Bar Fight!

July 18, 2014 -

John Heald

On the last day of each cruise, I hold a Behind the Scenes Q&A. This where I give the audience the microphone and they can ask any question they want and, as senior cruise director and brand ambassador, I try and give the answers and have fun doing so. Each week I am guaranteed that four questions will always be asked and, 99% of the time, I am right. Those questions are:

  1. How much time do the crew have off/how many hours a day do they work? The maximum is 10 hours after which they must have a seven-hour rest period. Each crew member must clock in and out and these reports are regulated by Carnival and shown to the United States Coast Guard as well.
  2. What are the roughest seas you have ever had? The aftermath of Hurricane Bitch…….I mean Mitch….on Carnival Triumph. Not pleasant at all and, just behind that, was the Carnival Magic sailing in the Gulf of Leon between Spain and France.
  3. Is there a morgue and a brig on the ship? Yes and we always hope we never have to use either of them.
  4. How did you get started as a cruise director? Story coming up later in the blog.

These, along with the often asked, “How much do you earn, John?” seem to be the most commonly asked questions and, with the exception of the salary one, I always have the answers ready to go. I will, in future blogs, talk about questions 1, 2 and 3, but today I want to talk about number 4.

The reason for that is it involves violence, not something I enjoy or advocate but, honestly, last cruise, I felt like punching something or someone, actually, and it reminded me of that. The person in question was a guest who was so rude, so aghhhhhhh, I can’t even begin to put into writing some of the foul and degrading things he said about American servicemen during the Vietnam War, that I was having vivid thoughts of using my eight years of karate, which I did when I was younger and kicking him hard in the bollocks. The problem with that was twofold. Firstly, there was no way I was going to hit such a small target and, secondly, I can’t get my leg more than five inches off the ground without needing something to lean on …….and some oxygen afterwards.

Anyway, this guest reminded me of the last time I hit someone and I will talk about that after today’s Q&A.

Before I do, a word to our younger readers that Uncle John says violence is not the answer. Yep, as I sit here, in my underpants, I use the keyboard as a sword.  Fighting is not dignified or professional. I mean, you wouldn’t see our President Gerry Cahill leap over the table and do a Chuck Norris-style roundhouse kick on some reporter from CNOXBC for trashing the company he loves with such passion…..would you?

You know, in my job and, indeed, in my life as a whole, I have been made in such a way as to stay calm and carry on. I hate violence. I really do. But the other day as this twenty-something man slandered the people who had fought in Vietnam, I did wonder how it would feel to take my fist and smash it right on the end of his pierced sodding nose.

Time the for today’s Q and A… we go.

Tom Ferdinand asks:
Hello John: I have been reading that Carnival is not a gay friendly cruise line from what others have told me and from what I have read online. I am cruising with my partner, Carlos, on the Carnival Conquest August 10. I want to make sure that there are areas at night only for gays and lesbian passengers to meet that is 100% private. There are more of us than you think!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

John says:
Hello Tom Ferdinand

I am sure you are looking forward to your cruise next month. I am not sure where you have read that Carnival is not a gay friendly cruise line because, quite simply, we are. Each ship has advertised nightly LGBT meetings and, although not in a private location, they are held in bars and lounges and give guests a chance to meet new friends. I have no doubts you will have a brilliant time. Best wishes to you both.


Rhonda Burnett asks:
I have been on three cruises in the last two years. I couldn’t believe it took me 50 years to discover cruising, I LOVE IT! Sadly, despite paying perfectly good money like everyone else with a balcony, I was told today that smoking will no longer be allowed on the balcony. It doesn’t make sense to me, as smoking on your own private balcony is less intrusive than smoking on a public deck. I’m just sad because I didn’t know my last cruise was going to be my last cruise.

