January 16, 2013 -

John Heald

Occasionally, I get to use this blog to write my own personal opinions, not just about cruising but about what’s happening in the world. Last night I had quite a heated discussion with some guests who are bloggers and have booked a back-to-back cruise here. It wasn’t about food or Faster to the Fun or the Cheers bar program or my underpants, but rather about Lance Armstrong who, as you know, will appear on Her Royal Highness Oprah Winfrey’s show.

The people I was discussing this with were on his side and had very firm beliefs about what he had — or in this case, had not done. To them, Lance Armstrong was simply the best. Now they admitted that this certainly did not justify what he did. Their argument was that everyone knew that the sport of cycling was rife with drug taking yet the public seemed OK with that and enjoyed watching these chaps in spandex so tight their gentleman’s sausage crossed the finishing line two minutes before they did.  A sort of hear no evil, see no evil, I guess.

Me, I feel differently to them and that’s what we discussed last night at the Ocean Plaza. This is about a sportsman who gains advantage, fame and loads of money from taking performance enhancing drugs. I read this morning that Oprah stated that, “He had not come clean in the way she expected.”

Well, if that is true and I know we haven’t seen the interview yet, but if it is what happened then I am afraid is, to me, the icing on the cake. He will then be going on Oprah to appear very much the victim as to explain his reasons for taking the drugs in the first sodding place. I am sure his battle with cancer will be pushed forward too, as a means for us to feel sorry for him and his charity work to make his wealth justifiable.

Personally, I feel he should not be given any voice whatsoever. Let his charity survive and help those with the terrible disease that cancer is but do not let someone who has gained so much, by cheating, get away with it and be seen as a victim. I wonder how many people who proudly wore his yellow bracelet to support cancer victims have now thrown it in the recycling bin?

OK, that’s me off my soap box and back in my underpants ready to answer your questions. Here we go.

Vincent Espinosa says:
Carnival is seriously lacking in providing a good cruise experience for the thousands of Spanish- speaking passengers who live in South Florida. Other cruise lines offer Spanish-speaking activities and shows and announcements about what is happening are all made in Spanish but not on Carnival. There will be soon a referendum which will make the official language in Miami Spanish and maybe that will mean Carnival will finally wake up and realise the thousands of passengers who are refusing to sail Carnival because they don’t bring anything to the Spanish speaking guests.

John says:
Hello Vincent Espinosa,
Thanks so much for voicing your opinion and I understand that there are many Spanish-speaking guests who sail with us from Miami. However, there are many who also speak English and who I think truly appreciate the product. For example, here on the Carnival Breeze, this cruise we have a Latin duo that has been most popular with many guests, Spanish speaking or not. We also offer menu translations and provide assistance in Spanish at the guest services desk. We are though an English speaking cruise line and our shows and activities are for the most part in English although we do have some in Spanish on our ship that sails from Puerto Rico. I hope you do come and join us and I am sure if you do, you will have fun.

Best wishes.

Kelli Parco asks:
Hello John,
I had sent you a question a couple weeks ago and never got a reply? It was regarding my fears with the negative comments from Carnival Breeze passengers on Cruise Critic? This is a HUGE upcoming trip for us (April 13) and I guess I was looking for answers and reassurance. With that said I’m holding on to my intuition, that this will be a wonderful cruise. If you find this email I sent to you, please reply.

John says:
Hello Kelli Parco,
I am so pleased you wrote to me because it gives me the chance to put your mind at ease. There are some on Cruise Critic who feel that their opinion is fact when in reality it is just an opinion. Let me tell you that the ship is fantastic and for every one negative comment, I can show you many more positive ones like this one just posted to me yesterday.

One friend packed her passport in her luggage. Carnival met me at her cabin and thankfully her luggage was already there. The gentleman took the passport and got it to the terminal. The swiftness on their part eliminated a lot of anxiety. John assured us that the partitions on our balconies would be opened and they were. Gave us a big porch to watch the activities in port and at sea. (Thanks, John!!)

The ship itself is gorgeous inside and out. I remember walking up to her returning from an excursion in Grand Turk, and we went, “Wow! She is beautiful!” She really sparkles. 🙂 I want to thank our cabin steward, I Wayan, for his attention and care during this cruise. Three of our people became ill when the sea was rough and he attended them like a nurse! He made a special towel animal for one. Made sure they had everything they needed. He should have special mention on the ship!

