FIGHTING TALK

December 14, 2011 -

John Heald

Some parents I know see Christmas as a chance to show off their child’s creative skills and have them making cute, homemade cards from sometime in mid July. And there are others who think that standing over a child with a glitter pen for three hours when they sell perfectly good v alue packs of cards at JC Penney is three hours wasted. Heidi has been unwell with a cold and last night gave me the job of sitting down with Kye and having her draw a snowman card for her teacher Mrs. Wilkinson. Well unfortunately Peppa the sodding Pig was on TV and when I suggested to Kye that she come and make a card with Dadda she basically told me to bugger off. OK, she’s two and a half years old so she didn’t actually tell me to bugger off but she did say “silly Dadda pig” which basically is the same thing. I knew then that when Heidi came down stairs from her nap that I would be in for a bollocking and Dad’s you may find yourself in the same predicament. But please don’t despair, do as I did. Simply tie your right hand behind your back and draw a rubbish snowman with your left hand. It’s amazingly authentic. Plus everyone will say what an incredible artist your kid is for a two year-old. Job done.

Now yesterday I went to see Kye in her first ever nativity play and as I mentioned on Monday on Facebook I was already pissed off because instead of offering Kye the lead role as Mary she was offered the part of a star. Not “the star” you know the one that led the three wise men to Bethlehem, not the GPS star……….a star…….a simple star with no speaking part. When Heidi told me this I was devastated and I became a stage Dad. Why wasn’t my daughter Mary? OK, she can’t say the word “toilet” yet let alone say “Can we have a room for the night Mr. Inn Keeper?” because I am about to pop — but that’s not the point is it? She is the daughter of Carnival’s Brand Ambassador and Senior Cruise Director. She belongs on stage, she should play the part of Mary or even Jesus!

Anyway, off we went to watch the two- to four-year olds perform their nativity play and it wasn’t quite as I remembered at school. The first thing that struck me was that the shepherds watching their flocks by night did not have the standard towels on their heads ………… nope ……….these were politically correct shepherds and were dressed in traditional shepherds clothing of bed sheets. The looked more like they were going to a toga party then to see Mary’s child. Anyway, trying not to let this get me grumpy, I carried on watching the play. We sat behind a wall of video cameras. To the rear of the stage was an unlucky group who had been dressed up as the animals in the manger. This included two young four-year-old boys who were dressed as the donkey and not a very unhappy one at that.

Try as I might to watch Kye dressed as a star and dancing around having fun I kept being distracted by the sight of the brooding donkey. The kid had taken the head off now and yet the back of the donkey was still in costume which looked quite surreal but the head of the donkey was now getting redder and redder. I could swear that actual steam was coming off him and he started to sway a bit. Then the donkey burst into tears and was withdrawn from the manger and cuddled behind the crib by his Mum. Shortly afterwards a sheep tripped up on a small bit of wood and disappeared off the stage. This was a health and safety nightmare. I presume next year the children will all have to avoid this. Is that a star in the east that’s glowing and guiding us ……. no………that’s Joseph’s high visibility jacket.

Back on stage, Joseph and Mary were coming to the end of their epic search for a Holiday Inn. The third innkeeper was approached. “Do you have a bed?” asked a weary Joseph. “NO!! SOD OFF!” That’s what I was secretly hoping that he would say. Actually he shouted, “MUM I DON’T KNOW” and like the head of the donkey he started to cry as well.

I was very proud of Kye and she stood and smiled and did the little dance that she had been asked to do and I felt as proud as anything. But the Nativity play had been a strange affair. Political correct and yet throughout all I could think about was Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Now I am a believer and was surprised many found this movie blasphemous. But in my opinion it was just a crazy outlook on the world’s most famous story and throughout Kye’s play this bit I am going to show you now was all I could think about.

I have missed a lot of Kye’s firsts over the last few months but seeing her there looking so gorgeous I realized once again that she was my everything…..she was by shining star.

