February 17, 2012 -

John Heald

It’s Friday February 17 and its time to pay tribute to something that has slowly disappeared from the Promenade Decks and dining rooms of the Carnival fleet. No, not the sodding shrimp cocktail ……….the gentleman’s tuxedo. My first remembrance of the tuxedo or dinner jacket as it’s known in the land of spotted dick and Simon Cowell was when I hired one from a store called Moss Bros. It was for a posh party and my mate Alan and I thought it would be “cool” to wear a tuxedo. Turns out it wasn’t and we were the only two people wearing such attire and to the other party goers we didn’t look cool at all. We looked like total and utter plonkers and we might as well have stood there wearing baggy underpants…… because the girls ignored us. We ended up drowning our sorrows with cheap wine and the next day I returned my hired tuxedo to the store explaining to the man on the returns desk that it was covered in vomit when I rented it.

Some years later when I was a younger cruise director I would wear the tuxedo with pride. I would wear a black one on the first then “formal” night and then a white one on the second formal night and many, many male guests would do the same. Such was the popularity of the tuxedo that we, of course, started to rent them from the formalities shops and male guests would rent them in abundance. Far more male guests would bring their own, whether hired or owned wearing one was a sign of the times, rather like the huge real estate we gave to cigar smoking in the Destiny-, Conquest- and Splendor-class cigar bars.

But times change and the tuxedo has become an endangered species, replaced by regular business suits. This past elegant night on the Carnival Magic, Calvyn and I set out to see how many we could count. He walked round the dining rooms while I covered the captain’s celebration on Promenade deck, both sittings. Now obviously we didn’t see everyone but out of the many hundreds of guests we did see, it will maybe surprise you that the total number of guests wearing a tuxedo was………..11. Yep just 11.Now you may think that this is specific to the Carnival Magic in Galveston but I assure you it’s not as it was the same when we sailed out of Europe as well. Yep, the tuxedo is slowly becoming the betamax of the fashion world.

Many of you know my feelings on dress code and I really don’t want to drag this up again so that H82Seaugo and her mates can get their John Heald voodoo dolls out and stick some pins in my bottom, but times they are a changing. Back in those days, you couldn’t go anywhere without going home first to get changed. I remember the day when restaurants would turn you away if you weren’t wearing a tie. Gentlemen were required to wear jackets. Look, I know that this is a point of contention for many people but overall I think we have a dress code that is exactly what it should be………..relaxed. Telling guests what to wear is like insisting that all the vegetablists eat a huge steak. If you are a host at a party you are throwing at your house, then it is your duty to make sure that your guests have as nice a time as possible. That means letting them wear and do and eat whatever takes their fancy and during your much needed vacation I think it is absurd to tell our guests what they must wear. Some won’t agree, I’m sure.

So unless you’re George Clooney at the Oscars it appears the tuxedo is out and most of our guests have stopped wearing them on elegant night. And from what I have seen this week the new trend is for guests who do dress elegantly to change after dinner and photos back into casual clothes. The tuxedo looked good but with cummerbunds, cufflinks and a real bow tie to fasten and to position under the triangle collar it was easier to build a nuclear power station then to put one on. I recognise that some people like getting dressed up. I have no problem with this. But I can say from being with Carnival for 26 years that things have changed, they really have and the tuxedo has for the most part been replaced with the business suit and tie.

You know, when I used to go to what were then called discos, you had to wear a suit or you wouldn’t be allowed in. But not anymore. Now you can wear what you like. And judging by what some of the ladies were wearing in the Vibe Dance club last night, it seems …………………. you don’t have to wear much of anything at all.

Let’s crack on, shall we?

Maureen asked:

I just love the new link tab on the Carnival Facebook page. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the life and times of the cruise directors. I was looking for the Cruise Director Jamie, that we had on the Carnival Sensation Oct 9-13, 2011, but didn’t see her picture or bio listed there. She was fabulous! And we enjoyed her as cruise director. We hope to have her as cruise director on another cruise in the future.

John says:
Hello Maureen

Thanks for those kind words. Jaime is as of tomorrow on Carnival Legend and will eventually head to the Carnival Liberty as CD. I saw her yesterday in Freeport and she looks great and is definitely an asset to Carnival. Thanks again for the kind words and I hope all is well with you.

Best wishes.


Jennifer Reiss asked:

Your blog today contained a letter from someone who was on the same cruise as me on the Carnival Fantasy. She wrote how disturbed she was that during a night of entertainment Carnival decided to allow three passengers to sing religious songs on stage. I agree, it is disgusting and in this day and age I am shocked that Carnival allows this to happen. Please explain why on a fun cruise ship as Carnival proclaims to be is this allowed. Religious songs must be banned as you have a multi-cultural multi or no faith audience!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

John says:
Hello Jennifer Reiss

I am sorry for the long delay in my reply to your question but I really am so far behind in my blog questions. The talent show is a feature on some ships and we allow guests to entertain their fellow guests. There are guidelines which include no comedians or songs with bad language etc but respectfully, do you honestly expect us to ban religious songs? I mean, what’s next? I do hope despite this that you had a great cruise and thanks for taking the time to write.

Best wishes.


Terri Jo Kesar asked:

Carnival needs to enforce its rules on dress code because on our relocation cruise on Carnival Paradise was marred by many passengers dressing in jeans and T-shirts at dinner including formal night and our dining room experience was spoiled by the crew allowing this to happen. Another sign of Carnival’s slipping standards. My DH and I are VIP platinum guests and this was cruise number 17.

John says:
Terri Jo

I know many guests still like to dress up because that chance doesn’t come around much for many and it’s great that we give you the choice but comments like this one genuinely baffle me. Why would you worry about what someone else is wearing while you’re eating dinner? I am sorry Terri Jo, I do hope you had a great cruise through the canal and truly value you as a Carnival guest but honestly, I don’t get it.

Best wishes.


Martha Beaudry asked:

I just returned from a cruise aboard the Carnival Triumph (11/12 – 11/17). I loved our cruise director, Tex. At first, I thought he was a little annoying but he really grew on me and I looked forward to his daily announcements. The dance he made up of the different movements (wash the dog, shopping, mow the lawn and the sprinkler etc.) was absolutely hilarious. I also, want to recognize Cassie as well. She was a lot of fun.

John says:
Hello Martha Beaudry

Well that’s two in today’s Q&A for the cruise directors and that’s great news indeed. I shall make sure Tex and Cassie see how much you enjoyed them and thanks again for taking the time to write.

Best wishes.


Gold Member (4) asked:

I am NOT complaining at any type I’m just suggesting! I’ve been on four Carnival cruises, and on each one there has been a lack of chicken wings! That’s it! Love Carnival, everything is great: food, entertainment, trivia’s, and youth programs! Thanks for reading.

John says:
Hello Gold Member (4)

If only other questions were as simple to answer as this. I will pass your comments to the beards and I should mention that we now serve complimentary chicken wings at the EA Sports Bar on the Carnival Liberty and will on other ships as they get their 2.0 upgrades. Thanks for your loyalty and hope we see you again very soon.

Best wishes.


Paul Bracali asked:
Brand Ambassador.

I’ve been reading your blog for the last few months and am fascinated by how a company like Carnival Cruise Lines allows you to get away with such a blog as this. You do seem to have the ear of the higher ups so I wanted you know that in my opinion Carnival wants to keep growing and enticing its customer base to return to Carnival then it must hire better workers. The experience that my family and I had on the Carnival Splendor was one of lack of English from the officers in white uniforms to the cabin boy who when asked for something would smile and nod and then not bring or do what he was asked. You must realize that if the workers don’t understand the customers’ requests then how can you offer good customer service? Answer is that you cannot. I spoke with many on that cruise and each one agreed that the language barrier made this cruise a forgettable one at best and a massive annoyance and disappointment at worst. I suggest that as the ambassador you act on this now.

