August 3, 2015 -

John Heald

We start today with this comment:

Robert Lang
I have always felt that after tip night, we were treated like second class citizens and made to feel like you no longer matter and the way you are pushed off the ship by the endless announcements is degrading to me. My cabin steward could not wait to get us off the ship. He knocked on our door TWICE!!

Thanks, Robert, and although I absolutely disagree with your suggestion that service from our brilliant crew diminishes on the last night, I can sort of understand what you mean by the announcements and the whole debarkation process…………..oh, by the way, the gratuities you so graciously leave our crew via your Sail & Sign card are not paid on the last night of the cruise but collected by the crew two days after the cruise is over.

But I can see Robert’s point about the announcements. Usually the cruise director will get on the PA system as early as 7 am, earlier if you are in Europe as your Carnival Vista will be. Now let’s face it people. You are not in the best of moods on debarkation morning. You have to fly which means facing the joyless security check as you get a bollocking for having a tube of hemorrhoid cream in your carry-on. You will then be searched by people with iron-on badges who are so busy checking you don’t have any other creams or gels or that deadly pair of nose hair scissors that they will miss the chap with wires sticking out of his underpants.

You are in a mood because after the brilliant and fun service that you had on the ship from Alena your waitress, Jacinta your bar waitress waiter and Ketut your cabin steward, you know that once on board the plane you will be met with a growl from the premenstrual flight attendant whom if you attempt to joke with or look at the wrong way will have you handcuffed and dragged off the plane for a spot of waterboarding.

You are in a mood because for the last seven days you have stretched out in a hammock on Serenity deck and enjoyed the luxury of the Carnival Comfort Bed and now have to look forward to sitting in seat 45C which would be a tight fit for an anorexic hamster. And, of course, the man next to you will smell like a Frenchman’s jockstrap and want to be your best friend. You are in a mood because you have to go back to work on Monday and because instead of the Guy’s burger and Warm Chocolate Melting Cake you have dined on each day, you have nothing to look forward to but your wife’s cooking which you find as appetizing as eating deep fried yak testicles and it won’t be served by a friendly smiling Filipino waiter but by your wife who is angry at you for peeing on the toilet seat and not having Ketut there to wipe away the stain.

So you are in a stinking mood and what happens at 7 am? Bing bong, “Good morning ladies and gentlemen, what a beautiful day it is here in Miami. This is your Cruise Director Matt Dee here and it’s time to wake up, rise and shine and make your way off the ship. Don’t forget your customs card and let’s wish Lisa from cabin 2269 a very happy birthday. We look forward to seeing you again on another Fun Ship cruise. Woohoo.”

And you are all thinking………………”Woohoo, my arse.” Yep, I can well imagine that hearing a CD’s bright and cheery announcement at 7 am when you don’t want to get up and go home because you had a few too many ThirstyFrog Reds last night. I can understand why these announcements do get on some guests nerves and even tempt a few to scream, “SHUT UP YOU CHEERY BASTARD.”

But the announcements are necessary and, after our Q&A session, I will tell you why they are.

Beth Smith asks:

Hello John: I just wanted to let you know how excellent our service was on Carnival Breeze. We were on the Carnival Breeze for the May 19 cruise. Let me start with Dr. E. He is the best cruise director I have ever cruised with. I would also like to mention my cabin steward Ryan he was very friendly and attentive. Now for our MDR staff, the only thing I can say is that they are the most hard working, wonderful people. Our head waiter was Fahmy – he was the best I have ever had. His assistants were just as great. I hope you can pass along my good words to the beards and let them know how great and hardworking they are. I would gladly cruise with all the people I mentioned any time. Thanks!!

John says:
Hello Beth Smith

This is the perfect way to start today’s Q& A. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this wonderful review and I am going to make sure all those you mentioned see your kind words. They will be thrilled. I hope their superb efforts mean we will see you again very soon. I am here if you need anything. Hope to see you soon. Best wishes.

Anne Robey asks:
John my whole family are mega fans of yours. We cruised back to back with you on the first cruise of the Carnival Magic in Europe from Barcelona and we will never forget the fun and laughter you gave us. Our next cruise is back on the Carnival Magic during which mom will be celebrating her 95th birthday. She is an inspiration to me and my sisters and brothers. I know you occasionally make people’s celebrations with a surprise or two. Her name is Norma Bonis. We will be on the Carnival Magic on August 9 and Norma will be in cabin 62**. I wish you could be there with us. Thank you John for all you do for so many people.