And for those of you who after that gush of sentiment are not vomiting, it’s time for today’s Q and A. Off we go…


Donald Bowater asked:

I just discovered your blog and as you appear to be someone who listens I want you to know that my partner and I are concerned that Carnival does not support gay cruisers. There was a lot of chatter on ————- that Carnival is the least supportive of gay and lesbian passengers and I wanted your opinion after you read this. You can see that so many alternative cruisers think Carnival is anti gay. What say you?

John says:
Hello Donald Bowater,

My apologies first of all for not including the link but I have a policy here not to post links to other cruise boards for reasons I won’t bore you with here. I actually don’t need to read it because anyone who says that Carnival does not support gay and lesbian cruisers is talking nonsense. Each and every night and each night on each and every ship we hold gay and lesbian get together. These are advertised in the daily program we call the Fun Times as “Friends of Dorothy” and this is where other gay and lesbian guests know they will meet other guests who share a similar lifestyle. I am not sure what other expectations you have regarding this but we are definitely open to suggestions. Please let me know and I hope we see you on a Carnival ship very soon.

Best wishes.

John

Andrew P asked:
Hi John,

I noticed on one of your recent Q&A answers, you mentioned that you were considering stopping the Q&A’s in the blog because you answer so many questions on Facebook. I just wanted to say please don’t! I really enjoy reading the blog as it is with the questions in it, and we aren’t all members of Facebook so would appreciate the ability to ask a question here. Thanks for all you do.

Andrew

John says:
Hello Andrew,

I guess many feel the same way as I had lots of similar replies which is why for now I am still here answering them. Thanks for the kind words and hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

Best wishes.

John

Diane asked:
Dear John,

Which ship will you be sailing on for September 2012? I want to cruise with you as my CD…. (Of course I am not telling my husband this). This will be my sixth cruise with Carnival and I HAVE LOVED THEM ALL!! I am looking forward to making Platinum status. All of my cruises have been seven days and hoping the platinum policy changes to number of days at sea instead of the number of cruises taken. Looking forward to hearing back from you so I can plan my next cruise!

John says:
Hello Diane,

Well while I can’t say what the new loyalty program will be based on I can say that I know you will be very happy indeed. I will be on our new ship Carnival Breeze in September and it would be fantastic to see you and your husband there so I can show you our new ship and Europe and all the amazing ports. Thanks for your loyalty and I hope to see you soon.

Best wishes.

John

Carol and Jim Friejland asked:

John: Please pass on our thanks to the Captain and crew of the Carnival Liberty for an amazing cruise. The new upgrades are to die for and the Guy Fieri burgers were the icing on the cake. Our cabin steward Franklin was the best we have ever had and his stories about his many years as a Carnival employee were so much fun to listen to. He told us he was the captain’s butler on the Carnivale ship and that the captain had a dog on the ship with him. Is this really true? It was a great cruise and thanks John for the surprise in our cabin. You rock!

John says:
Hello Carol and Jim Friejland,

Thanks so much for this great review and I am glad you got to meet Franklin as I know him well. He has indeed been around for many years and his Jamaican charm and wit is a joy to be around isn’t it? Yes indeed, captains did have dogs with them and Captain Los had a dog on the Carnivale when I was first there in 1989 and in fact other captains had them as well. These days it’s not allowed and you need permission from USCG, USPH and the CIA just to have a goldfish in the cabin. Anyway, I am glad you had so much fun and I shall pass this review to the ship and of course to Franklin. Thanks again for sailing with us and hope to see you again very soon.

Best wishes to you both.

