on the go

Jonathan Bennett’s favorite travel destination is a little unusual

Jaymes Vaughan and husband, Jonathan Bennett, pose on a Vespa scooter on board the Carnival Firenze cruise ship.
Jaymes Vaughan and husband, Jonathan Bennett, pose on a Vespa scooter on board the Carnival Firenze cruise ship.

When we learned Jonathan Bennett was dubbed the “godfather” for Carnival Cruises’ newest vessel, Carnival Firenze, we simply had to learn more. Jonathan agreed to team up with us for our inaugural On the Go series, profiling LGBTQ+ movers and shakers with an emphasis on how they travel and their on-the-road experiences.

Jonathan Bennett, famous for starring in the cult classic Mean Girls, is over the moon about his latest role with Carnival.

Carnival Cruises president Christine Duffy surprised Bennett with the news. Bennett joined the captain, crew, and guests to help christen the ship on April 24 before setting sail to the Mexican Riviera.

Eager to learn more about Bennett’s new role and glean some insider tips on cruise preparation, we caught up with him for an exclusive On the Go scoop.

GAYCITIES: Jonathan, congratulations on your new role as godfather of Carnival Firenze! How did this honor unfold?

Jonathan Bennett: My husband, Jaymes, and I are frequent Carnival cruisers. We did our honeymoon on Carnival Mardi Gras. I sailed on the first voyage of Carnival Venezia last May – Carnival Firenze’s sister ship – and told Carnival President Christine Duffy it would be my dream to be the godfather of a Carnival ship. I just think it’s the coolest thing. I never expected it actually to happen, so I’m incredibly honored that she and the Carnival team made my dream a reality. But I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised – Carnival always goes above and beyond for its guests!

What should we all know about the Carnival Firenze?

First of all, she’s gorgeous! Carnival Firenze blends a hint of Italy with everything Carnival fans love most on other ships. The ship is inspired by Florence and features charming Italian touches like beautiful architecture, amazing art, and restaurants that highlight the special culinary regions of Italy. Seriously, the food is next level.

Where are we sailing to on the Carnival Firenze this year?

Carnival Firenze will sail the Pacific Ocean to several stunning destinations. Guests can choose from three and four-day sailings to Mexico and Catalina Island and five, six, and seven-day cruises to the Mexican Rivera, visiting Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta.

If I’m someone who hasn’t been on a cruise before, how should I prepare for my first voyage?

Well, I love cruising with Carnival because I feel like I don’t have to think. After all, they offer a little bit of everything: a variety of beautiful destinations plus amazing entertainment, delicious food and drinks, a spa, casino, fun activities, and more on board. There’s so much to see and do. So make the most of your time, which means experience every destination on the itinerary and make the most of your time on board. I think that’s the best vacation. One of our favorite Carnival Cruise Directors, Lee Mason, we met him first on Mardi Gras, he does such a good job on Instagram of showcasing what cruising is like. Highly recommend following him. I think you’ll know exactly what to expect if you watch his videos on there. Be careful, though, because you will get FOMO.

Do you have any tips for packing for a Carnival Firenze cruise and what to leave at home?

Sunscreen, swimwear, flip flops, and a hat are a given for the tropical stops. Plus, a portable phone charger is a must for when you’re on and off the ship exploring new destinations. The last thing you’ll want is for your phone to die while trying to take photos in Cabo. But don’t forget to save room in your bag for souvenirs. A great way to do that is by not bringing beach towels because Carnival will provide plenty of towels for you to take to the pool and beach.

What was the first cruise you ever went on, and where did you go?

My husband started his career singing on Carnival ships, and he always raved about how much fun they were when we first met. He ended up taking me on my first Carnival cruise, which was to the Caribbean, and it’s safe to say I was hooked! Obviously, if you’ve seen my social media, you know we’ve been on more than a few since then! I consider myself part of the Carnival fam for life now.

Do you have a favorite cruise memory?

Our honeymoon, of course! As expected, the Carnival team made our honeymoon the most memorable vacation with so many special moments and touches. We couldn’t have started our lives together, officially, in a better way.

What is something unexpected or surprising that happened on a cruise you’ve on?

I surprised my childhood best friend Krystle and her family with a cruise on Carnival Panorama. She had just endured her 40th surgery for spina bifida, and we decided a family cruise would be the perfect way to celebrate her and also give her a much-needed break. Aside from the many, many things the crew did to make her and her family feel special, there was a roaming magician onboard named Vlad, whom her kids took a special liking to the first night in the dining room. He then made it a point to not only come find us at dinner every night but also at multiple other occasions and locations throughout our cruise. And every single time, the entire group lit up. He made the kids feel so special; it was just one of those small things that went a long way. We all still talk about him all the time…and wonder how he pulled that dollar bill out of that orange.

Where would you go if you could travel anywhere you haven’t been?

Jaymes and I are getting ready to celebrate our annual honeymoon on a Western Caribbean cruise aboard Carnival Jubilee, Carnival’s latest new-build ship that started sailing out of Galveston, Texas, in December. We can’t wait to experience a new ship together and visit Mexico again—a special place in our hearts after we got married there two years ago.

Is there a city or specific place you could go back to repeatedly, and what about that place calls you back?

I know you’re looking for a destination off-ship for this, but I have to say it’s actually onboard, and it’s the Steakhouse Fahrenheit 555. It’s seriously one of my top three restaurants in the entire world. We always make reservations for at least two nights on our cruises. And if you’re talking about my favorite port of call, it’s tough to pick just one, but I’m always going to be a Cabo San Lucas kind of guy. There are so many great memories.

Lastly, what’s in the pipeline for the new godfather and where is the best place to catch updates?

Follow me on Instagram; it’s the best way to keep up with the exciting stuff I have coming up. But trust me, I love and admire the Carnival team so much and am so grateful they’ve given me the chance to be Carnival Firenze’s Godfather, so my future definitely includes a lot more travel on Carnival with Jaymes! And yes, I will be cruising on Firenze whenever I can, too – she’s my ship!

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