So during the show last night, I took some people from the audience for some pre-show fun before the Divas revue. It included a young couple who, when I asked for their names and where they were from, they replied they were from Denver, Colorado. I then shocked myself by instead of saying, “Are you having fun?” or “What’s your favourite port so far?” or “Bugger me your wife is gorgeous, are they real?” I went straight into the, “I am so sorry, how dreadful, it’s awful, I hope they cut his bollocks off and shove 50,000 volts through his arse.”

As I was saying my words of deepest sympathy, I sort of got the impression that this couple just wanted to escape the pain, the memories and the intense feeling of sadness and they chose to achieve this by getting on a Carnival ship to have fun and to sail away from the intense feeling of sadness that the city must be feeling. So I felt guilty by even mentioning it, I shouldn’t have and so I am now on a mission to make sure they have the best of times. I know this is not like the usual start to one of my blogs but I wanted to share this moment with you as I really think I was wrong to mention it. My brain and, if I may say my heart…………raced ahead of me. Bugger!

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

Bethany Salzor asked:

Carnival must have the only bars in the world where free bar snacks are not included. I love sitting in the piano bar straight after dinner and will stay until closing because it’s my favorite thing to do but why is Carnival so cheap that they don’t have bar snacks? I will have to resort to bring bags of Chex Mix and Doritos when I cruise next on the Carnival Valor in September. I hope you guys get your act together as many of your passengers tell me the same thing that other lines have them and you don’t.

John says:
Hello Bethany Salzor

We used to have bar snacks like Goldfish, etc., but now we have, indeed, for the most part, stopped serving them. We have added the pigeon peas and black eyed peas as free snacks at the RedFrog Pubs but, for the most part, we have done away with them, as you said. I will certainly pass along your comment and see what the feelings are about bringing them back. Until then, I wish you a wonderful cruise and enjoy many happy nights in the piano bar on the Carnival Valor.

Best wishes.

John

Norman Clement asked:
Hi John.

It is interesting, as Big Duck pointed out, that with so many people on Carnival’s Facebook and who click on carnival.com, that you only have 26 thousand and change likes on your Facebook page. You seem to ram down our throats how popular you are but if you look at the big picture, then actually, it is not the case based on percentages. I am ready to be flamed by your sick little group of followers but I am retardant to their gibes so if they are reading this, I wouldn’t bother, peeps. Oh, and before you think I am a troll, I have four cruises with Carnival, check me out!

John says:
Hello Norman Clement

Thank you for taking the time to write and since you posted this comment, I have actually reached the dizzying heights of 28,000 likes. However, you are right, Carnival’s FB page has two million followers and they set the tone, of course. I don’t think I have ever tried to “ram down our throats” anything except that I am here to help and provide you with some fun and insights as to what goes on here at Carnival. I thank you for your four cruises and hope there will be many more with us. I do also appreciate all the people who read my writing both here and on Facebook and to call them “sick” is pointless and I shall treat that with the contempt it absolutely deserves.

John

Greg Pearson asked:
John,

We recently got back from our second cruise on Carnival Liberty. Our first was with you in the Med. All 11 of us really enjoyed the cruise. The 2.0 was great! We all loved Guy’s burgers, some more than others, our son-in-law had at least one a day, if not more. Just wanted to say KEEP IT UP CARNIVAL!!! By the way, as an ex-staffer on ships, I wanted to tell you something that made me proud to be a Carnival faithful. Wilaiwan in the coffee shop (on Lido) told me how she and basically all the crew love working for Carnival! Wilaiwan is from Thailand and really deserves a thank you from you and the beards! What a great recommendation for Carnival for one of your crew to make that kind of a comment. We’ll be back as soon as we can!!

Thanks, John

John says:
Hello Greg Pearson

What a wonderful post and well done, Wilaiwan, for those wonderful words, words I am hearing more and more from our wonderful crew. I am so glad you had fun and that you all enjoyed those amazing burgers and that this means we will see you all again very soon. I will send this to the ship and I know they will be thrilled.

Best wishes to you all.

John

Burgess asked:
Hey John!

Seems to be a pretty crazy amount of comments on your Facebook page and on certain blogs today…I wonder why!?!?! Everyone must be debating the Euro 2012 matches… Anyways, me and my family are planning on going on the Carnival Breeze Jan. 13, 2013! We are so pumped…will you be the cruise director on that one or do you know yet? I sure hope so! It’s one of the reasons why we are booking it!

