“It’s hardly retirement,” Gifford, 65, told PEOPLE on Thursday after helping christen the 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 first started in 1984 — 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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.”