YOU HAVE TO LAUGH

May 28, 2015 -

John Heald

It is almost June which means we are only a couple of days away from Hurricane season. It’s hard to think about hurricane season when you are sitting in your underpants writing from the UK where hurricanes are as rare as finding a Jehovah’s Witness actually inside a house.  But at this time of year, it is on our minds and I hope will be as quiet as a mouse with laryngitis.  I thought, for the sake of new readers and new cruisers, to explain a few facts.

These days, we have all the tools needed to see where a tropical storm is developing, where it is going and what the projected track is likely to be. Advice is taken from government agencies such as the National Hurricane Center, United States Coast Guard and the Church of Scientology ……….OK, maybe we don’t ask Tom Cruise and his mates where Hurricane Bastard is heading but we do take advice from very serious people. That advice is then digested by the beards at Carnival who look at the projected track of the hurricane, discuss with the ship’s captain and then decide what needs to be done.

Although itinerary modifications happen from time to time, any decision to change an itinerary is always done with the interest of guest and crew safety in mind. Hurricanes are as reliable as a blind yak and can suddenly change their tracks and so we wait, gather advice and see what we need to do, often within a day or so notice.  Above all, we want to deliver the itinerary the guest booked which is why we want to wait and see what happens with the storm before officially announcing any changes.

Once a decision has been made to adjust the itinerary, the next step is to see where the ship can go. Let’s say that Hurricane Bastard is heading through the Eastern Caribbean and the scheduled calls are at St. Thomas, San Juan and St. Maarten, so we look to the Western Caribbean for an alternative itinerary. That is when the beards call the port authorities in Cozumel, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and The Bahamas to ask for a berth on a specific day.

Once a new plan is in place, then the following also happens:

  • The shore excursions team has to call the tour operators in the new ports of call to book as many spaces on the excursions as possible.
  • Crew members who may have been joining the ship in the original port of call have to be advised and rescheduled if necessary
  • Ticketing for fly-on entertainers’ flights need to be changed
  • The ship’s managers have to organise new schedules for all the departments
  • The cruise directors/entertainment directors have to design a new Fun Times

And, finally, a letter has to be prepared for guests to let them know what is going to happen and why. We also email or text guests and post the new plan on our social media channels. And when that new itinerary is given to guests, 99 percent will accept the decision — they may be disappointed but they understand. But I also have to say that, 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 for their own safety. To the few who are angry and not understanding, I ask that you please don’t take your frustration out on a 22-year-old guest services associate, an entertainment staff member or anyone in a uniform as they have absolutely nothing to do with this decision.

I have been in this position many, many times in my 29 years and there has been the odd occasion when I have been screamed at and prodded and poked. I am able to take that, obviously, and the experience sometimes (not always) enables me to turn that situation around. But it’s not fair to take that anger out on a junior staff member.  Any one of them who is screamed at in this manner, should be able to give the guest the good news with a cattle prod. But, of course, they can’t and they don’t. Our wonderful staff apologises, takes the verbal tongue lashings and apologises again.

Let’s hope it’s a very quiet hurricane season this year 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 changing a $20 bill for two $10s or hosting the Harry Potter trivia quiz.

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

Scott asks:
Any updates on other ships that will be receiving the unlimited high speed Internet in the May/June timeframe? Will be sailing Carnival Conquest for a back-to-back on June 13 and 21 and then in late July again. Also, will be doing a back-to-back on Carnival Dream Journeys Cruise on Oct 4 and 15 and certainly would expect that ship to have high speed Internet well before October this year. Thank you for the updates on Internet.

John says:
Hello Scott

The new Internet is so popular and that’s not a surprise as the packages from $5 a day or $25 for the cruise, plus the increased speed, have made them a huge hit. The new plans are currently on:

Carnival Freedom
Carnival Breeze
Carnival Sunshine
Carnival Ecstasy
Carnival Sensation
Carnival Paradise
Carnival Fascination
Carnival Victory
Carnival Elation
Carnival Pride

There are more ships planned these next three months and, by year’s end, it will be fleetwide. The Conquest won’t have it for your cruise but the good news is that Carnival Dream will have it. And I will see you for those Carnival Journeys as well. Please let me know if you have any questions and see you soon. Best wishes.

