‘SHIP LIFE’

July 22, 2014 -

John Heald

My regular cabin steward and friend, Ketut, is currently on vacation but in reality he is in rehab for spending the last three months having to wash my underpants……….by hand. His replacement is Ariel from the Philippines. He really is a wonderful guy, full of life and always sings when he is cleaning my cabin. A few days ago, I noticed he wasn’t singing. I asked him why?  Life on a ship can be lonely, very lonely and sometimes the crew tends to keep their troubles to themselves or is too busy in their work to find time to talk about what’s on their mind. They are encouraged to always to talk to someone whether it is their department head or someone from our human resources department but the fact is many do not………It’s hard to explain why….it’s just ship life.

But I realised that the always singing, always happy Ariel was not himself and I asked what was wrong? The answer, a bastard called Rammasun or Typhoon Rammasun to be exact. This huge mega storm passed to the south of Manila with winds at an unbelievable 200 mph. And while his family were uninjured, his home, the home he shared with his sister and mother and his two-year-old son, was totally destroyed from the foundations up, completely devastated. It was a home that Ariel had help pay to build with his hard work for five years on Costa Cruises before joining Carnival a few months ago. His son was injured, not seriously but enough to have him in a hospital for a couple of days, a couple of days he had spent cleaning the senior officers cabin and making sure I had my 20 bananas a day.

Had Ariel mentioned this to someone, we would have arranged a flight home but, he knew that what he needed to do was to keep working, to keep sending money home, to start again, to help his family who needed the dollars now more than ever…….I have helped him with some extra money because he truly is a wonderful person. Uncle Google tells me that 200,000 homes in Manila were destroyed or badly damaged, so that has me thinking. I wonder how many other of our Filipino crew received similar news from home after the typhoon struck? How many more are cleaning, serving, cooking, entertaining, photographing guests and being the brilliant crew you all know they are? Most won’t say anything, it will be head down, do the work, smile in guest areas and get that salary and those gratuities home as quickly as possible despite inside, hurting like hell. Why don’t they say anything?…….It’s hard to explain……………you have to work on board……….it’s just ship life.

More on that subject after today’s Q and A, which we start right now.

Lenore Oram asks:
I will be bringing my elderly parents on Carnival Ecstasy. We have cabins R90 and R96. I told your customer service folks that I needed one key that would open both cabin doors so that I can look after my parents but was told no. Why is this? We just stayed last week at the Courtyard by Marriott in Merrillville, IN, and they were happy to do this for me, so why not Carnival? Very disappointed. This has ruined my cruise with you before it has started!

John says:
Hello Lenore Oram

I am glad to see that you and your parents will be sailing with us and I am sure you will have a wonderful time. I am afraid we cannot do this because each door has a different electronic signature and only one can be stored on each key card which is also your Sail & Sign card. Maybe you can just take your mother or father’s card and keep it with you. Please don’t worry and just get ready for lots of fun. Best wishes to you all.

John

Laurie Ryan asks:
Hello: My husband and I are platinum cruisers. We are booked for March 15 on Carnival Conquest of Ft. Lauderdale. We always have a balcony because my husband is a smoker. Given the new policy regarding smoking and not being able to smoke on your balcony, would it be possible to get the outside areas/decks where smoking is allowed. We are looking at switching our room around and get closer to a smoking area which is more convenient for my husband. I did send you and email yesterday but wasn’t sure if I had put my email address in. Thanks.

John says:
Hello Laurie Ryan

I am sure when you booked the cabin it was not just to enjoy smoking from the balcony because there are so many wonderful things to see and experience from it and moments to enjoy together. Carnival Conquest has an outdoor smoking area on deck 10. I hope you keep the cabin and enjoy a wonderful cruise. Please let me know if you need anything. Best wishes.

