So our Christmas tree is up and Kye’s eyes are shinning brighter than the tinsel that decorates it. This could be because of the cold that she and every other Heald has at the moment although I think it’s more likely because Kye now relates the word Christmas tree to presents and her excitement is obvious and I can’t help but think back to when I was her age or maybe a couple of years older. As a young non-fat boy, I could never sleep on Christmas Eve out of sheer, bed-wetting anticipation and I am sure come the 24th, Kye will refuse to go to bed, and then wake me and Heidi up before dawn, out of sheer, bed-wetting anticipation. My sister Suedrip and I always did the same thing. We would wake my Mum and Dad up at 5 am to open our presents and the consequence is that my Mum and Dad always spent Christmas Day half asleep. Once my Dad, out of sheer exhaustion, nearly cut off his own hand with the electric turkey carver.

There are indeed challenges at Christmas time and when you celebrate Christmas on board the ships, there are certainly challenges as well. Ask any crew member which are the most challenging cruises and it doesn’t matter which ship, the crew will most often cite a holiday cruise. Along with trans-Atlantic voyages where despite our best intentions some guests can get ……ummmm……….shall we say a bit grumpy……….Christmas is a difficult time and even with 25 years at sea under my belt, I have bugger all understanding of why. Don’t get me wrong, most of the guests will have a great time and the atmosphere on board is fantastic but there has been and will be again this year guests on every ship on every cruise line who if you allow me to be candid……….. are just not happy people. Yep, Christmas seems to bring out bad moods in many whether they be on land or at sea and our incident reports that log complaints on board always seem to take an upswing at Christmas time. But regardless the crew will all make sure that they do their best to provider every guest with some Christmas cheer and some Carnival fun.

I have to admit that for me working during Christmas was always challenging and certainly not just for the reason above. As I think many of you will realise family is more important to me than anything and I always feel for the crew who are away from theirs for the holiday season. I also had another fear at Christmas time. It’s a fear that is far worse than any guest complaining that the Christmas decorations offend her off that the turkey was as dry as a camel’s scrotum. And that’s the dreaded Christmas kiss, a show of affection which some guests, crew and, bizarrely, all Italian men think is mandatory at this time of year. As a fat bloke from Essex who never quite mastered the “Mwah, mwah” of the social greeting despite having worked among so many different nationalities and who believes that you should kiss only a) your children and b) the person you are having or want to have rumpy pumpy with, I always dreaded the sheer bloody awkwardness that comes before the kiss.

Christmas morning and New Year’s Eve, guests would come up to me and the whole ritual would start. The clashing heads, should I or shouldn’t I go for the other cheek too, the whiff of halitosis caused by the Mongolian Wok and a distant relationship with the toothbrush.

Now you may think I am making this up but I swear on all that I love that this is true. One Christmas cruise on the Carnival Triumph a guest gave me a Christmas kiss. It was a stealth attack, I never saw him coming. And obviously he was full of Christmas cheers because he kissed me full on the lips and tried to put his tongue in my mouth. I don’t know whether he was completely drunk but as his tongue tried to pierce my lips that were closed tighter than a camels arse in a sandstorm, I vowed then never to work another Christmas cruise ever again.

Time for today’s Q and A. Here we go.

Jennifer Reinhart asked:
Hey John,

I love your blog thingy first of all, and all of your Facebook updates! I have a question about our upcoming cruise. We are sailing February 4th out of Jacksonville on the Carnival Fascination. Sunday the 5th is Super Bowl Sunday! I have read that some ships will play the game on the big screen and have a special buffet…etc. The Carnival Fascination does not have the big screen- will it be played anywhere? And I think that this night would also be elegant night. If they did have something special would that interfere or would it be rescheduled?

Thanks John!

John says:
Hello Jennifer Reinhart,

Thanks so much for saying how much you enjoy the blog and I hope you will continue to do so. The Carnival Fascination doesn’t have the Seaside Theatre big screen and so the Super Bowl game will be shown on the main theatre big screen instead. There will be food served, bar specials and much more as the crowd cheers the San Diego Dolphins to victory over the Detroit 49ers. As for elegant night this will be rescheduled to the day before or after and if you remind me a few weeks before you sail I will confirm which night for you. Have a brilliant time.

