Fat people like me never really think about how fat they are unless they are presented with an economy-class seat or have to buy clothes from a store that doesn’t have the words Big or Mighty in its name. With small people, things are different. They think about their height all the time. This gives them what doctors call SMS…….small man syndrome. At parties, they feel excluded from conversations as they wander around banging their heads on coffee tables. On busy subway trains they feel bullied. And when shopping for clothes, they quickly become fed up with being directed to Baby Gap. This is why a vertically challenged psychic/”professional medium” guest is so upset, that and the fact that I refused him permission to set up in a lounge and hold “readings and contact” sessions. I listened to him, spoke respectfully to him and yet there was no way I was ever going to let him sit in the Ocean Plaza and try and contact the dead. Can you imagine the Fun Times:

  • 8:30pm – 10:00pm – Dance Music with the Cool Breeze Band – Ocean Plaza
  • 10:00pm – 11:00pm – Karaoke Fun with Alex – Ocean Plaza
  • 11:00pm – Late Contact Your Dead Relatives – Ocean Plaza

I have to be a bit careful, obviously, because this chap is a paying guest and yet ever since my refusal to let him do this he has written letters, called the beards in Miami and demanded a meeting with the captain and each time he has done so by shouting out loud, wagging his finger in the knee of anyone who will listen. When I spoke to him, he told me that he could do a show for the passengers where he would contact Michael Jackson. No kids, I am not making this up, that is what he said, he wanted to do a presentation where he would channel and contact Michael Jackson. Now I am not doubting this man’s abilities because, let’s face it, I know nothing about this kind of thing. Yes, I have my own beliefs but I can’t totally dismiss it as my understanding of what mediums and psychics do is limited. I do know that they apparently don’t have much of a sense of humour. I know this because when he suggested he did this for the guests, I mentioned that Michael Jackson didn’t do interviews and lived in a mansion with roadblocks and security everywhere and the chances of him becoming more communicative after death and him saying hello to everyone on the Carnival Breeze, were probably not good. He didn’t laugh.

Let’s crack on with today’s Q and A………….but the psychics amongst you knew I was going to say that………..didn’t you?

Sarah asked:
Hi John!

I’m about to go on my sixth cruise with Carnival (on the Carnival Legend, leaving Nov. 25) along with my roommates, one will be on his 11th Carnival cruise and the other on his second! I just read something about an all-you-can-drink package being piloted on the Carnival Victory, and I was wondering if that will end up on the Carnival Legend anytime soon? I would love to know ahead of time how much to budget for drinking, and this program would do just that. Any information you could provide would be great!

Thanks so much!

John says:
Hello Sarah,

Yes, the all-inclusive program is currently being tested on Carnival Splendor, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Victory. It is still in the pilot phase right now but as and when I hear anything about it heading to other ships, I will, of course, let you know. I wish you a wonderful cruise and if there is anything I can do for you, please let me know.

Best wishes.

John

Ivana asked:

Are there any height restrictions for the Thrill Theatre on Carnival Breeze? I have a 5 1/2 year old, not sure if she’s tall enough.

John says:
Hello Ivana,

There is no height restriction but we have a rule that says infants and toddlers have to sit on the parents’ lap. Now I think your 5 1/2 year old will be fine but I should mention that while it is loads of fun some of the seat movements can be quite jarring and sudden so please just bear that in mind. Let me know if you have any other questions. Best wishes and have a brilliant cruise.

John

Victor Hess asked:

We are booked to cruise on the Carnival Fantasy but are very worried at the reviews on Cruise Critic that say the boat is not as good as the others and is old and the reviews are generally bad. This is our first ever cruise and we are now worried we may have made a big mistake in booking this. I have started reading this blog and so ask you to please set our fears aside. Thank you.

