No Need for Speed

August 26, 2014 -

John Heald

Stupid, stupid me. Yesterday, after singing “Let it Sodding Go” to Kye for her bedtime song, I asked my wife, Heidi, in a terrible moment of weakness I asked her if she wanted anything brought back from Seattle because I would be getting off the ship to get some essentials – some hemorrhoid gel and cigars. As soon as I said those new words, I knew I was in the s**t. And it was because she wanted me to shop at a place that we don’t have in England even though the advertising states it’s a British store….. yep……I’m talking about Victoria’s Secret, which is about as British as July 4th and grits. Now, whatever my wife wants she will get because I love her ……..except for one thing and that one thing is underwear.

It may embarrass Heidi to find me saying so here, but nowhere near as much as it embarrasses me to buy the stuff. But because I was stupid and because I do as I am told, should I ever want to see her wearing that underwear, this past Tuesday, I spent some 15 massively awkward minutes in a bloody shopping mall in Seattle rummaging around in Victoria’s knickers. For men, shopping alone for women’s underwear is enough to have beads of sweat running down your back and down to who knows where. Every moment, you feel convinced that female shoppers, not to mention security guards, are peering at you in suspicion and disgust. So you look at the lingerie while at the same time trying to look as if you’re not looking. There are so many types. Strings, thongs, ropes……arrrrghhhhh. I had been told to get a particular type and colour but I sure as hell couldn’t find them and that made me even more self-conscious. So much so that I found myself stroking my cheek with my left hand, in the hope that fellow shoppers would see my wedding ring and realise I was in fact buying the red pair of frilly knickers for my wife…… and not for myself. In the end, I gave up and today, my last time in Seattle before going home, my assistant Dee will go for me. When I asked, she jumped at the chance as she loves to shop. Shame she didn’t show as much enthusiasm when I asked to apply my hemorrhoid gel.

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

Kelly Lawrence asks:
John: With the rising popularity of personal drones and remote controlled helicopters and such,
what is Carnival’s policy regarding bringing these on board the ship, flying them over and around the ship? And as a follow-up, how are these issues addressed in ports of call? These questions are starting to be asked more often on certain cruise forums.

John says:
Hello Kelly Lawrence

Good question and you’re right, they are very popular. We do already have rules where these may not be brought on board for obvious safety reasons. It would be fun, though, to fly one over Lido Deck. Thanks for asking the question and please let me know if you have any others. Best wishes.

John

Ryan Arnado asks:
Just off Carnival Breeze, during it we had a death on the ship of a passenger that happened in public view. There was no announcement as to the passenger’s name or what happened. We were all left in the dark. Not good practices IMHO.

John says:
Hello Ryan Arnado

I am sure you will join me in sending our sincerest condolences to the family of the deceased. We never announce what happened in situations like this or release the name as these things are both extremely private. I am sure you understand. I hope you had a great time. Best wishes.

John

Simon M asks:
Pointing out to your Kool Aid nation fans that Heald has 60,800 likes on Facebook. This represents a tiny worthless percentage of the millions that Carnival has on their ships each year. Other cruise sites like Cruise Critic give a fairer, more balanced opinion plus have millions of members. You would all do well to remember that. Remember how you promised us a brilliant loyalty program two years ago and look at what a pack of lies that turned out to be!!!!!!!

John says:
Hello Simon M

Thank you for taking the time to write. I am well aware that the 62,000 likes I have on my Facebook page is small compared to Carnival’s Facebook fan page that has well over 2 million likes. Meanwhile I will keep doing my best to help as many people as I can and provide them with a balance of information, discussion and fun. Please let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you.

Best wishes.

John

Penny Brown asks:
I just entered a contest on a page calling itself “the official Carnival page” but it was not Carnival Cruise Lines, it was just Carnival Cruises. I was wondering if this is legit or a scam? The contest was for a cruise for five and $2,500 spending money. The wording just didn’t sound just right.

John says:
Hello Penny Brown

I am afraid that this is a fake page and we have reported it as so to Facebook officials. Thanks for bringing it to my attention and I am here if you have any other questions or concerns. Best wishes.

John

Suzie Littman asks:
Are you aware of the video game selection in the games room on Carnival Pride? They all do nothing but glorify death and destruction and I would be surprised if I am the only parent who will lobby Carnival cruises to ban these horrid vile games! Violence and death are trivialized in these games and Carnival is anaesthetizing our children to death by having them available.

