The coronavirus outbreak delays the arrival of one of the world’s biggest cruise ships

Jul 8, 2020

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You’ll have to wait until next year to ride a roller coaster on a cruise ship.

Citing construction delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Carnival Cruise Line on Tuesday pushed back the debut of its much-awaited, 180,000-ton Mardi Gras — a ship so big it’ll famously have room for a roller coaster on its top deck — to 2021.

Currently being built at a shipyard in Turku, Finland, the 15-deck-high vessel originally was scheduled to debut in August of this year. But even before the coronavirus outbreak, its arrival had been delayed to 14 November. The new target date for the first Mardi Gras sailing is 6 February 2021.

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“While we had hoped to make up construction time on Mardi Gras over the summer, it’s clear we will need extra time to complete this magnificent ship”, Carnival president Christine Duffy said in a statement. “We share our guests’ disappointment and appreciate their patience as we work through this unprecedented time in our business and the lives of so many people”.

A dozen departures of Mardi Gras that had been scheduled from 14 November 2020 to 30 January 2021 have been cancelled.

Mardi Gras is the first of a new series of bigger Carnival ships designed to take the line’s “fun ship” shtick to a new level. In addition to a roller coaster — a cruise industry first — it’ll also have a far broader array of suites than earlier Carnival vessels and new dining venues such as the first Emeril Lagasse restaurant at sea.

Carnival's Bolt roller coaster
Carnival Cruise Line’s new ship Mardi Gras will have the first roller coaster at sea. (Image courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

Mardi Gras also will be notable as the first ship from a North America-based line designed to operate on liquid natural gas. The fuel is touted as being cleaner than traditional ship fuel.

At around 180,000 tons, Mardi Gras will be nearly 35% bigger than Carnival’s recently unveiled Carnival Panorama and one of the biggest ships from any line. Depending on its final measurements, it’ll either rank seventh or eighth among the biggest cruise ships ever built.

Related: TPG cruise editor Gene Sloan offers a peek inside Carnival Panorama 

Mardi Gras is designed to hold up to 6,630 passengers per sailing with every berth filled.

Carnival on Tuesday also announced that its 2,984-passenger Carnival Radiance would not return to service this year. The vessel was about to undergo a massive, $200 million makeover earlier this year at a shipyard in Spain when the coronavirus outbreak put the project on hold.

Carnival said the overhaul of the ship now is unlikely to be completed before spring 2021.

The delay of the Carnival Radiance makeover will cause a cascade of deployment changes and cancellations at the line.

For starters, Carnival said it would redeploy its 3,690-passenger Carnival Breeze from Fort Lauderdale to Port Canaveral, Florida, to assume Carnival Radiance’s itineraries from 8 November 2020 to 24 April 2021.

As a result of the Carnival Breeze redeployment, Carnival has, in turn, cancelled 18 sailings of the Carnival Breeze from Fort Lauderdale scheduled to operate from 7 November 2020 to 7 March 2021.

In addition, seven sailings previously scheduled for Carnival Breeze from Fort Lauderdale from 13 March to 24 April 2021 will move to PortMiami and take place on a different ship, the 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic. The itinerary will remain the same.

Related: Is cruising done for 2021? This cruise line thinks so 

To free up the Carnival Magic for the latter sailings, Carnival has cancelled its transatlantic and Europe itineraries scheduled to take place from 13 March to 3 May 2021.

When it debuts in 2021, Mardi Gras will sail out of Port Canaveral, as planned.

Carnival is just the latest line to push back the arrival of a new ship due to coronavirus pandemic-related delays at shipyards. Princess Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Royal Caribbean also have significantly delayed the arrival of new vessels in recent months.

Carnival hasn’t said how many customers are affected by its new cruise cancellations, but the number could be in the tens of thousands or more.

Like most cruise lines, Carnival currently is not operating any cruises due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has cancelled all sailings in North America through the end of September.

Feature image courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line.

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