I have worked hard these past few weeks and, of course, was looking forward to coming home and spending time with the family. When I say spending time with the family I meant taking Monday and Tuesday off and lying on the sofa watching TV having Heidi bring me food and drinks in between naps. But this was not to be and instead of me lying on the sofa watching the entire West Wing box set while dipping into a huge bucket of KFC, I was told that we were going to spend yesterday at the Bluewater Shopping Mall – or hell, as us men call it.

Apparently, Heidi was under the impression that this would be a brilliant day out and that she had sacrificed her shopping this past month to wait until I was home. Oh, sodding joy. My wife you see, like all women everywhere, does not understand that shopping for men is the equivalent of having a rabid rat shoved down the front of our underpants. Yep. Women are from Mars and yesterday I got shafted in Uranus.

There will be many non-Adams-Apple having bloggers who will not understand why men hate shopping so much and so I think it’s important that I as your brand ambassador (TM) explain these differences should you be thinking of dragging your husband or partner round the shops this coming weekend, or indeed ignoring the beautiful beaches and exciting excursions in places like St. Thomas or Cozumel, to allow for a day at the shops.

You see, Miss, Ms. or Mrs. Blogger, men do not go shopping unless they bloody well need something. Car broke down? Buy a new one. Van Halen fan? Get the latest CD. Underpants worn out? They’ll do for another year or two. So, if you already have 17 pairs of shoes, you don’t need another sodding pair, do you? Even if they are by Jimmy Poo you still don’t need them, okay?

We blokes you see ladies never go shopping on the off chance that something nice might catch our eye. In fact, we don’t want our eye to be caught at all. All we want to know is what we are buying beforehand, go in, and get it. The end. Once our task is complete our minds can turn to other, more important, matters like rumpy pumpy with a Latvian, beer, rumpy pumpy with a Brazilian, food, sport, TV and rumpy pumpy with Megan Fox while drinking a beer and watching the Miami Heat on our huge plasma TV.

And just as important is that we go out and buy exactly what we went out to buy. Men would never go out to buy a new drill and come back with a new pair of shoes, two new skirts and a pair of skinny jeans. It just doesn’t happen. Yesterday Heidi wanted to purchase a much-needed pair of bejeweled Birkenstock sandals and saw a lovely new Geox coat, and bought that as well!

Also, why do women get so stressed about shopping? Let me tell you why. It’s because you just don’t know when to walk away. You left the house with a clear objective. Let’s say it was to get a new blouse from Macy’s during the sale. If, God forbid, some bitch got there before you, make like a man and bugger off home. Do not scour the rails in a panic, thinking: “What else can I buy?” Leave. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a sodding blouse.

Men hate shopping and they especially hate accompanying their womenfolk to the mall. Is there a more sorry sight than the lifeless, beyond bored men who linger around the changing rooms of a department store on a Saturday afternoon?

So there I was yesterday, standing outside the changing rooms holding Heidi’s purse, looking like Calvyn on a bad day while trying to stop Kye from pulling everything off the racks before singing “Head and shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes” to a mannequin. Then, after I told Heidi that her arse looked as tiny as Kate Moss’s in the dress even though like most women she had bought one two sizes two small that would make her look like a Sharpei dog in spandex. Mentioning this was a mistake because now I have a pain in my groin and in my wallet. The sad thing is what she bought yesterday will be worn once and then relegated to the vast depths of Heidi’s closet never to be seen again.

So that was my reward from being the bread winner and just when I thought things could not get any worse……I was reminded that next Thursday and Friday…..we are going to Peppa Pig World. Oh FFS!

Time for a spot of Q&A…………..here we go.

Margaret James asked:
Hi John,

We just wanted you to know that we had a wonderful time this past week on the Carnival Magic. We love the ship, the shows were excellent! A few of the people in the gift shop weren’t so friendly but I know they were busy. Our cabin steward I Ketut was great, he was so helpful and friendly and really earned the tip we gave him. The employees all over the ship were very friendly. This was our third cruise out of Galveston. We are so glad to have the Carnival Magic here but I have to say that we have a special place in our hearts for the Carnival Conquest. The two cruises we took on the Carnival Conquest were equally just as wonderful. I just want to add one last thing, our Carnival cruise planner Tim Labanon in Miami is the best!! We appreciate him so much. He has been so helpful in everything. Thank you to Carnival for the best times ever!