John

Simon asks:
Heald.  Have you read this link, very disturbing.

“I was on Carnival ———-. My cruise friends decided we meet the captain on the formal night.
When we got there, the attitude of the captain was really bad. He would not look into our eyes when he shakes our hands. It was like he had no mood to be there and that we are not important.
He was such a snob. The friendliest guys were the directors in HR, and the doctor. I guess he was upset at the low turnout.”

What is the rule on this? He should be punished for such behavior!!! The captains should be sociable. This is not acceptable!

John says:
Hello Simon

Please excuse me for not posting the link but instead copying the post as I did want to address this. Certainly, I apologise to the person (I am guessing it’s not you, Simon) who felt that the captain was not as sociable as she would have hoped for. I’m not familiar with the particulars on the situation so it’s difficult for me to comment and I would need to check with some folks here and see what I can find out. There is no doubt that some captains enjoy the social aspect of the job more than others. They are hired for their maritime experience and to keep the ship safe, that is obviously their primary function. But we also expect them to be sociable and welcoming to the guests and I can safely say that, for the very most part, is exactly what they are. This isn’t a complain get very often as we are fortunate to have the best captains at sea working for Carnival Cruise Line. That is something I strongly believe is true. Thanks for forwarding this along. Best wishes.

John

Gail asks:
Dear John: In two weeks, we’ll be heading off on Carnival Magic and I was wondering whether it has the old-style production shows (which are fine) or the new Playlist-style shows. And what shows are the ship’s showing right now?  I know a lot of people like the old-style shows with the big sets and the elaborate costumes and such. But, honestly, I don’t get why they bag on the Playlist shows. I had the opportunity to view three of the Playlist shows (88 Keys–LOVED IT! Heart of Soul-also very good and 80s Pop to the Max, which my son really enjoyed) over spring break and I thought they were excellent.  Cheers mate!

John says:
Hello Gail

Carnival Magic has the full cast shows including Grooveline and the brilliant magic and illusion show starring Jason Byrne. I agree that the new Playlist shows are superb and, while I will always miss the orchestra being part of the show, the new casts are fantastic and with shows like you mentioned and ones like Epic Rock, we have some big hits on our hands. And wait until you see what we will do on your Carnival Vista. I wish you a wonderful cruise, thanks for the kind words and if there is anything I can do for you, please do let me know. Best wishes.

John

Shannon asks:
Hi, I am sailing on Carnival Conquest on May 31.  Will the #SlideforStJude promotion still be going on?  Where can I buy a Groove for St. Jude T-shirt?

John says:
Hello Shannon

You are very kind to ask. The Slide for St. Jude is over but our work for our charity partner continues with our Groove for St. Jude. You can, if you wish, donate $10 on board and you will get a T-shirt and a wrist band for your donation. Thanks so much and I am here if you have any questions. Best wishes.

John

Rhonda asks:
Hello John: I am wondering about the onboard credit for Carnival stockholders. Is it available for each person in the cabin if they both are stockholders, or only one per cabin? Thank you so much for being so open and honest with your comments, both personal and business.  You do a great job representing Carnival!

John says:
Hello Rhonda.

It is per cabin not per person that this credit applies to. Thanks for asking and thank you for those very kind words.  I remain here at your service should you need my help. Best wishes.

John

Trevor asks:
I seem to remember the good old days when the port talks actually gave some useful information. The last one I went to on the Carnival Glory was just a push for the shops so the ship gets a kickback. Royal Caribbean gives actual port history lectures. They also have white glove service at cocktail hours. Very classy. Carnival could learn a thing or two.  Just sayin’.

