April 12, 2013 -

John Heald

So Zoe is staying. This was the news that greeted me when we met last night and I must say that I was both happy and surprised. Happy that she had decided not to take the long flight home from Bermuda to Florida but, instead, would be staying with us here on the Carnival Legend.

Zoe and I met for coffee yesterday afternoon and we had a conversation that really tugged at my heartstrings and at one point, this big chubby 48-year-old cruise director had leaky eyes. As you may have read in my blog on Wednesday, Zoe lost her husband some months ago and just before he died, they had booked this trans-Atlantic cruise. She had tried to have other family members sail but due to various constraints, they could not join her and here then she was, alone and so very sad and regretting her decision to cruise on her own.


So, there we sat, on Deck 2 forward, a skimmed milk cappuccino for me and a green tea for Zoe and for the next 20 minutes, she opened up to me and told me about her sadness and I will see if I can do what she said, justice. I know I can write about underpants and bottoms but I am not sure I can even come close to writing about the hurt Zoe still feels. Oh, and I do so with her permission, of course.


When someone you love passes away, Zoe explained, what you forget is the sound of their voice. Their image you can still see in photos, but the conversation has stopped. They can’t hear you, and you long to hear them. Zoe said goodbye to her husband Keith as he headed out of the door to ride his beloved Harley Davidson to visit a friend, Zoe drove to work. This ordinary family parting was their last. Aged just 53, he was killed driving the motorbike he loved so much. He was rushed to hospital that morning but, sadly, he never regained consciousness. Her routine day at work was interrupted by a summons to the hospital where she had to make a decision about the death of the love of her life.


“I made him breakfast. We kissed goodbye, then he wasn’t there anymore,” Zoe told me. At the hospital she said she needed Keith, as never before, but he was gone. But, not completely gone. After an all-night vigil by his side in the ICU, she returned to their home, the same home that was now dark and empty and she sat waiting for her son to arrive from Tampa where he served as a police officer.


It was already a very emotional experience for both Zoe and me and, obviously, I was aware that many guests were walking around, some seeing me started to head over to say hello but mercifully they all saw and probably felt the seriousness of our conversation and so we were left alone and I continued to listen to Zoe speak. So there she sat, in the dark and eventually her son arrived and they cried together before heading back to the hospital where after discussions with the doctors and almost exactly 24 hours after she had said goodbye to Keith as he mounted his motorbike, she made the decision to turn off the machines that were keeping Keith alive and she held his hand as he peacefully slipped away. Zoe was crying as she told me this and, as I mentioned, so was I. I suggested to Zoe that we go somewhere more private than Promenade Deck 2, more for me than her if I am honest but as she wiped the tears away Zoe said, “Don’t worry about me, I’ve lost any sense of pride about crying in public.” It certainly wasn’t my place to tell her to “move on” because Zoe didn’t want that. No, moving away and gradually forgetting the person she most passionately wants to remember was not what was needed to be said.


And so not knowing what to say, I simply listened. But then I managed to change the subject to her reason for staying which is simple. The reason has a name, or names, actually, and they are Alice, Sandra, Loretta and Bernadette. These are the four widows who answered my unusual announcement for help and who have, these past two nights, welcomed Zoe to their dinner table and who yesterday played cards together, laughed at the silliness of Calvyn and my game show together and who in Bermuda today will be exploring the island………together. I am so thankful to these four angels who have taken a stranger into their group. Zoe is grateful to them beyond measure and told me that without them she would have been sitting on a plane heading back to her empty house. I am looking after them and with the help of my colleagues we are making sure they are unashamedly spoiled.


I wish I could do more for her and when the cruise is over and the next one starts and as the weeks progress, I will, I guess start to forget about Zoe. I truly hope though that she will take these days on board as the springboard to making the grief just that little bit easier to handle and I live in hope that these four wonderful ladies will get her smiling again. I hope that she will be able to carry on with life, to enjoy things and maybe…… even to learn to laugh again. And thanks to four ladies who she met on a Carnival cruise ship that might just happen.