John says:
Hello Rhonda Burnett

I am so sorry that you won’t be cruising with us again and I truly hope you will change your mind. We live in an anti-smoking world on land and sea and for the well-being of the mainly non-smoking guests and for safety reasons, too, we have joined most other major cruise lines with this restriction. I know you are frustrated and I totally understand and I will work hard to make the smoking areas we do have more comfortable. Meanwhile, I hope you will think about all the great fun you had on your cruises and that we will see you again soon. Best wishes.


Doug Collier asks:
Heald: There was a bog poll taken on Cruise Critic with hundreds of people including members of the 50,000 Club urging Carnival to stop the last night cheesy song by the wait staff in the main dining hall. The bags are packed and leaving on a cruise ship makes me cringe and hundreds of people who took part in this premium poll agreed. Dump it and take the cha cha slide with it.

John says:
Hello Doug Collier

I wish you could have sent me the link so I could see what “hundreds” of people were saying about this and, certainly, I will canvas my readers here to see what they have to say as well. I personally think it’s a nice way to say goodbye but it has been around for many years, so maybe, yes, it is time to look for a replacement. Let me pass this onto some of the beards and Ken, our maître d’ here on the Carnival Miracle, and see what they have to say. Thanks, then, for bringing this to my attention. Best wishes.


Ted Haines asks:
Heald: You say you are a smoker but you are nothing but a puppet. If you had any pull with this company, you would have stood up for our rights and done something. I am disgusted in Carnival and disgusted at you, Heald. There are voices similar to mine all being heard at Don’t say you support us because that’s just bulls*** from your fat mouth. Don’t talk, do and stop treating us smokers like people who live in a third world country.

John says:
Hello Ted Haines

I can see how angry you are and that makes me sad. I am happy to say here loud and proud that I am upset at the decision to not allow smoking on balconies. I am a cigar lover and this was my one form of solitude away from the guests, the staff and from the thousands on social media. It was my 45 minutes of peace. Cigars were my yoga. But I also understand that we are a minority and that Carnival, like most other cruise lines, had to do what was right for the well-being of the guests and for the safety of their vessels. All I can do is assure you that I will work hard to make the areas where we still allow smoking to be more comfortable. I do hope we see you soon. Best wishes.


Lynette S. asks:
John, my dear: The hubs and I decided, after a long and massively annoying bout of “weighing options,” to cruise for the second time with Carnival. We are sailing the Carnival Pride on the 20th for out 16th anniversary (six married). We kinda scored with a lucky draw of a handicapped room while booking, solidifying our decision to cruise. I know there must be others who may not need them but have them, how does Carnival choose which non-handicapped cabin to relocate? Can I just refuse until I am forced out? Trying to avoid check-in disappointment…

John says:
Hello Lynette S

If this is the July 16th you are talking about, then there is little chance of you being moved from the cabin. But, should someone who needs it and if there are no other special needs cabins available, you can indeed be asked to move as we do give priority to guests who need the facilities in these cabins. But I am sure all will be well and that you will have a wonderful time. If there is anything at all I can do for you, please do ask. Best wishes to you both.


Richard Hayes asks:
I have a comment and question. When I started to look for cruises for next year (we have a cruise booked plus other travel which cover the last half of the year), my wife and I thought about Europe or the Panama Canal but no cruises listed on your website. So is there a chance there may be some planned later? Also, just saw your new policy about smoking and am bothered by it even if I am no longer a smoker. I can understand why many are upset. BUT the main reason I may not cruise with Carnival next year will be the lack of places to go.

John says:
Hello Richard Hayes

I miss Europe too and that’s why I am hoping that we can return at some point as our guests miss it too. I will keep you informed when, and if, we return. I do hope we see you soon and if there is anything I can do, please let me know. Best wishes.


Sean and Chloe Mendip ask:
Just off the Carnival Breeze and, Matt, the cruise director, was great. He danced every dance at the deck parties and did The Wobble like no other. John, I don’t mean to be rude but this is what we want in our cruise directors, not some old lethargic man telling dated jokes. You had your day, hang up your hat and please let Matt be the cruise director who is on the new ship, meaning Carnival Vista. He deserves it and your passengers deserve to see an energetic party animal, not a cruise director who is a throwback to Julie McCoy. Just sayin’.

