All Washed Up

June 11, 2012 -

John Heald

Yesterday, on Facebook, I spoke about how the chief engineers on our ships are unsung and rarely acknowledged. This comment made me think about what other positions on the ships never get mentioned. In the past I have spoken about the medical team, the waiters, the stateroom stewards — or “cabin boys” as they will be called later in the blog. I have written about Ketut who has to clean my cabin and pick my underpants off the bathroom floor. I have indeed praised many crew members before but I have never ever mentioned these guys, the galley stewards, the guys who wash the thousands of plates each and every day once you and I have cleared them of flat iron steaks and chocolate melting cake. Let’s meet some……here are Wahyudi and Suparthono, two of our fantastic galley stewards who make sure we all have clean plates and cutlery and never get the spotlight shone on them.

These wonderful crew members work so hard and have one of the least glamorous jobs on the ship but without their hard work and dedication we would all be eating off paper plates. There are many jobs on board I am not capable of doing. Engineering because I am less likely to understand engineering as Calvyn is likely to understand cage fighting. I am crap in the kitchen so I can’t be a chef and obviously I can’t be an aerobics instructor because I have hemorrhoids. And there is no way I could ever do what these brilliant galley stewards do either because I can’t even manage our dishwasher at home. I truly despise packing the dishwasher. I truly hate it. In fact I’d even go so far as to say that I would rather invite all the Cruise Critic people who dislike me to a party where they get to beat my naked buttocks with ping pong paddles……than fill the dishwasher.

I have and never will obtain full knowledge of the Samsung 6700X with top-loading cutlery tray. There is though absolutely no point to me loading the dishwasher anyway because I always get a bollocking for doing it wrong. I just shove the stuff in there but just as I am about to close it and try and figure out which of the 297 buttons to press to make it start …….Heidi appears out of nowhere and says: “No…you idiot…….how many times do I have to tell you? Glasses go on the bottom shelf to the left. The large plates go at the back to the right. Bowls can go on either the bottom or the top shelf, but must be stacked two slots apart, not one. Kye’s spoons and plates rest neatly above the bowls at an angle that in no way disrupts the movement of the upper spray arm. The big pan will go happily on the upper shelf on the left, but the soup pan must go on the right or there will be hell to pay. Wooden spoons are fine, they’re absolutely fine, even on the 75C intensive with pre-wash setting but do not put my best china Wedgewood tea cups in there……do them by hand…they cost $39 each, you know!”

That’s not the worst bit…..oh, no……….the joy of emptying the damn thing is still to come. I would rather watch a performance at the Thrill Theater of Richard Simmons and H82Seaugo doing a naked tango……than empty the sodding dishwasher.

First of all, when it has finished washing the bits of food off the pots and pans, it makes a beeping noise. And if I don’t empty it immediately, it beeps again. And then again and then I want to take an axe and smash it to pieces……but we don’t have an axe…. …apparently, an axe is not part of today’s modern kitchen.

So I spend 30 minutes loading the thing and then another 30 minutes re-loading it to Heidi’s specifications before nodding off in front of the television, when I hear the electronic summons. Then and only because I know it will go on until the end of time, I haul myself out of my chair (making old man noises as I do), waddle into the kitchen……in my underpants, open the door and discover, as jets of superheated steam gush into your face, that the beeping was not, in fact, coming from the dishwasher at all but from the smoke detector that needs a new battery. But by then, it’s too late as the hot steam has taken half the skin off my face. So, bravo to the crew on our ships who wash plates and dishes……….they are such an important part of your cruise.

Time for some Q and A. Here we go.

Cynthia Addison asked:
I wanted to find out why if Carnival has discontinued the midnight buffet on all of their cruises. Also, is The Chef’s Table a replacement for this experience? Thanks.

John says:
Hello Cynthia Addison

The midnight buffets stopped a few years ago and one of the reasons was food wastage with so much of what we prepared being thrown away as eating a big meal at midnight so close to a big meal at dinner seemed redundant to many guests. We also introduced the 24 hour pizzeria on all the ships which along with the “Late Night Snacks” we serve and 24-hour complimentary room service mean we have those late night cravings covered. The Chef’s Table is not a replacement for the midnight buffet but is a brilliant event that is indeed a culinary experience I truly recommend. Best wishes.

