WINE……ING

January 13, 2012 -

John Heald

We start today’s blog with a question and my rather detailed and ummmm………sarcastic answer.

Anton Mircea asked:

I am a lover of fine wines Mr. Heald and while I think your wine list on the Carnival Dream was acceptable and had some decent choices the knowledge of the servers in both your restaurant and the steak restaurant was pitiful. The boy from India who served me was inept to the tenth degree and his knowledge was less than basic and never once did he try and recommend a wine to go with the food. This may be because most of your “clients” were drinking beer or soda with dinner. I expected more though when my partner Colin and I dined in the steakhouse. We asked his thoughts on the Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon. I asked the sommelier to describe the wine and he said and, I quote, Mr. Heald, “It’s very good.” Any decent sommelier, anyone who knows anything about wine would have said “It has round supple tannins wrapped around layers of blackberry, espresso and black truffle.” I may sound like a wine snob here Mr. Heald but even if that were true I would think that Carnival Cruise Lines would want to have the ability to showcase its wine selection and not have it served by people from third world countries whose wine knowledge is miniscule. I would also like to mention to you that while we did enjoy the cruise overall the Friends Of Dorothy meetings were held whilst my partner and I were at the late session of anytime dining which shows very bad and inconsiderate scheduling.

John says:
Hello Anton Mircea.

Please allow me to start with the final part of your question about the scheduling of the Friends of Dorothy meeting. I spoke to Gary the cruise director and he explained that the meeting was held every night at 10 pm in the piano bar and indeed had no finishing time. This maybe where the problem comes from as maybe we didn’t explain this properly and you may have thought that by the time dinner was over that so was the Friends of Dorothy function. My apologies for the confusion there.

And so onto the wine. I am glad you thought the wine selection was good and yet I was very surprised to read about your thoughts on the wine sommelier in the steakhouse.  I will admit that the waiters in the main dining room are by no means wine stewards and perhaps it might be beneficial to expand their wine knowledge with some additional training. I was though very surprised about your comment regarding the wine server in the steakhouse as they do have extensive training given to them and have what I thought was excellent knowledge of wine. Anton, you probably don’t know this but I started in the bar department and then moved to wine steward and I can tell you that back then I had no training at all. I know this isn’t normally how I answer questions here on the blog, Anton, but tell you what, pour yourself a glass of Chateau De Bollock 1989 and let me tell you my story.

I had bluffed my way through the first interview as a bar waiter in 1986 with consummate ease. The only difficult moment was when Barbara Wang, the Carnival beard who was interviewing me, asked if I knew what a Sex on the Beach was. I was about to say that since I was an ugly bastard and ignored by the entire female population of my home town and therefore I hadn’t a clue about sex on a beach, outside a fish and chip shop, on the back seat of a car, in fact anywhere when I realised that it was some sort of drink……..so I said “Of course,” smiled and she gave me the job.

If that interview was easy then the one that the Bar Manager Colin Campus gave me to become a wine steward on the M/S Holiday was even easier.

BAR MANAGER: DO YOU KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT WINE?
JOHN: YES
BAR MANAGER: THAT’S YOU PROMOTED TO WINE STEWARD THEN

I of course knew nothing and I wasn’t even from a “third world country” as you described. Back then I did actually drink the odd glass but most of the wine I did drink came with a screw top and had a picture of a Blue Nun on it or if I was really living the lifestyle of the rich and tanned I would treat myself to something with a cork in it. My life as a wine steward was short lived probably because I didn’t know anything……….and I mean anything…….about wine. The only thing that got me through it was a bit of banter and a few jokes plus the fact that as little as I knew as a few of the Carnival guests during the late eighties knew even less than I did.

Thank goodness the majority of enjoyed the wine and I cannot remember too many occasions if any at all when the guest having tried the wine vomited into the wine bucket and said it was no good……………….and that always had me thinking.

