WHAT THE CREW EATS

March 28, 2012 -

John Heald

It’s amazing how a beautiful sunny day where the birds are singing, the sky is blue and my hemorrhoids are not itching can instantly turn into a crappy day. And what did it for me yesterday was something that turned the skies grey and made my hemorrhoids feel like someone had poured sawdust on them. Heidi had asked me to “poop to the supermarket” as she was busy waxing her legs or watching Desperate Houseb****es of Orange Jersey and so off I went like a good husband would.

Usually, I go to a supermarket called Waitrose but because I wanted a DVD while I was there and Waitrose doesn’t sell them, I went to ASDA which, by the way, is owned by Wal-Mart……so looking back at the conversation on Facebook last week I can say I proudly shop at Wal-Mart, or ASDA, as we call it here. Anyway, I bought what I had been sent to buy including my DVD of Dexter Series 5……oh, by the way, I love this new program that’s started here called Homeland. Have you seen it? If not, watch it – it’s brilliant. But I digress. So, I headed to the check out with a trolley full of stuff and suddenly I saw that there were only three ladies with nose piercings behind the registers scanning the bar codes. But there were dozens of these self-service checkout thingies.

Now, I don’t know if you have these where you are from, but I had no bloody clue what to do and I am sure they are designed with the specific intention of driving shoppers into a rabid dog style rage. There are quite a few things about these barcode-hungry Terminators that make me want to go to the cereal aisle, take off all my clothes and crap in a Cheerios box. The sign as you approach these lifeless automated checkouts says that the “touch screen is easy to use.” I should have bought a pen just so I could scribble “my arse” after the word “easy.”

Amongst the things I had bought included a 12-pack of Evian water and a box of strawberries. The scales couldn’t tell the difference between the weight of 12 bottles of water and the weight of a few bits of sodding fruit! Now, while there is no actual person helping you, each checkout has a stern looking lady with a beard who glares suspiciously at everything you’re trying to scan in case you’re shoplifting your purchases or, worse still, taking more than one plastic carrier bag.

However, the single most hateful thing about self-service checkout machines is the electronic voice that loudly informs you that there is now “an unexpected item in the bagging area” when you place something completely expected in the bagging area.

Where do they get these voices and it’s not just these check out thingies either? Some of the voices they use in the elevators on the ships are nice and pleasant. However, there is one of our ships and I shall leave it for you to guess which one that use a Germanic voice owned probably by someone called Frau Nipplerippenoffen who shouts “DECK SEX” when you arrive on Upper Deck. So, back to the super market automated voice. The main reason this is so annoying is that, by definition, anything that I placed in the bagging area has more than likely come from the shelves of the very supermarket you are in. Some tea bags or a box of hemorrhoid cream. So why the sodding heck can anything you have placed in the bagging area not in any way be described as unexpected can it? I bought from here, you ignoramus!

However, if, as happened to me today, I place a box of PG Tips teabags in the bagging area, this should not come as a surprise to you should it you automated bastard. So just shut up with your stupid electronic announcements, repeated over and over, telling me that a box of tea is somehow unexpected, and do your job. I only wish I could surprise you with an item you certainly aren’t expecting such as running Calvyn through the scanner or if I slapped my thingy on there. That would be truly unexpected and would probably be the heaviest thing that had ever been placed in the bagging area I am sure.

Time for today’s Q and A………away we go.

Jim De Vere asked:

Do you know why I cannot get a straight answer from Carnival about my group function? We have a group of 34 from the Ionic Composite Lodge in California and have paid for a cocktail party. I need to know when this is and have called multiple times and each time have been met with dumb answers given by Carnival employees who couldn’t care less. I was told by one idiot to write to you and so do you know what night our drinks party is? We are on the 5/20/12 sailing on Carnival Splendor. I am hoping that the service we receive on the boat will be better that what I have experienced from Carnival so far. I am not impressed.

John says:
Hello Jim De Vere,

Thanks for taking the time to write and I am sorry that you have not gotten the answer you wanted. The fact is that the ships have a function grid each week which shows where all the groups’ functions will take place. This grid gets to the ship two weeks before that cruise which is why none of the people you spoke to were able to tell you where and when it will take place. I did speak to someone today and I can tell you that once we have the location and time sorted we will email you immediately, I promise. I wish you and the group a brilliant time and I promise also that the service you will receive on the ship will be wonderful.

Best wishes to you all.

John

Anthony Morra asked:

I would just like to make a mention of one of your employees. I just booked a cruise on your line with Ronny Cadogan. It is a first time cruise with my family and Ronny could not have been more helpful and professional. He made the experience very easy. We are eagerly looking forward to the cruise. Just wanted to let you know that Ronny is an asset to your company.

Thank you.

John says:
Hello Anthony Morra,

Thanks for taking the time to mention Ronny. It is always wonderful to read about our shoreside employees and how great they are, especially after reading the posting above you. I certainly will make sure he sees this as will his boss. I hope you have a wonderful cruise.

Best wishes.

John

Rob Erickson asked:

We have a large and very influential Cruise Critic group sailing on the Liberty 4-14-12 and need your help organizing a meet and greet. We expect 100 to attend and the roll call wants to meet on the 1st sea day in the piano bar lounge at 1:30pm. Other cruise lines have the captain and cruise director attend and some provide free refreshments which I am sure considering the number of attendees and the fact that all will be writing reviews is something Carnival will want to do right by us! Let me know as soon as you can that this has been arranged so I can let everyone know.

John says:
Hello Rob Erickson,

While I cannot authorize refreshments, I will organize a room for you. I can’t guarantee the piano bar we will try and get that for you and if not somewhere else for you all to meet. I wish you all a great time and this will be listed in the Fun Times for you. I see this was posted some time ago so my apologies for the delay in my reply and I wish you all a brilliant time.

Best wishes.

John

Luis Hernandez asked:
John,

What’s the possibility of getting a singles only cruise or a ship only for singles. Other lines do this and they are a big success. Carnival should do it as well and talking to my college buddies I know they would go for sure.

Thanks.

John says:
Hello Luis Hernandez,

Thanks for taking the time to write and I am sorry to say that I doubt we will ever do this. We are proud to be a family cruise line and while we encourage singles groups and single guests to sail I doubt you will ever see a ship dedicated for single guests. I do hope you and your mates come and sail and have some Carnival fun and good luck in college.

Best wishes.

John

Stacey R asked:

I heard that you arrange special things for cruisers and I need something special done for my daughter Hannah. She was the Miss Anchorage Outstanding Teen and Miss Chugiak/Eagle River Outstanding Teen and won a Troy University Full-Ride Scholarship to Auburn University. We are going on our annual family cruise this time on the Sprit on the 4th of June in cabin 1239. I think it would be awesome if she were brought on stage and presented with a prize for her achievements and the prize could perhaps be presented by the captain. She is a special young lady and one who deserves more than most to be recognized. I hope you will make this happen!

John says:
Hello Stacey R,

Please can I send you my warmest congratulations as you must be a very proud mother and of course we are very happy that you have decided to spend your family vacation with Carnival. While we can’t bring your daughter on stage I will ask Stuart, the cruise director, to mention her on his live morning show and we will send her a little something as well. Please if you can may I ask that you post this again on my Facebook page at facebook.com/johnheald so that I don’t forget. I wish you all a wonderful cruise and many congratulations to Hannah.

Best wishes.

John

Sara Tang asked:
John,

I wish you would get caught up on your questions as I am worried about you missing my request and this is the seventh time I have sent you this request without an answer be returned which is not good customer service. My fiancé and I as well as my parents have booked the inaugural sailing of the new Carnival Breeze and we absolutely want a private table for four. Our first Carnival experience was on the Destiny in 2009 and it was spoiled for many reasons so this needs to be special for us.

John says:
Hello Sara Tang,

I am sorry you didn’t have a good time on the Carnival Destiny and I will certainly do all I can to help you and your family make this the best cruise ever. See you soon and get ready for a brilliant time.

Best wishes.

John

Harry Landherr asked:

Can you tell me if there will be a chapel on the Carnival Breeze and if Carnival will provide information of mass in Dubrovnik as we will be there on a Sunday? Thanks, John, and my wife and I are looking forward to finally meeting you.

