IT USED TO BE THAT EVERYTHING WAS EXCELLENT

July 11, 2013 -

John Heald

In recent years, when I would walk around the ship I would see toddlers and younger children who were not enjoying the fun at Camp Carnival playing with teddy bears, toys and whatever is on the table……..knives, pepper pots and bits of food. Fast-forward to today and you will see kids aged as young as two ignoring the fascinations of a straw and a glass of ice and instead concentrating on their eyepads. My gorgeous daughter, Kye, is now four but from aged three she could navigate from start up to shut down, accessing her Peppa Pig cartoons on YouTube, the iplayers and game programs I had installed for her.

As you can guess, it’s no problem for her to find stuff she shouldn’t see. She has learnt songs and recently, somehow, managed to download a complete season of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. So plenty of sorting, selecting and learning. When I was home for those few days after I came back from the Carnival Triumph’s re-launch, I would look at Kye as she played on my eyepad and wondered if Kye’s ability on the eyepad would mean she would be able to type…….before she could write? Heidi is now very strict with Kye and she has the use of the eyepad only on weekends. Anyway, I thought of Kye and her love of the eyepad after my travel talk on Sunday for Estonia and Amsterdam. I had finished the talk and was doing Q&A when a Mum got up to leave and as she did she tried taking the eyepad off her son who was four or five maybe.

 

When I was a kid of that age, I would have a screaming fit when Mum used to make me eat anything green (except my own boogers, of course) but this kid probably liked broccoli but, oh, my……..he didn’t like having the eyepad taken away. As Mum tried to take it from him there were screams and tears and he was having what we call in the UK…………a paddy……….or in this case, he was in fact having, if you will pardon the pun………..an iPaddy. I don’t know if she was embarrassed, stressed or both but Mum’s answer to her son’s tantrum was to give him “that look” and started yelling, I mean really yelling. He gave her back the eyepad and they walked out of the lounge. Oh, my, you could hear a collective gasp from the audience of 150 guests who had stayed for my Q&A. I am not going to judge this lady or comment for screaming at her kid or the rights or wrongs of what she did but it certainly was a difficult moment for Mum and a stressful one for her son and at the heart of it……………was the eyepad.

 

Time for today’s Q and A……………….off we go.

 

 

Misty Zoutte asks:

I heard that if you make a reservation at the steakhouse on embarkation day there is a discount of five percent off. Is that true?

 

John says:

Hello Misty Zoutte,

It is actually not true but we do serve each couple with a complimentary bottle of wine with dinner if they book for the first night of the cruise. I hope this helps you decide to book a wonderful meal at our steakhouse.  Best wishes.

John

 

Andrew Maynard asks:

Heald, I was on the Carnival Fascination last week and on formal night, there were many not dressed properly and some had T-shirts on. My wife and I love to dress up and what made us really upset was the people we shared the dinner table with (table 244) carried those Big Gulp thirsty cups to the dinner table!!!!!!!!!!!! and Carnival did nothing to stop this. Elegant night in my book, is dressing up and having a nice glass of wine with dinner, not having to see people like this do what they do. Where are the rules?

 

John says:

Hello Andrew Maynard,

I hope, first of all, that you had a brilliant time despite the concerns you had. I have to be honest I asked uncle Google what a “Big Gulp” was just to make sure it was what I was thinking. There are no current rules that forbid these to be brought into the dining room and while it is not something most guests would do I really don’t see how we could stop this. I can understand how it looks and certainly one of those and elegant night does not go together. However, it is there cruise too and unless they bring bottled wine or liqueur to the dining room where rules do apply, there is currently nothing in place for this. Let me forward this to the beards and indeed other guests as well and see what they think. Again, I do hope the actions of others would not spoil your cruise and that you enjoyed good conversation and fun with them during dinner. Please let me know if there is anything else I can answer for you. Best wishes.

John

 

Dorothy Norsworthy asks:

You know I had over 200 people along with myself on the Carnival Triumph for our annual girlfriends cruise, I’m happy to say I have over 100 signed up for next year already, they are requesting Jen again! Now next March I have my Spring Breakers on the Carnival Sunshine, looks like Tex…my favorite, well, besides you, of course!