John says:
Hello Burgess

Another bit of proof of how behind I am here as obviously the Euros are over. Spain won. England was crap. Same old story. I won’t be the CD on your cruise but I will be there to prepare the Bloggers Cruise and get everything ready so I will see you for sure. If there is anything I can do, please let me know.

Best wishes and see you soon.

John

Sharon asked:

When will I be able to book spa & excursions for a 03/2013 cruise?

John says:
Hello Sharon

The website is updated constantly and you should see the excursions and some spa appointments available by year’s end for sure. If you have specific questions, please let me know what ship you are sailing on and I will do my best to help you. Have a great cruise.

Best wishes.

John

Paul Quentaro asked:

Why do you insist on defending smokers? They are killers, each and every one of them and not just killing themselves but others around them as well. I am on the first cruise on Carnival Breeze when the boat gets to Miami and have eight days with my family which I paid lots of money for. Why should I be forced to be spending the cruise worrying if I might live with lung cancer! Carnival should make all their ships non-smoking and ban those who would kill a generation.

John says:
Hello Paul Quentaro

I see that you have very strong feelings on this and I am glad you have taken the time to write to me. Carnival Breeze has only one area of the casino where smoking is allowed and, that aside, the rest of the inside of the ship is non-smoking. Smoking is only allowed on the port side of the Lanai and on deck 11 and on all balconies except in spa cabins. This means that, for the most part, you will not come into contact with smokers. It is not easy to keep both smokers and non-smokers happy but we continue to try to do so. And I should point out that most of the major lines realise we have to provide for smokers in some areas of the ships which is why none have 100 percent non-smoking ships. You will love the ship and I know you will have a brilliant time. If there is anything I can do for you and the family, please let me know.

Best wishes.

John

William Cassada asked:
Hello John,

I have a question about the Carnival Loyalty Program…not so much a question about the new changes but more about a specific issue. I am a Platinum cruiser… (89 cruise days under my belt!) but my wife is a fairly new cruiser. Under the new system, she is in the “red” category. So here is my question: When we cruise on the Carnival Breeze Nov 24, I know I will receive an invitation to the Red/Gold/Platinum VIFP cocktail party, but she will not. How does this work, will she be able to attend as my guest (spouse) or not? Thanks in advance for addressing this question.

John says:
Hello William Cassada

Yes, indeed, please feel to bring her if she is in the same cabin as you. It will be a pleasure to have you both there and if there is anything else I can do for you before you cruise, please let me know.

Best wishes to you both.

John

Lucille OConnor asked:

We have a group of seven going on the Carnival Conquest at the end of August. Some reviewers have stated that it is foolish to book the Carnival Conquest because it is going into drydock soon for improvements and no real maintenance is being done on it. I am concerned about the quality of these ships directly prior to refurbishment.

John says:
Hello Lucille O’Conner

Simply, please ignore the few. The end. Lucille, you will have a great time, you deserve this vacation and you will have the best of times on a great ship that is in perfect order and that has a dedicated and friendly crew ready to serve and entertain you. Opinions are just that and I will be talking more about this in a moment. The most important thing is that you go ready to have fun because if you do……that’s exactly what you will have.

Best wishes.

John

That’s all for today and now it is time to meet another one of our cruise directors. She is someone who has made the Carnival Fantasy her home for the last few years and she is ……. Risa Barnes.

I was born in Columbia, Missouri, but raised my entire life in South Carolina. I started with Carnival Cruise Lines in November of 1996 on Carnival Destiny as a coffee girl and found my following and desire for the entertainment department by watching John Heald. After one year, John helped me join the entertainment team and life was great. I learned so much by watching not only John Heald, but also amazing hosts and other cruise directors and when I realized there were no female cruise directors at that time, I was determined to get to that position one day! I was promoted to cruise director in November 2003 and it’s has been a dream come true every day since. I love what I do when it comes to getting people to smile, relax and get involved in the fun. There is no better feeling than helping people truly enjoy their time away from home and make them feel like they are part of our family. It is true what they say that if you do what you love you will love your job and I am happy to say I DO!

Risa is one of the kindest people you will ever meet and her personality is such that by the end of the cruise, you will feel like she is your best friend. Thanks, Risa, and congratulations on all you have achieved.

