An evening of fun that brought together former and existing Carnival Cruise Lines cruise directors, entertainers and other employees was held in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this past weekend, attracting more than 100 attendees, some of whom hadn’t seen each other in 20 or 30 years.

            Organized by Bill Panoff, himself a former Carnival cruise director and now editor-in-chief of Porthole Cruise Magazine, the reunion provided attendees an opportunity to reminisce about the company’s “early days” when it was a struggling operation on a shoestring budget.

            The event was highlighted by an open-mic format hosted by Gary Hunter, former Carnival cruise director and ventriloquist who invited attendees to tell stories of their time working aboard the “Fun Ships.” Some told jokes, others sang songs, and some just remembered fond times and friendships.

            Other attendees included former Carnival Cruise Directors Eddie Capone, and Kenny Day, as well as retired Senior Vice President of Operations Meshulam Zonis.  They were joined by current executives such as Carnival Corp. & plc Chairman and CEO Micky Arison, Carnival Senior Vice President of Marine Operations Brendan Corrigan, Vice President of Cruise Programming Roger Blum, Vice President of Group Sales and Administration Cherie Weinstein, and Vice President of Caribbean Relations Gordon Buck.

            Carnival Cruise Lines got its start in March 1972 with a single ship, the TSS Mardi Gras, and has grown to become the world’s largest and most popular cruise line with 22 ships operating from 17 North American homeports.  The line will introduce the largest “Fun Ship” ever constructed, the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, in September 2009, along with a sister ship, Carnival Magic, in June 2011.