John

Elaine Brovero asked:
John,

I am wondering if Carnival has decided to lose the “party” ship reputation and become a “families with small children” vacation getaway. I am platinum, as is my husband, and just got off a back to back on the Carnival Dream last Saturday. There were so many unattended, misbehaving and disruptive children on both cruises that we both agree they were the most disappointing ones we have been on. From children sitting at all the bar stools in the lobby bar, so adults had to stand, babies in diapers and toddlers in the pools and hot tubs, children constantly playing in the elevators and running up and down the corridors in the wee hours of the morning ripping off room service orders and “snoozing” tags from door handles, it was just too much. I never once saw any crew member approach a parent to ask them to control their children, or saying anything to the unattended children at all! As you know, we were in very rough seas last week. The decks were closed off due to the high winds. I saw two teenagers go under the barriers set up on Lanai, and jump into a hot tub. This was observed by at least one crew member, who said nothing. I complained about small children diving into the hot tubs, figured at least one of them would crack their heads open, but nothing was said. I am hoping that this was an issue peculiar to the Dream only, and not something resulting from a marketing or a policy change. On the upside, we did have a table for two on both cruises, and I thank you for arranging it for us. I am not quite ready to give up on Carnival entirely, but if this is the future of Carnival cruising, then we will be looking for something a bit more appealing to adults. I would appreciate your input.

Thank you

John says:
Hello Elaine Brovero,

First of all I think we have escaped that image of a party boat that we were labeled with. Are we a family cruise line? Yes, absolutely yes and we encourage our guests to sail with their families. However it seems that at least on your particular cruise there were some issues although this has to be shared somewhat with the families. I thank you so much for bringing this to my attention and of course I shall now be addressing this with the ship and the shore side beards. I am glad the table arrangements worked out and that you had fun. I truly hope we will see you again.

Best wishes.

John

John Drury asked:
Hi John,

I have been looking at the new ship Carnival Breeze sailing July 2012, info is hard to find about the ship, can you point me at a site that will give me photos of the build and news.

Just found your blog, funniest read for years, keep it up man and do not let the beards rule.

John says:
Hello John Drury,

Thanks for joining us here on our blog and you are most welcome. We haven’t really gotten into fifth gear yet regarding our new ship and all the features she will offer but early next year I will be telling you all about her here and on my Facebook page. For now we have a web page at www.carnivalbreeze.com Please let me know if you have any questions and it will be great if we get to meet onboard our new ship. Thanks for the kind words.

Best wishes.

John

Lenny Zazick asked:

My daughter Nancy and her husband Jon are huge fans of yours. She turned Rita and I on to cruising and have since been on four Carnival cruises. John, I am in the musical entertainment business and especially pay attention to and enjoy the various entertainers throughout each ship.

I must say, I would love the opportunity to be a performer on a cruise just once. I provide high energy keyboard and vocal entertainment that engages audiences in a very wide variety of musical styles for dancing or just listening. I’m no longer a kid – just turned 70! So, I’d love to see if there’s a way to make this happen without all the red tape. This may not be the right place to ask about this, but I thought, oh what the heck, let me knock on the back door and see what happens.

Cheers,

Lenny

John says:
Hello Lenny,

There is no such thing as too old to entertain and I think it’s fabulous that you still love to do so. Now I will say that living on a ship at 70 years old may not be easy for you but I certainly think you should consider it. Have a look at our entertainment site at www.carnivalentertainment.com and let me know what you think after reading it and if you are still interested let me know and I will help you all I can. I wish you much success.

Best wishes to all.

John

Paul Beighley asked:
Hi John,

My wife and I are Platinum members of Carnival, and we first cruised with you on Carnival Ecstasy when it was one of the newest and largest cruise ships on the sea. I believe that you were just a young thin lad in those days. This was our first cruise, and I was so impressed with the food that I had to write the following verse.

Living Like Kings

We are eating our way from the dock through the bay Cruising out on the fabulous sea. We’re a giant afloat, a magnificent boat as we top off out dining with brie.

We are living like kings, and we drink frozen things as we lounge on the deck in the sun. We put oil on our backs, then they offer us snacks. We never had so much pure fun.

We will drink at the bars and dance under the stars to the music of joy and romance. Then we see the fine shows, and it’s time now, lord knows to give the late buffet a chance.

When we stop at the ports, then we all don our shorts and watch all the natives at play. Then we eat all the dishes made from tropical fishes and some of us wish we could stay.

We have lunched on the sea, had the afternoon tea with cookies and ice cream as well. Then, at dinner, partake of both lobster and steak, those last three desserts all were swell.

