A SEAT AT THE TOP TABLE

February 22, 2012 -

John Heald

I love my daughter Kye very much. However, I don’t apparently love her as much as celebrities love theirs. How do I know? Because they say so – or so it seems. It’s the buildup to the Oscars and I just watched some actress who, honestly, I have never heard of, tell the CNN reporter something that makes me want to smash things to pieces with a large Thor-like mallet. She was asked if she was hoping to win and replied, “I am someone who puts her kids first.” As opposed to what? Ninth? Isn’t it sort of obvious that your children come first? That’s like expecting praise for not pinching a beautiful bottom when you see one in line at the Mongolian Wok. What do they imagine us normal people do, put our children 27th somewhere after the dog and our collection of ship pins? One day, I’d like to see a celebrity say, “My kids? They get on my sodding nerves the little bastards.” Maybe one day a celeb can even tell us what they are really thinking when asked what’s most important in their lives. “Well, the kids are OK, but if I am honest, I’d have to say my Oscar.”

There are lots of kids on the Carnival Magic this cruise, 858 in fact, and it’s interesting seeing them split into the two different groups. Those whose parents want them dropped off at Camp Carnival the moment it opens and a few who for whatever reasons don’t want their kids there. Normally, the reason for the latter is that the kids are too shy to go there as Kye, my daughter, was the first time Heidi and I tried to get her to camp. There are though other reasons that happen from time to time……like this one.

Ref: 21A11987152
NAME:———-
CABIN———
DATE: 2/20/12
SUBJECT: DOES NOT WANT HER CHILD TO GO TO CAMP CARNIVAL

Guest called the GSD and wanted to have it noted that she was unhappy with Camp Carnival because the children there were loud and that the games were based on parties and not quiet arts and crafts as she had expected. Guest said that her daughter (9 years) is home schooled and doesn’t like to mix with others. She has asked for some coloring books and paints for the cabin.

I read this after, in fact, I had met the family concerned at the captain’s celebration and the Mum spoke to me about this. Now I must say her daughter did not look shy at all and chatted with me and the captain and we all had our photo taken. Now, I would never judge how a parent brings up their child as I hope nobody would judge the way I raise Kye. However, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for this lovely nine-year-old. I have always thought that kids like to hang out with other kids, especially when they are on vacation and on a cruise. But sometimes you see kids on Lido by the pool, their mothers protecting them all in the name of “quality time with Mum and Dad,” a phrase that surely strikes eye rolling dread in the heart of any nine-year-old.

When Heidi and Kye come to the ship, the brilliant Camp Carnival staff are my heroes. When Kye sails now she loves Camp Carnival as staring at Dadda on stage or blogging all day is not what she finds exciting anymore. At Camp Carnival, Kye enjoys all sorts of activities in the company of other kids and she loves it. There are plenty other reasons why Camp Carnival is the answer to vacation harmony. Without the brilliant CC staff….. I would never get to have any rumpy pumpy.

Let’s crack on with some Q and A.

Nicki and Al Petra asked:

I need quick help to let me decide between two excursions in Livorno for when we join you on the Carnival Breeze. We are interested in the Florence and Pisa tour but also are thinking about the Essence of Tuscany because we both love the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. Can you answer this quickly as we both like to have our plans made and don’t want the tours to sell out!!!!

John says:
Hello Nicki and Al Petra,

I am very happy to know you will be joining me on the Carnival Breeze and you are considering some great excursions. Tuscany is simply gorgeous and I know that many people are attracted by this stunning place after watching the movie you mentioned. The excursion takes you through to Sienna and San Gimiano and then to lunch at a traditional country farmhouse, it is simply beautiful. But then so is Florence and the cathedral and the Academia and Uffizi museums and of course the tour, first of the great leaning tower and the village of Pisa make this our most popular excursion. Judging by what you said and by the love you have for the movie Under the Tuscan Sun though……I would go to Tuscany. You won’t regret it. See you soon.

Best wishes.

John


Martha B asked:

I just returned from a Carnival cruise aboard the Carnival Sensation and enjoyed the shows very much but was surprised that you did not make an announcement for guests like me with epilepsy that there were strobe and flashing lights included in the shows. Strobe and flash lighting can bring on a Grand Mal seizure so I suggest this is added immediately.

John says:
Hello Martha B,

Thanks so very much for bringing this to my attention and I have sent this to our shoreside beards to let them know. Thanks again for letting me know. I will keep you informed. I hope you had a great cruise.

Best wishes.