John says:
Hello Anne Robey

I too have wonderful memories of our time in Europe on the Carnival Magic and how super it is to see that you will take Mum on the same ship to celebrate this extraordinary milestone. I wish I could be there with you too but I will do all I can to make sure Mum has the best of times and an unforgettable birthday. Best wishes to you all.

Barnacle Bill Castellano asks:

Will you be sailing in the Carnival Dream for the Halloween cruise departing New Orleans, October 25, 2015? I will have a small group of senior funsters on board to participate in all the Halloween activities. The group would like a photo opportunity with you in your latest underpants.

John says:
Hello Barnacle Bill Castellano.

I am so sorry that I will not be there for your group and that photo. However, please do let me know if there is anything at all I can help you with and please send me your cabin number the day before the cruise on my page if you can. I wish you all the best of times. Best wishes.

Steven Caragolis asks:
I will be on the Carnival Sunshine with 14 friends and family. The cruise leaves on September 6 but the important date is September 10. This is the first NFL Thursday night game of the season. We are all big Steelers fans and they play the Patriots that night. It would be criminal of Carnival not to have this on the giant screen. If this is not played the passengers will riot because this is a tradition that Carnival — an American company — must not refuse us!! I hope Carnival does the right thing and puts the game on. We will all be very vocal if this does not happen.

John says:
Hello Steven Caragolis

First of all let me say that I am grateful to you all for booking this wonderful cruise and I am sure there will be many highlights from the service and fun on the ship to the superb ports of call. Unfortunately I have to tell you that we will not be showing this game or most of the NFL season on the Dive In Movie big screen, which is reserved for our blockbuster movies which we feel the vast majority of the ship want to see. However, if this game shown on the major networks there is an excellent chance it will be shown in the sports bar and on the cabin TVs. Have a brilliant cruise. Best wishes.

Cyndy McKee asks:
Hi John: I know other cruise lines reciprocate with their other lines (sister companies-RCI with Celebrity, etc.) That is if you are platinum on RCI, you are platinum on Celebrity. Why doesn’t Carnival do the same? I am platinum on Carnival but I am stuck because if I try any other Carnival line- Princess, etc. I have to start over to gain any perks. We have just about exhausted all itineraries with Carnival, some twice. So now we are looking for different ports or different 
itineraries but the only way to do that is to go to another cruise line or a sister company of Carnival and start over to get perks. Carnival may be the only cruise line that does NOT allow the same perks company wide. I have 15 or so cruises with Carnival, I just don’t want to start over. So while Carnival is revamping things, maybe Carnival should think about revamping this too. 

John says:
Hello Cyndy McKee

Thanks for writing to me and I am afraid at the moment that there are no combined loyalty programs between Carnival and the other cruise companies within the Carnival Corporation. Their loyalty programs are vastly different with some based on cruise days, and others the numbers of cruises. However, never say never and we are certainly not discounting this in the future. I want to thank you for your loyalty and really hope we will see you soon. Please let me know if you have any further questions. Best wishes.

Hendrik van Loon asks:

I recently took a cruise on the Dream. I did two things that I have never done and wanted to mention them. The first was The Chef’s Table. I can’t describe how wonderful that experience was. The food was five star and the information that was given was really superb. The other special thing was Behind the Fun. It also was excellent. I am a platinum cruiser but didn’t find out about this until recently. Why is this not an option as an excursion on the carnival website. I also wanted to mention on this last cruise that I lost my iPhone. I had left it on deck. I went to guest services with little hope of its return but happily it was there. I asked who returned it and it was a crew member name Randy. I went to my cabin to get some cash to reward this employee and was assured he would receive this token of appreciation. While on my Behind the Fun tour I noticed near the crew quarters a bulletin board with this crew member as the employee of the month. I also noticed that they post for the crew to read some of the comments that cruisers make on the survey that we fill out post cruise. Good job, Carnival!

