Carnival Cruise Line Guests Annoyed Over Inaugural Sailing

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Carnival Cruise Line’s recent announcement of a new, earlier inaugural cruise for the upcoming Carnival Firenze is causing significant controversy for many guests who feel they have had a once-in-a-lifetime type of sailing taken away. But what is an inaugural sailing, really, and is it worthwhile to set sail on one?

Carnival Firenze to Debut Earlier Than Planned

Carnival Cruise Line has announced that the new-to-Carnival Carnival Firenze, being transferred from Costa Cruises and updated with Carnival style, will now be debuting one week earlier than initially planned, bringing about an earlier “inaugural” sailing date.

Originally, the ship was scheduled to welcome her first Carnival guests, with a departure on May 2, 2024. That cruise – roundtrip from Long Beach, California – is a 5-night Mexican Riviera sailing, visiting Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada, before returning to Long Beach on May 7.

Now, the ship will actually be sailing from Long Beach one week earlier, with a 7-night cruise departing on April 25, 2024, with port visits to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas.

This is a shock and a disappointment to many guests who had specifically booked the May 2 sailing because it was advertised and promoted as the ship’s inaugural cruise, an event that is a special one in any ship’s operational lifetime. Now, those guests find themselves booked on the ship’s second sailing instead.

Carnival Firenze Cruise Ship
Upcoming Carnival Firenze Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Mlle Sonyah)

Furthermore, the original inaugural, now the ship’s second cruise, is a shorter sailing, and only has a first visit to one port of call – Ensenada, Mexico – as Carnival Firenze will visit Cabo San Lucas the week before on the new “first” cruise.

Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald has responded to guest outcry with reassurances that both sailings will be equally special, with the same inaugural activities and celebrations onboard.

“Both the first two cruises will be very very special and on a very special ship,” Heald said. “I realize some of you feel a little disappointed that you are no longer on the first cruise but the second cruise will be equally as special.”

Heald has promised to work on the details for both sailings and communicate with guests about what to expect onboard to celebrate Carnival Firenze joining the Fun Ship fleet.

What to Expect on an Inaugural Sailing

A cruise ship’s inaugural sailing is much more than just a first cruise. There is prestige and distinction attached to the idea of the being the “first” to set sail aboard a new vessel, and many celebratory activities are generally planned for an inaugural voyage.

This may include special guests and cruise line executives onboard, as well as one-time-only shows or performances, celebratory menus, and other distinctive events. Passengers often receive commemorative gifts for inaugural sailings, and there may be ceremonies and other festivities arranged at ports of call the first time a new ship visits.

Carnival Firenze
Render Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

So, can a ship have two “inaugural” cruises? By definition, the word “inaugural” means first or beginning. Some interpretations might include a full season of cruise ship sailings as a vessel’s inaugural season, or that different types of a cruises – a first 7-night and a first 5-night – both have elements of an inaugural voyage.

By a very strict definition, Costa Cruises travelers could argue that the ship’s inaugural voyage was actually in July 2021 when the vessel first welcomed guests as Costa Firenze. While the ship is being transferred between fleets and restyled as Carnival Firenze, the hull is not being substantively changed, only some interior details and venues are being rebranded.

Different ships often undergo similar changes through different dry dock upgrades years after first setting sail. For example, Carnival Freedom recently underwent a 16-day dry dock that changed her hull livery, gave her a new whale tail funnel, expanded the onboard casino, and added the Heroes Tribute Bar & Lounge to the vessel.

Yet Carnival Freedom is not enjoying a new inaugural cruise despite such changes. Guests have been able to enjoy the first post-dry-dock cruise, but it is not considered an inaugural sailing.

Should You Book an Inaugural Cruise?

It is not uncommon for inaugural cruises to be changed. While more often, an inaugural voyage will be postponed due to delays in a ship’s construction and delivery – delays which may be announced only weeks before sailing, with no time for booked guests to reschedule – there are times when a ship can enter service sooner than expected, and inaugural cruises are moved up.

Guests booked on first-ever sailings should be aware of the possibility of such changes, and be flexible with their travel expectations.

Furthermore, inaugural cruises may not be as glamorous as envisioned, as it is not unheard of for some of a ship’s details to be incomplete even as she sets sail.

Carnival Firenze Cruise Ship
Render Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

For example, when Norwegian Viva first launched in August 2023, her main production shows were not ready for performances, and though the ship was welcoming guests, those first travelers did not get to enjoy the vessel’s full experiences.

Inaugural sailings may also experience unusual glitches, such as the unexpected indoor rainfall aboard Wonder of the Seas when that Royal Caribbean ship first set sail.

And of course, the most famous inaugural sailing of all was also one no cruise guest wants to try for themselves, when the infamous Titanic sank on her first cruise. Carnival Firenze is sure to deliver more fun and amazing experiences for her guests, whenever they set sail!

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