It seems like ages since I have written a blog. It has been difficult to do so with all the travelling I have been doing and of course it is much easier to find material for the blog when I am on the ship as a cruise director. That was what the blog was always supposed to be, a diary of my life as a CD and, certainly, if I was to ask you I am sure that most would say the stories of life on a cruise ship and tales of disgruntled guests is what you enjoy and the reason the blog now has 16.1 million page views. So at the end of this month, the blog will return to its natural habitat and there will be no doubt lots to share with you as the Carnival Legend heads to Europe.

It is actually easier for me to write blogs when I am a CD, not just material-wise but because on the ship I have a pattern, a time plan. I write early in the morning while most guests are still asleep and dreaming of their next chocolate melting cake, and I write after midnight while guests are in the casino, at the Punchliner Comedy Club or gyrating in the nightclub trying to impress young men whose pants are down by their knees who in turn are being drooled over by flocks of cougars. Yep, I have found a way to balance writing my blog and keeping up with 34,000 people on Facebook as well as making sure I have lots of stage time and am accessible to the guests. Working from home is not so easy. It really isn’t.

Yes, on paper it sounds good. Some think it is a license to take loads of time off to watch The View or re-runs of CSI. Yep, the boss cannot see what you’re doing so you do what you want, have a two-hour lunch break. Take a nap and have mid-afternoon rumpy pumpy. Trust me, it’s all bollocks because I think I work harder and for longer from home than I do when I am on a ship. However, as I sit here in my underpants which, of course, if I did in the Miami HQ, wouldn’t go down too well with Susie in accounting. I can’t help thinking if working from home is the future for many jobs, yes, even yours.

With Eyepads and lap tops in most households these days, it means people can work from anywhere so does location really matter if the job gets done? If Carnival had everyone work from home wouldn’t more work get done? There would be no being stuck in traffic on I-95 , no lunch breaks, bugger all water-cooler gossiping about how Stephanie in marketing has terrible flatulence. And most of all, there is no getting ready in the morning. I get out of bed and waddle in my underpants straight to the computer and not having to dress for success each day would produce another hour’s work for the men and three hours or more for women. “What about meetings,” I hear you cry? Working from home, you couldn’t attend the meetings. “Bloody brilliant,” I say because the world including the world of Carnival has gone meeting mad and if you do insist in having meetings then we have Skype, of course.

I guess though it all comes down to if your boss trusts you to get the job done from home or not. One of the problems is that changing to working at home does mean agreeing to rules on interruptions. There have therefore been no high heels and suspenders moments but it wasn’t for want of trying, but my wife Heidi said the suspenders didn’t suit me, and the high heels were a health and safety issue. Bugger!

Time for some Q and A – let’s crack on

Paul Anthony Clarke asks:
My family and I just returned from the Carnival Pride and had a great time but with one exception and that is smoking. Surely the time has come for smoke-free cruising. We got so tired of walking through the smoky casino to get to the dining room or the Taj Mahal theater. Smoke also contaminated the air in every other bar and lounge, such as in the dining areas on the Lido, and could often be smelled even where the smokers couldn’t be seen. I suppose Carnival thinks people won’t gamble or drink if they can’t smoke. I think they’re wrong. Do everyone a favor, Carnival, and let us sail smoke-free. Smokers are parasites and if we as paying passengers should not have to be enveloped in their death clouds.

John says:
Hello Paul Anthony Clarke,
First of all, I do hope you had a great cruise and thank you also for taking the time to write. Smoking will always be a bone of huge contention and regardless of what we do it is impossible to make everyone happy. That may seem like an excuse but really it isn’t, it is a fact. If we did go totally smoke free we would no doubt lose lots of guests who would go elsewhere for their vacation and it is worth pointing out that none of the major cruise lines have yet to make a ship 100% smoke free. We try to do our best to appease both groups. I know there are sections of the casino where smoking is allowed but for the most part, all the lounges and bars inside are smoke free. There is no simple solution to this so for now, all I can do is apologise to you and hope that we will see you again very soon for another great cruise.
Best wishes.
John

Janet Alman asks:
We just sailed a Christmas cruise on the Carnival Breeze and had so much fun that we want to plan another holiday cruise for next year on the new Carnival Sunshine. One question, though: Will there be traditional early/late seating dining rooms on that ship? It is hard to tell from the video–it looks like just the new a la carte restaurants. Missed you on the Carnival Breeze, but Butch and Amy 6-3 were fantastic. Hope to see you next December!
–The Alman Family