John says:
Hello Sean and Chloe Mendip

I am a huge fan of Matt and his energy is extraordinary as is that of many of our cruise directors and, certainly, I do not “wobble”…well, I do but not the dance version. I think Matt has a brilliant future and thanks so much for the kind words about him and let’s see what happens with Carnival Vista. Best wishes.


Steve Hecht asks:
Hi John. You may remember us from the Baltic cruise last year. My wife and I are currently on the Carnival Breeze and I wanted to pass along some observations for you to take to the beards. First off, Matt is one of your best cruise directors (behind you, of course, ha ha) but he really does a great job. The food is outstanding — better than other ships we have been on, and, being platinum, we have been on a few. The negatives: Why is this ship so warm? It seems that the A/C is not up to the task. Many public areas of the ship, the back of the Blush dining room and our cabin are warmer than usual. When we questioned this, we were told it was normal. Sorry but having been on a dozen or more ships, it is warm on this one. The beach pool is a minimum of 20 degrees hotter than any other spot on Lido. I think that is due to the fact that the windows do not open and there is no cross ventilation. With the pool being lower than the rest of the area, you are down in a hole with no air movement. I feel sorry for the bar folks that have to endure the heat. We have cruised the Alaskan waters, the north Atlantic and the Med and we have never rocked like we rock on this ship. Just my observations; just thought the beards should know.

John says:
Hello Steve Hecht

Well, thank you for the kind words and I agree that Matt is a brilliant CD and one who has a very bright future. I am so glad you are having fun (had fun) and I will make sure the ship’s managers see this. I am sorry to read that some areas are too hot, that should be adjusted so please leave this with me and let me make sure the right people see your comments and make changes. I do hope that we will see you soon and thanks again for taking the time to write. Best wishes.


Peter Huber asks:
I am a long standing Carnival customer and shareholder who, like many of the people who write on this blog, think your loyalty program is less than adequate. There should be a lounge open each night only for platinum passengers serving free drinks and exclusive only to us like the Crown & Anchor lounges on all Royal Caribbean ships. This creates a special feeling away from other non-VIP passengers. There should be rows or preferred seating for us at shows– again, a policy that other lines have in abundance. I also strongly affirm what Clara said in her post that we should have a special exit and entrance gangplank on to and off the ship so we are not forced to stand in line with non-VIPs. These additions and more will keep your VIPs loyal. If you do not, you will lose most of us and Carnival will suffer.

John says:
Hello Peter Huber

We truly appreciate our loyal guests and, while I cannot comment on what other lines offer, I think our loyalty program is a good one. We will not be adding any of the suggestions you mentioned but the program, as a whole, is being closely looked at as we speak. I will let you know of any changes as soon as I am able. Until then, I do hope we see you soon. Best wishes.


Lisa asks:
Hi John. I am an agent servicing with Carnival. I had to do many cancellations yesterday because of the new smoking policy. I totally understand it but, obviously, the guests didn’t and many
cancelled. So, in class today, someone made a suggestion we thought needed to be passed on…so you’re the lucky one to get it!! 🙂 How about a hookah bar? Maybe that would draw back the guests we lost or get some new ones. Anyway….a suggestion. Have a great day!

John says:
Hello Lisa

Thank you for all your support and I know it has been a challenging week since we announced the new smoking policy and then NCL did too, so I am sure your work has been even more so. I think there is little chance of the hookah bar ever happening but never say never, I guess. Thanks to you again and if I can ever do anything for one of your customers, our guests, please do let me know. Best wishes.


