COME MANGIARE COME UN ITALIANO

May 16, 2012 -

John Heald

On Friday, I will fly home for two nights to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. I made a promise to her after missing her first and second birthdays that I would not miss another and thanks to the beards, I will head home on Friday and providing Ryan Air doesn’t fly me into a mountain or poison me with their in-flight sandwiches, I will return Sunday morning to the ship.

My Saturday will include hosting a birthday party for Kye’s friends and I am a little nervous about that. I have realised since Kye was born that there are many difficult problems for the modern parent. Which school to send the kids to, how much TV should they watch and whether to let them have a tattoo like the other three-year-olds in their kindergarten class? But just before I left for the Carnival Breeze, Heidi and I were challenged with one huge issue…….how much to spend on the “goody bags” that it seems is now the law to give the kids who come to Kye’s party.

So we went shopping and at a Walmartish-type of shop, I loaded the cart with bits and pieces having worked out that I would spend five pounds per kid which considering there are 18 kids coming equals………oh bugger……..where is the sodding calculator…….well, anyway, it equals a s**t load of money. As I loaded the sticker books and candy into the cart, I caught my wife looking uncomfortable. “Will that be enough?” she said. Enough, are you kidding? When I was a kid and we went to a another kids party we got bugger all except a bowl of ice cream and balloon animal that — regardless of what the parent who had made it said — did not look like a poodle or a giraffe but a thingy. “Yes,” said Heidi, “but Kye had just been to a children’s party where each kid got a Princess dress with matching shoes and handbag from the Disney store.”

Maybe this is what kids expect now and it was only because my arms were full of Peppa Pig stickers and lollipops, I did not lie down right there in the store and have a nervous breakdown.
I am not sure how it is where you live, dear bloggers, but children’s parties have become a stage for ridiculous spending and a contest to see who can throw the best. A friend of mine lives on a posh island in Miami where kids are flown by private plane to an island in the Bahamas for their birthday and where Justin Beaver is paid millions to sing Happy Birthday to a seven-year-old. But I don’t live in Miami but in a little town in Essex but even there it’s bloody ridiculous. I know one parent who spent loads of cash on a Willy Wonka party for 30 children where so much chocolate was served that many of the kids left the party as diabetics. What will these parents do when their children reach 21, charter a cruise ship and fill it with Latvian lap dancers? Anyway, Kye and friends will have food, cheap bags of candy and a huge bouncy Peppa Pig thingy I have hired in the garden. And before you think I am being cheap here, let me tell you I am not because each and every one of Kye’s friends will all get something no other parent in Essex can match. Yep, they are all getting a Carnival Breeze solid gold plastic ship on a stick.

Time for today’s Q and A…..off we go.

Andy asked:
John

I am the husband of Marivonne Diaz. I just wanted to say THANK YOU for making her crash cruise of the BC5 such a Magical time (pun intended). She had such a wonderful time meeting you and talks about you every day. Sorry I was unable to meet you as well, even though I tried on two bookings, but when she was talking to her fellow Cuzins I just had to give her my blessing to go without me. 🙁 Maybe the next time I will get the pleasure of meeting you, as well. Again, THANK YOU!!!

John says:
Hello Andy

There is absolutely no need to thank me as it was a true privilege to meet your wonderful wife on Bloggers Cruise 5. I truly hope we will meet one day too and enjoy some Carnival fun.

Best wishes to you both.

John

Jeanette Politti asked:
John,

One of the reasons we cruise Carnival seven times in four years is because of the bang we get for our buck but the food in the MDR has taken a dive I think and there have been multiple comments on Cruise Critic too about this. What’s going on, big guy?

John says:
Hello Jeanetee Politti

I am glad you appreciate the value for money and I have noted your comment about your opinion of the food we serve in the dining room although it took me a few minutes to work out what MDR meant. The most recent menu has been met with mostly excellent comments as shown on the cards we receive from those guests who are sent one. Most of our new dining options, from Guy’s burgers and Cantina to the Taste Bar and Punchliner Brunch — are completely free of charge – and illustrates the brilliant value for money Carnival provides.
Best wishes.