John says:
Hello Suzie Littman

Have you played Angry Birds? OK, sorry about that, just thought a bit of humour might help lighten what is, of course, a very serious question. The fact is that these shooting-style games are the most popular, it is what kids, teens and adults play at home and so that’s what we have on our ships. Obviously, the choice as a parent is yours whether your children are allowed to play these games but as I said, they are popular for sure. I am sorry that this has upset you, I really am and hopefully you and your family will join us again soon. Best wishes.

John

Anita Hickey asks:
Hi John: My family (husband and two daughters), along with my sister-in-law and her family will be cruising on Carnival Freedom in Jan. 2015.  This cruise is what my eldest daughter chose as her grad gift, and my husband and I are very excited to be able to share our love of cruising and Carnival with her and her sister. Right now we are in the planning stages, and I am unable to find any information on the Carnival Live concert series. So, I guess my question is two-fold. One, will it continue into the new year, and two when will a schedule be posted? Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Anita Hickey

John says:
Hello Anita Hickey

I am sure you are looking forward to this wonderful family time together. Carnival LIVE has proven a huge number one hit and so while I do not have a date just yet for its release I can say that we expect to announce phase 2 over the next several weeks. I will let you know as soon as I can and until then as the planning stage for your cruise continues. Please let me know if you need anything. Best wishes.

John

LeAnne asks:
Hello John. I am cruising with my family on Carnival Breeze, October 5-11, and would like to decorate my parents’ cabin. We will be celebrating my mother’s retirement. I looked on the Carnival website, but they do not have “Happy Retirement” decorations. Do you know if they are available, or should I bring my own from home and enlist my dad’s help to get into their cabin to surprise my mom? Any help or suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank you and God Bless.

John says:
Hello LeAnne

We don’t have these — we should but we do not, I am afraid. Please bring your own and on October 4, please would you send me her cabin number to my facebook.com/johnheald page and I will see what we can do to make her smile. I wish her a wonderful retirement and wish you all a brilliant cruise. Best wishes.

John

James Eager asks:
John: Both dive operations that specify a weight limit for scuba diving on your website will accommodate me because I have my own dive gear, and only need tanks and weights from them.  The power of the Internet, and some good guessing on my part, allowed me to contact the two dive operations directly, where Carnival never responded to the question (You personally promised to get someone to find out for me, John, and that was months ago.)  Anyway, both dive operations will accommodate me at slightly more than the max weight (370 with a limit of 350) because I have my own dive suit(s) and BCD, so they do not have to fit me.  Now I can proceed to planning which trip to take next, with no restrictions getting in my way.  If you decide to go with my idea on mail order shirts, then I ask that you get me the address for such mail order.  You can have the idea, I’m not claiming royalties, but it certainly feels like a win for Carnival and your customers, and even a way for Carnival to make a few extra dollars.

John says:
Hello James Eager

I am so sorry; I had passed this over to the shore excursion team in Miami and had expected them to reply to you. Please allow me to apologise and to thank you for your research. I will be passing this to the team and ask them to see what they think but as I know our operators are very strict about the weight, in this case I would go ahead and dive with this operator so you know all is set. Please make sure you send me your cabin number over on Facebook the day before you sail, and have a great dive and a fun cruise. Best wishes.

John

Doug asks:
Hi John: I’m looking forward to my first Carnival cruise on Carnival Glory on Sept 6.  I’m all set for the steakhouse and have my activities reserved. Out of curiosity, do you know what comedians will be on board? How about the cruise director? Any info about the piano bar would be appreciated too.  I’m excited about the cruise and my work colleagues are tired of hearing me talk about it — that’s a good sign! 🙂

Thanks,

Doug

John says:
Hello Doug

I can see how excited you are about your first and I am positive not your last cruise with us. The comedians will be: Anthony Acosta, Scotty K, Jeff Wayne and Lars Callieou. The piano bar will feature Kyle Bronsdon who I have heard great things about. So get ready for loads of fun and between now and then, if you need anything, please let me know. Best wishes.

