IN THE DOG HOUSE

December 27, 2011 -

John Heald

When my beautiful wife Heidi said choosing a puppy would be the easy part I really didn’t pay much attention. She is from a family who has had dogs all their lives while the only dog I have ever had was called Rachael – she was a spa therapist on the Jubilee which Heidi says doesn’t count as being a dog lover. And so here we are with our new German shepherd puppy and I can tell you that actually looking after it that makes looking after Kye when she was a newborn baby seem only slightly more difficult than the $100 question on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

In fact the only way I am able to sit here in my underpants and write to you was to dispense with that part of life known as “sleeping.” At 10pm on Boxing Day night when I had walked the dog, fed it, gathered up armfuls of turds, developed an OCD hand washing habit and comforted Kye whose Peppa Pig toy she had gotten for Christmas was now headless, I could finally concentrate on other less important things like eating and going to the toilet myself. But just as you are sitting on the throne pushing out an entire turkey leg that the sodding thing starts howling ……….. the puppy, I mean, not the turkey leg although I felt like howling myself.

So just as the puppy starts howling and because Heidi was “exhausted” after cooking Christmas dinner for friends and family it’s my arse that has to go downstairs and spend the rest of the night cuddling a small, whimpering thing which keeps covering me in piss. And I am told the fun has only just begun. The puppy you see is a male which means I will have to get used to it humping my leg which means that I will have to think of a proper response when Kye see this and says “Look Dadda Pig, he’s dancing with you! I want him to dance with me.”

You know it’s strange because ever since we talked about getting a dog we have been inundated with advice both on the blog and Facebook and from our friends here in the UK and Holland. Dog lovers it seems know the answer to everything and there’s no problem that can’t be solved by a pocketful of stinky biscuits. They all think their breed is best and we all have a point, apart from pit bull owners who are all bonkers. Dog owners secretly believe that no one can look after a dog as well as them and that others are at best neglectful, at worst torturers.

I am actually nervous about writing about our puppy…….. and let me explain why. I get called fat and ugly by posters here and on Cruise Critic and I know that Ugocamelstowe and her mates would rather cruise on a ship that’s been chartered by the National Diarrhea Council than with me and that’s fine because you haven’t really had hate mail until you’ve upset a dedicated dog lover. I joked one time about gluing Kye’s Hamster Harriet to her exercise wheel and my mate Vance from PR had to help me answer a letter from an upset reader. Yep, I definitely am not on their Christmas card list and so I am going to be very careful what I say in future blogs about our dog.

So the puppy is here and while as he is soft and cuddly now I hoping he will turn into a savage beast ready to kill anyone who tries to do harm to Heidi and Kye. Yes, I know that’s probably not the right reason to own a dog but when you are away as much as I am it’s nice to know that when Heidi hears a noise in the house at 2am that she won’t be scared because the dog is there to protect her. She is however entitled to feel frightened if all she has downstairs is goldfish whereas if you have a huge dog with big spiky teeth, you can roll over and go back to sleep. Our dog will I hope bring peace of mind.

Anyway, it’s time for me to feed it some mystery meat as Heidi thinks with me traveling that I must adhere myself to the puppy now in case when I return from the Bloggers Cruise it thinks that I there to rob the house and do harm to the girls and uses its savage teeth to bite my thingy off and bury it in the garden. The dog arrived a week ago as cute as cute could be but, alarmingly, within 15 minutes had become the size of a small donkey. We have all of these books and guides and it seems that like so many things in life these days running a dog is more complicated and more expensive than running the engine room on one of our ships.

So what have we called the new addition to the Heald family? I wanted Churchill and for the first day or so that’s what we were going with but then we saw an annoying car insurance commercial on UK television with a dog called Churchill and Heidi and I both agreed that we needed a different name. I suggested Bastard, Killer, Tyson and My Arse but strangely Heidi rejected them all. There was no way we were going with human names as calling a dog Jennifer or Gerry, which in my opinion is a little weird. And it was while we were thinking of a name that I mentioned that I will be flying to Italy soon to visit to the Carnival Breeze and that’s when Heidi said “Breeze, I like that. “ And so we looked at the puppy and both agreed that he shall, henceforth be called Breeze. It’s not a bad name for the dog although I would have loved Heidi to be stood in a park shouting “Bastard, Bastard, come here Bastard.”

