REMEMBERING THE BIRDMAN

June 19, 2012 -

John Heald

I should mention before I start that the start of today’s blog and indeed the end bit may be a different to the usual rubbish I write. That’s because I want to use this forum to talk about my friend and one of Carnival’s finest, funniest and most exuberant cruise directors Mr. Corey Schmidt who died last month.

For those of us who knew Corey, it has been difficult to comprehend his passing. Now, if I were to write this blog responsibly, with adequate research to confirm certain facts, I’d have to ask people about the last time they saw or spoke with or heard from my friend Corey. But I’m afraid to ask his family those questions. I’m afraid to talk with his wife or those who spent the last few years by his side; I don’t know why this happened.

The Corey I knew was a jubilant performer. He raised exotic birds, wore leather pants on stage, loved flash watches and fast cars and most of all, he loved performing , he loved striving to be the best and he loved, truly loved, being a cruise director and, thus, the guests loved Corey. Yet, he was a complicated man. A man who would be so upset, so disappointed when the weekly ratings came out and he wasn’t the number one CD in the fleet, which did not happen often. If ever there was a poster boy for what a cruise director should be, it was Corey.

Corey left Carnival in a blaze of glory, right at the top of his game. He planned to take his brilliant bird show to Vegas but things, as often happens in show business, did not work out. Eventually, he found his way into the movie business working behind the scenes as a location manager on big productions for stars like Adam Sandler. He found God, he found a beautiful wife and when I last saw him in 2010 when he visited me on the Carnival Splendor, I thought he had found peace and happiness. But I was wrong. I have no idea why he took his own life and it is wrong for me to speculate. However, knowing Corey as I did, I wonder if he missed being center stage and part of me can’t help but think that after years in the spotlight as one of the most successful cruise directors in the industry, he saw himself as being relegated to a bit part and that became his final act.

I send my deepest condolences to his family and to his wife especially and I hope they will in the difficult times ahead remember that Corey was loved by thousands of people, many of whom have said he was their favourite cruise director. I will miss you Corey, mate. I will miss battling to be number one in the fleet with you and I will miss the times when we would meet in ports of call and talk CD talk. And I will miss the last part of your amazing show when you would stand on stage, an exotic bird on your arm while you talked about your love of all God’s creatures and I will miss reminding you that you obviously didn’t love the sodding cow that was killed to make your leather pants.
I miss you, Corey……………. and I hope you have found peace.

Let’s do some Q and A

Tomas Weaver asked:
John,

Tell me it ain’t so! I thought I had read in one of your blogs that Carnival has done away with the cigar lounge. Is this true? Where shall I enjoy my Puro and a bottle of The Glenlivet? I so hope I misunderstood you. Please tell me it ain’t so!

John says:
Hello Tomas Weaver.

Yes, indeed, I am sad to report that the cigar bars are no more and have become non-smoking lounges. And while it allows a smoke-free passage for those who rightfully deserve this as they head to the Internet cafes, there are those like me and you who miss them.
Please do not worry though. There are still lounges and outside areas where you can enjoy that Puro and one day I hope we get to share a cigar together.

Best wishes.

John

Linda Bailey asked:
John,

When will the remainder of the schedule for 2012 cruise directors be available? I was curious if you will be on the Breeze at Christmas (12/22 sailing) or if it will be Butch? And I am really looking forward to my trip on the Glory next week with Trevor.

Thanks.

Linda

John says:
Hello Linda Bailey

The schedule should be updated in the next month or so but I can tell you that it will be Butch Begovitch who will be your CD for the brilliant Christmas cruise on this fantastic ship. Please let me know if there is anything you need and I hope you had a great time recently on Carnival Glory.

Best wishes.

John

Frank Hawkey asked:
John,

I have to complain to you about an experience that happened to me and my family on the cruise last week on Liberty. I had booked 7 cabins for me and my family and friends and as we left from Miami, we stood at the top of the ship. As the boat left, we all started throwing streamers in the time honored tradition of cruise ships leaving port and were suddenly told to stop by a rude security officer who said that we were not allowed and confiscated the streamers. My 8-year-old son was crying and my nephew also. We are allowed to do this when we cruised Independence of the Seas last fall so why not on Carnival? This ruined our cruise, Mr. Heald, and I think we deserve an apology and an explanation at the very least, something we never got from the captain as we had demanded!