John

Tracey Earl asks:
We just returned from our family vacation on Carnival Liberty and it was great! My DH and I can’t say enough good things about Carnival.  We will be headed out on our third “group” cruise we have sponsored. DH promotes Carnival like he’s an employee. He grins from ear to ear just by mentioning the cruise. On September 27, we will set sail on the Carnival Fascination. We will be celebrating 25 years of marriage (together for 30 years). We are so glad we discovered cruising and are excited to share that joy with others.  I have no doubt I WOULD NOT WANT TO CELEBRATE ANY OTHER WAY. Carnival, keep doing what you do!

John says:
Hello Tracy Earl

What a brilliant post and one that I shall take great joy in sending to the crew on the Carnival Liberty. Please tell “DH” that I appreciate his words so very much and I really hope that we will see you for more celebrations soon. Best wishes to you both.

John

Carly Devassy asks:
Why has Carnival stopped offering group cruise prices for Cruise Critic groups? This was an awesome way to meet new friends, plus you guys got to have passengers who would write reviews for millions of others to see. NCL still does this and others, so why not Carnival?!

John says:
Hello Carly Devassy

I had to ask for advice on this one because honestly I did not know what you meant by “group cruise prices for Cruise Critic groups.” I am told that most of our guests like to book using Early Saver or past guest fares and we really do not offer specific discounts just for Cruise Critic members. But I often help arrange what is called meet and greets so if you and any other readers need me to do that I am always happy to do so. I hope we see you on board soon. Best wishes.

John

Kimberley Hansen asks:
Hey big fella – can you hook me up with a private table for two for me and my husband. We are on the Carnival Liberty on August 30 from Port Canaveral. This is important, big guy, as we get very little quality time together because of our work schedules. Happy days!

John says:
Hello Kimberley Hansen

I have written to the maître d’ on the ship and I know he will do his best for you. I wish you both a brilliant cruise and I hope also that you can sail with me one day soon. Best wishes.

John

Amber N asks:
Hi John, I purchased FTTF on my cruise a few months ago on Carnival Triumph and I have a question about debarkation. You mentioned that there are only 15 cabins that are available to purchase FTTF each sailing. Well, on the cruise (March 1), we received a letter in our cabin that said we could go to the main theatre at 8 am and wait for debarkation. My group went to the theatre a little before 8 and, to our surprise, there were tons and tons of people sitting with their luggage waiting for the debarkation. So if Carnival only allows 15 cabins to purchase FTTF, then why were there so many people waiting where the FTTF people were supposed to wait? When they said we could disembark, it was chaotic trying to exit. Can you please give me some insight on this or let me know where the FTTF people need to be when it’s time to disembark? I already purchased FTTF for my next cruise in May and I’m really hoping we don’t have the same experience trying to leave. Thank you so much!

John says:
Hello Amber N

We do indeed only sell an average of 15 cabins per cruise for Faster to the Fun. I did show this post to the cruise director of the Carnival Triumph who told me that in the same lounge with you were Platinum and Diamond guests and those who had early flights. Now, I think we need to separate these groups and, certainly, we already do this on many ships and I think the Triumph will follow. I do apologise and I do hope you had a brilliant time. Best wishes.

John

And that’s all for today.  Thanks everyone for your comments and questions and for your continued readership of the blog.

Right, time for another cruise director bio and a young man who can currently be found entertaining on the Carnival Fantasy – here is Eric Brouman.

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What’s your name and where are you from?Eric Brouman. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, but for the past five years, have been living in Manila, Philippines.

Tell us about your work experience and your journey with Carnival Cruise Lines so far?
I have been with Carnival for approximately five years. I started here as an assistant cruise director on the beautiful Carnival Pride. I have worked in the cruise industry across the world as a host, assistant cruise director and headline entertainer. I also have performed my award- winning comedy magic act on various cruise ships, theme parks, comedy clubs as well as Fortune 500 companies. I can honestly say that, out of all my years of travels, performing and work experience, being part of the Carnival Family is definitely my most favorite.

How do you feel you, as cruise director can influence the guest experience in a positive way?My goal each day is to make sure everyone has FUN, enjoys their vacation and forgets about their troubles at home. I try to make myself available to the guests throughout the entire day and night and will always ‘be an ear’ for inquiry, even if the questions aren’t relevant to the entertainment department. The world revolves around communication, hence, if someone has a comment or question about another department, then I will contact the respective department head immediately and they will, in turn, get in touch with the guest.

