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We were on the fence about booking this cruise from the beginning. During 2020 and 2021 when cruises were halted from Covid, we were flying to the Dominican Republic for our vacations because we weren’t letting Covid stop us from enjoying life and vacationing.. We were really debating going back to Punta Cana this July for our 20th anniversary because we really enjoy our resort there. We also had just been to the ABC islands with Carnival AGAIN in June ’22 so since we had just been there, we were really leaning toward the Dominican Republic. In September, we decided to just go on this cruise rather than back to the Dominican. We may go back there next year after Bermuda, but we’ll see how life plays out. On September 26th 2022, I went ahead and booked this cruise. It is an 8 day on the Celebration to the ABC islands out of Miami. When I booked, the cove balconies were already sold out so we had to get a regular balcony. I booked directly with Carnival as always (I would never in my life use a travel agent) for an 8F balcony on port side, cabin 14462. As soon as I booked the cruise, I went ahead and purchased the WiFi package for both of us and started our planning. I emailed to secure a golf cart since I knew they sold out fast, then put the cruise on the back burner, for now. We had other cruises before this one so we didn’t look at this cruise too much at this point. We did however book our airfare as soon as it opened with Southwest, on December 15th.

In March, we saw Matchbox Twenty was coming to Raleigh 2 days before our flight was scheduled. I went ahead and purchased us tickets to see Matchbox Twenty. We have seen them before and it was a great show. We decided to just spend 2 days in Raleigh before the flight to Florida, and enjoy Matchbox Twenty.

In April, Southwest changed our return flight by 5 minutes. This was great!! If Southwest makes any change in your flight, then you can make a change for free. This worked in our favor. We were originally booked to fly down to Florida on Friday morning. Since we were now able to make a change for free, we decided to change our flight to Thursday morning instead. So I added an extra night to our hotel, cancelled a night on our pre-flight hotel and we extended our vacation in Florida by 1 day. Now we would drive to Raleigh on Wednesday morning, go to the concert Wednesday night, then fly to Florida Thursday morning for our Saturday cruise. Now just to get these next cruises out of the way so the Celebration would be on deck! 

July 12 2023 - Day 1

It was Wednesday, time to begin our vacation!! It had been almost 4 weeks since our last vacation, so we were overdue. We slept in until about 7 o’clock, then woke up to get ready. We did a few last minute things around the house then took our youngest to his grandmas to stay until we returned. Our oldest son stayed home. We hit the road about 8 o’clock and went to Chick Fil A to grab some breakfast for the road. We both ordered chicken biscuit meals and it was $15.83 for the both of us. Then we were off to Raleigh!

The drive down to Raleigh was uneventful as usual. I make this drive quite often, especially in the fall/winter months going to Chapel Hill so it’s a quick and easy drive for me. It’s about 2 hours from our house, so it’s not bad. We went straight to our hotel. We were staying at the Hampton Inn at Briar Creek. The cost for the hotel was $209.51 for the night + a week of parking. Parking a RDU would have been $220 for central parking ($121 for economy) so it was cheaper to get a hotel. I like to stick with Hilton properties because of my loyalty status with Hilton plus I get a lot of extra perks with Hilton. We arrived at the hotel about 10:30am. I always use a digital key and skip the front desk but since we were so early (check-in is typically 3pm) I went to the front desk. Katherine went ahead and issued my digital key and we were able to go to our room. We dropped our luggage off and got ready to head back out. We had plans for the day. 

After we dropped our stuff off at the hotel, we headed over to Durham where we would go to the Duke University campus to visit the Sarah Duke Gardens. Now anyone who knows me, knows I am a Tar Heel representing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Anyone who knows colleges knows that Duke University and the University of North Carolina is one of the biggest rivals in the sports world. I had on my UNC attire, and was very out of place at Duke. I represented the better school proudly there though! 🙂

We arrived at Sarah Duke Gardens where we would walk through their beautiful gardens checking out the landscapes and great paths. It was free to get in and well worth the visit. We walked the whole trail all the way to campus where we would visit the Duke Chapel. We went in a few buildings to check out the campus of Duke and even looked for lunch. We ended up not eating here, but it was a very pretty campus to see. Not as pretty as the one in Chapel Hill though. 🙂

We ventured back through Sarah Duke Gardens to the car where we would hop back on the road. 