Best wishes.

John

Linda Alled asked:
Hello John,

Husband and I are sailing on our 13th Carnival cruise aboard the Carnival Dream on January 14th. Can you tell me who the cruise director will be for our cruise? Looking forward to another wonderful experience.

Thanks.

Linda

John says:
Hello Linda Alled,

Thanks so much for your loyalty to Carnival and congratulations on booking your next cruise which is now just two months away. The CD for your cruise will be Gary Brierly who is a young man from the UK and definitely someone who will really do his best to make sure you have the best of times. If there is anything else I can do for you please let me know. Have a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes.

John

David Straub asked:

During a recent cruise on the Carnival Freedom myself and the rest of the passengers were awoken at 5:20am by an announcement made over the public address system. It was a coded alert that I guess the workers understood but it left me and my wife and no doubt the other passengers in fear. No explanation was made until the following day when our cabin steward told us that there had been a medical emergency on board and that the announcement was for the medical staff. Why was this not explained at the time? Why did the captain not tell his passengers that there was nothing to worry about and why did we the passengers have to be woken up?

John says:
Hello David Straub,

Thanks for taking the time to write and let me first of all apologise for what happened although obviously the “bright star” announcement was needed as a guest was in trouble and needed immediate help. The quickest way to get the doctors, nurses and stretchers bearers there is to make an announcement. I can understand that an announcement made that early and with no warning can be disturbing and I understand that some guests may be concerned. However I assure you that had there been any situation that the guests needed to know about, a situation that affected everyone, then that information would have been relayed to you immediately. So I apologise that you were disturbed and I am sure that like me your primary concern is for the patient and like me you hope he or she made a speedy recovery thanks to the instant action of our on board medical team. I do hope you had a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes.

John

C. Goodling asked:

If you continue to relax your dress codes then I fear your ships will become a setting of common squalor where the waiters are better dressed than the passengers and you will lose many more passengers like you have lost me. It is to the gold standard of Celebrity and RCCL that this seven-time Carnival cruiser will head if you allow jeans and other blue collar clothing on formal nights. Where are your standards Mr. Heald and Mr. Cahill?

John says:
Hello C. Gooding,

Thank you for your loyalty thus far and I sincerely hope that there will be an eighth Carnival cruise despite your reservations on dress codes. Things these days are more relaxed and not just at Carnival but on other lines and on land based vacation centers as well. We still have dress codes on elegant night. However, in my honest opinion while we need standards of no ripped jeans and no shorts for dinner on any night I don’t think it is for us or for anyone to state what someone has to wear while they are on vacation. Is it a “setting of common squalor” no, of course it isn’t. Is it a relaxed atmosphere where thousands of guests each and every week enjoy exceptional value and a fun and relaxing vacation? Yes it is and I hope that you will consider these things and come and have fun with us again. If there is anything I can do to help you decide to do this, please let me know.

Best wishes.

John

Daryl Wright asked:

I have had five cruises with Carnival…all great. With that said, have you considered the fact that not everyone uses Facebook and we are not interested in using it? I feel your leaving so many people out. Seems most of your videos, questions, etc. are all aimed at the Facebook crowd. The rest of us never see the answers. All we get to see is the people crying about which table they can get at dinner, or what you can give them for free. It’s a shame the rest of us are left out…like the red headed stepchild. Think about it, and thank you for all the great work you do.

John says:
Hello Daryl Wright,

I realise that since I have started my Facebook page that I have tried to balance the breaking news, videos and interviews between Facebook and this blog. For the most part I think I have but I realise that there are times when I do include more news on Facebook than here on the blog. I guess that’s because Facebook is instant. News comes in and I can post it straight away and answer questions straight away as well. But I have to remember that not everyone has a Facebook account and I will try to do that Daryl. Thanks so much for your understanding and for your kind words.

Best wishes.

John

Nancy asked:

While I am sure it’s not a big thing to most Carnival customers it is to me. John, like you I am obese and as you know I am sure obese people sweat and need cold conditions. I was on the Carnival Fascination in cabin R127 and the air conditioning was terrible. I called and complained every day and the crew people said that it was 69 degrees which was acceptable levels. At home my AC is set for a constant 62 degrees and yet when I asked for this temperature I was told it was impossible. This is not good customer service and I am sure you John can understand how this ruined my cruise.

