Celebrating 50 years of fun

Carnival Celebration, Jubilee Carnival, Mardi Gras, Carnival Corporation, Carnival Cruise Line

Much has changed since the launch of Carnival Cruise Line with its first ship, Mardi Gras, in 1972. The ship was a former transatlantic ship purchased from Canadian Pacific Line, and this ship was in its time but also groundbreaking. Revamped by the startup, which was one of the first modern cruise lines, the startup provided a launching pad that helped usher in a new era of vacation by creating a market for purpose-built cruise ships that soon followed.

Fifty years later, Carnival debuted on a ship that bears the same name as Mardi Gras but has more than 10 times as many guests (6000 compared to 500) and hosts, among many other innovative things, the world’s first on-board roller coaster, called BOLT. When the carnival was first launched, such features were unimaginable. One thing that has remained the same for the past 50 years, however, is the brand’s focus on enjoyment. The original Mardi Gras was described as “27,000 tons of fun,” a word that still features prominently in the brand’s ethos today.

Unsurprisingly, the brand, which is part of the Carnival Corporation, does not allow half a century to pass without celebration. “To kick start our 50th birthday celebrations throughout the year, we had a series of 17 really fun ‘sailing’ cruises that included ship encounters at sea, entertainment and special programming,” says Kristen Duffy, group president since 2014.

“We have also experienced a number of other festive moments at various local ports and destinations and within our in-person and online shows. As the ultimate birthday gift for our loyal guests, it will all culminate with the debut of Carnival Celebration in November as it arrives at its home base in PortMiami, our partner Long term. The ship features a Golden Jubilee Ribbon representing the evolution of our fun ships over the past 50 years, including memorabilia from our previous ships, weaving our past with our present and looking to our future.”

Duffy’s anniversary is already counting as one of its highlights at the helm of the cruise line. “There have been a lot of highlights during my time as president at Carnival, but I’d say being a part of our 50th birthday was very special,” she says. “The Big 5-0, what an amazing teacher! But it’s not just an actual birthday, it’s all that has happened over the past year – the highly successful restart of guest operations, the welcome of Mardi Gras into the fleet, the return of more than 30,000 team members to work, And of course experiencing many emotional moments as each of our ships welcomed their first guests on board. I’ve had the opportunity to visit all of our ships in the past year, and have been on most of our first “Back to Fun” cruises.”

The return to cruises also saw the fleet grow even more. Mardi Gras, which has been sailing from Port Canaveral since mid-2021, will soon be joined by Carnival Celebration and Jubilee Carnival, both of which will run on LNG as part of Carnival’s move toward green sailing.

The carnival celebration will be home to The Gateway, 820 Biscayne, Celebration Central, The Ultimate Playground, Summer Landing, and Lido, and will include BOLT. The ship will make its debut in November 2022 from the redesigned F passenger terminal at PortM Miami, the port’s third and largest terminal in South Florida. The Jubilee Carnival, which will arrive in Port Galveston in 2023, will also share features that guests know from Mardi Gras. It will also include six fun-filled zones like its sisters, according to Duffy. “It will be two completely new concepts that will be revealed at a later time,” she adds.

The industry often talks about hardware — new ships with new features — but Duffy says the key to Carnival’s success is simple: its crew. “When we ask our guests why they come back to the carnival over and over again, they of course mention our unparalleled food, drinks and entertainment, but in the end, it is always our crew that builds up the loyalty of our carnival guest.”

This article was first published in the Fall/Winter 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may have changed since then.

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