August 1, 2014 -

John Heald

One of the hardest jobs on the ship, as far as pleasing you, our guests, is that of the disc jockey – or DJ – to give them their MTV-style title. To many, they stand behind a record player or, these days, something with a picture of an Apple on it, wear ludicrously large headphones with one side on the ear and the other not, nodding their head to the beat while “mixing” the latest tunes.  Top DJs like Dutchman Arnie Van Something and The Miami Heat’s own DJ Irie are not just DJ’s, they are stars and people pay lots of money to hire them and they, in turn, get lots of money and lashings of rumpy pumpy. DJ Irie is the professor of cool, master of his trade and, despite, I am sure, shoving a cucumber down the front of his pants before each gig ……..Irie is one of the very best DJs – not to mention one of the nicest guys – around.  That’s why we went to him to train our DJ’s and he has done a brilliant job in doing so, but, I still say that our ship DJs have one of the toughest jobs on the ship trying to make everyone happy. We have a brilliant young lady here called DJ Electra, strange name for her Mum to christen her but I guess moments after giving birth, Mum realised her daughter was destined to spin the discs, so that’s what she called her. She is wonderful and, as I said, she has a very tough job.

Now some of you may be sitting behind your computers or holding your eyepads saying, “What does this fat bastard know about it?” And you would be right. My knowledge and understanding of today’s music and club scene is consistent with someone from Paris having knowledge and understanding of what the inside of a Bath & Body Works shop looks like. And I will talk more about this shortly but, first, back to the DJs.

It’s different from the DJs here on the ships than a club DJ. Let me explain. Yes, the principles are the same but the difference between being a club DJ and a ship DJ is this. If you go out on a Saturday night to a club with some hip name, then you already know what kind of music the DJ is going to play. You will be expecting the latest dance hop hip rap bass ga ga rap rave. You will not expect or request that after the DJ has played the latest Jay Dogg Trousersnake song to hear AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” followed by the Electric Sodding Wobble Slide. But that’s what the DJs on our ships are expected to do. You see, the demographic in a club on land is that the girls are all young, wearing short skirts with boy band good-looking young men with manscaped chests and dangly bits. On a ship, we have all age groups and all demographics and that means some want to hear the latest tunes but some want country, some want rock, some want 70’s, some want 80’s and some want thrash metal. And the DJ has to accommodate them all………….except anyone who requests Abba…………they can sod off.

Yep, it’s not easy and the complaints we get are consistent and have been in all the years I have been doing this and that is simply, “The DJ did not play the music we wanted to dance to.” So, we are adding more theme nights and trying to alleviate these comments but do I think we ever will …………….nope………….I do not.  Just like our guests, music is diverse and it is so difficult, when it comes to music, to get people dancing to please everyone.

Why am I talking about the DJ’s? Well, anyone who works with me will tell you that there is more chance of finding Donald Sterling dating Beyonce than there is finding me in the dance club. However, I was forced to go there last cruise because two of our entertainment staff members got engaged and had a gathering and I was asked “Oh, please, please come” which translated means, “Oh, please, come, John, and buy us some drinks.”

I went. I hated it. I stood there by the bar while the guests smiled at me, some came and said hello while the younger guests looked at me with a combination of pity and disgust. I spent the entire time with the expression of a man about to be sentenced to life in a Turkish prison. “I am too bloody old to enjoy this,” I thought. And then remembered that I have always felt this way about clubs. And I mean, all clubs, from the awful ones back home in Southend On Sea. Clubs like Tots and Zero Six that smelt like a bucket of vomit to the posh ones on South Beach.

I didn’t like them when I was 20 and I certainly don’t like them now. I just don’t have to pretend anymore. Nightclubs are hot and cramped and play music so loud you can’t even hear yourself or anyone else fart. I watched the 20-something guests sharing panting pelvic thrusts with someone they just met. Yes, everyone was having a great time. Even the bar staff were having fun working. Me…I just couldn’t wait to get out of there…and I realised that, at that moment, I would rather be anywhere in the world than the hell I was in now– except Paris, obviously.