 

John says:

Hello Dorothy Norsworthy,

Many congratulations and many thanks also for booking this brilliant cruise and I am sure you will all have the best of times. Carnival Triumph is Jen’s ship for 2014 and if you send me specific dates I will let you know that she will indeed be the CD. You will also enjoy Tex very much. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you and the ladies and have another brilliant time. Best wishes.

John

 

Paulette Ferretti asks:

John, I am or was an avid follower of your blog until today when you advised two practicing homosexuals that they had a place to meet others of the same persuasion and in then on the next blog, you told someone who wanted daily bible study or prayer that Carnival did not allow for this. If you are going to have these meetings each then my simple question is why you don’t have bible study or religious services on the Carnival ships, John. I cannot believe that you and Carnival support homosexuality but not worship. This has left me seething and questioning if I should ever book another Carnival cruise.

 

John says:

Hello Paulette Ferretti,

We do have what are known as Friends of Dorothy meetings which allow our gay and lesbian guests to meet in one of the ship’s lounges. While we don’t advertise daily prayer or religious services we do, when a guest asks us, provide a lounge for those who want to use it for bible study and worship, etc. I am afraid that for the most part we do not have a priest, rabbi or minister on board to conduct services but we will also help guests meet if they wish to have some time for prayer, etc. So I do hope you will continue to cruise and if you need me to arrange anything for you before you do, please let me know. I hope this helps and I am here if you have any further concerns. Best wishes.

John

 

Susie Blackmore asks:

Hello John, me again. My question this time is about the cabin stewards who have helpers with them to do our rooms. Should we be tipping them extra as well or do they get tips from the cabin steward. Just wanna make sure I don’t stiff them. Cheers, John

 

John says:

Hello Susie Blackmore,

How kind of you to ask and you’re right, the stateroom stewards do indeed give the assistant housekeeping person they work with a portion of the gratuity you so kindly leave on your Sail & Sign card. Thanks again for thinking of them and please let me know if I can help with anything else. Best wishes.

John

 

Steve Hodges asks:

Hi John,
We just recently finished a 12-day Mediterranean cruise where you were our cruise director. We did the Tuscany excursion where we visited two villages and had lunch at a farmhouse. Can you tell us the name of the farmhouse? We really enjoyed it as well as the entire cruise. Thanks
for your help.

 

John says:

Hello Steve Hodges,

I hope you enjoyed that wonderful cruise and here is the information for you. The tour is “Beautiful Tuscany” – and the name of the venue is “Poggio Alloro,” a guest house located just outside San Gimignano, probably one of the best lunch venues we have on our Med tours.  Here’s the website in case you need it:  www.fattoriapoggioalloro.com Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you. Best wishes.

John

 

Jason and Bethany Wellnitz asks:

We will be with you on the Carnival Legend, John, for the cruise on 7/27 and are so excited. Can you get us a table for two because it will be our fifth anniversary? We got married on the Carnival Imagination five years ago and would love this cruise to include us time. Thank you John, for being the kind person you are.

 

John says:

Hello Jason and Bethany Wellnitz,

Many congratulations on your five years together and we are honoured that you have chosen to come back to Carnival to help celebrate. I will ask the maître d’ here to assist you and I know he will do his best. Get ready for a brilliant cruise and I will see you both soon. Best wishes to you both.

John

 

Charles Gower asks:

Hey – what’s the story with the new ship in 2016? Why no details??

 

John says:

Hello Charles Gower,

Details and excitement will be forthcoming as we release her name and why this will be a special ship. I will post details as soon as I am able. Best wishes.

John

 

Dwight Thompson asks:

There was an African-American woman called Tina who had the same last name as me Thompson. She was a fantastic singer and funny to boot but I haven’t seen her on any of my cruises recently. Is she still one of your entertainers?

 

John says:

Hello Dwight Thompson,

You mean Tia Thompson who was exactly as you described her, a brilliant singer and with a vibrant personality? Unfortunately Tia is not one of our current entertainers and I am afraid to say I have lost touch with her. I hope she is still singing somewhere as that is what she was born to do. Thanks for asking about her. Best wishes.

John

 

That’s all for today.

