A Tale of Two Ladies

April 10, 2013 -

John Heald

Being single certainly has some superb benefits. You always get control of the remote control, you can eat what you want and not worry about what anyone else wants and if you’re male, you can leave the toilet seat in a permanently down position. But I have always marveled at the single cruiser, sitting alone on the Promenade deck, surrounded by couples. There are single cruise groups as well and they are an excellent way of meeting people. But for some guests, being part of a “single but looking for love” group cruise is not what they want. Yep, cruising single is not always easy. All of this came to mind yesterday when I was walking along the Deck 2 Promenade here on Carnival Legend and I saw a middle-aged lady sitting on her own by the Atlantis Bar. It was 9:30am or so, the ship was in Nassau and many guests were ashore. She wasn’t reading or doing anything really, she was just…….well……..sitting. I gave her a cheery good morning and she gave me what can only be a half-hearted smile in return. Now, I was actually in a bit of a rush as I was heading to meet with another guest who I will speak more of later in the blog.

It’s funny though because after 26 years of doing this, I have a bit of a sixth sense that tells me when guests have a concern or crew members, too, for that matter. Anyway, I turned on my heels and went back and asked if I could sit with her for a few moments. I am glad I listened to that sixth sense because once we got past what’s your name, where are you from, etc…….tears started to fall down her cheek.

Zoe is from Tampa. She is in her early fifties and up until nine months ago she was supposed to be here on this voyage to Barcelona with her husband Keith. But nine months ago, just two weeks after booking the cruise, Keith was killed in tragic motorbike accident. Zoe told me how she had tried to find friends of hers who could come on the cruise with her but nobody could afford to take 16 days off work and, after much soul searching, she had decided to come on the cruise……….. alone……..a decision three days in to the voyage that she said was “a stupid, stupid decision.” We spent the next 20 minutes talking about Keith who owned a small construction business and whose passion was his motorbikes. Keith left behind a son who is a proud serving police officer in Tampa and, of course, Zoe, who called Keith “her kindred spirit.” It’s not easy talking to a guest about this and some CDs may not be comfortable doing so and that’s understandable. But I have always thought that it is an important part of the job and, when possible, we should make ourselves available to listen and to help.

So how could I help Zoe? Well, first of all, we spoke about her dining table and if we could find her a more suitable place to sit. However, she said that she had been to dinner the first night and had been seated with two couples who were very nice and made her feel welcome. But, seeing the love and the fun they shared together, made Zoe miss Keith even more and so the next night, which was elegant night, she had eaten on Lido deck……….alone.  I made a call right there and then to the maître d’ and the guest services manager to check and see if we had any other single guests we could put her with. After a few minutes, the guest services manager called me back and told me we had four other singles sailing…………..all men.

So what to do? Well, at that point Zoe had already decided she was going to go to her cabin, pack and fly home from Nassau. At this point, I probably should have spent time trying to talk her out of it but as I began to open my mouth to do so, I suddenly stopped myself because I thought of all those sea days, nine of them and what she would be doing and then there were the ports to consider, too. Part of me, in fact most of me wanted to say, “Yes, I think that’s for the best. Go home because I think the loneliness of the next 14 days will be too much for you.” But I didn’t. It isn’t my place to say that and I didn’t want to influence her decision.  In this case I thought it was best I listen and support whatever choice she made.

However, I had one more idea up my sleeve and I asked her if I could try something. I explained what I was going to do because I needed her permission and Zoe agreed, reluctantly, I think but she agreed nonetheless.  And so I went back to my cabin. It was now 10:10am and I had now, for sure, a very irate lady waiting for me in the lobby so I dispatched Calvyn to ask her to be patient with me and that I would be with her as soon as I could.  I then made an announcement, one I had not made before in my time as a cruise director. It went like this:

“Good morning everyone, it’s a beautiful day in Nassau and I hope you are all ready to enjoy some time in port. I have an unusual request to make this morning. A few weeks ago, I was contacted on my Facebook page by a few ladies who had asked me to help them with something and I remember that the ladies had mentioned that they were all widows. If any of those ladies are on board I would ask that they contact me by calling 7777 or coming to the information desk.”