I will post photos of the little bugger soon but for now it’s time for today’s Q and A……………off we go.

David Teahen asked:

On the Carnival Glory last December we danced almost every night away until midnight to a musical duo called “Play That.” I believe they were a Filipino couple. We enjoyed them tremendously and give them our highest recommendation. Just wondering if they are still with the fleet, and if so, do you know where they will be this December? Thank you, John.

John says:
Hello David Teahen,

Yes indeed, Joel and Laurna are called Play That and were with me on the Carnival Magic for a while. They are now on the Carnival Conquest and as always guests are truly enjoying playing to their beautiful music. I will make sure they see your kind words as will the beards in Miami.

Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.

Best wishes.

John

Scott Cameron asked:

As a Platinum Guest I am grateful for the canapes and petit fours Carnival leaves in our cabin each cruise. However, it seems they get left while we are out for the evening and by the time we see them they have sat out too long to be safe to eat. Our first VIP cruise we were called to schedule delivery which was fantastic. Past cruises I have requested for these gifts not to be delivered and guest relation is always concerned about us not getting a gift for being VIP which is nice but I hate to waste food or money no matter whose money it is. I appreciate Carnival recognizing us for our loyalty and want it to continue but was wondering if the scheduling procedure could come back or could we exchange the wonderful treats for soda drink coupons. One time, we got five soda drink coupons as our loyalty gift and really put them to good use. If time permits, I would really like to hear yours or Carnival’s thought on this. Thanks for all you do John. Feel free to repost this but I do ask if you or Mel (who I sailed with on the Carnival Dream) correct all my spelling errors.

John says:
Hello Scott Cameron,

Because I am so far behind in answering my blog questions I am sure by now you will have seen that the beards listened to you and many others who said that they don’t like the canapes and we have now replaced them with chocolate covered strawberries instead. There will also be lots of other exciting things to tell you about as we begin to unveil more news about our new loyalty program.

Thanks so much for your loyalty and I hope we get to see each other very soon.

Best wishes.

John

Michael Friedman asked:

My family of five was on the Carnival Legend and while walking on a beach in Roatan, my 9 year old son stood on a piece of glass and cut his foot. We took him immediately back to the ship where the doctor gave him three stitches and tetanus injection. We were then horrified to see a charge of $109 on our Sail & Sign account because this was a port of call recommended by Carnival so why should I have to pay. Carnival should check the beaches before sending its passengers there. I have written to Carnival but was told as we were not on a Carnival excursion that there is nothing further to be done. This is something that Carnival should have prevented from happening though. I was told to write to you as you are the brand ambassador so I look forward to hearing a positive response from you as to the refunding of my $109. Failure to do so will result in me doing all I need to do to make sure my friends and work colleagues at Honeywell NJ know never to take a Carnival cruise.

John says:
Hello Michael Friedman,

First of all let me say that I hope your son is OK and that I have forwarded your email to my colleagues in Miami. I have also asked that your comments be sent to the tourist board in Roatan. I should point out that this is a very rare comment indeed and that the beaches there are spotless and have receive wonderful feedback from our guests. I do hope that once you look back at the cruise and the fun and the service you had that you will indeed realise that you had a wonderful vacation. I send my best wishes to you all.

Best wishes.