Then, at last, to home port, oh the cruise was too short, and how the time just flew by. And it just isn’t right how our clothes fit too tight, and we just cannot understand why!

Paul B.

I know that most people dislike poetry, but I do hope that you get some enjoyment from this. You can blame Linda Pearl (Trip) from Cruisemates for causing me to send this.

John says:
Hello Paul Beighley,

Please say a huge thank you to Linda for making you send me this. It’s brilliant and reminds me so much of days gone by. Guests would do this sort of thing all the time and perform them at talent shows. These days we tend to concentrate on complaints so this is really refreshing. Thanks for sharing this and I know it was enjoyed by the many thousands of people who read this blog. I hope we cruise together soon as it’s been too long.

Best wishes.

John

Zoe Clattenburg asked:
Hey John,

Why are there no clocks in the cabins. Royal Caribbean has clocks. Another cutback perhaps?

John says:

Hello Zoe Clattenburg,

It can’t be called a cutback when we have never had free standing clocks in any of our staterooms on any of our ships. We do have clocks on the cabin TVs on the ship’s position channel though. I hope this helps.

Best wishes.

John

And that’s all for today.

So as I mentioned on Facebook yesterday I will be heading to hospital on Tuesday for a little surgery on my left arm. The steroids haven’t really helped this carpool tunnel thing so Doctor Longfinger has suggested surgery. I thought about doing this after Christmas but I need to be having my arm fit and well for a busy January because I will have lots to write about and lots to tell you in the New Year. So surgery it is then. I am told it’s a quick procedure and I will be out the same day which is good and I am sure that at some point even though it’s a procedure on my arm it will involve a finger full of latex being shoved up my bottom, it always does. So this then is my last official blog before Christmas. I will remain on Facebook through Sunday night answering questions and will shut the blog and Facebook down from the 18th to the 27th. On the 27th I will return with a full blog and be back on Facebook every day. This will allow me to have surgery and to have a week at home in the build up to Santa and his sack coming down the chimney. It will also allow my colleagues and their beards in the office to do the same. This Friday I will have a little video to show you from here in the UK. Thanks as always for allow me this week away from the keyboard.

Before we continue today let’s have a look at more stunning photography from Mr. Radu.

Here he is with an introduction:

Good morning John,

I will send you a couple of emails because I have so many photos. It was a great experience, and a great chance to photograph the crossing of two our ships Carnival Paradise and Carnival Inspiration one day after the other. The traffic on the Canal was very intense, and this could be very well seen from the air. We did have a very good and experienced pilot from Canada, we did fly a couple of times around the Miraflores Locks and Pedro Miguel for Carnival Paradise, and for the first time we did fly over the rain forest all the way to Gatun Locks on the Caribbean site and we did film and photograph the Carnival Inspiration sailing on the beautiful Gatun Lake. One thing caught my attention, the construction of the new locks, is going so fast, so the Panama Canal it will be much larger very soon. We still have few more days from our Panama Canal cruise here on Inspiration, and I want to thank Stephanie for all the support and entertainment department making possible to have two photo seminars and slide show in the big lounge on the big screen, and the lounge was full for both presentations. The cruise director Stephanie did introduce me to our guest, and she was on stage for the entire seminar. The first one I made was Panama Canal from above with the aerial shots we made and the story of this images, outdoor photography and Digital photo tips, and the second the Art of Travel Photography and again the tips of the day to have a better picture, with images from all our ports of call and Carnival destinations. I can see now how the guest coming to the photo gallery and have more interest to buy pictures.

Many guest ask where can they see more of my photos, and we told them to view them on your blog and Facebook. Yes, the Panama Canal aerial shooting was a great experience, and I hope everybody will enjoy viewing them on your blog, I put all my passion and talent to take this photos, it was not easy, we had permission to fly only above 1,000 feet, so it was very high, on the first day for Carnival Paradise we did fly above Miraflores Locks and Pedro Miguel Locks ,on the Pacific side, and over the new bridge and the bridge of the Americas, and also above Panama City. We did fly as well true a tropical curtain of rain at one time. The next day for Carnival Inspiration, for the first time I do these aerial shots for our ships crossing the Canal, we did fly all the way to Gatun Locks and over the rain forest. Yes, it has rained a lot lately over Panama Canal, this make the lake looking like a latte.

