How Carnival is creating the fun factor in cruising

President Christine Duffy explains how Carnival Cruise Line delivers a memorable holiday experience
How Carnival is creating the fun factor in cruising
The all-electric Bolt will take guests around the top deck of Mardi Gras

By Anthony Pearce |

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

The fact that Carnival Cruise Lines’s motto is ‘Choose Fun’ tells guests everything they need to know about the cruise line. Through its onboard amenities, itineraries and entertainment programmes, Carnival’s cruises are, more than anything else, about having a good time.

“Fun is a part of our DNA and something that really resonates with our guests who enjoy activities where they can relax and simply be themselves,” says Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, the largest line under the Carnival Corporation umbrella. “I get lots of letters and e-mails from guests complimenting us on our delicious dining and our exciting entertainment and attractions. The common theme that runs throughout the feedback is our amazing crew and the positive impact they have on our guests’ vacation experience. Just about everything we do centres around fun and making sure our guests have the vacation of their lives – whether it’s via our legendary deck parties, waiters dancing in the dining room, or our warm, friendly and attentive service.”

Founded in 1972 by Ted Arison, the line consisted of only one ship, Mardi Gras, until 1975 when another ship, Carnivale, was acquired. Many have joined and left the fleet since, with a total of 26 ships currently sailing for the brand – making it the largest cruise line in the world by fleet. “Ted set out to democratise cruising for the vacationing public when he put the original Mardi Gras into service in 1972,” says Duffy. “Over the years, Carnival has not only helped usher in a new era of vacations, but at the same time, has also introduced many new innovations. Examples include the first ropes course at sea, some of the largest water parks in the industry, the first ship to exceed 100,000gt, extensive and groundbreaking ship renovation projects, and now the first ship in North America to be powered by LNG, as well as the first roller coaster on a ship.”

The line’s newest Vista-class ships are packed full of the sort of features that scream fun. Carnival Horizon, for example, has SkyRide, an IMAX Theatre, Carnival’s Seuss at Sea programme, and a WaterWorks aqua park, which is themed after Dr Seuss characters. This ship also has unique new attractions such as Bonsai Teppanyaki and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse Brewhouse.

Next year, Carnival will launch a new Mardi Gras as the first in a new Excel Class. “When we started thinking about what to name our newest and most innovative ship, our thoughts immediately turned to Mardi Gras, the original Fun Ship that ushered in a new style of cruising in 1972,” says Duffy. “The original Mardi Gras innovated by opening up cruising to the mass market. The new Mardi Gras will offer dining, entertainment and attraction choices that Arison probably never envisioned.”

Duffy notes that Mardi Gras will also be the first ship in North America powered by LNG, which is said to be a more environmentally friendly fuel. “Like the original Mardi Gras, her new namesake is going to help us change the way we deliver fun to our guests,” she says. “The new vessel will remind us of where we came from and where we are going in the future, but we still have the very same commitment to delivering fun and memorable vacation experiences.”

Mardi Gras, which “promises to be a spectacular addition to the fleet,” is progressing as scheduled, with Duffy noting that her keel-laying ceremony was held at Meyer Turku’s shipyard in Finland this June. The senior shipboard leadership team is already on site in Turku, she adds, revealing that bridge and engine officers are working closely with sister brand AIDA Cruises, which took delivery of the world’s first LNG ship, AIDAnova, in December 2018. “I recently had the opportunity in Barcelona to visit and tour this amazing ship and I can hardly wait for the delivery of our first Excel Class ship,” Duffy says.

There are plenty of things for thrill-seekers to get excited about, most notably Bolt, the first-ever roller coaster at sea. Renderings were revealed to much fanfare this year and Duffy notes that its announcement “clearly caught the interest of cruise fans, the news media and perhaps most importantly, cruise rookies.” Just as exciting, although less high-octane, features have been unveiled too. “There has been lots of buzz around our other announcements, like Emeril Lagasse’s new dining concept and Big Chicken, in partnership with our chief fun officer Shaquille O’Neal,” says Duffy. “We’re also bringing the popular game show Family Feud onboard as part of our entertainment offerings on Mardi Gras.”

However, Carnival isn’t just focused on newbuilds. The company is also investing US$2 billion in enhancing the fleet, providing consistency against a set of core Fun Ship 2.0 offerings. Carnival Sunrise, which entered service earlier this year following a massive US$200 million makeover, offers many new dining concepts, a water park, updated enhanced décor and entertainment options.

On top of that, the line is also opening a new cruise terminal at Port Canaveral to accommodate Mardi Gras, which Duffy promises is going to be “something truly special.” She adds: “Much thought has been put into its design – which appropriately enough for the Space Coast has been named the Launch Pad. With Mardi Gras’ size, not to mention the fact she will be the first LNG-powered cruise ship in North America, means the terminal is being constructed to accommodate our specific needs.”

It’s been an incredible journey so far and one that looks set to continue for a long time, with Carnival’s emphasis always remaining on fun. “We’ve grown from a single ship to a fleet of 26 floating resorts – with three more on the way – and have carried close to 80 million guests in our history,” Duffy remarks. “However, we’re always thinking up new ways to provide our guests with wonderful vacation memories and have invested billions of dollars in enhancing the unique Carnival vacation experience.”

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