I didn’t expect anyone to answer that call because I wasn’t 100 percent sure that the ladies were on this ship as I answer so many questions each day. Plus, we had 550 guests ashore when I made the announcement. I was wrong because the call was answered by Alice who was one of four ladies who were all sailing, all friends and all widows. And so I spent the next few minutes talking to Alice about Zoe and, of course, I started the conversation explaining that they were under no obligation to help and that I would totally understand if they did not feel comfortable doing what I was about to ask. But I need not have worries because Alice said yes, of course, and so the first part of the plan had come together. So after a call to the maître d I then went back to Zoe who was right where I had left her, sitting in the Atlantis Lounge. I explained what was going to happen and she thanked me. I gave her my ship’s cell number and told her to call me anytime she needed to. And last night, Zoe sat at dinner with Alice, Sandra, Loretta and Bernadette, all friends from Sarasota, Florida, and all widows.

I desperately wanted to visit them at dinner but I couldn’t as I was on stage. I sent a bottle of wine for the ladies to enjoy together and I truly hope it went well for all of them. It’s not easy I am sure for the ladies to invite a complete stranger into their circle of friendship but I hope that it all worked out and that Zoe will have met some people who will understand her and relate to how she is feeling. I guess I am hoping that they will become friends and that that friendship will not only manifest itself at meal times but that the ladies will include Zoe in their daily fun on board. It may of course not work at all and Zoe will remain as sad as she looked yesterday. It’s 7:15am here and as I sit writing this in my underpants, I am anxious to know how Zoe is and I will be calling her later today and, of course, I will let you know.

Time now though for some Q and A……….off we go

Alex Richie asked:
Is there any chance that Carnival will sail to Europe in 2014? I don’t see any dates yet on carnival.com. Does this mean we will have to go with another line? Thanks John for keeping us informed

John says:
Hello Alex Richie

Thanks.  To be honest, I haven’t heard anything about our future plans for 2014 one way or the other but will check with the beards and let you know.

Best wishes.
John

Dan asked:
I just returned today from a getaway cruise on the Carnival Ecstasy. It was fantastic, as usual. The staff was wonderful, we did the anytime dining for the first time, which I was a little apprehensive about, but it worked out much better than I expected – little to no wait. I do want to right a previous wrong, my head waiter was I Wayan, and on my past cruise on the Carnival Glory I had the pleasure of having him serve us and was very pleasantly surprised to find him on the Carnival Ecstasy. On the Carnival Glory cruise, I Wayan showed great care and concern toward my mother in law and us, making sure he was very attentive and he did go the extra mile for us. I regretted not properly thanking him at that time. So now some years later, I hope this corrects my break down in courtesy. Please forward the director of the ship, Radu, the maitre d’. The dining room staff was excellent and Wayan’s assistant Uputo, (which I can’t spell his name correctly) the wait staff acted in a flawless and warm caring manner. Radu should be proud of his staff they are what carnival represents and should be complimented

Daytonadan

John says:
Hello Daytonadan

There are lots of Wayans, along with I Made and Ketut, it is a common name in Indonesia and there are many great Wayans on our ships that provide wonderful service. I am so glad you had fun and I will make sure all the right people see your post. Thanks so much and I hope that we will see you very soon.

Best wishes.
John

Julia Boughtwood asked:
Maybe you could tell me why Carnival ignores the wants of its guests. The DJs do not and cannot replace the live calypso steel bands on Lido and anyone who thinks they can, is stupid and has no sense!! I was just on Carnival Liberty and got off with my cruise ruined because of no music on Lido. I have written to customer service but no return has been made to me. I have voiced my disgust on Cruise Critic and on Carnival Facebook so the message is out there to warn passengers that Carnival never listens.

John says:
Hello Julia Boughtwood

Thanks so much for taking the time to write and for voicing your frustration.  I can tell you that we do listen and the people in charge at Carnival pay lots of attention to what is written on Carnival’s Facebook page and this blog and other Carnival social media. Carnival Liberty has the 2.0 upgrades and we replaced the calypso bands and duos with DJs but along with the fun music they play, we also have guitar soloists who provide a great atmosphere on Lido at the RedFrog Rum Bar and the BlueIguana Bar Tequila. I think we do have to be careful in making sure the DJs play the right mixture of music on Lido and at the right volume but, that aside, the variety of music is beneficial to many guests. I hope you can also take the time to reflect and see that although not having live calypso music on deck did disappoint you, that there were many other aspects of the cruise that you enjoyed. If you have any other questions, please let me know.