John says:
Hello Nancy,

Yes indeed, I can understand Nancy as I love a cold room myself. However I do have to say that the ship runs an air conditioning system that is controlled by central generators and certainly 69 degrees is a normal temperature for the staterooms and turning it down further is not always possible. I am sure the crew did everything they could and I am very sorry that they were unable to do so. I do hope that you had fun though and enjoyed your cruise. Thanks for writing and I will pass your comments to the ship.

Best wishes.

John

Eddie Fisher asked:
Dear John,

What a fantastic cruise and thank you so much for helping our family with a table reservation and the kids loved their trophies. You are now a star in their eyes and I thank you for being such a giving person. The other stars of the cruise were Ivana our waitress and her assistant Putu and our now friend and cabin stewardess Anna who made us feel so special each time we would come back to our cabin. The only downside was the rough seas on the first two days but the crew of the Carnival Dream made sure we all had a wonderful time. This was our second Carnival cruise and we will all be back in July on Valor. Thank you John from Eddie, Grace, Brandon and summer.

John says:
Hello Eddie Fisher,

Thank you for that fantastic post and the crew you mentioned are going to be thrilled when they see this. I am glad the kids liked their trophies and I am so happy that you are coming back to us again and sailing on the Carnival Valor. If there is anything I can do for you before you cruise again please let me know.

Best wishes to you all.

John

Debbie Sturgeon asked:
Hi John!

I am new to your blogging site so I hope I am not repeating any questions. I actually have three unrelated questions (sorry). First of all, I am booking cruise #’s 10 and 11 this week for next spring and summer. Cruise #10 will be in May. Will we still be able to get Platinum status or will that change before then? Question 2 is about the comedy club. We are sailing on the Carnival Liberty in July and wondered if the times are changing with the club since the whole George Lopez taking over thing? I can’t wait! Question 3, my in-laws are taking this cruise with us and I wondered if it’s an appropriate cruise for elderly people. We are going to Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, San Juan and St. Thomas. I am hoping there is something for them to do in the first two ports! Thanks for your blog and all you do. I LOVE it!!

John says:
Hello Debbie Sturgeon,

Welcome to the blog and thanks for writing to me. I am here to answer questions and please never worry if they have been asked before. The new loyalty program will be starting sometime next year and regardless of when it does your status will not be affected and you being this close to being Platinum based on the current levels means you will be Platinum regardless of the new formula. So nothing to worry about there in fact there is plenty to be excited about. The Punchliner comedy club format is not changing and show times are the same. George Lopez is going to help us with some new aspects of the comedy club including finding new and exciting talent but the basics will remain the same. Your parents in law are going to have a brilliant time and enjoy the ship and the ports of call. Have a look at the excursions we offer and if you have any questions as to which are appropriate for them please let me know. Have a wonderful cruise and please remember to ask me if you need anything.

Best wishes.

John

Andrew & Laura asked:
Hi John,

We’ve just returned from a fantastic cruise on the Carnival Magic, and since we didn’t receive a comment card I wondered if you could pass some feedback to the ship and some more to the beards for us. This was our fourth cruise on Carnival and we absolutely loved the Magic. We wanted to pass some thanks back to Wayan, our waiter in the dining room, who was always so friendly and made us feel so welcome. Also to Mel who led the Behind the Fun tour and did a brilliant job. This was one of the best tours we’ve ever taken and it was so interesting to meet the people who work behind the scenes to make our cruise so enjoyable and see the way that they took so much pride in their work even though they aren’t in the public eye. We also really enjoyed the production shows on this cruise. Although Carnival is our favourite cruise line, we have been a little disappointed by some of the shows in the past. Not so on the Carnival Magic, where the shows are some of the most amazing we’ve ever seen – on or off a cruise ship.

