THE RUSSIAN WITH THE BEAUTIFUL ASH

July 2, 2012 -

John Heald

I miss the cigar bars. There, I said it. Yes, it was an uncomfortable experience for those who didn’t appreciate the armor of cigar smoke who had to pass through a rich, thick cloud of the remnants of the finest cigars to get to the internet cafe and I understand why the beards decided the cigar bar’s time was up. But I still miss it. I was thinking that last night as I hosted a “Cigar Under The Stars” gathering here on Carnival Breeze. With the mad dash to get the ship ready and what with all the inaugural stuff and the gaggle of beards who here for the first 489 days, there had not been time for me to do this so far. But last night I had placed a small line in the Fun Times that simply said, “Cigars Under The Stars. Join John for a good smoke and good conversation. Lanai Deck 5.”

Now there are some skeptics reading this, I am sure, who are saying, “The fat bloke just did this as an excuse to smoke a cigar himself” and those skeptics would be…… ummmmmm …… correct. Now for those of you just joining me here on the blog, you may not know that crew is no longer allowed to smoke in guest areas which is I fully support as it never really looked good to see a group of staff sitting smoking together. It was only casino, gift shop, entertainment staff and one or two other departments that could do this but nevertheless it didn’t look particularly good to the guests, I think. So, now the crew have to smoke in an outside crew area by the lifeboats which is OK if you are having a quick Camel but when you are smoking a Cohiba Siglo 6 that will take an hour to enjoy properly, you want to sit, relax and enjoy every blissful moment.

So I host these events at night poop and enjoy a cigar on The Lanai. So where is this story going? Let me tell you. Last night I was joined by 28 other cigar smokers and we sat at the tables and enjoyed our cigars. I walked from table to table chatting with guests and met fellow cigar smokers from South Africa, the UK and, of course, America. After my table-hopping duties were done, I joined a group of three guests who had never met before but their love of cigars had brought them together as cigar smoking often does. One was from Indiana, one was from Buffalo and one was a retired something high up in the U.S. Air Force from California. We sat and chatted and enjoyed our cigars and life.

Now, while I was taking a draw on my Monte Cristo Edmundo, I saw something. We all saw something. It was a stunning lady. I mean she was incredibly beautiful and dressed in a tiny black dress that really was no more than a belt. Yet she was elegant, she was classy and she was sexy. She had legs that went to heaven and back and breasts the size of the Alps. Her friend was with her for a few moments, also very beautiful. They spoke in their own language, which was Russian. Then things got even better because she opened her bejeweled purse……..took out a leather travel cigar holder…….took out a Partaga Serie D #4…….took her gold Dunhill cigar cutter ………sniped the end off…….used her gold Dunhill lighter to professionally light her cigar, turning it 360 degrees as she did……….tossed her long blonde hair……….sat back……and took a long draw ……………and then sensually blew the smoke out. I nearly grew a third leg!

We all sat spellbound by this jaw droppingly brilliant sight as she allowed her cigar to burn beautifully allowing the ash to form perfectly. She sat there, on her own for, 30 minutes or more and none of us – not one of us — got up and spoke to her. For some, it was because of the language barrier……..for me, there were far more personal and embarrassing reasons I didn’t stand up!

We men have learned over the last few years that we must be in touch with our feminine side. If we cry during a film, eat lots of vegetables and watch Dr. Phil and Oprah, it makes us more attractive to women. But there is a flipside to all of this and this Russian cigar-smoking sensation was it. To me and my fellow cigar smokers………..she had descended from the gods.

Time for today’s Q and A………………off we go.

Val Burke asked:
Hello,

We are about to cruise for the second time in November, hoping to find more vegan/vegetarian choices this time. I was told the new Guys Burger Joint does not have any veggie burgers. I hope this is not true, as that would be very disappointing to us. Last time, there were zero vegan options in the dining room nightly. PLEASE consider your vegan and vegetarian cruisers, we like to eat, too. And we are five to 10 percent of the population and growing!! That comes to possibly hundreds of us on board at any given time!! We would so much appreciate your consideration.

Thanks.

Val Burke.

John says:
Hello Val Burke,

I am sure you are looking forward to your cruise in November and thank you for taking the time to write. You are correct in that Guy’s Burger Joint does not provide a veggie burger but we do have plentiful vegetarian options on Lido Deck and in the main dining room. I will pass on your comments to the chef about vegan options at dinner time as I had someone else say the same thing on my Facebook page just a few days ago. I do hope you have a wonderful time and if there is anything I can do for you, please let me know.

Best wishes.

John

Ria Molenweik asked:

I am coming to Carnival from Belgium for my first time cruise on your ship it’s called Carnival Dream. First we go to Disney and then the cruise. My question for you to answer please is about what to tip because we have our agent pay already the tips but I am not sure if this is done so that the waiter does not think we don’t tip. Please can you help me understand and I am sorry my English may not help you understand my question.

Thank you, sir.

John says:
Hello Ria Molenweik,

Your English is excellent and I absolutely understand your question. You are asking about pre-paid tips which your travel agent in Belgium has arranged and you are concerned that the waiter and your stateroom steward (the person who cleans and looks after your cabin) will not get their money and think you have not tipped them. Please do not worry as we do this every cruise and the staff will definitely know you have tipped them. You will have a wonderful time and if you have any other questions, please make sure you write to me.

Best wishes

John

Sandra Bairstow asked:

Why can’t Carnival just take one of their ships and ban kids and make it adults only? I may not be popular for saying this but I know that there are millions of Americans who don’t want to spend their vacation with hundreds of kids running around spoiling it for everyone. Parents have zero control over their kids and this is not fair to those of us who do not want to have them all over the place. Carnival has so many ships and yet we adults are ignored completely. Carnival would make a big profit on an adults-only ship for sure so why hasn’t this been done yet?

John says:
Hello Sandra Bairstow,

This question comes up from time to time and the simple answer is that we are proud to be the most popular cruise line in the world for families and we have no intention of moving away from this. I should also point out that most of our competitors feel the same way and apart from our sister company P&O who do have two adults-only ships, I believe, none of the other lines have gone this way. Remember, we do have times of the year when the child count is low and it’s important to know that we have adults-only deck spaces called Serenity on most of our ships. I hope you can find a time and a Carnival ship for you to enjoy a relaxing and fun vacation.

Best wishes.

John

Barry Arabia asked:
Mr. Heald:

My question regards the “How It’s Made” timeline on Carnival’s web site that is “tracking” the construction progress of the Carnival Breeze. I find the ship construction process very interesting, however, the timeline lags way behind the actual construction of the Carnival Breeze….with the Carnival Breeze set to take her inaugural cruise in 10 days…the timeline seems “stuck” at Interior Design.” We’re booked on the Breeze TA in November, so I’ve been particularly curious to follow the Breeze’s construction process, something cool about watching a ship be built, and then sail on her a relative short time after construction is done. We watched the Carnival Magic the same way via the web site that lagged, as well!! I have followed your blog info and watched videos and pictures you’ve posted on the Carnival Breeze’s build process. Those are very cool to see for sure, so of course we’re very excited for the Carnival Breeze TA in November. Very cool Carnival puts the construction process on its web site, not so cool that the process shown is way behind. Just thought you could offer insight as to why.

Thanks.

John says:
Hello Barry Arabia,

Obviously, I have to start with an apology for not replying to this question earlier as the construction is over and here we are today at sea on this beautiful new Carnival Breeze. I agree that the site was very good but I also agree that the timeline did not update itself quickly enough. I was talking about this with some of the people who put this together and they agree also and for Carnival’s next big project, which is the Carnival Sunshine, we will get it right. I will have details about this soon. I will also see you here quite soon and I look forward to showing you this brilliant vessel.

Best wishes.

John

John says:
Karen Jane Bettencourt,

This will be my fifth cruise with you guys and this time it’s just me and my husband and no kids. We never get to spend time together thanks to him working all hours and so we desperately want a table for two. I am not sure what you need to get this done but I was told on Cruise Critic to write to you and request it. Our ship booking number is ****** and we will be on the July 25 cruise on Carnival Miracle. Can we have the table for two by the window? It is also our wedding anniversary so are there any treats you can send us?