Charles Murray asks:
Hi John: Have a little problem and maybe you can help. I am a gold level cruiser and heading towards the next level. During my recent welcome back party while cruising on the Carnival Liberty, I was one of the few guest that could raise my hand when ask who in room had cruised on the Carnivale back in 1978. This was the second ship of the Carnival Lines, if I remember correctly. My problem is, I cannot get credit for this cruise since no records were kept back then. I wrote Carnival and told them it was a July of 1978 cruise out of Miami. My 18th birthday was on that cruise. I left for military activity the week after. Hard to forget. Carnival will not give me credit for the seven-day cruise. I don’t have any records of this because I went in the military the week after and have no records. I don’t think anyone would fake something like this so long ago. Being I’m a faithful Carnival customer, can’t something be done? Help. Thank you.

John says:
Hell Charles Murray

I appreciate you telling me this and I will pass this along to the right people. If you had a luggage tag, photo or anything from that cruise, this would really help. But, as I said, leave it with me and I will see if anything can be done. Thanks for writing and hope we see you soon. Best wishes.


And that’s all for today. Thanks to everyone for their questions and comments.

Time to talk about debarkation. Here, on the Carnival Miracle, I will be going to what is known as a “silent debarkation” system. This means just one announcement only from me to say we have started and then I can spend the rest of the morning sitting in my underpants writing blog and Facebook updates. Now the reason we will be doing this is because of complaints from some people who live on the side of a hill that looks right over the ship. These are apparently very well to do houses, a millionaire’s row of Seattle. I can see them from my cabin and they are big mansion-style dwellings with lawns more manicured than Kim Kardashian’s lady garden and with huge flag poles stuck in them proudly flying the Stars and Stripes….…the lawns, not Kim Kardashian. Understandably, then, these lawyers, doctors, business magnates and pillars of the Seattle society do not want their morning coffee and drizzled poached eggs on the terrace ruined by some fat Davey Jones-sounding cruise director telling guests to have a safe journey home and, occasionally, when bored, singing loudly….. “Let It Go.”

So it is time, then, to start a silent debarkation, which will please the people on the hill and, please, if I am honest, the guests as well. You know how it is, right? Everyone has a face like a bowl of curdled milk. A dark cloud hovers over everyone’s head and the gangways echo with deep sighs. It is what is called “post-cruise crash” and I have a question for you, how long does this feeling last for?  Tell me your experiences of “post cruise crash.”

So, as promised, here is the story of how I went from the bar department to the entertainment department. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me begin. It was 1989, WHAM was singing Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and I weighed the same as my right thigh now does. My hair was as black as coal and I was a sex object, meaning I asked every lady I met for sex and they would all object. I had been promoted from wine steward to assistant bar manager, not because management thought I would be a great manager, but because my knowledge of wine was about the same as the Pope’s knowledge of Lady Ga Ga songs. So they gave me a white uniform and made me an assistant bar manager.

The ship was the Jubilee and, one night, I was sitting at the Gazebo Bar (loved that promenade on the Jubilee) with the bar manager. We shall call him Oswaldo, as that was his name, and he was a total and utter bastard. Hold on, for those of you who are saying that’s unfair and unprofessional, please stand by and you will see why I said that and said it with such ferocity. The entire bar department were scared of him and, indeed, so was I. He was as popular as a genital wart and he ruled the department through fear and intimidation.

Now you have to remember that this was 20-plus years ago and, back then, once the ropes were undone and the ship moved away from the dock, that was it, the ship was its own boss. There was no email, no ship-to-shore phones, there was bugger all and we did have one or two managers in various departments who were real dick…..tators….and Oswaldo was one of these. So there I sat on Promenade Deck with Herr Oswaldo and all that was missing to complete his tyranny was a small moustache above his nose. He was from Spain, not Germany, but the “Herr” and the moustache reference should give you an idea of how he ruled his department.

This was his thing. At 9 pm every night, he would sit with me and watch the business sipping on his vodka cranberry, as normal. So, along comes a five-foot-nothing bar waiter from Indonesia. His name was Aslim and I will never forget him. He was carrying a full tray of drinks and, for whatever reason, he suddenly dropped them and the Promenade Deck was suddenly swimming in beer, wine and slippery nipples. And he had done this right in front of Herr Oswaldo.