After we left Sarah Duke Gardens, we rode a short drive down the road near Duke campus to where I used to live about 25 years ago to see the house I lived in. It had changed, and they were remodeling it. It was really cool to see it though since it had been so long. The house is downtown Durham across from the DBAP field across the Durham Freeway. It was nostalic to see that house.

After we left Durham, we rode back over to Raleigh to grab some lunch and rest a bit. We ended up eating at Red Robin at Briar Creek. The Red Robin in Roanoke is horrible so we never go there, but the one in Raleigh was very good with very good service. It was across from our hotel so it was also easy to get to. Once we finished eating, we went back to the hotel to rest before the concert.

After we rested and killed some of the day, we decided to head to the other side of Raleigh to Coastal Carolina Credit Union (Walnut Creek Amphitheater) where we would see Matchbox Twenty, with Matt Nathanson opening for them. We got to the venue, parked and got inside to our seats. We had pavilion seats but there was a pole right in front of us. That was unacceptable! I went to find someone from Live Nation to upgrade our seats. I paid $40 to upgrade our seats to move closer to the stage. Thankfully our new seats had no post in front of them.

I had never heard of Matt Nathanson but he sang the song “Come on get higher”, and he was fun on stage. After his performance, Matchbox Twenty came out. Rob Thomas never disappoints! They performed a flawless 24 song setlist which covered all of their hits. It was a great show!! After the concert, we headed back to the hotel where we would wind down and call it a night. We had a great first day of vacation at Duke and at the concert. We’ll be back to Coastal Carolina Credit Union 2 weeks after the vacation ends for another concert.

July 13 2023 - Day 2

It’s Thursday, time to head to Miami! We had a 9:25am flight to Ft. Lauderdale so we got up about 7:30 to get ready. I took a shower, then we went downstairs at the hotel to grab breakfast. The breakfast was your typical Hampton Inn buffet breakfast with waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, bagels, etc. We had our breakfast, then went back to the room to get our stuff. We came back down to catch the hotel shuttle to the airport. We loaded up the shuttle and off we went to RDU. We got to the airport and went inside. Normally we drop our luggage off with the skycap at any airport we go to but there was no line at the Southwest counter, so we went there, dropped our luggage off then breezed through TSA. We have TSA-Pre but there was nobody in any line so we ended up going through the regular line. We still didn’t have to take off our shoes or anything since they knew we had TSA-Pre and we went to our terminal. From the time we sat down on the hotel shuttle until the time we sat down in our terminal at the airport was 14 minutes. It was a breeze. From there, we would wait on our flight.

Prior to our cruise, we had an amazing cruise group with some fantastic people on Facebook. We had a group with over 1200 people, but there were 2 other groups also. One was a smaller group with less activity but I think everyone in it was together as part of a larger group. There was one other group but I am not sure what the lady who ran it was doing. There was nothing related to our cruise ever posted in there, and all she did was share cruise news from other websites. I’m not sure what the purpose of that group was. Anyway, the second group I mentioned, one of their many admins was on the same flight as us. We discovered this prior, so I looked for her. Her name was Melissa and I met her and her entire crew when they arrived at the gate. They are great people! It was nice to know someone from our ship was on the flight with us.

On time, flight 1761 was ready to board. Since we get free upgrades to our flights with Southwest, I upgraded our boarding position and we were position A5 & A6. With Southwest, there are no assigned seats and it’s open seating. There are only assigned boarding positions. So after the handicapped people, we were the 5th and 6th persons to board the plane. We made our way onto the airplane, picked our seats and off we went. Florida, here we come!!