John says:
Hello Paul Bracali

Thanks for taking the time to write and I do hope you had a great cruise despite your concerns. I am though going to have to say that I disagree with you because our crew all have to pass an English exam before being placed in guest service positions and while it may not be their first language and although they may speak with a heavy accent, they understand your requests and are able to provide brilliant customer service. I am therefore so shocked to see this comment. You may have spoken to those on that cruise who you say agreed with you but respectfully I will say that your comment is a rare one. I will though pass this to the ship’s senior management as you requested and I hope you will return to Carnival again where I promise we will give you the best value for money cruise vacation in the industry.

Best wishes.


Angela Henkel asked:

I have been on six Carnival cruises and it seems that the more that I am on, the worse location I get in the dining room. I look forward to every aspect of the cruise including dining and this is becoming very disappointing. I was told during my sixth cruise that if I am unhappy with my location, I can speak to the maitre´ d, which I did and all I accomplished was upsetting her and she made it very clear to me. While this was my sixth cruise (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) it was my father’s first and I was anxious for him to have a good time and be able to see the waiters sing and dance and want to cruise again. She moved us, it was still a terrible location and we could not see anything. So, why is it that as I cruise more am I getting worse locations in the dining room?

John says:
Hello Angela Henkel

Thanks for writing to me and I should point out that table assignment is not based at all on the number of cruises someone has done. In truth it’s based on demographics, groups and other factors but not who has cruised the most. I think the maitre d’s thoughts are that there is no such thing as a “bad table” and regardless of where you are seated that you will receive good food and brilliant service. I am guessing that you wish to be based at the centre of the dining room which a few guests do feel are the best tables and if that’s the case let me know next time you cruise and I will do my best to assist you. Thanks for your loyalty and hope we see you again very soon.

Best wishes


Dean asked:

This may get a little long, but I wanted to make sure and call out everything and everyone on the Carnival Freedom that made our cruise the best yet. We sailed on 11/19, and are dealing with our first full day back home (including some serious withdrawal). Before I started forgetting things, I wanted to write up some feedback.

First, the eight-day western Caribbean is a perfect itinerary. The perfect mix of sea days and ports to keep a busy family relaxed. The only thing we wished is that it had an extra day to stop by Cozumel again on the way home between the two sea days for some extra beach time.

Next, on to the staff. I’ve never understood some forum comments I’ve seen people make in the past where they’d indicate a cruise director either made or ruined their cruise. In my opinion, I’m the only one who can make my cruise good or bad, since it is after all, my cruise. After being on the Carnival Freedom last week, I now get what they’re saying (in a good way). Brad was simply outstanding and definitely made our time on the ship better. I couldn’t tell you the name of any CD we’ve had on past ships (various lines), but I have no doubt we’ll remember Brad. The guy has the perfect personality for this job, and is absolutely hilarious (or “almost a comedian” as some lady at the Q&A put it, which she meant as a compliment). Carnival should do whatever they can to keep him, and as you can tell, we can’t say enough good stuff about him.

Frankly, his entertainment staff is great, too. We played trivia several times, and Chelsea was awesome. She was always smiling, and incredibly friendly. In case she sees this, we’d like to give her a shout out from the Crusin’ Cats. We had a blast coming back from wwaaayyy behind to win super trivia on the last day!

Moving on, our wait staff in the Posh dining room, headed by Ashwin, was excellent. He’s a very personable guy, and did a great job, even with some of the others at our table disappearing on him. We wish him a safe and relaxing trip home when he gets off the ship in a few days.
Great DR + great table next to the aft windows + great staff = excellent dining experience. Not sure how we pulled that outstanding table location, but we loved it. I’d also like to add that our visit to the steak house was excellent. The filet was perfect (far better than the filet served in the DR :-)), and Polina was very friendly and handled some changes to our steakhouse reservations before we sailed very quickly. Hope she enjoys her time off.

Overall, Carnival has come a long way since we last sailed with them in 2004, and as mentioned, this turned in to our best cruise to date. A very big thank you to everyone on the ship for a wonderful vacation!


PS – To the dancer who did the Austin Powers themed dance class, it was awesome, but you should add a flash mob element to it. After you teach the class the dance, send them up nonchalantly to Lido and Panorama to surround the pool, and once everyone is up there fire up the music and start dancing. It’d be awesome!