John

Debbie Spence asked:
Hi, John:

I just wanted to write you to let you know how much we LOVE Carnival. I especially want to commend Joe Baranello, my Personal Vacation Planner. When I first cruised back in 1991, I booked with a travel agent. My next cruise was not for almost 10 years later. Somehow I ended up booking with a Personal Vacation Planner, Robert Valido. I understand that he later went in to management, which tells me that he is a great employee for Carnival. I eventually ended up with Joe Baranello. He is so professional, full of knowledge and responds quickly. When I have questions, I email him, and I always hear back from him in a very reasonable period of time. I have grown to think so highly of Joe that I recently had an event that was a “Trunk or Treat.” I entered my car in to it and passed out candy to 1,200 kids and 500 parents for the YMCA. The theme for my car was “Cruising and Beaches.” The trunk of my Lexus SC 430 was open and I had a fisherman’s net draped across it with sea shells that we got on one of our many Carnival cruises to Cozumel. I decorated it with the “disco ball” that I had all sorts of Carnival memorabilia. (I wish there was a way you could see the pictures.) The best thing was the tri-fold board that I made. Section 1 was “ships,” next was “ports” and last was Carnival “stuff” – I put Joe’s name on there. I had made 500 bags to hand out to the parents for this event. (I am a self employed real estate agent). I was marketing my company (Keller Williams) and co-marketed with my loan officer. I had Joe Baranello send me 500 of his business cards, and I put those in the “parent bags” as well. People always ask me “Debbie, who helps you with all your cruise bookings?” (12-18-2011 Magic will be 22 for me, and 21 for Haley Jeansonne, my 9 year old daughter); I refer them to Joe Baranello every time. I now carry his cards around with me, as I do my own real estate cards. When people ask me about cruises, I give them his business card. I am so happy and excited to cruise with you so often. So many times, I see all sorts of complaints here; all I wanted to do is let you know how wonderful Carnival is and what a GREAT job that Joe Barnello, PVP, does.

As you say, “Cheers”

John says:
Hello Debbie Spence,

Well you have just made a chap called Joe Barenelo very happy indeed. What a fantastic recommendation for him as a PVP that really cares and I cannot tell you how much he will be thrilled when he reads this. I love what you did to your car and how you advertised the fun a Carnival cruise can bring and while you love Carnival we love you for doing what you did and for writing these brilliant words. Thanks so very much for taking the time to do so and I hope we see you onboard very soon.

Best wishes.

John

Simone Kitstone asked:
John,

I know you have to take time off with your family when you go back to the UK tomorrow but I just read that you will be not writing on the blog or on Facebook for a whole week. This will for sure let many people down and I feel certain that I have the support of many other readers who think that you should have one of your minions cover for you so that requests for table reservations and gifts, etc get honored. I have asked twice here for a table for 2 and something for our 14th anniversary when we cruise on the Carnival Destiny 12/17 in cabin 6299 but have yet to receive a response from you. This is a public service you offer and should be one that is not affected by taking time off and should be covered by someone so those who need something done don’t get punished.

John says:
Hello Simone Kitstone,

I am very sorry that I have missed your cruise on the Carnival Destiny and I can only hope that you wrote to me on Facebook with this request and that I was able to help you with your requests. You are of course referring to my week off I had in early November when I first came home and I wish I had someone to help me do what I do but while I have friends in Miami who help manage the blog its only really me that answers the majority of requests here and on Facebook and I do the very best I can. So I apologise if I didn’t get to answer your request in time but I do truly hope that you had a wonderful cruise.

Best wishes.

John


Reggie Delfonso asked:

John,

I read your answer to David about the Bright Star announcement and what it meant and thought that it might be a good idea for there to be a list in each cabin that shows what each code word means. I think your passengers would find this very useful and would stop the complaints you are getting and I see no reason why Carnival needs to shroud this in secrecy as your passengers need to know.

John says:
Hello Reggie Delfonso,

I am not sure we actually need to place a list of coded words in the state rooms as most happen very infrequently and when they do the cruise director will explain over the PA system what is happening. The only exception to this is the Bright Star announcement which is the code word for medical staff to urgently attend. I don’t think we do “shroud these words in secrecy” and to hopefully prove that here are a couple of terms that I hope you never have to hear on your cruise.

Bright Star – Medical team please urgently attend

Sierra Team – Stretcher team to a specific location

Poopa, Poopa, Poopa – Chief plumber to attend cruise director’s cabin, major blockage alert

I hope this helps Reggie and thanks so much for your concern.