John says:
Hello Frank Hawkey

First of all, I am very sorry that this was not explained to you during the cruise which I have to say, I am surprised at. It should have been explained to you that due to rules and regulations laid down by U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency, it is now forbidden for anyone to throw anything overboard unless it is biodegradable. This includes streamers, I am afraid, and while I cannot comment what happens on other lines, we are at the forefront of environmental protection which is why the security staff member took them from you. I am so sorry this upset your children and this, as I said, should have been explained to you. Please accept my apologies and I hope this explanation allows you to understand why this happened.

Best wishes to all.

John

Richard L. Williamson asked:

I just want to say I think the news about Destiny becoming Carnival Sunshine is just great news. The updating of a ship the way you are doing with her is the way to go. I have been on Sensation the first cruise after her refit in 2009. And all they really did was flat screen TV’s and new carpet on the ship. Otherwise, she was the same old ship. What Carnival is doing to Destiny IS making her a brand new ship in the need of a new name. Doing more of your ships that way instead of going with those super liners makes a lot more sense. A lot more home ports will get new ship over the years if Carnival does this with other ships for far less money. Thanks! We will be on Ecstasy starting 4/9/12 U75. And look forward to our 15th cruise with Carnival and our first on her.

Have a great day.

Richard

John says:
Hello Richard L. Willamson

Thanks for writing this because she really is going to be a ship reborn. We are spending lots of money on rolling out the 2.0 features across the fleet but there is only so much you can do in a two-week dry dock. The fact that Carnival Destiny will have seven weeks in dry dock allows us to do so much and when she finishes, she will be the Carnival Sunshine and I think she will be sensational. I will have more news on her soon and may I take this opportunity to thank you for your loyalty.

Best wishes.

John

Wayne Crossman asked:
John –

I posted this incorrectly under the Brunch Blog, but I wanted to make sure you read this comment. It’s always nice to hear a compliment and you deserve it!

I want to thank you and Carnival for introducing our family to cruising back in 1999. We sailed on the Triumph and you were our fantastic CD. We still talk about our (then) 13-year-old son falling off his chair laughing during the Stormy Night skit.

We tried to spread the word by coordinating a couple’s getaway cruise in 2010 on the Glory. No surprise, we all had a great time.

We’re doing a family cruise on another line only because we’ve sailed all of Carnival’s routes out of NY and Baltimore as a family or as individuals. However, we don’t expect the same outstanding food as CCL. We agreed with both of our now-married daughters that other lines don’t compare in taste, quality, and selection of CCL.

My wife and I are planning on celebrating our 30th anniversary in September on the Miracle. We haven’t booked yet, but will be going with a suite for the first time. It will be our first cruise to make use of our shareholder benefit. Hey, that kind of make me your boss.

Anyway, our family’s love of cruising started with you on the Triumph. So thank you with venom.

Wayne Crossman

John says:
Hello Wayne Crossman

Yes, indeed, it is nice to read a compliment and before I forget, let me send a huge compliment to you for your amazing loyalty. Thanks also for introducing others to Carnival and we will continue to do our best to continue to provide affordable and fun vacations. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you and your family before your next cruise with us and thank again for this very refreshing post.

Best wishes.

John

Trisha K and friends asked:

Can you arrange a meet and greet for us? We have a group of 50 plus who have become very friendly on the Cruise Critic boards. We would like to meet on the destiny sailing of 7/9/12 and will need a place to meet. We are thinking of two meet and greets, the first on the day at sea at 2:00pm and then another one on the Tuesday after leaving Grand Turk at 3:00pm. Both times we need a private place to meet. Are there any door prizes you can give us and how will we know what places we are to meet?

John says:
Hello Trisha K and friends

Thanks for writing and I am glad to see you are all having fun talking to each other on Cruise Critic and, yes, of course, I will be happy to arrange places for you. I have sent your request to the ship and they will arrange accordingly and there will be a mention in the Fun Times of the day where these meetings will take place. Although I cannot offer any “door prizes,” I will wish you all a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes.

John

Shirley asked:

Message: Please say it isn’t so !!! Carnival has stopped the hurricane glasses with DOD OH, MY, BOOO HOOO WHY WHY WHY?????