John says:
Hello Dean

What an absolutely fantastic review and I am so glad you mentioned Brad who is everything you said he is. The Carnival Freedom is top of the fleet in ratings as per the guest review cards and your review sums up exactly why. I have sent your words of praise to the ship and the beards and I hope we will see you again soon. Thank you so much for taking the time to write and please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

Best wishes.


Lori De Granger asked:
John –

You mentioned that Carnival has no religious services on board their boats so how can you state you are a family cruise line. I was researching the possibilities of doing a cruise and read your blog and when I saw that you had no services I was horrified and bitterly disappointed. It’s back to Branson, Missouri, for us.

John says:
Hello Lorri De Granger

That’s two very different comments today about religion. Every now and then I have to simply say that cruising isn’t for everyone and if religious services during the cruise is a deciding factor whether you book with Carnival then this is one of those occasions. I wish you and your family a wonderful vacation wherever you spend it and if you think there is anything I can do for you please let me know.

Best wishes.


Frank Perez asked:

I have read various comments about past guest parties, but after nine sailings on Carnival, I have never been invited to one. How come?

John says:
Hello Frank Perez

I am flabbergasted by this. I really am You should have received written invitations in your stateroom since cruise number two. I sincerely apologise and will look into this right now for you and someone will be in touch.

Best wishes.


Simon Haviland asked:
Hi John,

My wife and I need a table for two because of my wife’s speech impediment which she is very embarrassed about. We are on Dream Marc 3, 2012 in cabin 8292.

Simon and Martha Haviland

John says:
Hello Simon Haviland

I will certainly ask the maitre d to assist you with this and I wish you both a wonderful cruise.

Best wishes


Keith Wilkins asked:

Just wondering if you will be the cruise director on the inaugural cruise of the Carnival Breeze out of Miami. We were on the inaugural of the Carnival Magic out of Galveston and were a little disappointed that you were not the CD on that trip, although we were happy to see you out and about on the ship. We had a great time on the cruise, especially the Trivia/Canada trivia with Calvin. I think the wife (Trina) would be his groupie if we weren’t in the 29+++++++ age group. So I guess her question would be, is Calvin going to be on the Carnival Breeze for the inaugural out of Miami. And by the way, thank you for the strawberries you sent us for our anniversary. It was like seed faith for an evangelist; Trina had to have them every day for the rest of the cruise. Whatever keeps mama happy is a good thing.

Thanks again, Cheers

John says:
Hello Keith Wilkins

Brilliant post because that describes Calvyn so much, He is funny and so talented and we will be hosting shows together when we see you on the Carnival Breeze. Please let me know if there is anything you need before you cruise and see you both soon.

Best wishes.


And that’s all for today, many thanks for all the questions and comments.

And as promised I will continue with my recap of the ports that the Carnival Legend will visit on her Baltic cruises and today we talk about the jewel in the Baltic itinerary which is of course St. Petersburg — the one in Russia, not Florida.

The excursions we will offer in 2013 will be simply the best and remember to pass through Russian immigration you must have booked a private excursion and have proof of this with you or, as most guests do book an excursion onboard. You will not be able to get past the men with frying pan hats on and who have the sense of humour of a dead slug if you don’t. You cannot just go ashore on your own, it’s not allowed. The end.

Priority will be given to guests on a Carnival purchased excursion who will leave the ship first in this port. Just an FYI for now. Basically, St. Petersburg is the best port of call, by a long way. There is no city like it and the Carnival Legend will be your time machine. We will take you back to the days of the tsars and tsarinas and WWII when, under its old name of Leningrad, the city was under siege for two years and over a million people died………..mostly from starvation.

Then the remnants of the days of Lenin, Stalin and the one with the funny oil patch on his head will be up close and personal as the last throws of communism will be there for all to see. This comes as you drive through the suburbs past the old cars and faceless grey buildings where some people still have to queue for a loaf of bread. You see, Russia is often a land of the haves and the have nots, although there seem to be quite a few haves these days. You can see them everywhere stepping out of their big Mercedes and Rolls Royce Phantoms under the watchful eyes of ex-KGB bodyguards with no necks and who have tattoos of a bloody axe on their forehead and who talk mysteriously into their arms. The amount of cash washing around Russia these days is astronomical, inconceivable even. On the all day tours lunch and dinner is included and the restaurants we visited when I was there with Carnival Splendor in St. Petersburg are quite gaudy, with more camp and flash than Richard Simmons’ shorts and designed by top Russian architect Joseph Farcusov.

