Smoking — the last word.

July 15, 2014 -

John Heald

So I have not had much time to talk about Alaska this week with all that’s been happening. It is, of course, all about the scenery and the things that live in it. I have mentioned many times on my blog since being on the Carnival Miracle how excited my good friend Michelle, our naturalist, gets when she sees, smells or talks about any of God’s creatures great and small. And certainly on an Alaskan cruise there is plenty of opportunity to see them in their natural habitat as the place is teeming with whales, porpoises, sea lions, bald eagles, bears, birds and more.

Yep, if you love wildlife than an Alaskan cruise should be at the very top of your basket list, or is it bucket? Whatever, you know what I mean. We humans have a consuming urge to either feel needed by animals, or to feel sorry for them, or to eat them, or all of the above and now in Skagway you can take your love of animals to a new level by combining looking for wildlife with horseback riding. This past cruise one of our most popular new excursions was the horse back wilderness excursion which sold out quicker than a new batch of hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I like dogs, I have one. I don’t like cats and the way they crap in my garden and the way their tails stick up in the air so you can see where that poo comes from. But horses, nope, I just don’t get horses. My sister has two. My daughter wants one and from Jamaica to Aruba and from Skagway to St. Maarten, put the word “horse “in the excursion title and it is a guaranteed sell out.

Horse enthusiasts are forever telling me, that their horse is very intelligent — bollocks! If it were intelligent it wouldn’t let you ride round on it. If you ask anyone of the thousands of people reading this blog right now to give you a piggyback around Alaska because you couldn’t be bothered to walk, they’d tell you to bugger off. Anyway, for those of you who do like horses we now have a brilliant excursion in Skagway.

You won’t be seeing me on a horse, not after last time I was on a horse with my entertainer friend Greg Russell. He told me the horse would be really gentle so I got on it and immediately it started bucking and kicking its legs in the hair. I fell half off and my foot is caught in the stirrup thingy and it was dragging me behind. It was a terrifying ordeal and honestly I thought that this was it, this is how I would die being dragged behind a sodding horse. Luckily, though, the manager at the Wal-Mart came out, unplugged it and saved my life.

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

Adriana Mosca asks:
I am now on the ship. I thought you said Carnival employees never say no!!! They did on the Carnival Victory. I asked the room service person to send me 20 bananas but was told they could not do that. I am on a diet called The Morning Banana Diet but when I told them this I was rudely told no and they would only send me three. Big time mad about this.

John says:
Hello Adriana Mosca

I am sorry that this reply is after the cruise and I want to start by saying that I hope you had a wonderful time. Then let me say that that this is honestly a strange request and I think they may not have been able to do it because sending 20 of anything would have left the stock in room service short and they would have had to say “no” to other guests while they waited for the store room to deliver more. I am sure had you called a few different times that they would have been able to help you and send you more as requested, not just 20 at one time. Again, I am sorry this upset you and I do hope you managed to have fun and that we will see you soon. Best wishes.


Barbara Thompson asks:
Dear John: I have heard that Carnival is starting a pirate night on cruises in September. My question is will it be on our Carnival Dream cruise. We cruise Aug 31, so I am not sure if we would have this event. I just wanted to know so I can plan accordingly. Love Carnival!

John says:
Hello Barbara Thompson

Yes, indeed, we are going to be having a pirate night and details and dates will be released soon. It should be lots of fun and I hope you get to do it on your cruise. I will of course keep you informed. Have a brilliant cruise and please let me know if you need anything. Best wishes.


Karen asks:
Hi John: FYI, I totally love your writings! Thank you for having common sense. This is so lost anymore. I had my first cruise with Carnival on Carnival Dream this past New Year’s Eve. It was at the suggestion of my sister, who is at least platinum. My husband was totally upset with me for booking this cruise without his knowledge or consent. He pouted like a two-year-old for months! I thought I’d never make the cruise because I’d be in jail for killing him! LOL. Long story short, after a couple of days, he finally relaxed and had a fabulous time! (Although he will never admit it to me!) Anyway, we are booked again for this November on the Sunshine. I picked this particular time because he will be celebrating his 60th birthday. I would appreciate any suggestions from you about doing something special for him. We’ve done the steakhouse, so I know that won’t be “special” anymore. Keep up the great work with your comments on FB and your blog. I love reading about it all. Hopefully, someday we will have the privilege of meeting you in person! In the meantime, bon voyage! (P.S. We’re not French…lol)

John says:
Hello Karen

Well, I am glad this story had a happy ending and hopefully we have now made a cruise convert out of your husband. It sounds like he is looking forward to this celebration cruise and you have lots of things planned. Please send me your cabin number on my page the day before you sail and let me see what I can add to the occasion. I wish you both the best of times together. Best wishes.


Beth Walkley asks:
John: This was my fourth cruise as we have just walked off the Carnival Sunshine this morning. I have never written you before but I felt I needed to as to all the bad reviews this ship and staff have received. On our first sea day we were laying by the pool and they just finished water aerobics. This family was very upset that they made the kids move to the front of the pool while they were doing their class. She felt that the class should have been held in the Serenity pool. She ripped into the instructor. Then a few hours later I went to customer service and she was ripping into them. The staff handled her amazingly as I would have thrown her overboard. When we left Cozumel it was a pretty rough ride. My kids were concerned as we were leaning a little. The wait staff kept walking by leaning real hard to the right. I never laughed so hard. The ship is beautiful. No bad smells. No rude staff. Jamie Dee is an awesome cruise director. Never have seen someone with so much energy and she says she doesn’t drink caffeine. I must give a big thank you to our wait staff.  I Nyoman – we called him Wi And Victor. As I said we walked off the ship about an hour ago and I’m waiting on a call back now from my PVP on an eight-day cruise on the Carnival Sunshine.

John says:
Hello Beth Walkley

Thanks so much for this great review and it seems you had a brilliant time despite that bad weather. I have to agree that making people leave the pool is not a great idea and I will chat with the ship to see if we can find a better time to do this. I know that the people you mentioned will be thrilled when they see this and I hope that the fun you had means we will see you again soon. Thanks again for taking the time to write and I am here if you need anything. Best wishes.


Doug Frantz asks:
Dear John: You may remember me my partner Amy and my friends Sean and Hana as we were dressed in our Star Trek Starfleet Officers Uniforms at your Alaska seminar. You certainly had fun at our expense and we loved every minute of it. We had lots of pictures with other passengers which was a great feeling. Special shout out goes to our amazing always smiling cabin steward, Roy, who we gave a Star Fleet Academy pin to. The same kudos goes to Wayan and Izi in the dining room table 262. John, just one comment if I may. You said in your seminar something I feel I need to correct because Captain Kirk never actually said “Beam me up, Scotty” LOL. We had a blast John and next stop on our five-year mission is Carnival Dream in January 2015 LOL.

John says:
Hello Doug Frantz

I do indeed remember you well and in fact I wrote about you in a blog last week and the Star Trek cruise convention we had many years ago. Thanks for putting up with my silliness but it’s not every day you have Star Trek people in the third row. And I have noted that Captain Kirk never said that, I had no idea. Most importantly, I will send your kind words for the people you mentioned and they will be so proud that you took the time to mention them. I wish you a wonderful time on your next cruise and hope that you boldly go on to become platinum and diamond members. Best wishes to all.


William Dubuc asks:
Just off Carnival Liberty – One major complaint was that we had Frozen and the Lego movie as choices for the big screen. The kids have their camp so why are we inflicted with this crap and why are there not more adult theme movies? This ruined my cruise experience John it really did make hundreds of passengers walk off in disgust.

John says:
Hello William Dubuc

Certainly choosing what movies we play on the big screen is difficult because we do proudly cater to a family audience and with kids passing across the deck all the time we have to be careful of the content. So we really do try and mix it up accordingly with movies for all. I see that your cruise had the movies Gravity, Ride Along, Divergent, The Vow and The Hobbit, certainly more for adults than kids. I hope we see you again and let me know when you cruise next and I will let you know what movies you will see.  Best wishes.


Christopher Resnick asks:
Your writing is some of the most ignorant I have ever read. You obviously have a 100% lack of education about global warming and the threat it brings to our planet earth. I suggest you start by watching Al Gore’s campaigning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The case for global warming is fact. It is typical of “non-believers” like you to adopt a certainty that their view is correct, witness Islamists and fundamental Christians to name just two. This page is supposedly about cruises not a page for you to express your ignorance,

John says:
Hello Christopher Resnick

I do apologise if any of my remarks offended you and your right, sometimes I do drift away from cruising and express a remark or two about other subjects. I respect your opinion as I hope you will mine and as for global warming, well I prefer to keep an open mind……….not an empty one.

Best wishes.


Shawn Clemons asks:
Hi John: First off, I am not a TA. I work for a travel nursing company as the director of operations. However 15 years ago I was a TA and fell in love with cruising then. Last year I took my first cruise with carnival and absolutely loved it except for the kids. Since you are
on the ship I am sailing on in October, I was hoping you could give me some insight to how many children sail in October for a 15-day cruise — and when you’re doing a 15-day cruise that is sold out is it like doing a Caribbean that is sold out. Is the occupancy of the cabin as high – three to four to a cabin? I am the consummate researcher and try to always be prepared. I have looked through your blogs and I have not seen where you have addressed this. I must tell you I greatly have appreciated you honesty on your blog. Thanks for your time in advance — I am excited to experience Hawaii in the fall — by all accounts you are the best CD out there!

John says:
Hello Shawn Clemons

Thanks for writing and I see you are on the cruise to Hawaii which I have no doubts will be superb. The current count for guests under 18 is 78 which are actually quite high for a longer cruise like this. The cruise will I am sure sell out because longer cruises like this are very popular and do not come around too often. I have no doubts you will have a brilliant time and I will be here if you or your family need anything at all. Thanks for writing and for the very kind words.

Best wishes.


Brenda Carty asks:
When will Carnival get back to Europe? Every other cruise line seems to me to be cruising there so why not you guys

John says:
Hello Brenda Carty

I miss Europe too very much and we are hoping that air fares from North America become more affordable so we can return one day. I will, of course, keep you informed. Best wishes.


Sarah Kozel asks:
John, dress code, your favorite subject to defend and try to abolish. I am a platinum VIP and close to diamond status!!! Just off the Carnival Glory and saw two ladies come for dinner some nights with a summer dress over a bikini. They had come no doubt straight from sun bathing and just put a plain beach style white dress over their bikinis. This is disgusting that the maitre d let them come in the main dining hall dressed like that.

John says:
Hello Sarah Kozel

It will always be an opinion that divides our guests. To me a summer dress is fine but if it’s wet or straight from the pool then I would agree it should be allowed in. However from what you describe that was not the case. Regardless the most important part of my reply is that I hope that all the fun you have had that has kept you coming back to Carnival and so close to being Diamond status would not stop because of what someone else wore for dinner. Thanks so much and I remain here at your service. Hope to see you soon. Best wishes.


Sabrina asks:
We has a question regarding the comedy lineup for the August 30 Carnival Fascination cruise. Our Carnival planner/booking agent Michelle Hill said you are the one to ask. We were wondering who the comedy entertainer is on that five-day cruise out of the Jacksonville. Also, we have seen the same show for the last three years. Do you have any information on the shows? We have seen Motown and the Diva’s. Thanks John

John says:
Hello Sabrina

Thank you for writing and you will be laughing out loud to Hank McGauley and John Wesley Austin. The shows are currently the new Playlist shows of Divas and Motor City. Enjoy the shows and have a brilliant cruise and let me know if you have any other questions. Best wishes.


And that’s all we have time for today. Thanks you though for all your comments and for getting this blog voted as the winner of USA Today’s best cruise blog. I am honoured beyond words.

Just before we move on let’s have a quick look at who is sailing with us this cruise, shall we?

These cruises are really going quickly so let’s have a look at who is sailing as we start another Alaska adventure.

Total Guests                            2,591
USA                                        2,323
Canada                                                61
French Canadian                     11
UK                                          11
Australia                                  18
China                                       38
Guests Under 18                     424
Service Dogs                           1 poodle – for sleep apnea (name unknown)
Diamond                                 7
Platinum                                  155

Yep, here we go again and I am sure both man and beast will have the best of times. It has been a hectic few days on Facebook and I don’t think I have answered so many comments since we told you the shrimp cocktail was off the menu. Look, there is no point me answering another hundred or so questions on the new smoking polices here as well so I picked two, here they are:

Paul Lowes
URGENT! The beards need to see this poll and so do you John Heald. It was conducted after that disgusting announcement about smoking being BANNED on the balconies. You have pandered to the whiners and will now surely lose 50 percent of your business. Take a look at this poll conducted on the world’s most read cruise site and you will see just how many people HATE this idea and read the comments from your customers who will go to other cruise lines who do not treat their customers like workers in cotton fields forced to smoke in uncomfortable conditions.  We all want this to be changed and have more rights for smokers or Carnival will see a big hole in their earnings!! Carnival need to wake up and realize that anti-smoking is more religion than science!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And then this one

Hello John. I have spent all day reading the comments on your blog and other cruise opinion web pages about Carnival, my cruise line of choice banning smoking on the balcony.  John, I have smoked since I was 17. I belong to the generation whose parents both smoked 40 Camel cigarettes a day and whose childhood was spent enveloped in clouds of smoke. Everyone smoked in Chicago where I grew up. You could smoke on the bus, bars and clubs, everywhere. Nobody wanted to stop and once I’d started because my friends smoked, neither did I. I loved smoking and I had no regrets. It drives people mad when you say smoking is cool, but disliking something doesn’t stop others from doing it. Smoking used to be cool. People who smoked were by and large more fun than the people who coughed ostentatiously and waved their hands around saying, “Ugh” were boring and not cool.  I remember when I was 30 and still smoking and the anti-smoking folks started coming out of their caves telling me that they had given up and that I should as well. And, John, I remember thinking” I’ll take my chances.” Then my father died of lung cancer. He was diagnosed in April and by September he was dead. He had smoked since he was 18 and he died at just 59. My mom and me were grief-stricken but both of us kept smoking despite the fact that the same cigarettes we were putting in our mouths had been the reason we had buried our father. My mom now has lung cancer and I am embarrassed to say that this was not the reason I decided to give up, John. Even with Mom in a care home, I will admit that this was only part of the reason I no longer smoke. It is because smoking has recently become no fun, a word I know you use a lot, John, so I am sure you will understand. I was fed up with leaving restaurants mid-dinner to have a lonely cigarette outside, or of walking around the port of San Juan our cruise last year getting breathless going up a small hill to the old town.

