Ultimate Guide to Carnival’s Mardi Gras Cruise Ship

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Carnival's Mardi Gras Sailing in open ocean

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Carnival Cruise’s much-awaited Mardi Gras cruise ship is finally here, and it’s packed with all the bells, whistles, and thrills you can expect from a modern mega-ship.

The ship is the first of Carnival’s Excel class to debut and is currently the largest in Carnival’s fleet. The vessel features LNG (liquid natural gas) technology, six themed zones, and the first roller coaster at sea.

If you plan to book a cruise vacation aboard Carnival’s Mardi Gras or just want to see what all the excitement is about, we’ll break down everything you need to know about Carnival’s mega-ship.

Carnival's Mardi Gras Sailing in open oceanPin
Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line

Mardi Gras Ship Stats

Mardi Gras is the largest-ever ship built by Carnival and, at the time of this publishing, is the ninth-largest cruise ship in the world. There is no shortage of activities, entertainment, dining, and cabin options onboard this innovative ship. 

This mega-ship can accommodate up to 6,338 passengers (sailing at full capacity) in 2,641 rooms with a crew of 1,745 members. If that’s not enough, Mardi Gras features revolutionary new amenities, including BOLT, the first-ever roller coaster at sea.

Check out some of Mardi Gras stats below:

  • Gross Tonnage: 180,000
  • Length: 1,130 feet (340 meters)
  • Beam: 137 feet (41.7 meters)
  • Cruising Speed: 17 knots
  • Passenger Decks: 17
  • Normal Guest Occupancy: 5,282 (based on 2 per cabin)
  • Maximum Guest Capacity: 6,500
  • Crew Capacity: 1,745
  • Number of Staterooms: 2,641


Mardi Gras Construction at Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku FinlandPin
Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line

On September 6, 2016, Finnish shipbuilder Meyer Turku first announced that it had signed an agreement with Carnival Cruise Line to build two 180,000 gross-ton ships. The delivery of the first ship, which would be named Mardi Gras, was planned for 2020. 

The ship is powered by liquid natural gas (LNG), making it the first LNG-powered cruise ship based in North America. Carnival explained that the pivot towards LNG was lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional diesel engines.

In addition to the LNG technology, the ship’s design incorporates the latest technology and thrills. As previously mentioned, the ship has 19 decks and six themed zones. The “Ultimate Playground” zone on the upper decks features BOLT, the world’s first roller coaster at sea. BOLT’s self-propelled cars take passengers on high thrill rides of up to 40 mph (64 kph) on an 800-foot track with a stunning view of the ocean.

Mardi Gras Upper Deck Construction at Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku Finland (1)Pin
Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line

On November 15, 2018, Carnival held the steel-cutting ceremony at Meyer Turku for the still-unnamed vessel. Carnival unveiled the new ship’s livery at the ceremony, which features a predominantly blue hull with red and white accents. Carnival commissioned the new design to promote the brand as “America’s Cruise Line.”

On Wheel of Fortune, hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White revealed the ship’s name as Carnival Mardi Gras. The name is a callback to Carnival’s first ship, TSS Mardi Gras. After the episode aired, Carnival issued a press release clarifying that the ship’s name would be simply Mari Gras.

Delays caused by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a small shipyard fire, resulted in the late final delivery of the new Mardi Gras. Meyer Turku delivered the ship to Carnival on December 18, 2020, but a pause in cruise ship operations during the pandemic meant nearly a year would pass before her maiden voyage.

Port Canaveral Homeport

To accommodate Mardi Gras in her new homeport, Port Canaveral in Florida needed to build a new terminal. The new Terminal 3 became the largest project in the port’s history, at an estimated cost of US$163 million. In the summer of 2020, the two-story, 188,000 square foot terminal was completed and ready for Mari Gras.


Mardi Gras Christening and Naming Ceremony with Godmother Kimberly JimenezPin
Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line

During the Miss Universe 2021 contest, Christine Duffy, Carnival Cruise Line’s President, presented the “Spirit of Carnival” award to Miss Dominican Republic Kimberly Jiménez. The award celebrates Jiménez for embodying the company’s fun and friendship values in addition to diversity and inclusion. In addition, Jiménez was bestowed the honor of godmother to Mardi Gras.

As the ship’s godmother, Jiménez played a vital role in Mardi Gras’ naming ceremony.