More honorable mentions: In the dining room our waiters were also fabulous! Food was never cold. Some was a bit too hot actually (not a complaint). The service was not slow. While Ken Byrne was talking to us at the table, one friend threw up. No reflection on Ken. Thankfully she was at the end – our waiters were there to assist her and the mess was quickly cleaned up. We were waited on by Kazimierz, Ivaylo, and the female whose name escapes me (she is this month’s employee of the month). The music in all areas was good, but particularly in the MDR with my new friend Ken “The Voice” Byrne. The cruise virgins with me loved it and were already talking about the next cruise before we ever left the ship. There is so much I could say but I do not want to bore anyone. Haha!

If I had it to do again (and I do) I would take this ship again, but for a longer stretch of time. My home port, however, is Galveston, and Lady Magic will do just fine until I can plan another trip out of Miami on the Brilliant Breeze.

That was one of five fantastic reviews of the ship I received yesterday alone. So there you go Keli, just one of the many, many brilliant reviews of the Carnival Breeze and I know for sure you will have the best of times.

Best wishes.

Diana Gatapado asks:
Hi John,
we want to thank you for making our cruise so special. I had told you that my DH had just returned from his second deployment with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan and how we needed this special time together. The table for two you arranged for us was perfect and our server Svetlana was so sweet and made us very welcome each night. The crew of the Carnival Magic is amazing and everyone was so nice and I must mention James the director who read the letter I sent you on his television show and there were four wet eyes in cabin 6340. The gifts you sent made it more special and not seeing my husband for seven long months meant this cruise was exactly what we needed. I know you get lots of rude comments and demands but I hope this shows how much we appreciated what you did for us. Thank you, John.

John says:
Hello Diana Gatapado,
Well I am truly humbled by this and I want to thank you so much for this wonderful post. My thanks to James for following up with the requests I had asked for and I am so glad you both had some quality time and some fun together. I wish you both continued happiness and hope we see you again soon.

Best wishes.

John Wilson asks:
Has Carnival ever considered a ship that’s kid-free? Our last cruise on the Carnival Elation was ruined by hundreds of little terrorists running, shouting and causing mayhem. It has put us off cruising so you should consider a kid free cruise for the many like me who do not want to be around them!

John says:
Hello John Wilson,
I am sorry to read this and I am sure that, for the most part, the kids were having fun. But I understand sailing with children is not everyone’s cup of tea and while we will have no plans to have an adults-only ship, there are times during the year when the kid count is low. This is usually during school terms, of course, so I hope you will consider this. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Best wishes and I do hope to see you soon.

Andrea Olgun asks:
Can you tell me if the maitre d’ called George the Greek is still working? We had him twice on our cruises and he made each night in the dining hall so much fun. What ship is he on and can you answer quickly so we can consider booking a cruise where he is at!

John says:
Hello Andrea Olgun,
I am sorry to say that George retired recently and we all miss him very much. Please let me know if you have any other questions and hope you get to book a cruise and have some Carnival fun soon.

Best wishes.

Pat Bettencourt asks:
Our cruise on Carnival Breeze is rapidly approaching and it will be our 30th wedding anniversary. Our booking number is ******and my request is for a table for two and for you to send us something to celebrate this momentous occasion. We are Platinum and will be in 7308.

John says:
Hello Pat Bettencourt,
Well this is perfect timing as I see you sail next cruise and I have asked the maître d’ to do his best to get you a table for two and I will indeed send you a little something to wish you a very happy anniversary.

Best wishes and have a wonderful cruise.

Sarah Reinke asks:
Hello John,
Your writing style is fabulously entertaining, and I always enjoy reading your thoughts. I am a self-employed musician and music teacher who must cruise frequently worldwide to get all of her sunning, dancing, and martinis in — plus regain her patience. Patience sometimes runs short when dealing with the general public, and yet the job (whatever it is) must be done in a hospitable manner. This seems to be effortless for you (hopefully you have a team of writers dealing with the rude/impossible questions) and I wondered if there is a book, homeopathic (or not) remedy, mantra, exercise, or something else entirely that you utilize to remain so pleasant when dealing with difficult individuals. You rock!