John says:
Hello Shirley

Yes, indeed, the old hurricane plastic glasses are gone and have been replaced with more fun souvenir glasses called the Twister and Tiki glasses and more. They are proving to be most popular and I hope you get to see one for yourself soon.

Best wishes.

John

Eli Arroyo asked:
John,

Has Carnival ever considered a Spanish-speaking ship because the Venezuelan social group I belong to in Miami, which is 8,000 strong were discussing how many more of us would cruise if Carnival had Spanish-speaking crew, Spanish entertainment music and cultural events and food. I have been on the Valor ship and at no time, despite the majority of passengers being from Miami, was any attempt made by the captain and workers to speak Spanish and provide a vacation for Spanish speakers. Myself and many others think this is a big mistake on Carnival Cruise Lines’ part and I would like this addressed.

John says:
Hello Eli Arroyo

In the early nineties we did have a Carnival ship that was dedicated to Spanish speaking passengers. The entire staff spoke Spanish and the ship was renamed from the Carnivale to Fiesta Marina and lasted for a few years before the ship was sold. We do realise that we have lots of people who cruise from South Florida and we are excited about adding the Carnival Breeze to the list of Carnival ships sailing from there. We won’t have a dedicated ship that speaks Spanish but we will have translated programs, menus and a Latin band for music and dancing. Fun is an international language and this Carnival Breeze speaks it fluently.

Best wishes and hope to see you soon.

John

Brenda Callas asked:

I did not get a review card on my cruise so I hope, John, that you will be able to pass on my thanks and admiration to the crew of the Magic who gave my husband and me the best cruise we have ever taken. Special mention to Abbi our cabin steward and Sarinda and Anton our waiters all of who never stopped smiling. We loved the ship and have booked another cruise on the Magic in december using our free credit certificates. Please thank the crew, John, and thank you also for all you do for us.

John says:
Hello Brenda Callas

Wonderful words and I will make sure that the ship sees this and as I always say with posts like this, the crew you mentioned will be thrilled to see their names here. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you before you cruise again on the Carnival Magic.

Best wishes.

John

Nita Patten asked:
Hi John-

Thanx for taking the time to answer the flood of questions you get. Is it possible to live aboard a Carnival ship year-round as a passenger? If so how does one go about doing it? Thanx in advance!

John says:
I apologise for the delay in my reply and what an excellent question. So far, we have no guests that do this but I am sure if it’s something someone seriously wanted to consider, we could look into this. If you would like, I will pass this on to someone to chat with you further and discuss options. If that’s OK with you, please let me know by return and I will make sure we help you. It would be quite a life to live on board as a permanent guest.

Best wishes.

John

And on that note, we finish today’s Q and A.

I have been thinking a lot about Corey and, of course, I have also been so very busy with the new ship, Facebook and blog. I am now just three years or so from being 50 years old and one thing I have learnt these past few weeks here on the Carnival Breeze is that bringing out a new ship and indeed working on a cruise ship, period………..is a young person’s game. I don’t mind admitting that there were some days during the inaugural cruise that I felt absolutely exhausted from a mixture of trying to please 4,000 guests, a flock of senior beards and keeping my Facebook page updated and writing blogs. I watch other CDs in their thirties bounce around like kangaroos with a sugar rush and I know that I will never again have the energy that they have, yep, those days are gone.

Hope springs eternal that Micky Arison and the Board of Beards will see what a brilliant ship the Carnival Breeze is and that Gerry and his own group of beards have for the first time been allowed to put their own signature on a ship and that it is indeed so perfect that Micky will give Carnival another new ship or, indeed, ships. And, yet, when we do get a new ship, I know that I will not be the CD because quite simply, I am too sodding old and mixing the brand ambassador work with a new ship is like putting Calvyn in a Jacuzzi with seven Playboy models. It just doesn’t work.

There are a few Cruise Critic members, who having read that my time is nigh, will be jumping for pure joy and inventing their own Heald Leaves Carnival Countdown Clock but I can’t ignore what my body and, of course, my family are telling me.
But what to do instead? I would, if I am honest, love to stay home, write a book and spend more time with the family. And, indeed, if those total and utter bastards at AIG had not invested all my savings in lap dancing clubs, then the credit crunch may not have happened and I would be in a better position. But I realise I am not alone and whereas most of us used to be able to look forward to retiring at 60ish, now we have to keep working until…well….we die. This means that in some shape or form, I have to keep working for Carnival and writing this blog until my carpool tunnel causes my arm to simply fall off. Sorry, then, to those on Cruise Critic whose happiness was short lived.