Time to answer your questions, here we go.


Kirk Evans asks:
Hi John,
What is “bright star, bright star, bright star?” These words was repeated over and over again early one morning on our cruise on the Carnival Sensation and we never got to know what it was and what happened. Can you tell me please as it has been on my mind ever since. We had a great time and have booked again with Carnival, this time on the Carnival Conquest.
John says:
Hello Kirk Evans,
I am glad you had fun and enjoyed your cruise. The announcement “bright star” is to summon our medical team and our stretcher team to urgently respond and it means a guest or a crew member is in need of urgent assistance. I am unable to tell you anything else about the person who needed help but we hope don’t we that they are doing OK now. Thanks for asking and I hope you have a wonderful time on the Carnival Conquest.
Best wishes.


Debra Mace asks:
We are leaving on the Carnival Freedom on 6/9/13. One port is Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Most everything I read on Cruise Critic warns about the extremely aggressive vendors and downright frightening experience of visiting Ocho Rios. Why does Carnival continue to stop here if so many cruisers have said such awful things about this port? I’m scared to get off the ship now. Even ship run excursions to Dunns River Falls have the same remarks.
Please explain.
Thank you.
John says:
Hello Debra Mace,
Thank you for writing and let me start by saying Ocho Rios is beautiful and is one of my favourite ports. Please remember that Cruise Critic represents a tiny portion of people who cruise and while it is a worthy site it does not always represent the whole story. Each year the cruise industry, not just Carnival, sends hundreds of thousands of guests to Ocho Rios and none of the cruise lines, including Carnival, would do so unless we thought it was safe. Now I do suggest you take an excursion only because you will not have the hassle of trying to barter with a cab driver. You must see Dunn’s River Falls, it is amazing and you will regret it if you do not. Feeling that water gush over you as you climb up is sensational. The people of Jamaica are friendly, although they will try and sell you wooden carvings and other souvenirs from the street. Remember, reviews on web sites like Cruise Critic are opinions, not always based on facts, and the fact here is that Ocho Rios is a beautiful city with lots to see and do. The end. Have a great cruise and if you have any questions or concerns please let me know.
Best wishes.


Kelvin Hermann asks:
I know you get lots of complaints here about smoking and I have one too and it’s not the usual one. My DW and I had such a fantastic cruise on the Carnival Fantasy but the only thing that we hated was the table next to ours at dinner. There were two adult men who spent the a hole dinner spitting tobacco into paper cups. We were sitting 10 feet away but we could here the spitting noise and see them do it all the time. I should have said something and complained but I won’t because that is not what I do but I am surprised that the waiters did nothing to stop it. It is disgusting and I think Carnival should not allow this. That being said we did have a great cruise John, just saying that’s all
John says:
Hello Kelvin Hermann,
I agree 100 percent and I can tell you that having made sure with a few people first I can confirm that we do not allow this practice in the dining room. It may have been that the waiters did not know what they were doing as this is something they may not be culturally aware of. However, I apologise and I will make sure that a note is sent to all the ships letting them know that we do not allow chewing tobacco in the dining room. I am glad you had fun and I do hope we see you again very soon.
Best wishes.


Adam Painter asks:
I am in the process of planning a meet and greet for our Cruise Critic group on the cruise of 5/19 and, so far, we have 53 in our roll call. I heard you are dishing out door prizes and would like some for our group and, as I have no clue as to how to get this done would like you to tell me what to do. We want to have a private lounge on the sea day and were thinking of the piano bar at 2 pm. On our NCL Dawn meet and greet, the captain and all the senior officers attended and there were nibbles and treats. I read Carnival doesn’t do this and would like to know why because you should know that Carnival is considered to be at the bottom of the pile when Meet and Greets are talked about. My booking number is ****** and I can be contacted at ________ so please contact me with the information and confirmation so I can tell our group.
John says:
Hello Adam Painter,
Thank you for doing the work for your group and I am sure you will have fun meeting each other. I have contacted the ship and asked them to block a lounge on the day and at the time you requested. I cannot promise the piano bar but if it’s available you will be able to have it and if not an alternative location will be found. The CD will place the location in the “Have a great time” section of the Fun Times so you all know plus advise the group’s coordinator. While the captain won’t be able to attend, I did ask the cruise director to stop by if he is able and if he is not busy entertaining the other guests. I will provide you with two bottles of champagne and two of our trophies for raffle prizes, etc., but I am afraid that we won’t provide any snacks or refreshments. I wish you a wonderful cruise and if you have any other questions, please let me know.
Best wishes.


