The longtime morning show host departed the NBC program in April after 11 years

By Dana Rose Falcone
May 23, 2019 05:06 PM

Almost two months after leaving the Today show, Kathie Lee Gifford has no plans to slow down.

“It’s hardly retirement,” Gifford, 65, told PEOPLE on Thursday after helping christen the newly-renovated Carnival Sunrise cruise ship in New York City.

The long-time morning show host stepped away from the NBC program on April 5 after 11 years. But despite teaming with Carnival cruise line — a partnership that started in 1984 when she partook in the cruise industry’s first national TV ad campaign — Gifford made no plans to take a vacation.

“I didn’t take one day off!” Gifford, a godmother of two Carnival ships, says of post-Today life. “I left on a Friday morning and got on a plane and went to Nashville and just had a weekend with my girlfriends. They left Sunday morning, and I was back in the saddle again.”

Kathie Lee Gifford with a bottle of her GIFFT wine, which Carnival serves across its fleet, aboard the Carnival Sunrise on May 23 in N.Y.C.
| Credit: Gary Miller for Carnival Cruise Line

Among Gifford’s “million projects going on right now,” she lists her romantic comedy Then Came You with Craig Ferguson, a directing gig that’ll bring her to Israel, three Hallmark movies, three more independent films and her role as home services app Takl’s spokesperson.

“It’s a wonderful time,” the mother of two says. “When most people are writing you off or think you’re just going to retire or take it easy, all of a sudden you’re doing, I think, the most exciting work of my whole life right now. I don’t have a husband anymore, my children live in California, my parents are gone, so this is my time. If I’m ever going to have time to do this kind of thing, it’s now. And so I’m taking advantage of it.”

With everything she has in the works, Gifford still sticks to the early wakeup call to which she’s become accustomed. “I’m up at 2 o’clock every morning,” she says. “I’m working! I always have been. 2 or 3, I love that.”

But that doesn’t mean she’s turning on the TV and checking in on her ex-colleagues, including her former co-anchor Hoda Kotb, who now hosts the fourth hour of Today with Jenna Bush Hagar.

“I haven’t watched the show once,” the Daytime Emmy winner admits. “I never watched the show when I left Regis. When I leave, I leave with a lot of love in my heart but dreams for the future. I never look back; you can’t. It will entrap you and you will spend your whole life thinking about what you lost as opposed to what you still have.”

Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on the Today show.

Gifford continues, “I knew when to leave. Leave when you’re on a high. Leave when everyday else thinks you’re crazy to leave, that’s when you should.”

She doesn’t have to tune in to connect with her former coworker and longtime friend Kotb, 54, though. “We have plans to get together in a couple weeks for a girls’ night at my place in Connecticut,” Gifford says. “A job ends, but friendships, if they’re real, continue.”