“Kimberly is a role model for female empowerment and has a passion for so many worthwhile causes, particularly those that assist women, children and families.  It is such an honor to present Kimberly with the ‘Spirit of Carnival’ award and an even bigger thrill to announce that she’s going to be the godmother of our newest ship, Mardi Gras,”

Christine Duffy – President of Carnival Cruise Line 

Jiménez was born in Puerto Rico and raised in the Dominican Republic. She champions at-risk youth and is a strong advocate for adoption.

She has spent time volunteering at Los Niños de Cristo orphanage, a non-profit foundation for abused and abandoned girls. She serves as a founding member of the Woman’s Club, which serves to provide services to disadvantaged women with breast cancer.

Staterooms and Suites  

With more than 2,500 guest staterooms aboard the ship, cruisers have plenty of options to choose from. The vessel has over 1,400 balcony staterooms, 181 suites, and 82 handicap-accessible staterooms.

Rendering of Mardi Gras' balcony cabinPin
Mardi Gras’ Balcony Cabin (Render Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival has added plenty of new features aboard Mardi Gras’ staterooms to provide guests with comfort and style no matter which cabin category they choose. The new features include:

  • Pull-out storage bins and baskets from
  • Storage ottoman with a top that transforms into a tray or table
  • Large lighted mirror for multiple people to use at once
  • Multiple USB ports and plugs to accommodate all devices
  • Flexible recessed bedside reading lights that won’t disturb others sleeping in the stateroom
  • New bath design details include a shaving bar in the shower
  • The sofa transforms into a comfortable bed with the quick flip of your wrist

Many staterooms will feel familiar to long-time Carnival Cruisers with the traditional comfort and ambiance you expect from Carnival’s fleet. However, debuting on the Mardi Gras is a new luxury suite concept with luxury and exclusivity at its core. The Excel Suites offer passengers a resort-style concept, concierge phone line, access to the exclusive Loft 19, and more.

Mardi Gras’ Excel Presidential Suite (Render Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line)

The new Carnival Excel suites are some of the largest cabins available on the ship and include:

  • Two Carnival Excel presidential suites complete with separate living, dining, and sleeping areas, a walk-in closet, spacious balconies, a private hot tub, and access to the spa and Havana pool.
  • 12 Carnival Excel aft suites complete with separate living, dining, and sleeping areas, a walk-in closet, wraparound balcony, and a private hot tub.
  • 12 Carnival Excel corner suites also with separate living and sleeping areas, as well as a wraparound balcony and spacious interior
  • 6 Carnival Excel basic suites with separate sleeping, dining, and living spaces

Guests who book a suite aboard Mardi Gras will enjoy extra perks and amenities well worth the upgrade. They include:

  • Access to the new Loft 19 – The VIP space consists of a full bar, private pool, and cabanas.
  • A dedicated concierge phone line
  • Guaranteed specialty dining times (with some exceptions)
  • Complimentary soda packages, room service, and laundry service
  • A welcome gift of sparkling wine and a fruit basket
Rendered image of the exclusive Loft 19Pin
Loft 19 (Render Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line)

No matter which stateroom you book on Mardi Gras, you can expect modern and calming decor, plenty of storage space, and all the comforts you expect when you sail with Carnival Cruise Line.

Dining Venues 

Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse BrewhousePin
Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse Brewhouse (Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line)

When dining on Mardi Gras, guests will find a tasty variety of new dining options and Carnival classics. 

Complimentary Dining Options:

  • Chibang!
  • Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse (by Guy Fieri)
  • Cucina Del Capitano
  • Big Chicken
  • Street Eats
  • BlueIguana Cantina
  • Guy’s Burger Joint
  • Lido Marketplace (Buffet)
  • Pizzeria Del Capitano
  • Room Service
  • Swirls
  • Main Dining Room

Specialty Restaurants:

  • Emeril’s Bistro 1396
  • Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse
  • Rudi’s Seagrill
  • Bonsai Teppanyaki
  • Bonsai Sushi
  • Seafood Shack
  • Carnival Kitchen
  • JavaBlue Cafe
  • Chef’s Table
  • Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast
  • Pizza Delivery
  • JiJi Asian Kitchen
Shaquille o'neil's the big chicken restaurantPin
The Big Chicken (Render Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line)

Among the newcomers is The Big Chicken, brought to you by none other than Carnival’s Chief Fun Officer Shaquille O’Neal. The restaurant is located on the Lido Deck with a menu developed by Shaq in partnership with his mom.

New dining options include the seafood restaurant Rudi’s Seagrill, Emeril Lagasse’s Creole cuisine restaurant Emeril’s Bistro 1396, The food truck-inspired Street Eats, and the Chinese and Mexican cuisines from Chibang!