John

Sherri Gladbach asks:
A poster by the name of ________posted on Cruise Critic the email addresses for all the cruise directors who work for Carnival. ______ said to take the first two letters of the ship name and add CD at the end. I have been emailing the cruise director on the Carnival Victory over and over but no response. I need help with our meet and greet for 7/31 but no help has been offered because he has not replied. Is this the right email code and why, if it is, has he not replied? We have 35 in our roll call and need the piano bar at 3pm after the sail away from Key West – nibbles, etc. Please respond as a matter of some urgency

John says:
Hello Sherri Gladbach

I am glad you have written to me here because, while these email addresses have been published, they do often go to our spam folder called Postini and also the cruise directors are very busy and do not have time or are they expected to converse with guests by email. I, on the other hand, will be happy to assist with a lounge. I will ask the ship if the piano bar is free and if not they will reserve you another lounge. We cannot provide snacks but I will be happy to send you some raffle prizes. I wish you a brilliant time together and please write to me here or on www.facebook.com/johnheald if you need anything else

Mitchell asks:
Hello John Head: We have heard something about a new smoking policy that is supposed to
start Oct 9, 2014 that no longer smoking on the balcony is allowed. What if I’m already booked and my cruise is Oct 5, 2014, does that mean I can’t smoke on my balcony after Oct 9, 2014, or am I grandfathered into the old policy? Thank you for your rapid response.

John says:
Hello Mitchell

That is correct. The new smoking policy starts on the October 9 so it will be OK for you to smoke on your balcony during your cruise as the new rule will not go into effect until the start of the following cruise. Please let me know if you need anything and have a great time. Best wishes. John

Denise Milazzo asks:
Would like to know if Wee Jimmy, the cruise director, will be on the August 3 sailing of the Carnival Sensation next month? We love him

John says:
Hello Denise Milazzo

That’s so good to know as Wee Jimmy is a great friend and I am very proud of the work he does. Unfortunately, he will be on vacation in August and the CD will be Kevin Donahue who I am sure you will enjoy very much. Please let me know if you have any other questions and I wish you a brilliant time. Best wishes.

John

Amy Corder asks:
I just read your FB question about recognizing those who have served. On our last few cruises, the CD has recognized military, emergency services (police, fire, and EMS), and teachers. As these are important careers that serve each and every one of us, one of the biggest careers that serve us is not mentioned. Truck drivers bring us almost everything that we use. If one watches the ship as it’s being loaded, dozens of semi-trucks are delivering foods/etc. for the cruise. If it weren’t for these drivers who are away from their family for sometimes weeks on end for the duration of their entire career (20-30+ years), we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the foods and services on our cruise ships. I just wanted to bring this to your and everyone’s attention. I am in one of the professions that get recognized and, as a Pre-K teacher, we rarely get that recognition due to people thinking we are “glorified babysitters.” Thank you for your time! (Oh, and a side note, the July 29 cruise on the Carnival Miracle, one of the radio DJ’s, that helped inform everyone about what was happening during the Joplin tornado of 2011, will be vacationing with a group of family and friends, Chad Elliot Carroz.

John says:
Hello Amy Corder

Thanks for writing and, you’re right, of course, truck drivers supply us all with things that we often take for granted so please let me say here and now a huge thank you to all the hard work that our truck drivers do to keep the country moving. And thank you too for your wonderful work and giving the children in your care a superb start in life. I will look out for Mr. Carroz and I am sure he will have a brilliant time. Thanks again for writing and I hope to see you soon. Best wishes.

John

Roger Seitz asks:
Was told that the bathrobes in the cabins are not washed or replaced each time but that the cabin boys just hang them back in the closet. True or false ???????????????

John says:
Hello Roger Seitz

I wonder which work of fiction told you this because it is not true in any way. The stateroom stewards replace them with freshly laundered ones every embarkation day. Please let me know if you have any other questions and I will be here to help you answer them. Best wishes.
John

Laurie asks:
Hi John, hoping you can answer a question for me. We will be sailing on the Carnival Sunshine Aug 9, 2014. This will be the first cruise where we will have some of our children and grandchildren with us and we want them to experience everything. We want to book the steakhouse but need to know what nights are the formal nights on the Carnival Sunshine. Hope you can help me with this. Thank you for your time.