When you’re out for dinner, why does the sommelier invite you to taste the wine? Why doesn’t he do it himself? You are obviously a wine expert Mr. Mircea but I think I would struggle to tell the difference between a Chateau Laffite Rothschild which costs $150 say and a lesser bottle that costs say $30. I still know nothing about viniculture and even if I did drink you could put anything in a glass and if it were chilled enough I’d be happy. I don’t drink at all anymore but when I do buy wine for occasions like Christmas when friends come over I have two very simple rules. I never spend more than $20 on a bottle, and I don’t buy anything with the words La or Chateau on it meaning of course it’s French…….I am sure they make great wine but that little man of a French president is not getting any of my money. You may not know this Anton, but me and the French don’t get along very well. I know they pride themselves on their culture, though it is not easy to see why. All their music sounds the same and they have never made a movie that you would want to watch for anything but the nude scenes and let’s face it, no matter how much garlic you put on it, a snail is just a slug with a shell on its back….anyway, I digress.

When I was a wine steward we had wines from France, some from California and a few from Italy the most popular of which was Lumbrusco. I still remember this for two reasons, it was $9 a bottle and we called it Italian Coca Cola………it was our best seller. Nowadays, our restaurant and steakhouse wine menus are diverse and offer something very special to suit all tastes and budgets. I was going to apologise to you for the way that the wine steward in the steakhouse described the wine you asked about but I don’t think I can. You see if you had asked that question and he had replied, “It’s earthy, plummy and deluxe with a hint of baboon scrotum,” any non-wine expert guest would have expected maybe a more simpler answer like, “It’s an excellent wine, I highly recommend it.” Anyway, I am very glad you had a good cruise and I shall pass on your comments to our new vice president of beverage operations.

Best wishes,

John

Oh by the way. My favorite part of being a wine steward was the hours and the fun we had. We worked maybe five hours a day, we cooked in the wine cellar using little stoves and — please don’t tell anyone about this — but we would accidentally drop a bottle of good red wine every night. The wine would be reported on the “Breakage Sheet” which was sent to the F&B manager …………….we never lied or misled the boss………..we really did drop it……….but only after it was empty……….ssshhhhh.

Let’s do some more Q & A………..here we go.

Barret Roby asked:
John,

I went on my first cruise the last week of October aboard Carnival Fascination. I loved it! My wife and I are already looking at booking on a “bigger” ship next year. While on board, one of our fellow cruisers told me about your blog. I love it! Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about our wonderful cabin steward Mark. We were in cabin U108. He was outstanding in every way. Extremely helpful, diligent, and courteous. If you can, I’d like you to pass along to the folks that run the Carnival Fascination, and let them know what a great employee they have in Mark.

Thanks,

Barrett Roby

John says:
Hello Barret Roby

My thanks to those guests who told you about the blog thingy and I am thrilled that you enjoy it so very much. I will make sure that the ship sees your words of praise and of course Mark who sounds like he made a brilliant impression on you. Thanks so much for telling me about him and I hope we will indeed see you on another cruise very soon and I am here to help if you need me to.

Best wishes.

John

Marius asked:
Hi John,

Here is the answer on why you were getting so many negative comments from CC members on your blog. Now I know you were right about the negative comments on your blog not being posted by the regular CC members but by other consumer web sites and message boards trying to fight back and maintain their members. I guess once your blog became popular “Goliath” felt the need to fight back against your blog and FB.

John says:
Hello Marius

I thought long and hard in trying to decide if I should post this or not but after getting a second opinion I decided I would. First of all thanks for writing and I would hope that in this huge and ever expanding cruise industry that there would be more than enough room for people to submit opinion and reviews on all the various cruise web sites and boards. If people are trying to post comments here as you suggested then it’s a good thing that I don’t print them then if as you allege many are fake. Thanks for letting me know and I hope you and your family are well, and I hope we see each other again very soon.

Best wishes.