John

Anna Petroni asked:

I would suggest that the reason you don’t like formal nights and are encouraging its demise is that like many obese people, you don’t feel comfortable in a suit and find it difficult indeed to find clothes that fit, especially those that fall into the formal category. As a Carnival VIP, I suggest that you don’t punish others who love to dress up just because you may not find it comfortable to do so yourself.

Anna Petroni

John says:
Hello Anna Petroni,

I see that you only posted this yesterday, obviously in response to my blog called RIP Tuxedo. I decided to bring it to the front of the questions to be answered for two reasons. Firstly, I want to make sure that in no way shape or form am I trying to suggest that we do away with elegant night, on the contrary, I think we have to keep it. My point is that we should give people a choice and if someone doesn’t want to wear a suit on their vacation, that this be OK as well and that it shouldn’t bother others what people wear. Secondly…….well, your post is brilliant because you’re so right. Trying to find a good suit off the rack when you have a beach ball shoved down your stomach isn’t easy, so thank goodness, therefore, that my tailor Omar the Tent maker, is able to help.

Best wishes and thanks for your loyalty.

John

Kim Abbott asked:
John,

Will you tell me why not everyone receives the email comment card after a cruise? I hate there are some hard working Carnival employees out there that don’t get the recognition they deserve from these comment cards. If Carnival wants feedback, I would think it would be necessary to send comment cards to everyone. Also, aren’t these supposed to be entered in a drawing for a free cruise?

John says:
Hello Kim Abbott,

I somewhat agree with you. Now, we have stopped doing the free cruise drawing two years ago and the review cards are sent to approximately 40 percent of the guests electronically but that means not everyone who wants one gets one. I will continue to ask the beards if we can change this system and find a way to make sure those who want to give praise and suggestions can do so and meanwhile you have a place to do that here on my blog and on my Facebook page and I promise that if you do, the right people will see it.

Best wishes.

John

Carla & Jim asked:
Mr. Heald,

My husband, parents, and I just returned from a wonderful Carnival cruise aboard the Carnival Legend out of Tampa. The cruise fully exceeded our expectations, and I’d like to share how. We sailed November 13 and we occupied cabins 6116 and 6120.

First, one odd thing we’ve noticed, on this and several other Carnival cruises. There’s something peculiar about the desserts on the Lido deck: they look gorgeous, they smell great, they have the right “mouth-feel” when you bite into them, but it’s as if all the flavor has been magically removed. I don’t have a clue what’s going on, but this isn’t the first time we’ve noticed, nor the first ship (and we’ve heard similar comments from others). Anyway, that’s a trivial problem easily worked around, especially since the desserts in the dining rooms are always enjoyable; it’s just an oddity.

I went Platinum on this cruise, and we greatly enjoyed the special treatment: the relaxed, friendly check-in (though even the standard check-in personnel always are very friendly and seem genuinely to enjoy their jobs); the canapés and special treats during the cruise; and the free laundry (woo-hoo!). We realize the cruise is already an outstanding value and Carnival needn’t spoil us that way, but it was a treat. Thank you. If the new Platinum program provides nothing but a similar level of perks, we’re happy!

We wanted to highlight especially two Carnival employees who really stood out. The first night dining, we saw a face we thought we recognized from a previous cruise, and sure enough, the next morning, Luis from Peru stopped by during breakfast to say he thought we looked familiar and asked if we’d cruised on the Carnival Legend before. Here’s a fellow who sees thousands of different people every week, and he remembered us from at least a year ago. We had a nice conversation before he went back to work; we weren’t seated in his areas during the rest of the cruise, but he always waved and smiled at the restaurant entrance or when we saw him working the Lido deck.

Aldo (from the Philippines) was our room steward, and he did a wonderful job of taking care of both my husband and me in our cabin and my parents in the adjacent one. They’re getting on in years, and he took extra time and effort to make sure they were comfortable and had everything they needed. Aldo noticed my husband’s CPAP machine on the nightstand the first night, and when we got back from dining there was an (approved!) extension cord waiting for us. That’s the kind of attention to detail that really makes an impression. We never lacked for anything, the room was always immaculate, and Aldo always had a word or a smile for us.

The dining room food and service are always great (in our neck of the woods– Northwest Florida), entrees like the Chateaubriand and the braised beef short ribs are not to be found, much less of that high quality. Likewise (if I can go back and refer to a previous cruise), bravo to Carnival for the Tandoor cuisine stations on some Lido decks; my husband and I were sitting there at lunchtime watching officer after officer walk by with some very appealing food: we traced their path and found Tandoor. I think my husband would have eaten lunch there every day! No Tandoor on the Legend this time, but maybe someday!