John says:
Hello Janet Alman,
I am so glad to read that you had such fun on Carnival Breeze and that you are considering the Carnival Sunshine, as well. There is no doubt that anytime dining is getting more and more popular and I should also mention that in Europe with many late departure ports of call it is even more so. However we will have the usual early and late dining options in the forward dining room and anytime dining will be in the aft dining room. Please let me know if you have any other questions and I hope we get to sail together one day soon.
Best wishes.
John

Carole Palmer asks:
Hi John,
I enjoyed meeting you on the Carnival Breeze crossing last Nov. Wasn’t that awesome, gorgeous ship. My question is this. Is someone at Carnival keeping track of my cruises? I ask because when I went into my VIFP acct., it showed no cruise points. See you on the Legend in August.
Many thanks.

John says:
Hello Carole Plamer,
Yes, she is indeed a brilliant ship and it was a joy to meet you as well. I am sorry about the confusion and my colleague, the wonderful Mischelle, has merged your duplicate profiles so you should now be able to see your sailings when you log on to carnival.com. Please let me know if you need anything else and I hope to see you again soon.
Best wishes.
John

Scott Ursell asks:
Ha Ha Ha. Having just seen the photo of your bloggers group, I could not help laughing because most of the passengers who worship at the altar of John Heald are like you obese. Yes, Heald, you are the fat king, the leader of the blob bloggers. I will no doubt get flamed for writing this and there will be posts that say fat is beautiful. Just look in the mirror and tell me you really believe this? To deny this fact is delusional and to fail to do something about it is weak willed. If you really want to do something useful, then make the next bloggers cruise a Carnival’s Biggest Loser cruise. Ha ha ha.

John says:
Hello Scott Ursell,
I think I just found the winner of America’s Biggest Loser. Congratulations, mate, a solid gold plastic trophy and a fruit basket are on its way.
Best wishes.
John

Lori Lumley asks:
Dear John,
I haven’t heard anyone mention this, but hope you will know. Does Carnival have plans to follow the correct protocol for changing the Carnival Destiny to the Carnival Sunshine? It would be a terrible thing to disturb Poseidon!

http://www.boatsafe.com/nauticalknowhow/rename.htm

John says:
Hello Lori Lumley,
Thanks so much for your concern and we are all very much aware of the superstitions that go along with renaming a ship. This will be the second time we have done this within the fleet. The first time was when we changed the Carnivale to Fiesta Marina and there will be a naming ceremony for the Carnival Sunshine including a bottle break and a traditional blessing by a priest. Details of when this will take place and who the godmother will be are due to be released soon and I will let you know, of course. Thanks so much and please do not worry, Poseidon will be happy.
Best wishes.
John

Linda Jermyn asks:
I am writing to you to voice my disgust at the lack of privileges extended to the passengers who purchase suites on your cruises. My DH and I bought an ocean suite on the Carnival Liberty and were horrified to discover that apart from getting on the boat first that we had no other freebies or were treated any differently from other passengers. We expected to be seated in the main restaurant with other passengers who had bought suites but found ourselves with two other couples who were in inside cabins! This does not make sense and is not something you have to change. The lack of suite perks has been widely discussed on Cruise Critic and many experienced cruisers and Cruise Critic members such as my friends Tom and Cheryl all noted that Carnival is last on the list for suite privileges so this is something that Carnival has to change and change straight away or find the suites unsold.

John says:
Hello Linda Jermyn,
I can see that you feel very strongly about this so let me start by saying that I have passed your thoughts on to the beards in charge and thank you for taking the time to write. I should also mention that respectfully I am not sure why we should sit people at dinner according to what category of cabin they have purchased. I may be missing that point completely so if that is the case please would you let me know so I can discuss this further with you. I would also like to know what perks you would like that we do not offer as this may well be a point worthy of discussion and I think I will write about this later today on Facebook. I do thank you for sailing with us, I hope you had fun and enjoyed the wonderful suite and that we see you again soon. Until then your thoughts have indeed been passed to those in charge.
Best wishes.
John

Kristi asks:
Would you know the musical entertainment on board the Carnival Elation on July 18th sailing from New Orleans? I am told this is the cruise with Bands such as Bag of Donuts, CheeWeez, etc.

John says:
Hello Kristi,
This is indeed going to be a cruise with these guest bands and more on board. I don’t have all the details yet such as performance times etc., so please ask me four weeks before you sail and I will fill in all the details for you. I wish you the most wonderful time.
Best wishes.
John

Sadie Cortez asks:
I have read reviews that have said that there is no live music on the Carnival Paradise and we cruise there soon. Why has Carnival done this?

