One of several pools onboard Mardi Gras
For the world’s biggest cruise line, 2020 was meant to be a bumper year. Carnival Cruise Line, the flagship brand of the world’s biggest cruise company, Carnival Corporation, was set to debut Mardi Gras, the lead vessel in its Excel class. At 180,000gt, it will be the largest ship in its fleet. The line was also supposed to make its long-awaited return to Europe – part of the inaugural season for Carnival Radiance, previously Carnival Victory, due to a US$200 million refit in Cadiz, Spain in April.
Mardi Gras – named after the line’s first ship, which entered the fleet 1972 and was just 27,284gt – had already been delayed until October along with AIDAnova and Costa Smeralda, ships of the same class built for Carnival’s sister brands AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises. Then Covid-19 hit, closing borders, shutting shipyards and turning the cruise world upside down – impacting the industry perhaps more than any other type of holiday.
“Covid-19 has created unprecedented challenges across every facet of business, including of course the cruise industry,” says Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, who strikes a positive note when she says that “travel is one of those things people are missing the most during this extended period of isolation.”
Although the immediate future is uncertain, with cruise ships still unable to sail, there remains much for Carnival Cruise Line to look forward to – particularly with Mardi Gras set to become a landmark vessel in the story of theme-park-at-sea mega cruise ships. The ship will now debut from Port Canaveral in Florida on 6 February 2021, while her yet-to-be-named sister ship is scheduled to enter service from Miami in November 2022, in conjunction with Carnival Cruise Line’s 50th birthday that year.
“While the most talked-about feature on Mardi Gras is Bolt, the first rollercoaster at sea, I’m equally excited about some of the fantastic new dining options that will be offered, including new restaurants from Emeril Lagasse, Rudi Sodamin and Shaquille O’Neal,” says Duffy. “Mardi Gras will of course feature offerings from Guy Fieri, including his popular Burger Joint and Smokehouse Brewhouse, both of which will be in expanded locations.”
The enforced pause in operations has also allowed the line to plan for the future. “We have developed additional protocols and procedures to protect the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we serve,” says Duffy.
“There are obviously going to be changes once we start sailing again,” she adds. “We continue to discuss our plans internally and with government officials and public health experts, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as we build new operational protocols, enhanced health and sanitation measures and service offering.”
2022 marks the 50th birthday of Carnival Cruise Line. “We have planned a fun celebration to commemorate this milestone,” adds Duffy. “The celebration kicks off in March 2022 – our birthday month – with a series of commemorative sailings that will feature special entertainment and itineraries – and then continue all year long, culminating with the arrival of our next Excel-class ship in November 2022.”
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
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