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My Carnival Celebration Vacation 2023

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Last week I embarked on my multi-part series of my 7-day sailing of the brand-new Carnival Celebration from Sunday January 08TH 2023 to Sunday January 15TH 2023. This was its 9TH cruise (with passengers) ever. It was my 16TH on Carnival in a little over 23 years, and my 24TH overall (all cruise lines) in a little over 31 years.

Fun Fact: I shared a large (assigned) dinner table every night in the main dining room with other solo cruisers and a couple (husband and wife) who have all been on far more cruises than I can ever imagine. In their eyes – I was the cruise “newbie”. I was also the youngest at our table. We mostly talked about cruising each night at dinner. They were a fun group. Lots of laughs !

This week I’ll share more thoughts about the cruise.

FOOD (“B”) – Most people who choose Carnival do so for its affordability, its accessibility (at many ports), and its overall vibe (lots of fun activities for all ages from early in the morning to early the next morning). Those are my main reasons for my continued loyalty to Carnival since the late-1990s. The food is good. It’s not great. It’s better than anything I eat at home. It’s better than anything I eat out in my hometown. Could it be better ? Sure. Has it been better in the past ? Sure. But I don’t really choose Carnival for its food. It’s not what they specialize in as a cruise line. They specialize in fun. I like fun. Having said that there are so many different places to eat on the Carnival Celebration – more than any other Carnival cruise ship – aside from its nearly identical sister ship – Mardi Gras. Most of the food at the various venues is part of the overall cruise fare. Some of it costs extra. I enjoyed some really delicious beignets with strawberry sauce and chocolate sauce at Emeril’s Bistro on a couple of mornings. #BAM

SERVICE (“C”) – Customer service was generally lacking a little bit on this ship compared with many of my previous cruises. That includes the cabin areas, the main dining room, and the restaurants. There seemed to be a lack of enthusiasm (and speed) overall for such a brand-new cruise ship and the current flagship of Carnival Cruise Lines. It wasn’t necessarily bad service – just unimpressive (and slow) service compared with what I’m accustomed to at sea. I’ve felt that customer service on Carnival has been superior to the other 3 cruise lines that I’ve sailed on, but not really so much on this particular cruise.

ENTERTAINMENT (“A”) – This was definitely the best part of my cruise. Carnival has done a major upgrade in this area for their brand-new cruise ships – taking full advantage of modern 2020s electronic technology. They had nice Broadway-like shows, stand-up comedy shows in 3 different venues including matinees in the afternoons on sea days, and nice random “pop-up” video shows during the early-evening hours in-between the bigger shows. Even their game shows were modernized. I was mesmerized by these events. It’s the future of Carnival unlike anything I had ever seen before, and I liked it a lot !

CRUISE DIRECTOR (“A”) – Our Cruise Director – Mike from South Jersey – was actually substituting (last-minute) for the real Cruise Director of the ship – Lee – who was nursing laryngitis out-of-sight from the passengers. He eventually recovered, and he finally made a grand entrance (complete with standing ovation) early on the 5TH night of the cruise. Some passengers booked the cruise ship because of Lee, so they were finally glad to see him in action. From that point forth he and Mike shared Cruise Director duties and responsibilities. It was the first time that Mike had ever been a Cruise Director, and he did a great job. He’s a future Cruise Director for sure. Lee has been with Carnival as a Cruise Director for just over 6 years on 12 different ships. Here’s his story – as well as the story of the Carnival Celebration:

Next #TravelThursday I’ll tell you all about the first port-of-call – Amber Cove on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. I participated in perhaps one of my greatest shore excursions ever – from sea level to nearly 2,600 feet above. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2023 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

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Happy Thanksgiving Day

#TravelThursday returns next week.

All rights reserved (c) 2022 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

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Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Last week I wrote about my arrival in the south of England 37 years ago to the date (November 10TH 1985). Today is the 35TH anniversary to the date (November 17TH 1987) that I left England behind and arrived back home stateside.

I actually don’t remember much about that day. My memories are quite vivid from the Sunday morning 2 years and 1 week earlier when I arrived in England, but when I left England – not so much.

