John Heald Almost Got Fired

» Posted by on Aug 28, 2014 in The People | 7 comments

John Heald Almost  Got Fired

If you watched our interview with John Heald you might remember that when he was talking about how he got started with Carnival he made this comment: “… and then there was an incident involving me and the bar manager.”  

When we did the interview I didn’t think to ask him what that was all about. But I have to admit while I was editing the video I became more and more curious.

Fortunately on July 18 of this year John posted an explanation on his blog. So if you’re curious like I was, and assuming you haven’t already seen John’s post, here’s the full story in John’s own words.



So, as promised, here is the story of how I went from the bar department to the entertainment department. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me begin. It was 1989, WHAM was singing Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and I weighed the same as my right thigh now does. My hair was as black as coal and I was a sex object, meaning I asked every lady I met for sex and they would all object. I had been promoted from wine steward to assistant bar manager, not because management thought I would be a great manager, but because my knowledge of wine was about the same as the Pope’s knowledge of Lady Ga Ga songs. So they gave me a white uniform and made me an assistant bar manager.

jubilee-carnival-cruise-lines-pic1616The ship was the Jubilee and, one night, I was sitting at the Gazebo Bar (loved that promenade on the Jubilee) with the bar manager. We shall call him Oswaldo, as that was his name, and he was a total and utter bastard. Hold on, for those of you who are saying that’s unfair and unprofessional, please stand by and you will see why I said that and said it with such ferocity. The entire bar department were scared of him and, indeed, so was I. He was as popular as a genital wart and he ruled the department through fear and intimidation.

Now you have to remember that this was 20-plus years ago and, back then, once the ropes were undone and the ship moved away from the dock, that was it, the ship was its own boss. There was no email, no ship-to-shore phones, there was bugger all and we did have one or two managers in various departments who were real dick…..tators….and Oswaldo was one of these. So there I sat on Promenade Deck with Herr Oswaldo and all that was missing to complete his tyranny was a small moustache above his nose. He was from Spain, not Germany, but the “Herr” and the moustache reference should give you an idea of how he ruled his department.

This was his thing. At 9 pm every night, he would sit with me and watch the business sipping on his vodka cranberry, as normal. So, along comes a five-foot-nothing bar waiter from Indonesia. His name was Aslim and I will never forget him. He was carrying a full tray of drinks and, for whatever reason, he suddenly dropped them and the Promenade Deck was suddenly swimming in beer, wine and slippery nipples. And he had done this right in front of Herr Oswaldo.

I rushed over to help him and I remember even guests — or passengers — as you were known back then – helped, as well. Not Oswaldo, he stood waiting for the debris to be collected and the deck to be mopped and for Aslim to replace all the drinks for the guests and then told me to bring Aslim to the bar manager’s office. I did so, reluctantly, and I could see how nervous Aslim was. Once in the bar manager’s office, I watched Oswaldo explode. He grabbed Aslim by the collar of his burgundy uniform jacket and started to shake him, screaming how he would be taking the cost spilled drinks out of his salary. He kept shaking him and shouting at him repeatedly. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I asked Oswaldo to stop shaking him. He didn’t. So I forced myself between them. He looked at me with an expression of unadulterated hatred. His lip was curled and his brow was sweating as I calmly asked him again to stop and he responded by taking his hand and shoving it hard into my face and pushed me away.

iStock_000000309037MediumAnd I am not proud, to say that I reacted as my karate teacher had taught me and threw a huge elbow to his nose followed by a right knee to his bollocks. Oswaldo screamed at me in Spanish and, as he did so, he lifted both hands to his nose and fell onto his desk writhing in agony, blood pumping from his surely broken hooter. And I bet his bollocks weren’t having a good day out either.

I took Aslim by the arm and we both left the office. As we did, I knew my Carnival career was over. I had been there just three years but that was that, there was no way I was going to survive this. These days, we don’t have any managers in any department like Oswaldo but, if anything close to bullying were to happen, there are protocols in place involving the HR director, staff captain and hotel director. Back then, there was none of this and so I found the staff captain, told him what had happened and that was me, confined to my cabin.

We didn’t even have a formal security department back then and, so, to make sure I didn’t do my Bruce Lee impression on anyone else, the ship’s command had deck hand sit outside my cabin all night long. Now all of this had happened on the last night of the cruise and we were in Miami the next day, so I had packed my suitcase and was ready to be taken off the ship, which, when a crew member is terminated, he is taken under guard back to the airport and only given his or her passport once on the plane as their C1 D1 visas are null and void.

That is what I was expecting. Nobody came to talk to me that night and I remember just sitting there, waiting for the inevitable. I had no qualms about what I had done. I hate bullying, always have and always will, and so while it was the end of my career, I felt at peace with myself for having protected Aslim, who had made the simple mistake of dropping a few drinks. The ship docked. Still nothing. It was just me and my best mate, Jose, the deck hand. I wished someone would hurry up and just fire me and get this over with.

Grim Reaper Door KnockerEventually, there was a knock at the door and there stood Roger Blum, now my great friend, the then director of operations. Bloody hell, I thought, I am really in the s**t. But I wasn’t. Roger told me what I had done was wrong but after listening to what Aslim, the bar waiter, had said, the ship and the office people realised I was protecting a crew member and that I had acted in self defence. I was told I had broken Oswaldo’s nose and that his bollocks has shriveled up to the size of almonds and he had left the ship for medical treatment.

And then came the shocker. I wasn’t just not fired, I was told that, under the circumstances, it would be better if I became a social host. And so later that morning, I took my packed suitcase, moved cabins, and, to my utter joy, it had its own private bathroom so my days of peeing in the sink were over and my days of entertaining the guests and using a microphone had begun. I never saw Oswaldo again as he and Carnival came to an agreement that it was best that he go home to Spain and he never returned to Carnival. I hope he is today living in peace and happiness with a nose as bent as a dog’s back leg.

I should have been fired but thanks to Roger and the other Carnival executives of the day, I wasn’t and they gave me that chance and I hope that this now fat, grey-haired cruise director hasn’t let them down and I will be eternally be grateful for the chance they gave me. So children, remember Uncle John’s words of wisdom. If you want to succeed, find a manager and break his nose, it means guaranteed promotion.

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  1. john is such a hoot. i just love that man. he would help anyone any time and smile…


  2. How right you are, Bee

  3. What a hilarious story he’s been hiding. I’m so glad the powers that be did the right thing. Thanks for sharing this tidbit of life at sea!

    • Yes Becky – All of us Carnival fans are really glad they did the right thing too!

  4. That was a time when real men showed honor. We have forgotten those days! Glad you were given that chance!

    • Well said, Christina!

  5. Always knew Carnival knows how too handle situations correctly

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