BOLT – The First Roller Coaster at Sea

Rendering of Carnival's BOLT roller coaster with two passengers ridingPin
Rendering of BOLT (Rendering Credit: Carnival Cruise Line)

One of Carnival’s proudest achievements on Mardi Gras is the first-ever roller coaster at sea.

BOLT features self-propelled, all-electric, motorcycle-style vehicles that propel thrill-seekers to 40 mph (64 kph) along its 800-foot track. At its peak, passengers will get a view as high as 187 feet above the ocean as the ride climbs, dips, and swings around the track. 

One unique feature of the roller coaster allows passengers to choose the ride’s speed, allowing for greater personalization.

Located directly below BOLT is the “Ultimate Playground” – one of six themed zones around the ship. The Ultimate Playground features Carnival’s fleet’s largest WaterWorks water park, complete with three water slides, including the 312-foot Blue Lightning. 

This zone also includes a SportSquare sports complex for active-minded passengers. The SportSquare features a 600-foot ropes course, mini-golf course, outdoor fitness area, and a basketball court. This section of the ship is great for staying active, meeting new people, and engaging in a little friendly competition.

Six Distinct Themed Zones

Mardi Gras Grand Central Pin
Mardi Gras Grand Central (Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line)

But, the Ultimate Playground is only one of six themed areas found on Mardi Gras. In Carnival’s words, the “ship is our first with distinctive zones that offer mini-onboard excursions to different “worlds” and experiences.”

Mardi Gras La Piazza Themed ZonePin
Mardi Gras La Piazza (Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line)

Mardi Gras’ six zones include:

  • Grand Central, the mid-ship atrium with expansive views and plenty of activity, regardless of the hour
  • French Quarter, a New Orleans-inspired zone with live music and plenty of restaurants, including the all-new Emeril’s Bistro 1396.
  • La Piazza, the Italian-inspired zone, with more restaurants and live music
  • Summer Landing, your spot for outdoor summer fun, including al fresco dining, pools, hot tubs, Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse|Brewhouse, The Watering Hole, and Swirls soft serve.
  • Lido, the place to go for all of your classic Carnival restaurants and the debuting RedFrog Tiki Bar
  • The Ultimate Playground, spanning decks 18-20, will find the ropes course, WaterWorks, SportsSquare, and the BOLT Roller Coaster.

Onboard Activities

Mardi Gras Club 9 SpaPin
Mardi Gras Club 9 Spa (Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line)

Mardi Gras offers passengers a host of brand new activities and thrills and signature Carnival favorites. Onboard highlights include the SportSquare, BOLT, the adults-only Serenity retreat, Waterworld Water park, Cloud 9 Spa, and a casino. 

Mardi Gras continues Carnival’s trend of family focus and includes numerous kid-friendly activities, including Dr. Seuss Bookville and Camp Ocean.

Mardi Gras Serenity Adults Only RetreatPin
Mardi Gras Serenity (Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line)

Staying connected is easy aboard Mardi Gras, thanks to the surprisingly fast Wi-Fi on the ship. Although Wi-Fi tends to be slow on cruise ships, the Wi-Fi speed aboard Mardi Gras is fast enough that passengers can take part in video calls and even stream Peloton workouts from your cabin or the fitness center.

Adults looking for a night out will find several bars and entertainment options along with a wine bar and Alchemy Bar for martinis. And if you are in the mood for a laugh, check out the Punchliner Comedy Club for live stand-up comedy.

Mardi Gras WaterWorksPin
Mardi Gras WaterWorks (Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line)


How Big is Carnival’s Mardi Gras Cruise Ship?

At the time of writing, Mardi Gras is the ninth-largest cruise ship in the world. The vessel is over 180,000 gross tons with a length of 1,130 feet, a beam of 137 feet, and a height of 19 decks. The 2,641 onboard staterooms can carry a maximum of 6,500 passengers at maximum capacity and a crew of 1,745 individuals.

When Did Mardi Gras Enter Service?

Mardi Gras entered service on July 31, 2020, from her homeport of Port Canaveral. She is the first North American vessel to be powered by LNG technology.

What happened to the original Mardi Gras cruise ship?

Originally named the RMS Empress of Canada, the ship began service in 1960 as an ocean liner, regularly traversing the transatlantic route between Liverpool and Canada for more than a decade. Carnival Cruise Lines purchased the ship in 1972 and, after a few modifications and a change of color scheme, renamed her Mardi Gras. Carnival sold the vessel in 1993, and it was scrapped in 2003.

Article by

Marcello De Lio

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