My Dad’s Drawers

June 23, 2015 -

John Heald

I know this is supposed to be a cruise-related blog and for people clicking on this page for the first time, I welcome you and assure you cruise-related business is the normal conversation here and I will return to it a bit later in this episode.

However, I hope you will excuse me if I put into words something that has been on my mind these past couple of days. The subject is my dad, a subject that I think about every day, more so this past Sunday which, of course, was Father’s Day. For those who may have just joined me, let me mention my dad passed away a year and half ago leaving his bride of 54 years, me, my sister and three grandchildren missing him more than I have the ability to describe. This past Sunday, I had to go into his office/study, something I have purposely avoided as much as I could over the past months, unless requested by mum, to fiddle and check on an insurance file or some banking in one of the files he kept so meticulously.

The reason I went in there on Father’s Day and I sat for a few minutes in his study – which was a combination sanctuary, office, man cave, shrine to Carnival Cruise Line surrounded by Carnival photos and awards, a shrine to my sister and her achievements, a shrine to cricket — a game I would need three years to explain to my American readers – and, most of all memories of his grandchildren. I realise that in the midst of death, life must go on. But for whatever reason, I have hated, yes hated, to have to go in to his office. It was strange then that I found myself for no apparent reason started to examine the contents of the office. Examine as in – and I feel sodding awful for saying this – throw some of those contents in the garbage and shredding the old bank documents, etc.

As I started to do this, I knew well enough that dealing with these memories wasn’t going to be an easy task for me. My dad, Neville or “Nev,” as he preferred, lived, recorded and archived his life in woodwork and on paper. Not exclusively on paper – he also maintained a mean toolshed: nails and screws of varying types and lengths precisely housed and labelled and a selection of tools, some handmade woodwork planes by a chap called Norris which I know he saved hard for and one I had bought him for his 70th birthday. My Dad could turn a few lumps of old wood into an Edwardian desk that would make anything from IKEA look shoddy and cheap. He was a craftsman and he taught boys how to be a craftsman for 30 plus years at Southend High School for Boys. He tried to teach me woodwork but it would be as pointless as a snooze button on a smoke detector.

As I went through each drawer in my dad’s study, I was not in the least bit surprised that all his letters, paid bills and correspondence in the desk he built himself desk were in perfect order until the day he had passed away. After that, the letters and correspondence were in a big pile in the corner of his desk, something that would have driven him stark-raving bonkers. After 79 years of life and the inability to throw away even the smallest item, my dad had amassed a sensational amount of books, model steam trains, photos, letters and enough stationery to stock an Office Depot mega-store. There is a 1997-vintage photocopier. A selection of cricket and steam train videos, not DVDs, videos and 78, yes 78 model steam engines and 45 models of Old London buses beautifully arranged in wooden showcases made, of course, by my dad, with love. I think if the truth be told, my Mum would like the office cleared and turned into an empty room. Dad spent so much time there that I think this room more than any other in her house is the toughest one for her to be in.

So now I have to decide what to do with all of it, and I can’t deny I don’t even know where to start. I was daunted beforehand – and I was right to be. The desk alone – coins, cheque stubs, accounts, photos, camera bits, pens, keys, wallets, you name it – looks like several days’ work that I would have to do. Fascinating work, emotional work. Work I will, however, carry out, as my father’s son, and because he worked hard to accumulate it all, and because if it’s in his office, he will have had a good reason for it to be so.

And to bring light to what was a bit of a dark day for me, in one of his desk drawers, I found a wooden key ring I bought him at the craft market in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. It was beautiful handmade and hand turned carving of a Rastafarian and when you pulled the key chain…….his gentleman’s sausage would pop up. My dad loved it……….actually, no, he didn’t but it is at least another memory of a great man who gave me so much.

Cheers, Dad…………..I miss you.

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

Lance Hansen asks:
Just off the Carnival Magic and still stunned there was no COUNTRY MUSIC!!! Texas is the heartland of America and mainstream country is the music of America. I found it offensive both to Texans and to the military that there was no country band on the ship. Every ship Carnival has and, I think you have lots, should have a country band.