We made it to Ft. Lauderdale with no issue. We were quick off of the plane since we were sitting near the front. We went downstairs to grab our luggage, which was chaos. They had 5 inbound flights on the same carosel to get their luggage. Finally they moved other inbounds to another carosel. We finally got our luggage and made our way outside to the rideshare area where we would grab an Uber to take us to Miami. Lots of people had no clue where to go and you could see them standing outside, confused. Thankfully we’ve flown into FLL at least 8,937,498,327 times and always Uber so we knew exactly where to go.

Jose picked us up in his Lexus and took us the 28.98 miles in 42 minutes to our hotel for $56.77. We were staying at The Gabriel which is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. The cost of the hotel was $1,194.03 for 2 nights

The hotel is the former Park Central Hotel in South Beach. Park Central was reimagined as a 132 room boutique hotel in 2021. It has 4 historic buildings and is known as the “Blue Jewel of Miami”. The hotel was built in 1937 and designed by Henry Hohauser. In its heyday, it was a favorite Miami Beach destination for Hollywood royalty including Clark Gable, Carol Lombard and Rita Hayworth. The hotel is oceanfront and you can walk everywhere. The hotel has 2 pools, one in the terrace and one rooftop pool with a glass bottom. It has a fitness center with Peloton bikes, spa services and Meet Dalia restaurant inside. The hotel also gives you 2hrs per day of free bicycle rental as well as beach loungers and umbrellas. This hotel was perfect for us. It was romantic and right in the heart of of the action in South Beach.

I know a lot of cruisers like to stay at the cruise port for some strange reason but we like to enjoy our vacation and the beach when we’re there. We don’t want to be far away from the fun and excitement. There’s never a shortage of either in South Beach, Miami.

Once we were settled, we walked up to Burgermeister to grab some lunch. My wife ordered a chicken sandwich and I ordered a buffalo chicken sandwich and we both got a Coke. I also ordered a side of cheese fries. The cost was $50.27. The food was good here but there was a bunch of “street people” who came in and really killed the vibe of the place inside. This is a restaurant, not a place for you to be screaming at each other, putting your feet up on furniture and acting ignorant. After we left Burgermeister, we walked back to our hotel but stopped at a few stores along the way to explore and kill some time. We didn’t end up buying anything at any of the stores, and ended up back at the hotel.

Once we got back to the hotel, my wife decided to take a nap. While she did this, I decided to go walking. I walked around South Beach just enjoying the vibe. I ended up walking up to the Versace Mansion to get some pictures there. I then walked to the CVS to grab some snacks and drinks for our room. The CVS used to be a hotel which is where the chainsaw scene in Scarface was filmed. I got back to the room and took a nap with my wife.

Once I woke up from my nap, we had reservations at Havana1957 for dinner. We’ve eaten at Havana1957 several times and that was what my wife wanted so that’s what she got. She ordered Pollo a la Plancha and I got a classic burger. It was $45.15 for dinner. We then had an early night since we had an early morning. Tomorrow is a new day! 

July 14 2023 - Day 3

This morning I slept in a little. Now let me clarify, 7am is “sleeping in” for me. Once I woke up, I decided to walk the beach for a little bit. There was nobody out and I really enjoyed the empty beach. After I left the beach, I walked over to Walgreens to grab some meds and some Command Strips for our cabin door banner that I knew I forgot. I spent $35.05 at Walgreens.

From there, I ended up walking around South Beach a little more. I stopped at Surf Style and bough a t-shirt that was $18.18. If you follow my blog, you know I always buy a ton of shirts from Surf Style so this was great! I then made my way back to the hotel where I would get lunch at Meet Dalia, which is the restaurant inside of the hotel. The cost was $40 for lunch but I had a $30 food and beverage credit from my Hilton Honors to use, so I did.

After lunch, I headed over to Wynwood. I love the Wynwood area, and bought a ticket to Wynwood Walls. We had just been here back in June so I wasn’t sure how different it would be. Most of the artwork had changed though so it was worth it. The cost for an Uber was $17.04 from the hotel to Wynwood Walls.

I spent some time checking out the art at Wynwood Walls, and once I was done I decided to walk around the Wynwood neighborhood. I went about a mile in each direction of Wynwood Walls, getting pictures and checking out the artwork. It was cool to see the mural that David Beckham helped paint welcoming Lionel Messi to Miami. I really enjoy Wynwood and there are lots of talented taggers in the area. After I was done at Wynwood, I grabbed an Uber to get back to South Beach. It was $17.78 for an Uber back to the hotel. It was a 5.66 mile trip in 15 minutes with Eliezer

Once I arrived back at the hotel, it was time to relax a bit around the hotel before dinner. We had dinner reservations at 7pm at Fogo de Chão. If you’ve never been to a Fogo de Chão, you’re missing out! This is a FANTASTIC Brazilian steakhouse. About 6:50 we requested our Uber to take us to dinner. Marlon showed up and took us the .75 miles in 4 minutes for $5.94. My wife ordered Fraldinha and a Coke. I ordered the Churrasco experience. We also ordered Tres Leches for dessert. I had a coupon for a free dessert and we had another $25 taken off of our check for some reason and I have no idea why but I was glad. The food and service was fantastic and we absolutely loved it as always. After the $38 was taken off of our check, the total bill was $120. Well worth it and the meat was fantastic.

Once we finished dinner we requested an Uber to pick us back up and take us back to the hotel. It was $5.62 for Jose to take us back the 0.77 miles in 5 minutes to our hotel. Once we got back to the hotel, we decided to get our wine and soda to take on the ship with us tomorrow. I placed an order on InstaCart for 2 12pks of Dr. Pepper and a bottle of wine. It was $53.47 for the order and took about 20 minutes for it to be delivered to our hotel.

Once our InstaCart order was delivered, I decided to walk around South Beach a little more at night. So off I went! I ended up walking all the way up to the other end of South Beach where the road is blocked, then back down. This was our last night in Miami Beach so I wanted to enjoy it. Tomorrow is cruise day!

July 15 2023 - Day 4

It’s Saturday morning and it’s embarkation day!! Since we’re priority guests and have priority embarkation, we wanted to get to the port early.

We woke up and went downstairs to the hotel to eat at Meet Dalia. My wife and I both got eggs, potatoes and everything else pictured. The total for breakfast was $70 but ended up paying only $30 after the Hilton Honors credit was taken off. It was a very good and big breakfast! We then went up to our room to pack our stuff and get ready for the cruise. We did sit on our balcony for a bit because there were 2 parrots in the tree outside of our balcony that were so adorable. They were squalling but stayed there a long time.
We packed up and went downstairs to grab an Uber to the port.

Luis showed up in his Toyota Sienna minivan to pick us up and took us the 6.75 miles to the port in 16 minutes for $21.76. We made it to the port with no issue and no traffic. We were at terminal F at the Port of Miami.

He dropped us off and I left our luggage with a porter. We had 2 suitcases so I gave the porter $5. I normally give them a $5 regardless of how much luggage we have when the kids travel with us, which is typically 4 suitcases. Anyway, we made it through the check-in process very quickly and into the lounge to wait to board. From the time our Uber dropped us off until the time we were sitting, waiting to board was less than 10 minutes. We ended up waiting almost an hour until they started boarding about 11am. 

We embarked the ship with no issue and went straight to our cabin to drop off our carry-on bags and sodas. The cabin wasn’t ready but that’s no big deal. We just wanted to drop stuff off. From there we went exploring the ship, making stops in the spa and in the gym. We like to check those out before everyone else gets on. We spent time walking around the ship exploring, since it was the first time we were on the Celebration. We finally went back to our cabin once it was “ready” and I use that term loosely. This was the first cruise we have ever been on where we had to dust out cabin AFTER the steward cleaned it. It wasn’t cleaned at all. The mirror was dirty, the TV had a large smudge on it, it just didn’t feel clean. This was our biggest complaint from the start. We got the cabin cleaned, then sat on our balcony and watched Miami. We then watched the Sunrise sail away which was docked ahead of us. Once they turned around and sailed away, it was our turn. We sat on the balcony and enjoyed the views as we left the Port of Miami.