John says:
Hello Margaret James,

Thanks so very much for this great review which apart from your comments on the gift shop staff are all fantastic. I was just there myself, of course, and I agree she is a brilliant ship with a great crew and I they will be pleased to see that you had so much fun. I will also pass on your thanks to Tim as well and make sure his supervisor is copied. I truly hope this experience will mean we will see you again on another cruise and until then, I will say thanks again for taking the time to write.

Best wishes.

John


Samuel Palinski asked:

I read your article on the Concordia today and it was the worst piece of politically correct garbage I have ever had the misfortune to read. We all were waiting to read what the company’s brand ambassador would say. We expected the truth and opinion which you never seem to have a problem sharing on this rotten blog. Yet what we got was some pathetic tribute to the crew who obviously didn’t do their job properly and not a mention from you about the cause and how this has killed off the cruise industry. You are a fat corporate puppet and I am disgusted that you wasted my time. Shame on you.

Samuel Palinski

John says:
Hello Samuel Palinski,

I am obviously some eight weeks behind now on my blog questions and I will talk more about this later in today’s blog. Following the Costa Concordia incident, I received hundreds, yes hundreds, of statements of sympathy coupled with questions and asking for my opinion. I read all of the questions on this subject and you will be proud I am sure that yours was the one I decided to publish as you were the only one who decided that my weight deserved a mention. My blog about the Costa crew was written from the heart and written by someone who has been at sea for 25 years and by someone who cried tears of despair when I saw the ship laying on her side and upon hearing lives had been lost, cried some more. Are there things I wanted to say that I couldn’t? Yes, of course there are and maybe one day in the months ahead I may be able to do so but while the investigations continue and even though I am Carnival Cruise Line’s brand ambassador and not Costa’s, I cannot comment further. There is much I want to say not only on this subject but also to you but in both cases I will say nothing at all…..not even best wishes.

John


Dane Maron asked:

John, et al,

I cruised aboard the Carnival Ecstasy in 2/2011 (#35X3P6), and because our ship was delayed due to due fog (obviously not Carnival’s fault), we ended up with a cruise to nowhere. The captain announced the option to debark in the morning, or stay aboard for 25% refund of fare and 25% discount on future cruise. Before making the choice, I contacted the purser (in person) to confirm the refund/discount options. I was assured these were correct. So, after a terrible cruise (bad weather, poor attitude amongst other guests (come on, we’re at sea!), etc., my wife and I felt we would book a trip on the 12/26/11 sailing of the Carnival Magic (#400HQ3) in hopes of having that positively memorable sailing we had been looking forward to. We did this through an agent with Hilton Grand Vacations, and I paid the balance, then submitted my request for the discount, which I knew would be applied as a stateroom credit. The response received from your company on 9/22 to my submission states that “are not able to apply the discount as it is only applicable to a 2-4 day sailing, and it is also not applicable to holiday sailing.” Frustrated, I called and spoke with two different representatives from your customer service division, trying to impress upon them that we were sailing on 12/26, which is not a holiday, and that I was simply asking for the credit to be applied proportionately to my sailing. However, both of the persons I spoke with informed me that they had no authority to further review the issue. So then I wrote to the office of Gerald Cahill in Miami. To which I received… absolutely nothing. Not even so much as an e-mail or response letter.

Here’s the summary of my frustration, and I truly hope you can help me in some way. I first sailed Carnival in 2004. At the time, I was an enlisted sailor in the Navy, and drove with my then girlfriend from South Carolina to Port Everglades. Years later, my wife and I chose to be married aboard one of your sister line ships, the Caribbean Princess, and we dragged 30 of our friends and family on that 10-day voyage, literally filling all of the suites on the aft end of the ship. Then our disaster of a three-day jaunt in February. The customer service agents, when I demanded they speak with me (they always tried to avoid any contact, and referred us back to the booking agent) not only refused to apply the discount, but refused to entertain even a partial credit. And my letter mailed to the President of the line being ignored did not help the situation.

John, I was a sailor, and I enjoy cruising. I am 33 and have cruised nine times (that I paid for, as compared to those while serving aboard submarines). But after a poor, three-day cruise, followed by absolutely no response from the senior staff, and no aid from those who are supposed to be in customer service, it taints the Carnival brand in my view. There’s plenty of competition these days, and I certainly do not plan to stop cruising. I’m not asking for you to work any magic to make a stateroom credit appear (though wouldn’t that be lovely), but rather to help me find some meaningful gesture from CCL. I realize this may not be your purview, but I certainly hope it’s something you can assist me with. Thank you for reading, and any assistance.

Dane Maron

John says:
Hello Dane Maron,

I want to sincerely apologise that it has taken me so long to reply to you Dane and you deserved a quicker response than the one I write today. I want to thank you for understanding that weather conditions are always out of our control and for making the best of what was obviously not what you had hoped for. I have read your comments and I will be speaking to the office today regarding this and if it has not already happened, I will ask someone to contact you immediately to review your situation. Thanks again and please let me know if you need anything else. My apologies again.

Best wishes

John


Bill Krakar asked:

Hi John,

We just returned from our sixth Carnival cruise since June 2010 (when we took our first cruise and found out what we were missing). We are well on our way to achieving our objective of reaching Platinum in the next two years. As always, we had a great time on our most recent cruise. However, one issue is still unresolved from all of our cruises. My wife and I completely disagree regarding tipping the maitre d’. My wife doesn’t believe that it is necessary to tip the maitre d’ (though she is always very good about tipping people in general who she directly interacts with). Her belief is that if they don’t perform a direct service to us, then they shouldn’t be tipped. Same rules as apply to senior cruise directors. My opinion is that the maitre d’s compensation package is based on the expectation that they will receive tips from the guests and that they aren’t getting rich off tips and that we “should” tip them, else they are undercompensated for the service they provide. Please help us understand the maitre d’ tipping situation a little bit better so we can resolve this debate once and all.

Thanks!

John says:
Hello Bill Krakar,

Not to sound like a broken record but this again shows how far behind I am on my blog questions because starting some weeks ago we removed the maitre ds from the tipping process. By this I mean the announcements made by the cruise director and the envelope in the state rooms are no more and their salary has been adjusted accordingly. However, let me also say that there is still the opportunity to tip the maître d if he or she does something that enhances your dining experience. Maybe they have helped you with a seating request or a special celebration or indeed did something that made your time in the dining room so enjoyable. I know many guests still do this on the last night and hand them a little something to say thank you. However, like all tipping this is a choice and if your wife or anyone else feels they don’t need to give them anything, then that’s OK too so please don’t worry. I hope this helps and if you have a further question please let me know.

Best wishes to you both.

John

Gertrude Muller asked:

I am Platinum and want to know if there is a way to guarantee you get to be in a certain dining room? My family of five is going on the Carnival Splendor April 8, 2012 sailing. I really want the Posh dining room and a private table by the window and not one at the back like on our last cruise on the Carnival Triumph!

John says:
Hello Gertrude Muller,

Thanks for your loyalty Gertrude and I have sent your information to the maitre d and I am sure we’ll do our best to seat you in the Posh dining room. I cannot promise a table by the window as they are all six to 10 seats so I will have to ask for a table for you all elsewhere in the dining room. I hope that’s OK. Have a wonderful cruise.

Best wishes to you and the family.