John says:
Hello Karen Jane Bettencourt,

I have asked the maître d’ on the Carnival Miracle to do his best to get you a table for two so that you can spend some valuable time together. We don’t though have tables for two by the window as all the tables by windows are six- or eight-seaters. I wish you a wonderful cruise together and also wish you a very happy anniversary.

Best wishes.

John

Connie Surges asked:

Is there any consideration being given to expanding the quantity of handicapped accessible cabins? I am a frequent cruiser and although I wanted a handicapped accessible cabin, and was booking six months in advance, there were only a few inside cabins available. I booked a balcony cabin anyway, and instead of bringing my power chair, I will have to rent a manual chair so that it can be stored (per Carnival policy) in my room. I am a Diamond level cruiser on RCI, and have been on a few Carnival trips, and have been overall pleased with the ships and team members. Not being able to bring my chair is disheartening and I won’t be able to fully enjoy the trip, but am not willing to take a Deck 2 inside cabin to take the trip. Any ideas? I am booked on Nov 3 Carnival Liberty.

Thanks for your time and the great info you provide.

John says:
Hello Connie Surges,

Thanks for this important post. We currently have a team of people working to enhance the on board experience for guests needing assistance on board and for those who need wheelchair and mobility scooters on the ship. I was not aware about the power chair being too big and so I have sent your comment to someone from our guest access services team who will be in contact to discuss options with you. I see you love to cruise and I really hope you will have many more cruises with Carnival and we will work hard to make sure this happens. Please let me know if there is anything at all I can do for you.

Best wishes.

John

Antonio Acacio asked:

John — am I right in saying that after the Carnival Breeze that Carnival has no more new ships on order? I was discussing this with my friend and he said there were two more after Breeze. Who is right as there is 50 bucks riding on the answer?

John says:
Hello Antonipo Acacio,

Ummmmm………..ummmmmm…………..your friend owes you $50 but we do have an exciting project next year with the Carnival Sunshine that I’m sure everyone will enjoy.

Best wishes to you both.

John

D Maney asked:

Hi I absolutely love Carnival and my husband and I are both Platinum guests. We are booked on the Carnival Dream in Oct. I do have a concern/request is there any way to get Caesar dressing without anchovies as I am allergic to them but LOVE Caesar salad and I’m not the only one who can’t have or doesn’t like anchovies? We will be travelling with 20 others of which maybe one likes anchovies. Just wondering why they can’t make the dressing with anchovies for those who like it and without for those who are allergic or don’t like it? Wasn’t sure where to send this question to. Hopefully, you can help.

Thanks.

P.S. We sailed with you on the extended cruise on the Carnival Glory (due to hurricane) loved you. Kids are still singing, “There’s a booger in the sugar – no, it’s snot!”

John says:
Hello D Maney,

I remember that cruise and indeed that song very well. I am sure you are all looking forward to the next cruise and I thought that we offered this dressing with or without the little fishy things in it. I will check with the chef about this but I am certain if you ask they will do this for you. Please remind me here one month before you sail or a couple of days before you sail on Facebook and I will make sure I remind the chef.

Best wishes to all the family.

John

Cassi asked:

Can you book cruises where the alcohol and drinks are included in the “all inclusive?” If yes, how?

John says:
Hello Cassi,

At this time, we don’t offer an all-inclusive alcohol drink program but do hope to see you on board soon.

Best wishes.

John

Carol Hoefs asked:
Hi John,

My husband and I had the pleasure of meeting you back in February on the Carnival Magic (you got real sick on that cruise) and are looking forward to seeing you again in January on the Carnival Breeze Bloggers Cruise. We have booked our cruise. We heard so many good things about the last Bloggers Cruise that we just had to take this one. Anyway, is there any special registration we have to do to make sure we are included on the Bloggers List for the cruise? Just let us know and we will take care of it or can you just put our names on the List?

Thanks so much.

Carol & Richard Hoefs
(The bird people)

P.S Tell Calvyn we said, “Hi”

John says:
Hello Carol Hoefs,

Oh my, I remember that cruise because thank goodness I rarely get sick on board but I do remember that week very well. I am so pleased and proud that you have booked the Bloggers Cruise with me and around November, I will have a registration here on the blog for guests to simply register their names and cabin number. And that’s all you have to do and then it will soon be time for Calvyn and I to have fun with you and all your fellow bloggers. I will see you both then and get ready for a brilliant time.