After we were out to sea, we went to dinner. We ate in the main dining room (MDR). I ordered 2 shrimp cocktails, a steak and warm chocolate melting cake. After dinner, we went to “Color My World” which was a Carnival Playlist performance in the Grand Spectrum theater. This was a VERY good show and we enjoyed it. It was nice to have a change from the regular repeated shows on the other ships. We’ve seen every show at least 20 times so the new shows were refreshing. After Color My World, we went to the Limelight Lounge to see Jason Blanchard, one of the comedians on board. He was funny, and I didn’t realize this was a PG show until we were there. It was still good though! After Jason’s comedy show, we went to the Piano Bar for a little while to enjoy Eden, then we went to the Late Night Buffet that Carnival brought back. After we ate, we went to the cabin to crash since it had been a long day.

July 16 2023 - Day 5

I woke up early this morning like I typically do, and decided to go walk around the ship while everyone else was asleep. There’s not many people around the ship at 5:30am. I then went to Shaq’s Big Chicken to get breakfast and went back to the cabin. I hung out on the balcony with my wife until 11am, which is when we had a meet and greet planned with our Facebook group. It was a low turnout, but was still nice to meet fellow cruisers.

After the meet and greet, we went to Blue Iguana for some lunch. After lunch, we took a nap until dinner time. We then got up and went to dinner. It was the first elegant night of the cruise but of course I have no interest in dressing up. We still went to the main dining room where we both got a filet mignon and I had 2 shrimp cocktails.

Once we finished dinner, we went to the Grand Spectrum theater to watch the Love & Marriage show. This is always one of our favorites on any Carnival ship. We really enjoyed the show. From there, we went to Center Stage to watch Celestial Strings. This was a very good show and I do enjoy the Center Stage performers Carnival has. We stayed at Center Stage until 10:45 when we went to lido for the 80’s Rock & Glow Party. This is something we really enjoy. We love 80’s music. The one thing that would make this MUCH more enjoyable is if they would just play the music. When a cruise director or DJ talks over all of the music, it kills the vibe for me. I don’t want to hear someone talking, I want to hear music!

Once we were done at the 80’s Rock & Glow Party, we decided to deliver post cards and gifts for the postcard exchange and cabin gift exchange that was planned in our Facebook group. We did this, then went to the cabin to call it a night. It was a long day. 

July 17 2023 - Day 6

Today is Monday, and it’s a sea day for us again. We slept in a bit. Ok, a long bit. We got up and went to lunch since we slept through breakfast. My wife went to Blue Iguana and I went to Cucina del Capitano. I had mozzarella sticks, shrimp and spaghetti. It was really good! Today was a very low key, relaxing day. We spent most of the day on the balcony or just hanging out around the ship. At dinner time, we had reservations for Bonsai Teppanyaki. We really enjoy Hibachi, especially on the ships.

After dinner, we went to the Grand Spectrum theater where we watched Family Feud. Carnival has rights to play Family Feud and they have an actual game setup. Royal Caribbean just stands in a small lounge and asks questions. It’s MUCH better on Carnival since it’s an actual game show setup.

We enjoyed Family Feud then we went back to Center Stage to catch The Most Magnificent Circus. This is the first ship we’ve been on with the circus where they can do the areal acrobatics. It was really cool to watch! I am glad we did not miss this. 

July 18 2023 - Day 7

Today we're in Aruba. To read about our day in Aruba, follow the blog post dedicated to this day.

Once we got back on the ship from our lovely day in Aruba, we took showers and called it a night. We were burnt and tired. Tomorrow is another early morning in Bonaire!

July 19 2023 - Day 8

Today we're in Bonaire. To read about our day in Bonaire, follow the blog post dedicated to this day.