John says:
Hello Laurie

I can tell you are excited about your family cruise on the beautiful Carnival Sunshine. The elegant night is on the 10th and that is the only one on this cruise. Please let me know if there is anything I can help you with and I wish you

Angie Morgan asks:
John: We recently booked Carnival Valor for Sept. 2015 out of San Juan and we are really looking toward to our 10th cruise! I have seen vague reference to the fact that Carnival Valor is scheduled to get the 2.0 upgrades soon. Can you confirm or not on whether it will go to dry-dock before our cruise? It would be nice if we knew and what specifically was changing. Thanks in advance! Hope you are having fun on your new gig in Alaska!

John says:
Hello Angie Morgan

Thanks for writing and, at this time, I’m not aware of any plans for the Carnival Valor to have a dry dock this coming year. As soon as I know any plans to give her the 2.0 upgrades, I will let you know. Until then I hope you will let me know if you have any other questions. Best wishes.

John

Linda Vickers asks:
Great news on the new smoking ban. The mongrels can all whine and moan while the rest of us rejoice that their selfishness is at last being punished. Smoking kills – that is a fact.

John says:
Hello Linda Vickers

Certainly, there has been mixed reaction to the news and we will continue to do our best as a cruise line to find a comfortable place for our valued guests who smoke to do so away from those who do not. Thanks for expressing your opinion here and I hope that we see you very soon

Best wishes.

John

And that’s all for today. Please keep the comments coming. As we start another Alaskan adventure, let’s see who is sailing with us.

Total Guests                            2,602 – very busy
USA                                        2,332
Canada                                                48
French Canada                        9
UK                                          22
Australia                                  10
India                                        18
Guests 2-5                               43
6-8                                           55
9-11                                         85
12-14                                       133
15 – 17                                    134
18 – 20                                    97
Age 90 plus                             2
Diamond Guests                     3
Platinum Guests                      81
Most represented state                        California
Most popular last names         Johnson – 17, Smith 16 and Chang 14.

I want to write more about “ship life” if that’s OK and continue with something that could be the last bastion in today’s modern workplace and that’s teasing, banter and well……..making fun and having fun. But even here on the ships it continues in its most diluted form.

You see, back then, it was a massively male-dominated industry, especially onboard. There were no female crew members in the dining rooms, no female bar staff and no female housekeeping personal either. It was the dancers, the spa and a few casino and pursers who were female. And as you could imagine the “banter” was of a much stronger variety and, obviously, not appropriate in today’s world, that’s for sure. Common sayings back then would get you a one-way trip down the gangway today. Some female crew gave it as good as they got and we all got on with the job feeling neither harassed nor discriminated against. But that’s because it was almost never meant seriously or nastily. It was “ship life.” These days the banter still exists and certainly the racier references have long gone. True sexism, true harassment is disgusting and should get the kick in the bollocks it deserves. But it would be a shame if we got rid completely of the banter that has spiced up ship life – and office life, for that matter – for decades. Because for many of us, that would make life on board……..very dull indeed.

You will hear the term “ship life,” every day, over and over again. It covers a big dollop of subjects. One of those is loneliness and the results that this brings, the crew are away from their families and their loved ones and, while it’s not something that I condone or accept as an excuse it is fact that “ship life” brings people together in relationships who may be would never come about if they worked together on land. Some keep it secret or as secret as they can but the gossip drums beat very loudly on a ship. And it’s not like they need to tell anyone who they are dating because it’s as obvious as posting five photos of naked bottoms on this blog, four being Megan Fox’s and one being mine and asking you to pick the one does not belong to the screen goddess.

