VIFP PARTY REPORT…..AND MR. PERFECT

June 29, 2012 -

John Heald

If I have done my job properly and had a good Welcome Aboard show and other stage appearances that have made people laugh, then I take a walk down Promenade Deck. It should take me a few days to get from the bow to the stern because people want to say hello, ask questions or simply shake your hand.

This is still one of the best parts of the job and it certainly massages my ego after I have had been kicked in the bollocks by a chap called Dave and the rest of his Pandora’s Box group on Facebook yesterday. However, while the fantastic feeling of a job well done is achieved by this Promenade Deck walks there is also the chance that you will meet someone who either doesn’t like you or the ship. Now meeting these people is part of the job and I think it’s safe to say I am a good listener and face these comments as a challenge and do my best to turn them around. But worse than any complaint, any negative comment and even worse than someone trying to sell me diet pills that make you crap yourself more than an elephant that’s just eaten an entire field of cabbage. Let me explain.

I met such a man last cruise and to cut right to the chase he was a man who told me had sailed with another cruise line I won’t mention 12 times and enjoyed talking about it, especially to those who aren’t interested, like me. He was in his 30’s. He had perfect hair, perfect clothes, loads of man jewelry and a handshake that could squeeze blood out of a stone. He told me he was a lawyer and spoke in a rich baritone voice to demonstrate to everyone within earshot that if he had been a lifeguard he would not have needed to shove a cucumber down his Speedos.

He was he told me he was “Ivy League” educated and was here with his friends who ignoring the Thrill Theatre and the Playlist Production shows probably had been in the RedFrog Pub discussing who’s got the most important credit card. He had a huge watch on his wrist that was so massive it probably had a Swiss dwarf living in it to wind it up each night. Anyway, for 15 minutes I stood listening to why everything, everything was better on Royal Caribbean, including a CD called Ken who apparently I could “learn a lot from” which indeed I probably could. I won’t bother telling you what else he said but I will say that I knew straight away that there was bugger all I could do to change his mind. I have never sailed this cruise line he had mentioned before. They are the competition and while I am sure they do certain things very well, I know there are many things we do as well if not better. Anyway, I spent those 15 minutes nodding and smiling as the man with a six pack, perfect designer clothes, a watch that makes Big Ben look miniscule told me that both Carnival and I would do well to emulate the cruise line he usually spends his money on. And 15 minutes later, he walked back into the RedFrog Pub with a swagger because not only did he know he has a big gentleman’s sausage and a perfect life. He knew that I knew it, too. And I turned back on my heels, waddled my huge stomach, encased in a JC Penney shirt back to my cabin, ordered a BLT with extra cheese………..and ate my emotions.

Time for today’s Q and A……..let’s crack on.

Susan O’Hara asked:
Hi,

We booked ocean suites for our upcoming Alaska cruise and have seen on a couple of web sites that these suites include complimentary wash and fold laundry service. Is this true?

John says:
Hello Susan O’Hara,

Thanks for telling me about this because the only guests we offer this to are our Platinum guests and Milestone/Diamond guests. Sorry you were misinformed and thanks for giving me the chance to explain this.

Best wishes.

John

Clarence Redwood asked:
Hello John,

I am sure you won’t remember me as you meet so many passengers, of course. You may remember me from my walking stick which you fascinated over as it was an old British stick I acquired during a vast across the pond. I am 81 years young now, John, and am still cruising and this coming cruise on the Carnival Elation will be number seven for me which considering I started cruising at the sprightly age of 74 isn’t bad, is it? My best cruise ever was that cruise with you on the Carnival Liberty and I wish these old bones would let me fly to Europe to see your new ship that you are about to launch. I wondered if you could help me with a small request because I would like to present something to the captain and need to have his name engraved on it so please would you inform me of who it is. Thank you, John, and I hope one day we shall meet yet again.

John says:
Hello Clarence Redwood,

How can I ever forget you and that beautiful stick. What you failed to mention is that you played the part of the hero in my bedtime story and how funny you were and indeed became the most famous man on board that cruise. I am so happy to read that you are still cruising and, of course, I see you are still being so gracious with your offer of a gift to the captain. His name is Domenico Cilento and knowing him as I do, he will be so very grateful to you. I wish you a wonderful cruise and I, too, hope one day we shall meet again.

Best wishes always.

John

Deanna Williams asked:

Years ago we sailed on Carnival to the ports of Costa Maya and Costa Rica. I cannot see any more cruises going there. Does Carnival not go there anymore?

John says:
Hello Deanne Williams,

We do indeed still have ships that sail to Costa Maya as a port of call and it’s a fun place for sure. I don’t see that any of our ships are currently calling at Costa Rica at the moment. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Best wishes.

