ASHES IN THE BARBECUE

May 4, 2012 -

John Heald

There are many ways in which you can tell you are getting old. The forest of hair in your nose and ears for example or those weird noises I make now as I get out of a chair or off a sofa ………. aggghoooo. However, these past few days I have experienced two situations that make me think that 47 is the new 73. Firstly, while at home last week a friend called me at 9:30pm and asked: “I didn’t wake you, did I?” Bloody hell! Is that what people think of me? Do they believe that I have just had a cup of cocoa and am in bed asleep, dreaming of a nice retirement home in the country at 9:30 at night? I felt like telling this friend who called that actually I was in the middle of “a little action,” but he would rather than think I meant some rumpy pumpy that a “little action” referred to a good bowel movement.

However, there was another situation which happened last week that really has me thinking I am just a few steps away from the Pearly Gates. We had some friends over to the house to celebrate Heidi’s birthday and while we sat eating some fabulous Indian take-out one of our friends said, “Have you decided in your will to be buried or cremated?” Now our friends are all the same age as me or Heidi so let’s put that into perspective shall we. That’s a group of people aged 38 – 48 talking about death while chomping on some chicken tika masala. And do you know what? Everyone seemed eager to talk about this as they would who was shagging who on Desperate Housebitches of New Orange County or cars! One of my mates knew a lot on this subject. He knew that the world is running out of space to bury our dead and that in Japan, 99 percent are cremated. He also said that one cemetery in London is burying people on top of a stranger who had been buried hundreds of years ago. Bugger that. No way do I want to be laid to rest on top of some chap that died of syphilis or the plague.

Since this conversation at dinner I have been giving a lot of thought to this whole buried or cremated thing. I know some of you may have religious reasons to do one or the other and I respect that of course. I, on the other hand, have been in a bit of a quandary. I used to think that when I die I want to be buried, because if I am lucky enough to go to heaven (which will be based on the fact that I send people strawberries and trophies), it’ll be hard to enjoy its wonderful brilliance if I’ve been cremated. I guess I mean that you’re never going to have rumpy pumpy with a Latvian angel if you look like the contents of a vacuum cleaner. However, one thing keeps playing over and over in my mind and that was a movie I saw many years ago. It starred Peter Cushing and was part of the old Hammer House of Horror movies. All I can remember were the fingers of bodies were attached to a rope that would ring a bell if they moved meaning they had been buried alive. Bugger that and therefore its cremation for me and this is my will and testament. Throw me on the fire and scatter my ashes at sea……..leaving just a small handful to sprinkle on H82seaugo’s chocolate melting cake.

Time for some Q and A……..here we go.

Luis Garcia asked:
Hello John.

I make no apologies in saying how angry and disappointed I am with Carnival’s decision to take the Carnival Splendor away from California and not give us another boat in its place. Californians are wonderful people who love to cruise and yet we are being punished, why!!!!!!!  As a police officer working the streets of LA I have the toughest and most stressful job in the world and am not paid enough to be able to afford to fly to Florida to take a cruise. I have done three with Carnival and there won’t be a 4th thanks to your bad management decisions.

John says:
Hello Luis Garcia

First of all, I thank you for your service as a police officer and thank you for taking the time to write and express your opinion. We have, as you said, decided to reposition the Carnival Splendor to New York after her South America voyages and replace her with the Carnival Miracle West Coast next spring to operate our Mexican Riviera, Alaska and Hawaii cruises. We realize that many people really loved the Carnival Splendor but the Carnival Miracle is truly spectacular as well.  We also have the beautiful Carnival Inspiration to enjoy from Long Beach. I truly hope there will be a fourth cruise.

Best wishes and stay safe.

