise.

Best wishes.

John

Mel Bettencourt asked:
John,

Does Carnival employ dance hosts like Holland America Lines. I have worked for them many times and would like to offer my services to Carnival but am not sure who to contact. Can you help?

John says:
Hello Mel Bettencourt,

I know that Holland America has a very successful dance host program but unfortunately Carnival has nothing similar. I hope you continue to use your skills to allow people to dance and for what it’s worth I think it’s a great asset to the Holland America ships.

Best wishes.

John

Terri asked:
Hi John!

First time poster here. We will be on the Carnival Pride on 2/5/12. My husband is on a restricted sodium diet. I was wondering if he will be able to keep to his 1000mg per day requirement. Also, we are a party of 10. Will we be able to sit together in the dining room? Our reservations are linked. TIA!

John says:
Hello Terri,

Thanks for writing and may I suggest that you call our special needs desk at Carnival as soon as you can so that they can help plan your husband’s meals accordingly. I am sure that we can help make sure he receives the proper food to keep him well. If your bookings are linked then it should not be a problem for you to sit together. Please drop me a line here or on Facebook if you have any questions or concerns.

Best wishes to you both.

John

Tim D. asked:
Hey John!

I truly enjoy your blog…thanks for your hard work on it. Quick question: My family and I will be on the Carnival Magic for the May 6 sailing from Galveston (my first platinum cruise) any chance you’ll still be CD then, or will you be off to the Carnival Breeze? It certainly would make it an awesome cruise if you were CD as I truly enjoy your style and humor.

Thanks!

Tim

John says:
Hello Tim D,

You may have seen that yesterday I posted the CD schedule and from that seen that I won’t be on the Carnival Magic with you. Instead, Butch will be the cruise director and will make sure you have a brilliant time. Thanks so much for the kind words and I hope we sail together one day soon.

Best wishes

John

That’s all for today.

You know this week I seem to have had more than my fair share of negative postings and complaints. Some were things we need to act on and we will and some are comments that make you think I can’t believe we did that, what were we thinking. I have always said from day one of this blog that I would share the good the bad and the mistakes we make and I think I have lived up to that promise. But…..but when you receive comments written with pure hatred and ones that seem so ridiculously petty then I have to think outside of my apologetic fruit basket giving box.

I mean, what happens when you encounter the most difficult of guests who complains endlessly about everything Carnival does and has made it his or her mission through blogs and Facebook and critical websites? Sometimes I think the answer may be just to say goodbye. Not me — them.

You know if a guest writes to because they had a genuine complaint, dealing with it is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and hopefully get them back on the ships soon so we can turn their bad experience around. That’s what I try and do as a cruise director and that’s what I try to do here sitting in my underpants apologising and helping correct the situations that have arisen. However, I have come to realise that there are a few people who are simply being awkward. We see it here don’t we usually when people post under a silly name rather than using their real names and we see it onboard when people who have missed a port say things like “the only reason we booked this cruise was to go to ______ .” More and more then on the blog and on Facebook I am starting to think if this guest is really the type of customer Carnival wants. Harsh words I know, but words I am starting to consider more and more. I have been writing this blog for four years now and for the first time these past few days I have read comments about how hateful Carnival is because we took canapés away and replaced them with chocolate covered strawberries and I have read posts calling crew the most horrible names and posts that some of the time are outright lies. It’s then that I think is this the sort of person who complains no matter what you do and if that’s the case maybe I should say “Well bugger off to another cruise line then.” But of course I can’t say that and I don’t but occasionally I really do feel like saying it. The guest is always right and myself and the shipboard and shore side people will continue to work under that parameter. However, more and more I am beginning to understand that Carnival and I cannot be all things to all people.

It’s not often I get to talk about the entire Carnival shore side employees but I need to sing their praises today. Each and every one of them is such an important part to your cruise and without them we would not be the number one cruise line. Earlier this week, our President and CEO Gerry Cahill held his annual Town Hall meetings for shoreside employees and talked about the Fun Ship 2.0 program and what an amazing year it’s been. This was held in the large cafeteria at CCL HQ and after that the patio area of the company’s cafeteria was transformed into a mini RedFrog Pub complete with food, games and our own ThirstyFrog Red Beer.

Take a look…..

Thanks to PR department, especially our mates Vance and Joyce, for those great shots and thanks to the hard working people at Carnival for all that they do and all they will do.

Today, I have the wonderful task of buying the Christmas tree. Now, Heidi insists that we must have a real Christmas tree and later today we visit many garden centers looking for the perfect specimen. Then, as usual, I will carry the bloody thing to the car, it will be too big and we will not be able to close the trunk and then I will have to tie the trunk lid to the bottom of the car to allow half a Norwegian rainforest to stick out the back.