Once we got back on the ship from Bonaire, we took showers then went to dinner. We ate in the main dining room and I had my normal 2 shrimp cocktails, a steak and bitter n’ blanc dessert. From there, we went to the Punchliner Comedy Club to see Ronnie Bullard and his adult show. We really enjoyed this. Afterwards we went to the Grand Spectrum Theater to watch Guess That Groove. This was another new but fun game show for us where people had to guess the songs being played. Once the show was over, we found our way to the casino to make our donations. We had fun before going to get pizza then headed back to the cabin to crash early. Tomorrow was another early day in Curaçao!

July 20 2023 - Day 9

Today we're in Curacao. To read about our day in Curacao, follow the blog post dedicated to this day.

Once we got back on the ship from our day out in Curacao, we took showers. Sadly this was a short port day and we had to be back on the ship by 5pm. Once we finished showers, we sat on the balcony and watched the pier runners come back to the ship. I don’t know what it is about people and not understanding how to tell time. It’s an easy concept that adults just cannot seem to grasp the concept of.

Once we started to move away from the port, we decided to go to dinner. Again, eating in the main dining room. I had my usual for dinner. After we ate, we went to the Punchliner Comedy Club to watch Spike Davis perform. He was really funny and we enjoyed him. From there, we went to the Grand Spectrum Theater where we would watch the Late Night Comedy Showcase. We stayed there until it was time to go back to the cabin and get ready for bed. This was our last port and we were burnt and super tired.

July 21 2023 - Day 10

Today is Friday and we slept in a little since we were so tired and burnt. We finally got up and ate breakfast about 10:30 then headed to Celebration Central where we would watch Lee do The Morning Wave show. We hung out here for a bit, then went to Cherry On Top to buy some candy and I bought the Carnival edition of Monopoly for only $13. Then we went to Pixels to grab our pins. From there, we went to Guy’s Pig & Anchor for lunch. We both had BBQ, mac & cheese and potato salad. Then we went to the 90’s Trivia in the Limelight Lounge. When I watch Jeopardy I typically do really good but I sucked at this trivia. I think I had 8/20 correct. It was bad!

After trivia, we hung out around the ship for a little while until dinner time. At dinner we went to the main dining room for the second elegant night of the cruise. I had spaghetti carbonara and the vanilla crème brûlée. It was really good!!!

After dinner we went to Center Stage to watch “The World Works Here”, which they have staff members from all over the globe holding their flags, representing their countries. My 12 year old is a vexillologist (no kidding) so I wanted to get video and lots of pictures for him. They gave everyone in the crowd a miniature flag from different countries. At the end, everyone left theirs and the Fun Squad worker said I could have them all. I brought him home a whole stack of flags and he loves them!!

After The World Works Here was “We Are One”, another Center Stage performance. This was a really good show, highlighting the different countries of the world. We really enjoyed these back to back shows.

We left the Center Stage shows and went to the Grand Spectrum theater where we watched “Carnival Game Night”, which was fun. From there, we went back to Guy’s Pig & Anchor to watch the Backyard Band perform the country songs followed by 80’s hits. They were really good and we enjoyed the band a lot. We stayed there until 10:45 at which point we went back to Celebration Central to check out Evolution Dance Party with DJ Fresco. From there, we ended up just sitting on the balcony for a bit before calling it a night. We have one more day left on this beautiful ship.

July 22 2023 - Day 11

Today is Saturday and it’s our last day on the ship, boo!! We got up and went to get breakfast. We went to the main dining room for breakfast, before going back to the cabin. We sat on the balcony and enjoyed the sea for a while before heading to the Havana Bar to “Meet The Performers”. This was a Q&A session with various performers. We met Lindsey, McKayla and Josh from the entertainment team, Eden from the Piano Bar and the solo guitarist that played in the Gateway. Lindsey has a twin sister who performs with her at Center Stage. We spent about an hour here with these guys before heading to lido to see the ice carvings. After that, we went to the casino to make some more donations. We spent a little time here before going back to the cabin to get ready for our last dinner on the ship. We also packed up our cabin and sat our luggage outside the cabin door for them to take for us.