John says:
Hello Victor Hess,

I guess it would be easy for me to say that you should ignore the reviews on Cruise Critic as reviews are only personal experiences and opinions and never reflect the opinions of the masses. Instead, I will simply say this. Carnival Fantasy is a brilliant ship and has a brilliant crew. How do I know this? Well, she was voted by those guests who cruised on her last month as the number one ship in the Carnival fleet and that, more than anything, I can say, should show you just what a brilliant time you are going to have. Please let me know if you need anything and I am sure that following this, other blog readers who have sailed on the Carnival Fantasy will let you know their experiences. I know you will have the most wonderful time.

Best wishes.

John

Paul Feltz asked:

During my cruise on the Carnival Triumph BKG# ****** I went to the show on elegant night and sat in chewing gum. I complained to the front desk and they had my pants washed for me but the pants are ruined. I then went back to the desk and complained again and asked that I be reimbursed for the $175 my suit pants cost but was told that I would have to speak to the head office of Carnival. This should have been taken care of on board but I have written and called and so far I have received nothing but excuses. This situation must be resolved and I have already told my travel agent not to recommend Carnival because of this. Await your immediate response.

Paul Feltz

John says:
Hello Paul Feltz,

This is one of the reasons we don’t sell chewing gum on board and I am so sorry that there was chewing gum on the seat that you sat in. I will forward to the appropriate individuals at our Miami offices and I do hope that despite this, you had a great time and I am sorry that this happened. Hopefully, your travel agent will know that this is an isolated incident and not let it affect his or her decision in recommending the fun that a Carnival cruise will bring their clients.

Best wishes.

John

Anna Ramondo-Schildkraut asked:

Just heard about the My Awesome Bar Program starting on the Carnival Victory …$42.95 + gratuity was mentioned but nothing about if it’s for the day or the whole cruise…can you please send more info? Thank you!

John says:
Hello Anna Ramondo-Schildkraut,

Yes indeed, the all inclusive program is currently on Carnival Victory, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Splendor and offers guests an opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of wine, beer, and spirits, along with sodas and non-alcoholic frozen cocktails, throughout the voyage at one convenient, flat rate. All wines by the glass, beer and individual cocktails priced $10 and lower are available within the program. Full bottles of wine and champagne, as well as wines by the glass, beers and individual cocktails priced above $10, are available at a 25 percent discount. Guests can sign up for the “My Awesome Bar Program” at the atrium and casino bars, as well as a bar within the main pool area. Each guest aged 21 years and over in the same stateroom must purchase the beverage package. Guests must be 21 years or older to consume alcohol on Carnival ships. The cost for the program is $42.95 per person per day, plus a 15 percent gratuity. I hope this explains everything and if you have more questions please let me know.

Best wishes.

John

Abram asked:
John,

I recently returned from a five-day cruise to Mexico from New Orleans. I went with me my fiancée and her family. They have cruised before but it was my first time. I just have to say that it was an absolutely amazing time. I enjoyed everything from the food to the shows to just sitting and enjoying the view of the ocean. One of the ports getting stormed out couldn’t even touch the good mood I was in. I must compliment the crew, several of which knew me by name only two days in. My fiancée and I have discussed possibly getting married on one of your cruises. Whether or not that happens we both look forward to a lifetime of cruising. I’m about to start nursing school and would love to serve as medical staff on a ship someday. Thank you again to everyone at Carnival and we hope to cruise with you someday!

John says:
Hello Abram,

What a wonderful post and even with bad weather in one of the ports, I see what a positive attitude you had which led of course to you having a fantastic cruise. I will pass on your kind words and I wish you much luck at nursing school. I hope we do see you again one day soon.

Best wishes.

John

Janice asked:

Hi…..we have booked our first Carnival cruise for August 2013….any way I can find out who the cruise director will be…..hopefully YOU!!!! LOL

John says:
Hello Janice,

I hope so too and will have the CD schedule update in November and it will be posted here of course. Thanks so much and I wish you the most brilliant cruise.

Best wishes.