Our family had a wonderful time cruising, as we always do. Partly because of the value we associate with Carnival, but also in a very large way because of the friendliness of your employees, we’re already planning two Carnival cruises in 2012.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

John says:
Hello Carla and Jim,

I want to thank you for this wonderful review and I will be sending this onto the ship and the shoreside beards as well. I found your comments very interesting about the desserts especially as being diabetic, I can’t have them. I agree that they look brilliant and tasty so I was surprised, therefore, that you find their taste left a lot to be desired. Rest assured, I have sent this to the chef. He will, I know, act accordingly. It’s so great to read about the crew that made a difference to you and they will be thrilled to read your comments and I was thrilled to read where you stated the reasons why you enjoy sailing with Carnival so very much. We will work hard to do better and if there is anything I can do for you, please let me know.

Best wishes to you and the family.

John


Tina asked:

John,

I hope that you are going to be spending more time now answering questions on the blog. It seems you have given your time to Facebook and I don’t do Facebook so that means I have to wait weeks for my question to be answered which IMHO is unfair. My need is such that I am writing three months before we cruise to make sure you get our private table for four request sailing on the Dream 4/10 cabins 7345 and 7367.

John says:
Hello Tina,

I do understand that while I answer Facebook questions within 24 hours that on the blog as you see by your question, I am some weeks behind. Anyway, I apologise for this and will send this to the maître d’ to ask that he do his best to give you a table for four. Have a great cruise.

Best wishes.

John

Dave Varone asked:
John,

Check in the forum under the subject Carnival Magic and thread Big Disappointment. I was very surprised that so many people found such bad things to say about recent times on the Carnival Magic. When I was with you on the Magic in Europe, it was fantastic, no bugs at all.

What happened? Did they change the entire crew and all the cooks, or what?

John says:
Hello Dave Varone,

It’s interesting reading this because I was sent a link to a cruise site that asked, “What’s Wrong with the Magic?” I won’t be posting this for reasons that I won’t bore you with but it has to do with the source rather than the subject. All I can say is that our guests love this ship, which is truly magnificent and the crew is doing a stellar job. In fact, the Carnival Magic is, as of now, number five in the overall fleet ratings for February which is fantastic news, of course. It’s always important to take reviews with a pinch of salt and remember they represent a tiny percentage of the 4,000 people who sail on this brilliant vessel. Granted, we’re not perfect but from all the comments I have seen and from what the guests are telling me in person, the Carnival Magic is exactly everything we hoped she would be.

Best wishes.

John

Paul Murano asked:
Hi John,

We are booked for our second-ever Carnival cruise on the Carnival Breeze June 27th. I remember you commenting on your blog over the summer that people were not too into the cruise elegant nights on the European cruises on the Magic due to the long touring days. Do you have any idea yet on if there will be any elegant nights on the Carnival Breeze? I will be very happy for no elegant nights and lighter luggage certainly works for us.

John says:
Hello Paul Murano,

I will be honest and say no, I haven’t had time to look at the cruises yet and decide how many we will have. But I need to, so I promise to do this in the next few weeks and by the end of March, I will be here to tell you when they are. My apologies for the delay and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Best wishes.

John

Simon Ruse asked:
John,

Take a leaf out of RCI’s book, scrap the water slides and get an ice rink. It’s the reason our family choose Royal and not Carnival

John says:
Hello Simon Ruse,

There is no doubt that Royal Caribbean’s ice rink and ice shows are popular and I can see why you and the family would enjoy them. However, thousands upon thousands of our guests, young and old alike, enjoy our water parks which have been added to many of our ships. I do hope that maybe you will experience the fantastic water park here on the Carnival Magic and see what makes this one of the most spectacular at sea. Until then, I wish you and your family happy cruising.

Best wishes.

John

Tofer Keleigh asked:
Dear John,

My family and I had a wonderful time on the Carnival Fascination. I wanted the word to get back to the people that made my cruise such a wonderful vacation. Jen Baxter and her assistant, Adam, were absolutely fabulous, and I had a great time meeting both of them. I wish I would have gotten my photo taken with them as I’ll always remember them. Some of the entertainment staff, particularly Dallas from Dallas, and Phillip (I can’t remember where he’s from) were particularly great as well. Dallas got a nice telling off from a rude lady on disembarkation day, and as someone who works in customer service, I was very impressed by the way he handled it. One more thing, our dining room servers, I Putu and Agus were great as well, and I particularly enjoyed Josef, the maître d’. If you could please pass on this message to them from me. Just tell Jen it’s from the half American half English kid born in Sidcup, she may actually remember who I am. 🙂 Thanks for all that you do!