John says:
Hello Sadie Cortez,
Thanks for writing because it gives me the chance to expel the reviews that you have read and tell you there is indeed a variety of live music options on the ship. Here is an example of what you will enjoy on the first sea day;

GET YOUR GROOVE ON
CALYPSO MUSIC WITH SIMPLE VYBES
11:00am – 12:30pm & 2:15pm – 5:45pm Lido, 10 Mid
PIANO MUSIC WITH LUIGI
11:30am – 2:00pm & 6:15pm – 7:15pm Lobby, 7 Fwd
3:00pm – 4:00pm (Tea Time) America Piano Bar, 8 Fwd
LIDO DECK HITS & MIXES W/DJ MARLON
12:30pm – 2:15pm Lido, 10 Mid
KARAOKE FUN WITH ANGEL
3:00pm – 4:30pm Casino Bar, 9 Mid
8:30pm – late Leonardo, 9 Mid
MUSIC FROM A TO ZZ TOP WITH PAPA T
9:00pm – 12:00am Lobby, 7 Fwd
LIVE MUSIC WITH THE SHOWBAND
5:00pm – 6:00pm Casino Bar, 9 Mid
PARTY MUSIC WITH BLOOD POWER
7:00pm – 8:15pm & 9:30pm -10:15pm Casino Bar, 9 Mid
10:30pm- 11:15pm & 11:30pm – late Casino Bar, 9 Mid
SING A LONG PIANO MUSIC WITH DEWEY
9:00pm – Late America Bar, 8 Fwd
NIGHTCLUB HITS & MIXES WITH DJ MARLON

So, ignore the reviews that say no live music and enjoy all of the above and have loads of fun
Best wishes.
John

Andrew (Krusty) Mulye asks:
John,
Two comments / questions. First we are going on the Carnival Splendor April 8 and we were wondering if the ship would go to dry dock before then for the 2.0 upgrades? Can you comment on the dry dock schedule for the Carnival Splendor? Second we just got off the Carnival Miracle, Jan 17 – 25 and I wanted to mention Maguire’s bartender Gatoet Soesanto was the best! He was on top of everything, super fast and always made our day! The rest of the cruise was great but Gatoet stood out!! On and a side note, Customs sucks in NYC! I don’t think they even know how to do their job. Worst experience ever with them. But that’s not stopping us from going back!! We can’t wait for the Splendor in April!! Thanks for everything you and your team does across the fleet!!
Cheers!

John says:
Hello Andrew (Krusty) Mulye,
There are indeed certain challenges in New York one of which you just mentioned and we will continue to work hard to try and make the embarkation/debarkation process better before the Carnival Splendor arrives. Thanks so much for those great words for Gatoet and I will make sure both he and his supervisors see this. I am sure you will have loads of fun and if there is anything I can do before you cruise, please do let me know.
Best wishes.
John

Martin Whyte asks:
John,
I am curious to know and to understand why Carnival does not put tea and coffee making facilities in the cabins. Can you explain as this is a fall short in my opinion.

John says:
Hello Kent Whyte,
I think P&O does this as the Brits love this option but I am not sure if many would use it. I think I asked this once before on Facebook some time ago and maybe it’s worthy of discussion again. I am sure there may be some safety concerns but that aside I have to wonder what with complimentary coffee from room service and the same on Lido, how many guests would actually use them. Let’s see what others say and thanks for bringing this up.
Best wishes.
John

Kevin Cox asks:
This is just an itinerary suggestion. It would be nice if you could suggest to the beards to have the Carnival Fascination make occasional Bermuda trips. I have spoken to many people here in Florida who would like to cruise to Bermuda but don’t want to fly up north to do it. The Fascination is in Jacksonville and I believe is probably small enough to dock in Hamilton. That would also be an advantage as many people who have been to Bermuda love the Hamilton port. Anyway just a suggestion.

John says:
Hello Kevin Cox,
Suggestions are always welcome here and I will pass yours on to the beards. I know that there are operational concerns in getting pier space in Bermuda at the moment but let me pass this onwards and upwards. Thanks again and please feel free to send me any other questions and/or suggestions.
Best wishes.
John

Terry Hamilton asks:
John,
we are cruising on the Carnival Dream on the March 23 departure. We purchased Faster to the Fun. One of the benefits of FTTF is late debarkation; however the time for “late” is not given. We are arranging transportation from the port to the airport and want to stay on board as long as we can (to eventually be carried off kicking, screaming, and sobbing uncontrollably). Anyhow, my question is what time is late disembarkation?

