What’s In Your Wallet?

August 15, 2014 -

John Heald

It’s hard to think about hurricane season when you are in Alaska and sailing through fjords with lagoon-like waters. Two weeks ago, though, I was talking about hurricanes and storms with one of our newly promoted cruise directors whose bio will be featured in a forthcoming blog. He told me about the difficulties he had recently gone through, thanks to Tropical Storm Bertha, which, by the way, was named after one of my Great Aunties who would kiss me on the lips every Christmas before handing me my present that I knew would be a pair of socks. Anyway, back to the young CD I was talking to on the phone and who had called for some advice from me. Oh, by the way……….he called me “Godfather” which resulted in me calling him a wanker. Do you know, when I started with Carnival this young, good-looking, newly promoted CD was only five years old ……………what a total bastard. Godfather, my arse.

Sorry, I digress yet again. He explained that wasn’t it Bertha that had caused him problems — no, it was a few guests who went beyond the usual disappointment that every guest feels when a change of itinerary occurs and became angry — very angry, actually. This is, as the great Welsh, hip-gyrating Tom Jones says, “not unusual.” Not only on Carnival but on every other cruise line in the world, maybe with the exception of P&O, because Brits never complain about anything in public, and on AIDA, which is our brilliant all inclusive German cruise line and therefore full of Germans who are too naked and enjoy the free beer too much to care if they go to Barbados or Botswana.  But seriously, on every ship that is affected by Mother Nature, there are people who do not and will not understand that the cruise lines make these changes to avoid….. ummmmm ………….how do I put it ………. ummmmm……ummmmm……oh, yes, I know ………….. DEATH!

Most of you are understanding and, although disappointed, completely prefer a change of port over sailing through 100 mph winds and 50-foot seas. And, if you are angry, if you are upset, why, oh, why do a few people (as described by this young, handsome rumpy pumpy attracting total git of a cruise director) take their frustration out on a 25-year-old assistant cruise director from Australia who was screamed at so much it reduced her to tears. Do they honestly think that she can change anything? The decisions to change or cancel ports are taken by very smart people on land and by the captain who will never put our guests and crew in danger.  And, as for the tiny group of passengers who get abusive and scream and shout and call us names, well we as staff should have the right to tell them to bugger off and if that doesn’t work ……..we, the staff, should be able to give them the good news with a cattle prod. But, of course, we can’t and we don’t. Our wonderful staff apologises, takes the verbal tongue lashings and apologises again.

Let’s hope 2014 is a very quiet hurricane season but if we should be forced to change ports of call, then, please, don’t shout and swear at a staff member who only 10 minutes before was hosting the a sodding trivia quiz.

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

Shelby Pearson asks:
Mr. Heald: I will be cruising with my kids and my parents for their 45th anniversary in September on Carnival Sunshine.  I understand our balcony cabins are not adjoining inside but have been told that the partitions on the balconies can be “opened” so they can be adjoining that way.  Is that a possibility and can it be done ahead of time or do we need to ask when we board?  This will be a first cruise for my oldest son, second for my Dad and third for the rest of us. Took us a while to get started cruising but there is no other way to vacation for us now!  Thank you for all you and Carnival do to make our vacations so much fun.

John says:
Hello Shelby Pearson

Thanks so much for writing and I am glad to see that you are now hooked on cruising. Some of the dividers between the balconies can be opened and some cannot. The best thing to do is to send me the cabin numbers and this request again on my facebook.com/johnheald page two days before the cruise and I will do all I can to make this happen. Thanks so much and I wish you all the best of times. Best wishes.

John

David Rosen asks:
I am astonished that you continue refraining from your normal trash about bodily functions when world events like the crisis the Israeli people are facing. There is a place for humor but there is a time when it is inappropriate and that time is now!!!

John says:
Hello David Rosen

What is happening between Israel and Palestine – not to mention in various other parts of the world, including right here in the U.S. – is terrible and let us hope that peace prevails quickly all over the globe. But should we stop laughing at ourselves and each other? No. Not in my opinion. I hope I will never forget about the need for laughter. It is the most universal of languages …….. and one we should all try to speak more fluently.  Best wishes.