John says:
Hello Hendrik Van Loon

You have highlighted two of the options we offer on all of our ships and they are two brilliant ones as you mentioned. I am so glad that you highlighted them and indeed Randy who obviously exceeded your expectations. I will be passing all of what you have said to the ship and your feedback will be wonderfully received. I do thank you and I do hope we will see you sail with us again very soon. Best wishes.

Jeff Seymour asks:

Hi John: We want to book the cruise from Galveston to Puerto Rico, and rather than fly home we thought we would do what we love to do and book the return cruise from Puerto Rico back to Galveston. When we do book we obviously would like to book the same cabin to and from, but my questions are: What are Carnival’s policy on debarkation when we get to Puerto Rico if we are booked on the return Cruise in the same cabin? Can we leave our luggage in our state room if we are getting off and right back on? Do we get another Sail & Sign card? If you have any insight or steer me in the proper direction it would be appreciated.

John says:
Hello Jeff Seymour.

Yes indeed you can. The guest services will speak with you before the end of the cruise and explain the debarkation system but you can, once cleared through U.S. Immigration, go and explore beautiful Old San Juan and leave everything in the cabin. Have a brilliant time and please let me know if there is anything else I can help with. Best wishes.

Hector Ramos asks:
It is ridiculous that Carnival does not put what pier number or address the ship docks at, Heald. I have friends who want to meet us when Carnival Elation docks in Cozumel. They are staying in a hotel there but it does not say what pier the ship is on for our cruise. The ship is in Cozumel August 15. I have called Carnival and spoke with someone and after being put on hold for a stupid amount of time was told that they did not know. How can this be the case?? What pier is the ship at?? Why can’t anyone tell me!!??

John says:
Hello Hector Ramos

I am so sorry that this has you so obviously frustrated. In the defence, though, of the person who you spoke to at Carnival that information is not given to anyone but the ship’s captain and often given just a few days or even hours in advance. The Cozumel port authority controls this and often pier availability changes so to publish this information months in advance would be pointless. There is a good chance that the ship will dock at the Puerta Maya Pier but that could change to the International Pier or even the one directly downtown which is called Punto Lagosta. The best thing is to tell your friends to tell the taxi driver to go to the Carnival Elation, the drivers will for sure know where to go. I wish you a wonderful cruise and I am here if you have any questions. Best wishes.

Tyna Redmann asks:
Why does Carnival keep toilet brushes in the staterooms, John? The sight of toilet brushes makes me feel sick. I bought those clip on flushable toilet brush thingies which I think are more hygienic and pleasant approach to getting rid of the marks at home. There is no need for a toilet brush to be put in the cabins. It is the cabin attendant’s job to clean them, not the passengers. Toilet brushes are vile, germ-breeding things and should be removed from the staterooms IMHO

John says:
Hello Tyna Redmann

Interesting. I thought over the years I had covered all the possible toilet issues but here is a new one. I guess I had never really thought about this much and it will be interesting to see what others feel about this. For now please when you cruise again let me know on my page a couple of days before you sail and ask for the brush to be removed I will make sure it is. Thanks so much and thanks for sharing an interesting perspective
Best wishes

Maureen Reffkin asks:
Hi John, I cruise on Carnival all the time. I have enjoyed just about all of your cruise directors. One in particular is not that entertaining and seems so full of themself. While at the CD Q&A 
they had to mention to us about five times how Carnival wants them to stay on the Carnival ____ and he is the best of the best! REALLY? You never see them out and about and the way they signs off after any announcement is so annoying! Even the bartender at the Alchemy Bar says it’s annoying. I’m back on the Carnival ________ in September but would like to know when this CD will be replaced.

John says:
Hello Maureen Reffkin

Although this particular cruise director has legions of fans – you’re not one of them, obviously – I will forward this along to let them know your thoughts. I do hope that we will see you again soon and I do appreciate you taking the time to write. Best wishes.

William Gunn asks:

Can you organize a Shriners meeting for August 22 Carnival Glory cabin ****. I want to meet other people who are Shriners like me. Can you provide me with the email address of the captain so I can get this organized? Will Carnival provide free drinks for us as we do such great works? I would expect 100 plus to come as we are all over the US.

John says:
Hello William Gunn

I will certainly ask our groups coordinator and the cruise director to help with this and arrange a time and location for you to meet. I am afraid that we cannot provide free drinks but I am sure you will enjoy meeting fellow members. I wish you a brilliant time. Best wishes.