After I had wished the newly engaged couple well and, yes, bought them drinks, I turned around and headed to the exit leaving the guests to gyrate themselves and each other to the sounds of the hippy hop music and for the men to stare at the female guests and the thongs that stick out of the waistband of their jeans, and went to bed…feeling really, really old. And just as my head hit the pillow, I had a brilliant idea on how to stop the, “DJ didn’t play decent music” complaints we get on every ship……….shut the nightclubs down and make them a cigar and jazz bar…………simple.

Here are today’s questions and my answers.

Kimberly Dittman asks:
Reading all the comments from others, who like me and my DH, are platinum passengers and VIPs, one of the problems is that I think the other passengers do not know the different levels. Example of this from our last cruise– we were on Carnival Conquest and had priority tendering which is part of our VIP benefits. We were escorted to the front of the line and got such dirty looks from passengers, that we almost went back to the cabin. DH held up his platinum VIP Sail & Sign card above his head to show them but it made no difference and I could hear some remarks that are not suitable here to write. My suggestion is that on the first show or sometime early each cruise, that the cruise director explain to the passengers that if they see someone with a Platinum card, they are VIPs and can come to the front of the line for tendering. Some education may stop the embarrassment DH and I felt that day.  Just saying.

John says:
Hello Kimberly Dittman

Let me thank you for your loyalty and I hope we will see you many more times. I really would feel uncomfortable starting a cruise out by defining who is who and who is a Platinum or Diamond guest. The idea at the start of as cruise is to make everyone feel like a family, all ready to have fun together and this would dilute that extremely. I do acknowledge all our Platinum and, indeed, our esteemed Diamond guests at the VIFP party, of course. And please don’t worry about what the other guests say. If they have any questions, there is a staff member there to answer their enquiries that you have earned the right to board the tender first. I do hope that helps your concerns and if you have any others, I will be here. Best wishes to you and DH.


Steve Chase asks:
John, I love the Indian food served on Carnival, and eat it as often as it is served. I also like Chinese but find the Mongolian Wok too difficult to use. I asked for Kung Pao Chicken on my last cruise, and they wanted me to tell them what the ingredients were? I faked a list of what I thought went into Kung Pao and created something inedible and wasted all that food. I don’t cook, but I can read a menu. Why doesn’t the wok have some set dishes on a menu, so patrons can enjoy the cooking without having to know how to create it? Thank you.

John says:
Hello Steve Chase

The Mongolian Wok is very popular and the secret to its success is that it is indeed cooked fresh and that the ingredients are chosen by the guests. I am afraid that the chefs work flat out to cook so fast using two woks at a time and this is not one of the places where they can go off menu. If you like Chinese, you should try a Sprit-class ship as we have the Chopsticks venues and they do a brilliant Kung Pao chicken. Let me know if you have any more questions. Best wishes.


Jeremiah Lewis asks:
Both cruises my wife and I have been on without our children had AWESOME cruise directors. Most recently on the Carnival Ecstasy in July of 2013, George led the most fun we have ever had on any vacation. When we have had our children along with us, the cruise directors have not been as active around the ship and nowhere near as much fun. We are sailing September 13 on the Carnival Sunshine. Do you know for sure who the cruise director is?  Please let George know that we think he is the best Carnival has in the cruise director department.

John says:
Hello Jeremiah Lewis

I am thrilled to tell you that you have Jaime Dee and, like George, she will have boundless energy and will be sure to give you the best of times. I will make sure George sees this and he will be thrilled. He is on the Carnival Sunshine now, actually. So have fun and enjoy every moment on this great ship. Best wishes.


Thomas Kristovich asks:
Reading your blogs where you complain about fake names and posts by trolls are getting boring, John. If you want to stop them, then take a page out of the Cruise Critic boards. They have moderators who suspend people or ban them even. Why don’t you do this???? It works on Cruise Critic and they have millions more readers than you ever will. If you do this, then the trolls will be banned. You do not have to write about them and we do not have to read the same old tired BS and we can get back to talking about cruising.