John

Amy Salvage asked:
John,

My husband and I just took a seven-day cruise this past February 27 on Carnival Magic and had a wonderful experience. As first time cruisers, we enjoyed it immensely. So much that we have already booked another cruise on the Carnival Triumph this coming October 22. We really enjoyed the shows and the Carnival Magic dancers were awesome! All the crew members (employees) whether they were in the buffet areas, or tidying up the cabins or doing maintenance work on the decks, EVERYONE was so very pleasant and helpful. We never encountered an unhappy attitude with any of them. I’m wondering if you will possibly be on the Carnival Triumph in October. If not, then I hope there will be a cruise director as good as you. We enjoyed your talent and hope to actually meet you face to face on one of our future cruises. We are definitely hooked. 🙂

John says:
Hello Amy Savage

It’s a joy to read that as first time cruisers you had such a brilliant time that you are “hooked” and this is of course thanks to the brilliant crew of the Carnival Magic. I will make sure that they see your words of praise and that we will indeed see you again soon. If there is anything I can do for you please let me know. Thanks for the great post.

Best wishes to you both.

John

Kris Marek asked:

I am in strong agreement with the person who wrote that the workers limited English skills has a negative effect on the cruise experience. Case in point was the bar servers in the bars on Carnival Liberty who never once understood my drink orders and who were rude. There were no genuinely informative lectures about the upcoming ports of call (or anything else), and we found that disappointing. Frequently, several activities were scheduled at the same time, or very nearly so, and we had to choose among several attractive-sounding options at the same time which is ridiculous planning. Finally and for reasons we never understood, dinner was interrupted at least once almost every night by bursts of (very loud) music and waiters dancing on serving tables. I think this was supposed to be fun but it was not! There were some good points. The cabin boy was attentive and friendly and the food choice on the lido deck was very good but the lack of English skills and poor planning of activities and that awful loud music in the dining room are areas Carnival will need to improve on if they want to be successful.

John says:
Hello Kris Marek

Thanks so much for taking the time to write this post and I am glad to see that you had some good points. I know that many of our crew have accents, myself included, but we all speak English and indeed have to pass a test in order to work in guest areas. This is why I am so surprised about your comment regarding the bar staff but I will pass this onto the ship’s management. It was also interesting to read your comments about the dining room because recently here and on Facebook we discussed this and there were many hundreds of comments posted with the vast majority saying they liked the fun atmosphere the music and dances that the servers perform. However, it is not for everyone, so please let me apologise for the disruption it caused in your dining experience. I am glad the gentleman who took care of your stateroom was a highlight and the stateroom steward as his position is called is a fine example of our brilliant crew. I do hope you had fun and that we will see you again and I have as I said, sent your review to the ship.

Best wishes.

John

Clarice Hudson asked:
Hi John,

I feel so privileged to have met you on the Carnival Splendor. I just got off the Carnival Inspiration yesterday with my daughter and three grandchildren. I took them on a cruise for their spring break, along with many other families on board for the same reasons. I was surprised that there was no comment cards handed out on this cruise. I wanted to let you know we absolutely loved CD Matt and Assistant CD Weezie. They were so good at recognizing the kids as we walked about the ship and at the shows. Also loved “Buttercup,” Clair and Nick, as well. I can’t remember our waiter’s name at dinner or the drink server who always remembered what the kids wanted to drink and always brought them with extra cherries (until the ship ran out of cherries on the last night). I will say I was a little disappointed with the room staff who never introduced themselves like others have done on my other cruises. As for the shore excursions, we did have a good time. We were shorted one ticked on the first excursion when they were delivered to my room and had to go ashore and get it worked out. The beach party in Rosorita was a little disappointing in that the Rock Wall was broken and the kids really wanted to try it…..but all in all even though the weather was cold, they all had a good time….grandma had to come home to get sleep and rest up, but I wouldn’t have traded the time we had together on this trip for anything.

Thank you to all the staff for a wonderful spring break trip.

Clarice

John says:
Hello Clarice

I can see from your post that grandma did indeed need a rest after that very active cruise and thank you for telling me all about your adventures. I will make sure that the ship takes note of your comments including reminding the stateroom stewards to introduce themselves to the guests. I think your grandchildren are so very lucky to have grandma take them on a cruise and I hope you are rested and ready to do it all again very soon. Thanks again for the wonderful review.