John

LoriAnn Henninger asked:

There is confusion over debarkation at ports for platinum guests. We understood that we would receive preferential debarkation at every port we visit and it seems that the purser’s employees are not aware. Please help and thank you. We will miss you on the Carnival Magic this summer after enjoying you immensely on the Feb. 19, 2012 sailing! Good luck on the Carnival Breeze.

John says:
Hello LoriAnn Henniger,

I wish I could be with you and if there is anything I can do to make your cruise special, please let me know. The priority disembark is only when we use tender services to get guests ashore and, of course, in the debarkation at homeport. I hope that clears that up for you and please have a brilliant cruise and I am here if you need anything.

Best wishes.

John

Bethany asked:
You need to do something about the embarkation in New York. It took forever to get on the boat and we waited in line for 45 minutes before being taken care of. If you are going to cater to New Yorkers, Carnival better learn quickly as this was disgraceful. The cruise was good but there were two downfalls and they were the breakfast which had no variety or choice and the comedians which, compared to what I see each month in Greenwich Village, were not funny at all. Our servers were good and although we never saw the cabin cleaner, she did keep our room nice.

John says:
Hello Bethany,

We are aware that the terminal facilities we use in Manhattan are not as spacious as we would like and, of course, we should remember that it has been there many years and was built when cruise ships were much smaller than they are today. Still, I understand that you want to board the ship and start your cruise vacation as quickly as possible so I will, for sure, pass this comment on to the fine people we work with at embarkation there. I was very surprised that you found breakfast lacked variety as we do have a lot of choices, I think, and wondered if you could let me know what we didn’t have that you would like us to add and I will let the chef know. I do hope you had fun and I hope that you will enjoy the Carnival Splendor who will soon be making New York her home.

Best wishes.

John

Henri Ortiz asked:
John,

Any chance you will be showing the Olympics during our cruise on Carnival Magic? We have a close family friend whose daughter is representing the United States in the gymnastics and we really want to see her win gold!

John says:
Hello Henri Ortiz,

Yes, indeed, we will have coverage of the Olympics and if the network shows this specific event you will see it on board. I wish her well and I wish you a brilliant cruise.

John

Angela Henkel asked:
Hi John,

Yesterday I disembarked from the Carnival Valor with my boyfriend and parents and we had a wonderful time. I had sent in a message to you last year after three cruises of being disappointed with my seating in the dining room and this time our table location was excellent. It was my eighth Carnival cruise and my dad’s second and he was now able to see what I have been telling him about all this time with all of the fun entertainment provided by the fabulous wait staff during dinner. I would also like to give a shout out to Elmer, Erick and Demi who were our excellent wait staff for the eight nights were on the Carnival Valor this time. Carnival has yet to disappoint in this regard. Oh, and, by the way, our cruise director Matt was also excellent! I have never seen a cruise director so much during a cruise – he was always out and about on the ship and always making sure everyone was having a good time! Way to go, Matt! Thanks again for an excellent vacation.

John says:
Hello Angela Henkel,

I am happy that we were able to help you and my thanks to the maître d for helping with your table request. I am so glad you had fun and will be passing these great comments to the ship. I hope this means we will see you again very soon.

Best wishes.

John

Cheryl Gentry asked:

I will be cruising out of New Orleans on October 11. What is the earliest time that cruisers are allowed to go on board? The cruise is scheduled to leave port around 4 p.m.

John says:
Hello Cheryl Gentry,

Congratulations on this wonderful cruise from New Orleans. If everything goes to plan and we get the kind permission of United States Customs and Border Protection, we would hope to start boarding at approximately 10:30am. I hope this helps and I wish you a brilliant time.

Best wishes.

John

Elaine asked:
Hi John,

My partner and I are cruising for the first time on the Carnival Breeze sailing July 9 for 12 nights. We can’t wait and the ship looks fabulous. How many evenings will be formal and what is acceptable dress code for ladies and gentlemen? Also, what is the dress code for all the other nights? Do the men have to wear long trousers when dining?

Thanks.

John says:
Hello Elaine,

I am glad I saw this before you cruise in a few days’ time. There will be two elegant nights with one on the first sea day. As for acceptable dress, well, the most popular is the men wearing business suits and the ladies something simply elegant. Certainly, there is no need for tuxedos and ball gowns as in days gone by. I will say that in Europe with many guests having restrictions on flying with luggage that many simply wear elegant casual clothing. The most important thing to remember is that this is your vacation and you should wear what makes you relaxed and comfortable. I will see you soon here on the Carnival Breeze.

Best wishes.