John says:
Hello Lance Hansen

I do hope that you enjoyed the cruise and that the disappointment of not having a country band playing all country music did not stop you enjoying the food and service and the fun. I know the ship has two guitar soloists and duo and a party band that will play country music by request. It is important when we have these discussions to remember that we only have the cabins we have. By that I mean the entertainment department has a certain budget and that budget is based on the number of beds we have to fill. If we were to add a country band that plays country music all the time, then we would have to remove the party band that plays such a wide selection of music. I hope this explains why we have the choice we do and I will be writing more about live music shortly. I hope we see you again very soon and thanks for writing to me. Best wishes.


Javier Vega asks:
Why do you keep saying how important it is to meet your cabin steward? My wife and I were on the Carnival Fascination in April for our anniversary and our steward was a ghost. The room was clean and tidy and he did everything he needed to do but we never saw him. I wrote this on a Cruise Critic review and there were some answers to me saying how angry that would have made them and one told me I should have complained and asked for some money back!! Why? He was a ghost, but also an incredible room steward. I am interested to see your take on this please. Why do passengers want to actually see their stewards and interact with them? I’m fine talking to them or never seeing them. As long as things go well, I’m happy.

John says:
Hello Javier Vega

That’s a great post and a fascinating question. I will bring this up for general discussion on my Facebook page and see what everyone has to say. I, in turn, will mention that the cabin steward is supposed to introduce him or herself to you on embarkation day/evening as part of his regular duties. After that, it is often down to chance if you see them as it depends if they are in your cabin area when you leave and or return. Most of the cabin stewards have the ability to detect when a guest is leaving and will come out of the cabin they are cleaning if they hear you leave yours. Interacting is important to many guests and so it should be, it is enjoyed by both parties I think plus it would be ridiculous of me not to mention doing so helps with the cabin stewards gratuities. I hope that helps with some kind of answer for you and please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with. Hope we see you again very soon. Best wishes.


Terry asks:
John, you mentioned you would be on the Carnival Journeys and I’m wondering if you mean all of them? We are on the January 31 sailing on Carnival Miracle – would love to cruise with you!

John says:
Hello Terry

I will be on the first two on the Carnival Dream and it is my intention to be on many more. I will confirm my schedule as soon as I can and I do hope to see you there. Please let me know if there is anything I can help with. Best wishes.


Julie Elkin asks:
Hi John. This is our first time on Carnival and we are about to go on Carnival Sunshine. If we do not want to go to the formal nights are there other dining options apart from the chargeable restaurants? Also, when is Carnival Sunshine getting the Fun Hub? Thank you. Juls

John says:
Hello Julie Elkin

Yes, of course, so please do not worry. Remember the choice to dress elegantly is yours as it is your vacation after all. You can wear more casual clothes that night, just no shorts and T-shirts. If you wish, you will have dinner served on Lido from 5:30 – 9 pm and various outlets there providing you lots of choices. I hope you will have a wonderful time…..actually, I am sure you will and if you need anything or have any other questions, I am here or on my page. Wishing you the best of times. Best wishes.


Max Wooten asks:
Do you have to be fat and obese to be a Carnival John Heald cheerleader??? I always see the fatties comments salivating over the burgers and prime rib not asking for nutrition information. Why is nowhere I can find nutrition info for the different meals in the dining room, buffet, etc.? I track calories and macronutrients. I bet you do not even know what they are. They should be available on the menus many of my local restaurants are already doing. Asked on the Carnival Freedom and last week on the Carnival Sensation but nobody knew. Also, the same meal can vary greatly in calories depending on how it is made and the specific ingredients. Carnival this is common sense, really.

John says:
Hello Max Wooten

Let’s ignore the first couple of sentences, shall we, and put that down to frustration on not being able to see the nutrition information on our menus which is happening at some landside restaurants now I see. Meanwhile, on your next cruise, please feel free to ask the waiter for the menu for dinner for the following night, have a think about what you want to have and the waiter will ask the chef for the information you need. I am sorry it was not shared with you on your past two cruises with us. Obviously, there are far too many items for me to list here but if you have specific questions on menu items, please do let me know. Thanks and hope to see you soon. Best wishes.


Dana asks:
Morning John! I’m very excited to share that my husband and I have just booked a cabin (#2222) on the fabulous Carnival Freedom for November 12 this year. It will be our 13th Carnival cruise. Even more special is the fact that we’ll be bringing along our two foster sons, each of whom will be celebrating his birthday aboard! This will be their first cruise, and I can’t think of a more wonderful birthday present for them. One rather important question: During embarkation, will Carnival staff accept our placement paperwork and a good copy of their birth certificates as identification? Foster children rarely have original birth certificates available through Child Protective Services. Thanks for your insight. Dana

John says:
Hello Dana

How wonderful. I have such admiration for any foster parents and I am sure you have given these young men a wonderful life. Please do bring the official placement papers and a copy of the birth certificate and that will be fine. Please also send me your cabin number the day before the cruise on so I can send them a little birthday something. Best wishes to you all.


