Carnival Cruise Line’s new ship, the Mardi Gras, successfully completed her maiden voyage out of Port Canaveral. Her scheduled debut in 2020 had been postponed due to the pause in cruising that resulted from the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Mardi Gras’ first guest cruise departed on Saturday, July 31, from Port Canaveral’s new Cruise Terminal 3, which had been custom built for the ship. The sailing included visits to San Juan, Nassau and Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic.

New Features on the Mardi Gras

Carnival’s new flagship has been five years in the making and offers some wonderful new features. Coming in at 180,000 gross registered tons, the Mardi Gras has six themed neighborhoods. She is the first ship to have a side-facing atrium – yes, it looks out over the ocean. At night the atrium converts to a theater.

On the Mardi Gras, the atrium faces the sea

On the Mardi Gras, the atrium faces the sea. (All photos courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

In addition to bringing some groundbreaking features and innovations, the Mardi Gras is the first ship in North America to run on eco-friendly liquified natural gas (LNG), which is Carnival Corporation’s “green cruising” platform.

The Mardi Gras also claims the first roller coaster at sea. Called BOLT, the ride offers breathtaking 360-degree views from an 800-foot-long track rising 187 feet above sea level. Guests can choose their own speed, so each ride is unique. Their speeds are posted at the end of the race. BOLT requires advance reservations, and there is a fee. The coaster is located in the Ultimate Playground neighborhood, which also has a mini-zipline.

The Mardi Gras is the first cruise ship with a roller coaster

The Mardi Gras is the first cruise ship with a roller coaster.

The Lido neighborhood has two pools and an outdoor movie screen. There are several dining options available.

Dining and Entertainment

Mardi Gras guests can choose from a vast array of eateries. One is the new Rudi’s Seagrill, developed by celebrated chef Rudi Sodamin. This extra-charge restaurant serves seafood in a fine dining atmosphere. Sodamin restaurants also can be found on ships of Holland America Line, one of Carnival’s sister brands.

Also new is Emeril’s Bistro 1396, the first at-sea restaurant of famed chef Emeril Lagasse. Guests can walk to the counter, place an order and then have their food delivered to one of many bistro-style tables. Emphasis is on reasonably priced seafood, with small plates starting at $5.

In the Summer Landing neighborhood, guests can enjoy Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse Brewhouse. Located on the aft section of deck 8, this Guy Fieri restaurant offers phenomenal barbecue.

In the La Piazza neighborhood, free pizza is available 24/7 at Pizzeria del Capitano, and free paninis are served at Piazza Panini. The Italian food at Cucina del Capitano is free as well.

A new dining option is Big Chicken, which was developed in a special partnership with former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, who is Carnival’s Chief Fun Officer.

Next to the Flamingo Restaurant, the Brass Magnolia has a New Orleans jazz club ambiance. The bar is wonderful place to relax over drinks and live music.

As for complimentary main dining options on the Mardi Gras, there are the Flamingo and Palm. Both offer set seating times or the “Your Time Dining” (YTD) option where guests can dine any time during set hours.

Hub Mobile App

With the Hub mobile app, Carnival guests can make and keep track of reservations along with monitoring waiting times and their onboard spending. It also lets guests keep track of their daily schedule, from spa appointments to shore excursions. E-mustering is another function on the app: On embarkation day, guests can go to their muster station at their leisure for a special life jacket demonstration.

Latest Updates on Health and Safety

On her first sailing, the Mardi Gras implemented all the health and safety protocols that Carnival Cruise Line has created during the past 16 months during the pause in cruising.

Carnival Corp. brands, which include Carnival Cruise Line, just implemented some new requirements for guests. Effective August 7, all guests are required to wear face masks in indoor areas, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not.

And effective August 14, all fully vaccinated guests not only need to bring proof of receiving their final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to embarkation, but now they need another document. Fully vaccinated guests must present negative results of a COVID-19 test (either PCR or antigen) that was taken within 72 hours prior to embarkation.

Carnival Cruise Line will continue to allow unvaccinated guests onboard its ships (this is usually about 5%), and these include children under the age of 12, who are not eligible for a vaccine. But unvaccinated guests must abide by specific protocols and requirements. These include the pre-cruise PCR testing as well as testing prior to boarding at the terminal, plus testing within 24 hours of debarkation for cruises that are five days or longer. A $150 per-person charge will be put on the guest’s onboard Sail and Sign account to cover the cost of the testing, reporting, and health and safety screenings. Children under the age of 2 are exempt from these testing requirements.

Also, unvaccinated guests sailing on cruises from Florida or Texas will need to provide proof of travel insurance.

Carnival Cruise Line has a special website where its “Have Fun. Be Safe” protocols and procedures can be found:

Carnival Forges Ahead

The Mardi Gras is the fifth Carnival Cruise Line ship that has resumed service. Fifteen of its ships, or more than half the fleet, will be sailing by October 15.

The new Mardi Gras is definitely one to consider when planning the next cruise for your group.

By Cindy Bertram

Cindy Bertram has 15+ years of cruise industry expertise in marketing, content creation, sales and training as well as social media. Her MBA from Loyola University Chicago complements her high creative edge and liberal arts BA. She can be reached at