Best wishes.

John

That’s all for today.

Let’s continue with another feature about one of our brilliant cruise directors. Here is the CD currently providing our guests on the Carnival Liberty the best of times:

Growing up in Lincolnshire, England, was a great experience, and from an early age took part in local amateur plays and shows. I always seemed to land the role of “village idiot” but this was not a bad thing as it brought my love for the stage and the entertainment business to me. I loved making people laugh and smile. I was inspired to follow in the entertainment business as my father did being the script writer for Ken Dodd, a British comedian during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

I started out in 1998 as a Redcoat at the famous “Butlins Resort” in England. Here, I undertook all kinds of entertainment training, from children’s presenter, DJ and comedy actor to production singer in the main venue shows. During that time, I made some TV appearances, did voiceover jingles for my county’s radio station and even performed my own weekly “Tribute Show.” In 2000, I got my first shipboard position on board the Salamis Glory, in the Eastern Mediterranean where I was assistant cruise director and production singer in the nightly shows. In between times I took my cabaret act on the road performing to various theatres and clubs around England. I then landed the role of social host and started my Carnival Career at the end of 2001 where I joined my first ship, Carnival Victory, at the end of that year. Since then I have had the absolute pleasure to have traveled all over the States and Caribbean with Carnival working my way up to acting cruise director on the Carnival Paradise and Carnival Liberty having an amazing experience. In this time I also had the privilege of bringing out the Carnival Miracle in 2004 (as a social host) before landing my first role as acting cruise director on board the Carnival Paradise in March 2007.

My dream came true in August of 2008 when I got promoted full time cruise director onboard the Carnival Liberty and since then have had a blast working on the Carnival Imagination and now the Carnival Victory in the role. Along the way I have met so many wonderful people who will be lifetime friends and am extremely excited about the future. I feel very blessed each day to have one of the most rewarding and exciting jobs in the business.

I am also a keen sports, music and movies fan and regularly take in concerts and events at home. I also have a dream of traveling the world, and the position I have has already allowed me to do half of that! I can’t wait to do the rest!

– Karl with a K

Thanks, Karl. I know that Karl has become a favourite of many and that he continues to set the highest of standards even though he is only three-foot four-inches tall…………..sorry mate 🙂 Seriously, Karl is one to watch and one you really have to cruise with.

On Friday I posted on my Facebook page that I had been asked by Carnival’s security division to mention that Carnival has a strict policy that medical marijuana is not allowed on board our ships under any circumstances. This produced over 100-plus comments from readers that agreed and congratulated us for stating this policy. There were also a few comments from people saying that either they or their friends and family members did take this to relieve pain and I have to say, I did not know you could get marijuana to help with pain management as easily as some were saying and I have always assumed it was illegal to buy it, regardless. In my time on board I have smelled it and have reported it immediately to security like all crew members are instructed to do. Being discovered with marijuana on board is not a good idea by any means and I think we’ve done a good job getting this message out. It doesn’t happen very often as far as I can tell. I have to admit that when it comes to drugs I am totally naive. I have never, smoked anything stronger than a Cuban cigar and as for sniffing something……well the only bad stuff that’s ever gone up my nose is the smell from my own bottom after eating at the Indian Tandoor here on Carnival Breeze.

However, I must say at this point that I have never taken drugs because I would hate anything that would affect my ability to think properly. Why would anyone want to take away the ability to think clearly? I once saw a group of people at my college who’d taken some magic mushrooms. They were lying in the middle of the soccer pitch laughing hysterically at a shoe. And a shoe, so far as I can tell, has exactly the same comedic properties as a German Nun. Magic mushrooms, then, do not make you clever, irresistible to women, or give you X-ray vision, all of which would be fine. They make you laugh at a shoe, and that’s not fine at all.

If you’ve read the blog you know that I don’t drink either. When I had partaken of a few beers I would try and talk in an intelligent way but my words would come out as a steam of incoherent bollocks. I sounded like someone from China trying to speak Jamaican.

