Finally, some good cruise news: Carnival is adding more ships to its fleet

Jun 24, 2021

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Carnival Cruise Line is shifting back into expansion mode.

After a year of downsising brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s second-largest largest cruise line on Wednesday said it would add two more ships than expected to its fleet by the end of 2023.

Carnival currently has 24 vessels and is scheduled to take delivery of a 25th — the 5,282-passenger Carnival Celebration — from a European shipyard in late 2022.

The two new ships that will join the Carnival fleet by the end of 2023 include a sister vessel to Carnival Celebration that, until now, has been on order from the same shipyard for Germany-based Aida Cruises. Aida Cruises is a sister brand to Carnival.

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The second new vessel joining the Carnival fleet is an existing, 16-year-old vessel currently sailing for Costa Cruises, another sister line to Carnival.

Currently called Costa Magica, the 2,718-passenger vessel was built on the same platform as Carnival’s Sunshine Class ships (Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Sunrise and Carnival Radiance). It thus has an interior design and feel that’s very similar to those vessels.

Carnival said Costa Magica would receive an overhaul in dry dock before joining the Carnival fleet to add Carnival touches. It’ll join the Carnival fleet by the middle of 2022.

Wednesday’s announcement can be seen as a sign that Carnival sees a rebound in cruising from U.S. ports coming relatively quickly. A specialist in easy-to-reach cruises from U.S. ports, Carnival hasn’t operated a single voyage in 15 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s scheduled to restart operations with just a few vessels in the coming weeks.

The addition of the two ships plus the already-on-order Carnival Celebration will bring the Carnival fleet to 27 ships by the end of 2023.

Carnival Mardi Gras
A new vessel joining the Carnival fleet in 2023 will be a sister to the line’s Mardi Gras, pictured above, and another ship called Carnival Celebration that is arriving in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

“We are excited about these additions to our fleet which reflect the strong position that Carnival has established in the U.S., the pent-up demand we continue to see for cruise vacations and the overall plans by Carnival Corporation to optimize capacity and growth in key markets,” Carnival president Christine Duffy said in a statement accompanying the announcement.

Duffy said the brand would announce more details soon about where the two new ships would be based and where they would sail.

Carnival’s announcement comes as fast-growing MSC Cruises closes in on Carnival in terms of passenger capacity, threatening to dethrone the line as the world’s second-largest cruise brand.

With 24 ships that have the capacity for 71,434 passengers, based on double occupancy, Carnival still is significantly larger than MSC Cruises. But its downsising over the past year significantly shortened its lead over MSC Cruises when it comes to passenger capacity.

In an effort to cut costs during the coronavirus-caused industry shutdown, Carnival shed four older ships starting in July of 2020, while adding one new ship, the 5,250-passenger Mardi Gras.

MSC Cruises, by contrast, didn’t lose a single ship and is adding two new vessels this year.

With the addition of the 4,842-passenger MSC Virtuosa earlier this year, MSC Cruises now has 18 ships with a capacity for 58,722 passengers, based on double occupancy. A second new MSC Cruises ship arriving in July, the 4,540-passenger MSC Seashore, will bring the line’s passenger capacity to around 63,000, based on double occupancy.

MSC Cruises has four more ships on order for delivery from 2022 to 2025 that will collectively add around 20,000 more berths to its fleet.

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Featured image of courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

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