John

Melissa Bergamin asked:
Hello John,

I’ve been reading and enjoying your blog for a while now and had mixed feelings about sending you this message, but I’ve decided it’s for the greater good – being the sanity of my cruising partner aka my mum. We are booked on the Carnival Miracle this summer (July 25) and we are very excited. This will be her eighth Carnival cruise and my fifth. Part of the reason for this mother-daughter cruise is because I have moved overseas to teach. I worked in China last year, and this year I have been living and working in Cairo, Egypt. I will also be returning to Egypt for next year. My time home is limited and we decided one way to maximize was to take a Carnival cruise together. I’m hitting two of my favourite stops (St. Thomas and Grand Turk) and we have booked a balcony. Now to the point of this rather long winded essay, I have promised my mum that I will indeed FORCE myself to relax with her. In the past, my idea of a cruise vacation was wake up, hit every activity humanly possible, and then add three more… I tend to tire people out when I just explain to them the course of my average cruise day.  Whatever, part of my addiction to action on Carnival is the hunt for the coveted SOS.  I get quite moody until I win one (not in front of other passengers, just my mum) and so I was hoping to save her sanity and to help me keep my promise of relaxing with her, you could help me out by sending me a SOS or arranging for me to be able to purchase one. I can already see her rolling her eyes at me and telling me to “relax” …….. and as I love her to bits, I would do anything within my power to make her happy and thank her. I understand if you cannot help me out, but I figured I would ask. I owe my mum’s sanity that much. Thank you for all you do, and the hours of entertainment combined with information you’ve provided on your blog.

A fan of your fun ship feature,

Melissa

John says:
Hello Melissa Bergamin

People take cruises for many different reasons and one of the common reasons is to take time for themselves and be able to relax and forget about the stresses and worries of everyday life. I can see that you are really ready to do just that and I am sure that the crew will make sure they serve and entertain you and take your worries away. I will be happy to send you a trophy as requested and hope that you can write to me here on June 25 or a few days before you sail on my Facebook page so that I don’t forget. I wish you both a wonderful time.

Best wishes

John

Brenda asked:
Hi John

We have sailed with you twice now on the Carnival Freedom in the Med and this past summer on the Carnival Magic in the Med. We are currently Platinum with 22 cruises (my 10 yr old has 22 cruises too!).  How will this work with the new loyalty program. We are only three cruises from Milestone with three future cruises booked (Dec. 2012 July 2013 and Dec 2013).  How close do we have to be to be grandfathered into the milestone program?  This will be a real bummer if we miss it and we are this close! Please let me know. Lastly, will you be on the Legend in the Baltic in 2013? Thanks.

John says:
Hello Brenda

I am getting lots of questions like this and it is quite understandable, of course. We are now just a very short time away from announcing the new loyalty program and the four different levels that this will be based on. Looking at the fact that you are this close to Milestone and with three cruises booked you should have no worries or concerns about you getting the top level. More details to come soon and yes indeed, I will see you on the beautiful Carnival Legend.

Best wishes and thanks for your brilliant loyalty.

John

Linda Shearing asked:

We have a big Cruise Critic roll call for the Carnival Dream cruise of 5/19/12. I expect 100 will attend so we need the piano bar on the Sunday sea day at 1:30pm -3:30pm. I have written to you before on your blog but did not get a response so I hope you will respond this time! Can we also have bar service?

John says:
Hello Linda Shearing

I am sorry I have not responded to you before but I am glad I saw this in time for me to be able to arrange this. I cannot promise you the piano bar as this may have been taken by a group already or indeed used for a ship’s function. However, I will make sure that it is arranged and that the location and time appears in the Fun Times and that a bar waiter attends to take individual drink orders. I hope you all have a fantastic cruise and enjoy meeting new friends.

Best wishes.

John

Elizabeth Windfelder asked:

HELP, I can’t decide! Which would you choose? 7/9/12 or 7/21/12 sailing on Carnival Breeze from Barcelona?

John says:
Hello Elizabeth Windfelder

I am sure thanks to my lateness of reply that you have probably decided what to do already. If not and having had a look at both I would suggest the 7/21 sailing……oh hold on…….no….the 7/9 sailing……oh bugger. I am, obviously, of no use here because both are brilliant voyages and I hope regardless that I see you this summer. I am sorry I couldn’t be of much use here but I promise that if you have other questions I will give you more complete answers.

Best wishes.