Best wishes,

John

Kathy asked:
Hello John,

Our Carnival Elation cruise of 10/8 was wonderful. We did sail through a tropical storm, and we had the roughest day in six cruises. I have never seen such great service on Lido deck. They helped people to their seats, carried the trays, whatever it took to help the cruisers stay on their feet. There is a new entertainment member, Elijah “Showtime” Price, he is really good at his job and a lot of fun–he will do really well at Carnival. Steve Knisley tells me he will be wearing the purple dress (like you) in Legends after the dry dock. That should be fun when we take our children and grandkids back on the Carnival Elation Thanksgiving Day. Looking forward to see her all spiffed up. The ship has a good spirit, everyone is so friendly and helpful, one of the best cruises we have taken.

Your friend,

Kathy Davis

John says:
Hello Kathy Davis,

It sounds like you must have had a very rough day at sea and thanks so much for being so positive about the experience. I will make sure that everyone sees your words of praise and what a brilliant advertisement for the Carnival Elation this is. I pity poor Steve for having to wear that dress although I am sure he will look much better in it than me. I hope we see you on one of our ships again very soon.

Best wishes.

John

Denise Teler asked:
Hello John,

I would like to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for your help in getting The Chef’s Table reservations for my birthday on the Carnival Inspiration last week. It was FABULOUS! Chef Michael and his staff were wonderful. It is an experience not to be missed and something that I believe is on our “must do” list for every cruise now. Thank you again.

Carnival Addict – Denise

John says:
Hello Denise Teler,

Well that’s great news indeed and I am going to make sure that the chef on the Carnival Inspiration sees just how wonderful you thought eating at his table was. I hope others reading this feel that it is a “must do event” and will book, as well. Thanks again and I hope we will see you again very soon and please let me know if there is anything you need.

Best wishes.

John

John and Cindy Fletcher asked:

Can you get me a table for two for our special cruise? It will be the honeymoon we never had and I want it to be special. The sailing is Mon Jan 2 and we are in cabin 1352. Is there anything else you can do to make this special? Who will our cruise director be? We cruised on the Carnival Ecstasy and didn’t care for Steve Cassel very much as he was just not funny and we found him freaky-deaky.

John says:
Hello John and Cindy Fletcher,

I was surprised to read that you did not enjoy Steve Cassel as he is a one of our most popular CD’s and thanks to Uncle Google I can see what “freaky deaky” means. Steve is different, unique for sure and very talented and just a little bit goofy which, for many, adds to his appeal. Your CD on the Carnival Triumph will be Big Tex another very talented young man who I know you will enjoy. I will ask the maitre d to assist you with your table request and I know he will do all he can for you. Have a great cruise and a very happy honeymoon.

Best wishes to you both.

John

And that’s all for today. I will do my best to catch up on the questions and if it is time sensitive may I suggest you ask me on www.facebook.com/johnheald where for the most part I am able to answer in 24 hours.

So, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and I will tell you more about mine later. I can tell you that I am typing this blog mostly with one hand as my left arm is still sore from the carpool tunnel surgery I had. It feels better for sure and I go back to Doctor Longfinger on Friday for a checkup. I keep it in a sling most of the day but as told to but here in my little office I can slip it off without Heidi knowing. While the wrist is sore from the surgery I can feel a difference for sure and hopefully it will be a permanent one.

So how was Christmas on the ships? Well let’s find out as my friend Butch tells us what happened on the Carnival Liberty.

BUTCH’S 2011 HOLIDAY REPORT

Hello John and bloggers and happy holidays……..I was trying to remember how many years I have been giving the Carnival holiday report, I think this is four years now……time flies when you are having fun. This year I am spending the holidays on the Carnival Liberty. It seems that all of a sudden December snuck up on us as we have been so crazy busy here with all of the new 2.0 venues and entertainment that it was time to start preparing for this festive time of year. As always the ship has been decorated for the month of December with miles of garland and many Christmas trees scattered throughout the ship, including the nine foot tall tree that stands proud in the lobby atrium. My favorite piece of decoration is the giant gingerbread village that the culinary team creates each and every year……truly a work of art. There is a lot to be done this time of year to prepare for our special holiday voyages, not only for the guests, but also the crew.