John says:
Hello Terry Hamilton,
I am sure you will enjoy the Faster to the Fun program and late debarkation does need to be specified I think as it could be misunderstood. If you wish late debarkation please tell the Guest Services officers and they will give you the last number tag to be called. Those tags are attached to your bags which should be placed outside of your cabin no later than 11:30 pm on the last night of the cruise. You will then go ashore to claim them when the cruise director makes the last and final call which should happen at approximately 10:30 am. On hearing last and final you should proceed ashore. I do hope this helps and if you have any further questions, please let me know.
Best wishes.
John

That’s all for today and I will try my best to answer more questions later this week.

So here I am back home where I will remain until March 22 when I fly to join the Carnival Legend which will be my home to the end of the trans-Atlantic from Dover to New York……..
yep, a six-month contract. I can’t remember the last time I did one of those. Calvyn has been working on schedules for the trans-Atlantic from Tampa to Barcelona and meanwhile I have been to St. Petersburg to set up the excursions and to meet the port agents and the tour operators and I have to say that it was brilliant to be back.

It seems that St. Petersburg has lots of mega rich people and they all want to show it off as much as possible. I saw a huge Mercedes limo outside a restaurant guarded by two huge bodyguards with massive shoulders and no neck and, no doubt, armed and ready. St Petersburg is indeed like living in a Tom Clancy novel and you have to, yes, you have to visit this incomparable city of delights, surprises and intrigue. There is so much to see and today it’s hard to pick out a highlight although that could be The Hermitage. For those of you who are not aware of this wondrous place it’s a museum although calling it just a museum is like calling Daniel Day Lewis just an actor or Megan Fox’s bottom……ummm………just a bottom and not a jaw droppingly stunningly beautiful work of art that I would love to…….well you get the picture. The Hermitage used to be the palace of the tsars and now it contains possibly the greatest collection of paintings, jewelry, statues and rare items from all over the world. Everywhere you turn there are moments of “wow” and “Oh my goodness look at that!” and even stronger emotions when you enter the Throne Room from where the tsars ruled Russia. There are paintings by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet and in the Gold Room a collection of precious stone objects that are quite simply indescribable.

You need about two hours to see the Hermitage at a rush and more to enjoy and ponder every room and you actually walk 1.1 miles if you want to see the whole thing…… now don’t panic ……..I did so, therefore, can you. There are bathrooms that are pristine and are free and a coat room where coats and large bags are collected as they are not allowed to be brought into the museum. You also have to wear over shoes, plastic protection for safe feet. This is of course to stop damage to the marble floors and to stop bits of chewing gum and bits of Cocker Spaniel poo being trodden in. These plastic coverings are also needed in some of the cathedrals, as well.
In a moment I am going to highlight one of our excursions but before I do let me remind all of you who will be joining me this Baltic season on the rules that must be followed when getting off the ship in St. Petersburg.

In order to get off the ship guests must have one of the following. A tour ticket purchased from the vessel or a full Russian tourist visa in their passports. Now, I have seen a comment on my Facebook page that stated that an independent tour operator promised to have a visa waiting for you. This may well be true, however, you cannot disembark unless you have that visa in your passport. Every guest has to go through immigration every time they disembark the vessel and if you do not have a visa or a tour ticket you will not be allowed ashore. If you have booked an independent tour make sure that you have what is called an official invitation printed out ready to show the immigration officials.

The new terminal in St. Petersburg is superb and a vast step forward from when we were last here on the Carnival Splendor in 2008. Like then I will have the guests on the grand tour (more on that in a moment) leave the ship first and before we allow guests on independent tours ashore. This will, I am sure, upset a few guests but I have to in this one port give priority to those who have spent money to purchase this excursion. I am expecting there to be around 700 guests on that one tour which has to leave on arrival to fit everything we offer and once they have left the ship we will allow independent guests ashore. The new terminal is, as I said, superb and includes some gift shops and a coffee shop. Here is a photo of the new terminal and of one the 16 immigration booths every guest must pass through.
photo (1)

photo
So, just to recap, all guests need a current passport, tour ticket and if not on a ships tour an official invitation from a recognised tour operator. If you do not have these, you will not be allowed ashore, not because I say so but the chap with the frying pan hat on his head and the AK47 in his hand. Guests are not allowed just to get in a taxi and say…..”Take me downtown.” This is a destination where you will want to take an excursion and the best of the best is the grand tour. This is over two days during which you will visit the must see locations in St. Petersburg. Here is the full description

