EDUCATING HOTELS

October 28, 2013 -

John Heald

 I took my daughter Kye to school for the first time last week. She is only four. The process, though, has started. It was both heartbreaking and sort of exciting to walk Kye up the path to a place where I would leave her behind from 9 am – 3 pm…..but, ultimately, forever as she starts to make her way in the world under the guidance of Miss Newman, Mr. Barton and, indeed, guidance other than that of my wife Heidi and I.But is it all worth it – all this education stuff? The school she goes to is an excellent one with a brilliant reputation and, from what I have seen, great teachers. But school will teach her mostly not what to do, but what not to do. It will teach her things she may never use and burden her with expectations she may not be able to fulfill. And if it was a waste of sodding time when I was at school, it must be even more these days.

 

I knew from the age of 12 that all the French I was taking was a waste of time because, even at that age, I knew that I would never need to speak it in everyday life and I was right. I remember how to say that my friend Alan has a small thingy and that his bottom smells of cheese but that’s it, everything else I was force fed in French class I have forgotten and French was a waste of time to learn.  I pretty soon grasped that math, physics and chemistry were too and I was right again because at no time has a guest ever come up to me and asked me for the chemical symbol for nitric acid or what the square root of 47 is…….and a fruit basket to the first smart arse to post the answers in the comments section.

 

Math was pointless. Biology pointless. Chemistry pointless. French, pointless and massively annoying trying to remember if a chair leg was feminine, masculine or a bit of both. Those were my school days and now for Kye…… it is much worse. What use is any learning at all in an Internet world? What use are books and classrooms and paper and pencils and indeed what is the point of having a memory at all when you have Uncle Google on hand 24 hours a day?

 

And it does end not at school because what’s the point of me spending thousands of dollars for Kye to go to college? Classes can be done online and the most brilliant lecturers can be yours for a fee and a click of the mouse and that fee is bugger all compared with what it will cost at college. Plus there is the comfort that my daughter doing her classes at home means she isn’t drinking tequila shots out of the quarterback’s jockstrap.

 

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Facebookberg all dropped out of college and I worry today that education stifles you, takes away your originality. The most visibly rich and successful people it seems are the least educated: actors, pop stars and sports stars. I watch young soccer players and basketball giants in their 20s and some are no more educated than Kye is now at four.

 

It’s not just in sport, film, music and technology that education is pointless. It’s everywhere. Take cruise directing for example. If you look at the very best, the cruise directors who in the industry are the most original, the most personable, you will probably find a bunch of ladies and gentlemen who don’t have a college degree between them, just lots of television watching.

 

Butch Begovich is, of course, the fabulous exception as he got a master’s degree in business and manscaping from the prestigious University of Nevada-Las Vegas’ hospitality school and bravo to him for doing so. And if there is no point going to college, why go to bloody school? Bollocks to it — just do everything you can to get on American Idol and accept that anything you need to know in later life, you’ll be able to find by staring into your Eyephone. 

 

I will never forget one teacher I had at Shoeburyness Comprehensive where I went to school each day to learn French, get beaten with a wet towel in the changing rooms by a bastard called Shane Ibrahim and to stare at Sally Poole’s breasts during math class. The teacher’s name was Mr. Hounsell and one day during his English class he asked us, “What is school for?”

 

“It’s to educate us, sir,” one clever clogs at the front said.

 

“Wrong,” snapped Mr. Hounsell.

 

“It’s to help us get jobs, sir,” said someone called Jeffery who I am sure is now a fashion designer or hairdresser.

 

“No, it isn’t,” said Mr Hounsell. “It is to keep you off the street, mostly for your own safety but mostly because if you were allowed to run free crime would rise and society would have even more problems.”

 

Now I was pretty outspoken at school in the sense that as I had been blessed with a non-sporty body and a face like a bag of smashed oysters, I quickly discovered that comedy would put me further down the bullies list of targets and hoped that Sally Poole and her breasts would notice that I existed. So I raised my hand and said to Mr. Hounsell in reply to his “Keeping you off the streets reference” and replied ……..“So school is like a prison, sir?”

 

“Yes, Heald, it is a prison,” he growled.

 

And he wasn’t wrong. That’s really why we’re sending Kye to school, so that while she is there Heidi can go shopping and do what home makers do and do so safe in the knowledge that Kye isn’t playing in the road or being bundled into the back of a van.

 

Education is though important, of course it is……..ignore my ranting. I am thankful that the pilot of the Virgin plane that flew me to Miami did indeed spend time studying math and not day dreaming of super gluing his head between Sally Poole’s breasts as I did. I am glad that education allows the brilliant people who work at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital save the lives of many and I’m glad that people with an education and a beard will continue to keep Carnival the most affordable and fun cruise line in the world.

 

Anyway, I have, as usual, digressed …..so I arrived at Kye’s school. The sun was shining, the play area outside had a flower garden and a scarecrow that the kids had built and, in the entrance to the classroom, there was a little peg three feet off the ground with “Kye” written above it, and 20 plus four year olds, running around, drawing, painting, laughing and falling over. I looked down at my beautiful daughter. Kye looked at me and I picked her up in my arms and she gave me a kiss. I put her down, she walked two paces, and turned, waved at me then she ran into the middle of them and was submerged in the group of her new friends. And I walked away with my hand that had been holding my daughter’s now empty and it must have been a very cold day because my eyes suddenly filled with water.

 

Time for some questions to be answered, here we go.

 

Kathryn Chesnut asks:

I am helping with two different cruises — one on Carnival Liberty January 18, 2014, and Carnival Breeze January 26, 2014, and will be hosting two private functions. I have info from group event planning but I have a question that maybe you can answer. If you have the Cheers program, would they just have to pay a fee for the party and not alcohol? Thanks.

Kat

 

John says:

 Hello Kathryn,

Thanks for writing and the answer is that the Cheers program is not included in any private party function. This means that those who have the Cheers program will still need to be in the head count for the parties. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you otherwise.

Best wishes.

John

 

James Glisson asks:

My wife and I just returned from a seven-day (three- and four-day cruises back to back) on the Carnival Sensation to the Bahamas. I’m sending this to see if you could forward our compliments and gratitude to the hotel director. Our room steward Maria and her assistant Komang gave us the best service we have ever had on any of our past Carnival cruises.  We believe they far exceeded their duties and need to be recognized for their efforts. 

Sincerely

James and Wendy Glisson

 

John says:

Hello James and Wendy Glisson,

This is certainly the right place to get this done and it will be a pleasure to pass on your very kind words. I thank you so much for taking the time to write and I do hope we shall see you soon. Best wishes.

John

 

Gillian Lean asks:

I have written twice to you about arranging a scattering of ashes for me and the lack of response from you shows that you do not care and I am beside myself with frustration and, if I had taken the insurance, I would cancel this cruise. All I want is for this to be taken care of for the cruise on the Carnival Dream November 16 but I guess I am wasting my time with you.

 

John says:

Hello Gillian Lean,

I want to start by sending you my sincere sympathies at the loss of your family member. I also apologise that it has taken me so long to answer you and I won’t bother with excuses as to why as that, in this case, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I will be glad to help, so please do not worry. I will contact the ship and let them know that on the cruise of November 16 that you will require this service. They will arrange the paperwork and then ship’s staff members will assist you when the time comes to scattering the ashes. The captain will also send you a letter with his sympathies and also include the time and latitude and longitude of the ship’s position when the ashes were scattered. So please don’t worry, all will be arranged for you and, again, my apologies sincerely for the delay in my responding. If there is anything else I can do, please let me know. Best wishes.

John

 

Cheryl Letner asks:

Hi John!!  Well back in March I messaged you about my desire to work for Carnival!  Well, it took a while, but wonderful Isabel Espinosa, who you put me in touch with, contacted me about six weeks ago that there was a virtual position open – I was so impressed that she remembered me!!  I was set up for an interview and went down to Miami (I’m from Sarasota – on the Gulf Coast) – still recovering from darn pneumonia -and it was an awesome day and a great interview! (Oh my goodness, when I drove through the gate to park and saw the funnel and Carnival topiary, I heard a choir singing!! Ahhhhhhhh!! Lol!!). I did have a second interview and I am anxiously waiting to hear if I got the position! I feel deep in my heart I will soon be a member of the team!!  My husband and I were supposed to go on a mission trip with church to El Salvador in October, but I stepped out of it because the training for the job is the same week – my husband is still going! I know God will send me on other missions! I wanted to thank you for getting this ball rolling for me!! I can’t tell you how excited I am! I understand they will make offers this week and I will be chained to my phone all week! 

 I CAN’T WAIT TO BE A CARNIVAL TEAM MEMBER!

 I just wanted to share this!! Thank you and blessings to you and your family!

Cheryl

 

John says:

Hello Cheryl Letner,

I can see how excited you are and I hope by now you have received good news and that you are indeed part of the Carnival family. I hope to see you soon and good luck in all that you do. Best wishes.

John

 

Helen Cowie asks:

What’s the story with the lack of gluten free items on the Lido deck? No breads for us?????? I saw that you wrote that you wanted to see more sugar free desserts but how about a bit of respect for us that suffer from gluten intolerance? I know you have said publicly that you have type 2 diabetes but that was your laziness allowing yourself to get obese that caused that, it’s a life choice by you. Carnival puts out lots of sugar-free stuff and you talk about that all the time but us celiac sufferers get shafted by Carnival. So how about you put some of your weight (ha ha) behind getting us some more gluten free choices? Sailing next on Carnival Splendor in December and am platinum VIP.

 

John says:

Hello Helen Cowie,

Yep, laziness and many late night BLTs got me taking those sodding Metformin pills and I am working hard to reduce the weight and, thanks to people like you, I will work even harder! You will be glad to know that we have recently added more gluten-free items to Lido and I thought I would share a couple with you and my thanks to Chef Peter for sending me this information. You will now see the following served on Lido and by request from your dining room waiter.

 PUMPKIN, ROSEMARY, POTATO, RICE & POLENTA BREAD

GRAMFLOUR, POTATO, CARAWAY & GRITS BREAD

GRITS, CAPERS & GRAMFLOUR BREAD

 I hope this pleases you and all of the above will be available on your next cruise. Thanks so much for your loyalty and have a brilliant time. Best wishes.

John

 

Erick and Gwen Smith  asks:

We just had the Carnival Triumph cruise from Galveston to Progresso and Cozumel, getting back last Saturday.  Room 6383 is great unless you are trying to get some sleep before midnight as the musical group below on Deck 5 was playing, very nerve racking when trying to get ready for the next morning’s excursions. Never had this before.  We are newbies to cruising (we are gold and completed cruise five (31 days sailed).  We are going out last part of October 2013 from Galveston on the Magic.  Wife has bad knees and can only walk short distances without the need of a wheelchair, so we are limited on what shore excursions can be done.  I have already scuba-dived most locations on previous shore excursions. Jen, cruise director from Carnival Triumph, recommended I use this media. As we keep going toward our ultimate goal of being “Diamond Members,” my concern is keeping good shore excursions with limited walking for my wife.  Fifty five days from today we depart once again. We loved the Salsa and Salsa in Cozumel and the Progresso Mexican Buffet and Rodeo, especially since they have free alcohol (a must for us). What do you recommend for us for three days of shore excursions on the Magic for the end of October 2013 leaving from Galveston? We are at our wits end trying to decide.  A concern is that the more we cruise, the less we find to do on shore? We never want to stay on the ship when docked, we want to have fun on shore. Should we start looking at non-Carnival shore excursions with the hopes that we make it back in time to depart on the ship (flat tire, engine trouble, typhoon, making us miss the ship)?  Help John, maybe you can get us an email address for Carnival Magic’s cruise director and we can talk with him about his recommendations?   Oh, by the way, the New Orleans Mardi Gras show was the best show so far on our cruises!  We love the Faster-to-the-Fun unless we book a suite also.  And as an interesting factoid, we enjoyed turning in a $25 casino chip, the best game to play is finding a chip someone left in their safe, can’t find better odds in the casino that that.

 

John says:

 Hello Erick and Gwen Smith,

I am so sorry that you could hear the music from your cabin and I will make sure the ship is aware of this, which I am sure they are but just to make sure I will pass it along. I totally understand about your excursions. Seeing these wonderful ports of call is important, of course, so let’s see what we can do for you. I have written to the shore excursion manager on the Carnival Magic and asked them to give you a call and chat with you about what excursion will be best for you and which tours you will both be comfortable in doing. This personal touch should set your mind at ease, I think so, again, please don’t worry. I wish you a wonderful time and if there is anything I can do for you, please let me know won’t you. Best wishes.

John

 

Jonathan Caulker asks:

What is the duty-free allowance coming back from our cruise on Carnival Fascination for cigarettes?

 

John says:

Hello Jonathan Caulker,

You will be allowed 1 carton of cigarettes per adult (21 and over) when you return through United States Customs and Border Protection at the end of your cruise. Please let me know if you have any other questions and have a brilliant time. Best wishes.

John

 

Tina Moreno asks:

Hi John, I just wanted to message you to thank you for an absolutely amazing holiday on the Carnival Legend.  We just got home from the last Baltic cruise.  We were so happy to finally get to meet you and be able to chat with you.  Thanks so much for the goodies you sent to us.

We wanted to give a shout out to everyone on the Legend who helped make this cruise one of the best we have taken.

 

John says:

Hello Tina Moreno,

That’s great news, indeed, and I will pass on your thanks to all on board. I do hope we shall see you again very soon and thanks for taking the time to write. Best wishes.

John

 

David Lantman asks:

A request for a table for four and not to be put with other passengers. This cruise we will be celebrating my 30th birthday and my wife’s is just after the cruise. We are with cruise virgins Adam and Launa Meyler and we do not want them to have to sit with other passengers and have their cruise ruined as happened to us on the Carnival Paradise this past May. Can you help us, John? Can you get this done and it is soooooooo important to this being a good cruise for us four. Our booking numbers are linked to ******for our cruise on Magic November 3. It would be nice if you could send us some goodies to make up for last time.

 

John says:

Hello David Lantman,

I am glad I saw this post in time as I see you are sailing next week. I have therefore written to the maître d’ and I know he will do his very best to help you with this request. I wish you all a great time together and enjoy all the fun on this wonderful ship. Best wishes.

John

 

And that’s all for today………..although I did want to share this e mail with you which was sent to Carnival’s guest service people here in Miami and they sent it to me.

 

Sara Potton

Hello John. I had to write to you because we have just returned from the most wonderful cruise with you from Dover. There were many highlights for us and the people who looked after us from your crew were so lovely and friendly. John, one thing though stands out to us and that is the amazing kind act of generosity you did for our beloved papa James Larsen. You may remember that you were talking about the Normandy Beach landings excursion on the stage when you asked if there were any World War II Veterans there. My papa raised his hand and one other passenger did too. You spoke to them and thanked them for their service and then offered them free tickets to take the tour to Normandy and Omaha Beach. John, this was so wonderful. We had already booked that excursion but the fact that you refunded his ticket to allow him to go for free blew us all away. My pop was a tank commander in the 741st Tank Battalion and for him to return to Omaha Beach and have his three children and seven grand kids there with him was emotional to say the least. I never did get a chance to thank you, John, as the excursion was on the last day of the cruise so I hope this gets to you. It was a wonderful cruise and one we will never forget. My pop is 90 next week, John, and I am so proud of all he has achieved both in serving his country and raising me and my two sisters and the fact that you acknowledged him is something that he and all of us will never forget.

Sara Potton and family

 

I have written back to Sara and thanked her for this humbling e-mail and again thanked her father for his extraordinary service. I had not planned to do that, it was a spur of the moment thing in offering two WW II veterans these free passes. I had no idea that one of them, James Larsen had in fact landed on the beach during the D-Day landings. The other gentleman I invited to go declined due to mobility issues he had so instead we paid for him to do the panoramic tour of Paris instead. Yep, it was a spur of the moment thing and one that I am so very glad that I did.

 

It’s good to be back with you on the blog and I will be back on Facebook as well today. It’s going to be a busy month with the Carnival Sunshine’s naming and lots of meetings regarding Bloggers Cruise 7 and, of course, we should have news on the new dining room menus as well.

 

So here I am back in Miami having flown not on British Airways but on Virgin. The flight was mostly uneventful except for the man next to me. He slept through the entire flight, complete with the pillow, the blanket and the eye mask. The only problem was that every few minutes he would smack his lips together as though he was dreaming about eating a chocolate melting cake. He must have taken a sleep inducing drug because how anyone can sleep bolt upright for nine hours with leg room a little person would complain about, is beyond me.

 

I hate flying, you all know that, of course, and I hate flying economy because as Helen Cowie so graciously reminded me in today’s Q&A I am fat and fat people like me hate economy. But it’s not just the lack of space and the awful food but the proximity to strangers. The huge amounts of pace in the business and the first class cabin mean interaction isn’t required. In economy though, the next nine hours of your life are at the mercy of a lottery in which you’re travelling companion could make you long for a parachute as it was with the lip smacking man in a coma next to me.

 

But here I am, safe and sound, encased in the Hyattcontinentalmarriot Hotel here in beautiful Miami. You know, over the years, I have stayed in many hotels, not as many as prostitutes or fly-on acts but enough to have an opinion of them.

 

And so here I sit, in my hotel writing to you and my spine had checked out and buggered off home thanks to nine hours of bolt upright sitting on flight VS005.  The hotel is the one I usually stay at and it’s nice and the people know me here but the old problems have not gone away.

 

The pillows are like postage stamps and hard to find. Let me explain what I mean by that. Before you can crawl between the sheets to watch some Latvians having rumpy pumpy (a snippet at $15.99, by the way), you have to locate the pillows underneath a pile of unnecessary cushions. I don’t want a decorated bed straight from some chick flick movie; I want a comfortable bed, please. The end.