John

Robert Bessant asked:
I am new to reading your blog and am really enjoying the commentary. I do have a question about the ship’s horn and why it is never blown as you leave a port. It is part of your advertising but on my most recent cruise on Carnival Pride, we never heard it. Thanks

John says:
Hello Robert Bessant

Yes, indeed, the ship’s horn has become an iconic feature of all our videos and TV campaigns yet you are correct, it is not always used outside of sounding the ship’s safety briefing. Many ports have restrictions on this. We do have fewer restrictions outside of the United States and often when leaving a port of call, we do sound the ship’s horn often as a salute to another ship we may be passing especially if that ship belongs to the same cruise company. I hope this helps answer your question and please let me know if you have any other questions. Best wishes.

John

John Lavelle asked:
John, I received a comment/review from a client that I had booked on Carnival Dream in March. Overall he was satisfied with the cruise, but… since he was unable to get the dining assignment he wanted (anytime), he and his wife opted to dine in the steakhouse every night.  On the last night of the cruise, the dress code was “cruise casual” (at least that’s what he read in Fun Times). When they arrived at the steakhouse, they were vehemently denied seating because they were inappropriately dressed.  He was wearing “dressy” linen shorts and a silk shirt which was in compliance with the day’s dress code.  (I suspect that the shorts were what did him in.)  He’s kind of down on Carnival at present, but not on cruising.  He just booked a transatlantic, grand world and another transatlantic on QM2 in January.  The transatlantics are because he absolutely refuses to fly sober. This seemed an odd choice since Cunard requires jackets be worn at dinner every night (even in the buffet, I hear) so that adds up to six nights NYC to Southampton, 105 nights Southampton round-trip and another six nights Southampton to NYC.  I fail to see his logic but can we do anything to ease his suffering? A nice friendly letter would do wonders, I think.

John says:
Hello John Lavelle

That was a very interesting post and, first of all, I thank you for taking the time to write it. We don’t allow shorts of any kind in the steakhouse although jeans are allowed. I am so sorry that your client felt put out by this and my apologies to him. Please can you send me his details and cabin number for his voyage on Cunard and I will ask a friend of mine there to deliver a letter and something to wish him well. Thanks to you for your support and if there is anything I can do please let me know. Best wishes.

John

Justin Fraiser asked:
On the Carnival Liberty the cruise director made an announcement (one of approx 20 a day) that the photo department was selling Olympus cameras and that they were the best prices available anywhere. Believing her, I bought one spending $399. Imagine my shock then when a week or so later I found the same camera online for $353. Carnival misled me and while $50 may not be much to you it is a lot to me and I want my $50. I have contacted Carnival but nobody has replied and I was told to write to you to get my refund. My cruise was ****** on 4/21.

John says:
Hello Justin Fariser

While I am certain that cruise director absolutely did not make 20 announcements a day as no CD is allowed to do that, I will double check any announcements made regarding this promotion. Thanks for bringing this to my attention and while I cannot offer any refund I do hope that you had a great cruise and that we see you again soon. Best wishes.

John

Jonathan Blanchard asked:
Your blog is a wonderful way for us cruisers to get to know what is happening around the Carnival world and as someone who has 70-plus cruises between Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, Seabourn and Silversea, I applaud that Carnival executives allow you to write in the style that you do. I would like to know if Carnival is considering ever building smaller ships. I am 75 years old and a retired U.S. Army colonel and my knees are not what they used to be after diving into the dirt. I love small ships and I enjoyed my last Carnival cruise on the Carnival Spirit. The mega ships are just too big for me and so I write in hope that Carnival will return to smaller ships so that this old boy can enjoy them. Thank you for your time and consideration.

John says:
Hello Jonathan Blanchard

First of all let me applaud you for your service and I am sure others here will join me in doing so. I am thrilled to see that cruising is part of your life and that after “diving into the dirt” you are able to relax and enjoy all that cruising vacations offer. The news is that we do not have any plans to build smaller ships again. I hope ships like Seabourn, and maybe the smaller Princess ships like the Pacific Princess, give you what you are looking for. Thanks so much for the kind words and I hope you enjoy many more cruises to come. Best wishes.

John

Jeff asked:
Hello there, Mr. Big Shot/legend in his own mind. So when are you going to do something about chair hogs!!!!! You said today that there will be a meeting about this with the beards but I am taking bets that nothing will come of it and like always, it will be a load of Carnival/Heald hot fat air.

John says:
Hello Jeff

Why don’t you bugger off and shove your thingy in a blender……oh sorry, this dictation thing on my computer is not working because I said into the microphone “Good Morning Jeff, I hope you are having a wonderful day.” Sorry about that, this Dragon dictation is sodding awful, I want my money back. So, back to seat saving and, yes, we have decided that we need to do something and since that meeting we have been working with P&O and other sister lines to see what they are doing as some have a plan in place that works. Meanwhile we are concentrating on the chairs around the pool and at Serenity areas to make sure the deck attendants do what they need to do to make sure seat saving is reduced.

John

Emily Leith asked:
I had read before my cruise on the Carnival Miracle that the food on Carnival was really bad but that is not true. The dining room was wonderful. The food was very good, so I was puzzled at some of the complaints. Our waiters Diego and Putu were fun and really added positively to the whole experience. We ate at the late sitting, and it worked out well in terms of making sure we could participate in activities. The menu was varied and I liked that they had opportunities to try dishes one might not ordinarily try. We are booked on Carnival Magic next.

John says:
Hello Emily Leith

Thanks so much for taking the time to write and it is always best when reading reviews that they are based on personal opinion and going in with an open mind is so important. I am so glad you enjoyed the food and I the service and I shall send this to the ships so that Diego and Putu can see your kind words. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you before you sail on Carnival Magic. Best wishes.

John

Shannon asked:
I want to start off by saying that my husband and I truly loved The Chef’s Table experience we had on the Carnival Dream in September 2011. We are looking ahead at planning our upcoming cruise on the Breeze, but do not see The Chef’s Table as a dining option on the ship. Is it safe to assume that the dining option will become available (and seen on the Carnival web site) once the Carnival Breeze sets sail in June? Also, are you going to be the CD for the first year of the Carnival Breeze? Thank you in advance for your assistance.

John says:
Hello Shannon.

I am so glad you are a fan of the brilliant Chef’s Table and, yes, indeed it is available here on Carnival Breeze and you can book through this blog at the link at the top of the page. The ship will then email you a confirmation. Thanks, Shannon, and I hope you will let me know if there is anything I can do for you and yes, indeed, I will be here for the season in Europe. Best wishes.

John

 

And that’s all for today. Thanks to everyone for their comments and questions.

Now with apologies to those who have read this already I want to post for those who do not have a Facebook account the Q&A I did with Rob Borden regarding the new loyalty program. Here it is;

John: To coincide with the launch of the VIFP Club, I asked Rob Borden, Vice President of Customer Marketing, to answer some of the most pressing questions I know we all have about the program. Rob, thanks for taking time to talk to me and to my readers about the new VIFP Club guest recognition program.

 It feels like we’ve been waiting for this for quite a while. How did we go about creating the VIFP Club?

Rob: Thanks, John, for inviting me to share some of this background and to answer some of the main questions I know you and our guests have about the VIFP Club. But first, if your readers have not yet had a chance to see the new section of carnival.com that talks about the VIFP Club, I encourage everyone to go to carnival.com, click on the new VIFP Club tab in the upper right-hand navigation or simply enter carnival.com/VIFP and go directly to the VIFP Club section. There, guests or their travel agents will find a short video that talks about the program as well as pages that discuss all of the benefits for each level in the new program. I also encourage guests to log-in if they already have a carnival.com profile and if not, to create a profile. It’s quick and easy to do. Once logged-in to carnival.com, guests may review their personal cruise history and most importantly, they can submit an online request in the event there is anything inaccurate in their history.

Now, back to your original question, we started the process of updating our guest recognition program back in 2010 by talking to lots of our guests about what they liked and what they did not like about our existing guest recognition program, which was largely just the Platinum program.

