After a music-filled christening ceremony at the Miami cruise port Sunday night, Carnival Celebration – the cruise line’s biggest cruise ship ever – will set sail Monday on its maiden voyage from US shores.
The six-night Caribbean cruise will keep the inaugural celebrations going with Thanksgiving festivities as guests on holiday try out all the ship’s attractions, from the line’s second roller coaster to an Emeril Lagasse restaurant.
TPG cruise editor Erica Silverstein is on board to document all the fun.
For cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter.
Carnival Celebration was not the only new Carnival property debuting Sunday. The festivities began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Carnival’s redesigned state-of-the-art Terminal F at PortMiami — the F stands for “fun,” said Christine Duffy, president of the line known for its “Fun Ships.”
The line’s third terminal at the port and its largest in South Florida, Terminal F will be among the first to be shore-power ready in 2023. Passengers will appreciate a Captain’s Lounge waiting area that can seat 500, an immersive tunnel on the second level and cool digital imagery throughout.
Related: The ultimate guide to Carnival Cruise Line
After the ribbon-cutting, guests boarded the ship for the naming ceremony. To celebrate what is also Carnival’s 50th birthday and the passing of the name Celebration from the original 1987 ship to bear that name, Carnival chose Cassidy Gifford to be the ship’s godmother, taking on the role from her mother, Kathie Lee Gifford, Carnival’s first spokesperson and godmother of the first Celebration. Cassidy is an actress, appearing in TV and film roles including “God’s Not Dead” and “The Gallows.”
In a small gathering before the official christening, she spoke about how she grew up on Carnival ships, where she loved the waterslides and the pools. She talked about the memories she had of spending time with her brother and her dad while her mom worked, emphasizing the family focus of a Carnival vacation.
Sign up for our daily newsletter
Then she joined Duffy and John Heald, Carnival’s brand ambassador, on stage to name the ship. She pulled a candle-shaped lever atop a Romero Britto-designed birthday cake to trigger the traditional Champagne smash against the ship’s hull as confetti rained from the ceiling. The evening concluded with a concert by Kool & The Gang, known for their hit song “Celebration.”
About Carnival Celebration
The second ship in Carnival’s Excel class, the 15-deck-high Carnival Celebration is a sister vessel to Carnival’s 181,808-ton, 6,630-passenger, 1-year-old Mardi Gras. (Third sister Carnival Jubilee debuts in 2023.)
The two identically sized ships are a whopping 35% bigger than the next-biggest Carnival ship currently afloat, the 3-year-old Carnival Panorama; only 11 other cruise vessels in the world are bigger than these twins. For comparison, Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas—the world’s largest cruise ship—can house 7,084 passengers.
Related: The 8 types of Carnival cruise ships, explained
Beyond size, Carnival Celebration has many similarities to Mardi Gras. Most impressively, it has a roller coaster, named Bolt: Ultimate Sea Coaster, on its top deck. Its vehicles will reach speeds of roughly 40 miles per hour as they careen around an 800-foot-long track.
Carnival Celebration, like its sister, will have a giant water park on its top deck. It will also feature more suite options than other Carnival ships. Restaurants such as Rudi’s Seagrill, Chibang (mixing Mexican and Chinese) and Emeril’s Bistro 1397 (Creole favorites from Emeril Lagasse) all return on Celebration.
Plus, the ship will be powered by liquefied natural gas like its twin – the only two ships in Carnival’s fleet to have this technology.
But the new vessel won’t be a complete copycat of Mardi Gras. It will have three new “zones” (themed sections of the ship): Celebration Central, The Gateway and 820 Biscayne.
Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Carnival ship
Celebration Central is the area located around the central atrium, featuring several bars that pay homage to the cruise line’s history. The Aquaria Bar is decorated with an ocean-themed glass mural originally found on Carnival Victory, and the Tropicale Bar is named after the Carnival ship that debuted the line’s famous red, white and blue split funnel.
The Gateway is a two-deck area themed around the joys of travel. Its 12 high-definition multimedia virtual windows will display scenes from around the world, tailored to that evening’s theme night. Food, drinks and entertainment in the area will match the theme, which could be Mexico Lindo or Abroad in Europe. The new Latitudes bar will evoke a classic train station and will feature a special happy hour every evening.
Finally, 820 Biscayne will be Carnival Celebration’s homage to Miami. Its Bar 820 will serve martinis and other cocktails inspired by South Florida, as well as Cuban coffee. Like Miami, this area will have a variety of dining options, ranging from Deco Deli and Miami Slice (for pizza) to the Italian Cucina del Capitano and Rudi’s Seagrill.
Returning zones include Summer Landing, Lido and The Ultimate Playground.
Related: Carnival cabin and suite guide
Carnival Celebration is scheduled to sail six- to eight-day voyages to the Bahamas and the Caribbean out of – where else? —Miami. Fares start at $449 per person, not including taxes and fees.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories: