All text and photographs (unless stated otherwise) © Paul Timmerman
The Carnival group of shipping companies represents the largest fleet of cruise ships in the world at this moment.
It is always looking for ways to expand, and the latest challenge facing Carnival was the intended merger between RCCL and Princess Cruises, that would have made Carnival the second largest in the business if it had materialized. Carnival wouldn't be Carnival however, if the company wouldn't have reacted immediately and had made the Princess shareholders a competing offer, hoping that they would vote in favour of a merger with Carnival instead.
In 1966 Ted Arison, owner of the Miami based company named after himself, took over the operation of the Nili, an Israeli car ferry, which was cruising for Pan American Cruise Lines at the time.
Nili was a rather spartan vessel, lacking private facilities in many cabins, although she was a new vessel, being constructed a year earlier in Glasgow. Arison had run the ship successfully for a short period until the Israeli Government demanded the Nili would return to home waters. They saw potential as a troop transport in the event of hostilities. So Arison had a cruise company, but no vessels. Then he heard that Kloster's Sunward had been retired from the Britain - Gibraltar route for political reasons. Kloster also owned a shipping company, but his ships carried freight, and he wanted to expand in passenger shipping.
In 1966, Kloster took delivery of the cruise ferry Sunward which he intended to operate between Great Britain and Spain. Unfortunately, due to political reasons, Kloster´s plans never materialised. Arison contacted Kloster, they negotiated an agreement and on December 18, 1966 Sunward arrived in Miami. Sunward became an instant success, sailing on cruises to Nassau and later week-long cruises to St. Thomas and San Juan. Business flourished and more ships were added to Norwegian Caribbean Line as the company was named. In 1968 Starward followed, Skyward in 1969, and Southward in 1971. These ships at 16.000 GRT were larger than Sunward (9000 GRT).
In 1971 Kloster suddenly ended the agreement with Arison, and so just like in 1966, Arison found himself without a ship. He unsuccessfully tried to acquire Franconia and Carmania, out of work Cunarders formerly used on the transatlantic run. However, he managed to purchase ex Canadian Pacific's Empress of Canada, a dual purpose ship that could easily be used in liner service as well as for cruising. Arison faced a problem however, only the ship's first class accommodation was acceptable to the cruising public. Tourist class cabins had to be upgraded. The new company, which Arison had named Carnival Cruise Lines, was low on working capital so, during the first two years of operation, Mardi Gras as the ship was renamed, often carried workers whilst on cruises. Thus, she was slowly transferred into a cruise ship.
Empress of Canada
On March 11th 1972, Mardi Gras left Miami for the first time. Onboard were a few hundred travel agents. Just after departure, when Mardi Gras was sailing down Government Cut, she ran aground on a sandbar, and had to stay there for over a day before tugboats managed to free her.
At first, Mardi Gras wasn't able to earn her keep, and after a few years in 1974, debts had accumulated to $5 mio. AITS, the firm that had invested in Mardi Gras from the beginning and had made the start of Carnival Cruise Lines financially possible, sold their interest in the vessel to Arison for just $1,- ........ plus the $5 mio debt.
From this point, with a new marketing team instead of AITS, Carnival started to turn around, aiming it´s product to a younger active clientele, and the slogan "Carnival fun ships" was born.
As a result Mardi Gras made a profit in 1975. Immediately Arison bought a second ship, the Empress of Britain, also a former Canadian Pacific vessel. After her CP career she had been sailing for Greek Line as their Queen Anna Maria. She was renamed Carnivale and entered service on Febr. 7 1976 after a refit at Newport News Shipbuilding.
Quickly, within two years, a third ship was acquired, the S A Vaal from Safmarine. She was in need of extensive refurbishing and work was carried out by Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Japan. S A Vaal was renamed Festivale and joined the fleet on Oct. 28th 1978.
In 1981, Arison ordered his first newbuilding from a European yard, Aalborg Werft in Denmark. Tropicale as this vessel was named, featured a large winged funnel positioned aft. This type of funnel would become one of Carnival's trademarks and would be repeated on subsequent newbuildings.
Tropicale's funnel design was the work of architect Joseph Farcus, who was also responsible for Tropicale's interiors. He has designed the interiors of all Carnival´s newbuildings to this day.
The cruise industry was shocked when Tropicale was ordered because at the time many thought that there would never again be a ordered a newbuilding. Carnival put the Tropicale in service out of Los Angeles, cruising to Mexico on 7-day trips, and not in the Caribbean as was expected. After Tropicale, in 1985, Holiday followed and her two near sisters, Jubilee and Celebration.
Carnivals aggressive expansion continued when Fantasy was delivered, the companies first true mega ship, measuring an impressive 70.367 GRT. In the years that followed, seven of these giants would follow, making the FANTASY-class the largest series of cruise ships ever built. The other vessels of this series are Ecstasy, Sensation, Fascination (see ship description), Imagination, Inspiration, Elation and Paradise. The most important design feature of these ships is their six-deck atrium with it's glass elevators which was a very spectacular public space in these days (it still is today of course, but almost every mega-ship entering service has an atrium that is the focal point of the ship). Fantasy and five of her sisters are diesel-electric powered (meaning that diesels power electric motors which turn the propeller shafts), the last two vessels Elation and Paradise however use Azipods as propulsion. Azipod represents a new development in propulsion technique. The screw and the electric motors driving it are placed in a housing outside the hull which is able to turn 360 degrees, giving the vessel improved manoeuvrability. The ship is pulled rather than pushed through the water. Recently, Carnival started the $250-million Evolutions of Fun enhancement program, during which all eight Fantasy-class vessels will receive an overal upgrade, including: a stunning new resort-style pool areas and spectacular “Carnival WaterWorks” aqua park, fully remodeled staterooms, suites, and bathrooms, flat-screen televisions in staterooms and select public areas, atrium lobby bars, updated sound and lighting systems in various lounges and clubs, coffee bars, nine-hole miniature golf courses, new art and photo galleries, New York-style delis in the Lido restaurants, and purpose-built conference facilities. The program will run in 2008/ 2009.
Fantasy class vessels
Furthermore, Paradise was the world's first completely non-smoking cruise ship. If passengers are caught smoking, they were fined and were kindly requested to leave the ship at the next port of call. However, Paradise was reverted to a "smokers-"ship after a couple of years (probably
In the mean time, Carnival sold off their first trio of ships to other operators. One was active until 2008, the Topaz (ex Carnivale) was sailing for the Peaceboat foundation on world wide itineraries but she has been taken out of service when the Peaceboat charter ended and she is expected to go for the scrapyard soon. Mardi Gras, renamed Apollon was sold to Royal Olympia Cruises. She has spent most of her time laid up in Greece and she was sold for scrap in 2003. Festivale -after having sailed for now defunct Premier Cruises after her Carnival period also went to the breakers in India that same year.
Carnival continued to expand, and in 1997 even set a world record, when Carnival Destiny was delivered by the Italian Fincantieri shipyard. Measuring 101.353 GRT, the Destiny was the first passenger ship ever to exceed the 100.000 GRT limit.
Sisters Carnival Triumph (see ship description), Carnival Victory followed in 1999 and 2000 respectively. Carnival Conquest and Carnival Glory followed in 2002 and 2003.These latter two are enlarged vessels of the Destiny-class, being 60 ft larger in length, carrying an additional 200 pax and measuring 110.000 GRT. Three more of these ships followed in 2004, 2005 and 2007, Carnival Valor, Carnival Liberty and Carnival Freedom.
A different type of vessel, with a new design although somewhat smaller than the Destiny-class is the 8000-series. These ships measure 85.000 tons and the first one was delivered in 2001, the Carnival Spirit followed by Carnival Pride the same year. Carnival Legend followed in 2002 while Carnival Miracle closed the series in 2004. Prototype of the 8000-series was the Costa Atlantica (see ship description) which was delivered to Costa Crociere, a Carnival subsidiary in 2000.
In 2008, Carnival took the Carnival Conquest into service, representing again a new class of cruise ships in the Carnival-fleet. The Carnival Splendor, being a development from the Conquest-class of ships, will be the only unit in this series in the foreseeable future.
Newbuildings coming on line in 2009 and 2011 wiil be the Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic (130.000GRT). As usual, they wiil be constructed by the Italian yard of Fincantieri. These ships will represent yet another class of ships.
Some of the older Carnival vessels were transferred
to associated brands. Jubilee, for example, now sails with P&O Australia as
Pacific Sun while Celebration is now Iberocruceros' Grand Celebration. Exception
is the Tropicale, which currently sails as Ocean Dream for Pullmantur Cruises in
Spain (owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises) .
Apart from Carnival Cruises itself, the Carnival Group of companies consists of Aida Kreuzfahrten, Holland America Cruises, Costa Crociere, Cunard Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises and a 50% interest in Ibero Cruceros. totalling over 70 ships (including those on order). These are marketed as `the World´s Leading Cruise Lines `.
A planned joint venture (followed by a take over) of the Greek cruise line Royal Olympia Cruises did not take place because of reasons of `differences in culture` as it was stated by both firms.
In December 2003, Carnival subsidiary Cunard Cruises took delivery of Queen Mary 2, at the time the longest and largest cruise ship of all times, measuring 345m and 142.000 GRT! However, Carnival stated in June 2003 that it was planning a 180.000 GRT vessel that could be added to the fleet in 2006 or 2007. This monster vessel was originally planned by Princess before the merger with Carnival took place. Maybe Carnival will follow up with Princess´s plans. However, up till now, Carnival has opted for the somewhat smaller ships in the 80.000 - 135.000GRT range.
Carnival Breeze, 2012/ 3650/ 128800
Carnival Conquest, 2002/ 2966/ 110200
Carnival Destiny, 1996/ 2642/ 101353
Carnival Dream, 2009/ 3600/ 128800
Carnival Ecstasy, 1991/ 2052/ 70367
Carnival Elation, 1998/ 2052/ 70367
Carnival Fantasy, 1990/ 2528/ 70367
Carnival Fascination, 1994/ 2052/ 70367
Carnival Freedom, 2007/ 2974/ 110239
Carnival Glory, 2003/ 2966/ 110000
Carnival Imagination, 1995/ 2052/ 70367
Carnival Inspiration, 1996/ 2052/ 70367
Carnival Legend, 2002/ 2124/ 85700
Carnival Liberty, 2005/ 2966/110200
Carnival Magic, 2011/ 3650/ 128250
Carnival Miracle, 2003/ 2140/ 85900
Carnival Paradise, 1998/ 2052/ 70367
Carnival Pride, 2001/ 2120/ 85900
Carnival Sensation, 1993/ 2052/ 70367
Carnival Spirit, 2001/ 2140/ 85900
Carnival Splendor, 2008/ 3000/ 113300
Carnival Triumph, 1999/ 2758/ 101500
Carnival Valor, 2005/ 2966/110200
Carnival Victory, 2000/ 2640/ 101500