John

Terri Hunley asked:
Dear Mr. Heald,

I just returned from a five-day on the Carnival Triumph with my daughter. As usual we had a great time. It was her first cruise. She is 35 and had quite the rocky road of life, so I was so happy to have given her this trip. I have heard that you sometimes pass along to higher ups comments on certain staff members and am hoping this is true. We did the Behind the Fun tour (my third) and seemed no one was engaging with our guide from human resources, a man whose name I will prob. butcher, but sounds like Chevits? My daughter and I tried to help him out by asking as many questions as possible and cracking jokes with him as he looked a little bewildered by the others’ silence. He tried so hard to engage everyone to little avail! OK, the point of this is that he made every effort and at the end, thanked us for trying to loosen up the other guests. He went to a great deal of trouble to find us later as my daughter made a comment that I had tried, unsuccessfully, many times to win a coveted ship on a stick! And low and behold he tracked me down and gave me one! I was soooo touched that he would go to so much trouble walking all over the ship trying to find me! It made our trip so special. He’s the kindest, funniest, informative employee I’ve run across in eight cruises! Please, if there is any way possible let him know what a great job he does. Thank you very much.

John says:
Hello Terri Hunley,

Thanks so much for this great review and I promise that Chevits or however you spell his name will see these wonderful words as will his boss. It is people like this that make Carnival the cruise line we are today and it is so very kind of you to mention him. I am very glad to read you had such a wonderful time and I hope we see you again very soon.

Best wishes and thanks once again.

John

Susan Jacobs asked:

I used to read your Facebook page despite not being a fan or a Carnival cheerleader. I have stopped now because of the __________ idiots that feel they need to chime in and constantly wave the Carnival flag even when someone dares to say that something sucks. It will be the finish of your Facebook and more and more will leave to other more objective places. Just my two cents.

John says:
Hello Susan Jacobs,

I am sorry you feel this way, really I am, and I hope that you will continue to read my page on Facebook and here on the blog. For the very most part, there is no moderation and opinion is welcome unless of course it becomes a personal attack. I know that not everything Carnival does is perfect and that we make mistakes and I think that this blog and my Facebook page continue to be avenues for reviews, comments and opinions both positive and negative. I could have easily deleted your post, especially as it includes a word I had to delete but the fact that I have posted it hopefully shows that I continue to make this and Facebook a page for everyone. We have reached 30,000 on Facebook now and hopefully this will show that we are doing something right.

Best wishes.

John

Kevin Bell asked:
John,

Please would you help arrange a table for two for my wife and me. I only ask because we have not had much time together these past six months as I have been on deployment with the US Air Force overseas and this will be our belated honeymoon as two days after our wedding, I left for overseas. Thank you, John. We are on the Carnival Valor and our cabin is 2379 and the booking confirmation is ******.

John says:
Hello Kevin Bell,

Of course, I see you are sailing in three weeks’ time and I will send the information to the ship and I am sure they will be able to help you. Thanks so much for your service and I wish you both a wonderful time together and a brilliant cruise.

Best wishes.

John

That’s all for today.

This past Saturday I was attending the Captain’s Celebration here on Carnival Breeze which I have to say needs a bit of reconfiguring as it were, not just here on the Carnival Breeze but other ships as well I am told. Now a lot of this has to do with the free drinks we used to give out which we stopped a few years ago. People would come just for them, of course they did, they were free. But it can’t just have been all about free drinks, could it? One thing that myself and most of my colleagues on other ships have noted is how less and less guests seem to dress up now and those that do, well, a large majority of them, will dress for dinner and then change straight afterwards and spend the rest of the night in more casual clothes……….and who can blame them?

We keep the elegant nights going for two reasons. The first is that there are still many guests who don’t ever have the chance to dress up in their everyday lives and relish the chance then to do so. And the second reason is that people love to have their photos taken all dressed up with their busy and hectic schedules probably don’t have the chance to pause and have a quality family photo taken. You all know my feelings that issuing dress codes on a hard earned vacation is in my opinion a bit misguided. You have paid to spend time on our ships so how can we or any vacation company tell you what to wear. That’s just my opinion and not one necessarily shared by the beards. And as I seem to have slipped into the boring old theme of dress code, I might as well add for the 3,578th time that I never can understand how what someone else is wearing affects the enjoyment of the service and the taste of the food. But, hey, that’s just me.