Best wishes to you all.

John

The Igbinedion Family Group asked:

Why are there so few black performers in your shows? I say this based on my last cruise on your ship Carnival Liberty there were no black dancers and all the comedians were white. I hope there is a good explanation for this but it left me and my party with a bad taste in my mouth. Why does Carnival not employ black entertainers?

John says:
Hello Igbinedion Family Group

First of all, I do hope that you had a great cruise and secondly I am glad you wrote to me regarding this as there is indeed a simple explanation. The dancers are hired based on talent and that is all and we can only choose from who attends the auditions we hold. We have 200 plus dancers and singers working across the fleet and boast a diverse cast on our 23 (soon to be 24) ships. I can tell you that here on the Carnival Breeze our dance captain and one of the best dancers I have ever seen is indeed African-American as is the lead male singer. As for the comedians, well, again, they are scheduled according to availability and, of course, their talent and had you been on another ship that week you may have seen Happy Cole, Percy Cruise, Dean Gaines or one of our many African-American comedians who work for us. So thanks again for taking the time to write and hopefully my explanation has helped you all understand and I hope we will see you all again very soon.

Best wishes.

John

Annette Zgeb asked:
Dear John,

In 2009 my husband and I were on the Carnival Splendor for a back to back to back South America cruise. It was seven weeks and it was awesome. One of the “speakers” was a naturalist named Dirk Yonkerman. He was fantastic, knowledgeable, interesting, charming and just plain nice. February 2013 we are fortunate to be on the Carnival Splendor again for another back to back to back cruise, this time going the opposite direction. Would it be possible to find out if Dirk will be on this cruise again?

John says:
Hello Annette Zgeb

What a fantastic voyage that was and I see you are doing this again and that is just brilliant. I remember getting so many great comments about Dirk so, yes, indeed, I will make sure that I send this to the beards and ask that they give serious consideration to doing this again. I will keep you informed as to what is happening and wish you the very best of times.

Best wishes.

John

Big Duck asked:
Heald,

Can you tell me how many hours the crew work each day. A friend of mine said that they work 15 hours a day, seven days a week, which, if true, is DISGUSTING!

John says:
Hello Big Duck

I am afraid whoever told you this is quackers….sorry…..silly duck joke there. Seriously, though, it is not true. The crew’s working hours are strictly regulated and are recorded on a clock-in/ clock-out system we call Fun Time. These hours are strictly monitored by management on board and shoreside and are also looked at by U.S. Coast Guard, as well. The crew work hard, that is for sure but no crew member works 15 hours a day that I can assure you.

Best wishes.

John

Marshann Johnson asked:

My son and I are planning on buying the excursion to swim with the dolphins in the Bahamas. My husband is not going to do it. Is there a fee for him to watch?

John says:
Hello Marshann Johnson

Yes indeed, he will be able to go and watch you swim with these beautiful animals. If he decided to go on the excursion with you there will be a small fee for transportation but that is all. I hope you have a brilliant time.

Best wishes and have fun.

John

Tracey Flynn asked:
John,

I want to give a shout out to the staff in the RedFrog Pub on Carnival Magic. They rocked and deserve a big raise. Please tell the beards. Love the blog and Facebook updates and love Carnival

John says:
Hello Tracey Flynn

I love this post and I will indeed make sure that your praise for those in the RedFrog is heard loud and proud. I hope we see you again soon and I hope also you continue to enjoy the blog and Facebook.

Best wishes.

John

And on that excellent note, so ends the Q and A for now.

So, let’s talk Italian food, shall we? Obviously I have been privileged to travel to many parts of Italy with the various ships and being in the shipyards and eating with Italian captains in their dining rooms on board has given me a wonderful insight to their culture and their food. I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of Italian cookery, though. Two reasons why. First of all, there is the pasta which when you are trying to lose weight and when you are diabetic and need to control carbs, Italian food is not your best mate. The second reason I am not a fan is garlic. I hate garlic. I would rather eat a dead hamster that has been marinated in my underpants for a month than eat anything with garlic in it or on it.