What’s your favourite part of your job?People saying you’ve made a difference in my vacation, or recognizing how great the team is and all the hard work it takes to make a great voyage. Personal acknowledgement makes all the difference. It makes everything worthwhile. Another one of my favorite parts of cruising is that every sailing is totally different, no matter what ship or itinerary. New guests, new experiences and new memories make each one special. I love interacting with people, meeting fascinating guests and also hearing their travel stories as well.  And, of course, traveling the world to destinations I could have only dreamed of.

What do you find the biggest challenge?There are three challenges I face with each contract.  I believe one of the biggest challenges is trying to make each and every single person on board happy.  I only want all of our guests to have a wonderful cruise vacation, and, yes, I am very sincere when I say that because I truly mean it. The second essential challenge is getting the best from my team so guests are happy and we all get the results we’re aiming for. It may be a bit of a cliché, but a happy crew means happy guests. When the crew is happy, it correlates with high guest satisfaction. The third biggest challenge is being away from friends and family for such a long time. When you finally get home and spend the time with them, it seems to go by so quickly. Most importantly, I love my job which makes coming back to work quite easy.

If there is one event, show or activity that you host that our guests must not miss, what is it? Each Welcome Aboard Show is different for me.  It’s an unbelievable feeling to come out on a stage with several hundred or thousand people in the audience who don’t know who you are and judge you the minute you walk on that stage. Within just a few minutes, you have a full room laughing, enjoying themselves and, overall, so happy to be on vacation.  Each time I walk on that stage for the Welcome Aboard Show, it is fresh, exciting and involves improvisation and hilarious interactive audience participation. With my down-to-earth style and easygoing manner this results in a quick rapport with the guests. This keeps each and every show quite different and unique; never knowing what will take place next.

Please share with us your favourite story from your time on our ships?I met a guest on Carnival Pride named Gail.  She was 78 years old, in a wheelchair and sailing alone. We got to know each other after the Welcome Aboard Show on the promenade over a coffee. She discussed here many years on the sea and how things have changed over the past 45 years of her traveling. We talked for over two hours that first night like we have known each other for years.  All my grandparents had passed away before I was seven years old; I think this was a moment where I had wished they were still around. By the end of the cruise after eating dinner with her a few times and even dancing with her in the wheelchair, we both found out that she lives five minutes away from my hometown and parents’ house.  She asked for my parents’ phone number to be in touch. When she got home, she actually called my mother and they went to lunch a few times.  Gail told my mother she has never enjoyed herself more in the past 45 years of cruising than when she cruised with me. I still keep in touch with Gail and every time I stop back in Cleveland, I pick her up, go to lunch and continue to share our wonderful stores about life. She is now 83 years old.

And now – about you

Favourite Movie?That’s quite a tough choice.  All three movies are equally my favorite:  Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with Steve Martin, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the original with Gene Wilder) and The Producers with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

Favourite bar or lounge on one of our ships?The Butterflies Lounge on Carnival Pride is my favorite lounge.  It is where I got my start with Carnival as a comedy club manager and at the same time a fly-on performer each night.  The lounge can fit several hundred, yet it’s quite cozy and comfortable and sometimes I think at night when the room is dark and empty, the butterflies come to life.

How do you relax?At the end of each night after being on the floor with the guests till the wee hours, I make my way back to my cabin.  After checking emails again for the 100th time, I get out of my suit and get into my comfy bed with my big white fluffy comforter. I flip through the TV channels as I eat Ritz Crackers and Cheese Whiz till I fall asleep in a sea of salt and cracker crumbs.

And if you could meet any famous person in the world, who would it be?My ultimate childhood wish was to meet Harry Houdini.  I started performing magic at the age of 12 and by the time I was 18, I was already performing my show on cruise ships.  Harry Houdini’s real name is Erich Weiss. He inspired me to be a performer and, for many years, I performed two of his most famous and popular illusions. I have read almost every book about him, and for almost 10 years my Ohio license plate on my vehicle was HUDINI. Once Ohio changed the law to the seven letters, it then became HOUDINI.

Thanks Eric, great licence (spelt correctly) plate, by the way. I have read lots of great reviews about this young man and the energy and fun he brings to the ships he is on and wish him continuing success.