John says:
Hello Thomas Kristovich

Thank you for writing and this is a very interesting subject indeed. Let me start my answer with the last part of your question, if I may. I have no idea how many readers Cruise Critic has and how many moderators they have but I am sure they have a very busy time keeping track of who is writing what. This blog gets an average of 60,000 to 100,000 views each time I post and hundreds and hundreds of comments and questions. Facebook has, well, thousands of comments each day both on the wall and under each post. I work closely with some colleagues in Miami who help me with these two pages but they have many other jobs and so do I, so time is a factor. But it is not the most important one. In the world of online sites like this, we’re all free to say what we like, no matter how ridiculous it is. I would rather run the risk of my feelings being hurt  than have a reduction in free speech. I feel that strongly about it. There are the rare times when we press the delete button. Some messages include personal or vicious attacks on other readers but I have not banned anyone in many, many months, not even the person who wrote awful things about my daughter. Yep, Randy has the right to post again and I have the right to ignore him or tell him to bugger off– hat is free speech and that is what this page and my Facebook page are all about ……………..Oh, and cruising too. Please let me know if you have a follow up or if there is anything I can do for you. Best wishes.


Austin & Tiffany Plackemeier ask:
Greetings fine sir! Tiffany and I find ourselves cruising at a minimum of once a year. Lately it has been two to three times per year. Not that it is really an issue, but why does Carnival not save my passport info in my login so that I don’t have to fill it in every time? I don’t see how it would be any different than, say, PayPal or eBay keeping my credit card on file. Cheers.


John says:
Hello Austin & Tiffany Plackemeier

I am so glad you have discovered the world of cruising and I hope there are many more in your near future. The reasons we do not save all that information are because of the concerns of Internet fraud and identify theft. We have a very secure website but, these days, well, you never know. I realise that it is more work for you but it is because we want to make sure a lady called Lucinda doesn’t suddenly start calling herself Pine Bluff. Please let me know if you have any other questions and I will be here or on my page for you. Best wishes to you both.


Gloria Barracosa asks:
I read a very disturbing report today. It stated that someone had discovered a camera on the front of their cabin TV shown here in this photo. Someone suggested that people bring Post-it notes or thick tape to put over it to stop any invasion of privacy. If Carnival Cruise Lines does do this, then it is illegal for sure!! An explanation should be given immediately before I cruise again.

John says:
Hello Gloria Barracosa

Well, there is no need to worry and no need to pack Post-it notes or tape because they are not obviously cameras. The red light you see is for the interactive remote control unit for the TV. I hope that settles any worries you may have and please let me know if you have any more questions and I will be here to help you. Best wishes.


Jody Motes asks:
John: No questions for you today, just a comment. After reading some of the comments and questions the others have left you, I am shocked and astounded as to how rude people are!

My husband, myself and some friends will be cruising from New Orleans on October 5 and I couldn’t be more excited! All of our cruises so far have been amazing and I am sure this next one will be too. The staff is always top notch and make us feel cared for and pampered. So, just to be refreshing, I think Carnival is great and you are very funny and entertaining. Keep up the good work!  Oh, wait….. I do have one question after all. Are there any plans to expand Guy’s Burger Joint to the other ships? We really enjoyed it on our last cruise but will be missing it greatly on the Carnival Dream. Thanks much!


John says:
Hello Jody Motes

You know, if it was not for the soothing music of Enya, I have no idea how I would cope. Seriously, thanks for the very kind words and, certainly, there are times when deep breathing is needed but there are far happier times and one such time is reading your post. Thanks so much for taking the time to write such wonderful words and you will be glad to know we certainly have big plans to add the best burger at sea to other ships, beginning with the Carnival Pride this fall. Best wishes.