John

Paul asked:
Hi John

Have a question, will you be doing a live report from Carnival Destiny‘s extreme makeover in Italy next year. And why did Carnival feel it necessary to change her name? Thanks

John says:
Hello Paul

I will indeed be with the film crew at the yard and reporting on her amazing dry dock. I can understand that there are those who having cruised on her as the Carnival Destiny have a special connection with her. This upcoming refit is by far the most ambitious project we’ve undertaken and will totally transform the Carnival Destiny. With such dramatic changes, it just made sense to rename the ship. Once everyone sees the incredible transformation she will undergo that the name Carnival Sunshine will be absolutely applicable. She will be a ship reborn.

Best wishes.

John

Janice Travelli asked:

Have just returned from the Pride which was my 10th cruise. The platinum VIP gift we got was the beach bag/backpack and compared to the gift we receive as a diamond VIP with RCI it leaves a lot to be desired. It looks cheap and what is someone of my age (62) supposed to do with a bag like this. On RCI I got a beautiful crystal paper weight and a lovely T-shirt. Just saying!

John says:
Hello Janice Travelli

I am surprised to read that you did not like the bag as I have heard nothing but positive reports about it from other guests. We will be changing the gift again when the new loyalty program is introduced and, of course, I hope we will see you for cruise number 11 so that you can enjoy it.

Best wishes

John

Rona asked:

I have watched videos of you and Calvin and I have to say you two are like Laurel and Hardy. So funny together.

John says:
Hello Rona

The problem there is that one of them was skinny! Seriously, thanks so much for that wonderful compliment and to be compared with the greatest double act ever is amazing. I will post more videos of us soon.

Best wishes.

John

Martin Stansfield asked:

I am just off the Carnival Triumph and was not impressed. I detected an overall vibe of boredom and depression from the staff. The cleaning staff/housekeeping appeared to be from the Philippines or Indonesia. They never smiled and said hello in the halls, but it was unusual to come across so many foreign staff. The front desk had a very poor attitude each time I went there to complain. In general, the presence of so many immigrant workers (many Indians, Bulgarians, etc made up the wait staff), gave me an odd impression. I suppose you don’t hire American crew because outsourcing labor is cheaper, is this the reason Mr. Heald?

John says:
Hello Martin Stansfield

Well, let me start by saying that I am shocked that you should say that the crew were unfriendly as that is something that we very rarely hear and I will make a point of sending your comments to the ship’s senior management. Like most cruise lines, we hire talented people from all over the world and in fact at Carnival more than 100 nationalities are represented. We take a great deal of pride in having the friendliest crew at sea and all crew undergo training to hone their hospitality skills. I do hope that there were many aspects of the cruise that you did enjoy.

Best wishes

John

Jon Heller asked:
Hey John,

I was just wondering since I had been on the Carnival Magic a few weeks ago and thought you were a great cruise director. I was wondering if you were scheduled to be on the Breeze next year during the departure date of 2.16.2013. Let me know if you will be because either way we are booking this cruise. Had so much fun on the magic, can’t wait for the Carnival Breeze and Carnival Sunshine

John says:
Hello Jon Heller

Thanks for those wonderful words and yes indeed, I will be there as I am hosting the Bloggers Cruise in January and intend to stay on through February and March. I am so glad you had fun and hope we see each other next year.

Best wishes.

John

Laura Welk asked:
Hey John,

My friends and I are sailing in May this year and I had some questions about bringing our own liquor onboard. When I sailed with CCL the first time, we didn’t bring anything, the second time we brought a bottle of wine in our luggage and they confiscated it and we got it back the last night. Now, I have heard some conflicting things, some say you can bring liquor on in your carry on and are allowed one bottle per person, others say you can only bring in wine and are

allowed one bottle per person and some say you cannot bring it at all. I completely understand not being allowed to bring it on at all and seeing how CCL would like our liquor purchased from them. But since we are cruising in a few months I thought I would ask, mostly out of curiosity from all the mixed answers I have gotten. Hope this email finds you well and you have been enjoying yourself on the bloggers cruise. I enjoy your blog and Facebook updates immensely!

Thanks in advance!