 

I mentioned Calvyn in the previous blog who along with my personal assistant, Stephanie, run most of the day to day administrate stuff here on the Carnival Legend. This leaves me the time to host more shows and daytime and evening events and be amongst the guests and still have time to sit here in my underpants writing this blog and keeping 37,200 people informed and entertained on Facebook. I am though still responsible for the staff and being a manager as many of you know is never easy. It is especially difficult when you are managing 67 entertainers who need constant care, love, attention and who are some of the most highly strung, insecure people in the world. Entertainers are artists and sometimes have to be treated with kid gloves……..and that is never easy.

 

I had a call this week from another cruise director who needed the advice of their senior cruise director which, of course, I am always happy to give. He or she is having a problem with one the other managers he or she has to work with and so they sought my counsel and although I can’t go into details of course there is often one factor in these situations that is always relevant. You see, in most jobs there is a time when at the end of the day and in some cases at the weekend, when you close the office door, say cheerio and you don’t see that person until the following day.  

 

On a ship there is no escape. You work with the same people 24 hours a day, seven days a week for months at a time. You work, play, eat and socialise with the same group of people. On land, if you have a personality clash with someone you can choose not to go out for a drink or see them at all out of working hours which, of course, is not the case on ships. And, therefore, these situations can escalate quickly because there is not that outlet. Anyway, I gave him the best advice I could and hopefully they will be able to work things out.

 

As for me, coming back to an empty cabin on the high of a show is deflating and quite honestly ………lonely. And I think if you talk too many of the CD’s, they will tell you the same. You see, while some cruise directors will socialise every night with their staff in the crew lounge, many, like me, find that this becomes detrimental. It’s hard to be the boss and lay down the rules when you have been dancing around the crew lounge with an ice bucket on your head with them the night before. Luckily, most cruise directors have their wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends or significant other (or, in some cases, all of the above) living with them on board. Seriously, though, coming back to an empty cabin is not easy and I still and probably never will get used to that, especially after I have been home with the girls.

 

So I have not written much about Tallin, Estonia, where we were yesterday. You know, as you walk around the old town past the boutique shops, the internet cafes and into the town square to sit and enjoy some fine cuisine, it is easy to forget what Estonia has endured to get where it is today. It was occupied in WWII and after four years of Nazi rule became part of the Russian Empire. It was only in 1991 that it became a fully independent country. While the economy of Estonia is thriving and they have been accepted into the European Union there are still many examples of the days of Soviet rule, WWII and the old town’s 13th century medieval origins.

 

So for those who will be joining us on the Carnival Legend, what should you do there? Well, I would take the basic highlights tour. This gives you a comprehensive insight into the country’s varied history as you tour the old town and stop at a location high above the gates and walls for a brilliant photo experience. The tour will also give you lots of free time to go shopping where you can browse the antique shops, the marzipan factory and because the town is full of WWII antique shops you will have time to buy a bazooka and a dozen grenades. So we had a mother angry at her son and her eyepad and there was trouble on a tour, as well.

 

From: LEGEND GUEST SERVICES
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 9:32 PM
To: LEGEND CRUISE DIRECTOR; LEGEND GUIEST SERVICES SUPERVISOR; LEGEND ASSISTANT CRUISE DIRECTOR; LEGEND GUEST SERVICES MANAGER; SHORE EXCURSION MANAGER
Subject: Guests shouting at each other on tour

Hello John

Mr and Mrs________- from cabin________- stopped by the desk tonight and asked that I make you aware of something that did happen on the Grand Tour part 2. Guests are saying that a man and woman had a big fight and were shouting and using bad language at each other embarrassing the rest of the coach. Guests said that the lady refused to get off the coach for the last part of the tour to the Catherine’s Palace part. Guests are saying that the guide handled the argument well and tried to help and wanted to praise her. The bus number was — for The Grand Tour.

Thanks and kind regards

Guest Services Associate

Carnival Legend

 

I haven’t heard anything else about this so, hopefully, the couple in question has gotten everything sorted out. I think vacations are times when we all argue with our partners. Maybe it’s about what to do, what to see, when to eat or when to not drink anymore. Regardless if it’s on land or sea, one thing remains the same (and this is entirely my personal opinion based on my own experiences) – men argue to get things straight – women argue to win…….. and my wife Heidi always does. I hope this couple is OK now and I have sent a note to the tour operator thanking the guide for trying to help.