Alex Mathison asks:
Reports on Cruise Critic are that another cutback has happened and there are no more goodie baskets!!!!! Is this true?!!!! Urgent response needed!!!!

John says:
Hello Alex Mathison

I had to ask on Facebook what you meant by “goodie basket” as I had not heard the amenities we put in the cabins referred to that way. We have not stopped them, so please don’t worry. However, sometimes we do not have inventory on board for a particular product so the basket can, therefore, be a bit random. We have them here this week on the Carnival Miracle and they include anti acid tablets, toothpaste, feminine razors and some kind of hand lotion. I hope you get one on your next cruise. Oh, I read the link and saw my old mate, Pine Bluff, chipped in with a comment or two……. Please tell him I saved some feminine razor blades just for him. Please let me know if you have any other questions and thank you for allowing me to get the right answer to you. Best wishes.


Barry G asks:
My apologies, John, for writing so long after the cruise. I was on Carnival Miracle cruise with you when that last night we had a helicopter rescue by the Canadian Coast Guard. I was embarrassed for you, John, that you had to repeat the announcements not to take flash photography. It was foggy too. How can people be so dumb? John, we had an awesome time, so, please, would you thank the following people for us because we did not get a review card again. Our room steward Louie made a special towel animal for my daughter, which made her laugh so hard we were all laughing. He was amazing. We chose anytime dining– our first time with this and it was great but one waiter stood out and that was Conrado. We asked for him again and, even when he could not serve our table, he made a point of coming over and making a frog for my daughter. We had dinner at the steakhouse one night and our server was Erica. She was lovely and spoke with us in length about our day and her duties and answered all our questions with patience. And then there was Ben from your staff who made us laugh at every trivia quiz we attended. John, thank you for the trophy for my daughter and for the kind words you had for my loss and, as you lost your father recently, I know you understood my pain. You are a diamond. We had the best of times. We love Carnival Miracle and still talk about the cruise every day.

John says:
Hello Barry G

What a delightful post and one that I shall take great pride in sharing with all the people you mentioned here. We have a brilliant crew and they remain such an important part of the cruise experience. I will make sure that they get the praise they so deserve. Yes, the helicopter announcement. I was on the bridge and the embarrassing thing was the pilot having to ask a second time for the photos with flashes to stop. I hope that maybe the guests did not hear or understand my announcement rather than choosing to ignore it completely. I again send you my deepest condolences and, I understand, of course, how you are feeling. On a happier note, I hope we see you all again soon and I am here if you need anything. Best wishes to you all.


RJ from NJ asks:
John: Just completed third the Carnival cruise on Carnival Glory (July 12-19) in an OS. Once again, had a great time, but….I’m just curious on why the ship no longer caters to the late dining guests as they do the early sitters. Because we had the 8:15 seating, we missed the Welcome Aboard show (9 p.m.) on the first night and the Epic Rock show on another night – they never repeated the shows. Even though I tried changing to an early seating for the Epic Rock show, the lady at customer service said no need to, ‘cause it will be repeated later in the week to accommodate late eaters. It wasn’t!!! Every other Carnival cruise we’ve been on, they’ve always doubled up on shows, but on this cruise, they seemed to have catered to the early eaters – any reason why? We enjoy the sun too much to eat that early, that’s why we eat late, but now we are missing shows we wanted to see, including Hasbro, which was shown twice, but both times during our late dinner. My wife and I really enjoyed our time on the cruise once again, but, understandably, are a bit perturbed about getting shafted out of a few shows and will be cruising again next year and hoping the same thing doesn’t occur again. And, one more thing: the portions at dinner seem to be getting smaller, especially the apps – is that true, and why? Not as big a deal as the shows ‘cause I just double up on the apps, just curious. One thing is for certain, the productions of the shows, coupled with the Punchliner Comedy Club, are outstanding and the choreographers and performers should be commended – Broadway-like quality!!! Thanks for all you do.