John says:
Hello Harry Landherr,

And I am looking forward to meeting you both as well. The ship will not have a chapel I am afraid but I will certainly give you the information you need when you are onboard. I can tell you that there is a cathedral in the old town and they will welcome everyone for mass and I will let you know the times when I see you. I can tell you it will be held in Croatian not English. There will be a shuttle bus that costs $10 round trip to get there. See you soon and if you have any questions please let me know.

Best wishes to you both.

John


Bryan Coogler asked:

John,

I know you get a ton of questions so I hope you can find the time to give me some insight. We sailed on the Conquest back in July (where we got engaged) and it was our first cruise. We had a SPLENDID time no doubt; however, had an outright horrible experience with our room steward and waiter. It was a last minute booking so we booked a lower level cabin which to me was “bottom rung.” My question is with a better room do we in turn have better equipped and experienced room stewards and/or dining staff? This time we booked a cove balcony (2279 on Carnival Magic 1/15) and had numerous attempts from Carnival to upgrade us to a higher category – we kept with the cove just because of the reviews of privacy and such that it had received. My fear is that since we are again on the second deck that we will have the same type of service displayed back in July. I expect there are always a few bad apples in the bunch; however, had it not been for our bartender Made Winaya (who I believe is on the Magic this time around again) we probably would have looked elsewhere… he kept us entertained and was ever so helpful the entire trip. Again, I don’t like to complain; but this time we brought other family for their first cruise and I’m taking every means necessary to ensure it is the best vacation they have ever had.

John says:
Hello Bryan Coogler,

Thanks so much for writing and please do not worry. Please understand that we do not place the stateroom stewards or waiters in sections based on their ability or how high up the cabins are. We expect all of our staff to be the best and the vast, vast majority provide superior service that is raved about from our guests. I can say that you will love your cove balcony and while I apologise that you had service that was not up to our standards last time, I can assure you that the staff on the Carnival Magic will make sure you have the best of times. Please let me know how the cruise goes and if there is anything you need I am here to help.

Best wishes.

John

John Vanecek asked:
Hi again John,

I met you on the Carnival Magic, but I have to say I like you a lot, but do not have any luck getting replies from your blog, so here goes another. Now we are hearing Carnival is changing the loyalty program to points. As it is now, we are booked on two cruises; the second in April of 2013 would make us Platinum. Will I now lose out on this after all the years in trying to gain Platinum status? Please respond. I know you get more of these than you want, but we really enjoy our Carnival cruises, and I hate to see it get fouled up.

Thanks,

JV

John says:
Hello John Vanecek,

I am so glad that you kept writing to me as I am so far behind on the blog questions that I am sure it feels like I am ignoring some of you. Yes indeed this year we will be changing to the number of days sailed and please don’t worry because as you are so close and as you have cruises booked, then you will have your current loyalty taken into consideration and you will not lose out. Thanks again and I hope we meet one day soon.

Best wishes.

John

Jeremeka Barrett asked:

I first want to let you know how much my family & I love cruising. This time we will be on Carnival Sensation from Port Canaveral April 3. Can you send my four kids something special? Cabins are R79 and 81

John says:
Hello Jeremeka Barrett,

I caught this just in time as I can see you are sailing next week. I will send your kids a little something and I wish you all a brilliant time.

Best wishes.

John

Fred Harzstark asked:
Hi John,

We are excited to being booked on the 11/24/2012 Carnival Breeze in a 7C balcony. Hopefully by that time we will be VIP. In Curacao, there are no Jewish Heritage Tours with Carnival. I have been researching the web and can only find private tours for six or more. I am sure besides the Jewish passengers, others would be interested. Maybe the beards or you can look into this to arrange. We are excited to have you as our cruise director, and maybe have a cocktail together.  We do have a great PVP in Jenifer.

Fred Harzstark

John says:
Hello Fred Harzstark,

I am indeed looking forward to seeing you and showing you this wonderful new ship. I will indeed speak to the beards and see if we can include a Jewish Heritage tour. I know we have these in other ports so let me see what I can do for you and I will let you know. Thanks for your loyalty and thanks for the kind words. See you soon.

Best wishes.

John

Ashley Loader asked:

Just off the Carnival Dream and will post my review on the website you hate but as a smoker I found this ship had nowhere to enjoy a cigarette and I will not be coming back to the Carnival Dream ever.

John says:
Hello Ashley Loader,

I was surprised to read this because the Dream-class ships have The Lanai which is available to smokers. There are outdoor smoking areas on the port side and if you walk further aft you will discover large, comfy chairs outside of the nightclub disco dance club thingy. So, while on the Dream class we may have reduced the smoking facilities in the casino and inside areas the opportunities for smoking outdoors (where many believe it should be limited to) are much more than on any of our ships. I do hope you had fun and please let me know if you have any other questions.

Best wishes.

John

That’s all for today.

OK, let’s talk about the crew, shall we? These past few days I have been talking about them a lot on Facebook with comments about tipping and salary and often we forget that with all the bells and whistles our ships have that they remain, in my humble opinion, the most iconic part of the cruise. I know a lot of you enjoy the Behind the Fun Tour where you get to see behind the crew only door and discover where those who serve you live. However…….what do they eat?

So there are four dining rooms on most of our ships. One for the crew which is where the waiters, stateroom stewards, cooks, etc., eat. Then there is the staff mess where the entertainment staff, shop and spa staff, casino staff and others will eat. Then we have the petit officers dining room which is where the Italian bosons, sailors and non-striped officers will eat. And, finally, we have the officers and captain’s dining room where the senior officers and captain will enjoy their meals. There is a slightly different configuration on the Dream class but for the most part this is how it works.

The crew mess is self-service and mostly the staff and officers messes are waiter service. It is important to remember that none of us, not your waiter or the dancer or the engineer have hours to linger over a meal because there is work to be done and most of us spend no more than 30 minutes over any meal, it’s always been that way. But what has changed is the menu. In days gone passed there used to be a separate menu for each of the dining rooms I mentioned above.

There would be a menu for the crew based on where they were from with local Indonesian, Pilipino, Indian and other ethnic recipes. Then there would be a staff menu and in the old days most of the staff was either western European or from the US in the case of the entertainment staff and musicians and so that menu was meat and potatoes based. And finally we had the Italian petit officer s and senior officers all of whom were Italian and so the menu was based around the traditions of Italy and that meant cheeseburgers and Pop Tarts…….bugger……I mean pasta.

However, over the last 10 years we have changed a lot with our crew and staff coming from so many different countries and so it was decided that for this reason and other operational reasons that we would combine the menus with all the officers, staff and crew eating the same menu.

There are still some staple foods. Rice, for example, remains the most popular dish onboard with goodness knows how many tons of the stuff we serve each week. During the Carnival Splendor fire there was as you know no hot food and the crew couldn’t wait to go ashore and eat…… yep ……. rice and in fact there was a saying around the crew during those days that said, “No rice no power.” It’s a staple diet in so many countries and it’s a staple diet for the crew onboard as well.

So, we all eat the same food although the chef still prepares daily pasta specials for the Italian officers and the captain and that’s very much appreciated by them. Anyway, let’s see a few examples of the dinner menus served around the fleet to the crew.

Here they are:

Menu 1

Cream of wild mushroom soup with porcini, bottom, and shiitake mushrooms

Today’s feature: is Greek salad diced cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, peppers and olives in vinaigrette, diced feta cheese

Salad bar
Assorted marinated salads
Fresh greens with a wide variety of trimmings and dressings
White tuna, boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, crudités

Baguette or rolls, ciabatta, onion rye, bagels, whole wheat and white bread

Assorted cold cuts and cheese

Spaghetti with artichokes tossed in a zesty tomato sauce

Steamed grouper with julienne of celery, leeks and carrots and a touch of white wine

Chicken kavarma – boneless chicken with bell peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms

Grilled sirloin steak served with peppercorn sauce

Steamed zucchini, squash and carrots

Lentil stew with vegetables

Assorted pizza

On the side – parsley potatoes, couscous

Also available:

Veggie burgers, hot dogs, *hamburger, *cheeseburger,
*assorted eggs and omelets, penne with tomato sauce

Grilled chicken breast, soy milk

Date and ginger chocolate cake and other treasures from the pastry shop

Assorted whole or sliced fruit

Menu 2

Chicken dumpling soup with chicken, vegetables and Jamaican dumplings

Today’s feature is: Waldorf salad – diced celery, apples and walnuts in a creamy mayonnaise

Salad bar
Assorted marinated salads – fresh greens with a wide variety of trimmings and dressings
White tuna, boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, crudités