We talked to a few hundred guests in person aboard our ships and in focus groups conducted in a number of our port cities. We also fielded a couple of different surveys online to several thousand guests. As you know, our guests are passionate about Carnival and their opinions really helped shape the direction we then took in revamping the program.

Two of the most notable things we heard included:

  1. Our guests sail on Carnival first and foremost for the experience and the value. That said, our Platinum guests really liked most of the benefits that we currently offered and did not want us to make any drastic changes, but rather improve upon the things they liked. However, there were some benefits that guests placed little to no value on, so we did away with some things such as stationery and canapes.
  2. We also heard that our guests wanted us to know more about them when they or their travel agents contacted us or when they were on board one of our ships. This highlighted the fact that a lot of our internal systems did not communicate well with each other. Moreover, we knew that in this day and age, we really needed the ability to have a clear and complete view of our guests regardless of whether they are on the phone, online or on board. Therefore, we decided to undertake a pretty extensive IT project to link all of our systems and have them feed a single Centralized Guest Management System that would ensure that we could quickly and easily access a guest’s cruise history and VIFP Club membership level. This helps us provide better service to our guests or our travel agent partners.

It was this internal systems development and testing that took about 18 months to accomplish and thus, the longer than anticipated time before we could launch the VIFP Club.

 

John: There is a feeling among our Platinum guests that the new program actually takes away benefits that they have long enjoyed, especially guaranteed dining and unlimited laundry. Why did we make these changes?

Rob: Let me address the changes to the Platinum program one-by-one.

First, I want to point out that one of the great things about the cruise industry (vs. the airline or hotel industries, for example) is our guests do not have to re-qualify for their recognition status each year. But this also means that the number of guests at the Platinum level in the VIFP Club will continue to grow year-after-year. That’s a great thing, but it does present some capacity challenges from time-to-time.

Now let me address the benefit changes we made to the Platinum level. With respect to laundry, the reality is that we were struggling to keep up with the volume of Platinum laundry on many sailings. On some ships and sailings, we were closing the crew laundry facilities in order to keep up with the demand for Platinum laundry. For anyone who has taken our Behind the Fun tour of the ship, you realize just how much laundry the ship must complete each day: tablecloths and napkins, guest sheets and towels, beach and pool towels, crew uniforms and of course, guest laundry. Therefore, we made the difficult decision to put a cap on the amount of complimentary laundry each Platinum member may submit on each sailing, depending on sailing length. The vast majority of our Platinum guests travel with another Platinum guest. Therefore, if we take the new guidelines of two bags per member on three- to six-day sailings and 3 bags per member on seven+ day sailings, the typical Platinum guest traveling with another Platinum guest combined will enjoy four bags per couple on three- to six-day sailings and six bags per couple on seven+ day sailings.

I do realize our laundry bags aren’t the biggest, but I do hope by spreading the message the laundry benefit is per member and not per stateroom, our guests will have a greater understanding of this benefit.

With respect to Priority vs. Guaranteed dining times, the reality is that we have made NO changes to our existing systems. This means that for now, Platinum guests will continue to enjoy guaranteed dining times. However, as I noted above, because of the continued growth of the Platinum program, there may come a day in the future when we cannot guarantee a Platinum guest’s dining request due to volume constraints. When or if that day does come, we will of course do all possible to accommodate a Platinum guest’s request as close to the desired time as possible. But again, for now, there is actually NO change to the Platinum guaranteed dining time benefit.

Finally, with respect to the casino tournament entry changing to a buy one, get one entry, our goal is quite simple: we want our Platinum guests either to invite more people to play with them in the casino by sharing the second entry with a traveling companion or barring that, we would like our Platinum guests to play in two tournaments vs. one.

 

John: You said that Platinum guests asked us to invest more in the things they really care about, how are we doing that?

Rob: We’re doing that in three primary ways:

First, we’re improving the Platinum gift program whereby all Platinum and Diamond guests receive a gift on every sailing. Our initial gift is a great little set of binoculars that are sold at specialty retailers like Brookstone.

Next, we’re developing a much more robust pin program. This came through loud and clear in our research. All Gold members will now receive a Gold level pin when they qualify for Gold in the new program. All existing Gold members will receive their pin the next time they sail with us.