Best wishes.
John

Wanda Hauser asked:
I was wondering if you can book me a table with younger people. My husband and I are both retired but even though we are in our late 60s, we are both fun-loving people and full of zest and life. On our cruise on the Carnival Imagination, we had to sit with people our own age or older and they were so boring and we hated it. Can you make sure this does not happen on our next cruise which is Carnival Dream on 4/27? This is our booking number ****** and we want to sit with young people and not the almost dead. Can you arrange this?

John says:
Hello Wanda Hauser

Thanks for writing and I will certainly ask the maître d to put you with a mixture of guests if possible or with more middle aged /younger people. I know he will do his best and I wish you and your husband a wonderful cruise.

Best wishes.
John

Jory Provstgaard asked:
When is the “Cheers” or “My Awesome Bar” or whatever we are naming it this week going fleetwide? I am hoping it will be on Carnival Sunshine, at least when we sail. Loved it on the last cruise.

John says:
Hello Jory Provstgaard

I am glad you enjoyed the Cheers bar program and I am sure you are looking forward to much Carnival Sunshine. We have yet to announce any further ships will be added but I promise the moment we do, I will let you know. Although nothing has been confirmed my sources do tell me there is a good chance the ship will be added to the program and I will let you know as and when I have the information. I wish you a wonderful cruise.

Best wishes.
John

Carl Keddie asked:
Heald – I am sure you must know that Carnival’s decision to take the Carnival Miracle from New York and replace it only with the Carnival Splendor has angered many New Yorkers who cruise Carnival. Why do we not deserve a ship with these upgrades you talk about all the time and why do we get the tired Carnival Splendor and not Carnival Breeze or similar? New Yorkers won’t cruise with you; we will go to other lines that treat us with new ships and more options. This will hurt Carnival’s profits for sure!!!! Chew on that

John says:
Hello Carl Keddie

I am a bit surprised by this post as I have read other posts here and on Facebook showing that we have New Yorkers who are very happy with the Carnival Splendor home porting there and who have sailed on her and had a brilliant time. The ship herself is a superb vessel, one of my most favourites, and has a fantastic crew and guest spaces that are simply wonderful. I hope that you will sail on her and see for yourself and, if you do, I have a strong feeling you may change your mind.

Best wishes.
Heald

Julie Tocco asked:
Hi John-

I just wanted to drop you a line, I just got back from a six-day cruise on the Carnival Breeze. I was on the Carnival Destiny last May with Kevin Noonan, and I was sure that he was the best cruise director Carnival had, so I was a little apprehensive about who we would get this time. We ended up with Butch Begovich and I couldn’t have been happier. I feel like my last two cruises with Carnival have had probably the best two cruise directors Carnival employs. After spending some time talking with Butch, I found out that he and Kevin Noonan were best friends and he was even in Kevin’s wedding. Just wanted to let you know that Butch made the cruise and is awesome. I can’t wait to cruise again, hopefully with one of them.

John says:
Hello Julie Tocco

Well that post brought a huge smile to my face and, indeed, you did have two of Carnival’s very best CDs and I know they will be thrilled when they read this. I hope you do get to cruise again soon and that, once again, the CD makes a difference to your cruise.

Best wishes.
John

Brian Lochlaer asked:
Hey, John. My wife and I will be cruising on Carnival Magic in May. It’s my first time with Carnival and I’m really looking forward to it.  I was wondering if Carnival welcomes passengers to use space on the ship to give a public presentation or seminar on some topic that they’re knowledgeable about. Apparently, Royal Caribbean does this and even publicizes the event in their daily “Cruise Compass.” How would I go about making the arrangements? Thanks, John!

John says:
Hello Brian Lochlaer

I am sure this will be the first of many Carnival cruises and thanks so much for offering your services. All guest lecturers have to be pre-approved, so please can you send me the information on what you want to do and I will make sure the right people see it and we will let you know. Thanks again for taking the time to offer this and if there is anything I can do, please let me know.