 

Now and then, here and on my Facebook page I post comments from guests made via me directly or at the guest services desk. There is another way we get to see who has enjoyed what and that of course is the review card. These are sent via e mail to approximately 40 percent of the guests who have just gotten off a cruise and while I miss the old days of everyone getting one and the old scoring we had on board, there is no doubt that an online system like this gives us an excellent analysis of who has enjoyed what…..or not.

 

The system we use is called TGEM which stands for ummmmm………… ummmmmm ……… The Guests Eat Mucho……..no……..ummmm…….The Guests Enter Menopause……..oh, bugger that’s not it either…….ummmm…….OK, I have no sodding idea what it stands for but it is the system we all use. The beards in Miami see instant responses as do we and along with a scoring method invented by Professors Stephen Hawking, there are comments that are listed as either a positive response or a negative one. Now normally when I post comments that are made direct to my blog or from the guest services desk, they are unusual or different, So I thought then that I would post some of the comments from TGEM received today so you can see what the average Carnival Legend guest is saying. Here are a few:

 

Recognized Carnival Team Member

Haru. Stateroom steward. He was friendly, always calls my name and wished me a great day. The entire team who served table 140 in the dining room. They were pleasant and made us

happy and comfortable. I hope to see them again, especially the tall gentleman I forgot his name now.

 

Additional Comments

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. The activities had me gainfully occupied. I even won a medal at one of the games. The towel race. I enjoyed doing salsa. I learned a lot from the general knowledge quiz sessions.

 

Explain Negative Surprise

Too many trivias. Fed up with them. The cruise director’s English accent was annoying and he should shut up from the public speakers. Food was too salty and ship was too cold for me and nothing was done

 

Recognized Carnival Team Member

Our restaurant staff (table 155 / late seating) were truly excellent and immediately learned our names, preferences and provided excellent service throughout the entire trip. The cabin steward

and his assistant also provided exemplary service to us during this cruise.

 

Additional Comments

In spite of all the bad publicity Carnival has received in the last several months because of issues with ships, we will continue to cruise with Carnival and recommend Carnival to others. For the money, you can’t go wrong.

 

Additional Comments

We had to wait 30 minutes before we were allowed to get off the boat in Russia while Carnival tour people got off. Then when we got off the ship, our tour bus with Red October tours was not there and the Carnival staff did nothing to help us.

 

Recognized Carnival Team Member

Our stateroom attendant, he was so happy and cheerful all the time. 4233, I am sorry I can’t remember his name, just his smile. I think all the ship’s crew works very hard

 

Recognized Carnival Team Member

Sladan head waiter early seating. Great waiter friendly always trying to help and provide recommendations. A personable and fun waiter. The hardest working waiter I noticed even during breakfast in the dining room. He was so much better than others we had during breakfast. Loved him!

 

Additional Comments

Not a big thing, but most of the trivia quiz questions were aimed at USA passengers. I appreciate the ship is an American one, but if you have British and other nationality passengers on board

(i.e. Australians) taking part in quizzes, it would be nice if the questions could at least be attempted to be answered by other nationalities other than Americans.

 

Explain Negative Surprise

Exepected we would have more cultural talks, Russian language lessons and seminars on the religious and cultural aspects of the countries we were visiting. No emphasis on this but lots of stupid games and comedy shows were not what we had expected after cruising with Seven Seas.

 

Explain Positive Surprise

My son enjoyed the kids club enormously and made some good friends along with the activities host who looked after them well. Also our stateroom host was excellent along with their towel

folding.

 

Explain Negative Surprise

The changes of time were not clarified almost never and made us lose a very important shore excursion

 

Additional Comments

Internet is shamefully overpriced! Most passengers just want to check e-mail and update Facebook to let friends and relatives know how much fun they are having on their Carnival cruise! You should give everyone a free 30-60 minute session for this, it’s really just free advertising for Carnival. The cabin movie selection was also grossly overpriced and we couldn’t listen to music online or watch Netflix, etc because the Internet was so expensive. It’s free on NCL!!

