Coffee talk with John Heald

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 25 - 2012

This morning on Carnival Breeze I sat down with John Heald, Carnival’s Senior Cruise Director, Brand Ambassador, and Blogger extraordinaire to discuss a variety of topics. Find out what John likes best about the Carnival Breeze, what the new Carnival Cruise Lines is all about, new cruise line safety measures, his future as a cruise director with the company, and what he really thinks of the French and Cruise Critic. His answers will make you laugh and just might surprise you. There are also some new exciting news items in this interview that you won’t read about anywhere else.

www.expertcruiser.com: What do you think about all the Fun Ship 2.0 improvements?

John Heald: I love it.  I think Guy’s Burger is the best thing to hit the Lido Deck since we had the Playboy charter in 1998. It’s a yabba-dabba-doo moment. You want to slide down your own pet dinosaur and grab that lump of meat like they do.  I honestly absolutely love it. I’ve never understood those burger snobs and steak snobs and I never thought I’d be one of those.  I am now because I compare every burger to Guy’s. It’s a very, very good burger.  I think having the two new themed bars on Lido Deck are great and the crew that work there take great pride and ownership in those new areas. Thrill Theater is fantastic. Bonsai Sushi has been a huge success.  I didn’t think it would be as popular as it is. While I know a good burger when I eat it sushi is a big mystery to me. I don’t understand the whole raw fish thing, but it’s been a big hit onboard. The greatest bargain onboard is La Cucina del Capitano for $12 all that food you get, it’s fantastic.

So yeah, I think 2.0 is a great addition. But what I really love about it it’s not just about the new ships but is going on the older ships.  It’s going on the Ecstasy next month, then the Conquest and then the Glory.  The reinvestment in the fleet is very important. There are some cruise lines that market their newer ships only. We’ve always done well in not saying it’s all about one ship or two ships.

www.expertcruiser.com: What do you think about the new décor on Breeze?

John Heald: Even with all the big Fun Ship 2.0 changes the heartbeat of Carnival is still there even though the walls are different color and calmer. The décor for me makes the ship feel 30,000 tons lighter. It’s the same size as the Magic and the Dream, but it feels lighter and crisper. It’s resort.  My favorite parts of the ship are the guest corridors and the colors of the cabins. I just love them there’s just something inviting coming back to the cabin.

This reminds me a lot of AIDA ships as the architects that have done Breeze have been doing those ships for years. Amazing ships. Best cruise ships most people will never sail on.

www.expertcruiser.com: The beards are branding everything on the ship. Are they going to brand John Heald?

John Heald: They’re going to work in partnership with JC Penney or Big Bubbas clothing store.  I am not sure which one (laughs).  No, they aren’t going to brand John Heald.  The branding thing has really changed us. It’s very simple. Guy Fieri is mass market.

You look at some of the other type of things that we are doing with RedFrog Pub. It’s worked fantastic. We have this beer you’ve seen called ‘Thirsty Frog Red’. I’ll give you a little exclusive ‘thingy’ that I haven’t told anyone else. We are giving serious consideration as of this week to bottling and selling ‘Thirsty Frog Red’. We are working with our friends with AIDA because they have a microbrewery onboard.

That’s our own brand. The other known ships have Starbucks and Johnny Rockets and some of them are very good.  I hear on NCL for example they have Blue Man Group and I hear they are fantastic. But we are doing our own thing. We’ve come a long way. As Gerry said we’ve only just begun. Breeze is the first ship with the beards signature all over it. Even Magic by the time Gerry, Mark, Reuben, and the other people came in those ships were already designed, done and dusted when they came in. This is the first ship which is 100 percent the new generation of Carnival.

www.expertcruiser.com: It’s been a tough year for the cruise industry after the Concordia disaster.  What’s changed?

John Heald: It’s been a bad year. The market is picking up again now. Concordia is still on everyone’s mind.  Sadly I’ve had a lot of people ask me are we going to see the Concordia. There is that morbid tourism.  It (Concordia accident) suddenly gave us all a kick in the pants.

The crew on this ship gets off in a completely different way than the passengers. They use a MES (Marine Escape System) system. There are six of them in the back of the ship on Deck 4 they are chutes rather than those round life rafts that you won’t see onboard here anymore. We launch these long sock-like chutes much like those on an airplane that the crew slides down into an inflatable life raft at the bottom. The crew gets off much quicker and in a much more organized way. So its bang, bang, bang you’re off. The ferry’s and freighters have them. Three hundred of the crew are in the life boats with the passengers and the majority of the crew use the MES system.  I wonder if the days of lifeboats are numbered and whether the guests will use the MES system.

I learned something in the Splendor fire you have to kill the guests with information. Even with that ALPHA TEAM incident from the other day you have to give them information.

www.expertcruiser.com: Your blog is a huge success what’s the future of the blog?

John Heald: As I’ve made pretty clear in the blog I wrote the other day and after a long conversation with Gerry this will be my last new ship launch.  I am not going to do anymore new ships.  I can’t do a new ship and do this brand ambassador stuff at the same time anymore. It’s too much. One of it suffers and that’s not fair on either.  I don’t want the guests to suffer and I don’t want the blog to suffer either. So, at some point in the months ahead they are going to have to decide which one they want me to do. Also, I’ve been at sea for 26-years so there’s a time now where I don’t want to do the long contracts anymore. I want to do shorter ones maybe a month at sea and work from home for a little bit.

www.expertcruiser.com: There’s Batman and Robin; Laurel and Hardy; Abbott and Costello. What’s with you and Calvin are you guys the new dynamic duo?

John Heald: What’s with me and Calvin. Well, I’ve never shared a Morning Show with anybody. Calvin is probably one of the most naturally funny men I’ve ever met.  It’s hard for you to put this in words without them (readers) seeing it. There is a chemistry and I get to be the straight man (pardon the pun). He’s become a bit of an icon.  He’s a great joy to work with and the Morning Shows have taken on a bit of a life of their own. We’re going to continue our duo and he’ll travel with me next year if I do time on the ships next year.

www.expertcruiser.com: Okay John, we’re going to do some word association.  Answer with just one word.

www.expertcruiser.com: Gerry Cahill

John Heald: RedFrog Pub

www.expertcruiser.com:Latvians

John Heald: Divorce

www.expertcruiser.com: The French

John Heald: Bastards

www.expertcruiser.com: Rumpy Pumpy

John Heald: In the past

www.expertcruiser.com: Cruise Critic

John Heald: I refer you to my answer I gave for The French (“Bastards”)

Thank you John Heald!

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