Best wishes.
John

Lizbet Kenerup asked:
While on the cruise last month, we had a passenger who had to leave the Carnival Elation by helicopter.  After we watched the helicopter leave, we heard nothing more about what had happened to him. We should have been told but we were told zero news or information. Can you tell me anything about him and what happened?

John says:
Hello Lizbet Kenerup

I am afraid that it is not our policy to ever disclose this information as it is private of course.

All we can do is marvel at the wonderful work of the U.S. Coast Guard pilots and crew and thanks the ship’s medical staff for the work they did in looking after the guest. What we can do is keep the guest in our thoughts and hope that they make a speedy recovery. Thanks for asking and, of course, I do hope you enjoyed your cruise.

Best wishes.
John

 

And that’s all for today. My thanks for all your comments and questions and I will try to answer as many as I can.

It’s been the tale of two ladies, really. My friend Zoe who I feel so sorry for and another lady who I do not feel sorry for. I probably should and am trying to find sympathy for her remembering a complaint is a gift, etc………..but, bugger me……..it isn’t easy with this one.

The lady in question had already spent 30 minutes on the first night of the cruise commenting on how long it took to get on the ship, the fact that her table mates were late for dinner and the fact that at the welcome aboard show, my fat arse wasn’t dancing around the stage in a feather boa and a G-string. So I had arranged (along with the guest services manager) to meet her yesterday morning to discuss her concerns but because of my chance meeting with Zoe who I was telling you about at the top of today’s blog, I had to cancel and ask poor Sabrina, our guest services manager, to meet her on her own.  I now owe her a vat of red wine as she was with this guest for an hour and 15 minutes. And after much apologising and a new table for two for her and her cruise companion, it seemed that all was well……………but it wasn’t.

 

From: LEGEND GUEST SERVICES
Sent: Tuesday, April 09, 2013 12:24 PM
To: LEGEND CRUISE DIRECTOR
Cc: LEGEND GUEST SERVICES MANAGER; LEGEND GUEST SERVICES SUPERVISOR; LEGEND GUEST SERVICES
Subject: Miss———- Cabin ****

Good afternoon John,

Please kindly be advised that Miss ______ came to the desk to speak to you. She wanted your cabin number which I explained she could not have. She has asked for a meeting with you at 5pm to talk about the following: the smell of garbage as she walked on the pier in Nassau today. The music at the Jazz Hot show was not jazz and was too loud. There is no bridge instruction and they had this on Celebrity ship. Miss_____-also said that she approached an officer in blue uniform at the elegant party in the lobby and asked for him to dance with her and he refused. Miss _____- says it was _________ and that he was very rude to her.

John, please can you meet her because she is waiting for me to call her and confirm.

Thank you and kind regards,
Guest Services Associate, Carnival Legend

 

This e mail made me scream “Arrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhhh” on my Facebook page and I really should not have done that, of course, and was actually mad at myself for doing so. Anyway, I met with the lady, who for reasons known only to myself, we will call Minnie and as I sat there I realised I had met her many times before. OK, maybe not her but guests like her because on every ship, on every cruise line, every voyage, there is a guest who no matter what you say or do will simply not be happy and, despite what you say and what you give them, will always want more. It’s the same in hotels and in restaurants and in life, I guess.

I explained that the smell of garbage was coming from the aft of the pier where ships were disembarking garbage. I apologised but reminded her she didn’t have to walk past the areas that contained the garbage. I apologised for the level of the volume at the show which we had already lowered from 92 decibels 88 decibels on my instruction based on past trans-Atlantic cruises and that older guests had more sensitive hearing. I also apologised that the music was not as Minnie stated “real jazz” and promised to pass this on to the producers of the show.

But it was her venom toward the officer she asked to dance with that surprised me. I know this senior officer very well and I know he hasn’t got a rude bone in his body and I would bet everything I have that he politely and respectfully refused her request for a dance. Bottom line ………………Minnie wants him fired.  Yep, she wants him fired and as ridiculous as that may sound she truly believes that he should be and that she has the right to demand it. It goes without saying that……………well, it goes without saying so I won’t say it. As I was speaking to the guest, more than 2,000 other guests were relaxing in the sun and watching the ship sail away. The guests are superb and I have met so many (more on that later) and all are saying what a wonderful time they are having and praising…..well….everything really.

Minnie left our meeting waving her hands in the air like a demented stock broker and I know that we will meet again, sooner rather than later. Oh and before you ask, no, we have not, aside from moving her dinner table, given her anything and that includes money, ships made of plastic or a single solitary piece of fruit. We will monitor the music volume, that’s a worthy comment, for sure. I will work hard to please her, we all will, but even if I resurrected Louis Armstrong and had him perform a show on board, I have a feeling Minnie would tell him his trumpet was too loud and out of tune and that it really wasn’t a “Wonderful World” so could he just shut up.

More…………for sure………to follow.

I really am enjoying the Carnival Legend and, in a few minutes, it will be time for the Morning Show with Calvyn and me trying to be funny. We have lots of dedications to read out and it is strange through not broadcasting the show on to the big screen because, of course, we don’t have one. Do I miss it? Well, yes, I think I do and certainly it’s brilliant for the morning show and for movies under the stars. However, while I miss that and other 2.0 features it is amazing the difference a smaller number of guests make. You see, my last ships have all been Dream-class ships where you will meet a guest during the cruise, shake their hand and chat with them and then because the ship is so huge, never see them again. But here on the Carnival Legend we have more than 2,000 guests and I have seen and met many of them and I have seen or met many of them more than once. It is becoming then clear just why for some the Spirit-class is a favourite.

And just before I move on can, I say on a personal note how brilliant it is to listen to a 10-piece orchestra once again. The band here is superb and they play real jazz, as well!!

Just before I got on the Carnival Legend some 10 days ago, I stayed in Tampa at a typical 4-star business hotel for the night. I may have mentioned how expensive the club sandwich was from room service on a blog or Facebook already but I haven’t mentioned breakfast.

The morning we joined the ship I went to the hotel restaurant with Calvyn and when the check came guess how much it was. Go on. How much would you expect the check to be? Two people, one had eggs Benedict, the other had two eggs, bacon, white toast and shared a pot of coffee. How much did you say?  Nope. You’re wrong. It was $48.57, I know because I have the receipt here in front of me as I am doing my expenses. Now if it had been a nice round $50, I’d have asked to see the restaurant manager and inserted the coffee pot in his bottom. But because it was $48.57, it gave me the impression that they hadn’t simply said, “Look at that this fat British bastard. Let’s charge him $50.” It looked like they’d sat down and worked out the costing and come up with a price.

A bargain it certainly wasn’t but since we’re on the subject of bargains, let’s talk, shall we?  I was talking to a lovely couple on their first Carnival cruise and they had chosen the Carnival Legend to sail to Barcelona to see their son who had married a Spanish girl. They told me quite openly how much they had paid. Now regular readers of this blog will know that I always talk about the incredible value of our cruises and I’m going to do it again today.  This couple who were heading to see the son and daughter they had not seen for almost a year were enjoying a 15-day cruise, in a deck 8 balcony cabin, with a live show every night, 24 comedy shows, a huge selection of food served 24 hours a day, activities and events galore, seeing Nassau, Bermuda, the Azores, Valencia and Malaga without packing and flying each time, receiving friendly and fun service and having the ship take them to see their beloved family for one incredibly affordable price.

I just stayed in a hotel in Tampa. A four-star hotel with a sandwich for dinner, a bed with no towel animal on it and with breakfast I paid (OK, Carnival paid) roughly a quarter of what the family paid for an entire 15-day cruise – and that was just for one night in a hotel! No shows, no fun service, no activities. If I wanted to entertainment, a movie would have cost $15.99 plus tax and I am not paying that unless the Latvian is actually in my bed with me. Oh and when I woke up I was still in Tampa, the hotel hadn’t taken me to Bermuda.

OK, it’s two different things, I realise that but when you look at it, when you really look at it you start to realise what we at Carnival sometimes forget, well……….I certainly do. And that is the simple truth that sailing Carnival is a bargain. We often talk about the ship and 2.0 and burgers and shows and bands and chocolate melting cake and ports of call and much more. But it is important I think , especially at this time to remind ourselves and indeed remind our guests and importantly to remind those who have never cruised with us before that Carnival manages to be something that’s quite rare these days……. an affordable bargain that oozes quality and fun.

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.