17-deck Carnival Mardi Gras cruise ship with roller coaster on top arrives at Port Canaveral

Viewing options, parking and more for Mardi Gras’ arrival

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla.UPDATE: The Carnival Mardi Gras on Friday arrived at Port Canaveral, providing an amazing view for hundreds who gathered nearby to welcome the massive cruise ship to Central Florida.

The ship, with a full capacity of 6,465 passengers, is 1,130 feet long, weights 180,800 tons and has 17 passenger decks. It also is the first cruise ship to have a roller coaster.

The Mardi Gras is the first Carnival ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas, and will be the first LNG-powered cruise ship of any brand to be based in the America.

ORIGINAL STORY: The Carnival Mardi Gras will be arriving at Port Canaveral for the first time early Friday.

It’s Carnival’s newest and largest ship, and the first one powered by liquefied natural gas.

The ship’s arrival has become a bit of a phenomenon locally, as hundreds of people may be converging on Port Canaveral to view the ship’s arrival, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.

Among them will be Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy.

[LIVE VIDEO: Watch video in player above or check out our webcam at Port Canaveral]

A Facebook group called “Carnival Mardi Gras Welcoming Party” recently was created, and now has about 1,600 members. Many of them plan to come to the port to view the ship’s arrival, and some have rented hotel rooms Thursday night in Cape Canaveral, so their commute to the port is short early Friday. Others have rented the campgrounds facilities and pavilions at Jetty Park.

Access to viewing points at Port Canaveral will be limited, and traffic in and around the port will be controlled. Port officials say Mardi Gras watchers should consider the limitations for public parking at the port on Friday, and plan accordingly.

Florida Today has compiled some things you may need to know if you’re planning to see the ship come into port.

Does this mean a return to sailing?

Not quite yet.

Cruise ships haven’t sailed with passengers out of Port Canaveral or other U.S. ports since March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are no scheduled sailings with paying passengers from Port Canaveral yet, although the port’s chief executive officer, John Murray, hopes that will start in July.

Additionally, Disney Cruise Line is planning a two-night “test sailing” from Port Canaveral June 29-July 1, as part of its effort to gain federal clearance to sail with paying passengers this summer. The sailing will be aboard the Disney Dream, with a limited number of Disney employees as the only passengers.

When is the Mardi Gras coming in?

The Mardi Gras is expected to pass Jetty Park by 6:15 a.m. and proceed to the Middle Turning Basin, where the ship will turn around and transit to Cruise Terminal 3 by 7 a.m. The port said the arrival time is subject to change, including for weather conditions.

Cruise Terminal 3 — east of the Cove area and west of Jetty Park — is the port’s new $155 million terminal, which was built for the Mardi Gras and other Carnival ships. It was completed last year, but never has been used for sailings with passengers because of the pandemic.

There will be no access for the general public to Cruise Terminal 3 or its parking garage on Friday.

So where can I watch the Mardi Gras come in?

The port is recommending either Jetty Park or the Cove area, near the port’s restaurants.

Is the Mardi Gras the only ship that will be here Friday?

Far from it. There actually will be five cruise ships in port on Friday, according to the port’s latest harbormaster report.

  • Carnival’s Freedom and Liberty will be in port briefly on Friday, and are expected to flank the Mardi Gras as it sails into its cruise terminal, as Carnival seeks an iconic image of its new ship.
  • The Royal Caribbean Odyssey of the Seas will be arriving Friday, docking at Cruise Terminal 1, and leaving Sunday.
  • The Disney Fantasy is docked Thursday morning at Cruise Terminal 8, and will leave Friday morning, a few hours after the Mardi Gras arrives.

How do I get into the Jetty Park?

You will have to buy a pass in advance online. No day-of-event tickets will be sold.

Drivers heading to Jetty Park should enter the port via George King Boulevard. Parking passes must be purchased online prior to arriving at the park. No cash or credit card transactions are allowed at the entrance booth.

A limited number of guaranteed-admission special passes were available at shop.portcanaveral.com, although those are expected to sell before the end of the day Thursday.

Visitors with annual passes are not guaranteed admission to the park.

The port says people going to Jetty Park should have their required online parking passes open on their phone when they arrive at the entrance gate, to speed up processing of the line of vehicles waiting to get in.

The Jetty Park lot will close when 100% vehicle capacity is reached, which is about 500 vehicles.

The port says visitors to Jetty Park should practice social distancing.

What if I can’t get into Jetty Park?

You’ll be able to see the ship make its loop around the Middle Turning Basin from the Cove area, although you won’t be able to have a close view of Cruise Terminal 3 from there, only in a distance.

The paved parking lot south of the Cove dining district will be open in the morning for the public. Following Mardi Gras’ arrival, Cove parking lot will be available for merchant patrons.

The Cove-area lots have about 850 spaces.

A paved overflow parking lot and unpaved Lot E in the area near Cruise Terminal 1 are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Those lots have about 500 spaces.

Another thing you’ll be able to see from the Cove is the arrival of the Royal Caribbean Odyssey of the Seas at Cruise Terminal 1, just east of the Cove.

This will be the ship’s first port stop in the United States, and its crew members are getting their COVID-19 vaccines while the ship is at Port Canaveral.

Will there be restrictions on private boaters launching their boats when the Mardi Gras is in port?

No. The Freddie Patrick Boat Ramps and Rodney S. Ketcham Park Boat Ramps vehicle trailer parking will be open and available to boaters on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity is reached.

Boat ramp parking lots are exclusively for boater vehicles and trailers using boat ramps.

Boaters at all times — whether parking at ramp lots or not — may access the ramps to drop their boat and tackle, and seek parking elsewhere.

Patrons of the Water’s Edge Cafe may park their vehicles if parking is available.

Boaters should note, however, that a security zone surrounding all cruise and cargo ships entering and exiting the port will be enforced by U.S. Coast Guard and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.

The boat ramps will remain open at all times.

However, launching boats and returning boats may be delayed, as the Mardi Gras or other cruise ships pass by.

Tell me more about the Mardi Gras

Carnival Cruise Lines revealed a roller coaster, Bolt: Ultimate Sea Coaster, will be a permanent fixture on its new cruise ship coming to Port Canaveral the Mardi Gras (Image: Carnival Cruise Lines)

The ship is 1,130 feet long, weights 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, plus a crew of 1,745.

The Mardi Gras is the first Carnival ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas, and will be the first LNG-powered cruise ship of any brand to be based in the America.

It also is the first cruise ship to have a roller coaster, which goes by the name Bolt: Ultimate Sea Coaster.

The ship features six themed zones with a range of culinary, bar and entertainment options, including restaurants from Guy Fieri, Emeril Lagasse, Shaquille O’Neal and Rudi Sodamin.