A friend of mine drove me from our (military) dormitory over to Billeting / Lodging at dawn, and there I got on a shuttle that I think took me all the way to the airport. I don’t think I did the whole British Rail trek going to London (like I had when I arrived). I got on my flight at Heathrow, and I was back in the Washington D.C. area a few hours later that afternoon. (I got those 5 hours back that I lost 2 years and 1 week earlier.)

My Dad picked me up at the airport, and we went home, and my cat – Fluffy – went ballistic with joy and happiness. It was a wonderful stateside homecoming.

I got to hang out with my family – dad, mom, brother, and cat – for almost 2 weeks through the Thanksgiving holiday week. Again – I don’t remember much from those 13 days, but I know that it was a good time because I was back home with my family again.

I’m with my family right now – mom, brother, sister-in-law, nieces, and dog. We’re continuing our annual November tradition that goes back almost 20 years – #ThanksChristmasGiving – or #Thanksmas. It’s where we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas combined in a single week. The Christmas tree and decorations have been up for a couple of weeks, and we are actively engaging in Christmas shopping and gift-wrapping. We’ll open all of the presents by the Christmas tree on Thanksgiving morning. Shortly after that the entire house will be filled with the aroma of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Next #TravelThursday is in 2 weeks – when I celebrate my 35TH anniversary here in Homestead Florida. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2022 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

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Fort Myers Beach Florida

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. On Wednesday September 28TH 2022 Fort Myers Beach Florida changed forever as Category-4 Hurricane Ian made landfall just a few miles north of the area. The Southwest Florida Gulf coast from Flamingo northward to the Tampa Bay area experienced widespread damage. The area from Marco Island to Venice was especially hard hit, and Fort Myers Beach – “Ground Zero” – was virtually destroyed. The photos online have been heartbreaking. They have brought tears to my eyes.

The Southwest Florida coast is my favorite part of the state. Over the past 35 years I’ve enjoyed numerous short visits over there (about 2 to 3 hours away from home). My last visit was a daytrip to and from Naples 3 months ago. I wrote about it on a 2-part #TravelThursday this past July.

From 2011 to 2020 I visited Fort Myers Beach on 9 separate occasions. I spent a combined 17 nights on (or just off) the island at several different hotels on 7 of those 9 visits – both on the north-end and the south-end. I walked in the surf, drove on the streets, rode on the trolleys, shopped at the stores, and ate at the restaurants. I took 366 photos of the island. 122 of them are featured within my Fort Myers Beach album on my Flickr site. They are presented in chronological order from oldest to newest starting with April 28TH 2011. That was my very first day / night ever on the island, and I instantly fell in love with it. I soon decided that not only had I found my brand-new weekend vacation paradise getaway, but I had also found my eventual retirement landing spot.

After the first 6 visits – all between 2011 and 2013 – the idea of eventually moving to the island upon retirement had waned. But I would still visit on a regular basis. I became concerned during those early visits that if (when) a major hurricane makes landfall on the island or very near it – there would be catastrophic destruction similar to what I experienced here in Homestead after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. I thought that it would be the Gulf Of Mexico destroying the vulnerable island via storm surge rather than wind. That was one of the main reasons to change my mind about retiring there.

I’ve captured some of the most beautiful sunsets of my life on that island. One of my favorite things to do during those 17 nights was to exit my hotel room, walk directly onto the beach with my bare feet, head for the surf, and join the dozens of others just like me who had the same idea to prepare their smart phones and cameras to be aimed up the beach at the setting sun on the WNW horizon.

I was originally scheduled to drive to Fort Myers tomorrow (Friday) morning – and spend 2 nights there – and attend a concert at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall. The hotel was damaged, the concert hall was damaged, and the show was moved to next March. The entire area is a disaster zone, so the last thing they need right now is tourists. I canceled my trip to Fort Myers. (It would not have included a beach visit.)

It will take many years to rebuild Fort Myers Beach. It will never be the way that I knew it during those 9 visits and 17 nights on the island. I have my fond memories and 366 photos to look back on my former paradise on the Gulf Of Mexico.

Next #TravelThursday I’ll visit Fort Lauderdale Florida. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2022 Christopher M. Day, CountUp