John

Tanner M asks:
Hello John: We are thinking about taking a cruise on the Carnival Victory in December. Is the Carnival Victory going to be going into dry dock before December? We have heard some uneasy reviews of the Carnival Victory.

Tanner M

John says:
Hello Tanner M

Thanks for writing and I’ll have to check on the dry dock schedule for the Carnival Victory and let you know. She is a great ship though and I have no doubts you will have the best of times on her. Please let me know if you have any questions. Best wishes.

John

Tantara asks:
I love Carnival and love you.  You are so brutally honest and that’s a rare treat nowadays.  We have two cruises booked for 2015 and looking forward to 2016 and beyond.  Do you know when there might be another Panama Canal cruise (2016 – 2017 timeframe?).   Thanks much.

John says:
Hello Tantara

What a lovely name and what a very kind and humbling post. We recently announced that we were adding some voyages on the Carnival Triumph to Panama and Costa Rica and they have proven very popular indeed.  We’ll see what the future holds as we get great feedback on these cruises. I will keep you informed and I hope to see you soon. Best wishes.

John

Walter Foy asks:
As a platinum VIP passenger with Carnival Cruise Lines, I want to draw your attention to the lack of seating at the comedy shows. I am just off the Carnival Freedom and was frustrated not just by the lack of seating but the negativity shown to me by the manager and by cruise director Skip Lyons when I asked for reserved seating owed to me because of my VIP status. NCL allows me as a VIP their reserved seating at the Second City comedy shows and, as a VIP with Carnival, I think you should offer me the same. It is very disheartening to have to fight for a seat with people who are not VIPs. I hope that you will give this suggestion immediate attention and turn my negative into a positive and quickly.

Walter Foy

John says:
Hello Walter Foy

Let me start by saying thank you for reaching platinum level with us and, while we won’t be offering reserved seating for our platinum guests, we are working as we speak on managing our massively popular Punchliner Comedy shows in a more efficient way. I will tell you more about that in the days ahead. Thanks again and I do hope to see you soon. Best wishes.

John

Patti Sheehan asks:
We read your comments EVERY day…the only thing missing on our last….my husband’s first …. cruise was a great cruise director….we would NEVER go to Alaska…that being said….who is your protégé….we want the experience you provide…..I understand you have to answer in a politically correct manner, saying all cruise directors are great……but please tell us who can offer what you do….and don’t tell me all do….because ours did not….although she did nothing wrong or offensive….just not fun…engaging and always there….we were on Carnival Fantasy March 28.

John says:
Hello Patti Sheehan

I am sorry to read that your last cruise did not provide the type of cruise director that you would have hoped for. I certainly think all of our cruise directors are primed and ready to give you a brilliant time and why not look at some ships and let me know which ones and I will tell you something about the CDs on each. Hope that helps and I am here if you have any other questions.

Best wishes.

John

Brenda Booth asks:
Do the mini fridges on the Carnival Dream have a freezer compartment? I ask because this is my first cruise as a diabetic. I recently have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had a rare major surgery, a whipple, that has made me insulin dependent diabetic.  I’ve cruised several times with Carnival but never used the fridge. My insulin doesn’t have to be refrigerated but on port days at the beach, it would be way too hot for it. So I thought I’d take some mini freezable ice packs with me to keep the meds cool but would need some way to freeze them. Thanks in advance for any help you can give me. I’d like to add I love Carnival and although this may have to be my last cruise, I can’t wait to board the Carnival Dream in August. You and all crew members I’ve seen do a wonderful job in making me feel welcomed and special.

John says:
Hello Brenda Booth

Thanks for writing and I am glad you did so I can give you the right information. The mini-bars do not have freezer compartments but we have a special one just for this at the guest services desk. They are open 24 hours and will happily store your insulin for you as and when needed. I hope this helps reassure you and if you have any other questions, please let me know. Thanks for the very kind words about the crew. Best wishes.