John


Melissa Williams asked:

John,

I have read several of your blogs and was very impressed with the personal touch you add to the cruise experience. My family and I sadly returned from our annual December cruise on the Carnival Liberty. First I will say we had a wonderful time probably the best ever but did want to comment on a couple policies that we were wondering about. First as we were waiting to tender everyone not on a Carnival excursion were forced to get a tender ticket and wait in the Victoria lounge which is very obviously a smoking section, it reeked of smoke which is OK if that was not the only place we were allowed to wait for over an hour. On a good note the anytime dining is a wonderful addition to Carnival’s dining options. We enjoyed our wait team so much that we made sure to be there every night when they opened the door to ensure we got sat there. The head waitress Eveline was the best asset for your company we have ever experienced, she learned our names and likes and dislikes the first night and made a point to talk to us every night. Eveline represented Carnival exceptionally and was always professional. The room attendants were very shy and timid but were adequate and the other workers on the boat were always friendly … well done, Carnival! Thanks for your time and listening to our comments, look forward to finding ourselves on one of your boats someday.

Melissa Williams

John says:
Hello Melissa Williams,

Thanks so much for this review and I have already sent it to the senior management on the ship. I was surprised to hear that the Victoria Lounge smelled of smoke because it is and always has been a smoke free lounge so I wonder what happened there? I will investigate this and my apologies that you found this to be this way. Tendering in any port always requires a bit of patience and we always do our best to make this a comfortable experience regardless if guests have booked an excursion with us or not. Anyway, we will get better and I will find out where the odor of smoke came from. Thanks so much for praising Eveline and I will make sure she sees this.

Best wishes and hope we see you again soon.

John

John Hughes asked:
Dear John,

Any idea who the godmother of the Carnival Breeze will be as I haven’t seen anything about this?

John says:
Hello John Hughes,

I’m told that the naming ceremony will be held following the Carnival Breeze’s arrival in Miami after her trans-Atlantic voyage. I have no idea who the godmother will be but when I do know I will let you all know. I wonder who it will be?

Best wishes.

John

Lori Mulgrove asked:
John,

My partner and I are taking our first European cruise on the Carnival Breeze. We are a lesbian couple and wondered if the gondola excursion is for same sex partners. This may seem a stupid question to ask but our two friends also lesbians were refused onto a gondola when in Venice last year so please clarify as we wish to book this online.

John says:
Hello Lori Mulgrove,

I was so surprised to read that your friends were not allowed to take a gondola ride Lori and I promise that you will be able to do so if you book the excursion with us. It’s a great tour, especially the evening gondola ride when the canals are lit up and the water has the floating candles on them. So please, yes, book the tour although it must be said that you should be able to enjoy the gondola experience regardless of how you book this because what happened to your friends is simply not right.

Best wishes and see you both soon.

John

April Defoe asked:
Dear John,

I am a college student and have enjoyed three Carnival cruises and was interested in becoming a cruise director and am curious how you get to be one and how much salary is paid. Please let me know as a matter of urgency as I have important career choices to make!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

John says:
Hello April Defoe,

I am sorry I haven’t replied to this as urgently as you probably wanted, April, and while I can’t discuss my salary, I can direct you to www.carnivalentertainment.com which will have all the details on the job and how to apply. It’s a great position and I am lucky to have it and I wish you that same luck as well.

Best wishes.

John


Mary E Wilcox asked:

Hi John,

First I have to tell you that I was on the Carnival Magic in August in the Mediterranean I was with Singles Cruise and it was OK. I contacted Carnival after the cruise because I was also very disappointed that we missed out on one of the ports due to the strike and disappointed that we ended up docking early in Barcelona. No casino shops etc… I never heard back from Carnival and I called and sent an email. Two, I had a pair of earrings come up missing that were in a small baggie on the desk in my room. I can’t say if it was the steward or my rude, obnoxious roommate that I had thanks to Singles Cruise. Do you know that I had to put up with her hiding the remote, paying for her soda and orange juice on my bill…could have been worse, but I will never have another unknown roommate!!! I just wanted to find out why Carnival never contacted me or to try to resolve my issues? On a good note… that couple you had on stage …The Dick guy with his wife were hilarious!