John says:
Hello Sarah Reinke,
What a wonderful post, Sarah, and first of all let me congratulate you on the brilliant job you do as a teacher educating the young people to enjoy the fantastic world of music. I really don’t have a book or anything as such that I go by and I guess all I ever do is try to stay calm and realise that whatever happens that, for the most part, it isn’t personal and that sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. OK, there are times when I forget this and it does get to me but for the most part I keep calm………and carry on. I wish you continued success and happiness and if there is anything I can ever do for you, please do let me know.

Best wishes.

Elvira Jones asks:
Hello John,
We had the pleasure to be with you on the Carnival Breeze from Barcelona to Miami in November 2012. It was such a great experience to see you and Calvyn in the morning show. When you both had to go, the cruise was not the same anymore. How do we know on which ship you gonna sail in the future (so we know what to book)? Greetings from Germany

John says:
Hello Elvira Jones,
It was a wonderful voyage and I am so glad you had fun. This summer, we will both be on the Carnival Legend in the Baltic and I hope we see you there. If there is any more information I can give you please let me know and thanks, danke schon, for the very kind words.

Best wishes.

Georgette Ford asks:
I am set to sail on my 10th cruise. I have been looking forward to being platinum since I got engaged on the Carnival Ecstasy five years ago. We fell in love with cruising! Anyway, I am swamped at work but when the platinum guidelines changed, I knew I had to be grandfathered in to the old platinum guidelines, so we booked a quick cruise on February 7 (room 6221- Todd and Georgette Ford) to make my platinum before the June deadline (although I heard that might even be extended). Anyway, when my travel agent was booking, she tried to talk to several different
Carnival representatives because no one knew how to get me on the ship with my platinum status. Finally, someone told her although I will still receive a gold card, I can go up to the platinum line at customs in Galveston and just tell them this is my platinum cruise and to let
me in. But all of my paperwork says gold member so I am nervous about this. My hubby is thinking Carnival is for sure going to screw this up for us….I don’t want that to happen…this is a big deal to us and I want this first platinum experience to go smoothly the minute we reach the port.

Please tell me what, if anything, I can do to make sure they have me as being platinum when I get to the port check in. According to my travel agent, she was also told when I got on the ship, I could go change my card from gold to platinum but they would honor me through customs. I just am worried this is not going to work. I want to first prove my husband wrong and, secondly, I want to enjoy this first platinum experience by skipping that ridiculous line! Please help me if you can!!!! By the way, we sailed with you on the Carnival Magic on its first run out of Galveston…great meeting you although I still am bummed I still haven’t gotten to see Costa Maya! Was so excited to have a new port thrown in, then those darn rudders screwed it all up!!!! Anyway, any help you can give me to make sure I am platinum when I arrive at port, I would love!!!!

John says:
Hello Georgette Ford,
Thanks for writing and please do not worry, you will show GOLD in the system but your boarding pass should say PLATINUM and you will receive a Platinum card when you board the ship. Everything looks fine. I wish you a brilliant cruise and please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope we get to sail together again very soon and thanks so much for your amazing loyalty.

Best wishes.

Jeff Moore asks:
Hi John,
Would love to go on the Bloggers Cruise with you but I have to ask for time off from my job well in advance. When will you announce the dates for the Bloggers Cruise 7 in 2014 if there will be one?

John says:
Hello Jeff Moore,
It would have been great to see you here but hopefully you will be able to join me next year. I will announce the cruise next week so please stand by for that and hope to see you soon.

Best wishes.

And that’s your lot for today. So everything is set for the Bloggers Cruise even though it was a stressful day scheduling everything I wanted to do so as not to disturb the regular entertainment and activity schedule for the rest of the ship. Here are some of the private activities the bloggers will enjoy:

• A welcome aboard party with complimentary cocktails
• A morning Q&A session with me answering all the questions they have, rather like a live version of the blog and Facebook Q&A
• A Q&A session with the captain, chief engineer and hotel director
• Three private tea times where we will have the forward dining room, upper level for tea and cream cake and some fun with me and Calvyn
• Two private performances of Hasbro, The Game Show
• A live version of the Morning Show with Calyvn and me
• A bloggers-only version of Superstar Live Karaoke
• A private photo seminar and photo contest with Mr. Radu
• Cigars Under The Stars featuring some cigar tips from me with the aft section of deck 10 reserved for us and featuring some wonderful hors d’ oeurves and conversation and long ashes.
• Comedy performances by handpicked comedians Al Ernst, Percy Crews, Mutzie and Tommy Drake who will also help me and have fun with the bloggers all cruise long
• Three different in-cabin gifts including a T-shirt at the end of the cruise
• A farewell cocktail party with complimentary drinks and food
• Performances of the marriage show and, hopefully, the bedtime story for the entire ship and daily video updates here on the blog thingy.