Obviously I have been concentrating on the Carnival Breeze and the ports she has been visiting but slowly my attention is turning to 2013 and my schedule. I have the Bloggers Cruise 6 (have you booked yet?) and the some weeks to decide where I will be before I head to the Carnival Legend and her 2013 European season. I am obviously looking forward to returning to the Baltic and I am very excited to cruise around the UK but I am equally looking forward to Carnival’s first voyage to the Norwegian fjords. I have always wished that Carnival would send a ship to the Norwegian fjords ever since my friends, the Bentleys, did this on a Seabourn ship a couple of years ago and said it was simply stunning. And indeed that is exactly what Norway is. And while I have never been to the fjords, I have been to Oslo and that was a brilliant place to see.

They say that Norway is one of the best places to live in Europe with one of the highest standards of living in the world. However, it is cold and you spend all winter being frozen to death and all summer realizing that you live in one of the most jaw droppingly awesome places on earth. In the world we live in, there are many uncertainties, but one thing we all relay on is that without fail, the sun will set and day will become night. But in Norway, from the end of April to the middle of September, night is like turning your living room dimmer switch down a wee bit and in the month of June, it doesn’t happen at all. It’s the most bizarre feeling to have it as bright at 4 am as it was at 4 pm. Then, in the winter, well, blink and you will miss daylight which lasts just two hours. That means there is nothing to do but drink…..and boy can they drink.

But the Norwegians are not the biggest drinkers, no, for that you need to go to their next door neighbors, the Finnish. Their motto is that it is no use drinking the odd glass of beer now and then — it is like it is in Norway, too expensive and a waste of time. So why not enjoy 30 beers and two bottles of vodka? Finnish people are the nicest most professional people in the world, but come the weekend, they turn into binge-drinking nutters who would fill Coke bottles up with nine parts vodka and one part Coke…and that was to drink on the bicycle ride home ……. some were so pissed (that’s the British pissed) that they rode home on their bikes…. backwards.

The Norwegians are different than us in other ways. Take the sauna. Norwegians love the sauna and most of them use saunas every day and not just at home. Most companies provide a café maybe a vending machine and a water cooler but in Norway, most companies ignore these and instead make sure every office has a sauna and instead of starting the day with a skinny crapafrapacino and a bagel, the average Norwegian office worker starts the day naked, sitting in a sauna talking to Mr. Thor Bigthingyven from accounting and, yes…..they are naked. Some of you are for sure going “yuccckkk” right now and some of you are planning your immediate move to Norway. Anyway, it’s going to be brilliant sailing to Norway and have a look at this itinerary which you have to say………….looks absolutely brilliant.

September 1, 2013 – Carnival Legend
London (Dover), England
Fun Day at Sea
Alesund, Norway
Bergen, Norway
Stavanger, Norway
Fun Day at Sea
Oslo, Norway
Fun Day at Sea
Hamburg, Germany
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Zeebrugge (Brussels), Belgium
Le Havre (Paris), France
London (Dover), England

There are other exciting voyages on Carnival Legend and I will be talking about them over the coming weeks. I hope some of you will be joining me.

Back here on Carnival Breeze, it continues to be a challenging cruise. At 4,515 guests, this is the largest passenger count we have had and, for the most part, the ship and her crew are handling this extremely well. In Europe, with mostly late departure times from port, we usually have the majority of guests wanting to eat either on late sitting or on YTD so they can enjoy the maximum time in port and not have to rush back for dinner. So this cruise we have 1,604 guests on YTD (Your Time Dining or anytime dining, as some call it) and it is very busy indeed. Our maître d’s were telling me that out of the 1,604 on YTD at least 50% come to the dining room to eat at what we call prime time which is 7:30pm – 8:30pm. This means that there are longer waits then you will ever find in the Caribbean or on shorter cruises but with 800 or more guests coming in at that time, there is going to be some wait time for sure. This cruise, so far, it is between 10 and 30 minutes which is not what we want and not something as I said that is usual. But this month is the busiest month of the European season with kids out of school and families vacationing together and at the end of August, the guest count drops to 3,800 and the wait time at YTD will return to normal with very little or no wait time.