I am not sure what the answer is. The easy one would be to say bring back free drinks but I seriously doubt that’s going to happen. But we do need to do something to put a sparkle back into it and I will rack my brains trying to see what we can do. I do have one last thought on this and maybe it is due in some part that we took away the captain and senior officers white formal uniform. I understand why we did this when we changed from formal to elegant but having them in blue uniform makes it harder for the guests to tell who the captain is.

You see, from the back, it looks like a blue business suit which was fine when the captain was stationary and posted at the entrance to the lounge, shaking hands, but when he is wandering, people do not realise he is the captain. And, I think the captain should be dressed differently than other management. The white uniforms looked great in photos and truly show that, yes…….he is the master of the vessel. Anyway, I will be chatting with the beards when I go to Miami next week and the captain’s celebration will be one of the things I will talk to them about.

As you know I am very lucky that the Carnival beards allow me to have a personal assistant and over the three years this has happened, I have enjoyed the company and appreciated the hard work of Ugly Craig, Stephanie Ackley and Mel de Dios. Craig is now CD on the Carnival Splendor, Mel is ACD soon on Carnival Triumph and Stephanie is ACD on the Carnival Sensation and all are doing a brilliant job. There are two schools of thought about the role of PAs:…… the first being that their duties should be strictly restricted to fixing appointments, making travel arrangements, screening phone calls, doing e-mails and so on…..the second being that they should assist with anything and everything, up to and including washing my underpants and buying Heidi an anniversary present. I thought, as a man, that I’d be in the former camp, that I’d find it difficult to palm off menial tasks on someone capable of so much more, but by the end of the first day, phrases like “Can you do me a favor?” and “Could you hold on to that?” and “A cup of tea would be nice” were tripping off my tongue as easily as “bugger.”

By the end of day it was taking a considerable amount of effort to resist asking my PA’s to trim my nose hairs and rub Preparation H on my hemorrhoids.

But for me it wasn’t having someone around doing menial tasks that made the real difference. The thing that made the real difference was simply having another human around. You see, I spend a lot of time alone. Yes, there were lots of people around but for most of the time I was working on my own. This is something that makes one prone to taking unnecessary daytime naps, having long, unnecessary conversations with anyone you can, going to bed early, talking to yourself, loneliness and watching reruns of The West Wing. But having a PA is not only an antidote to the isolation, not only does it mean there’s someone around to laugh at my jokes, but, crucially, it forces you to behave sanely. Yep, having a PA to prepare Fun Times, answer e-mails and run the department, so to speak, allows me to be on stage more and helped me be able to bring out a new ship like Carnival Breeze and still have time to blog and update Facebook.

Over the past months, I have written about my current PA, the now infamous Calvyn Shawn Champagne-Martens, but I thought it was time for you to meet him properly and so……..here he is.

Tell us about your journey to Carnival and where you worked before you joined us?

The job that gave me my work ethic was KFC and I give total credit to my manager Tracey Vokins. She empowered me and taught me to always put the coins in the hand before the bills when giving back change. To this day, it drives me crazy when someone hands me back change with coins on top of the bills. Here is a list of my jobs prior to Carnival in the order that they occurred. I was very nervous on my first day as the drive in supervisor. I sat there with my headphones on and the car drew up to the sign to order and I was so nervous, I got my words jumbled up and said “Welcome to Kenfuckyfried Chicken, how can I help you?”

I also had the following jobs.

  • Paper route (routes # 205 and #141- fired)
  • Berry Picker (fired)
  • Dairy Queen – The Mother Ship Was Calling Me Home……… (fired)
  • Subway (fired)
  • KFC
  • Costco (fired)
  • University Radio Host (Calvyn’s Campus Countdown)
  • Petsmart (fired)
  • Braber Equipment (assembly line for power washers – I counted the screws – fired)
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • CM Oliver (processed stock trades – asked to leave)
  • Mackenzie Mutual Funds
  • Club Med (scuba diving instructor, fitness instructor, entertainment)
  • Frito Lay Chip Company (driving a truck – can you picture it? -fired)
  • Holland America Line
  • Chintz & Company Design Firm (designer)
  • Carnival Cruise Lines

My father doesn’t quite understand what it is I do and he tells all his friends that I am a fisherman in Alaska. Yep, he tells them I am on a boat…………catching crabs!!!!