We got ready and went to the main dining room for dinner. I had my usual but then we had our favorite; Baked Alaska. My wife makes this at home but the Baked Alaska on Carnival is amazing. We had our dinner then went to the casino to make our final donations and cash out our winnings. We cashed out then went to the Grand Spectrum theater to watch Billy D. Washington in the comedy finale. I will say, he wasn’t that funny. We was very liberal and made it obvious. After we left his show, we went to Java Blue to get milkshakes but they were out of ice cream. We ended up just going to get pizza, then going to sit on our balcony and enjoy the night.

July 23 2023 - Day 12

Today is Sunday and it’s our last day of vacation. BOO! My wife woke up about 5am and went to the balcony to watch us sail into Miami. She woke me up in the process but I stayed in the bed, trying to go back to sleep to no avail. I finally did fall back asleep about 10 minutes before we had to get up. I woke up, took a shower and we made one last sweep of the cabin to ensure we had everything we needed. We then left the cabin to go to the main dining room for breakfast.

We ate our breakfast then debarked the ship. Debarkation was fairly smooth, though there was a line of people where they had to stop debarkation to realign the gangway. We had #1 tags and priority debarkation so we didn’t have to sit around and wait.

We made our way into the cruise terminal with no issue. My wife has a unique suitcase so I saw it coming down the escalator. We went and grabbed our bags and outside we went. We walked outside of the cruise terminal and requested an Uber. We waited less than a minute and Victor showed up in his Honda Odyssey to pick us up. He took us the 27.51 miles to Ft. Lauderdale International Airport in 34 minutes for $53.04.

The only disadvantage to getting off of the ship early and having a prompt Uber, was we were at the airport at 9:13am. Our flight wasn’t until 12:55pm!!! Some people like to get to the airport 2-3 hours ahead of their flights but not me. I’ve flown enough to know that an hour is plenty of time. So we had a long time to wait. We had no line at TSA and had lots of time to kill. Thankfully the seats at FLL have chargers in them. I did end up going to Burger King at 11:30 to get lunch and let me tell you, that was the worst ever. Burger King scrapes the bottom of the barrel to begin with, and the airports take it to another level. It took 20 minutes to get out food, that came out cold and made incorrectly. Never again!

We finally were able to line up to board our plane. We had A04-A05 boarding positions and our plane was 10 minutes late boarding. This was due to the prior flight leaving late. We finally got on the plane, and were about to take off. We were next in line, and a girl had a panic attack which caused us to sit until she was sure she could fly. Well, the delay she caused for us to takeoff ended up holding us longer because now we were held by the tower due to weather. All northbound flights were grounded. If the girl had not had her panic attack, we would have been in the air and on time. Our flight was over an hour and a half late getting to Raleigh!

We finally landed in Raleigh and got our bags. I called Hampton Inn at Briar Creek to send their shuttle to pick us up. The shuttle was prompt to pick us up. However when it got to the airport to pick us up, there was another group that decided that they needed the shuttle. They never called, they were just standing around, so the shuttle driver had no clue that other people were coming. Those people were just standing there! I wonder how some people tie their own shoes. It amazes me. Anyway, we made it to the hotel where we got in my car and hit the road to head home.

The trip home was fairly uneventful except for some heavy rain I ran through. We stopped at Bojangles to grab dinner to eat on the way. I told my wife we needed to stop flying home on Sundays when Chick-Fil-A was closed. 🙂 We made it home, saw the kids and dog and started unpacking. My wife did the laundry and we just relaxed until we went to bed. It had been a long vacation but as they always say, there’s no place like home. 

