Carnival Announces Major Fleet Changes, Including Sister Ship to Mardi Gras & Ship Sales

Today Carnival Cruise Line announced several big updates to its fleet as it looks to prepare for the future of cruising past the current health crisis.

Among the highlights:

  • A new “Excel” class sister-ship to the Mardi Gras expected in November 2022.
  • Two older ships have been sold (Fantasy, Inspiration), with two more put in long-term lay-up (Fascination, Imagination).
  • New redeployments, including the Carnival Sensation heading from Miami to Mobile.

Sister-Ship to Mardi Gras Planned for November 2022

Rendering of Carnival Excel-class ship
A rendering of an Excel-class ship. Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line.

Perhaps the biggest news is that Carnival announced that Mardi Gras will have a sister ship in just over two years.

Carnival’s Mardi Gras is the line’s first “Excel” class ship, a group of new mega-ships that are the largest in the cruise line’s fleet. The Excel class is also notable for being powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), a cleaner-burning fuel that is considered better for the environment.

The Mardi Gras has been widely anticipated for years, but has seen delays due to the COVID crisis. It now plans to start sailing in February 2021 from Port Canaveral, after a delay pushed its inaugural sailings from November 2020.

But Carnival is already looking well past that date with this new announcement. Its second Excel ship is now slated to arrive in November 2022.

The ship does not have a name yet, but will sail from Miami. It will also have many of the same features as Mardi Gras, including its roller coaster — which is set to be the first of its kind at sea.

Two Ships Sold, Two More Laid Up

Carnival’s second big piece of news is that it has sold two of its oldest ships and is putting two more in lay-up.

“As part of Carnival Corporation’s recent announcement to reduce its overall capacity and focus on ships with upgraded features, Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Inspiration have been sold,” said a statement from the cruise line.

Carnival Fantasy was the oldest ship in the fleet, entering service in 1990. It had most recently been sailing from Mobile, Alabama. At 30 years old, the ship was actually among the oldest in any major cruise line fleet.

Carnival Inspiration was built in 1996 and had been sailing trips from Long Beach, California to the Mexican Riviera.

These sales weren’t a surprise as Carnival Corporation (Carnival’s parent company) recently announced it planned to remove 13 ships from across its fleet in the coming months. This includes its many cruise lines, including Princess, Holland America, Carnival, and more. 

In addition to the Fantasy and Inspiration, Carnival said that the Carnival Fascination and Imagination will go into a long-term lay-up “with no specific timeline identified for a return to operation.”

The Fascination and Imagination were built in 1994 and 1995, respectively, and are among the smallest ships in Carnival’s fleet.

More Cancellations and Shuffling of Fleet

Of course, with the health crisis continuing and ships being sold or laid-up, Carnival is also having to move ships around.

In a flurry of updates, a number of sailings have been adjusted, including:

  • Carnival Sensation will move from Miami to Mobile to replace the Fantasy and Fascination.
  • Carnival Sunrise will move from Port Everglades to Miami to take over for the Carnival Sensation.
  • Carnival Fascination trips from San Juan and Barbados are cancelled.
  • Carnival Imagination and Inspiration sailings from Long Beach are cancelled.
  • Carnival Radiance will move to Long Beach in April after refurbishment in Europe.
  • Six Australian cruises between September 25 and October 29 have been cancelled.

In all, it just goes to show how big of an impact the current health crisis is having on cruising even beyond the suspension of sailing.

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Tanner is the founder of Cruzely.com. Having grown up on the coast and sailing on everything from a 50' pleasure craft to the newest cruise ships, he's drawn on his experience to write hundreds of articles about every aspect of cruising. He has been quoted in The Washington Post, USAToday, and CBSNews, along with dozens more publications and websites. His homeport is Galveston, but he's visited and sailed from ports all around the country, including Miami, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades, Seattle, Los Angeles and more. You can contact him by emailing [email protected]

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