Nancy Sterner asks:
My husband and I are doing back-to-back on Carnival Sunshine 10/17/13 through 11/20/13. We would achieve Platinum status on the second cruise; however, since it is one continuous cruise, would Carnival grant that status upon boarding in Venice for the Med cruise?
John says:
Hello Nancy Sterner,

Thanks so much for writing and for your loyalty. I am sure you are looking forward to these two great cruises and you will receive your Platinum card and the benefits that go with it on the second voyage. I hope you will be watching later today on Facebook.com/carnival for the latest video of the Carnival Sunshine. I wish you a wonderful cruise and please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. Best wishes.


Terrie Reuvers asks:
I see that our CD on the Carnival Conquest in October is Gary. I have been reading some not so good things about Gary and would like to get your take on it. We love the trivia games and such throughout the ship and heard that he did not have much of that sort of thing scheduled lately while he has been on the Conquest. Can you help with this? We really enjoy those types of activities instead of just sitting around the pool and hope we are not disappointed.
John says:
Hello Terrie Reuvers,
I wonder where you have been reading this because I have seen no negatives about Gary, only positives. It may sound like that’s an easy defence for me to say but it is the truth. I know him well and if you go ready to have fun that is exactly what he will give you and that is exactly what you will have. So get ready for a brilliant time and enjoy all the trivia contests and all the events and shows. Have a brilliant time.
Best wishes.


Pat McCall asks:
Hi John, I will be attempting to go on my first Carnival cruise since my horrible year last year. I was on the Bloggers 5 cruise, fell and broke my hip and had to be air lifted from Jamaica,
had surgery, then rehab. Unfortunately, two months after that, I was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 lung cancer. I had chemo and radiation, and now am in a remission stage, so I really hope it stays that way so I can go on the British Isles cruise on 9/13, which brings me (finally!) to my question. I know you had mentioned that you would be our cruise director, but when you posted the list of cruise directors, it had someone else listed for us. Will I be able to see you again if I make it to the British Isles cruise?
Thanks, John.
John says:
Hello Pat McCall,
I remember you well and remember how sad I was when you had to leave us. I am proud indeed that you are coming back to us and I will promise to be the CD for you. I will do my best to make sure this is the best cruise ever and I wish you health, happiness and fun. If there is anything I can do for you please let me know.
Best wishes and see you soon.


Mark Chappell asks:
We had gotten off the Breeze Jan 27, 2013. We LOVED the ship. I wondered if there was a problem with the stabilizers. It always seemed to roll side to side, even in calm waters. It was our 10th cruise with Carnival, and even did the trans-Atlantic with the Carnival Magic and never ever experienced this before on any ship. I was with a group of 17 and they asked the same question about the rolling. Thanks and have the next planed Jan 5, 2014 on the Legend. We love the Spirit-class ships.
John says:
Hello Mark Chappell,
I am so glad you had fun and, having checked, I can report that the stabilizers were all working fine and no problems reported. In calm waters, they are not out so I wonder if the swells were larger than they looked. The sea can be deceiving for sure and having spent six months on the ship, I must say I don’t remember feeling her move more than another ship. I am here on the Carnival Legend and I know you will have a brilliant time here. Please let me know if there is anything you need and thanks for taking the time to write.
Best wishes.