Carol O asks:
Hello John, Taking your lead, I am writing to you in my underpants. I am a 69-year-old solo woman cruiser who has been cruising for 35 years. I am taking my first Carnival cruise on Freedom, August 29. I will be solo and won’t know anyone aboard. I selected second seating dining (8:15 p.m.) table for eight. Does Carnival arrange for older solo cruisers to dine at the same table? That might be too much to ask for. Just a little concerned at being out of place at my table. Any suggestions? Thank you, love your blog and follow you on FB.

John says:
Hello Carol O

And let me start by saying that my reply is also following your dress code, as well. Thanks for making me smile and may I ask that four days before the cruise via my Facebook page please would you send me your dining request to be seated with others and I will ask the maître d’ to make it so. Thanks so much and I wish you the best of times and am here if you need anything. Best wishes


Dustin McCoy asks:
Hi John, my wife and I are looking to book our next cruise, would you recommend booking with a Carnival PVP or through the website. What are the advantages of a PVP? Thanks!

John says:
Hello Dustin McCoy

I think many people reading this will tell you that the expert advice provided by our valued travel agent partners and our PVPs can make a real difference to your cruise. They are the ears and eyes on specials, discounts and can do all the legwork to find the right cruise for you with the right cabin and so much more. Please have a think about that and if there is anything at all I can do I am here for you. Best wishes.


Karen Sykes asks:
Has Carnival ever thought about holding a teen pageant contest during a cruise? I think this would be an awesome thing to do, like Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. With lots of teens on your boats there would be some big turnouts and what great entertainment for the passengers. You could give free cruises to the winners. Count my daughter in on this when we cruise on the Triumph on August 8. Awesome idea, right? Please respond if Carnival is going to do this so we can prepare.

John says:
Hello Karen Sykes

While I think there would be some who may enjoy this, I do have to respectfully say that this is not something we are able to do. Not only would this be challenging from a logistical standpoint, the cruises are all about fun and however we did this, I think some would take it very seriously and the fun part may be forgotten. I want to wish you a brilliant cruise and there will be a superb variety of entertainment on board and, of course, loads of fun for you and your family. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Best wishes.


Pat Piscopo asks:
Which ship is Jaime Dee on now? She was on Carnival Sunshine!!!!!!!!!!!! Who will be the cruise director on Carnival Sunshine Feb. 13, 2016?

John says:
Hello Pat Piscopo

Jaime is on the Carnival Sunshine until her vacation in a couple of weeks’ time. She will return to that ship in September. We have not done the 2016 schedule yet, Pat, and as soon as it’s ready I will post it here.


Frank Albauer asks:
Faster to the Fun!! Last year I booked this 10 months in advance. I booked a cruise for February 14 on the Carnival Magic it’s not available yet! It hasn’t been put out yet. Is there a policy change? Thanks, john!!

John says:
Hello Frank Albauer

This should be there now and, if not, will be there by the end of July, so please do keep checking. Please also let me know if you need anything else before you cruise. Have a great time.

Best wishes.


That’s all for today. The blog has received an average of 40,000 views each time one has been posted and that has brought with it lots of comments and questions. I will then try and answer as many as I can as quickly as I can but I remind you that questions can also be asked on my page too.

So tomorrow I will fly to Italy and the town of Trieste where your Carnival Vista is under construction. Please check back here in the next couple of days for some video footage of what will happen and more news on our incomparable ship……….sorry………..your incomparable ship.

I want to introduce you to the name Eddie Castro. He is our new music manager and he and his team under the guidance of our senior entertainment beard Sara are adding more and more live music to our fleet of ships. Eddie worked with me as a musical director and we delivered the Carnival Breeze together and he loves live music………he truly does. I love live music, too, and in that Eddie and I are joined at the hip. Now I should say that Eddie is a proper musician unlike me because after half a lifetime of consistent failure I knew I was not born to be a musician. I suppose I should have seen the signs at the age of eight, when I attended Heycroft Junior School in Essex, UK. Like most of the kids in the UK, we were issued with a Dolmetsch recorder. I remember all the other kids could play a tune, while my own instrument emitted nothing but a sound similar to a constipated mouse trying to take a dump and produced a worrying quantity of warm spit.

