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

Blogging Travel

Deering Estate

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. This week I’m here in Miami-Dade County Florida – my home of the past nearly 35 years. For this edition I’m writing about the Deering Estate – about 16 miles up the road from my home.

The Deering Estate is the former home of Mr. Charles Deering – a businessman who lived in it during the final 5 years of his life from 1922 to 1927. It currently sits on 444 acres overlooking Biscayne Bay – about 14 miles SSW of Miami in what is now the incorporated Village of Palmetto Bay. It is now owned by the State of Florida, and it is managed by Miami-Dade County. It is a national landmark listed on the National Register Of Historic Places.

I first visited the Deering Estate on March 31ST 2012, and then I visited again on April 27TH 2019 as part of a Biscayne National Park boat tour that started and ended at the Estate.

I took several tours – both inside and outside – during that 2012 visit. It was a fun day inside the historic mansions and outside on the grounds of the estate. I remember that I was the only one on the inside tour, and I told the young college-aged tour guide that he didn’t need to give a tour of the place for just me, but he insisted on doing so, and I thought that was admirable of him. He also led the outside tour several hours later, and there were a couple dozen of us on that tour.

I think after that day in 2012 at the Deering Estate I had my earliest thoughts of one day becoming a museum docent or a tour guide at a park. Here we are more than a decade later, and I’m on the verge of retiring and becoming a museum docent. (I also served inside Everglades National Park as a museum docent for two winter seasons from 2015 to 2017.)

Next #TravelThursday we’ll visit Naples – as in Naples Florida. Let’s keep traveling together.

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

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Home Sweet Homestead

#TravelThursday continues, and in this edition we visit my hometown of the past 34 years – Homestead Florida. The United States Air Force brought me here at the age of 20, and I’ve been working at the airbase next to the city for most of these past 34 years. Hurricane Andrew tore through the city and the surrounding area exactly 29 years and 2 days ago, and almost everything was in ruins. I left the area 4 days later, and I returned to my original home-of-record – the Washington D.C. area (both Maryland and Virginia).

19 months later (in March of 1994) I returned to a partially-rebuilt Homestead, and I’ve been here ever since. I’ll be here for a few more years until I retire and move away about 3 hours north of here.

Homestead (the city limits) is about 5 miles wide (west to east) and 2 to 4 miles long (north to south). Homestead (as an area) extends not too far east and south (due to water), not too far west (due to the Everglades), but well to the northeast.

West to east street numbers begin in downtown Miami at Flagler Street. It’s the “zero street line”. Street numbers increase both northward and southward by 1 every 330 feet. Every 16 street numbers is a mile (5,280 feet). Homestead is located in the lower-300s. 304TH, 312TH, 320TH, and 328TH Streets are all major thoroughfares in the city. Technically that’s about 20 miles south of downtown Miami, but you can’t drive due southward from Miami to Homestead. You have to drive southwestward along Florida’s Turnpike or U.S. 1. It’s about 30 miles, and it’ll take you about 45 to 60 minutes depending on traffic. The Homestead area generally begins south of 232ND Street. Over 175,000 residents live here. New home construction continues to boom.

Homestead is actually located closer to Key Largo than Miami. The “18-Mile Stretch” between the mainland of Florida and the “Overseas Highway” (U.S. 1 through the Florida Keys) begins just 2 miles south of Homestead.

We have lots of local tourist attractions here in the Homestead area. Some of my favorites include Monkey Jungle and Fruit & Spice Park. We are also located in-between 2 National Parks – Everglades and Biscayne. I’ve spent quality time at all of these places over the years – more so recently than previously. I volunteered inside Everglades National Park as a docent at a partially-restored NIKE Missile Site. About a million people from around the world visit Everglades National Park each year.


That’s my 2015 Honda Civic (at the time) parked in front of the Missile Launch Barn with the restored Nike Hercules Missile on display inside. That was taken at 3 PM on New Year’s Eve of 2016 as I was wrapping-up a busy day of tours. 

Of course our # 1 product here in Homestead is our fine weather – especially in the wintertime when it’s freezing cold elsewhere in North America. A typical December or January day consists of sunny skies with highs in the mid-70s and lows in the low-60s. We actually experienced one of our chillier winter seasons in years in 2020 into 2021 with 9 days when we were stuck in the 60s all day long and 9 mornings when we dropped to the (gasp) 40s !

We’ve experienced rapid population growth here in the Homestead area over the past 20 years. Most of the long-timers don’t like it. They miss the “good old days” when Homestead was a sleepy rural town surrounded by vast farmland. A lot of long-timers have moved away to smaller towns elsewhere that remind them of the way Homestead used to be. Of course the long-timers of those respective smaller towns don’t appreciate their own population growth.

I like the Homestead of today – more so than the Homestead of yesterday. All of the new rooftops have created new stores, new restaurants, and new opportunities – all within about 3 miles of my home.   

Join me next #TravelThursday as we visit another location on the face of this earth.

They keep you safe on your way, and your feet will not stumble. You can go to bed without fear. You will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the LORD is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap. (Proverbs 3:23-26 NLT)

All rights reserved (c) 2021 Christopher M. Day, CountUp Ministries