Final Thoughts

The ship
As of this posting, the Celebration is the largest and newest Carnival ship in operation. We had a total of 6,532 guests on board with 1,750 crew members for a total of 8,282 people on this 182,800 ton ship. That’s a lot of people! For the ship to be less than a year old, I was disappointed in a few things, mainly the steps on lido being broken. There was so many steps in various spots that were broken/cracked. Even on the Fantasy Class ships, they are still intact. I guess the ship builders used lower quality decking materials? Also, the USB ports beside of our bed did not work. Overall, the ship was very clean and in good shape though it should be since it’s less than a year old. She’s a beautiful ship though and I really enjoyed her!

The entertainment
The entertainment staff on this ship was fantastic. Carnival has taken their entertainment up a notch with Center Stage and the performers there. The aerialists were great as were the vocalist. The Playlist Performers were in line with other Carnival ships and they did fantastic also. I do like that Carnival stacks the entertainment schedule on this ship so you don’t miss anything. There’s always something going on in either the Grand Spectrum or Center Stage, usually at the same time but doubled up so you can see both. The comedians were good, the DJs were good and Lee probably ranks #3 for us as cruise director, only behind Cookie and Dr. E. The Fun Squad was great on this ship and we really enjoyed the entertainment staff all around.

The passengers
We had a great group on Facebook prior to the cruise with some fantastic people. Unfortunately with such a large ship and so many passengers, I didn’t get to meet many of them. The few I did meet were great people! The other passengers were good as well. There are complaints on every ship, on every cruise line that I have been on about the kids. Thankfully we didn’t experience any rowdy kids or obnoxious kids on this cruise. Everyone we encountered were well behaved, well mannered and overall good people. I will say that a few people on our airplane returning were not very bright but that’s another story. The passengers on the ship were great!

The food
Carnival has gone downhill a lot since 2019 with the quality of food. The steak is nowhere near as good and it’s just not great food like it used to be on Carnival. I am sure this is a mix of cutting costs and the supplier but it’s just not that good anymore. It’s enough to keep you from going hungry but it’s not super or something to brag about like prior years. I know some people rant and rave about the steakhouse but honestly I get better steaks at Longhorn and Outback than I do at the steakhouse on Carnival. One thing I will say though having just got off of a Royal Caribbean ship, is that the food is still MUCH better on Carnival than it is with Royal Caribbean.

The ports
These ports are absolutely fantastic and some of the best. There’s a reason we’ve done them MULTIPLE times and will do them again in 2025 most likely. You just don’t get no better than the ABC islands.

The staff
The staff overall on this ship was great and friendly. My biggest complaint about staff is in the main dining room, and our cabin steward. In the MDR every night was super long. On every other ship I can tell our wait team that we want to be in and out, and we’ll be finished dinner in under 30 minutes. This ship took FOREVER. In fact, every night in the MDR we request the same wait staff and tip the dining staff extra at the end of the cruise. On this ship, we did not request the same staff each night nor did we leave an additional tip on top of the prepaid gratuities. As far as our cabin steward, normally the cabins are ready by 1:30. At 1:30, our cabin was not even ready. When it finally was “ready”, it wasn’t. The steward hadn’t dusted in SEVERAL voyages. We ended up cleaning our own cabin and dusting it. It was bad. The mirror had a huge smudge on it as did the TV. We did not leave additional gratuities for our steward either. Also, he took our 3M Command Strips off of our cabin door banner that we’ve used for YEARS and replaced them with duct tape, the one thing Carnival specifically says NOT to use. I was NOT happy about this.

Pre cruise
I highly recommend The Gabriel in South Beach. The hotel is fantastic, in a great spot, right in the heart of South Beach with beach access. The staff was very friendly and the place was very clean and we really enjoyed it. Also, you MUST go to Fogo de Chao if you’re in a city that has a location. Fantastic food! If you’re flying from Raleigh, I do highly recommend the Hampton Inn at Briar Creek. We have made that our new “go-to” hotel when flying from RDU.

Overall, I give this vacation an 8 out of 10 stars and would do it again.

Main Dining Room Menus
Ship Pictures