By PAUL MOTTER
200 CruiseMates readers, Kuki and his wife, Geela, myself and my wife Lou Ann, and the infamous Carnival Cruise Director, John Heald are aboard the Carnival Fantasy this week to celebrate the second annual cruise for fans of John Heald's blog. There are about 400 Blogger fans aboard and I proud to say that CruiseMates supplied the largest group. Everywhere I go I see people sporting CruiseMates badges, and tonight we have our official CruiseMates cocktail party and I anticipate a very large gathering.
For the unintiated, John Heald started with Carnival almost two decades ago as a bartender. But he was so funny and soon became so popular that he was quickly promoted to a cruise director. Within a decade he was Carnival's most popular cruise director ever, always put in charge of bringing out the newest and most innovative Carnival ships. Like the Carnival Dream pictured above.
This year a couple of special things are happening for friends of John Heald. First, we started this cruise in New orleans and Carnival Cruise Lines, which has had a ship nearly permamnently home-ported in New Orleans throughout all of its ordeals, sponsored several CruiseMates and other Bloggers aboard to go a needy neighborhood in New Orleans and help in a rejuvenation effort. Carnival supplied the helper's transportation and a check for $5000 to the neighborhood to boost the effort.
The other thing we are celebrating is the imminent birth of John Heald's first child, which he endearingly refers to as "the thingy." His wife, Heidi, whom he met upon a cruise ship many years ago, surprised him by becoming with child several months ago and she is currently at home in the U.K. getting the proper pre-natal care. While John appears detached and in control in the proper British manner, one can tell deep down inside he is a bundle of nerves.
Meanwhile, we are all enjoying the ride on the refurbished Carnival Fantasy, one of the older Carnival ships which recently received the extensive Evolutions of Fun upgrades which include new decor throughout, new restaurants like a sushi bar, New York deli, pizza parlor, a huge waterpark for the kids with three new waterslides, an adults-only "serenity area" on the rear of the ship with hot tubs, teak decks and Balinese loungers.
Tomorrow night, one of the comedians has actually convinced Kuki that he should go onstage "cold" and do three minutes of standup material, which Kuki has to write. If you follow his writing, you know Kuki has tried almost every job on the ship; concierge, waiter, maitre d', hotel director -- but never has he been a standup comedian. I'm still waiting to see if he will go though with it. If so, tape at 11:00.