Finally, for our feedback for the beards. We have sailed with several other cruise lines and have noticed that over the last few years, they’ve been gradually removing some of the things that make the cruise so special. We didn’t notice any of this on Carnival – the food in the dining room was still fantastic, we still got towel animals every day and still got chocolates on our pillow every night. Although these seem like minor things that could easily be cut to save some money, they really make a difference to how special the cruise feels and will keep us coming back to Carnival, so we just wanted to say please don’t change anything going forward! Secondly, we wanted to ask if a survey could be sent to every guest in the future. We know that an email survey is sent to a random sample of guests after the cruise, but when you’ve had a great time on a cruise (or I guess if you’ve had a bad time), you want to feel that you can give your feedback and make your voice heard. It’s therefore disappointing not to be able to comment. In 2011, I’m sure that the overhead of processing electronic surveys for the entire ship rather than a sample must be fairly insignificant, so it would be great if these could be brought back for everyone who wants to fill them in.

Thanks John, and thanks for the blog which we love reading.

John says:
Hello Andrew and Laura,

Let’s start with a huge thank you for taking the time to post this. I know that some guests that don’t receive a guest review card are frustrated and I wish I could say that this was going to change but it isn’t. I have asked the beards and will certainly ask again but the current system of sending reviews to only 40% of the guests and sending them online is not going to change anytime soon. That’s why I am glad that you have taken the time to write about these great people and they will love seeing their names in print. We realise the little things like you mentioned do make a big difference and I promise we are not going to take any of them away. In fact, there will be more coming your way as I will tell you about next year. Thanks again for writing and I am so glad you had a great time and the staff and crew of the Carnival Magic will be thrilled as well.

Best wishes.

John

Jeff asked:
Hello John,

How are you today? I would like to know if Carnival offers a military discount program for current or prior military personnel. If not are they going to look into starting one? If they have one in place how do you use it and why it isn’t an option when booking a cruise on line. I am asking this because I am service connected disabled veteran and have been on a few cruises and am currently booked on the Carnival Conquest for January 8, booking ****** and would like to have this information for future cruises. Thank you for all you do to help make our cruises more enjoyable.

Thank you again.

Jeff Rees

John says:
Hello Jeff Rees,

Yes indeed we proudly do have a military discount and may I please suggest that you contact a travel agent or one our personal vacation planners at Carnival so that we can explain all about this and what we offer. Thank you so much for your service and I wish you the most fantastic cruise. If there is anything I can do for you please make sure you let me know.

Best wishes.

John

That’s all for today and I look forward to another week of comments and opinions…

I want to talk about the trans-Atlantic crossing of the Carnival Magic in a moment but first let’s talk about a ship that has completed that journey many, many times. I am of course talking about the Queen Mary 2.

She is surely one of the greatest ships ever built and certainly she is the ship that saved Cunard. Indeed, people with much greater understanding of this industry have said that without Carnival’s purchase of Cunard and the courage to build the brand a new ship then Cunard would become like Concorde and spoken only of in the history books. You know, I wish I could have seen Concorde take off and land and of course like many I wish I could have flown on her although maybe not considering I would have had to have asked for a seat belt extension. But whenever the hook nosed, sleek machine took off and landed from you knew there would be crowds of admirers and people who would be standing on the observation deck dreaming that they were one of the pop stars or business beards who would experience the thrill of traveling faster than the speed of…well…….everything.

But now………it’s gone.

I don’t feel sorry for the people with beards who now need eight hours to get across the Atlantic. I do, however, feel sorry for the plane itself. It’s sitting in some shed now, wondering what it has done wrong and why it has been put on the naughty step……Why did it not fly yesterday and why is there no sense that it will fly today? Why is nobody tinkering with its engines, filling its refrigerators with Dom Perignon and vacuuming its bespoke leather seats in case Megan Fox puts her gorgeous bottom on one?

There hasn’t been anything to replace Concorde in the sky although I hear the new Airbus380 is pretty impressive. But there is one mode of transport that has the same affect on people as Concorde once had and that is indeed The Queen Mary 2. She has taken on the role of the most iconic mode of luxurious transportation .Yes there are bigger ships but bugger all can compare to the Queen Mary 2. Like her sister the Queen Elizabeth 2 and Concorde before her, wherever she goes she is joined by a new breed of dreamers and well wishers who stand on piers in Australia and Southampton, New York and Newfoundland all wanting to catch a glimpse of the Queen. She is eight years old now and has just returned from her refit in Germany and I would like you to see two superb behind the scenes videos made by the Cunard team and hosted by the ship’s sauvé and perfectly manicured Entertainment Director Paul O’ Loughlin.

