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Archive for January, 2008

Bloggers hanging-lose and having heart

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 24 - 2008

Dolphin Cove with the Carnival Freedom in the background (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)We reached Ocho Rios early and the heat and humidity was oppressive even at 8:00 AM. Ya mon, it was a hot day for the hot guy! We were off to celebrate “John Heald’s Jamaican Birthday Bash” at Dolphin Cove. This is quite the facility and it’s only a five minute bus ride from the pier.

Dolphin Cove was built seven years ago and has recently expanded to include more beach amenities. John & Heidi Heald at the birthday bash (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)As the name implies there are dolphins here along with stingrays, sharks, and an assorted array of tropical fish and birds. Besides the wildlife there are plenty of activities to partake in from swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, volleyball, hiking around the rainforest, hair braiding, dancing to music and treasure hunts. Of course there was eating and drinking – and plenty of facilities to accommodate all 755 bloggers that came to John’s bash. Everyone was having a great time – some A LOT more than others.

Anita gets a kiss from Pepe the dolphin (Photo courtesy of Dolphin Cove)Most bloggers had the opportunity to swim with the dolphins. My girls and I were entertained by “Pepe” who seemed to like to kiss a lot. These are amazing animals and to be able to interact with them is a real privilege.

Upon sailing at 3:30 all those that donated to the cruise’s breast cancer awareness program “On Deck For The Cure” posed for a group photo on the Lido Deck. Everyone from “Big Ed” and his “Evil Crew” was there as were other bloggers. This terrific group raised over $6,000! What a great group these folks are – truly a big hearted bunch.

Bloggers On Deck For The Cure (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)Tonight we’re having dinner at one of my favorite restaurants on any ship, Carnival Freedom’s Sun King. Folks this is a six-course food fantasy and it’s one of the best at sea. Also, my favorite show is playing tonight, “Ticket to Ride.” This is a revue dedicated to Beatles tunes – a must see.

Bloggers pose for group On Deck for the Cure celebration (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)Tomorrow is our last day onboard – and a day at sea.

Ciao for now…

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Bloggers Cruise: Grand times in Grand Cayman

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 23 - 2008

Stingray City on the Allura catamaran (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)What a great day in Grand Cayman. Thankfully the weather has been stellar for the past two day and it looks like the rest of our cruise will be the same. Today, we sailed the Allura catamaran out to Stingray City. This is one of Carnival’s newest tours on Grand Cayman. I cannot recommend this tour highly enough. The 50-foot Allura holds 66 passengers and is a more intimate way to visit Stingray City as other tours take well over 100 passengers and are loud and not nearly as fun.

Allura catamaran (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter) What a great day in Grand Cayman. Thankfully the weather has been stellar for the past two day and it looks like the rest of our cruise will be the same. Today, we sailed the Allura catamaran out to Stingray City. This is one of Carnival’s newest tours on Grand Cayman. I cannot recommend this tour highly enough. The 50-foot Allura holds 66 passengers and is a more intimate way to visit Stingray City as other tours take well over 100 passengers and are loud and not nearly as fun.

Once we reached Stingray City we spent 45 minutes in the water with the stingrays. These gentle giants are more like underwater dogs that like to rub against you. There were some screaming guests, but most laughed and truly enjoyed the encounter. The Allura’s crew was great and was happy to answer all questions while giving a very informative talk on stingrays – something that few other tours do.

Allura catamaran stingray briefing by crew (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)After the tour the girls and I walked around town and had some lunch at Hammerheads. This pub/restaurant area is near the pier and offers great views of the ships and is a good place to kick back with a Red Stripe and conch fritters. Besides the Carnival Freedom passengers from the Costa Fortuna and Norwegian Pearl were in town.

This evening our press group had “a curry” with John and Heidi Heald along with Tim Gallagher, Carnival’s vice president of public relations, and Roger Blum, Carnival’s entertainment guru. What a delicious spread the chef prepared for us. All the best Indian dishes served on the Freedom were there for us to sample. All I can say is “wow!” I really think Carnival should consider having an Indian/Thai alternative dining venue. With dishes this delicious how can they not?

Carnival Freedom docked in sunny Grand Cayman (photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)Now, I am off to the passenger talent show – I hear it’s pretty bad.

Tomorrow it’s Ocho Rios and John’s Jamaican Birthday Beach Bash.

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Cruising from New York City? Don’t miss this new website

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 23 - 2008

A new web site, Cruising From New York (www.CruisingFromNewYork.com), provides all the information travelers need to plan a cruise from the three New York area ports, Manhattan,Brooklyn and Cape Liberty (Bayonne), N.J. was launched this week by Anne Campbell, a veteran cruise industry journalist.

The web site is a “single click resource”, allowing cruisers to easily find information on the three ports, including directions, parking and suggested routes. The user-friendly format also features reviews of all ships sailing in and out of New York, year-round itineraries, message boards and cruise discounts. Those planning a pre- or post-cruise stay in New York will find information on hotels, sightseeing, nightlife and shopping in “The Best of New York” chosen by Campbell, who has lived in the city for several decades.

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Of blogs and one journalist dog

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 22 - 2008

John Heald hosting his “Morning Show” (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter) Finally we have sun and calm seas on our second of three sea days. The pool area is packed with sun worshipers and kids jumping with joy in the pool. This is what cruising is all about and everyone is certainly enjoying everything the Carnival Freedom has to offer.