Laura

John says:
Hello Laura Welk

I am sorry that this has been confusing and it looks like we (I) need to do a better job in getting the right information out. You can indeed bring one bottle of wine or champagne per person on the ship in your carryon bag and if you decided to take this to the dining room there will be a corkage fee for the waiter to serve it. I hope this is OK and if you have any further questions please let me know.

Best wishes and thanks so very much for the very kind words.

John

That’s all for today.

So here I am writing to you once again and before I forget may I thank Michelle and Mary who despite not having beards have done a wonderful job answering questions for me during my time at home with the girls. Talking of which, saying goodbye to Kye gets harder and harder and tugs at my heart strings to the point that tears run down my fat ugly face. I doubt it will ever get easier, will it?

So here I am in Italy, writing to you from the Carnival Breeze. Well, actually I am in the yard office which Carnival uses when we have a new ship being built. It is very warm here and there is no air conditioning or if there is it is being provided by an asthmatic hamster breathing through a straw. The ship looks brilliant and let me say straight away that Gerry and the beards have hit a huge home run here. Yep, she is a slam dunk, touchdown……ummmmm…….hit for six (cricket reference) vessel that I have no trepidation in saying is our very best yet. Once again the brilliant people here at Fincantieri are making a brilliant vacation home. What they do here is nothing short of amazing and in one month as we head to the Mediterranean and talk becomes of RedFrogs, BlueIguanas and Cucinas, it’s easy to forget that men and women built this ship.

As I mentioned on Facebook yesterday, the ship will leave the Monfalcone shipyard for a two day sea trial. She has passed all her previous sea trials with flying colours and talking to the Chief Engineer Antonio this morning he expects everything to be just perfect. Now in the days ahead I will have video interviews with all the senior officers which I hope you will enjoy.

There is only a skeleton crew from Carnival here with the department heads getting ready to welcome their crew over the next few days. Yesterday, 10 huge trucks arrived with supplies as diverse as trashcans to uniforms. The operation is continuous and the huge warehouse is filling up slowly with all our supplies. Move on date for the supplies is May 8 and the move on date for the crew to join is May 15. Now I mentioned uniforms because the Carnival Breeze will have new uniforms for all the crew. Yep, all of them from waiters to state room stewards from Camp Carnival staff to photographers, everyone will have the new look and I will show you just how they look in the days ahead. The new uniforms will then move across the fleet and I think the crew is going to love them. Especially happy is the entertainment staff whose new day uniform means they no longer look like they are delivering you a large pepperoni pizza.

The entertainment staff arrived yesterday as did cruise director extraordinaire Butch Begovitch.

He will be teaching the staff the 2.0 deck parties and hosting the first cruise Hasbro, The Game Show activities as I won’t have time to do the rehearsals etc. It will be great to have him with me. I know you are all anxiously awaiting more photos of the ship but as all the areas are still being worked on I shall wait a few more days until you can see her in all her undoubted glory.

Yesterday we announced all the brilliant food items for the Carnival Breeze and just in case you missed it, here is the announcement as written by our great friend from PR, Mr. Vance Gulliksen.

NEW FULL-SERVICE SUSHI RESTAURANT, OUTDOOR BBQ VENUE AMONG TANTALIZING ARRAY OF CUISINE CHOICES ON CARNIVAL BREEZE

And as mentioned there is a contest ongoing and here is Everett the Beard with a reminder about that.

One of the worst things about Facebook is that sometimes you’ll read a friend’s status update and it’s so inane you just want to… I don’t know, throw a handful of pico de gallo at them. But then it just ends up dripping down your monitor and keyboard, you have to clean it up yourself* and the person doesn’t even know — the gesture was meaningless, and you are now sad.

Carnival doesn’t want to see you sad, so we created the BlueIguana Cantina Fight for Your Appetite Sweepstakes!

Here’s how this works: we’ve made a Facebook page where you can not only learn more about some of the foods offered at BlueIguana Cantina, vote for your favorite dishes, enter to win an awesome Carnival Breeze cruise for two with airfare… and naturally, throw digital food at someone else’s Facebook wall. (It’s both therapeutic and thoughtful!)