John

Jan gardner-kurz asked:
Hi john,

I hope you can pass on feedback on The Chef’s Table experience. We did our first Chef’s Table in January 2012 on the Carnival Dream with the old menu and absolutely loved it. The end of April we tried it with the new menu on the Carnival Splendor. The new menu was really disappointing. I hope that they look at changing it soon as I have heard similar feedback and I hope people are providing. We are booked for the Bloggers Cruise and looking forward to it. I loved and look forward to reading your blog everyday it’s available.

John says:
Hello Jan Gardener Kruz
I will, for sure, pass this on. You are not the first to say you prefer the old menu and I promise to make sure your comments are read by the right people. Thanks for letting me know and thanks for the kind words.

Best wishes.

John

Derek asked:

Can you arrange something special to be sent to our son when we cruise on Carnival Splendor July 22, 2012? Jake will be heading off to Afghanistan with the United States Air Force in November and this is our family vacation before this happens. We will be in cabin 6371.

John says:
Hello Derek,

I am sure you are very proud of your son and, of course, it will be a pleasure to send him something, I wish you all a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes.

John

That’s all for today, thanks to you all for your comments and questions and a big thanks to the dynamic duo of Mary and Mischelle for helping me. This week the Carnival Destiny and the Carnival Paradise started the new VIFP parties for gold, platinum and diamond card holders. Oh, and talking of the new cards, here is how they look.

(click to zoom)

As I mentioned one of the first ships to do the new VIFP party was the Carnival Destiny and here’s a report from Noonan, the ship’s CD.

Hello John,

Just wanted to let you know a little more info about the party. First of all, the flow of the party went really well. I think the guests really enjoyed the drinks and food offerings. The captain and I stood outside the lounge and greeted each guest before they even came into the room. I think it was a nice touch and the guests really seemed to enjoy it. Once entering the room, we had all of the senior management welcoming the guests as we gave them beads and they went to sit down. We opened the doors a few minutes before 5pm because we didn’t want to keep our most valued guests waiting in line (we used to do this for the old PGP and it works like a charm). The band played three Dixieland-style tunes that really went down well and gave a good feel to the room. After the third song, I went to the stage and talked about the following points.

6 Min – Introduction (PAST)
• Welcome to the VIFP gold, platinum and diamond party
• Past, present and future of Carnival Cruise Lines
• What was the name of our first ship?
• Did any of you sail on the Mardi Gras?
• One of the original drinks we served on the Mardi Gras was the Fun Ship Special.

Then the first video started. It was well received and the guests all cheered for the ships as they came up on the screen. After the video, the screen came up and as it did the band started to vamp on the beginning of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” We stared the parade around the room with the entertainment staff, a few of the senior officers and the VIFP members. About 30 of the members joined the line and they enjoyed it from the looks of it. As the song came to an end I ended up on the stage again and the crowd cheered for the parade participants. This is when I introduced all of the officers of the Carnival Destiny. They all came up on the stage to applause from the crowd. Once they were all up there, I introduced Captain Giusa. Below are what we talked about. The captain was great and really opened up to the guests as he discussed his kids, career etc., for a few minutes.

Parade & Captain Intro (Present)
• How long have you worked for Carnival Cruise Lines?
• I know the Carnival Destiny is special to you, you were part of the inaugural team correct?
• That was in 1996, right? How long had you worked for Carnival Cruise Lines at that point?
• What position did you hold on the Carnival Destiny?
• So now you have been with Carnival Cruise Lines for almost 20 years, do you have a favorite port of call?

After the interview the captain left the stage to cheers from the audience and the officers followed. As this was our first party and we didn’t have any “new” tier members I asked “Where are our gold members?” and the gold members proudly cheered. Then I asked, “Where are my platinum members?” and they all cheered. Then I asked how many cruises everyone has been on and we found our most senior cruiser who has sailed with us 219 days!

I then started talking about the different Fun Ship 2.0 offerings. More music followed and everyone enjoyed it. All in all I thought it was really good and as I stood at the door after the party every guest thanked me and said that they truly felt special. It was well thought through and worked great. They loved the new food items and they loved the cocktails. As we were the first ship to host this party, I thought I would let you know.

Thanks,

Noonan
Cruise Director, Carnival Destiny

Noonan is a great CD and one of our most popular and I know he put a huge amount of effort into this as obviously did the whole team on the ship. We have our first try at this here on Carnival Breeze on the cruise of July 9 and I will let you know how it goes. Before we leave this subject here is the flyer that those diamond members will be getting and I hope one day you will all receive one of these in your stateroom.