As you know, the lake is the main source of water for the canal, without this the Canal can’t work. This is shortly what I had experience. The food they gave me in Panama in the hotel was so good, in the evening I had Corvina fish (see bass), they told me is national dish, and it was, please try this if you ever stop there in Panama. Have a great day and can I write a big thank you to all your blog and Facebook people who say lovely things about me. I hope I can take their photos one day

Radu Ursu
Senior Photographer


Thanks Radu and I hope you know how much we all value the fact that you share your amazing work with us all. We have many talented people who work on our ships and you sir on one of our most brilliant talented crew members. Thank you for everything and we all wish you and your family a very happy Christmas.

And now it’s time for a little video which we shot on the Carnival Liberty. It features one of the 2.0 upgrades, the brilliant Alchemy Bar. Now for those of you unfamiliar with this new bar it has been designed to allow our guests a whole new sensory experience when it comes to cocktails. Our design team spent months researching and mixing and trying dozens and dozens of new recipes for our new menu. Before I show you this video I should remind you that when I first started with Carnival that I did so in the bar department and I think it’s time I told you how I went from bar staff to entertainment staff and indeed I will tell you more about that in a moment. I was though a crap bar waiter. A guest once asked me for sex on the beach. I waited at Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman for hours but she never showed up. Seriously, I was dreadful and I was to mixology what Regis Philbin is to cage fighting. I say this in advance of you watching this video.

My thanks to Aide for putting up with me and she and her colleagues at the Alchemy Bar are brilliant and please make sure that if you are on the Carnival Liberty that you stop by and let them mix you something special.

That video was filmed and edited by Peter the Hair and Jay The Don’t Get Married Peter Because I am And I Get No Rumpy Pumpy Anymore. You could probably hear them in the background giggling like two school girls looking at the JC Penney men’s underpants section in the catalogue. They did a great job again and I thank them very much and we have a very, very special video to show you after Christmas.

So how did I go from being in the bar department to the entertainment department. I have never publicly told this story before I think so I guess it’s about time I did.

The year was 1988 and I was sitting with the bar manager on the promenade deck of the Carnival Jubilee. We shall call him Oswaldo as that was his name and he was a total and utter bastard. The bar department were scared of him and indeed so was I. Now you have to remember that this was 20 plus years ago and back then, once the ropes were undone and the ship moved away from the dock, that was it, the ship was its own boss. There was no email no ship to shore phones, there was bugger all and we did have one or two managers in various departments who were real dick……..tators. Oswaldo was one of these. I had been promoted to assistant bar manager because I was an awful wine steward. The cork would often get stuck in the bottle and I didn’t know the difference between Mad Dog 20/20 and Chateau Lafite Snobschild.

So they made me assistant bar manager complete with white uniform and there I sat on Promenade Deck with Herr Oswaldo. He was from Spain not Germany but the “Herr” should give you a feeling of how he ruled. This was his thing. At 9 pm every night he would sit with me and watch the business sipping on his vodka cranberry as normal. So along comes a 5 foot nothing bar waiter from Indonesia. His name was Aslim Noor and I will never forget him. He was carrying a full tray of drinks and for whatever reason he suddenly dropped them and the Promenade deck was suddenly swimming in beer, wine and slippery nipples. And he had done this right in front of Herr Oswaldo.

I rushes over to help him and I remember even guests or passengers as you were known back then helped as well. Not Oswaldo, he stood waiting for the debris to be collected and the deck to be mopped and for Aslim to replace all the drinks for the guests and told me to bring him to the bar manager’s office. I did so, reluctantly and I could see how nervous little Aslim was. Once in the bar managers office I watched Oswaldo explode. He grabbed Aslim by the collar of his burgundy uniform jacket and started to shake him, screaming how he would be taking the spilled drinks out of his salary.