That’s all for today and many thanks for all the comments and questions, they are such an important part of this blog.

So what were we talking about…………ahhh yes, debarkation. Well, ask any crew member which day is the most stressful for them and they will for the very most part tell you it is homeport day and here are a few of those behind the scenes moments that I wanted to kindly point out to you.

The Debarkation Process
Let me start by saying that whatever we do once the ship ties up at the homeport we do under with permission from the agency that is in charge and that is of course our good friends from United States Customs and Border Protection. We cannot take anything off the ship — crew, guests, stores, luggage, anything at all without the guest services manager getting permission.

So we plan debarkation, we start debarkation when CPB because at the end of the day, just like they do at airports, it is their job to keep everyone safe and make sure the borders are indeed protected. We need to make the debarkation process as comfortable as possible and the buck for that stops with the management and their teams on board and there is no doubt also that some ships do this better than others and we have to keep working hard to be more consistent here I think.

But it is a long day for the crew and let’s be a little more specific here shall we and concentrate on the work that the stateroom stewards. On home port day Ketut your cabin steward will wake up at 5:30am. After his shower he will grab a quick breakfast in the crew mess which is open from 5:30am on debarkation morning. Then it is straight to his section where he hopes, truly hopes, that you will all be on self-assist and have leave the ship as soon as Jaime Mitchum says that CBP has given permission for guests to disembark.

That’s because he has anywhere from 15 to 22 cabins to clean and only one assistant to help him and when I say clean he has to:
– Deep clean the cabin, bathroom, toilet and storage spaces.
– Change the sheets, duvet and pillow cases
– Clean the shower curtain
– Check the safe has been emptied and left open
– Check everything is working properly
– Place the new Fun Times and shore excursion sheets in the cabin
– Make sure the previous guests did not steal the remote control or the toilet brush.

And Ketut has to do that to every cabin and finish by 1 pm at the very latest…………and if Ketut has some Diamond/Platinum cabins or Faster to the Fun, he has to do those first because they now have express cabin service. So do the cabin stewards want guests off the ship as quick as possible? Absolutely they do. But not because they are not grateful for everything you did for them but because they want to be able to give the next group of guests the same Carnival service that are based on delivering that feeling of “family” that only a Carnival cruise can. Oh and they also want to finish because they hope to have an hour to rush to Walgreens, call home or simply sleep………..ready go again later that day when they are back in their sections ready to say “welcome aboard” to their new guests.

In future blogs I will tell you about luggage collection, stores and other factors that make a turnaround day such a hectic one for so many of the crew.

So I understand Robert’s point, debarkation morning is not one full of smiles and laughs. We do need to continue to work hard to make it as easy an experience as possible and I should also mention here that we are monitoring the liquor return policy very carefully as I know this has added to an already bust morning for you.

Do we want you to leave? No. Do you have to leave? Yep, you do and please if you can, spare a small thought for the crew who have to prepare the ship ready for the new guests who want to find the ship as welcoming as you did days earlier.

I want to finish by going back to the post from Anne who wrote about her mother who would be celebrating her 95th birthday while on the Carnival Magic. I will, of course, be doing all I can along with my colleagues on board to make it the most special of days for her. I also can’t help but think about my own old age and if Kye can’t look after me what will happen? I hope I poop off before Heidi because without her or a cabin steward like Ketut, there is no way I could look after myself. I don’t know how to cook, clean, operate a washing machine or where the new roll of toilet paper comes from. I also don’t want to go to the type of retirement home where you’re left to marinate in your own urine, while the “helpers” stand around texting their boyfriends, waiting for you to die but preferably not on their shift. I am sure everyone here dreads ending their days in a home for the nearly dead wearing someone else’s false teeth. If I am lucky enough to reach say……80 years of age I think I may hasten my departure. Because if Kye says “Dada, we have found you a nice spot at The Sea View Retirement Home,” I will start drinking again, smoking 20 cigars a day and eating nothing but animal fat and raw yak meat. Maybe, on all of our ships. we should have a have a happy hour for only those over age 75 where with pints of ThirstyFrog for $1 and free shots of Slippery Nipple. You may spend the rest of the cruise in bed but surely that’s better than ending your days wasting away on a wipe down chair wearing a diaper ……………..right?

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.