Carnival Considers Shorter Voyages for Its Excel-Class Ships

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As the brand ambassador of Carnival Cruise Line, John Heald is typically the authority on all things cruising – posting important announcements, answering questions, and offering advice daily on his official Facebook page. 

But on June 5, 2024, Heald had a question for his followers instead. He wanted to know how potential cruisers would feel about embarking on shorter voyages on Carnival’s Excel-class ships, which are the biggest vessels in Carnival’s 27-strong fleet. 

“Do you think an excel class ship, Mardi Gras or Carnival Celebration should consider doing 4 or 5 day cruises? So many people ask me if that would ever happen? Is 4 or 5 days enough time to truly enjoy everything these ships have to offer?” Heald asked.

Carnival Cruise Line's Mardi Gras
Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras (Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks)

Typically, mega-ships like these operate itineraries that are a week long at a minimum to allow guests to fully enjoy all the amenities offered onboard. But other cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, recently announced that they are breaking with the mold. 

Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, which is currently the second-largest cruise ship in the world weighing in at 236,857-gross tons and with a maximum capacity for 6,988 guests, will begin offering 3 to 4-night weekend cruises to the Bahamas from Miami in September of 2025. 

When Utopia of the Seas enters service in July of 2024, the 5,668-passenger ship will begin her career at sea by offering 3-4 night sailings to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral, Florida. 

Heald likely posed his question to see if Carnival’s mega-ships should follow Royal Caribbean’s lead. He received around 1,500 comments, with many potential guests divided. 

Some were adamantly opposed to the idea, saying it wasn’t enough time to enjoy all that Carnival’s largest ships have to offer. 

“No way! You can barely enjoy it in 7. I get peoples schedules might not allow but it’s totally worth taking your full vacation time. There’s far too much to eat, do and see,” wrote one commenter. 

Meanwhile, others thought it was a good idea, especially for first-time cruisers to get a taste of life at sea – but still wanted the opportunity to book a longer voyage. 

“As an agent and avid cruiser, I think so. But also keep the longer itineraries. A short cruise will give them a taste and they won’t be able to see the entire ship so they’ll probably book another cruise on the same ship to see the rest or just to spend more time,” said one user.

Utopia of the Seas Departs on Sea Trials
Utopia of the Seas Departs on Sea Trials

Other Facebook users went the complete opposite direction – asking Heald to offer longer cruises instead of shortening them. 

“I would love to see an excel class ship do a little bit longer cruise! Like a 9 or 10 day from NYC!,” read yet another comment.

As of the time of publication, neither John Heald nor Carnival Cruise Line have released any official statement about the future itineraries offered by the Excel-class ships – but it certainly seems like the cruise line is weighing its options. 

Pros and Cons Of Shorter Itineraries

Both of the ships mentioned in Heald’s post – Carnival Celebration and Mardi Gras – currently operate 6 to 8-night sailings. 

The mega-ships alternate between Eastern, Western, and Southern Caribbean itineraries – with Carnival Celebration based out of Miami, Florida, and Mardi Gras based out of Port Canaveral, Florida. 

It’s unknown if the Excel-class ships will continue to sail in the Caribbean if the cruise line decides to offer shortened cruises, or if they will be re-deployed elsewhere. 

Read Also: Carnival Ships by Size: Biggest to Smallest

The biggest con to offering shorter cruises onboard these giants of the ocean is that there may be more to see and do than can be done in one voyage – especially when passengers are spending much of their time off the ship enjoying their ports of call. 

The Excel-class vessels are the largest ships in Carnival’s fleet – about 35% bigger than the next largest ship, Carnival Venezia. They offer 28 different stateroom categories for guests to book – which is much more than the cruise line’s older and smaller ships. 

With more space also comes more types of entertainment and more eateries to taste test. For example, Mardi Gras is so large that she’s divided into six different zones with themed entertainment and dining, including a roller coaster at sea.

Carnival Mardi Gras Cruise Ship
Carnival Mardi Gras Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz)

Carnival Celebration is 185,521-gross tons and can carry up to 6,500 guests, while Mardi Gras – the first of the Excel-class ships – is a hefty 180,800-gross tons and can accommodate 6,500 cruisers per sailing. 

Even though they weren’t included in Heald’s post, it’s also quite possible that the cruise line might consider offering shorter itineraries on Carnival Jubilee, the third and most recent of the Excel-class ships, or one of the two new Excel-class ships that Carnival ordered to be built earlier in 2024.

But while there is clearly lots to do onboard, shorter sailings do come with some benefits. The primary positive for many is that shorter cruises typically come with smaller price tags, making it a more budget-friendly option. The cost of the cruise is usually less, and there are less expenses to pay for in terms of things like shore excursions and at-home pet care. 

The other key pro is that shorter cruises make it easier for people to get away – especially those who have limited vacation time or who can’t get a longer vacation approved by work. 

Quick getaways are also great options for celebrating special occasions, such as anniversaries, birthdays, or even as bachelor or bachelorette parties.

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