All Platinum and Diamond level guests will receive a ship-and-year-specific pin every time they sail. In the case of both the Gold and Platinum/Diamond pins, we’ve upgraded the materials and early feedback is that these will be real collector’s items.

Finally, we’ve developed a new Gold, Platinum and Diamond Party which I think, once our guests experience this new event and format, will be really pleased. We’ll be sure to post some online video of this event in the coming weeks following the onboard launch.

 

John: Can you please explain the whole grandfathering process once more and exactly how that will work?

Rob: Sure. Let me lay it out below:

All guests who currently have attained Platinum status, regardless of the number of cruise days, will be Platinum in the new VIFP Club.

Our original plan for guests that had already accumulated nine sailings was that they would simply need to sail one more time, on a sailing of any length, within 12 months of the new program effective date of June 25, 2012.

And for guests that had already accumulated eight sailings, they simply needed to sail two more times on a sailing of any length within 18 months of the new program effective date of June 25, 2012.

Since news of the VIFP Club leaked out, we’ve received a lot of questions for clarification from guests with a number of different scenarios that largely fit this description:

“I have five sailings, but plan to sail five more times in the next 12-18 months, will I be grandfathered into the Platinum level of the new program, but using the old program rules?”

So we’re changing the plan based upon early guest feedback. Now, any guest that completes 10 sailings by December 31, 2013, will be allowed to earn Platinum status in the new VIFP Club under the old program rules.

One other important note, once a guest begins his/her 10th sailing, s/he will be considered Platinum in the new program on that 10th sailing.

 

John: Now what about the Milestone program? There seems to be some confusion as to whether the Milestone program was a level in the program or was simply a reward. Can you please clear this up?

Rob: Certainly. The Milestone program was intended to be a reward whereby guests, upon completion of their 25th, 50th, 75th or 100th sailing would be granted a ‘rebate’ in the form of an onboard credit equivalent to 25%, 50% or 75%, corresponding to the number of sailings completed. In the case of guests completing their 100th sailing, the guest could claim a reward equivalent to a complimentary cruise of up to eight days in length.

The original intent of the Milestone program was to recognize guests with a special Sail & Sign card on their milestone sailing only. However, we have learned that it had become customary for guests to be given a Milestone card on every sailing after reaching their 25th cruise.

Unfortunately, our new systems will only issue a Milestone card on a guest’s Milestone sailing. Therefore, we wanted to distinguish guests on their Milestone sailing with a unique card so that we can make his/her Milestone experience extra special and memorable. On all other sailings, guests will still continue to receive the full set of Platinum benefits (or Diamond benefits in the case of guests that have accrued 200 or more cruise days) and may still apply their Milestone discount to the sailing of their choice, within the guidelines of the Milestone program.


John: What is this “Special Invitation from the Captain” for Diamond members?

Rob: I don’t want to say too much about this as we want it to be a little bit of a surprise for our Diamond members. The idea behind this is for our captains to spend some time just with the Diamond guest(s) on each sailing. And given how frequently our Diamond guests sail with us, we’re leaving it up to each individual captain to decide what kind of invitation he would like to extend to our Diamond guests, so that it’s potentially a different experience each time they sail.

 

John: Why are we doing away with the Past Guest (or Repeaters) Party?

Rob: As you know, we only offered this Party on sailings five days in length or longer. But here once again, this was a case where the sheer size of the event had made it neither particularly fun nor memorable. Moreover, it was proving operationally challenging, often requiring multiple parties on the same sailing.

Therefore, we decided to create a new party for Gold, Platinum and Diamond guests so that it would be more intimate, more fun and more memorable.

 In its place, we’re now extending a complimentary beverage to all returning guests on ALL sailings, regardless of length. All returning guests will receive a Welcome Aboard letter in their stateroom upon embarkation with the complimentary drink coupon attached.

 

John: I understand that guests who have never sailed with Carnival will now have access to VIFP Club member rates that are similar to past guest rates? Is that correct?

Rob: Not exactly. Potential guests who have never sailed with Carnival may enroll in the VIFP Club prior to ever setting foot on a Carnival ship. We’re the only cruise line offering this unique benefit. Once a potential guest becomes a member of the VIFP Club, they will have access to special members-only rates. These rates will typically be the same or similar to our existing past guest rates. However, the big difference is that Past Guest rates come with a two category upgrade (and sometimes a best available upgrade during certain sales and promotions).

 

John: Anything else you want to share with my readers and our guests in general?

Rob: I simply ask our guests to come sail with us like they always have and focus on the great experience and great value that a Carnival vacation represents. Moreover, I think once guests experience the new benefits on board, they will be pleased with the changes we’ve made.

I know change is never easy, but I do believe with the new systems we have in place and with this initial launch of the VIFP Club, we’re in a position to continue to evolve our guest recognition program to meet guest expectations for many years to come, and hopefully to throw in a few pleasant surprises along the way.

I look forward to speaking with guests first-hand in the coming months on board our ships and I thank you for allowing me to add a little bit more context and color commentary to the thinking behind the VIFP Club.

 

Thanks Rob. I have been chastised on my Facebook page by a few who felt that I had lied to them because during the last three years during which Carnival had been planning the new loyalty program’s details I had described it as “brilliant.” Now, obviously, for some it is and for others it is not. So why did I describe this as brilliant then? Well, I think some of the changes are brilliant, such as the investment in the Platinum and Diamond gift, the new pins and the new Gold, Platinum and Diamond party. Plus, I’m British and we sometimes throw around the word brilliant in much the same way others overuse the word awesome. I simply ask that you reserve judgment until you have sailed and experienced the new program for yourself.

Here we are then in Civitavecchia and as I sit here in my underpants at 10:14 am, there are only 238 guests on board and I would not mind betting many of those are Russians. For whatever reason, they just don’t get off in the ports. Maybe they have seen them all, maybe they just love the ship but I think it’s because they are too exhausted as they are always the last to go to bed as they close down the nightclub every night and sleep until lunch time. The mood onboard is fantastic and again I keep hearing from guests that the Carnival Breeze is so amazing and has instantly become the favourite ship of many. Negative comments are few and far between and if Gerry and the beards were nervous about taking the ship design in a new direction, well they should be nervous no more as they have a massive hit in this Carnival Breeze.

However, this is still a ship and with 4,000 plus people here you are going to get some interesting comments………..like this one.

REF: 5729AE1721
GUEST NAME:________
SR#:
DATED: 6/10/12
GSA:____________

Mr____ came to the GSD and wanted to know if the ship would pass by the island where the Costa Concordia is. Guest said he had asked his travel agent who had told him we would. Guest stated that he thought many guests would appreciate the chance to see the ship. GSS called the bridge officer and staff captain who informed that we will not pass close to the ship. Mr_______ states that he was disappointed and that he had been promised that this would happen.

I have not spoken to the guest and maybe I am doing him a disservice here because maybe, just maybe, he wanted to see the site because he wanted to pay his respects to those who lost their lives on that tragic night. But somehow I think he was probably just curious and part of what seems to be a fascination with tourism featuring accidents and other tragedies. But why would anyone want to see the spot where the Costa Concordia crashed is absolutely beyond me.

It has been a very hectic month and a half since I arrived to the ship yard in Monfalcone and prepared to deliver this fantastic Carnival Breeze. I have yet to get off the ship and have not been able to take any time for myself just yet. I also have not been able to check my personal e mail account until yesterday and when I did I discovered I had 297 e-mails. And that’s bollocks because fewer than 10 percent of them have been in any way invited. In fact, not that it will make any difference I should like to announce to all those who sent me emails the following urgent information.

I’m not going to send any money to your bank account in Lagos because I never had a great uncle Harold who has not left me $7 million any more than you are a lawyer from London. Your name is not Michael DuPree and you do not live in London. Your name is Ogaboogertoseaugo and you live in a shack in Nigeria.

And to those who keep making me this onetime special offer, will you please just bugger off. I’m going to stick with the dimensions of my gentleman’s sausage as they currently are. Besides, the last time you offered me a bigger one and I sent you money……all I got was a magnifying glass. Brilliant!

 

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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