John says:
Hello Trevor

I think you may have attended the shopping talk, not the port talk. The port talk — or the official name — the Fun On Board Fun Ashore talk — is held by the cruise director and covers arrival and departure times, things to know ashore, a brief look at the island and the excursions offered and how to get around on your own. The CD will also talk about security and safety in port as well. The shopping talk is held after this and yes, the shopping expert will recommend some stores that give Carnival guests wonderful deals and guarantees and will no doubt save you some money. You also get to shop with absolute confidence at these stores knowing, if you have any concerns once home you deal with Carnival who will help you resolve them. As for “white glove service.” I do think though that it’s not the gloves that make for wonderful service but the person wearing them and serving you and I think our crew are the best at sea………..still, I am biased, obviously.  Please let me know if you have any other questions and I hope you had a wonderful cruise. Best wishes.

John

Kim asks:
Carnival has to step up and open the door to its vegan passengers. I am always very careful of what companies I give my money to!  I am considering a cruise with Carnival soon. It would be six of us, all vegans. We have done lots of research but most of the reviews we have read about Carnival show that Carnival has little or no regard for this most healthy and most loving of lifestyles. What assurance can you give us that you will have options enough that the same money we spend as meat eaters will be value for the price spent? I hope you will respond or someone will at least. Carnival should remember that when there is more vegan food around, then more and more people will try it and start to be vegan – and that means fewer and fewer animals will be killed and ground up into burgers and nuggets. I hope Carnival remembers that there is no war in the animal world; humans are the only violent species.

John says:
Hello Kim

Thanks for the passionate comment. I know very little about the vegan lifestyle but I do know that Carnival has worked very hard these past few years to provide lots of choices for all our guests who are vegans. There is always plenty to choose from and, if you need something extra, just ask your waiter and he or she will speak with the chef to provide you as best he can. We have vegan guests sail with us every week and I have read many positive reviews. So please come cruise with us and let me know when you are sailing so I can help let the ship prepare accordingly. I do hope we see you soon.  Best wishes.

John

Cyndi asks:
John how does the Fun Hub work?  If I was on a ship that had it what would I have to do? I mean does one have to turn the airplane mode on and the Wi-Fi on to use it?  If that’s the case then I don’t think I’d want to chance using it and running up my phone bill with unwanted roaming charges and data usage.

John says:
Hello Cyndi

Yes, that’s right, once downloaded, you connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi and off you go. There are no further charges for you. It really is a great addition on the Carnival Breeze and we will add to the Carnival Sunshine very soon. Let me know if you have any further questions. Best wishes.

John

Doug asks:
Mr. Heald, love following your blog and on Facebook!  Don’t know if you have answered this before but has Carnival ever thought of offering the Cheers package as a prepay option similar to the liquor you can prepay for?  It might be a thought to consider for many cruisers that book in advance to pay it down prior to the cruise versus the hit of $800-900 to their Sail & Sign! Your thoughts?

John says:
Hello Doug

I can absolutely understand why you and others would want to do this. I will present it again to the beards and see if they are open to this idea and let you know what happens. Thanks for the very kind words and hope to see you soon.  Best wishes.

John

Jeff asks:
Hi John: I am very excited to say I will be sailing on Carnival Miracle October 17, 2015.  I will be celebrating my 50th birthday (Oct 6) so this is my Hawaii 5-0!  My reason for writing is to ask you for your opinion.  I would like to know what one thing you would recommend I do in Hawaii?  Also, since this is my first time on the Carnival Miracle, what one thing on the ship should I do or see?  Thanks in advance for any assistance.  I know you are extremely busy and appreciate your time!

John says:
Hello Jeff

I just completed a Hawaii cruise and what a brilliant way to celebrate your birthday. The ship is superb after her 2.0 upgrades and I know you will love the new shows and all the additions. As for Hawaii, it truly is brilliant, diverse and has great beaches, stunning scenery and a mesmerising culture. Any of the volcano tours are not to be missed as is the snorkeling which is some of the best anywhere. Have a look at the shore excursions list and I will be here to answer any specific questions. Why not book the steakhouse for your birthday dinner and please send me a note to my Facebook page the day before you sail with your cabin number. Sending you my best wishes

John

Michael asks:
We sailed on Carnival’s Liberty. We attended a comedy show featuring ——— who began his act by repeatedly making jokes about Italian-Americans. As a proud Italian-American man who served in the military during the Vietnam conflict, I did not find that amusing. At the conclusion of the show, we complained to Carnival about the show we attended. After a couple of days, we were contacted by the assistant cruise director. He listened to our comments and assured us that he would pass our concerns to the cruise director and upwards from there. To date, we have not had any further contact from Carnival and have been told to write to you.