John says:
Hello Mary E Wilcox,

I do hope that amongst the disappointments that you had some fun on the cruise Mary. I was the CD that voyage and remember the strike in Palma de Mallorca well. I promise that we looked at all the options but there were no other ports available so rather than spend the day at sea we deiced to offer an overnight experience in Barcelona. I am afraid there is no compensation offered for this as it was clearly outside of our control. I am sorry to read about your problems with your roommate and I hope that you have addressed this with Singles Cruises who I know are a wonderful organisation. I have sent your comments to our guest services team in Miami and if there is anything you think we should be doing for you I am here to help as much as I can. I hope next time you cruise that you have a brilliant time, no roommate you have never met before and that you visit all the scheduled ports.

Best wishes.

John

And that’s your lot for today.

It’s been 10 days or so since I last posted a written blog and indeed as mentioned I have a huge backlog of questions. It would have been even more if it had not been thanks to Mischelle and Mary who support me in the office by answering generic questions on my behalf and I owe them a huge thank you and a huge chocolate cake, as well. I am back on Facebook as of today and it’s from there that I have the chance to respond to all the questions within 24 hours and with my apologies to those who don’t Facebook I will plough through the blog questions as quickly as I can.

So as it’s been a few days since the last written blog let me address a few things if I may.

Loyalty Program/Laundry — OK, before some of you get as excited as Tiger Woods at the Playboy Mansion, no, I don’t have the details about the new loyalty program yet. This massive IT program is still being written by the beards because, as I have mentioned before, it is the largest IT program Carnival has ever taken on and will be well worth the wait. Now some of you may have lost faith and are now looking forward to this about as much as you are looking forward to a photo of me doing a naked handstand in the shower because our bidet is broken. And I don’t blame you but it will be here in the near future and it will, I promise, be worth waiting for.

Now while we are waiting I want to address platinum/milestone laundry under the current loyalty program. I raise this topic because someone posted about this on Cruise Critic. Yes, I know I am breaking my own rule here by mentioning this site but I know this time it is a legitimate posting as it was sent. This is not the case, because I was asked on Facebook by a golf fan called Stuart who I know is a 100% reputable poster over there. This was posted not by him but by someone else.

I just got off the Carnival Dream on Saturday, March 17. We were told by guest services that Carnival now restricts ALL platinum guests to one bag of laundry per week. I called Carnival customer service this morning and they confirmed this change. It is not so pleasant to find this out after you have boarded the ship. Actually, I was informed that it has always been limited to one bag a week. This was my fourth platinum cruise and the first time I had this told to me.

It is important here to say straight away that this is not the case and while I owe the poster a huge apology that this happened, I must clarify that this is certainly not something we have changed or would do so without telling you and as much as some on Cruise Critic find me as palatable as yak scrotum served in a béarnaise sauce, I would always do my best to inform you all.

Here are the facts. We try not to use the word unlimited given the burden this benefit can place on the ships when there is a large number of platinum or milestone members on the ship. There are no restrictions on quantity though. The Platinum Welcome Letter has the following language: Complimentary Wash and Fold Laundry Service — and that is exactly what we will offer.

I have discussed this over the past few days with the VP in charge of the current and new programs and he will be sending a reminder to the ships today. So bottom line is, yes, we do offer this service and if there are times like the poster found where this does not happen, please let me know as soon as possible. By the way, as cruise director, I also get complimentary laundry but it still costs me $50 a week which I have to pay to Ketut, my stateroom steward, to wash my underpants ………….he calls it “danger money”……………..cheeky sod.

Bloggers Cruise – With everything that has been happening, I haven’t had time to thank the 518 people who joined me on the Carnival Magic for Bloggers Cruise 5, so thank you all and I hope you had as much fun as I did. There were though things I could have done better and one of those has to do with the “Should I be the cruise director or not?” Now one of the problems is that the ship has her normal schedule to run which means that the showroom is used for the ship entertainment program leaving the main two lounges capable of seating all of us can only be used early in the morning or late at night and I know some did not appreciate the early start or the late finish. This has me thinking that I should cancel those for BC6 and simply have a Welcome Aboard and Farwell Party and the sea day tea times which continue to be so popular and cancel the early morning and late evening events. This would allow me to host the Welcome Aboard show, the Marriage Show and the Bedtime Story as well as carry on my regular CD duties. The problem though with this is that the one on one time that 500 plus expect may not happen….it’s a dilemma and one I am really giving a lot of thought to. Regardless I have some big plans for BC6 on Carnival Breeze and what a ship to hold on it on. I hope I will see many of you on the Carnival Breeze next year and here is the date and itinerary for you to enjoy.