RJ from NJ

John says:
Hello RJ from NJ

I have to say that I have no idea why the show is at 9 pm and I can understand your frustration because of this. I am sure there are other events after that the CD has planned and maybe it is to entice you to go to them. But I agree, 9 pm cuts our late sitting and that is not good. Let me speak with the cruise director and discuss this further. Thank you, then, for bringing it to my attention and I hope you had a great time.  Best wishes.


Lee asks:
John: Love the blog! So glad that Carnival has given you this outlet. Today, as I was doing some cleaning around the house, I rediscovered an old VHS tape with a ship’s video of the Celebration. We ordered this before our cruise in 2000. It got me to wondering as to whatever happened to the ship-specific videos. It may not be possible to produce them for distribution anymore, but could ship-specific videos be produced by Carnival and posted to Carnival’s You-Tube channel? Watching that old video had me fondly remembering our cruise on that “Fun Ship.” Thank you in advance for your reply.


John says:
Hello Lee

Thanks, mate, for the kind words. Wow, what a great memory and, yes, I do indeed remember the videos we made and we sold loads of them. But, now, as you said, we have You Tube and I think it would be great to post more specific videos from the ships. I will suggest this to the beards and see what we can do in the future as, certainly, I think others would appreciate it too. Thanks again and I hope to see you soon. Best wishes.


Jason Adams asks:
Good evening, John: I just wanted to drop a line to thank you for the hours of entertainment you provide us on your blog and Facebook. I would like to commend you on how you handle some of the “people” you deal with and the things they complain about. As I just sat and read the recent post about “Ship Life,” you discussed the crew members that make our trip so unforgettable and the “people” they have to put up with (and I know the majority of your guest are not like some) and do so with a smile every time (without fail, in my experience) to take care of US. My family and I will be on Carnival Dream in March 2015 and will be celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary and will be sure to show the staff that will be catering to our needs that we appreciate them. I hope to get to cruise with you one day as I would like to sit down and chew the fat with you. Have a GREAT day and I wish you fair winds on all your travels.

John says:
Hello Jason Adams

Thank you for writing about the crew. I have watched this company go through the best of times and through challenging times as well and one constant has been the dedication and brilliant friendly service of the crew. Thank you for recognising them, have a wonderful time on your anniversary cruise and please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. Best wishes.


That’s all for today. I will be back with more Q and A soon.

I just got back from having lunch on Lido Deck and more about that in a moment. I know we don’t have Guy’s burgers and all the trimmings yet but the food choices here are superb and the Chopsticks place does a wonderful stir fry, they really do. It was though in my thoughts that Heidi, Kye and I had just given our yearly donation to the Save the Children organisation to feed children across Africa and other parts of the world that there was so much noticeable wasted food. I hate waste and I was brought up to eat whatever is on my plate and, if I didn’t, my Mum and Dad would say that, “Children in China would be sent to my house to eat it for me.” Today, I saw the staff cleaning up so many discarded plates that had huge piles of uneaten food, untouched slices of pizza and various other plates brimming with food that we can’t do anything with……except discard it all. And that is such a shame, isn’t it?

Anyway, back to my lunch today. I went with my friend and ACD and soon-to-be cruise director of the Carnival Magic, Calvyn Shawn Champagne-Martens, and we took a booth at the back of the Lido Deck. I say booth only because, in past weeks, my diet has allowed me to do this without my beach ball stomach being squeezed against the table. We were eating and talking about the usual things Calvyn likes to talk about– the art of pressing wild flowers, Cher and various other subjects, and, without warning a guest plopped herself into the seat next to me and her husband next to Calvyn. She said a quick hello and then started to talk about our previous day’s voyage through Tracy Arm Fjord and how our naturalist had gotten some of her facts wrong about how a glacier is formed. You might think you know a bore. You may once have sat next to one on a long flight. You’ve probably watched one of one of my travel talks or watched paint dry. You may even have been forced as a child to read Shakespeare. But trust me on this: you do not understand the true meaning of boredom until you’ve had lunch with a glacier/Alaska fanatic. You may like glaciers but this lady loved them like she was married to the damn things and I am sure, given the chance, she would have rumpy pumpy (by herself) on top of one and, when she passes away, will want her ashes scattered on top of a glacier.