So let your mate’s wall have it… then get ready to Facebook message them to beg their forgiveness when they win the free cruise for two. Enter here so maybe you’ll win instead.

*Dishwashers are actually a great way to clean keyboards. Seriously. Look it up.

So lots of food glorious food and let’s start with sushi. Now, there were some grumbles from a few that we are charging for this so let me just repeat what I said on Facebook that we continue to offer free sushi on Lido and sushi is also included among the many offerings within The Taste Bar complimentary appetizer program.

The Bonsai Sushi bar looks fantastic and the new sushi recipes from $1 a plate will be a massive bargain and that the huge sushi boat for 2 for just $15 will be very popular as well I am sure.   Bonsai Sushi is a totally new concept for us with a more extensive menu and upgraded quality along with  sake and Japanese beer, in a fabulous new setting with a dedicated seating area.

Now while many of you are probably huge Sushi lovers and are very excited about the new sushi restaurant here on the Carnival Breeze I have to tell you I am not a fan of sushi. Yes, I hear you saying that it’s the “ultimate healthy fast food.” But it’s just not for me. My wife loves sushi and she wishes I would love it too, bless her little Dutch clogs. She doesn’t want me to die or to get fatter, so when I am home she keeps me on a diet of mashed vegetables, muesli and grilled sodding chicken. It is kind and loving of her to do so, but sometimes I look at our refrigerator shelves full of Greek yogurt and falafel and skimmed milk and olive spread, and I feel like crying. And when she isn’t with me on the ship there is no doubt that I will bypass the Bonsai Sushi restaurant and head to deck 10 and sink my teeth into a Guy Fieri burger with melted cheese, a crispy onion ring, lashings of bacon bits and even his very own special mayonnaise.

One of the more exciting elements of the Carnival Breeze involves the existing Lanai barbecue which has a new menu and will be called Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ. Now I can tell you that this was named after one of the most brilliant people I have ever met — our soft spoken, sports loving family man and Chief Marketing Officer, Mr. Jim Berra. I have to say that I have never heard anyone call him “Jimmy” and that he isn’t fat………. if he is fat ten if they named the barbecue after me it would have to be called “Morbidly Obese Really Huge Fat Bastard Johnny’s BBQ.”

Anyway, I digress. Jim or Jimmy as I shall from here on in call him, has done so much and will do so much for this company and its right and just that we name this dining venue after him. He loves barbecue and has had a big say in the menu which we will talk about in a moment. Now I love barbecue food and yet while it’s OK to accept invitations to other people’s barbecues and its going to be brilliant on the Lanai on the Carnival Breeze, never, ever host one yourself. Throwing barbecues is for plonkers and guaranteed by the time it’s over to make you hate your friends forever.

It never looks like it does on TV where the host smiles warmly from behind his barbecue as friends and family lie back drinking and laughing in his garden. This is bollocks! You become hot, stressed and you begin to despise those having fun around you in your garden eating your food, drinking your booze all while you slave over a barbecue so hot that your face morphs into a melted latex glove. The only time people come near the BBQ host is with fake offers of help which, of course you must politely refuse. Then your now ex-friends will make patronsing remarks such as, “You’re doing a great job, chef!” This is the point where you have to restrain yourself from shoving a chicken leg up their arse and stabbing them in the eye with that big barbecue fork thingy. Yes, I hate barbecues, especially when I’m doing all the work.

But I love Fat Jimmy’s and just look at the menu. We will offer a mouth-watering array of grilled favorites, including barbecued chicken breast, kielbasa, Fat Jimmy’s signature item, pulled pork sandwiches, along with traditional sides like baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw and mini-corn muffins.

The Carnival Breeze is brilliant and as I walked around the ship with Gerry Cahill and his entourage I tried to put my mind into “guest mode” to try find something to complain about something — anything — about which I could complain. And all I could come up with is that some of the stools on the lido deck restaurant are a little high and some older guests may struggle to get on them. The ship has new designers who have incorporated cool crisp blues and relaxing yellows both in the public spaces and the staterooms.

So join me here and on Facebook as I tell you more about the Carnival Breeze, our best ship yet and the ultimate expression of fun!

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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