John

Claire Masonfield asked:
Hi John,

We are from the UK and sailed with P&O and Royal Caribbean this year and next year we will have our first Carnival experience when we join you on the Carnival Breeze. I have two questions. Will there be any British television as my husband is a huge news hound and hates not knowing what’s going on in the world. Can you also tell me how formal the formal night is? Will gentlemen be in dinner jackets and ladies in ball gowns? I hope not but don’t want to be under dressed or indeed over dressed. Thank you John for your help.

John says:
Hello Claire Masonfield

It will be a real pleasure to see you Claire on the Carnival Breeze. I say that because you posted your comment on December 10 so I am guessing that you will be with us this year in Europe. Please tell your husband that we have Sky News and BBC World so he will not be out of touch at all. As for elegant night it’s mostly business suits for the men and nice elegant dresses for the ladies but from my many seasons in Europe I have to say that dinner jackets (tuxedos) for the men and ball gowns for the ladies are few and far between. I hope this helps and of course we are very excited to show you the Carnival product and our brand new ship. See you soon.

Best wishes.

John

Lorna Gregson asked:

Poor service on my cruise has me really angry. I booked a shore excursion through Carnival. The only reason I took the cruise was to scuba dive in Cozumel so imagine how angry I was when my tour was cancelled the night before the dive because there were not enough people who signed up on the trip, totally screwing my shore excursion plans. To add further insult to injury, not a single person on the boat, at guest services, or shore excursions was willing to recommend a reputable local dive operator that I could deal directly with in lieu of the Carnival trip being cancelled. I felt they outright lied to me in claiming they had no knowledge of any alternative way to dive. As a result, I had to spend a ton of time (and money using their ridiculously expensive satellite internet) trying to research local dive operators. I will return to all inclusive land vacations I think.

John says:
Hello Lorna Gregson

I am sorry we had to cancel your diving excursion which as you said didn’t have enough people interested to run it. The reason the staff didn’t recommend another dive operator was that we only work with tour operators who have been fully vetted by our company and we don’t really have extensive knowledge on the other operators in port. Imagine if a guest services operator had recommended “El Sinco” dive operators and you had a bad experience or heaven forbid experience a safety issue and we were the ones who recommended the tour? I am sorry it was canceled and I hope that when you think past this you will realise you had a brilliant time and that we will see you again soon.

Best wishes.

John

Andrew Dubin asked:
Hi John,

Love the blog. Been reading it for about two years now and never thought I would have reason to write you.  My wife, my son and myself went on the Kiss Kruise, our eighth with Carnival and already have our ninth.  Our next puts us in the VIP realm. On the Kiss Kruise my wife went to the computer area with our son and purchased some time. She was never able to get online.  There was no one available to speak with at that time and she never made it back as it was only a four-day cruise. When I went to guest services the next day to pay my bill in cash I told the man what happened, he called someone and then told me the charge would be taken off the bill. I paid the whole bill less those computer charges. Long story short, the charge was never taken off my bill and was charged to my credit card. I called Carnival twice and told my story but the refund was denied. John, it is not about the $30 it is about someone not recognizing that here is a good customer and we need to do the right thing. I will continue on Carnival but I just wanted to let you know what happened.  By the way I have already started thinking about my next cruise. Customer Service may not have done the right thing but I still have a great time on the cruises.

John says:
Hello Andrew Dubin

I heard the Kiss Kruise was fantastic and I would love to be on the next one with you. I am very sorry to read about your internet problem and I am going to be sending this to a colleague now for their review. Thanks for letting me know and someone will be in touch soon. Thanks for the kind words about the blog and my best wishes to you all.

John

Dianne asked:

I have a quick question regarding the platinum gifts. My friend and I are traveling together next month for our girl’s getaway. She and I are both platinum, but not related. Will we receive one platinum gift to share or will we each get one? After seeing the new gift on Facebook today, I sure hope I get to it before she does if we only get one! 🙂 (We are sailing the Carnival Imagination, booking number ******) Thanks for all you do, John. You are such a wonderful asset to Carnival!