John 

Harry Franklin asks:
My family will be cruising on the Carnival Splendor 8/20. I have two children who love to draw and color so can you have some color pencils and paper put in our cabin 6344 for when we arrive. We are platinum members and our booking reference number is ****

John says:
Hello Harry Franklin

I am sure you will be excited about your cruise. I will see what Camp Carnival has to spare but I would encourage you to bring some supplies as well just in case. Thanks so much and I wish you a wonderful time. Best wishes.

John

Janie asks:
Hello John: My husband and I are sailing on our first Christmas cruise. This will be our 10th cruise with Carnival. I was wondering what the shore excursions will be like in the Bahamas at Christmas. We will be there on the December 24-25 and what shows will Carnival host, will be Vegas style or seasonal? We are VERY happy with Carnival and absolutely love the smoking ban on balconies. Thank you for all your wonderful work with Carnival.

John says:
Hello Janie

The ship will be ready to give you a wonderful Christmas vacation and will be decorated for the holiday season. The regular shows will be featured and will be complemented by a Christmas show as well, as for the excursions everything will be offered as normal so have a look at carnival.com and see which ones you want to do. I will be here if you have any other questions. Have a brilliant time. Best wishes.

John

Roberta Stolfo asks:
Need you to URGENTLY CONFIRM the PRICE of the Cheers drink offering. We are considering doing this on our cruise on the Freedom in September!! URGENT URGENT

John says:
Hello Roberta Stolfo

Here are the details you requested. Have a great time and let me know if you have any other questions 

Using the CHEERS! beverage package, guests can enjoy a wide variety of wine, beer and spirits (including cocktails and frozen drinks), along with sodas and non-alcoholic frozen cocktails throughout the voyage at one convenient flat rate plus tax and a 15% gratuity added on at the time of purchase of the package. Pricing will be subject to change depending on duration and seasonality. Accordingly, we will now publish a range of pricing, as follows:

CHEERS! package prices range from $165.00 to $300.00 per person/per voyage (including up to eight-day durations) depending on the length of the cruise. Cruises longer than eight days will have voyage specific pricing. Taxes and gratuities are additional. CHEERS! requires all guests 21 years of age and older in the cabin to purchase the package. 

CHEERS! is not offered on two-day cruises, charter cruises, on ships sailing from Australia (Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend) and beverage purchases made at Half Moon Cay and Little Stirrup Cay in The Bahamas.

Best Wishes

John

Lora Jackomin asks:
Just curious as to what the word is on the Carnival Vista. I know she’s not due out till 2016 but wondered if Carnival had decided what her USA home port might be. We’re Diamond members and can’t say enough good things about Carnival.  We’ve sailed with you as our cruise director twice and would love to do it again.  You’re the best

John says:
Hello Lora Jackomin

No news yet but hopefully soon we will have all the information which I can tell you will be very, very exciting. Until then I thank you for your loyalty and I hope we see you soon. Best wishes.

John

Gareth Greenwood asks:
Is the shower gel and shampoo in the cabins for men and women as I read that it was only for ladies? How come?!

John says:
Hello Garteh Greenwood

The complimentary shower gel we use is designed for both men and women. Please let me know if there are any other questions. Best wishes.

John

And that’s all we have time for today. Thanks to you all for your comments and questions and for taking the time to read this blog. Recently I posted the new cruise director schedule and you will have seen some names that, maybe like a Parisian in a Bath & Body Works, you are unfamiliar with. So over the next few weeks I will introduce you to some of these new generation of cruise directors and today we meet a young man by the name of Robin…………..here he is:

Robin CD Photo

What’s your name and where are you from? Robin Gardner – Cambridge, England

Tell us about your work experience and your journey with Carnival Cruise Lines so far?
Prior to Carnival Cruise Lines, I worked as an assistant manager for a globally recognized corporation (McDonalds) J. Following that, I worked in a bank for a short time as a retail specialist. I discovered Carnival Cruise Lines through my cousin, Kate, who, at the time, was employed by Carnival as a production singer. After taking a voyage on the Carnival Spirit to visit her I fell in love with life at sea and wanted nothing more than to be involved with it. I went home from that vacation and immediately applied. After being hired face to face by the one and only John Heald, I joined the Carnival Inspiration on June 30, 2008, as a social host. As a host I served on the Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Paradise, Carnival Legend, Carnival Splendor, Carnival Destiny, Carnival Sensation, Carnival Valor and Carnival Conquest before receiving my first promotion to assistant cruise director on the Carnival Fantasy. As an assistant, I sailed on the Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Pride and was fortunate to cover as acting cruise director on three separate occasions. My first extended covering spot was on the Carnival Paradise in 2013 and after rounding out that contract on the Carnival Freedom as an assistant working for the awesome Brad Calabrese, I have now entertained our guests as cruise director on Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Elation.

How do you feel you, as cruise director can influence the guest experience in a positive way?I often get told by guests that I have a very genuine, caring attitude and this is definitely my greatest strength. My sole aim is to make sure the guests have a wonderful and fun vacation experience and I am glad this reflects across to our guests.

What’s your favourite part of your job?I enjoy meeting and working with talented people from all over the world. I also love interacting with our guests whether it is face to face or from the stage. I am very much a people person and enjoy having a positive influence on our guests’ vacation experience.

What do you find the biggest challenge?Saying goodbye to friends I make over each contract. We get so close working and having fun together and it is always hard to say goodbye. Luckily, though, you often bump into each other later down the line on a different ship, so it’s not always goodbye — it’s more like, see you later!

If there is one event, show or activity that you host that our guests must not miss, what is it?My Love & Marriage Show is always a lot of fun. I enjoy the spontaneity of the show and the challenge of thinking on my feet to react to the couples’ responses.

Please share with us your favourite story from your time on our ships? Believe it or not, my favourite story is more of an experience and it comes from 2010 when I was working on the Carnival Splendor out of Long Beach. I was there when the ship lost power and was stranded at sea. Seeing how well the team pulled together for the benefit of our guests and each other was truly heartwarming and I will never forget it. Although it was a challenging time, everyone worked together to make sure the situation had as little impact as possible on the guests. In those four days I cleaned tables, served drinks, provided entertainment, made sandwiches, served food, carried luggage and more. Every team member stepped outside of their regular roles to go above and beyond to provide an exceptional level of service to our guests when they really needed it. I am so proud to work with these kinds of people and that is what being a part of the Carnival family is all about!

And now – about you

Favourite Movie?Planes, Trains & Automobiles with Steve Martin and John Candy. It reminds me of home as my father and I watch it every time I’m on vacation and laugh til it hurts. Good times!

Favourite bar or lounge on one of our ships?I quite enjoy the aft bar on the Fantasy-class ships as it gives you a nice opportunity to connect with guests on a one to one basis. I have had some wonderful conversations in this more peaceful location.

How do you relax?I play video games in my spare time and I like to spend time with friends and family, good food, a few drinks and lots of laughter. I am also a big nerd and love to collect figures and trading cards.

And if you could meet any famous person in the world, who would it be? This may sound very English of me but it’s Queen Elizabeth II. I always say if I had a choice between receiving $1 million or meeting the Queen for afternoon tea, I’d choose Her Majesty every time. I think she would be fascinating to talk to.

Thanks, Robin. I was there with Robin at the start of his career and, as he said, I interviewed him and his personality shone brightly and I knew he would if he wanted, go all the way and now he has. Well done, mate.

Over the past few months, I have seen a few comments here from our much appreciated and very loyal platinum card guests. Some are decent comments that we should consider, some are not. Their loyalty though has been amazing and long may it continue. I have seen a few of those comments though that lead me to think that for a tiny portion of these guests the perks that we offer and perks that some think we should offer are more important than the cruise experience itself. And surely that should not be. Surely it is the affordability, the fun and the brilliant service that keeps them coming back, not the fact that we wash their underpants for free. Now again, I want to make it clear that that statement is true for the vast majority of our loyal guests but it does seem to me that the wishes and sometimes the demands are more important than …… well …………the cruise itself and that if I may be so bold to say, is a sodding shame. We are still in the process of looking at our entire loyalty program and, as and when I have news on that, I will let you know and we will do all we can to keep our loyal guests exactly that, loyal

I know that many of you love to show off your platinum, milestone and diamond Sail & Sign cards, and why not, so you should and I think it would be great if we came up with a double diamond card as well and have suggested this to the beards. This has me thinking about credit cards though and how some people love to show off theirs. The problem with that is that, occasionally, it’s people with posh credit cards that do have a bit of an …… ummm …. attitude.