They might as well skip down Promenade Deck naked holding signs that say, “We are together, hey, that’s ship life.” They’ll think no one notices that in a darkened corner of the crew lounge after work they accidentally always manage to sit next to each other, legs touching under the table. But behind their backs other crew members are pretending to vomit, grinning at each other because ………… they know.

Just like office romances, on cruise ships there are many similarities to those on land. When a lady starts wearing short skirts with one of those push up bra thingies to work when before she wore long black pants and a blouse buttoned all the way to the top…….she’s definitely getting some post-work rumpy pumpy. A man will wear new cologne and if he is Italian he will walk down promenade like a peacock thinking to himself………… “I am the man!”

And, then suddenly, just as the relationship started it will end. One crew member will go on vacation or transfer to another ship and there are goodbyes and then the cycle starts over again because yep, you guessed it, that’s “ship life.”

Don’t get me wrong. There are many relationships between the crew that are meaningful and full of love and many end in marriage. There are countless stories of people from all corners of the world marrying but there are others that founded on loneliness to a certain degree and the need to have someone to spend time with. Relationships happen with “ship life” in rapid time because there is no break, no “I will call you and maybe we can get together next week” because you work, play eat and yes sleep in the same places seven days a week for months at a time. Breakups happen as quickly on ships as relationships do.  People date for a time and then break up and the worst part is that you have to continue to live and work with these people no matter what because that is also part of “ship life.”

And yes there are times where the loneliness manifests itself in a ways that I simply can’t condone. Some crew members sail with their significant other and I absolutely hate having to pretend that I don’t know what is going on when I really do. And I should say that there are many who, like me, agree and are faithful and would not do this but there are some who do, it’s just a fact. And, of course, even if I wanted to have some rumpy pumpy on the side that would not be possible considering I have a face like a bag of smashed oysters and despite my diet I still have a small planet under my shirt. Oh, and the most important reason, I love my wife, unconditionally.

And the two words of the day “ship life” also come to mind when world events happen. You are so cocooned in the everyday hectic life that never allows you to close the office door and bugger off home that you feel so detached from the outside world. Take the situation in Ukraine and the tragic shooting down of the Malaysian plane. As I mentioned on Facebook the other day we have lots of crew from that area and I always make a point of talking to any of the ship’s crew when I see their nametag and it shows they are from somewhere the world is talking about. One such person who works in the dining room here on the Carnival Miracle. He comes from one of the areas where the most intense fighting has been happening and his town is just 20 minutes from where the plane fell to Earth killing everyone on board. I asked him how he felt about this and he seemed glad to talk about it. I asked him if he and his fellow shipmates from his country had discussed this but he told me they had not because some have different views, strong views and, yet, “ship life” does not let that interfere with their work. They get on with the job of serving you our guests and as he says, “I will talk about it when I get home to my family.” He believes that vodka, yes, vodka, is to blame for what happened by the way. He told me that drinking vodka is the pastime for some and that it was, in his opinion, it was a vodka-fueled decision to send a single missile …………just to see what would happen. There are always conspiracy theories when anything happens in the world and I was absolutely flabbergasted when he said this and have to admit I have a hard time believing this. He nodded, turned and, after making such a statement he went to the laundry to collect his uniform to wear to serve dinner that night and that is a pure example of “ship life.”

It’s a good life. It’s a very good life. It’s a life that provides families with an excellent standard of living, one that these men and women could not provide, maybe if they worked in their home countries. They do such a great job, don’t they?  But tonight, I think it is important to remember something. When you are watching Wolf Blister and his mates reporting on the latest disaster or world event that even though you may not be able to point to where it is happening on a map that most likely amongst the united nations you find on the Carnival ships there is a crew member who served and entertained you on your last cruise. And he or she will still be serving and still entertaining and still working so hard top exceed our guests’ expectations and will do so with a massive smile on their face. But behind that smile, there is worry and there is hurt. But they won’t let that worry and hurt show though because………. hey, that’s “ship life.”

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.