The ship organized tours of seven or more hours will feature lunch in restaurants oozing with gold ornaments and massive sterling silver cutlery. You will be welcomed with a glass of vodka which you should drink in one shot……..not doing so is considered rude. Then and still before any food is served, you are given a glass of Russian champagne. Your guide will make a toast and again she will explain that Russian tradition states that you must drink this glass again …..….in one long gulp.

So you have had a shot of vodka and a huge glass of champagne all in five minutes. The reason they do this is because the food is crap. Of course, I am joking. The food was surprisingly excellent.

So, what tour should you take? What should you see? Well, the most popular excursion on the Carnival Splendor will also be offered in 2012 on the Carnival Legend. It’s called the Grand Tour and it certainly lives up to its name. I remember that 1,000 people took this excursion each and every time we sailed into the port. This is the best of everything and over the two days you will visit most of the major sites. This still allows time in the evening to take in an evening concert at Catherine Palace with dinner in Pushkin or our most popular tour …… sitting in the national theatre watching the very thin women and men with pieces of fruit shoved down the front of their tights….or to give them their proper name……The St. Petersburg National Ballet Company perform……Swan Lake…it’s truly incomparable.

However you mix your tours you must see the top five which are:

THE HERMITAGE MUSEUM – The Hermitage used to be the palace of the tsars and now it contains possibly the greatest collection of paintings, jewelry, statues and rare items from all over the world. Everywhere you turn there are moments of “wow” and “Oh my goodness look at that!” There are even stronger emotions when you enter the Throne Room from where the tsars ruled Russia. There are paintings by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet and in the Gold Room, a collection of precious stone objects that are quite simply indescribable. They say that if you were to stop and look at every artifact in the Hermitage for just three minutes…….it would take you a year to see everything.

And, of course, you must see Catherine’s Palace, the fountains and palace at Peterhof, and the Peter and Paul Fortress. Then at night we have excursions to the folkloric shows, a private dinner and performance at Catherine Palace and, of course, a chance to see Swan Lake performed by the Russian Ballet Company………..amazing.

All of the above is what makes St. Petersburg a must on your bucket list. St. Petersburg is a living version of a Tom Clancy novel and I absolutely loved it. The city is as intense as putting Ben-Gay on your thingy and the grayness is everywhere, even the stray dogs that nibble on the left over grey food……. are grey. I was talking with Ken here on Carnival Magic and we both said that St. Petersburg is a place anyone who visits …..will never forget.

OK, let’s jump back into the Delorean and go back in time to 2008 when a much fatter me made this video.

So as you saw yesterday Carnival Destiny is doing a trans-Atlantic crossing that ends in Europe. What happens after that will be announced in the weeks ahead. The trans-Atlantic crossing is exciting news for those who wanted new and varied ports of call, that’s for sure.

In two days time I will be cruise director and providing the swamp fever I have at the moment doesn’t kill me then I will be ready to get out on stage and share with you the stories of life onboard. Stories like this one from today’s incident report.

NAME: Mrs.…….
REF: 171140A809
Guest called the GSD and stated that she was upset because she had been sitting at the same slot machine in the casino for 40 minutes and did not win. She left to go to the bathroom and came back and another guest was playing and won $450. Mrs. _________ says she left her drink at the side of the machine to reserve it and that the win should be hers. Casino manager contacted guest. Nothing further.

I don’t know about you but I do feel sorry for the guest as that was one very expensive pee.
OK, that’s me done for today as I am not feeling well and blogging with a cold is as difficult as translating the words “personal hygiene” into French.

I will be on Facebook over the weekend and then reporting from the CD chair here on the blog on Monday when I will also be reunited with my stateroom steward Ketut who for some weird reason has asked for a transfer to another ship. I wonder why?


Your friend,


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.