Now I can see some of you bloggers sitting there, in your underpants, saying, “John, you are an idiot, garlic is wonderful.” No…..it’s not….it’s revolting. Not just the taste…..but the smell. Bugger me, the smell. Try coming onto the bridge of the Carnival Breeze early in the morning and have the captain talk to you inches from your face after eating a huge dish of pasta de soddinggarlico the night before. I’d rather have H82Seaugo serve me a plate of skunk scrotum while dressed as Cleopatra than eat anything with garlic in it.

But I am in the minority and most people I know love Italian food and if I didn’t have a beach ball living in my stomach, then I would love it too and I would therefore be able to eat at the best Italian restaurant on the seven seas…….Cucina del Capitano. Already a huge success on the Carnival Magic, the Cucina will be featured here on Carnival Breeze, as well. For those who are not familiar with this concept, let me explain. At lunchtime the restaurant serves the finest pasta at no extra charge but it is at night when the Cucina really comes alive. Now the idea of this is not just to serve the best Italian food and the most absolutely ridiculous price anywhere — $12 for adults and $5 for kids aged 11 and under — but for you to sit around the table and eat it family style. And that just doesn’t mean that we will serve the pasta in big steaming bowls, no, it means that if you are the Cahill family from Florida, you get to dine with the Berlusconi family from Naples. Let’s have a look at the menu that we will serve here on the Carnival Breeze. There are a few changes with the biggest being that we have a new signature dish here chosen by the master of the Carnival Breeze, Captain Vincenzo Alcaras. So have a look but I do not advise you to do so on an empty stomach.

Click to zoom in

What would you have?

And now let’s remind ourselves about the menu on the Carnival Magic:

Click to zoom in

So now what would you have? Oh, and don’t forget the Chianti cart that serves the perfect wine to complement your $12 feast…did I mention it was only $12?

So here is a bit of news for you. Starting today, we are going to take direct reservations for the Cucina del Capitano on the Carnival Magic and I will explain how in a moment. Once the restaurant is up and running here on the Carnival Breeze, we will take reservations also but I have been asked by the chef to wait a few days into service before we do this so I am afraid we won’t be able to do it for the first cruise and reservations will have to be made on board.

To make reservations for this un-missable restaurant please can you e mail MCCUCINA@carnival.com. Please keep the email simple and only include the following information.

Name
Cabin #
Number of guests for dinner
Preferred Time for dining

Payment will be on board after you’ve dined.

And that’s it – so easy to make a reservation at the brilliant Cucina del Capitano.

Now allowing you to email the ship directly is a big change for us but I have been asked to let you know that the hostess will not be able to take The Chef’s Table or steakhouse reservations, only Cucina del Capitano reservations and those for now must be done online via my blog please. But the hostess will reply with confirmation for your Cucina reservation and we will do the same as I mentioned for the Carnival Breeze soon.

What I love about Cucina is that you get exactly what you order. Let me explain what I mean by that. These days, posh restaurants serve food where everything tastes and looks like something else. You order lamb because you like lamb. But at places with Michelin stars and full of pop stars your lamb arrives at the table in wrapped in banana leaves so now my lamb tastes like a sodding fruit basket. Cucina has everything, food that tastes exactly as you would expect, except even better. Brilliant unbeatable value for money and entertainment, as well, which I won’t spoil the surprise about. Food is a big part of what makes the Cucina a brilliant dining experience great but so also is the sense of family it creates while you eat there.

So here I am in Italy once more, a country united by language and religion and divided by almost everything else. You know, Italians often sound as if they’re having a vicious argument, even when they’re discussing soccer, cars or rumpy pumpy. Yet these arguments are not really arguments, they are conversations spoken passionately and with arms waving around like a demented traffic cop. Through my exposure to Italians cruising to Italian ports and eating with captains and chief engineers (and, of course, getting ships ready in Italian shipyards), I have learned that they will never agree about food. Sicily, for example, has a cuisine completely different from Naples but it’s far more complicated than that. I remember one of my great friends Captain Angelo Los telling me once that in his small home town near Genoa one family will make its pasta completely differently to the pasta a mile down the road. Individual families have recipes they guard and swear by more than Colonel Sanders does.

The only other thing that unites all Italians is the total belief that there is no edible Italian food outside of Italy……..but in the case ofCucina del Capitano………..they are absolutely wrong.

Bona Note.

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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