Then, I will have to carry the tree in the house and will no doubt cut myself on the pines and while blood is dripping from my wound I will be assigned to the doghouse because I have either bent one of the branches during transportation or allowed to many of the pine needles to drop on the floor. Of course, the pain and suffering will continue as I have to stand holding the damn thing while Heidi examines the tree from all angles to make sure it is standing as straight as Tiger Woods gentlemen’s sausage. Now, none of this procedure can take place until Heidi has put on her favorite Christmas song on the CD player so my pain is doubled as I have to listen to the God-awful George Michael and the other one from Wham Christmas album.

Then, once the tree is straight and Heidi has approved the position the real hell begins as we start to decorate the tree. My job, is to stand holding the box of balls and things which we have once again spent a billion pounds on this year. I did ask why we cannot use the same ones every year and I was told that Christmas tree decoration is like fashion……….it changes every year. So, this year we have a red and silver motif and I am sure that as usual I will be standing holding the box for hours as Heidi does her thing and festoons the tree with various Christmas delights. And of course now we have Kye, aged 2 so the delights of her enjoying the decoration will make up for the agony I am sure. I don’t know why we have bothered with tinsel this year. All three of us have colds so it would be cheaper if we just sneezed over the tree.

Then tomorrow I have to go and buy Kye’s presents and despite bollockings from Heidi and my parents I am going to spoil her, bugger it. I don’t see her for many weeks at a time and I guess this is a way for me to not feel so guilty although it really doesn’t. Anyway it’s off to Toys R Us and to pick up a few last bits. I hate that store as I hate it when you get hit in the face by a remote controlled micro-helicopter the moment you walk through the door and the fact that there is something quite creepy about a near 50 year old man knowing exactly where I can find Barbie’s nurses uniform.

Then I have to get my sister something and that’s easy because this brilliant city girl who holds down a massively responsible job in a bank thingy now lives for just two things, her family and her two horses. So that’s easy then, I will be buying her anything with a photo of a horse on it. God, she is crazy for these two four legged creatures. Every morning she must go and clear huge piles of poo from the stables, and she has to spend the afternoon combing it and plaiting its tail and feeding it sugar lumps. And then each night, as she get into bed, each bruise and aching joint serves as a painful reminder to the fact that even though she was treating it like a princess it gave her a swift kick in the kneecap as a thank you. Horses it seems take over your life as completely as hemorrhoids. You can think of nothing else.

More importantly in Brussels, which is the capital of the most boring country in the world, the heads of the European governments are trying to save the Euro. This is obviously important because………….ummmm……. well it just is and men with beards and the German chancellor who has a beard under her arms will be there trying to save it from collapse and bringing the world back in to the “R” word………..no not rumpy pumpy………recession. Now while they are there chatting about the Euro I thought since as Carnival is heading back to Europe in 2012 that we could help out with some other stuff as well. How about they standardise how to get electricity out of the bloody wall? In the old days I used to travel on vacation or business with some hemorrhoid cream and soap on a rope but now we I need to charge the batteries for my, raspberry, lap top, Eyepad and electric toothbrush all of which need a vast array of plugs and adaptors, so much so that you need an extra suitcase just for these. This has meant that when I travel I need more and more suitcase room. I remember the days when I would travel to a ship with just one small case and had developed a routine where one pair of underpants would last me five days. You wear them the proper way round for the first two days. On day three wear them back to front. Day four and five you wear them inside out.

But of course it’s the socket in the wall that makes you want to eat your own hair in a fit of madness and frustration as I discovered during my time when I was in the Baltic ports. It seems every time I go to Europe it’s the same bollocks each time. Every time I pack for my trip I look like a roadie for Maroon 5. Europe could learn from America where every state has the same socket, now that’s sensible.

Oh, and while we are at it, why can’t hotel elevators be the same all over the world…why can’t they all have a button that says “G”….that’s the ground floor, that’s where the reception is and that’s where you know to get off. However, some have “1,″ some have “L” some have “R” and by the time you have figured out what button to press you have ridden the elevator up and down for an hour before finally ending up in the boiler room.

Europe though as our cruise ship guests learned this year on the Carnival Magic is certainly not united and while many have adopted the Monopoly-looking Euro as the currency they remain defiant that they will not take the best bits of other countries and adopt their polices for themselves.

For example Germany, the U.K., Finland etc all have strict Customs officers standing to meet you when you dock. I would like to see these countries adopt the Italian system ………. i.e ………bugger all system at all…………everyone just walks through while Officer Pier Luigi fixes is hair and looks at bottoms.

Toilets…….ahh….. the winners here are the efficient Germans. Never wanting to waste anything they have two buttons on the toilet. One for a regular pee or a pre dinner poop and a second button which sends down a Niagara style gush of water guaranteed to remove even the most stubborn log.

Finally, there should be a European and Universal whipping boy to be the butt of everyone’s jokes. The Brits have the Irish, The Irish have the Brits, The Swedish have the Norwegians, The Dutch have the Belgians and the Germans have the Austrians……well, it would be nice if we all had one currency and one socket in the wall and it would be a stronger European Union ………. if we all made fun of the French.

Thanks for a great week and despite the few negative comments and my rant a bit earlier in the blog today I remain here, dedicated to help as many people enjoy the best vacation in the world.

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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