I will take a poll closer to the time regarding if or not to be the CD and your vote will ultimately make the decision for me. I can’t wait and I hope you will join me for the fun and to see our new Carnival Breeze.

Costa Concordia — Ignoring the rather obtuse message I replied to in today’s Q&A I would like to say thank you to the hundreds of you who wrote messages of support here on the blog. I read many of them this morning and the overwhelming majority showed not only your deep sorrow for those whose lives were lost and for the families that grieve but also for the families who mourn their passing and also for your support of the cruise industry. The common denominator was “I Love To Cruise And Will Keep On Cruising” and that of course is truly magnificent to hear. I have passed all these messages of support to the senior management of Costa Cruises and received a thank you to you all from them.

Last week I attended the Cruise Shipping Miami Conference in Miami and as the 1,000-plus delegates gathered to listen to the state of the industry address by CLIA President Christine Duffy and the presidents of the various cruise lines, there was an obviously somber feeling in the room as the image of Concordia sat at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Following the opening remarks, Carnival Corporation & plc’s Vice Chairman Howard Frank took the stage. Now I don’t know this gentleman very well. We have never shared a meal together and we have never spoken more than a few words to each other simply because our paths rarely cross, so as I said, I know little about him. I do know that he is softly spoken and not one to search out the spotlight and is someone who has been invaluable to the success of Carnival Cruise Lines and Carnival Corporation & plc.

Howard took to the podium and there was not a sound in the room as everyone wanted to hear what he had to say. Now I may be wrong but I doubt Howard Frank has never made a more difficult speech, or a more important one, or indeed a better one. The first part was calculated, pre-written and rehearsed but then he paused, took off his glasses and asked the audience’s permission to speak from his heart. And 1,000 plus of us all silently said yes, please do. And he did. And it was historic.

Its power lay not in complicated words or a practiced emotional appeal. It was not smooth, or clever, or contemptuous. It did not hammer home the fact that the industry would survive this terrible incident, he did not preach from the pulpit. Instead it was raw, simple, dignified. It was made by a man armed with words of deep sorrow and his pride in the crew “whose stories of heroism will soon be told.” The emotion he was feeling as he spoke echoed around the utterly packed, utterly silent conference center.

Each of the cruise lines within the corporation all have their own pins that crew and executives wear and when Howard Frank goes to various meetings with each of the cruise lines he will wear their pin. But since the Costa Concordia tragedy, he told everyone that he has worn the Costa pin, never taking it off his suit lapel and he will continue to wear it in support of the company and to remember those who the sea claimed that fateful day.

I know how difficult public speaking is but this, well, this was something different. This was the most closely scrutinized state of the industry conference for many, many years if not ever.

But it was one in which Howard Frank removed the plastic wrapping that occasions like this usually come with and spoke from deep within inside himself and it was an honour to be there to hear him speak and if I had a Costa pin…………I would wear it every day too.

It’s great to be blogging again and I will be back with another on Friday and of course be on Facebook with you all as well. On Saturday I will be addressing the UK Cruise Show which is like the UK version of Cruise Shipping Miami except from what I understand it is geared to the consumer. I have no clue what I will be talking about but I do know I am excited to be one of the invited speakers and I also know Heidi says I need to buy a new pair of grey pants to go with my blue blazer. But I won’t. I refuse. I spent five hours yesterday in a mall and I will be buggered if I am going back there again. Trying on a pair of new pants is the most miserable thing a man can do. Given the choice of trying on a pair of trousers in a shop, or being beaten to death by an Amazonian tribe, I would take the Amazonian tribe and let them make stew out of my thingy. At least I would have died knowing my sacrifice had fed hundreds!

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.