One thing that is disappointing this cruise is since we sailed, the Thrill Theatre has been out of service. The last people to use it were Carnival Corporation Chairman and CEO Micky Arison and Miami HEAT President Pat Riley and their lovely wives. They had a brilliant time and after they left we closed it again and when we came to turn it back on for the guests later that day ……..we didn’t even get 1D let alone 5D. I am not sure what they did in there but they broke it…….I am blaming Coach Riley as he has a beard! Seriously, the problem is electronic or something and we are waiting for a spare part which was flown in yesterday so, this morning, we should be back to full working order and I am waiting for word on that from the engineers. The Thrill Theatre has been a huge hit with the guests and it will be good to have it back.

Obviously, we have had complaints from guests about this but that has come as no surprise and just before I continue with this next bit of the blog, let me say this. Carnival Cruise Lines is not a perfect company, we make mistakes and we work hard to improve. But each and every week on our ships, people complain. And they do on Royal and NCL and Princess and Seabourn and and and and….. Yep, having spent 26 years at sea, I think I am in a position to say that some of our guests will always find something to complain about and, when they do, we listen and we learn and help.

But in the cruise industry, I think it’s fair to say that people tend to complain a bit more. Again, not just at Carnival, but industry wide. I know this because I see it live on the ships and yet that’s a small fraction, isn’t it because now we have the Internet. The average guest may still be reluctant to talk about a complaint face-to-face with someone on the ship, but social networking, Facebook, Twitter, Funville and this blog have made complaining easy and sometimes I think the complaining is out of control.

The fact is there are situations where complaining is pointless and inadvisable. For example, last cruise, I saw a guest having a right old moan at a bartender about the walk from the ship to the Vaporetto station in Venice. Yes, it was a bit long due to where we docked but why give a bartender a hard time when he is obviously powerless to actually get anything changed? It’s pointless! Look, I used a “!” and I never use a “!” unless I really want to stress a point.

Moaning at the bartender about the Vaopretto service in Venice is as pointless as me complaining about rude service to anyone at the airports who works for US Immigration!

In our new world of complaining, I think the most successful companies will continue to be those that respond to customer feedback in a expedient and efficient manner as we are now doing both on the ships with our new guest resolution program and from our newly energised guest service department in Miami. Granted, we can’t please everyone but my concern over complaints is because of comments like this one:

Tina Bagnato asked:
John,

I am booked to cruise on the Magic for our first cruise ever. I have read lots of reviews on ____ ____ and there are so many complaints about the food and slow and unfriendly service. I also read a lot about the ship’s captain refusing to put the stabilizers on and that the ship rocks more than others and now I am worried I will be sea sick. Have I made a mistake in booking this celebration of our 10 years together?

Tina and Michael Bagnato

John says:
Hello Tina

Please don’t worry, you have not made a bad decision but, indeed, you have made a brilliant decision. Carnival Magic is constantly in the top three rated ships in our fleet and has a fantastic crew who will serve you excellent food and provide you with a superb dining experience. As for the question about the captain refusing to turn on stabilizers……..well, that is total nonsense and should be ignored. I wish you both a very happy and fun cruise and many more wonderful years together.

That is one of many like that. Not just about the Carnival Magic and not just from one cruise site either. People are fee to write what they like these days and that’s a good thing because freedom of speech is something I strongly believe in. But with the Internet giving us all the ability to complain even more these days, I do ask that all of us who read reviews on other sites about Carnival do so with an open mind and remember while we are not perfect most reviews are written using anonymous usernames on sites populated by people you would have nothing in common with if you met them. We have continuing improvements to make and yet I am glad that this blog exists and Facebook, too, so that while I can admit to our mistakes and listen to people using their real names tell us what they like and what they didn’t during their cruise ……….I can also help reply to people like Tina Bagnato who I hope now feels better about the cruise vacation she and her husband will soon be taking.

I remain here and on my Facebook page to listen to your reviews, comments and concerns and I promise, if you have signed them using your real name, I will give each and every one of them my full attention backed up by our brilliant guest service departments on board and ashore.

Oh, I do have one complaint, actually, before I go……and that’s about the cost of keeping Breeze, our dog. I now pay a ridiculous $90 a month on dog sodding insurance, that’s nearly as much as it costs to insure my car per month. I will tell you what, if Breeze has to go in for surgery, I would bloody well insist on him having a private room with flowers and chocolates, a Latvian nurse and doggy-porn TV channels.

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.