Supermodel turned businesswoman, Kathy Ireland recounts her cruise on Carnival Freedom.
Saturday, March 3 — Our flight landed in Venice in golden afternoon sunshine. I am embarking on a journey to become godmother of the new Carnival Freedom. So many members of our family are here. My husband Greg, our three children Erik, Lily and Chloe, my mom and dad, Uncle Jon, Uncle Stephen, Miles, Felipa, Justin and Marisol.
We are all anticipating this adventure with great excitement. We were welcomed by Maurice Zarmati, Carnival’s vice president of sales, and the wonderful team at Carnival Cruise Lines.
We arrived in advance of the ship, so we ventured out to St. Mark’s Square. What a beautiful excursion! Water taxis are a fun way to travel. Everything about St. Mark’s Square is gorgeous. The architecture, the charm, the history, the setting and most of all, the people. We walked and walked and walked, taking in the beauty all around us. We fed the pigeons and ourselves! We saw the great Carnival Freedom sailing past St. Mark’s. It was amazing and humbling. We knew that her passing meant it was time to get on board.
The team at Carnival made us feel right at home. We immediately began exploring this impressive vessel. There is so much to see on the ship. I don’t think nine days will be enough!
Sunday, March 4 — Today was exciting! We had the privilege of visiting the Bridge with Captain Orazio D’Aito and his officers. The views from the bridge were spectacular. The technology for driving this 110,000 ton vessel is amazing. Captain D’Aito explained how everything works.
We met Bob Dickinson, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, and Micky Arison, CEO of Carnival Corporation (the parent company for ten cruise brands). Charlene is working closely with us, and she is very kind.
We had the opportunity to meet many of their team members and everyone was very kind. In the evening we went to the main theater, Victoriana, which was standing-room only. Mr. Zarmati served as Master of Ceremonies. The Monsignor and the Vicar from Venice were in attendance. The Monsignor gave a beautiful blessing in Italian. After blessing the ship, I had the honor as godmother to name the ship, and with a small ax I chopped a cord that released the champagne bottle. We watched on the video screens as the bottle smashed against the ‘F’ in Freedom.
Carnival Freedom is a magnificent ship. It is a joy and an honor to serve as godmother. I am praying and will continue to pray for all who come in contact with her.
After the ceremony we watched a wonderful performance of Beatles songs. We then enjoyed a delicious dinner. We met Mr. Antonini, Gaston, Roger, John, Duncan, Kenneth, Shawn and so many kind people who make us feel so welcome. I sat next to Captain D’Aito and Mr. Dickinson, and as we dined, I learned that Mount Stromboli just began erupting and that we would see it during our cruise.
I was presented with the most spectacular gifts after dinner! A gorgeous, Italian necklace made of diamonds and one enormous white pearl the size of a giant marble. Next I was presented with a stunning necklace and earrings designed by my favorite jewelry designer, Dame Elizabeth Taylor. It is from her HOTJ collection. An amazing work of art done in colorful sapphires. I was given an extraordinary Italian platter made of rich, red glass. I met many interesting people at this event.
Monday, March 5 — This morning we took a water taxi to St. Mark’s Square. We found a toy store where I purchased some gifts for our daughter, Chloe who will be celebrating her 4th birthday on Carnival Freedom. Our family rode on a gondola through the canals of Venice. The architecture is absolutely beautiful.
We visited St. Mark’s Basilica. The marble floors, the carvings, the painted ceilings are beautifully detailed. The artwork is phenomenal. In St. Mark’s Square we enjoyed feeding the pigeons, and they enjoyed landing on our heads! We did a lot of window shopping and experienced a wonderful Italian dinner before boarding the ship again.
Tuesday, March 6 — After brunch we had our safety drill. All 3,600 passengers! Very organized. Next, we were invited to visit the Bridge as we sailed out of Venice and began our voyage out to the Adriatic Sea and then to Croatia. My husband, our children, my parents and I got to experience this magnificent departure from our port. It was beautiful cruising past St. Mark’s Square, and the view of the canals and the bridges was amazing!