I rushed over to help him and I remember even guests — or passengers — as you were known back then – helped, as well. Not Oswaldo, he stood waiting for the debris to be collected and the deck to be mopped and for Aslim to replace all the drinks for the guests and then told me to bring Aslim to the bar manager’s office. I did so, reluctantly, and I could see how nervous Aslim was. Once in the bar manager’s office, I watched Oswaldo explode. He grabbed Aslim by the collar of his burgundy uniform jacket and started to shake him, screaming how he would be taking the cost spilled drinks out of his salary. He kept shaking him and shouting at him repeatedly. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I asked Oswaldo to stop shaking him. He didn’t. So I forced myself between them. He looked at me with an expression of unadulterated hatred. His lip was curled and his brow was sweating as I calmly asked him again to stop and he responded by taking his hand and shoving it hard into my face and pushed me away.

And I am not proud, to say that I reacted as my karate teacher had taught me and threw a huge elbow to his nose followed by a right knee to his bollocks. Oswaldo screamed at me in Spanish and, as he did so, he lifted both hands to his nose and fell onto his desk writhing in agony, blood pumping from his surely broken hooter. And I bet his bollocks weren’t having a good day out either.

I took Aslim by the arm and we both left the office. As we did, I knew my Carnival career was over. I had been there just three years but that was that, there was no way I was going to survive this. These days, we don’t have any managers in any department like Oswaldo but, if anything close to bullying were to happen, there are protocols in place involving the HR director, staff captain and hotel director. Back then, there was none of this and so I found the staff captain, told him what had happened and that was me, confined to my cabin.

We didn’t even have a formal security department back then and, so, to make sure I didn’t do my Bruce Lee impression on anyone else, the ship’s command had deck hand sit outside my cabin all night long. Now all of this had happened on the last night of the cruise and we were in Miami the next day, so I had packed my suitcase and was ready to be taken off the ship, which, when a crew member is terminated, he is taken under guard back to the airport and only given his or her passport once on the plane as their C1 D1 visas are null and void.

That is what I was expecting. Nobody came to talk to me that night and I remember just sitting there, waiting for the inevitable. I had no qualms about what I had done. I hate bullying, always have and always will, and so while it was the end of my career, I felt at peace with myself for having protected Aslim, who had made the simple mistake of dropping a few drinks. The ship docked. Still nothing. It was just me and my best mate, Jose, the deck hand. I wished someone would hurry up and just fire me and get this over with.

Eventually, there was a knock at the door and there stood Roger Blum, now my great friend, the then director of operations. Bloody hell, I thought, I am really in the s**t. But I wasn’t. Roger told me what I had done was wrong but after listening to what Aslim, the bar waiter, had said, the ship and the office people realised I was protecting a crew member and that I had acted in self defence. I was told I had broken Oswaldo’s nose and that his bollocks has shriveled up to the size of almonds and he had left the ship for medical treatment.

And then came the shocker. I wasn’t just not fired, I was told that, under the circumstances, it would be better if I became a social host. And so later that morning, I took my packed suitcase, moved cabins, and, to my utter joy, it had its own private bathroom so my days of peeing in the sink were over and my days of entertaining the guests and using a microphone had begun. I never saw Oswaldo again as he and Carnival came to an agreement that it was best that he go home to Spain and he never returned to Carnival. I hope he is today living in peace and happiness with a nose as bent as a dog’s back leg.

I should have been fired but thanks to Roger and the other Carnival executives of the day, I wasn’t and they gave me that chance and I hope that this now fat, grey-haired cruise director hasn’t let them down and I will be eternally be grateful for the chance they gave me. So children, remember Uncle John’s words of wisdom. If you want to succeed, find a manager and break his nose, it means guaranteed promotion.


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.