What to do? I had smoked for 25 years. I had big nicotine addiction. I wasn’t going to be able to stop just like that. It is not just smoking that I enjoy but the ritual. And, I didn’t really want to stop smoking. I wanted a magic cigarette that did me no harm — or, at least, considerably less harm. It turns out that such a thing exists. I haven’t had tobacco for nearly six months. It is incredible and the joy of it has made me giddy. I am vaping — inhaling the vapor from a cigarette. This vapor contains nicotine but none of the 50 carcinogens found in Marlboro Lights. And yes, I am still addicted to (a decreasing amount of) nicotine. Being addicted to nicotine can lead to stroke, or cancer, or make your skin wrinkly and grey, or make your fingers yellow, or give you gum disease and brown teeth — all things that I want to avoid.

And, just like that, your life changes and you are free of nicotine. It was too late for my dad and too late it seems for my dear mom but it is not too late for me. I think banning cigarettes from balconies is a good thing and I know I will get flamed for saying that. Let may say to those who will flame me though is that cigarettes killed my Dad and will be the cause of Mom’s death as well. That is something I have to live with every day but I have more days now since stopping smoking and using my life saving vapor cigarette. So please John, please do not make me smoke this only where people are using real cigarettes. I hope this post shows you why. Thank you for listening

So, two very different stories there and both have strong arguments. There is one fact that is never going to change and that is smoking is never going to get easier. You can debate the rights and wrongs of that but with laws and regulations on land and sea getting even stricter as to where and when people can smoke it is a juggernaut that can’t be stopped. There is no going back. I will answer your questions always of course but I shan’t be commenting in the heart of the blog anymore. Time to move on and concentrate on making the smoking areas we do have more comfortable.

I am in discussion with the beards about improving the smoking areas we have and our current polices on eCigarettes and I will let you know as and when I have news on this. Opinions will be divided and if I can say it’s been difficult for me to stay objective and juggle the brand ambassador role in one hand and my Monte Cristo cigar in the other. But banning smoking from the balconies gives fresh air to those above, below and next to smokers like me and elevates the risk of fire, as well. Those are facts, love them, hate them, doesn’t matter, the fact is they are here to stay because such is the way of the world we now live in.

Let’s move on, shall we? About three years ago I was approached by another cruise line suggesting that I should come and work for them. They offered me a very big salary jump and all the Latvian women I would possibly want. OK, maybe not the Latvians but the money offer was flattering for sure. But honestly and I mean honestly as nice as that was I didn’t give it a second thought. I politely said no and that was that.

Why? Two reason. First, is that it has taken luck and a huge dollop of hard work to get me where I am today and I don’t mean sitting at my desk on the Carnival Miracle writing to you. No, I mean senior cruise director and brand ambassador to Carnival Cruise Lines. Then there is the fact that I really truly doubt any other cruise line would let me be…..well……….me. And maybe it is safe to say that deep down no other cruise lines passengers would want me to be ………… well …………me.

But there is a another reason — a bloody big one at that. And it’s one simple word, loyalty. This company has been brilliant to me and to my family in more ways that I can ever give them gratitude for. And so they have my loyalty. I am loyalty to Micky Arison and to Gerry Cahill and to the thousands of people who work on land and sea alongside me to make sure that everyone reading this has the very best of times on your vacation. Loyalty in the work place is not always evident and loyalty in sports teams these days is as rare as a Smoking Allowed Here sign…….. well………anywhere.

Where is that loyalty? It is a familiar saying from fans who take such huge pride in their faithfulness to a team. These last few days my two favourite sports stars left my two favourite teams — Louis Suarez from Liverpool to Barcelona (that’s saccccceerrrr) and, of course, LeBron James from my Miami Heat to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Miami will miss Mr. James, of course. We will always accept that sports stars can earn wealth beyond our wildest dreams, but it’s when they put the money at the forefront of their decisions and start acting like commodities rather than sporting stars, that make my hemorrhoids itch.

But as far as my loyalty is concerned it is unquestioning……….unless, of course, Disney Cruise Line offer me a job as brand ambassador, I might change my loyalty then. Yep, my Facebook page as their brand ambassador could have a video of me in the shower washing my dangly bits singing “It’s a Small World”……..that aside……..there is only one Micky I am loyal to.


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.