Tofer

John says:
Hello Tofer Keleigh,

What a perfect way to finish today’s Q and A. Thanks so very much for taking the time to write and I will I promise to make sure all the people you mentioned see this and they will, of course, be thrilled. Please let me know if there is anything you need from me before you sail again and thanks again for this brilliant review. I am, I must say, particularly pleased for Jen.

Best wishes.

John

That’s all for today.

There is no doubt that one of the biggest successes over the last couple of years has been The Chef’s Table and more and more this brilliant event is sold out on every ship each cruise. So why is it so popular? Last night I went to see The Chef’s Table here on the Carnival Magic to see again why the guests continue to rave about this. No, I didn’t eat, I had to host the shows and had to make do with my bread and cheese but I wish I could have done so.

The shipboard Chef’s Tables have been around, in one form or another, for some time (I may be wrong but I think Holland America may have been the pioneers of this) but regardless I think it is probably not a coincidence that the rise in popularity of these venues has coincided with the rise of the celebrity chef on television. People want to see the chef close up in person whether it’s Gordon Ramsey, Guy Fieri or indeed, Chef Andrew Marfatia, here on the Carnival Magic.

But there’s more to it, of course. In days gone by, we had a galley tour for all the guests and hundreds would traipse through the galley to see where the lobster and cappuccino pie were created……no chocolate melting cake in those days, I’m afraid. But the problem was that they really didn’t see anything. The galley was more or less empty when the tours were given at 3 pm which means all they saw was glistening counter tops and instead of the wonderful aroma of food being prepared, it was the smell of cleaning products. That’s why the first part of The Chef’s Table experience is so brilliant. It gives you the chance for a great view of the galley at full tilt. You get to see the artistry of preparation, to hear the sizzle of the huge grills as the prime rib hits it and you get to see waiters, assistant waiters, cooks and chefs from 40 different countries in fluid choreography, working in unison to provide dinner for thousands of hungry Carnival guests.

There’s a special feeling, of course, in being served by the ship’s head chef and discussing the dishes. It’s also a great opportunity for our chefs to get feedback about their cooking, which I know is something that they enjoy.

On all the ships, The Chef’s Table starts with a comprehensive tour of the galley during dinner service. It can be quite loud but it’s entirely fascinating and after the chef has proudly shown you his galley and tempted your taste buds with some sensational hors d’oeuvres washed down with a cold glass of champagne, it is time for the main event. For those blog readers who may not know how this works, please let me explain. The same menu will be served to the whole table and he will have visited your table in the dining room beforehand to make sure you had no allergies. This menu gives our chef the freedom to use effects and techniques that he would never have time to do during his normal busy schedule and the menu is, of course, spectacular.

Here is one of our two Chef’s Table menus:

Chef’s Table Dinner
Executive Chef Sanjay Dhall welcomes Mr. and Mrs. Blogger
Aboard the Carnival Dream, February 21st, 2012

Norwegian Salmon Tartar
Avocado Mousse, Salmon Caviar

Fire Roasted Tomato and Poblano Chili Bisque
Grilled Corn, Cilantro Drizzle

Rock Shrimps and Apple Beignets
Tapioca Crunch on Tomato Carpaccio, Garlic Lemon Aioli

Chopped Mediterranean Salad
Shaved Pumpkin, Feta Cheese Crumble

Fillet of Chilean Sea Bass
Wine Stewed Shallot and Chives Vinaigrette, Leeks Emulsion, Peas Risotto

Aged Filet Mignon
Onion Streusel, Homemade Three Pepper Mustard

Your Specially-Made Chocolate Melting Cake
With a Surprise from the Chef

And now there is a new Chef’s Table menu which is being served currently on the:

  • Carnival Destiny
  • Carnival Imagination
  • Carnival Fantasy
  • Carnival Ecstasy
  • Carnival Sensation
  • Carnival Liberty
  • Carnival Magic (it will be on the new Carnival Breeze with more ships to follow).