 

Explain Negative Surprise

The cruise director ignored us even at the Captain’s Party. I realize we are only two of 18 diamond guests, but he made it a point to talk with everyone else in the room except us and indicated on his blog

 

Explain Positive Surprise

I did not get sea sick

 

 So there you go, a quick view of what some are saying. We all take these comments very seriously and there are people in the Miami office who follow up with these comments as they do the reviews you post here, on my Facebook page as well of course on Carnival’s Facebook and the brilliant Funville page. We also take these comments seriously here on the ships. For example, the trivia contests being “too American” with so many nationalities on board is an excellent comment and the staff here are now going through each one to make sure the trivia contests are far more international.

 

Then there was the comment about me ignoring two people at the Diamond party. I hope those people see this as I didn’t want to post the names. I walked that room for 45 minutes and spoke what I thought was to all the 20-plus diamond guests but I guess somehow, I didn’t get to speak with you. I am so sorry. Obviously it was not intentional but a simple error on my part for which I hope you will forgive me. As I said in the toast I made on the microphone, your amazing loyalty is something everyone at Carnival appreciates and values so much and I apologise again that I missed shaking your hand.

 

I will post more comments in the weeks ahead but thought you might like that brief look at what some are saying. And to everyone who takes the time to complete the on-line surveys they are sent I send a big thank you.

 

It is interesting though how the cruise industry as a whole is so into the review card or comment card or whatever the newfangled name for it is. I am not saying we shouldn’t be, it’s just that, unlike the hotel industry, we really do push our guests to complete them. In the old days, I mean back in the late eighties and early nineties, the cruise director would be paid a bonus on the results of the comment card. Waiters would receive the best stations on results of the comment card and thus the word “excellent” in those days was commonplace. “Have an excellent day” the cabin stewards would say while the waiters would say, “Enjoy this excellent piece of beef wellington and have an excellent day.”

 

And cruise directors, yes, including me, would use that word, excellent, as many times as they could at the old style debarkation talk. Remember, the comment card had four choices; Excellent ………..ummmmm…………..bugger, I can’t remember the other three.

 

We all had our niches……I would say that excellent simply meant that we as a ship had passed a test and that test was to make sure the guests had fun. Anything else ……….was a fail. One of my colleagues would say, “I am not one to beg ” and then he would go down on his knees and with his arms open wide he would, while in the begging position, say, “Pleeeeease give us an excellent.”

 

Yes, the CDs and some of the senior officers all earned a bonus on the strength of the comment cards and yet there was also the fierce competition between the ships to be number 1, to be in first place, that drove us on. Is that drive still there? Yes, maybe it’s a little diluted and not because the old bonus system has gone but because there are so many variables these days. The excellent style comment cards were replaced with the “exceeded your expectations” comment card which gave way to the TGEM report we have today. Plus as not everyone gets sent a review online many guests send their reviews to our social media pages, of course.

 

But every ship wants to be the best but we also know that there are many factors that we have to take into consideration. Guests sailing from Galveston seem to be easier going with their ratings than say a ship sailing in Europe with so many international guests. There are weather factors and other things that will affect the overall rating but one thing is for sure, we all want to be the best. Even this fat bloke, sitting here in his underpants gets mad when a young metrosexual CD with product in their hair and moisturiser in their bathroom cabinet beats him in the ratings.

 

And so while the Marriothyattcontinental comment card sits unopened and unfilled on top of the mini bar cruise ship guests from every line are urged to tell us what they think. And while we ignore the hotel comment card like a Frenchman ignores a Bath & Bodyworks shop, the cruise ship guests love to tell us what they think.

 

We checked you in, made sure your cabin is tidy and clean, cook your every meal, cleaned your toilet, denied you can get off the ship until we say in Russia, entertained you, made your pizza at 2am, laughed at your “whose driving the ship” joke when you meet the captain and we try our best to give you the best cruise vacation you have ever had…….. and then we wait to read the review cards to see if that’s what you had. And for the very most part……..you tell us you had a brilliant time.

 

Thanks then for those who complete the comment cards and if you don’t get one please remember that you can post your reviews on my Facebook page or here on the blog and I will make sure the people you praise see them and the comments you make will be read by those with beards.

 

Have an EXCELLENT evening.

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.