The worst drug though, by a mile, is the common sleeping pill. Now I flew you may remember back home from the Bloggers Cruise and I was exhausted after the fun we all had on BC5. I was flying from Houston to London and had mentioned to Calvyn that I was never able to sleep on a plane. So being the loving big lump that he is, he offered me something to take during the flight. And so I took it because he said it would, “Help me sleep.”

I have to tell you that it did indeed help me sleep and in fact I was so removed from anything you might call reality that to this day I have no recollection of the entire flight except being woken up by the British Airways flight attendant. I am sure she was a pleasant lady but I am embarrassed to tell you that when she woke me up to tell me to put my seatbelt on and remove my headphones that I opened my eyes, looked at her and said “Is Peppa Pig World open?”….I then realised what I had said, yet couldn’t string a sentence together to apologize….and this was from taking just one tablet. I promised myself I would never take them again and promised myself that I would beat Calvyn with a rolled up copy of Hairy Men Weekly magazine. The next thing I knew we were landing at Heathrow and as I approached Immigration I opened my mouth to speak and a torrent of green stuff drooled out of my mouth.

I vaguely remember collecting a bag from the carousel and being greeted by Heidi and Kye, getting in the car which thank goodness Heidi had decided to drive back home because I fell asleep immediately and woke up only when Heidi shook me on our driveway. I’d love to report that the next day I felt refreshed but, in fact, everything was worse. I couldn’t shake off the huge pair of elephant testicles that had been nailed onto my head and my mouth tasted like the inside of LeBron James’ jockstrap. I sometimes can’t sleep……I count sheep……I count the tigers that spring out of the field and eat them. I do lists in my head. I invent a game for Xboxplaystation where I am trapped on the Carnival Breeze. I am alone and have to defend the ship against Zombie-like creatures that are attacking me.

They are all wearing sombreros and as they shuffle toward me, arms open wide, teeth ready to tear my flesh, they are moaning “John blocked me, John blocked me.” But even if inventing that game in my mind doesn’t help me sleep, even if I toss and I turn and sleep doesn’t come I will never ever reach for a sleeping pill. Having experienced the after-effects, I know that getting through the next day on one hours sleep is better than trying to get though it with the reaction times, humor, and conversation of an 88-year-old Rastafarian that has just smoked a palm tree.
Anyway, I just wanted to remind everyone that we do not allow marijuana on board under any circumstances.

I asked on my Facebook whether I need to tone down some of the less PC aspects of my humor and everyone said that I should keep on doing what I’m doing by a large margin. It is confusing, though and I’m always straddling the line between being politically correct and trying to be funny at the same time. On the one hand, the politically correct school for whom anything remotely not politically correct, even told in jest, lies well over that line. On the other, there others who maintain a joke is just a joke, and that commenting on anything in a humorous way is part of acknowledging life’s rich tapestry. Well, over 500 of you wrote demanding I don’t change, that I keep writing the way I do and so that’s what is going to happen.

I know that my blog and Facebook page are not the normal corporate stuff. It’s me, it’s who I am and unless the populace tells me they don’t like it anymore, then I will keep writing my own way and I hope that people will realise that the spirit behind what I say is never meant to be cruel.

What do I think about the whole thing? Well, I do have to be careful as I am Carnival’s Brand Ambassador and there are times that I write things that most companies would never allow. However, let me be John for a moment. Just John. Plain old simple overweight, bent-toothed and a bit thick John. If you will allow me to be that and not a CD and not a BA just for a moment then it will allow me to say this. People who are offended by what is just common everyday “banter” and common use of normal opinion take themselves and the world far too seriously. Sometimes I think they want to be offended because it gives them some kind of self-importance. True sexism, true harassment, true racism is disgusting and should get the kick in the bollocks it deserves.

Anyway, back to being a CD again and a Brand Ambassador again and I will close by saying I am sorry if I offended anyone or will in the future and I continue with my promise to try and bring you news, information and a behind the crew only door look at life on board and to help as many people as I can each and every week have the best cruise vacation ever. In my humble opinion, it would be a shame if we got rid completely of the banter that has spiced up life for decades. Because for many of us, that would make life……… very dull indeed.

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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