John says:
Hello Dianne

Many thanks to you both for your loyalty and of course you will both receive Platinum gifts which should in fact be the new beach bag. I hope you enjoy them and please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you. Thanks so very much for the kind words that was so lovely of you.

Best wishes.

John

Drew Manzi asked:
John,

My cruise on the Carnival Magic was awesome. Thank you so much for the ship on a stick and thank you John for helping me with the photo of Captain Cutugno which is on my bedroom wall. I can’t wait to July and we are going on the Carnival Valor and can you help me with my captain’s photo collection please please please.

John says:
Hello Drew Manzi

I am so glad you had fun and of course I will be honoured to help you again with a photo of the captain. Please make sure you remind me here or on Facebook and I hope we meet one day soon.

Best wishes.

John

Andrea Gillett asked:
Hi John,

Will you be the CD on the 2/5/12 sailing of the Carnival Magic? We hope so! We sailed with you on the Carnival Dream in Feb 2010 and had a blast…do you remember “I love you more than corn?”  That was the cruise we were on!!! I won the cruise trophy for the trivia game.  Looking forward to sailing with Carnival again!

John says:
Hello Andrea Gillett

I remember that quote very well and indeed I will be with you on the Carnival Magic and I will do all I can to make this the most brilliant of cruises for you. See you soon.

Best wishes to all.

John

Jerry asked:

Hey there John I have been a cruiser on Carnival for over six years. I have seen some really good changes on the ships I have gone on. I have asked you this same question before but have never seen it addressed. I was wondering if you could see if Carnival is going to change their age limits on their Club O2 where after the kids turn 18 to 20 can’t get into the Club O2 anymore because of their age being to old? have talked to some of them at that age and they are lost on what to do since they can’t get into the clubs anymore cause of their ages and can’t drink at all which I understand that part. Would also like to know what did they really do as an upgrade to the Carnival Elation this time because I have friends that just got on there and say nothing has changed at all. They don’t see any upgrades at all. Please address all I have asked you on Facebook and your blog. will be resailing on Carnival Elation in Feb. thanks john

John says:
Hello Jerry

I think we have spoken recently on Facebook, have we not? There are no plans at the moment to change the age range of Club O2 as it’s very popular and successful in its current form. But we do realise that we need to work harder on the 18 – 20-year-old group. Now we tried having meet and greet sessions and scheduled activities for this age group but honestly Jerry, nobody ever came and it seemed that the vast majority were happy to go to the nightclub and other lounges and meet new friends and have fun without our structured assistance. However there is no doubt that there are some of this age who maybe shy and do need a bit of help to get the friendships going. What would help is a specific lounge or area of the ship where 18-20-year olds can simply meet, no events or staff, just a place to sit and chat. This is what we are looking at doing at the moment and I will let you know what’s happening in this regard and please Jerry, if you have any suggestions please let me know.

Best wishes and have fun on the Carnival Elation

John

And that’s all for today

On Facebook yesterday, I posted something that I wanted to put here as well as I am aware that not everyone reads that page. Here it is:

In 2011 was there one Carnival crew member or shoreside employee who you think deserves the title of ” employee of the year?” if so and in 100 words or less please tell the beards and I who deserves this title and why and the winner will be judged by what you say. It may have been an act of fun or kindness or something special so please tell me who, if anyone, should win the title. Voting will close at 6pm EST on Monday the 16th. Please don’t vote for Gerry Cahill or me as we are judging this. Thanks everyone. If there is someone you would like to nominate please let me know here if you haven’t already done so on Facebook and my thanks for doing so. I will announce the winner soon.

I have been asked a lot on Facebook this past week about if or not we will be showing the football games on the ships and of course we will be. And on the ships that have the Seaside Theatre big screens some of the games will be shown there as well as in the sports bars. Now, I enjoy a bit of American football but never having played I do not have the first bloody clue what’s going on. I have no idea why it’s called football when only one man uses his feet and I have no idea how the heck any player understands the enigma of codes that the quarterback shouts out to the rest of the players. Just when I think I understand what’s happened and what’s going to happen next the game stops to allow for seven hours of advertising for Budweiser, Depends and antacid pills which may stop your stomach feeling like you have eaten a bowl of chilies coated in chili sauce with chilies on the top but side effects may include uncontrollable diarrhea, headaches and bed wetting. Anyway, given that I’m not a football fan I don’t understand is why a few of these posters make it sound like a total disaster if there game isn’t shown on their cruise.