I waited for her to pause or ask a question before I carried on eating my chicken stir fry because I thought that would be rude of me but she never once paused long enough for me to be able to say, “Well, nice talking to you, I am going to eat my lunch.” After 10 minutes, I began to feel truly annoyed. I wanted to stab her with my fork for turning my valuable lunch time break into a lecture on glaciers……but I couldn’t because I felt all tired and drowsy………….. I had been hypnotized by glacier lady!

It’s my job to talk to guests and I enjoy that part of the job, second only to the time I get on stage. But this was different. I was trapped and there was sod all I could do about it. I guess it was the way she sat down without even the slightest worry or concern that she was disturbing me while I was eating. To her, I had a huge sign around my neck that said, “Please come and annoy me and tell me about lumpsof ice.” And the fact that she did was weird and what was even stranger was that during the whole time she was talking to me…….her husband sat next to Calvyn and did not say a word. She never referenced him, he never mentioned her and he never moved. He just sat there, waiting. Maybe he was used to her doing this or maybe he had died. My chicken stir fry was as cold as a sodding glacier by the time she got up and left and joined the rest of the wasted food and I went back to my cabin, locked the door, closed the curtains, put on some Enya and banged my head gently against the wall over and over again.

So let’s talk about something else, shall we, apart from glaciers……..I know………smoking. Hold on, before you reach for your Enya CD and the Prozac, let me be more specific. You see, on the same day we announced the new smoking regulations, we also announced the new gratuity amounts but I have seen so few comments about that I think Captain Hook could count them on one hand.

Having been a bar waiter for Carnival, I understand the mentality of tipping and how important it is and so I am probably one of the most generous tippers there is. That’s not a, “Hey, look at me and how good I am” statement. It’s just a fact. I enjoy tipping and, having been on the receiving end of working my then skinny arse off and getting bugger all for it, I always take care of those who take care of me.

I remember once when I stayed in a posh hotel in New York when we announced Carnival LIVE and the concert with Jennifer Hudson. The marketing beards had put me on the red eye which meant I had arrived at the boutique hotel very late. The concierge-type person insisted on carrying my suitcase on a trolley even though it was small, had wheels and I could have easily managed it. He showed me into my room. He showed me how to turn on a light and how to open the door to the mini bar and then started to hover. I had been in such a rush that I hadn’t picked up any American currency and had used my credit card to pay for the taxi from JFK to the hotel. I was now in the embarrassing position of trying to explain that I didn’t have a single dollar to offer as a tip. “Nothing?” said the concierge-type person. “I’m sorry,” I said in my best Hugh Grant impression and offered to leave something for him at the front desk in the morning. He said something under his breath that definitely wasn’t “sleep well” but probably included the words “fat” and “bastard.”

Anyway, I digress yet again. So for those who may have missed the new amounts because of the haze of smoking comments, here they are;

Voyages departing October 9, 2014, onward; the total amount is $12.00 per guest, per day and the breakdown is as follows:
• Stateroom service team                 $3.90 per day
• Dining room service team              $6.10 per day
• Alternative services team*             $2.00 per day
(*galley, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members)

Well, it has been about three years since our last increase and I can talk about how it’s in line with other cruise lines, etc., but I won’t. What I will say is that I hope you all think that our crew deserves this raise. Obviously, you can always adjust the rate up or down if you’d like. Gratuities have to be earned and should not be expected by any of our crew but I hope that if they provide you with professional service mixed with a huge dollop of fun, you will continue to reward them as you always have done. Through the best of times and through challenging times, our Carnival crew have continued to be the heartbeat of our ships and I thank you all for the rewards that you have given and I hope will continue to give them. On their behalf, I say………..”thank you.”

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.