It is one thing for me to keep working and writing but what about other professions? Will lap dancers be forced to continue to work, being pushed around poles in wheelchairs leaving nipple drag marks on the stage?
My body is telling me that it just can’t keep up with the 17-hour days and the bedtime stories and is it fair to the guests that I haven’t yet stood aside and allowed a younger cruise director to take up the reigns? I know Carnival, or at least I would like to think Carnival would say, “Bollocks, keep going, John.” But I feel that that’s like that little old bald basketball referee showing up for the next Miami Heat Oklahoma Thunder game with a seeing eye dog. OK, extreme cases there, of course, but lately, that’s how I have been feeling.

Occasionally, you see, I get comments that say, “We only saw the cruise director on stage and TV, ” which makes me sad. Gone are the days when, after a show, I could wander the bars and lounges until 2:00am which most of my younger colleagues do for fun. My excuse is this blog and my excuse is my Facebook page but…………..the main reason is after a 6:00am start to write and all the other things that go into running a new ship is that simply, I am really, really tired. And that’s not good. That is not what you, the guest, deserves …………Cue the Cruise Critic gaggle to say, “Yes, you fat sod, you’re right, now bugger off and retire, will you?”

After 26 years of living on board, I am beginning to realise that it will soon be time to hang up the microphone. I cannot imagine for one moment how ridiculous it would be for me still to be earning a living by telling silly jokes on stage and listening to a guest shout at me because their clothes got wet when it rained on a tour and it was my fault, when I am 50 years old. It’ll be a young person’s job by then, and rightly so. You know you are old when some of the dancers you have to manage were born in 1990 by which time I had already lived on board for three years!

I have dreamt for some time now of the day when I can wake up without an alarm and spend my hours relaxing, taking Kye to school, drinking cups of tea all day and wearing underpants with holes in them. No more schedules. No more 6am starts. No more lonely nights. No more apologies for using the word “brilliant.” And, best of all, no more H82Seaugo and his mates writing on a public forum that I am a big fat useless bastard of a cruise director/brand ambassador.

However, there is another side to the coin. I am worried that without retirement will be the worst thing that will ever happen to me.

I am deeply concerned that I will spend all day thinking of things to do, and then coming up with reasons why it’s better to do all those things tomorrow. I look in the refrigerator every hour to see if by some miracle I missed a plate of Heidi’s left over chicken satay on my previous 17 visits. I look at naughty Latvian things on the Internet. And God help me, I may miss being at sea so much and I may be so bored that these two factors will force me to become a Cruise Critic member and give myself the screen name Underpantsman or Miserablesod.

Then there’s the cigars. If I’m on vacation, I’ll have a cigar when I drive my car. Heidi has her own car which we use when we all go out together as, obviously, I don’t smoke when Kye is in the car. I tend to smoke one a week on board but that goes up to four or five a week when I am home and I know that this is not a good thing.

And, of course, there is the money. It’s no good expecting to survive on half my Carnival pension when I am retired. With the world as it is, I will need seven times more than Bill Gates just to make it through till the end of the month.
In reality, then retirement is something that is simply the bit between stopping work and you sitting in a chair, wearing Depends, surrounded by others who are all doing the same.

Retirement may conjure up visions of Wurthers Originals, long walks in the countryside with your grandchildren but actually it’s a period of utter boredom that ends when the grim reaper knocks on your door.
So, I must then bear that in mind tomorrow morning when the alarm goes off as usual at 6:30am and I sit here in my underpants beginning the day’s work, how lucky I am to do what I do. I just know in my heart that long periods of time on board is not something I can do much longer and after the Carnival Legend next year, I will have to give serious consideration to asking Carnival to allow me to travel for a few weeks on the ships at a time rather than months at a time.

But let me say this loud and clear. I am lucky. I am so very fortunate and proud to do what I do. I am also aware that as the economic crap that continues to take jobs from people, it has not taken my job from me thanks to the brilliance of the product that Carnival Cruise Lines offers. This means I now have an excuse to keep working for Carnival until I am 75.

And we should all remember that even if your job is emptying the portable toilets at the International Curry Festival……………. it’s better than not having a job at all.

Good night.

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.

css.php