The recorder, I decided, was pretty much a girly instrument so, by the age of 11, I was playing with the trombone. Sometimes, I would blow so hard into the mouthpiece that I saw stars and nothing would come out except a sound that can only be described as a wet fart.….you know the one all of us do after sitting at the meal table for hours eating everything in sight and then, finally, we stand up and…..bweeeeeeep. After a while, I laid the trombone aside, consoling myself with the thought that you never saw a trombone player in a rock band. So I took up the bass guitar. One year later I was fired from my mate’s rock band on the not unreasonable grounds that I was the only would be bass guitarist in history who could not play the opening bars of Smoke on the Water. But on the ships we have and always will support live music, however, it worries me that kids of future generations will one day believe all music comes from an Eye Pod thingy and not from the hearts and minds of brilliant live musicians.

Eddie has already overseen the addition of party bands on the ships and returning the likes of those Carnival household names like Blood Power, Music Unlimited and, beginning in September, the brilliant band Blackjack returns to Carnival Dream. There are party bands in the RedFrog Pub and romantic music in the lobby. There is Cuban/Latin music in the Havana Bar and soon you will hear much more Caribbean and Calypso music on the Lido and, indeed, in the atriums as you board the ships.

And as I sit here writing in my underpants to you there is another team currently making their way around the fleet………the sound patrol. This is a group of technicians and music supervisors who are going ship to ship to check the volume of all our live and indeed recorded performances covering the theatre, lounges and Lido. Some of you may not realise that we have standards set by the beards as to what volumes we can run shows, music, movies, etc. We do — sometimes they are full in their volume and, yes, I know that some people don’t appreciate that very much. I am fully sympathetic that as you get older your hearing becomes more sensitive or in my case, disappears. I say disappears but that’s not really true. What I will say is that it seems to me that movies and TV these days are made in such a way that many of us have no idea what the heck is being said. I was on a flight last month from London to Miami and decided to watch an in-flight movie: American Sniper. But even though I was using an expensive pair of those noise- cancelling headphones, I could not make out a single word that anyone said. Every actor whispered.

But back on the ships, our team will check all the levels and will make sure that all of our shows and musical performances are set to a comfortable level for all without losing the energy in the room that a good, solid, full sound always gives. May I give our guests some advice? Before you sit down, in the main lounge especially, look up and if you see a speaker right above your head or on a pole (structural pole not on an actual person from Poland). I would suggest you move away to a different seat if you do have sensitive hearing. Once again, I wanted to say how committed we are to live music and you will be seeing that commitment for yourself on your next cruise.

Well, this time tomorrow, I will be on a Ryan Air flight to Trieste, Italy, to see your Carnival Vista. I will be joined by Peter the Hair who will be filming loads of footage and interviews with me and, of course, and a special guest and I will be Facebooking photos from the ship daily and reporting on the coin ceremony.

Ahh yes, Ryan Air, an airline that should be renamed “Oh FFS Airlines.” Yes, I know they are cheap……………but there are so many rules and so many short cuts that past flying experiences with them have made my hemorrhoids flare. Their sandwiches cost about the same as the flight and are so refrigerated you may as well chew on a lump of frozen yak scrotum.

Yes, you’re right; here goes the chubby grey-haired wanker moaning again about flying. I know Carnival is paying for my flight but it’s not the money I am moaning about……it’s well …. let me explain. I believe that flying with Ryan Air is the perfect way of deterring everyone but the most determined traveler from ever setting foot on a plane. My previous flights with them have me getting off the plane feeling like the unlikely offspring of Charlie Sheen and Lady Ga Ga.

I have in recent flights to the Carnival Pride and Carnival Legend, been able to upgrade to business class thanks to my frequent flying points. So I am aware that something infinitely more agreeable exists in the air. Soft pillows, unlimited bottled water (I am Platinum……..with British Airways) exotic nuts and a good chance of sitting next to Megan Fox in tight jeans. I have mostly flown coach across the Atlantic which is purgatory, no more than a waiting room for the true hell of flying Ryan Air where the only nuts I will be served will be crushed ones, mine ………… I try and fit into a seat designed for Tyrion Lannister.


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.