Guest Activities
This year for Christmas we had a better fleet plan for guest activities in the month of December. The plan included holiday-oriented trivia contests and games and a better emphasis on all of the live bands performing holiday music throughout the month. Also, this year, after a successful test last year on the Carnival Dream, we made it snow on every ship in the fleet in the lobby atriums on every voyage in December. This is one of the simplest, yet most magical events as heaps of manmade snow falls six decks down on to a crowd of guests as we play holiday tunes. Of course we had our annual holiday show that featured our singers and dancers and participants from our youth programs. It always warms my heart to see the kids get involved in the show time and it is such a wonderful experience for the entertainers to work with the junior cruisers as we often don’t have too much interaction in our department with these small ones. We also have been observing Chanukah each night for our guests of the Jewish faith with a special ceremony with food and wine and the beautiful blessing as we have lit the menorah (or rather screwed in the light bulb on the menorah) each night of this festival.

Something that is deeply important to me personally on Christmas is to remember the real reason for the season and that is the birth of Christ. For many years now I have been hosting on Christmas day an inter-denominational Christian Christmas service. I always love this event as we celebrate the holiday with crew and guests alike in song and remembrance of why this day exists. This year we had a really touching service with crew members who volunteered to do readings and members of the entertainment team sharing their musical talents in praise and worship.

Crew Activities
As if this month could not be busier for the Carnival Liberty entertainment team, it also happened to be our department’s month to host the crew activities and social events. We really went all out hosting parties throughout the month all with a holiday theme including “the Winter White Party,” “The Red Party,” and “The Naughty or Nice Party.” I always love the crew parties where all departments get together to unwind in a guest lounge for the evening, dance, sing, and just let the stress of our jobs melt away……although, as I get older and as these crew parties take place after hours, I am finding it hard to stay awake to enjoy these festivities. In addition to the weekly crew events, the culinary team prepared a special Christmas Eve late night holiday treat event where they featured traditional holiday sugary sweets, cookies, and cakes from the different nations that represent our international team.

In addition to the events for all of the crew there are some special holiday parties for the management held this time of year including the captain’s senior office holiday party and the hotel management party……all with wonderful holiday spreads to say thank you to the management team for their hard work.

Entertainment Department Events
Since arriving on the Carnival Liberty in mid-October, it was very apparent to me, that for the first time in a long time, I had a lot of new Carnival team members on my entertainment team; many of them on a ship for the first time, and many of them spending the holidays away from their families for the first time. It was apparent to me months before the holidays that I needed to really work hard to make the holidays extra special and memorable for my shipboard family. I have only had one Christmas home in the eight years that I worked for Carnival with my family and although I am content with the fact that I choose this life, it never gets easier this time of year to be away.

So this year “Father Butchmas” (a nickname given to me by a one James Charlton years ago during the holiday season) was out in full force. I always start the month of December with the department holiday card photo shoot. Now, no offensive to any of my colleagues who all send out the same holiday card photo that is taken at the end of the holiday show on stage, I try to make the card as special and memorable as possible. You may remember my card from the Carnival Dream last year where every member of the department was an ornament on a Christmas tree…….this year I wanted to do something a little bit more modern and something that was definitely “2.0” The card turned out great… take a look:

Some other activities for the team included a make your own Christmas stocking party (which I later filled with holiday treats). The chef even let the team loose in the galley one evening where we made and decorated hundreds of holiday cookies. We had a couple of holiday movie nights and of course our secret Santa gift exchange. I love secret Santa and we picked the first day of December this year to give ample shopping time. I happen to pick one of the first contract dancers who was spending his first holiday away from his family and I took great pleasure in leaving little treats and clues for him throughout the month until we did our big reveal in a champagne pajama breakfast on Christmas morning.