It’s fascinating to see and also get ready for a glimpse of one of the most amazing suites at sea and the star of the show the ship herself which in the second video the master of the Queen Mary 2 will show you ……… out of the water and that is something quite extraordinary. So enjoy these and we will talk about Trans Atlantic voyages afterwards.

 

Now that is the way to travel and I would like to thank Cunard’s president and our man in London Mr. Peter Shanks for allowing me to post these. Can you imagine what it must be like to sail on the Queen Mary 2? And as her captain said in the video, she is an ocean liner designed to sail around the world and of course to sail across the trans Atlantic and they do say you haven’t really crossed the Atlantic until you have done so on the Queen Mary 2.

It seems that Cunard has mastered the art of trans-Atlantic crossings and given that we typically only host these voyages whenever we have a new ship, our experience is somewhat limited. That said, I’ve seen a few less-than-stellar comments on the blog and on Facebook, mostly about of our entertainment and activity offerings. I have been a CD on three crossings and as I said at the start of the blog today, it seems that on some of these trans-Atlantic cruises some guests for whatever reason are pretty miserable before they walked up the gangway and wouldn’t have been happy if we had upgraded them to a penthouse, resurrected Frank Sinatra to perform the shows and allowed them to eat dinner out of George Clooney’s belly button.

But this is of course only a small percentage of the problem. The main reason we got complaints is because simply, there were some areas that weren’t up to par. It would be easy to say that we are not the Queen Mary 2 and that we don’t have a library with 6,000 books in it and guest lecturers as they do.

What we need to do though is work out what we can do better with the facilities we have and provide a better experience for those who sail on these voyages.

I’m not going to get into specific complaints but reports from the ship indicate that everyone was pretty happy in Europe and visiting the ports but it’s when we began the days at sea that many guests seemed to get a bit grumpy as to be honest, we didn’t have as many activities planned as we should have. Now I blame myself for this, really I do. Now don’t get me wrong, James Charlton did an outstanding job as cruise director and I received many glowing reports about him. However, it was me that was supposed to be there for the crossing and I know I let many down by not being there. I don’t mean to sound big-headed, it’s just that the crossing was my responsibility and I should really have been there to host what I already knew was going to be a challenging cruise which was only compounded by weather issues and a technical problem.

So where do we go from here? We can’t add another 1,000 books to the library and we can’t control the weather but we can expand the entertainment and activity options going forward to make our guests happy. We certainly have room for improvement so and would love to hear from you and so would the beards. What you would like to see different and what activities would you like to see added to the trans-Atlantic crossing of the Carnival Breeze (a voyage that I will certainly be on). I have already heard from some of you and many of your suggestions have been well noted. If you have anything you wish to say then this is your forum and myself and the beards want to hear from you. Please help us if you can.

So just to poop (spelt correctly) back to the Christmas theme one more time because there is something else that I need to get off my man boobs. This is Kye’s first proper Christmas. At the age of 2½, she has thanks to her forthcoming kindergarten Nativity play, a vague understanding of the baby Jesus, appreciates the Christmas tree (unlike last year when she kept trying to eat pine needles) and understands that, provided she finishes all her vegetables, she will be receiving some “prethenths.”

But faithful blog reader, I have a question. Just how many presents is enough? The dilemma is this — do I give in to excess, spoil her rotten and risk corrupting her? Or do I agree with my wife Heidi and take a firm stance and just get her one present? After much decision and because Heidi is the boss and I am scared of her and the pointed tip of her shoe I’ve gone for the latter. My daughter may already be famous in the cruise industry and spoiled by so many wonderful people who read my musings but it’s one present and that’s that. I shall spare her a Christmas lecture about world hunger; but otherwise it’ll be one big present, a Christmas stocking and that’s it. Oh all right, perhaps just one more Peppa Pig toy……….and it would be heartless of me not to let her watch her favorite TV program on the new Sony 60 inch High Definition TV………..wouldn’t it?

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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