Carnival Mardi Gras: 8 Things We Know About the First Sailing

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In just a few months, the newest ship from Carnival Cruise Lines — Mardi Gras — is set to debut.

Mardi Gras rendering
Rendering of the Carnival Mardi Gras, courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines.

While new ships have been a regular sight in recent years, that came to a halt with the suspension of cruising due to the pandemic. Even today a number of newbuilds (including the Mardi Gras) are delayed, with launches being pushed well past their original dates.

In other words, the pace of new ships looks to be slower for years into the future. That makes each ship that does arrive even bigger news. Not that the Mardi Gras needs any reason to be more exciting.

Not only is it a new cruise ship, but the ship is completely different from anything else in the Carnival fleet. From its size to its paint job to restaurants to things to do, the ship is a completely different direction for the most well-known cruise line in the world.

With that in mind — and the upcoming launch on the horizon — we wanted to share a number of interesting things we know about the first sailing of the Mardi Gras.

It Will Be the Largest Carnival Ship to Sail… By a Mile

Carnival Mardi Gras
Image courtesy of Carnival.

If there is one thing that sets this new ship apart from anything else in the Carnival fleet, it’s the size. Until the Mardi Gras joins the fleet, the largest ship in the Carnival lineup is the new Carnival Panorama. The Vista-class ship comes in at nearly 1,060 feet, carries 4,000 passengers at double occupancy, and has a gross tonnage of almost 134,000 tons.

That’s small compared to Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras will be 1,130 feet and carry nearly 5,300 passengers at double occupancy. The gross tonnage is 180,000 gross tons — 34% larger than the Vista class. All told, it will have 19 decks and six different “zones” — distinct areas of the ship like the French Quarter and Summer Landing.

If you’ve sailed Carnival before, it’s a guarantee that you’ve never seen a ship from the cruise line like this one.

The First Cruises Are Pricey and Start Sailing February 2021

Want to be the first on the new ship? You better be ready to open up that wallet. As with most new ships, Carnival is charging a premium on the first trips.

The very first sailing offered by Carnival departs on February 6, 2021 on a week-long cruise to the western Caribbean. (Trips were supposed to start in 2020, but were pushed back due to the health crisis.)

The price tag for an interior room is $889 per person. That’s before any taxes, port fees, or gratuities. A balcony room starts at $1,179.

For comparison, a six-day cruise aboard the Carnival Breeze leaving the same port the next day starts at just $359 per person for an interior cabin. That’s less than half the price of sailing the new ship.

There Are TONS of Restaurants on the Ship

As you might expect on Carnival’s newest — and largest — ship, all the stops are pulled out. That’s especially the case when it comes to eating on board. Carnival is known for many of its restaurants like Guy’s Burger Joint. Mardi Gras, however, takes it to another level.

Of course, all the classics you might find on other ships are there. That includes Guy’s Burger Joint, BlueIguana, and Pizzeria del Capitano. There’s also the Seafood Shack, Bonsai Sushi, Guy’s Pig & Anchor BBQ, a steakhouse, as well as the buffet and dining room. But there are also a number of new spots.

Street Eats is a free restaurant that has multiple stations serving up the sort of street food you’d find in a street stall or food truck. Big Chicken — an free chicken restaurant serving fast-food style sandwiches and baskets (as well as breakfast) — also makes its debut.

For higher-end dining there is a new seafood restaurant called Rudi’s Seagrill from chef Rudi Sodamin and Emeril’s Bisto 1396, a New-Orleans-style restaurant from Emeril Lagasse serving creole favorites.

It’s the First Sailing of a Cruise Ship With a Roller Coaster

Bolt roller coaster on Carnival Mardi Gras
Image courtesy of Carnival.

Every big new ship needs something special to set it apart from the competition. That’s good news for passengers as it means the cruise lines are constantly pushing the envelope of what’s possible on a cruise ship.

For Mardi Gras, that special feature is the first-ever roller coaster at sea.

Circling around the ship’s funnel, this ride takes you up and over the deck at the top of the ship in a special two-person cart. Put plainly, there is nothing else like this on a cruise ship, anywhere. And it’s sure to be something that riders will never forget.

Mardi Gras’ First Sailing Is From Port Canaveral

When it comes to the newest ships, they usually sail from the biggest ports. In most cases, that means Miami. Carnival Horizon, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, Norwegian Encore, and MSC Meraviglia all sail from Miami.

Mardi Gras is breaking that mold. Instead of departing Miami, it will sail from Port Canaveral.

While Port Canaveral might not have the “glitz” of its southern neighbor, it’s no slouch when it comes to cruising. In fact, it’s among the busiest cruise ports in the nation.

From here, the ship will take passengers on seven-day trips, alternating between the western and eastern Caribbean. This includes ports like Cozumel, San Juan, Grand Turk, and Mahogany Bay.

The Ship Will Sail From a Brand-New Terminal As Well

While a new ship is the main point of attraction, there’s also a new terminal to go along with it. Cruise Terminal 3 (CT3) is on the south side of Port Canaveral, providing a straight shot for Mardi Gras to head out to sea.

The terminal was built especially with the Mardi Gras in mind. It features an on-site parking garage, and for those who hate the traffic, its location on the far end of the cruise port means it should be less hectic than other areas where there are multiple terminals in a small space.

All told, the new terminal cost an estimated $150 million.

It’s the First North American Cruise Ship Sailing Powered by LNG

The pressure on all cruise line to go “green” is strong. The industry has seen a number of changes to be more environmentally friendly, including the removal of single-use plastics in many cases.

And while Carnival Corporation has come under fire for its environmental record, it does get credit for having the first North American cruise ship that will sail powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG).

This transition from traditional fuel, which releases a number of pollutants, to cleaner-burning LNG may be the start of a trend. According to a recent report, there are more than two-dozen LNG-powered ships for delivery by 2026 from U.S.-based cruise lines.

Using LNG as fuel does take some changes to both the ship and fueling facilities in port. In fact, it’s reported that one reason Mardi Gras is sailing from Port Canaveral instead of Miami is because the port provided the facilities needed before its rival.

You Can Get an Early Peek of the Ship on YouTube

If you’re excited about the Mardi Gras’ first sailing, you aren’t alone. To tide you over, Carnival has released several behind-the-scenes videos on YouTube that give you a look at what the ship looks like right now under construction, as well as virtual tours of what it will look like when completed.

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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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