We visited Camp Carnival with our children. We met Cindy and Wendy who showed us around. We played air hockey, foosball, PlayStation and checked out the many games and toys. Lily taught Chloe how to count to 100. We had a lovely dinner in the dining room. Chloe discovered the hand dryer in the ladies room, and we spent much of dinner drying her hands. We saw Captain Hook outside the restaurant, and that was very exciting. He turned out to be kind, so Chloe said he must not be the real one. We had a magician come by our table and perform some tricks. We are going to bed early to recover from well earned jet-lag!
Wednesday, March 7 — Lily and Chloe slept in our room last night, and jet-lag kept them awake most of the night. Our children woke up in good spirits despite their lack of sleep. When we opened our curtains we saw that we were in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The view of the town from our cabin was spectacular! It looks like it is right out of a story book.
We boarded our tour bus and headed into the hills. The hills are rough and wild with sharp, craggy rocks sticking out. The old town down below was gorgeous. We drove up to an old mill where we stopped to have a snack. The men and women at the mill were dressed in traditional Croatian dress.
They served us dried figs that were very sweet and delicious. Inside the mill a gentleman showed a demonstration of grinding the wheat into flour. We walked out and around to the back where they had sandwiches, pickles and wine for us. It was a beautiful outdoor setting. Water from the mill flowing behind us and olive trees all around. We drove to the old town and walked around. Erik pushed Chloe in the stroller and she fell out twice but she was not hurt. They had fun!
The architecture was beautiful. So much character. We learned about St. Blasius who protects the throat. He saved someone from choking and there are many monuments to him. The streets and the narrow alleys with steep steps going up were beautiful. Sanja, our guide was so knowledgeable about the history of Croatia. It is a fascinating place. It started to drizzle, but that didn’t dampen our mood. We thoroughly enjoyed Croatia.
Today is my parent’s 48th wedding anniversary. We had a special dinner at the Captain’s table. They brought out a cake and everyone sang. My dad secretly brought the bride and groom from their wedding cake 48 years ago and asked the crew to put it on the cake. Mom was surprised to see that! They had a very happy anniversary. Captain D’Aito is very kind. He loves the sea, and he and Greg got to talk about fishing. After dinner we went to the casino and had fun losing $80. It did take a while for that much money to disappear and I’m glad we walked away after spending our limit.
Thursday, March 8 — We woke up to a beautiful sunny day in Katakolon, Greece. We drove out to Olympia and visited the site of the ancient Olympic Games. Because the winter in Greece has been so mild, the wild flowers were already in bloom. Bright red poppies, white chamomile flowers and beautiful, delicate, lavender wild flowers. The countryside was covered with the bright pink flowers of the peach trees as they were just beginning to bloom. The remains of the structures were incredible to see. We saw where columns were toppled from a powerful earthquake in the 5th century. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the history of Olympia.
We enjoyed a traditional Greek lunch at a local outdoor restaurant. The Greek salad was so fresh and the olives, yogurt, bread and meat were delicious! It was a warm and sunny day!
Friday, March 9 — Athens was beautiful! We pulled into the busy harbor during a spectacular sunrise. Athens is a combination of old and new. We drove around town and saw beautiful churches. Many people in Greece are of Greek Orthodox faith. We saw the Presidential building and experienced the guards changing their posts. We drove to the Acropolis and the Parthenon. It was incredible to stand in a place with such rich history. The views were amazing. The use of marble is incredible. One of my favorite attractions was the hill where the apostle Paul preached Christianity shortly after becoming a Christian himself. We went into the center of town, which was filled with activity, color and life. People selling scarves, jewelry, balloons, fruit, toys and art. We enjoyed another wonderful Greek meal.
Back on board Carnival Freedom we had an exciting evening with our children playing arcade games! We stopped for a delicious buffet dinner and then back to more arcade games!