I will be announcing Bloggers Cruise 7 next week and will let you all know what’s happening about that and of course…………….I hope you will join me.

As you know, I am a dog owner and Breeze, the German shepherd, is now very much part of our lives. When I am home, it is my job to walk him three times a day which I actually enjoy, especially the night time one because I get to smoke a cigar along the way. I have now become accustomed to picking up Breeze’s poo but it seems many dog owners in the UK don’t bother.

Every morning, on my walks with Breeze, I encounter at least three brand new turds on my side of the street alone, glistening in the sun. One morning, just before I flew here to the Carnival Breeze it was very frosty and there were layers of turd interleaved with the layers of frost like some poo-flavored crème brulee. And the thaw brought hourly uncoverings of newly revealed hound crap, kept fresh by the sub-zero temperatures, the goodness sealed in, the scent released gradually over the days.

But the joys of dog ownership are overall something I am really enjoying and the fact that Breeze is a German shepherd whose bark alone would scare of any would be house invader it gives me great comfort to know Heidi and Kye have some protection while I am away. Yep, dog ownership is fun, interesting and you certainly do become attached to them.

We have a dog on board this week — it’s a service dog for a blind guest whose name is Peter……….. the dog’s name is Charlie. I have sailed with Peter before, in fact this cruise is his 14th with Carnival and Charlie is also a Platinum dog……….I wonder if he is the only one? I always enjoy speaking to Peter and Victoria his lovely wife of 41 years. The bond between Peter and Charlie is extraordinary. It’s not just about getting him from A to B but so much more. This can range from the most obvious, such as avoiding obstacles, to ensuring that Peter is not going to fall down steps, walk into oncoming traffic or when he is on the ship making sure he can walk safely down a busy Promenade deck. Even in the case of the most basic of these roles, however, it is impossible. I think, to overrate the value of what a dog contributes to Peter’s life.

Last night I sat with Peter and Victoria for a while in the Ocean Plaza. The band was playing and people were dancing and having fun yet none of this bothered Charlie who was fast asleep under his master’s chair. These are sad times though for Peter and Victoria because this will be Charlie’s last cruise because at the age of nine years he is going to be retiring, his legs are tired and for safety reasons, Peter knows he has to get a new service dog.

Peter told me with much emotion just how much he will miss Charlie who will be retiring to a home for service dogs in his home state of Iowa. This is not the first time he has had to do this as Peter has been blind since he was two years old as a result of a rare genetic disease. Peter has given Charlie a wonderful life and, of course, Charlie has done the same for Peter. I cannot imagine how hard it will be for Peter to say goodbye to his faithful friend……yep, in Peter’s case a dog truly is man’s best friend.

Butch the incomparable cruise director here on the Carnival Breeze and his entertainment staff threw a brilliant deck party last night……one of the very best I have ever seen. It was RedFrog’s Caribbean Beach party, one of our Fun Ship 2.0 parties and later in the cruise it will be BlueIguana’s turn. Butch was up there leading the fun, dancing in skin tight shorts that showed he had a bottom that could surely crack a massive walnut with no trouble at all. Butch is without doubt at the top of the cruise director tree and he is also the leader of the pack of metrosexual CD’s who are a little too well-versed in moisturizers and “product” for their hair.

Who can blame them, though? Look at their role models. Things have gone so far and so girly that James Bond has succumbed. Where Sean Connery was a rumpy pumpy addicted beefy playboy, Daniel Craig is a tofu-eating, relationship-loving GQ model, who at the end of Skyfall, actually cried real tears. Oh FFS!

So, I am off to fart, pick my nose, wear the same underpants I wore yesterday and the day before because I am …………..a real man.

Your friend,

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.