A couple of Butch holiday traditions that I have continued this year is my now famous department ugly Christmas sweater Christmas party……the team looked hilarious this year as we celebrated into Christmas day night and our elephant gift exchange where everyone in the department brings a wrapped gag gift to the party and you end up with something random and hilarious at the end of the night (a couple of the gifts were too inappropriate to mention in this forum). The team here has been working so hard with the release of Fun Ship 2.0 and I wanted to show my appreciation so my gift to department this year was a personalized Carnival Liberty entertainment team T-shirt and matching mug that I made for everyone on the team. Although it will never be easy to spend the holidays away from home, we had a wonderful Christmas. We are already looking forward to our New Year celebration that is going to be full of surprises as we will utilize our new 2.0 spaces to their fullest for the party of the year.

Finally, my ultimate Christmas gift is coming just a few days late this year……my parents are cruising on the 31st and I can’t wait to ring in the New Year with them.

All my love John to you and Heidi and Kye

Your friend,

Butch

Thanks so much Butch for that heartfelt report and I am sure that you have given our guests the most wonderful Christmas cruise experience. Well done mate and I send my best wishes for the most wonderful and fun New Year to you and your family.

Well, I will be writing another blog on Thursday as I recap 2011 and will have some hints as to what you can look forward to in 2012 and beyond so please check back with me here on Friday. Then on January 2 I will resume with the three blogs a week and each day on Facebook where by the way you can find me each day starting today. Then before you know it I will be on the Carnival Magic, back in the CD chair and then of course I will be on the Breeze…..the ship ……… not the dog.

So Kye was spoiled, there is no other word for it as the mountain of ripped wrapping paper proved. We bought her Peppa Pig stuff but to try and get her to kick the pork habit we included other stuff as well. This included a Mr Potato Head which for a moment she looked excited about but when it emerged that he didn’t do much, he was abandoned and as he lay there on the floor being buried alive under more wrapping paper. I remembered that Kye’s reaction to Mr Potato Head was how I reacted when at the age of 10 my parents bought me a yo-yo. Now I don’t want to add yo-yo enthusiasts to the ever-growing list of people who think I am an idiot but I have to say………yo-yo’s are crap………..total and utter crap. They were crap when I was 10 and they’re crap now. It was then a Peppa Pig Christmas and the only other thing that could come close was a game where paper butterflies are blown out of an elephant’s trunk and you have to catch them with nets. My record is nine.

So overall it was a good Christmas in the Heald household despite Breeze crapping on the presents. Yep, I enjoyed Christmas. I like turkey sandwiches. The Great Escape is always worth watching. I don’t have any relatives who wet themselves over lunch. I loved seeing Kye’s beaming face at 5am and I am grateful that three different people bought me new underpants and only slightly bothered that nobody bought me an Aston Martin. The beards had a great time as well and I hear the marketing department’s Christmas Party was a huge success and like all office parties everywhere I am sure it involved one or two having some rumpy pumpy. Why? You sit opposite some bearded chap called Eric for 48 weeks and it never once occurs to you that he is sexy. So how come, after one warm glass of Pinot Grigio, he only needs to put on a silly paper hat to become Brad Pitt. Eric then uses a chat up line to Jennifer from accounts like “Put your crash helmet on, Jennifer – you’re going through headboard” and that’s it, a Christmas party one night romance is born.

Yep, I had a good Christmas and apart from the fact that my neighbor’s house looks totally sodding ridiculous with its plastic Santa’s and thousands of lights. It looks like he went to Wal-Mart, gathered up armfuls of anything that glitters rammed it all down a shoulder mounted missile launcher and then fired the whole lot at his house like a gaudy bomb.

Oh yes, there is one more thing. Please can my friends never send me another round letter that’s shoved in the Christmas card and copied to all their friends giving a recap of what’s happened in their lives this past year and it’s always to brag? “It’s been a busy year for the Jones family. In September, Brittney, our youngest, got accepted into Harvard. Not bad for a seven year old. Autumn, our middle one performed in the talent show on the Carnival Conquest and will for sure win American Idol next year, while Brandon who turned 12 in October, became the first person to skateboard down Mount Everest.” Yep, these letters are designed for one reason only, to show off your kids.

I have an idea. Next Christmas, why not kill two birds with one stone by draping your children in lights and gluing them to the side of your house, clutching their school reports?

Time to walk Kye until she does a poo and read Breeze a bedtime story.

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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