Saturday, March 10 — Today was filled with wonderful surprises! We woke up in Izmir, Turkey. Our bus was waiting for us, and Iisha, our guide suggested before visiting the town of Ephesus that we visit the home believed to be the home of Mary, mother of Jesus. The home was up on a mountain in a remote area. The house was small, charming and beautiful. Much of it had been restored, but the foundation was first century original. As Jesus was dying on the cross, He asked His disciple John to care for His mother. John went to Ephesus shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion. He was there until he was exiled to the island of Patmos. It is believed that this is the home where Mary lived during her last years and the home where she died.
We drove down the mountain the Ephesus. It was spectacular. The most beautiful ruins I have seen. A long road made of marble, beautiful pillars and columns still intact. Original carvings and sculptures. The remains of a neighborhood of the wealthiest homes with a beautiful sidewalk in front of the homes. Most of the city was built between the 1st and 4th centuries. The library was amazing — 75 percent of the library was original. Cleopatra and Mark Anthony honeymooned there and donated many scrolls to the library. We saw the theatre where the apostle Paul addressed the crowds at Ephesus. It was awe inspiring! There was so much to see!
We drove to a local restaurant for a delicious Turkish lunch. Bread, yogurt, chicken and salad. Miles bought some Turkish Delight and shared it with everyone! It was very good! We visited the place where Turkish rugs are made. We watched the women weave the rugs by hand. A kind woman allowed me to give it a try. She made it look easy. It was not! It typically takes eight months to complete a single rug by hand. Rugs are a special exported item from Turkey. They are some or the most beautiful rugs I have ever seen. They had the caterpillars there to demonstrate how they get the silk. We saw where they dyed the yarns. We looked at very old rugs that were beautifully worn with time. We also saw new rugs, handmade of silk that were so soft and luxurious. We rushed back to the Carnival Freedom just in time to pull out of the port! We enjoyed a beautiful formal dinner in the Sun King Supper Club on the ship. Time to get to bed! Another busy, exciting day tomorrow!
Sunday, March 11 — We woke up in Rhodes, Greece. In the harbor we saw the Medieval Town fortifications. We drove into the village of Lindos. We walked through the narrow streets and passed many interesting shops selling local arts and crafts. We entered a Christian church that was beautifully filled with candles and painted walls and ceilings. We walked up 300 steps to the top of the mountain to view the Acropolis. At the base of the mountain was an ancient carving in the stone on the mountain of a boat. The carving is said to be from the 2nd century B.C.
Continuing up the steps, we passed ruins that were very much intact. Some had been restored. We passed another church and at the top of the mountain was the temple that was built for Athena. The view of St. Paul’s harbor down below was breath taking. After walking back to the village, we drove to a restaurant favored by the locals that overlooks the Aegean Sea. We enjoyed fresh fish cooked outdoors and dolmades. After lunch we walked across to the beach. The water was a beautiful turquoise, blue and it is cold this time of year. The sand was covered with smooth rocks.
Back on board, our children enjoyed the Jacuzzi and we all had delicious milk shakes. We are meeting interesting people on the ship who are here from all over the world. It is exciting to hear their stories and learn how much they are enjoying this experience on the Carnival Freedom!
Monday, March 12 — Today is our daughter, Chloe’s fourth birthday! We woke up and gave her gifts. She was very excited! It was perfect that her birthday fell on our day at sea. We went to the Disco where we had a wonderful party! The disco lights and music were keeping things exciting. The chefs did a magnificent job of preparing the most beautiful meal. Everything looked too beautiful to eat, but we enjoyed every bite! A wonderful combination of kid food like fancy little burgers, pigs in blankets to elegant salads and pastas. The desserts were amazing! Cupcakes and cookies with happy faces, enormous chocolate fountain with fruit and donuts and the most beautiful chocolate cake shaped like a ship. It was truly a masterpiece.
The crew from Camp Carnival came, and we played many fun, dancing balloon games. Funship Freddie came and that was very special! We enjoyed the party and then Chloe opened some gifts. It was an unforgettable birthday party!