The bathroom is clean but, as usual, smells like it has been used to test chemical weapons oh and as I write to you at now 6:38 am the hotel staff seem to be holding what sounds like the vacuum cleaner Grand Prix in the corridor. And the drivers are obviously awarded extra points each time they crashed, noisily, into any door………….the bastards. There are tea and coffee-making facilities. Except I never use them. It’s a coffee pot that the previous occupant has probably pissed in and several sachets full of stuff that is supposedly coffee and tastes like the inside of LeBron James’ jockstrap.

 

And then there is the toilet, which, as I have mentioned before was built by a sadistic mad person and built only for the little person from Game of Thrones because it’s only a few inches off the ground. This means that I have to slide down the bathroom door onto the floor and crawl across that floor to be able to get on the toilet. And getting up again requires me rolling off the toilet and pulling myself up via the towel rail and the bath/shower. Oh and the spiteful bastard that designed the toilet made sure that fat people like me could enjoy the sight of themselves suffering all this indignity because there is a full length mirror on the inside of the bathroom door and as I sat there last night removing Virgin Atlantic’s Chicken Kiev, I looked in the mirror and for a split second I thought that there was a shar pei dog taking a crap on my toilet.

 

Oh, and one thing that applies to my hotel and our ships………..is anyone really bothered whether the end of the toilet roll is folded into a triangle or not?

 

All I ever want to do after a nine-hour flight is have a shower. But this is rarely possible because all the controls in the shower cubicle were put in place by someone who’s totally bonkers. There are buttons and dials that you have to press and pull rather than the simple ones we have in our showers on board all the ships that work.

 

Torture isn’t allowed under the Geneva Convention but it is still practiced here in my hotel. You either get a drizzle of cold water going over the partition and on to the fake marbled bathroom floor or, if you nudge the faucet by a just half an inch, a torrent of scalding water hot enough to take the skin off an elephant’s testicles blasts you in the face.

 

And I am afraid there is one area in which the hotel industry and cruise industry do compare and there are not many of those for sure. But there is one and it’s that sign that anyone in the service industry hangs in their bathrooms that state how non-environmentally friendly it is to wash the towels. I do my best to be environmentally friendly but after drying myself after a nine-hour flight and leaving that towel laying on the bathroom floor is defiantly going to be an environmental hazard.

 

And then it’s time to finally turn the lights out and go to sleep. You reach for the bedside switch to turn off those lights. Click! The light by the sodding door comes on. You try again. Click! The light on the other side of the bed goes on.

 

So I roll my obese flaccid arse (nice visual there especially for Mrs. Cowie) across the bed to try one of the switches on the other side. Click! Bugger all happens. Leaving one of the bedside lights on, I tried the switch by the door. Click! The room is plunged into blackness. On the way back to bed, I tripped over my suitcase. Oh FFS, put a simple sodding master switch by the bed.

Even when I did manage to turn the lights off, there is still light that shines into the room. That’s because when I pulled the curtains together, a gap opens up along the sides. I pulled the sides back and a gap opens up in the bloody middle. The basic requirement of curtains that fit the window seems to be rocket science to the people who run this hotel.

 

But there is one thing that drives me insane and it’s a subject I answer questions about all the time here and on my Facebook page, yep……….Wi Fi. Oh joy. We are in the process of starting to update our internet services across the fleet which the beards tell me will result in a quicker more affordable service for all of you. But we still have to go through a satellite that is miles above the clouds somewhere over New Jersey and that means it’s not going to be free, more affordable yes, free….nope.

 

That is sort of understandable isn’t it but compare what we offer to the hotel where I am staying. It’s nothing flash or fancy and not one of those boutique hotels that offer mood lighting around the crapper, it’s just a straight forward everyday business hotel. If there’s one thing we all hate in hotels, it’s pricey Wi-Fi. They charge $15 a day plus tax to use it in the room but hold on……. it’s free in the lobby. Why? Can anyone tell me why it’s free in the lobby for any sod that just walks in off the street but for the poor bastards who actually pay to stay in the hotel there is a $15 a day charge in the rooms?

 

Anyway, I guess that as Carnival is paying, then I should go for the free option so I will head on down to the lobby now to work on today’s Q and A. I am sure Gerry and the beards will appreciate me saving them some money…….although I am not sure the other guests in the lobby will like it as much considering all I am wearing……… is my underpants.

 

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.