As he screamed and shook Aslim his head banged repeatedly on the office wall. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Now I am not a violent man although I did a bit of Karate when I was a kid but I never had to use my Brown belt skills (never made it to black belt) for real…………..until now.

I asked Oswaldo to stop shaking him. He didn’t. So I forced myself between them. He looked at me with an expression of unadulterated hatred. His lip was curled and his brow was sweating as I calmly asked him again to stop and he responded by taking his hand and shoving it hard into my face and pushed me away.

And I am proud, yes I am proud I really am to say that I reacted as My Karate teacher Sensei Bill Smith had taught me and threw a huge elbow to his nose followed by a right knee to his bollocks.

Oswaldo screamed at me in Spanish and as he did so he lifted both hands to his nose and fell onto his desk writhing in agony, blood pumping from his surely broken nose. And I bet his bollocks weren’t having a good day out either.

I took Aslim by the arm and we both left the office. As we did I knew my Carnival Career was over. I had been there just 3 years but that was that, there was no way I was going to survive this. These days we don’t have any managers in any department like Oswaldo but if anything close to bullying were to happen there are protocols in place involving the HR Director, staff captain and hotel director. Back then there was none of this and so I found the staff captain, told him what had happened and that was me, confined to my cabin. We didn’t even have a formal security department back then and so to make sure I didn’t do my Chuck Norris impression on anyone else I had a deck hand sit outside my cabin all night long. Now all of this had happened on the last night of the cruise and we were in Miami the next day so I had packed my suitcase and was ready to be taken off the ship which when a crew member is terminated he is taken under guard back to the airport and only given his or her passport once on the plane as their C1 D1 visas are null and void.

That is what I was expecting. Nobody came to talk to me that night and I remember just sitting there, waiting for the inevitable. I had no qualms about what I had done. I hate bullying, always have and always will and so while it was the end of my career I felt at peace with myself for having protected little Aslim who had made the simple mistake of dropping a few drinks.

The ship docked. Still nothing. It was just me and my best mate Jose the deck hand. I wished someone would hurry up and just fire me and get this over with.

Eventually there was a knock at the door and there stood Roger Blum, the then director of operations and Brendan Corrigan, the vice president of pperations. Bloody hell I thought, I am really in the sh*t.

But I wasn’t. Roger told me what I had done was wrong but after listening to what Aslim the bar waiter had said that the ship and the office people realised I was protecting a crew member and that I had acted in self defence. I was told I had broken his nose and that his bollocks has shriveled up to the size of acorns and he had left the ship for medical treatment. And then came the shocker. I wasn’t just not fired, I was told that under the circumstances it would be better if I became a social host. And so later that morning I took my packed suit case to cabin 421 and moved into my new luxurious cabin that had its own private bathroom and my days of peeing in the sink were over and my days entertaining the guests had begun.

I never saw Oswaldo again as he and Carnival came to an agreement that it was best that he go home to Spain where I hope he is today living in peace and happiness with a nose as bent as a dog’s back leg. Aslim stayed with the company for a few more years and we lost touch but he never stopped thanking me and even today Indonesian crew seem to know about this story and still thank me for protecting one of their own.

I have Roger Blum to thank for this chance. Roger recently left Carnival after 33 years amazing service and now runs a very successful cruise and port consultancy company and we are still great friends today. But it’s thanks to him and people like Glenn Fusfield and the late and much missed Mr Zonis who saw past the English chap who was a dreadful bar waiter, an awful wine steward and who had broken the nose of a senior officer and gave him a chance to entertain Carnival passengers.

I should have been fired but they gave me that chance and I hope that this now fat, grey-haired cruise director hasn’t let them down and I will be eternally grateful for the chance they gave me.

I hope Oswaldo is OK and I am sorry I broke his nose. OK, that’s bollocks. I hope his face looks like he has run the 100 meter sprint in a 90 yard gym.

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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