John says:
Hello Michael

I am so very sorry that this upset you. I am not sure if the show you attended was a PG show or the adults only show. Obviously, comedy is subjective and there is always a chance that while 199 people will laugh, one will not. It is so hard for a comedian to find something that is not going to offend one person. I am glad you wrote to me so I can apologise and I do hope you enjoyed the rest of your cruise. Best wishes.

John

That’s all we have time for today. Thank you all for your comments and questions and I will keep answering you as quickly as I am able.

It has been and always will be a subject that divides opinion, a subject that never goes away and will always be discussed and debated on social media. No, not my underpants, smoking or the VIFP party, nope, I am talking about dress code. This past week alone, there were 4,000 plus comments about it on my Facebook page showing that it is still a relevant subject. So not to disappoint, I wanted to add a few more words, if I may, and I want to start with a question about restaurants on land.

When was the last time you asked, when reserving a table for dinner, if you needed to dress for dinner? My guess is that it was probably a few years ago. Certainly, it was for me and I remember that occasion very well. I also remember when I got engaged the first time, not to Heidi but to another person whose name I won’t mention here. It was at Claridges, a very posh London hotel when, on the hottest day of the year, I was told to put my jacket back on after draping it over the back of my chair.

But, these days, most restaurants have no shirt and tie rule, jeans are fine, although they won’t accept shorts. You can’t tell who’s who from what they wear anymore and that’s a good thing. So many people don’t like dress codes and so restaurants have thrown those rules out. Now people who wanted to try these wonderful places to eat and were turned off by dress codes are now going to these places and enjoying the food and service dressed for the most part as they want which, for the most part, is relaxed. The dress code then has been worn away to nothing except yet one of the last bastions of these rules is the cruise industry.

For us it’s a fact that some people enjoy dressing up. It’s a journey away from their usual day to day lives and that is understandable. And, of course, it would be ridiculous of me not to mention that many people enjoy dressing up to take family photos as a great reminder of their cruise. The question is then, how long will we have dress codes for, how long will the cruise industry keep what most land based establishments have thrown away?

There is one more rule, though, that I hope never comes to be enforced but the way the world is going it is a rule that surely cannot be too far away and it makes me nervous and afraid.

It is a rule for writers, comedians and indeed you or me to poke fun at people. I worry that the governments of the world will ban every single joke about anyone and you’d better have a good look over both shoulders before starting to say something. Write something funny about anyone. Because it will be illegal to say or do this in case it causes alarm or distress.

I often wonder after I have had fun at someone else’s expense on my Facebook page that the FBI will to kick my door in and arrest me. Anything slightly sexist, anything that makes fun of gender, religion or politics is unofficially forbidden. Can you imagine Benny Hill approaching a TV executive today and saying he wants to make a show where he chases a scantily clad nurse around accompanied by saxophone music?

But off stage, off our TV screens and behind the scenes, in the RedFrog Pub and around the ship’s dinner tables, comedy is still alive and well and offensive and brilliant. You may not be able to say much in public in case you are branded as someone who should be water boarded and locked away immediately, but over the years, I have met thousands of you, listened to what you have said and laughed out loud with you.

Smoking bans and other laws make our lives better and healthier but if laughter is the best medicine, please Mr. Obama, please Mr. Cameron and please future leaders of the world, don’t take our ability to laugh away.

After all, I doubt our Punchliner Comedy Club will be very full if our comedians have to resort to telling knock knock jokes.  Keep laughing everyone!

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.

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