How did you meet John and what was your first impression?

First Impression: Gentle. I had just recently come back to Carnival after a four-year hiatus of “finding myself” and I remember being very nervous because for years I saw his face on our Past Guest Party Video. I heard that he always picks his teams and he’s very loyal to them so I thought that getting a chance to work with him would be next to impossible. So when I heard that he was coming to the Carnival Fantasy where I was working as an entertainment host, I got really excited, but very nervous. Would he like me? Would he think I was obtuse? I will never forget meeting him for the first time. It was at the captain’s party and there were hundreds of guests around. I remember I was speaking with a guest about how much she enjoyed my bean bag tournament that day when I glanced up and saw this man with silver hair in a charcoal pin-striped two-piece suit. He glanced at me and when our eyes met, the band broke into an Air Supply ballad. It was perfect. I am sure he remembers it very differently, but that is my interpretation.

What is your role as John’s PA?

My role is different than his previous assistants. I feel very fortunate that John invites me to share the spotlight with him. So along with his expense reports, travel arrangements, e-mails, running his bath, reading 50 Shades of Grey to him, fielding meetings, running the department, etc., I am also his sidekick which really is not such a bad gig.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

Well after marinating in John’s greatness and absorbing his vast knowledge and stories of experience, my goal is to be a great cruise director in my own right. I also have a dream of winning the lottery and buying Carnival Cruise Lines and demoting him to my assistant.

What’s the biggest challenge in your current job?

Hiding from John. No, in all seriousness deciphering between my friend John and my boss John. The line is very thin and sometimes even non- existent. I definitely come with ideas and sometimes our difference of opinion about our stage work can get quite loud; I forget that at the end of the day he makes the final decision.

How does Calvyn Shawn Champagne Martens like to relax?

Sleep.

What is your favourite Barbra Streisand tune?

There is only one Streisand album I listen to. It was her 1994 Concert CD. I grew up listening to Johnny Rivers on my parents eight track; his song called Mountain of Love brings back memories of my mom driving me and my sisters to swimming lessons in the summer in our brown paneled station wagon. I currently listen to Cat Stevens, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Antony and the Johnsons, Johnny Cash, and James Taylor.

What is your favorite movie?

By far it is Speed 2, and Rambo, and Steel Magnolias, oh and Beaches. John and I often spend the evening watching movies in his cabin. Tonight I want to watch The Avengers movie or the Die Hard trilogy but John is insisting we watch Brokeback Mountain…….again!

Are you in a relationship?

My last serious relationship was with someone called Pat, who was a nurse but quite and is now a long distance truck driver. I have no time for a relationship with my work schedule and John would only get jealous anyway. There are a few people I like here on the Carnival Breeze, there is Sam, oh, and Alex, but John gets so jealous.

If you were stranded on a desert island who would you want to be stranded with – Richard Simmons, Micky Arison or Johnny Depp?

Oh, definitely my silver fox, Mr. Micky Arison …….. but preferably wearing Richard Simmons shorts.

The end.

Calvyn is so many things. He is brilliantly funny, he is hysterical to be with, he dresses like a vagrant and his hair looks like it was washed in the left over grease from Guy’s Burger Joint.

His improv skills are sensational; he is caring, loving and as manly and butch as Elton John’s underpants drawer. He is inspiring and he is loving and he has breath straight from Satan’s arm pit. He is a great friend, he is someone my daughter loves and that in itself shows you what a wonderful person he is. Yep, Calvyn is all these things and if he wants to be…….Calvyn can be an outstanding cruise director and over the next few months, I shall help him achieve this by giving him praise, advice and an occasional foot in his arse. Calvyn Shawn Champagne – Martens is quite simply………….unique.

Goodnight.

Your friends,

John & Calvyn

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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