After the party Uncle Jon and Uncle Stephen took our children and me on a tour of the engine room. That was amazing to meet all the people who have such great responsibilities. The equipment is very impressive. I was surprised to learn that the ship gets all its water directly from the sea using reverse osmosis. The tour was fascinating.
After the tour, Uncle Erik, Uncle Jason, Uncle Jon and Uncle Stephen arranged for a dessert party in the 02 Club. The desserts were each works of art! Desserts in the shape of hamburgers, crÃ¨me brulee, delicious tarts and a scrumptious and beautiful cake that was so wonderfully rich. We had a great time together.
At Chloe’s request we had dinner in the dining room and enjoyed the wonderful songs by Maitre d’ Ken Byrne. He sounds just like Frank Sinatra! After dinner we went to see the stage production of ‘The Big Easy.’ It was fantastic! The singing, the dancing, the choreography, the costumes, the acting! Incredible! I cannot believe this show was put together on the confines of a ship. It was remarkable.
Eva is our housekeeper, and she is wonderful. Every night she makes different animals out of the towels and leaves them on our beds with chocolates. Tonight she made a special birthday cake complete with a candle for Chloe’s birthday!
We will miss Eva and all the wonderful members of the Carnival team. We stayed up late so we could experience the eruption of Mt. Stromboli. As we sailed by at 12:30 a.m., we could clearly see the bright orange lava flows against the black, night sky. It was amazing!
Tuesday, March 13 — This morning we woke up in Naples, Italy. It was a beautiful harbor. Our tour guide met us bright and early and drove us along the Amalfi Coast, which is breathtaking! We stopped at a fruit stand for some fresh bananas, oranges, apples and cherry tomatoes. We stopped in the city of Sorrento where we shopped for some local arts and crafts. The ceramics are gorgeous and the delicate detail in the linens is beautiful. Wood, leather and glass products are great finds in this town. We enjoyed a huge, delicious lunch including something Naples is famous for, pizza!
After lunch we drove to Pompei. The city was built in 600 B.C. and Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. and covered the town in the deadly ash. Pompei is remarkably preserved. It was sad walking through there and imagining the people living their lives one moment and being faced with this disaster the next. I was surprised that Pompei is so large. The streets go north and south and also east and west. We were told that New York City was inspired by Pompei. It was a beautiful site.
We returned to the ship, and tonight everyone is packing. Jon, Stephen and I did manage to get out for a cappuccino, visit the karaoke, and say goodbye to some friends we have made on the Carnival Freedom. Tomorrow we will be in Rome and our cruise will be over. We will miss everyone dearly. As godmother I will continue to pray for everyone who comes in contact with this marvelous ship. We will cherish our memories of this maiden voyage always, and we hope to be back soon!
Wednesday, March 14 — We woke up in Rome, said goodbye to our friends on Carnival Freedom at 6 a.m. and left for the Vatican. We had the wonderful experience of attending the service at St. Peter’s Square, where the Pope addresses all who come and prays for the people. There was quite a crowd awaiting his arrival. There was much excitement! Pope Benedict gave a beautiful prayer. Our hearts were inspired.
After lunch we visited the Coliseum. To actually be there was an experience I will never forget. So much history. We learned that even children and women participated in the arena. We saw Nero’s palace, where so many horrendous events took place. It was a day filled with history, art and emotion.
My husband and I enjoyed a quiet dinner alone together at a charming Italian restaurant that was walking distance from our hotel.
Thursday, March 15 — We spent our last day in Rome visiting the Sistine Chapel. It was absolutely breathtaking. The paintings and works of art are magnificent, and we felt so honored to be able to experience those masterpieces. We could have spent weeks there just taking in the art. Each painting tells so much. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch of pizza at a local restaurant called Gino’s. We walked the beautiful streets of Rome and took in the architecture, the colors, the gorgeous fountains, the people. A special and beautiful place.
We will treasure our memories of this adventure forever.