I am not a huge fan of credit cards but, obviously, you have to have one in today’s world because it’s the law. I remember when I got my first one when I was 20 years old. It arrived all bright and shiny in the mail and I spent the next few months pummeling it within an inch of its life. I remember I had a 1,000 pound (where the bloody hell is the pound sign on this bastard Dell?) sterling credit limit which, back in the 80’s, seemed like 1 million pounds.

And I bought everything. Clothes, a watch, a new eight-track stereo for my car, a year’s subscription to Big Knockers Magazine, and holidays in Spain and, if I had known about it then, I would have bought a holiday to Latvia, as well. And then I had just enough credit left on my card to buy a new pair of underpants when I discovered how much interest I had to pay. And, of course, thanks to people like me and those bastard wankers …….. sorry …… bankers ….. the economy was hovering on the brink of collapse and little old ladies were having to sell their cats for medical experiments.

But there’s an even darker side to credit cards and it is one rarely talked about. I’m talking about the misery of not having the right one. We’ve all been there. Dinner is over, the check (bloody hell I am an American…….I said check and not bill) has arrived and everyone is chucking their credit cards onto the plate thingy that the leather-bound wallet containing the bad news sits on. It’s a sea of platinum and gold……….just like the ship. And then it’s your turn. And all you’ve got is your regular credit card. Suddenly you have the social standing of explosive diarrhea.

A few years ago, I had dinner with a very, very senior Carnival executive who showed me something called “Black Centurion” credit card. He looked at me, winked and said it, “Gave him certain privileges.” I had images of calling the credit card company and ordering a chauffeur driven Aston Martin full of naked Latvians.  Obviously, I had to have one. So I called, told them I was a senior cruise director, lied about my salary and they told me……………to bugger off. Apparently, my yearly salary was only $2 million dollars short of the required minimum. But they sent me a platinum card instead. It came with a 700-page booklet about all that it offered. Brilliant.

A few weeks later I was flying economy class back to England after some time on one of the ships and found myself sitting in one of those overpriced tasteless fast food Ruby Friday type places at Miami airport. As I was eating my burger (God, I miss burgers, fries and, oh, yes, rumpy pumpy) I remembered the platinum “master key” in my wallet and recalled a bit in the pamphlet that came with it that said it opened the door to airline lounges around the world.

So, I waddled over to the British Airways club class lounge with my cargo class boarding ticket and asked if I could use the facilities. “I’m afraid not,” said the woman cheerfully. “Aha,” I countered, “but I have a platinum card,” producing the thing and holding it over my head like a fishing trophy.  She sneered as if I had showed her a photo of my dangly bits resting on top of a chocolate melting cake…….and she told me to bugger off and that was me back at Ruby Fridays.

Sometime later I was checking in at a hotel in Miami, again, I remembered the card and thought: “I wonder if this will get me a room upgrade?” Bugger me, it did. All I had to do was check into one of the suites at $1 billion a night and I would be automatically upgraded to the Presidential suite, with the enlarged mini-bar and lap dancers at no extra cost. So, off to the room with a view of the runway at Miami International Airport I went.

As the months went by, I kept producing the Platinum card and the result was pretty much always the same. “Non.” “Nein.” And when I was in Holland with Heidi, someone actually said, “What the f***’s that?”……in Dutch. That was the last straw. Having a platinum card is not like having a big yacht, house, car or gentleman’s sausage. They are not useful and these cards exist, solely, to impress. It has no other function as far as I can see.

If I were the sort of person who had “clients” or needed to impress a beautiful Latvian model then maybe it would have be useful……….but as I am neither, I got rid of it. Because at the end of the day, it was as pointless as a condom machine at the Vatican.

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.