Here it is:

Executive Chef Daniel Arulraj welcomes Ms. H82Seaugo
Aboard the Carnival Magic, Tuesday February 21, 2012

RECEPTION
Parmesan Core & Olive
Chorizo & Dates, Piquillo Sofrito
Focaccia, Mascarpone Cream & Prosciutto Crudo
Langoustine & Sundried Tomato Jam Fritters

MENU
Tomatoes Our Way!
Aerated Tomato Juice, Cocoa Butter Coated, Chardonnay Poached

Tuna Banh Mi
Lemon Bread, Sesame Crisp, Miso Cream Avocado gel

Cornish Hen
Caramelized, Butternut Squash, Sofrito

Bavarois
Spinach, Green Peas, Warm Turnip & Apple Juice

Salmon
Herb Pesto, Cured Tomatoes, Carrots, Fava, Mushroom Earth, Condensed Beets

Wagyu
Slow Stewed short ribs, Potato Pebbles, Pumpkin Fudge, Tomato Dust

Dessert
Chef in a Candy Shop

The menus are personalised and yours to keep and whether you eat in the galley itself as on the Dream-class or in a private dining area on all the other ships, it is something that as we read the review cards, each Chef’s Table participant receives that is being described as “the best part of the cruise.” It’s hard to think of anything that has had such a massive impact with foodies than the Chef’s Table.

I had the honour of eating at The Chef’s Table on the Carnival Dream where, like here on the Carnival Magic, you eat in the galley itself. I did so in the secret hope that things would get all Hell’s Kitchen like Gordon Ramsey and that our executive chef would be shouting his head off or swearing at the maitre d’ for not getting the food served quick enough before taking his apron off, throwing it at the food and beverage manager and walking out. But it never happened and in fact, most of our chefs are very soft spoken and don’t have an ounce of Gordon Ramsey in them.

I have spoken to many guests and read on the blog and on Facebook that the highlight of the new menu is the Wagyu beef. Now for those who don’t know about where this comes from, I should mention that the cows are special cows from Japan and they are the happiest most content cows in the world. This, apparently, is the key to the quality of the Wagyu’s meat. Its tenderness is the result of a pampered VIP existence. Wagyu cattle are the supermodels of the bovine world. They must be regularly massaged with brushes made from silk to distribute their fat into the meat, then rubbed with sake to make their coats glow. They eat only the finest hay and their menu is expanded to include gallons of beer………no, really, it is…….designed to give them more appetite and presumably to help them handle the thought of rumpy pumpy with an ugly huge bull which is needed to make more Wagyu cows. This is the king of beef — it’s what other cows want to be. Wagyu is the dining version of an Aston Martin served by a Latvian in suspenders.

The Chef’s Table is simply brilliant from the visit to the galley, the interaction with our head chef who prepares, explains and serves the food, to the jovial hospitality that comes with meeting new friends. The wine pours freely and memories are made. Each and every week, we are receiving 100 plus reservation requests for this epic culinary event and I hope one day that you get to experience it as well. You can reserve a place at your Chef’s Table by completing the reservation thingy here on my blog and the ship will then send you an email confirmation. I will be hosting a very special Chef’s Table on the Bloggers Cruise with guests hopefully buying raffle tickets in order to sit and enjoy this amazing event together, with the proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Let’s see some photos of the Chef’s Table here on the Carnival Magic. These were taken last night at The Chef’s Table hosted by the ship’s Chef de Cuisine Daniel Arulraj.

It feels strange talking about such gorgeous food and so much gorgeous food at that, considering this cruise I have been the target of the “tea sellers” or chubby chasers, as I like to call them. I know I have to lose weight and am trying. I don’t want to die in my sixties. I’m not saying I want to live forever. But I’d like to have a crack at meeting Kye’s children, my grandchildren. I don’t drink alcohol and haven’t for 16 years now. I eat green vegetables. I have cut right back on Diet Coke, drinking only three per week. I walk the stairs on the ship.

Yes, I smoke a cigar or two each week and, yes, I love red meat but my blood pressure is good, I check it every day on my own machine and my sugar levels are, for the most part, in control. Of course, I have a secret dream of being thin. I’d love to be 200 pounds of muscle with a six-pack and to be able to run marathons and to have women want to ravage my body rather than rub my tummy and ask when the baby is due. I know I am a medium-sized hippo in a blue blazer but you know what? I have a beautiful wife, a daughter that makes me happier than I have ever been and I have a job that, considering I am as talented as drunken penguin, I am so very lucky to have.

One last thing, I cannot believe the amount of e-books that I see here on the Carnival Magic. They’re everywhere with young, old and everything in between using them. I can’t stand them and when I say that to someone, I am met with frowns and sad shakes of the head, as if I am a knuckle dragging troglodyte afraid of fire. I know that they are popular and particularly useful to the elderly because the font size can be enlarged, but I just find them…..well, soulless. Reading an e-book thingy feels to me like enjoying a Wagyu steak in pill form. Real books have that page-turning gratification that cannot be found on the finger sliding e-thingies. Most of all, I hate that with e-books I cannot tell what other people are reading. Unless they are reading Big Jugs True Stories or Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue……in which case it is understandable that they would want to keep that to themselves.

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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