PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – Carnival Cruise Line’s newest and largest ship, the Mardi Gras, will be arriving at Port Canaveral on June 4, in preparation for its first sailing with passengers.
But it appears that a Mardi Gras cruise with passengers won’t happen until August — at the earliest, according to News 6 partners Florida Today.
Carnival says it hopes to resume sailing in July on three or four ships from U.S. ports after being idled by the coronavirus pandemic in this country since March 2020. But the Mardi Gras and Port Canaveral are not in those plans.
All other Carnival sailings from U.S. ports are canceled through July 30. Carnival said customers whose cruises are canceled are eligible for a future cruise credit and an onboard credit — or a full refund.
The Mardi Gras — Carnival’s first ship powered by liquefied natural gas — is scheduled to leave Barcelona, Spain, on Friday to start its trans-Atlantic voyage, with a June 4 arrival at Port Canaveral.
Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray said he was excited to hear the ship will soon be on its way to the Space Coast.
“We’ve been planning for this for several years, and pretty excited to finally see her sail into our port,” Murray said. ‘Without question, the Mardi Gras will be a game-changer for cruises, and we can’t wait to begin welcoming guests to her new home at our new Cruise Terminal 3.”
Carnival said that, upon arrival to Port Canaveral, the Mardi Gras will continue to bring crew members on board; train them on new equipment, technology and procedures; and get ready to welcome guests for its inaugural sailing.
The Mardi Gras is 1,130 feet long, weighs 180,800 tons and has 17 passenger decks. It has a passenger capacity of 5,282, based on double-occupancy of its cabins, and a full capacity of 6,465 passengers, with a crew of 1,745.
In a statement, Carnival said: “With more and more hopeful signs of a return to guest operations and constructive discussions between the industry and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Carnival is moving the ship to Port Canaveral to get her ready for sailing.”
The ship will sail out of Port Canaveral’s new $155 million Cruise Terminal 3 complex, which was built for Carnival, but has not yet been used for passenger sailings.
Ship godmother named
Carnival also announced several other developments related to the Mardi Gras.
On Sunday, during the broadcast of the Miss Universe competition, Carnival named Miss Dominican Republic Kimberly Jimenez as the honorary “godmother” of the Mardi Gras. As godmother, Jimenez will preside over the Mardi Gras’ official naming ceremony, continuing a long-standing maritime tradition.
That ceremony is expected to take place at Port Canaveral, but a date for the event has not been announced.
During the Miss Universe broadcast, Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy presented Jimenez with the “Spirit of Carnival” award “for embodying the company’s values of fun, friendship, diversity and inclusion.”
Carnival cited her work on behalf of a number of causes, including adoption; at-risk youth; abused and abandoned girls; and indigent women with breast cancer.
The Dominican Republic destination of Amber Cove will be among the regular ports of call for the Mardi Gras.
Jimenez — as well as the Miss Universe 2021, Miss Mexico Andrea Meza — will be among the passengers on the first sailing of the Mardi Gras, when the ship begins weeklong sailings from the Space Coast to the Bahamas and Caribbean.
Duffy was among the eight judges at the Miss Universe competition.
The Mardi Gras has been reflagged as a Bahamian-flagged ship.
In announcing the change, Duffy thanked the Panama Maritime Authority for its support during the ship’s construction and registration process, but said that the move to the Bahamas Maritime Authority made business sense for a number of reasons.
“The Bahamas will be a frequent destination for Mardi Gras, and we are pleased to bring this new level of environmental sustainability to the many ports in the Bahamas and the Caribbean that the ship and our guests and crew will be visiting,” Duffy said.
All Carnival ships are registered in either the Bahamas or Panama.
Carnival’s first sailings
Carnival said it hopes to begin to resume U.S. sailings on three ships — the Carnival Breeze and the Carnival Vista from Galveston, Texas; and the Carnival Horizon from Miami. The potential first sailings will be July 3 for the Vista, July 4 for the Horizon and July 15 for the Breeze.
Additionally, Carnival said, if it can find a solution to allow cruise ships to visit Alaska, the Carnival Miracle will assume some of the Carnival Freedom’s Alaskan departures from Seattle. Among the current issues the U.S. government allowing cruise sailings from Seattle to Alaska without the ship stopping in Canada.
Carnival said that, “given that there is still some uncertainty in our ability to operate these cruises, guests booked on those sailings who wish to make alternate summer vacation plans may cancel without penalty by May 31 and receive a full refund. "
“We continue to have constructive discussions with the CDC, but still have many questions that remain unanswered,” Duffy said in a statement. “We are working diligently to resume sailing in the U.S. and meet the CDC guidelines. We sincerely appreciate the continued patience and understanding of our guests and travel adviser partners, and will share additional information as quickly as we can.”
After resuming sailing, the Mardi Gras could be one of as many as four ships based at Port Canaveral later this year, along with the Elation, Liberty and Magic.
Carnival said in a statement to FLORIDA TODAY that, although its “initial focus on our resumption of sailing will be with three ships from Miami and Galveston, possibly beginning in July, Port Canaveral remains an important part of our return-to-service plan, as we make more decisions about the order of ships that will be put back into guest service.”
The Mardi Gras will be the first of nine Carnival “Excel-class” ships to be powered by liquefied natural gas, and will be the first LNG-powered cruise ship of any brand to be based at a North American port.
It also will be the first cruise ship to feature a roller coaster, the Bolt.
The ship will have more than 2,641 staterooms, including 180 suites across 11 different categories.
The Mardi Gras’ six themed zones will include dining, beverage and entertainment options, including restaurants from Guy Fieri, Emeril Lagasse and Shaquille O’Neal.
Encompassing a total of 21 decks, the Mardi Gras will offer a layout highlighted by Grand Central, a massive atrium with three-deck-high windows overlooking the sea.