Fifty years of family and fun with Carnival Cruise Line

Christine Duffy talks about the brand’s half a century of sailing, and the destinations on its horizon

Fifty years of family and fun with Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival has held a series of celebrations to mark its 50th anniversary

By Alex Smith |

Fifty years ago, Carnival Cruise Line was founded in Miami, USA, by Ted Arison, starting out with a former transatlantic liner it had purchased from Canadian Pacific Line and renamed Mardi Gras. Since then, it’s fair to say that the past 50 years have been a success. From those first sailings, Carnival has gone on to become the world’s largest cruise line with 23 ships in its fleet in 2022, keeping fun at the heart of its cruise experience while taking millions of passengers to beautiful destinations every year. 

Christine Duffy, who has led the cruise line as president since 2015, believes that this success has been founded on the hard work of crew members who create a welcoming, enjoyable atmosphere onboard. 

“When we ask guests why they continue to sail with us, some mention our wonderful entertainment, while others talk about our extensive dining and beverage offerings, but there’s one thing that everyone mentions: the crew,” she says. “It’s our crew that solidifies the loyalty of a Carnival guest. From remembering guests’ names to always greeting them with a smile – our shipboard team members make sure they go above and beyond to make every guest feel special and part of the Carnival family. Carnival’s team members are at the core of our success.” 

Like the rest of the cruise industry, Carnival has faced some of the most challenging periods in its history, particularly over the last few years as the Covid-19 pandemic brought its sailings to a halt. However, the company’s comeback quickly gathered pace after Carnival Vista welcomed back its first guests in July 2021. Duffy counts that period as one of the most significant in her time at Carnival. 

“Many of the most memorable moments happened as we restarted our ships – beginning with Carnival Vista sailing from Galveston, USA, continuing on to Miami and then Port Canaveral for the arrival of our flagship, Mardi Gras, all the way up to when we marked the return of our full fleet in Seattle ahead of our biggest Alaska season and just recently as we restarted operations in Australia,” she says. “I had the honour and opportunity to visit almost all our ships as operations restarted, and it was a very emotional experience.”  

During such a vitally important time as Carnival fought to bounce back from these challenges, it chose to focus on planning itineraries on its home turf of the USA, taking advantage of its extensive experience in the country and its appeal for the family market. 

“We are known as ‘America’s Cruise Line’, and we are proud of that,” says Duffy. “With more year-round homeports across the USA than any other cruise line, we’re able to offer more fun more easily to more people. Deploying our fleet around the country puts more than 50 per cent of the population within a five-hour drive to one of our homeports. Since our cruise vacations have such a strong appeal to the family market, this makes a cruise vacation more affordable by reducing the need to fly to a port for embarkation.” 

With all 23 ships in its fleet back in service, Carnival is now looking forward to more success in the future. Duffy believes that the cruise line’s best years are still to come, with several new additions to be introduced to the fleet soon. The second of the flagship Excel-class vessels, Carnival Celebration, will be debuting in PortMiami in November 2022, a celebration that will also include the inauguration of the new and expanded Terminal F at the port. The 471,000-square-foot facility will be Carnival’s third terminal in Miami, and its largest in South Florida, and will feature a clean and open design that will allow it to accommodate the new class of ships. 

“We have so much to look forward to, especially with this being our 50th birthday year, with five ships joining our fleet over the next two years, including Carnival Celebration,” says Duffy. “The new sister ship to our incredible Mardi Gras will be a welcomed addition sailing from Miami in November.” 

Duffy restarted operations in Australia by welcoming guests onboard Carnival Splendor at a celebration in Sydney in October 2022, marking the first Carnival cruise from the country in nearly three years. The brand will debut Carnival Luminosa in Australia in November, after acquiring the ship from fellow Carnival Corporation brand Costa Cruises in 2022. A third Excel-class ship will join the global fleet in 2023, while a temporary ‘Carnival Fun Italian Style’ programme will see Costa Cruises’ Costa Venezia sailing from New York City and Costa Firenze offering cruises from Long Beach, California. 

Carnival will also be expanding its itineraries in the Mediterranean and Europe, with additional sailings in Europe planned. Carnival Freedom, for example, will make two transatlantic crossings in 2023, with the first 14-night voyage set to depart Port Canaveral, USA on 29 September and arrive in Barcelona, Spain on 4 October. The ship will then sail back to Florida on 23 October.  

“This addition will give our guests more opportunities to see beautiful European destinations, like Barcelona, Valencia and Las Palmas,” explains Duffy. 

Meanwhile, the brand plans to expand itineraries in the Caribbean from 2024, when it opens a new cruise port on Grand Bahama Island in cooperation with Grand Bahama Port Authority and the Government of The Bahamas. They broke ground in May 2022 and are developing the port on the south side of the island. It will include a pier that is able to accommodate up to two Excel-class ships simultaneously, and also feature a designated nature reserve, an interior pool feature, and many Bahamian-operated retail food and beverage venues.   

“Once it is completed, the new cruise port will be able to accommodate the largest ships in our fleet,” says Duffy. “We hope that the incredible new Grand Bahama destination will contribute to the local economy through new job and business opportunities, and further expand our offerings for our guests who will have a breathtaking new port of call to enjoy.”

This article was first published in the 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.   

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