Baguette or rolls, ciabatta, onion rye, bagels, whole wheat and white bread

Assorted cold cuts and cheese

Penne incrazo – tossed in a zesty tomato sauce with roasted zucchini

Fish and chips served with malt vinegar and tartare sauce

Roast chicken – chicken marinated with lime and cilantro

Barbecued pork spareribs – juicy and tender to the bone

Steamed cabbage, green beans and carrots

Sautéed okra and kernel corn casserole

Assorted pizza

On the side – Double baked potato, lemon rice

Also available:

Veggie burgers, hot dogs, *hamburger, *cheeseburger,
*assorted eggs and omelets, penne with tomato sauce
Grilled chicken breast, soy milk
Fresh fruit tart and other treasures from the pastry shop
Assorted whole or sliced fruit

Menu 3

Jamaican bean soup – with diced vegetables and dumplings

Crispy fried mozzarella – served with a zesty tomato dip or remoulade

Salad bar
Assorted marinated salads
Fresh greens with a wide variety of trimmings and dressings
White tuna, boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, crudités

Baguette or rolls, ciabatta, onion rye, bagels, whole wheat and white bread

Assorted cold cuts and cheese

Farfalle in gorgonzola cream served with grated parmesan cheese

Grilled fillet of pike perch served with citrus butter

Tandoori chicken- sautéed chicken with a yogurt and green chili paste, red onion julienne

Beef stew with fava beans – browned and braised beef in its own gravy

Steamed cauliflower, green beans and cucumbers

Grilled eggplant casserole with feta cheese

Assorted pizza

On the side – Oklahoma fried potatoes, white rice, polenta

Also available:
Veggie burgers, hot dogs, *hamburger, *cheeseburger,
*assorted eggs and omelets, penne with tomato sauce
Grilled chicken breast, soy milk
Walnut and green tea cheesecake and other treasures from the pastry shop
Assorted whole or sliced fruit

As you can see, burgers and rice and eggs and hamburgers are always available as are fries and other items. There are 17 menus on a 17-day rotation so that the crew doesn’t get bored. OK, it’s not five-star cuisine and it’s designed to fuel the crew for their hard work but its good hearty food that the crew appreciates and some of the ethnic foods like the tandoori chicken, the jerk pork and the smelt (small fish) are fantastic.

The best food, though, is not around anymore and that was the food that used to be cooked down on Deck A in the laundry. Back then, these were run by young men from China whom you rarely saw. They slept there and they worked there and they cooked there. Yep, they had their own galley and that’s where on a Friday night I would head down armed with a case of Heineken and a huge thank you for washing my underpants and they would return the favor by serving me the best Chinese food in the world. I miss those guys.

I will leave you today with this gem of a question.

Madelynne Stottlemyre asked:
Hello John,

We love your blog and Facebook updates and especially love the photos by Radu. He is so talented and it got me thinking. Each year in New York, the NYC Firefighter Calendar is the most purchased not only as it goes to a wonderful charity but the men are hunks and are mostly, dare I say, “naked.” So my suggestion is why not get Radu to take photos of you and the cruise directors and maybe some of the other crew who are pleasing on the eyes in unclothed poses. The money raised would go to St. Jude and I bet ya that hundreds would buy this. What say you?

Thanks.

Madelynne Stottlemyre

John says:

Hello Madelynne Stottlemyre,

Ummmm, let me think about this for a moment. Would I like to parade my arse, alongside other naked cruise directors and captains, while Radu snaps away with his wide angle lens? Yes, I’m up for that. In the same way I’m up for boiling my thingy in a vat of acid. I am sure the Gooses and the Todds and the Ryans and the rest of the metrosexual clan of CD’s would happily do this and I am all about supporting a great cause…but who the heck is going to buy a calendar full of the bits and pieces of Carnival cruise directors and captains… apart from the CD’s and captains themselves, that is. I can think of nothing more disgusting than turning the calendar page over to May 1 to find Butch, covering his gentleman’s sausage with a postage stamp. And while I want to raise as much money as I can for charity, I don’t see how January’s photo of me writhing on a sandy beach is going to get the money pouring in. And I am sure that while Radu loves taking photos, seeing my naked body through the lens of his Nikon is not what he signed up to do.

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.