Could legendary cruise director John Heald be about to hang up his microphone and come home from the sea?
He certainly suggested that might be happening before long when I met him this week on board the world’s newest fun ship, Carnival Breeze.
“This is the last new ship I will be bringing out. It’s a young man’s game and it’s time to hand over,” said Southend-born John, who is 47 and has been with Carnival for 26 years.
A few hours later, on Facebook, he went even further: “I don’t mind admitting that there were some days during the inaugural cruise that I felt absolutely exhausted from a mixture of trying to please 4,000 guests, a flock of senior beards
“I watch other cruise directors in their 30s bounce around like kangaroos with a sugar rush and I know that I will never again have the energy that they have. Those days are gone.
“Occasionally, I get comments that say, ‘We only saw the cruise director on stage and TV,’ which makes me sad. Gone are the days when, after a show, I could wander the bars and lounges until 2:00am which most of my younger colleagues do for fun. My excuse is my blog and my Facebook page but the main reason is that after a 6:00am start to write and all the other things that go into running a new ship is that simply, I am really, really tired. And that’s not good. That is not what the guest deserves.
“After 26 years of living on board, I am beginning to realise that it will soon be time to hang up the microphone.”
Next year’s Bloggers’ Cruise, on which he will be joined by more than 900 ardent fans, will be his last.
In summer 2013 he will be cruise director on board Carnival Legend during its season of 12-day voyages from Dover to the Norwegian fjords and the Baltic. He is particularly looking forward to the round-UK cruise departing on September 13. From Dover, the voyage goes to Stavanger in Norway, Edinburgh, Invergordon and Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin before returning via Le Havre.
He was delighted to be joined on board Breeze this week by wife Heidi and their three-year-old daughter, Kye – two of the major reasons he is preparing for a new life on shore and expanding his role as Carnival’s Brand Ambassador.
One thing’s certain; he will continue to write his irreverent daily blog and copious updates and insights on Facebook.
All this week he has been keeping his followers updated with the late arrivals back at Breeze. At almost every port, Captain Vincenzo Alcaras has had his patience tested with guests returning to the ship after the scheduled departure time.
Some have been left behind and have had to make their own way to the next port, like the Australian who went back to collect his hat from a railway carriage and found the train pulling out of the station while he was still aboard.
There was the couple who got on a train to return from Florence and realised they were heading for Rome instead of Livorno. At least they were able to re-join the ship next day in Civitavecchia without too much inconvenience apart from an unscheduled night in a hotel.
In Salerno we waited for what seemed a long time while announcements were made over the ship’s PA for one missing woman. Her family was in a state of panic and her husband was preparing to disembark to search for her when she eventually reached the gangway. Once again a train was to blame, apparently, returning late to the station. Whatever happened to the guy who made Italian trains run on time?
The highlight, however, has been a running saga involving a British couple who have contrived to be late back in every port.
Their delayed return in Marseille went unmentioned, but it brought a comment the following day when they were listed among the missing in Livorno. Heald could hardly believe it when they were late yet again in Rome, and he made a point of telling the whole ship that they had “come home” only four minutes late in Salerno.
Stand up, David and Suzanne Taylor, we salute you. Or something. Heald sent the delayed Salerno passenger and her family a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries. He should have sent the Taylors a watch.