Blogging Driving Geography Nature Photography Travel

My Carnival Celebration Vacation 2023

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Last week I wrote about the food, service, entertainment, and Cruise Director(s) aboard the Carnival Celebration from Sunday January 08TH 2023 to Sunday January 15TH 2023. If you missed it (or any other previous editions of my cruise review) then simply scroll down on this page to read past blog posts.

This week we jump to Day 3 of my 7-day cruise – and the first port-of-call in the Dominican Republic.

But First: Occurring simultaneously I’m also uploading and captioning photos of my cruise onto my Flickr site. Go to my Flickr Photostream to check them out. (The most recent photos are at the top.)

Going into this cruise I figured that I would really enjoy my day touring San Juan Puerto Rico (Day 4), and that I would really enjoy my fun day on a nearly empty ship while docked in port at Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas U.S.V.I. (Day 5). I didn’t really have high expectations of my day in the Dominican Republic (Day 3). But that’s why one shouldn’t “overthink” a cruise beforehand. I tend to do that sometimes. I figured that it would be my least favorite port-of-call of the 3 – for no particular reason other than the fact that it was the only non-U.S. port, and a first-time visit for me.

Fun Fact: This was my 2ND-ever visit to the Dominican Republic. My 1ST visit was a little over 10 years ago as part of an 8-day cruise on the Carnival Valor. That was at La Romana on the southeast coast. This 2ND visit was at Amber Cove on the north-central coast.

This port far-exceeded all expectations that I had for it. I pre-purchased a 3½-hour shore excursion (through Carnival) titled “Mountain Views & City Sights”. Sounds kind of vague – doesn’t it ? As it turns out – that was an appropriate title for the tour – that turned out to be nearly 5 hours.

Here’s how Carnival describes this tour on their web site:

“Take a scenic countryside drive in a safari truck through San Marcos Village and up to Puerto Plata’s highest mountain – Isabel De Torres. Follow the guide on a visit to the botanical gardens and see the famous Statue of Christ. Take in the amazing views of the surrounding area before heading back down the mountain. Explore the historical center of Puerta Plata including Plaza Independencia and enjoy a photo stop at the San Felipe Fortress before heading back to the pier.” (

That’s an excellent snapshot of my day. Our tour guide on the open-air safari truck was fantastic. He narrated nearly the entire time telling us all about this beautiful region (north-central coast) of his country. He clearly loves his job and his country. He was our tour guide on the various stops along the way as well, and he pretty much stayed with us the entire time from start to finish. There was no “handing-off” to another tour guide, or a “go check everything out and meet me back here in 45 minutes”. He led us everywhere. He told us about everything. He was one of the best tour guides I’ve encountered on any recent shore excursion. He was knowledgeable, friendly, and had a fun sense of humor. His catch phrase was “Hola ! Coca Cola !”. (It never got old. I smiled every time he said that.)

That tour – because of that tour guide – was one of the top highlights of my 7-day cruise.

4 days ago on #SundayScripture I posted a photo of El Cristo Redentor (Christ The Redeemer) – a statue that overlooks Puerto Plata – the country’s 3RD-largest city – from nearly 800 meters / 2,600 feet above sea level on Loma Isabel De Torres. Here’s what Christ is looking at – the beautiful city below:


Next #TravelThursday we’ll head over to Old San Juan Puerto Rico to check-out some fortresses. Let’s keep traveling together.

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

Blogging Food Geography Travel

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

Blogging Geography Travel

My Carnival Celebration Vacation 2023

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Last week I wrote about the busiest cruise ship port in the world – #PortMiami. This week I begin a multi-part series on my most recent Caribbean cruise from there.

I was on the 7-day sailing of the brand-new Carnival Celebration from Sunday January 08TH 2023 to Sunday January 15TH 2023. It sailed across the Atlantic from Southampton England to Miami Florida from Sunday November 06TH 2022 to Sunday November 20TH 2022. This was its 9TH cruise (with passengers) ever !

The Carnival Celebration is the newest cruise ship that I’ve ever sailed on, and YES – it’s got a subtle “new cruise” smell to it. The previous newest cruise ship I’d ever sailed on was in late-October / early-November 2007 when I sailed on the maiden TransAtlantic voyage of the Carnival Freedom from Rome Italy to Miami Florida. But that cruise ship had already sailed a full inaugural spring and summer season of Mediterranean cruises. I like to say that I helped “deliver” the Carnival Freedom to the U.S.A.

The almost $1 billion Carnival Celebration is Carnival’s biggest ship ever at 183,521 gross tons. There were about 6,000 passengers onboard with a crew of over 1,700 (from some 70 nations). I believe that my cruise was close to capacity (over 90%). It’s the biggest cruise ship that I’ve ever been on, and it’s the most people that I’ve ever been on a cruise with. It was the complete opposite of my Carnival cruise from exactly one year (to the date) earlier when I sailed on the Carnival Liberty – which was less than half-full. That was right after the cruising industry “restart” post-pandemic. You can read all about it here.

This was my 24TH cruise in a little over 31 years – and 16TH on Carnival in a little over 23 years. My 2ND night on this cruise was my 100TH night with Carnival. It’s my favorite cruise line – mostly due to activities onboard. Every cruise line specializes in something, and they do it better than most other cruise lines. For Carnival it’s the sheer number of things that you can do and activities that you can participate in from early in the morning until early the next morning.

My last 3 Carnival cruises have been great. I did not have such a good time on my 13TH in May 2014. After that one I decided to no longer go on cruises and retire from the sea. That “drought” ended almost exactly 4 years later when I went on a short 4-day Disney cruise to Key West and The Bahamas with my brother, sister-in-law, her parents, and my nieces. That turned out to be a surprisingly fun cruise, and it reinvigorated my passion for cruising. After that cruise I went back to Carnival and gave them another chance. I booked my next cruise for 9 months later, and that was the 1ST of 3 great Carnival cruises in a row – all in January – in 2019, 2022, and now 2023.

January is my preferred month for cruising. May is another good option for me, as is September and October. I try to avoid Spring Break (February, March, and April), Summer (June, July, and August), and the holidays of November and December.

Next #TravelThursday I’ll write more about the Carnival Celebration, and in the weeks to follow I’ll write about the 3 ports-of-call on the 7-day cruise – Amber Cove Dominican Republic, San Juan Puerto Rico, and Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands. You may be surprised as to which of those 3 ports was – by far – my favorite of them all – at least on this cruise. This will likely be a 6-part series through the end of February, so let’s embark for fun at sea and abroad. Let’s keep traveling together.

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

Blogging Driving Geography Travel


Welcome back to #TravelThursday. For this 2ND edition of 2023 we visit the busiest cruise ship port in the world – #PortMiami.

It’s one of my favorite places here in South Florida, as many great vacations have started from there. In fact – 16 great vacations have started from there over the past 31 years. 17 have ended from there. I picked-up the Carnival Freedom over in Rome Italy (Civitavecchia), and I sailed on her maiden TransAtlantic voyage for 14 days from Rome to Miami. (That was in late-October / early-November of 2007.)

#PortMiami is about 32 miles from my current home – straight up or down U.S. 1. On a good morning with not a lot of traffic I can get there in about an hour and 15 minutes. It takes a little longer to drive to there than to drive from there – mostly because when I’m driving from there it’s a few hours earlier in the morning. Sometimes I can actually get home from the port in a little less than an hour.

When I move away later this year – I’ll be closer to two other ports on both coasts of Central Florida – #PortTampaBay and #PortCanaveral.

You know all this talk (blogging) about ports and cruises and great vacations has me excited to embark on another fun adventure. Starting next #TravelThursday I’ll begin a multi-part series and share the fun that I experienced on my most recent Caribbean cruise. Let’s keep traveling together.

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