Steven Babb asks:
How do I find out what nationalities are represented by the crew of the Carnival Splendor sailing out of New York, NY on April, 23, 2013? I would like to have literature in various languages to communicate with them. Thanks for your time.
Steve Babb
John says:
Hello Steven Babb,
It is a great question and, currently, there are 41 different nationalities on the ship. They come from all over the world. The senior officers are Italian, American, Indian and Portuguese and the people who serve you will cover a huge demographic. They all though speak English and will all make sure you have a brilliant time. I hope this helps and please let me know if you have any other questions.
Best wishes.
Oscar Lopez asks:
can you tell me if there is a Latin band on the Carnival Valor. We cruise there in May and this will be important to me and my family.

John says:
Hello Oscar Lopez,
Yes indeed there is. The band is called Malao Tropical and I know you will enjoy them very much. Have a great time.
Best wishes.


And that’s all for today.


And so that’s about it for this blog and I will have a full-sized blog on Monday for you. The cruise is going well and the guests are having a brilliant time. As I sit here in my underpants I do so with a beautiful view of Bermuda and the guests are starting to go ashore. They won’t touch dry land for five days after this so I know they are going to enjoy every moment. There have been a few minor moans and most we were able to accommodate but so far, touch wood, this has been a wonderful crossing so far. One of the things that will help keep the guests happy is the weather and sea conditions which so far have been superb and I truly hope we get lucky and that this continues.


I have been working hard to be as visible as possible and have really enjoyed being on stage again – it is the part of the job I still love the most. The only thorn in my side has been and still is the lady I call Minnie………….here she is in action.


Sent: Thursday, April 11, 2013 5:50 PM
Subject: —–Unhappy with trivia questions and disturbed on Lido


Good evening John,


Would you kindly call Miss_______ who came back to the desk again today? Her comments are that the trivia questions for the 10:30pm TV trivia were wrong and that she should have won the prize. Miss_____ also says that she was disturbed from reading her book on Deck 9 fwd pool by the golf contest that was being held. Miss_____ is only wanting to speak to you John.

Thank you & Kind Regards,

Guest Services Associate , Carnival Legend

I tried to call her but she was out of her cabin and, honestly, I haven’t had the time to follow up on this and if I am honest……..I haven’t had the energy or desire to do so. I will have to though today as I am sure the fact that I haven’t spoken to her will only have made Miss Minnie even more upset.


But I am not going to concentrate on her but instead think about Zoe. You know, I have written some absolute rubbish during my time as a blogger. I have produced an awful lot of words that it would not have bothered anyone should you have not read them. Sometimes I read back my own writing and wonder if I should quit as a CD and blogger and retrain as a bar waiter. There are rewarding times though such as knowing we hit 16 million views last month and there are rewarding times as a CD, too, such as hearing a crowd raw with laughter at a bit of improv I have pulled out of my bottom and reading letters of praise here and on Facebook for crew members who have exceeded all expectations and given the guests the best of times.


And then there is Zoe who for now at least is OK and has started enjoying her time on board with her new friends. This makes me feel good and that is what will refuel me for later today when I speak to Miss Minnie. It’s not easy though, especially with Miss Minnie (ssshhhh, don’t tell anyone but I call her that because of the huge oversized bow she always has in her hair) as I know that whatever I do, she won’t be happy, it’s just the way it is.


I have to, though, be patient. I have to show compassion and I have to show I care and understand her latest barrage of complaints. I have to not be the fat, ugly, sarcastic cruise director and, instead, turn on my Julie McCoy button. But, surely, the world’s most famous cruise director lost it at least once. There has to be a lost episode of The Love Boat where Julie can be heard screaming, “Some of these folks are out of their mind! If I hear one more ridiculous complaint, I’m going to scream! Do you know how many games of shuffleboard and bridge I have organised?” And in the same vain as Minnie shouts at me for the third time this cruise, I will have to stop myself from thinking how it would feel to rip that huge purple bow from her head and tape it over her mouth.



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.