(click to zoom)

 

As I have mentioned 3,478 times probably, last cruise, Heidi and Kye were here and because my cabin is not big enough for the three of us and for me to work from while Kye is watching the sodding Wonder Pets, I had managed to get them a cabin on Deck 6 and each night I would stay with them both and that, of course, was wonderful. It’s only at times like this that as a crew member you realise just how amazing the stateroom stewards are. Yes, Ketut my steward is brilliant and despite the fact that he blames the rash he currently has from having to pick my underpants off the bathroom floor, we are great friends and he takes brilliant care of me and I of him. However, staying in a guest cabin really shows off just why so many of our guests state that their stateroom steward was one of the best parts of their cruise. It’s not until you actually live in a guest cabin and get the same treatment we give the guests each and every week that you actually realise just what an important part of the cruise experience they are. They are the front line in our endeavors to have the guest called by name and here is a new change I wanted to tell you about that is a fleetwide change, as well. We have always encouraged our crew to call the guests by name. “Hello, Mr. Smith,” “Good afternoon, Mrs. Jones.” “Good evening, Mr. Lopez.” “Goodnight, Mr. Seaugo.” However, the beards have decreed (and brilliantly so in my opinion) that we should change this to a less formal but more personal and dare I say “fun” greeting.

So now you will hear the stateroom stewards, waiters, guest services and other service personnel say: “Good morning, Joe.” “Good afternoon, Mary.” “Good evening, George.” “Goodnight, H82.” This has been going on here on the Carnival Breeze already and guests have told me and their review cards that they really appreciated this and I hope you will too. Let me know what you think

Anyway, back to last cruise. We were in an inside cabin. Yes, I was too cheap to buy an outside even with the excellent discount Carnival gave me. In the deck six balcony cabin in front of us were three ladies and I saw a few times when the cabin door was open and the war zone that three women can create with clothes and potions and brushes and clothes…..mountains of clothes topped of by mountains of shoes. I have also seen what Anna, our stateroom stewardess had it looking like for when they got back from touring Rome. It was clean, tidy, organised and that’s a miracle. I told Anna this and she smiled and said the only thing she didn’t like was the smell of the different perfumes because it made her feel lightheaded. I was going to mention that if she headed to my cabin bathroom right now, there would be a smell that would take that worry away but decided it best not to.

Obviously, the towel animals are still a huge hit and Kye loves them as most three years old do. Although one night she was in tears when I used the elephant to dry myself after my shower.

Anna and her colleagues across the fleet do so much. Scrubbing, cleaning and arranging and they do it to multiple staterooms. They are fantastic, and as I said, they are a major part of the Carnival cruise experience. Compare that to the person who cleans your hotel room who, let’s face it, are mostly faceless individuals who even if you are staying a week at the property won’t know your name. Maybe it’s two different animals but value for money and experience wise and in my opinion ……..hotels can’t compare.

One footnote: Recently a stateroom steward was separating the garbage as they are required to do for each cabin into paper, plastic, glass and food and biodegradable items. He was wearing thin rubber gloves but a guest had put a loose razor blade in the garbage buried amongst paper and other items and he cut his fingers rather badly. Please, either leave your razor blades in position where they can be seen and don’t put them in a garbage bin or you can ask your steward for a sharps container.

One more tale from my stay in my Carnival Breeze guest cabin and that’s the bathrobe. A hotel isn’t a good hotel without a beautiful fluffy white robe hanging up behind the bathroom door yet so many hotels make unforgiveable mistakes with them. Some hotels seem to have forgotten what fabric softener is because putting on the robe is like wearing a large piece of sandpaper. But worse than that is the belt. I realise that hotels have to put robes into the laundry every time a guest leaves but surely it’s not too much trouble for someone to loop the belt back through. When a hotel room service delivery person knocks on the door, you either spend valuable minutes trying to tie the belt or risk revealing your thingy to the person who has come to deliver your $30 burger and fries.

We have bathrobes and they are in all the cabins despite rumors that they are for the suite life only. And they are soft, very soft and the belt is always looped through properly. I know this because I checked. We also have them for kids and most hotels don’t because they don’t really like children in the first place. However, even though I have some weight……one size does not fit all……and, as blog regular Big Ed will tell you, I have been a massive failure to him and the other extra medium guests who sail with us. I have tried to get XXXL bathrobes but it has never come to pass and so I am going to take drastic action and take it to the highest level. Gerry Cahill, our president and CEO, will be sailing here on Carnival Breeze again soon and when he does I have a plan. I will invite him to my cabin for a cup of tea and a chat and when he knocks at the door I shall be wearing one of the Carnival fluffy bathrobes. Hopefully, the sight of my thingy peeping out will prove that one sodding size……does not fit all and the president will order the immediate manufacture of XXXL bathrobes……followed by some Valium and a large scotch!

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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