A couple of weeks ago, someone suggested that we have a speed dating activity on the ship and, after asking those on my Facebook page and after hundreds of responses I decided to go ahead and give it a go. And so last cruise was the first ever Carnival Miracle speed dating activity and, if you ask me how it went, the honest answer is I haven’t a sodding clue. Let me explain. We held the event in one of the lounges called Mad Hatter and numbered the table’s one through 20. Remember, we had never done this before, the staff had never organised this before. We were to speed dating what Her Majesty the Queen is to cooking a huge pot of grits. We had decided to put the ladies at the table. Give them three minutes (we all argued about this, some wanted more and some less) and at the three-minute mark we would say “time” on the microphone and the men would move to the next table. This may have been the wrong thing to do, I really don’t know but that’s what we decided. So at 4pm the doors opened and we started.

And what a mixture we had. Let’s start with the dozen or so male guests, mostly in their 50s who looked as if they had come straight out of the 1970s, complete with pony tails and comb overs — there was even a mullet. And then were a couple of men who looked like me complete with grey hair, bags under their eyes and rounded bellies.

There were three male guests who were way into their seventies, one had a walker. We had five male guests under 30 and they included a chap who looked like all he needed to do was stand on Promenade Deck and let his six-pack and chiseled good looks do the talking but here he was anyway along with a few other younger chaps who I think just came for the fun of it and two were dressed as though they had come for a boy band audition. And then there were the ladies. The youngest was maybe 30 and the oldest in her late 60s and there were two women for every one man which surprised me I must say. Most were aged between 40- and 50-something with had full war paint and tight dresses on, proudly displaying gravity-and age-defying cleavage while a couple looked like librarians on a night out.

One thing most of the guests had in common was that they all looked excited as my daughter on Christmas Eve. I explained the rules, well………I explained the one rule of three minutes at each table, asked the ladies to take a seat and quickly added another 11 numbers to tables and seating areas giving us 31 single ladies ready to meet the man of their dreams or, at least, the man of their cruise. And we began. As the event progressed, I started to feel uneasy and started thinking that this may have been a huge bloody mistake. There was not one reason for this — it was just a nagging feeling in my head that ………. something just wasn’t right. As I said, a couple of the lads were doing this for fun but why were the rest here, why were they putting themselves through this? In the past, maybe, they would all have met future partners in a different way — through work or friends. They might have been set up, sat next to other single guests in the dining room or met them in the piano bar. I obviously could not listen in to each conversation but it was obvious from the odd laugh and giggle that a few were at least getting along but it was obvious also some guests were valiantly trying to keep the conversation going while some were unable or willing to make bugger all effort at all.

I had a little laugh myself when a lady in her late 30s sat down with a man who was in his late 70’s and I could see him moving his false teeth around with his tongue…”Oh FFS,” I said silently but then I felt a wash of sympathy for them, this was my fault, I had put them in what was surely a very uncomfortable position. I could hear some talking about their jobs or all about themselves and yep, I saw one lady who every time a man sat at her table would show them that she had a platinum Sail & Sign card.

As the event went on, I could not figure out why on earth anyone would want to spend an hour of their Alaskan cruise doing this? There were so many pitfalls. As nice as everyone was what was the point of a lady in her early 30s talking to a nice old chap with false teeth and who was just a few years away from a possible bed wetting problem?

The guests then went to this speed dating thing we did with different objectives. The women were looking for friendship, maybe the men were too and I am just being skeptical but some of the men, it seemed, to me, were in a primitive way, hoping that the ladies who attended such an activity were up for some immediate companionship, if you catch my drift.

After an hour I blew the final whistle and said that I had hoped friendships had been forged and that if anyone wanted help in rearranging dinner tables so they could spend more time with their friends to let me know. I also asked that if a friendship or even a relationship had been forged during this event to leave a note at the guest services desk and I would provide some champagne and best wishes. I did not receive a single request or any such letters.

Did I make mistakes in my planning? Yes, I most probably did and I am sure some of you will tell me so and one of those you don’t have to tell me is that I probably should have set age specifics and age limits, right?

I did not plan this with romance in mind. I just wanted those solo cruises to meet new people and have a laugh and possibly avoid having to eat dinner on their own but, honestly, I think I failed and because of this I have not scheduled our Carnival Miracle speed dating event since.

So, come on single cruisers, what did I do wrong here?  Please let me know because, after the speed dating was over, I felt like I had let the people down, it just didn’t work and I really have no intentions of trying this again. It was an epic failure.  Bugger.

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.