John Heald’s “Morning Show” was hysterical as usual and was ripe with sophomoric humor that you cannot help but love.

John Heald taking questions from the bloggers (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)At 11 AM, John hosted a Q&A for the 700-plus bloggers onboard. John certainly is well beloved among this group. They are also celebrating his birthday in a big way and many have brought gifts for him and Heidi. “The generosity by everyone has been extraordinary. I am truly touched and humbled by it all,” he says.

He took many questions from the audience and from those logging on to live chat on his blog. One question that was asked was “how has the blog changed you?” John went on to tell how the blog has created a real community and that he and Heidi have really enjoyed being a part of it. He went on to say how Heidi has changed the most through the blog process. Normally a very private person, Heidi has really opened up and has done her own blog from time to time.

“Divetrash” aka Laura asking John a question (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)He also went on to tell how he started his career at Carnival – from wine steward to social host and finally cruise director. It’s clear that he is doing the job he was born to do — being a cruise director.

The blog takes a lot of time to do and he has taken it very personally. He’s just being himself and that is what blogging is all about. The majority of people love it, but then there is one guy out there who hates it.

John relayed the story of one journalist who wrote to Carnival management stating that the blog had run its course and should be “put down like a sick dog.” This was met by loud boos – rightfully so. I know the journalist in question and it’s unfortunate. This person recently took a swipe and me and I was hurt by it. John clearly felt bad by this man’s opinion, too. Thankfully, Carnival management laughed off this grumpy detractor and listened to the people that matter most – its customers.

Next stop Grand Cayman – let’s hope the good weather stays with us.

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LIVE from sea it’s John Heald

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 22 - 2008

Carnival Freedom and Carnival Liberty side-by-side in rainy Cozumel (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter) Aye, carumba! It was another cold, rainy day as we pulled in to Cozumel docking right next to the Carnival Liberty. Sadly, our snorkeling excursion was canceled as were most other water-based activities. It was a good day to….catch up on sleep! I don’t know what happened but a little nap turned into a six hour slumber fest. It was a bad move because now it’s 2 AM and I can’t sleep! People are still whooping it up on the Lido Deck. Where do these people get their energy? Perhaps it’s all that tequila…

Tonight was pretty low key. After dining with the press I was off to watch John & Heidi’s “Battle of the Sexes” show. It was pretty hysterical. John gets people going and has a keen sense of who to pick on in the audience. Is he clairvoyant or just a clever guy? I plan on asking him how he does it. I hope he doesn’t tear up all Hillary Clinton-esque on me.

Rainy decks on Carnival Freedom and Carnival Liberty (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter) Anyway, a couple of big news items.

First, John will host a blogger question and answer session that will be shown LIVE on his blog TODAY (1/22). So tune in to his blog from 11AM til noon. Don’t miss the chance to watch the festivities live!

Secondly, the official details have been announced for the second annual “John Heald Blogger Cruise” The 2009 voyage is set for February 7-12 aboard Carnival Fantasy, sailing round-trip from New Orleans. The 2009 voyage will include exclusive events for bloggers such as a welcome aboard reception, trivia contests and question-and-answer sessions. Logo items and other give-aways will be provided. Carnival Fantasy was selected as the venue for the second “Bloggers Cruise” as it will be the latest ship to undergo the second phase of the line’s “Evolutions of Fun” vessel refurbishment program, which will result in a total transformation of the ship. Also, as I posted in an earlier blog, the bloggers are planning to work with Brad Pitt’s foundation in New Orleans to help in the city’s rebuilding efforts.

Oh, and one last thing. I alluded in an earlier blog that Angelina Jolie was a “lock” to be the godmother for the Carnival Splendor. Not so. Carnival desperately wants her to be the godmother, but she hasn’t responded yet. Let’s hope they can get her onboard. I think she would be a good choice and John would be “mucho” happy if that happened.

Adios for now.

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Are these the reasons Vicki Freed left Carnival?

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 21 - 2008

Vicki FreedI was chatting with some Carnival folks over the Vicki Freed situation. Clearly, her leaving took them by surprise. One person that is familiar with the situation stated that Vicki was offered a lot of money to work at Royal Caribbean. I give the folks at Carnival a lot of credit; they are handling the situation with a lot of class and dignity. They truly wish her well at her new position.

Meanwhile, a Miami cruise insider e-mailed me that Vicki’s jumping ship may be more about sour grapes. This person presented a compelling timeline: “Bob Dickinson announces his retirement in July then Gerry Cahill is immediately appointed president and ceo. In October, Ruben Rodriguez, an industry outsider, is hired as executive vice president of marketing and guest experience — taking the marketing title away from Vicki. In November, Royal Caribbean announces that Lisa Bauer is being moved to senior vice president of hotel operations. Royal Caribbean then stated that the senior vice president of sales would be filled by an outside, to-be-named candidate. After 29 years, Vicki leaves Carnival for Royal Caribbean. Seems Vicki was planning this for months.”

When I asked the Carnival folks if this was possible, they stated it could be. One noted that she probably didn’t take the Royal Caribbean job back in November in order to finish out the year and collect her substantial Carnival year-end bonus.


Both sources say that her leaving had nothing to do with Carnival changing strategy for the travel agent community. As one Carnival person noted, “We need travel agents to distribute our product. Going completely direct to the consumer makes no sense since the costs to set up and maintain a lot of reservations centers are too expensive.”

So, somewhere between the office, the boardroom, and the bank, it hit Vicki. So she got out to ‘Get out there.’

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