Last week I asked the Facebookers if they had to choose between watching the Super Bowl or having dinner in the dining room and seeing a show what they would do. I was I must say gobsmacked at the number of people who said they would watch the football on Lido while munching on a hot dog. Anyway the games will be shown and here is the schedule on all the ships for this coming cruise.

So I am leaving my family one week earlier than I thought because on January 22 I will be flying from London to Philadelphia for a week before then flying on the 28th to Houston ready to join the Carnival Magic. The reason I am going to Philadelphia is to spend a week with some of the Carnival beards and CD’s Butch Begovitch and Ryan Fitzgerald. Joining us there will be the folks from Hasbro who as you know we have joined in a brilliant partnership to bring their game show fun to the ships.

The first ship to get this will be Carnival Breeze so I have to learn it and in case I drop dead from Ebola or if I have been whacked by environmentalists, Butch and I think one other CD to be named has to learn it as well. Now I am not sure why I have to spend a week learning this but apparently it’s not just a question of me going out on stage and telling stupid jokes while the Smith family from Michigan try and win a $1 ship on a stick. Nope, the sets are apparently huge and the prizes amazing and of course I have to understand the technical aspects of the show which means that it’s going to be a disaster as I am to technology what according to Anton is to wine. So it’s going to be fun and I will be of course telling you and showing you all about the game show which regardless of whether my fat arse understands it all going to be absolutely brilliant.

So I am flying on January 22 which is my birthday which when I told Heidi was met with some tears as she had apparently planned something special for me which as I sit here in my underpants she is desperately trying to re-arrange and I feel a total bastard again for buggering off. I will see them in March when they come for the bloggers cruise but after being home for two months it’s time for me to get back to work. Flying on my birthday doesn’t really bother me but what does is the ticket I was sent yesterday. Let me explain. My ticket says I am flying with one airline but I am actually flying with another airline. I asked the lovely lady Maureen who is in charge of our immense crew travel program and she explained it was called “code sharing” and it happens all the time she explained. Well what a load of bollocks. You see I am booked to fly with British Airways, fully expecting when I read the email ticket Maureen sent me that my flaccid arse would be wedged into an economy seat on a British Airways plane. What a plonker I am though. How naive. Because despite Carnival having booked a flight with British Airways, I will in fact be travelling on a flight with American Airlines. Why? Because they were “code sharing.”

Now at this point I can hear various anti-Johns sitting in their mother’s basement shouting at their computer screens telling me to shut up. It’s a plane, sit there and stop moaning you fat bastard. Well, I would do if maybe I was in first class and being pampered with caviar, have a choice of 3,098 movies and to be able to sleep on a luxurious seat that folds all the way down and where a sexy flight attendant called April will tuck me in and massage my feet. But I am not. I am in economy and the one thing that I really, really like about BA is that they have screens at the back of the seats. On American they don’t. They have overhead monitors showing bits of NBC shows and which if you were to watch for eight hours your neck would be locked into position.

I don’t get it. If I’d wanted to fly American Airlines, I’d have asked Carnival to book me on American Airlines. It’s simple isn’t it. Can you imagine if Carnival did this? You book a Carnival cruise only to discover we are code sharing with AIDA and you spend your vacation on a great cruise but surrounded by naked Germans. Code sharing my arse!

So I have one week left before the adventure begins and while I will spend the week away from writing a blog until Monday January 24 I will be on Facebook each and every day posting the news, the Carnival Spirit dry dock news and answering all your questions. Thanks for your continuing friendship and company and I am off to drink a glass of Mad Dog 20/20.

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.