DAY 1: Experience the best of St. Petersburg on an excursion created especially for you to see as much of St Petersburg as you can in two days! On Day 1 your motor coach will take you from the pier on to a panoramic city tour, taking in many of the famous historical sites. Pass the Palace Square and the Baroque Winter Palace. View the Spit of Vasilievsky Island, flanked by two Rostral Columns on your way to the Peter and Paul Fortress for a guided inside visit of its Cathedral. Inside the rich interior of the cathedral, you will find a large collection of war trophies from conquered cities. It also serves as a burial place for the Tsars. Continue on past the Artillery Museum and then stop for a photo opportunity at the Aurora cruiser, which signaled the start of the revolution in 1917 by firing a single blank shot from its bow gun. Certainly a highlight of your day will be a visit to the Church of Resurrection on the Spilled Blood in all of its colorful glory! Browse for souvenirs and gifts and bargain with local vendors at the various stops during your excursion. Move into Nevsky Prospect, Russia’s most famous street for its magnificent palaces and shops, later passing Decembrists Square with its majestic equestrian statue of Peter the Great. Enjoy a delicious Russian lunch at one of St Petersburg finest restaurants. Finally, no visit to St Petersburg would be complete without a visit to the Hermitage Museum. Founded in 1764 as a private museum of Catherine the Great to which only she and her closest courtiers had access, today it is Russia’s largest art museum that owns an astounding collection of about 3 million pieces of art. The collection occupies four buildings: the Winter Palace, former official residence of the imperial family, the Small Hermitage, the only custom-built museum which served as Catherine’s retreat from the bustle of the court, the Old Hermitage and the New Hermitage opened to public in 1852. Enjoy a guided visit here before you are taken back to the ship in plenty of time to get ready for any evening tour you may have chosen.

Day 2: Will begin with an hour drive to Pushkin, the most brilliant of all the former summer residences of the Russian tsars, enjoy your guided tour of the beautiful Catherine Palace which contains a series of magnificent rooms, including, of course, the Throne Room. Of special interest is the Amber Room of the palace that was once considered to be the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Preserved photographs and archives helped the Russian art experts to fashion thin amber pieces so that they exactly match the original in shape and color and to carve fine ornaments, after the looting by the Nazi army in the Second World War, thus recreating this legendary work of art once more. The eye is mesmerized and blinded by the wealth and warmth of the amber tones, from lemony yellow to deep red. After the guided tour of the palace you will enjoy a short walk in the beautiful gardens, taking in the 1400 acres of grounds that are dotted with charming pavilions set around the central lake. Next, enjoy a traditional Russian lunch at one of the best local restaurants before driving back to the city to board your canal boat. Your 60 minute cruise will have you pass under numerous picturesque bridges and have you admire the exteriors of many beautiful buildings in St Petersburg. Finally, visit the St Isaac’s Cathedral, one of the world largest cathedrals and the focal points and landmarks of the city. You will be impressed by the vast and opulent interior which covers 43,000 square feet and filled with hundreds of imposing 19th century works of art.

Is it trying? Yes. Is it rewarding and will it leave you with a feeling that you have truly immersed yourself in the culture and history and vodka of St. Petersburg. Yes, absolutely yes. This tour will take you to a world of mosaics, huge luminous pillars of jade and palaces full of opulence and to a city that is quite simply……staggering.

I am glad the Carnival Legend will be there in the summer because bugger me St. Petersburg was sodding freezing last week with temperatures as low as -12C. Now I am built for the cold and headed out of the hotel wearing thick socks, sturdy mountain shoes and two pairs of underpants. The weather was colder than a penguin’s scrotum yet that did not seem to bother the local and may I say stunningly beautiful women. Some were walking the streets shopping and heading to work in thin tights and short skirts and under that skirt was probably Tinkerbell’s G- string. They didn’t seem to care about the cold and carried on regardless. I love St. Petersburg and you will love it too. I did love the fact that in Russia, plush cigar bars are everywhere and to be able to sink back into a large leather chair and enjoy the long ashes of a Monte Cristo Edmundo was pure luxury. I know smoking is a contentious subject (as we saw today in a comment from Paul Anthony Clarke) but I admit, I like the way cigars blurs the edges. I may eat my words when I’m pushing my lungs around in a wheelbarrow, but temporary relief from anxiety can surely sometimes be healthy ………can’t it?

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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