For the first time in 10 years, Carnival Spirit is setting sail from a U.S. homeport as the ship restarts operations today from Jacksonville, Florida. This is also the operational restart of passenger cruising from JaxPort, and brings cruise vacation options to eager travelers in northern Florida as well as bolstering the region’s economy with tourist travel.
Carnival Spirit Restarting Operations
Carnival Spirit is setting sail this afternoon on its Sailabration voyage, a 5-day itinerary to The Bahamas that will include a once-in-a-lifetime meetup between six Carnival ships in The Bahamas on March 9 to celebrate Carnival Cruise Line’s 50th birthday. Carnival Spirit will be joined by Carnival Conquest, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Legend, Carnival Liberty, and Carnival Sunshine, and the meetup will be at sea between Eleuthera and Nassau.
“After nearly two years, the wait is over, and the sight of our guests boarding a Carnival ship at JAXPORT once again is certainly a welcome one,” said Sarah Beth Reno, vice president of guest operations at Carnival Cruise Line. “We’re proud to be the first major cruise line to return to Jacksonville and to contribute to the Jacksonville area economy.”
This return to sailing will be marked by celebrations at the port as well, including a ceremony attended by Carnival Cruise Line Vice President of Guest Operations Sarah Beth Reno and JaxPort Chair Wendy Hamilton to welcome the first guests on board.
Now that she has restarted sailing, Carnival Spirit will be offering 4- and 5-night cruises to The Bahamas. The 4-night cruises will call on Freeport and Nassau, while the 5-night cruises will visit Nassau and Princess Cays or Nassau and Bimini, depending on the sailing date.
Carnival Spirit will be sailing from Jacksonville until May, when she will reposition to Seattle, Washington, for the summer Alaska season. At that time, Carnival Elation will return to Jacksonville to take over cruises to The Bahamas.
Carnival Spirit Returns to North America
This marks the first time Carnival Spirit has returned to North American in a decade. The namesake Spirit-class vessel joined the Fun Ship fleet in 2001 and first offered cruises from the West Coast visiting Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii, depending on the season. In the fall of 2012, the ship repositioned to Australia, becoming the first Carnival cruise ship to be permanently based outside North America.
The strong Australian cruise market ensured plenty of interest in Carnival Spirit, and she continued to offer cruises in the region until the industry-wide pandemic shutdown began in March 2020.
While suspended from cruising, Carnival Spirit was refreshed in dry dock in Dubai, and received the new red, white, and blue livery, updating her look and making her ready for sailing again.
Though it was initially believed Carnival Spirit would resume cruising in Australia as pandemic conditions eased, continued restrictions in the region kept the ship out of service into early 2022. In early February it was announced that the ship would return to North America, and her redeployment was part of the “dancing of the ships” that shuffled several vessels around at different homeports.
Carnival Cruise Line also announced that Carnival Spirit would begin sailing from Mobile, Alabama, on October 6, 2022, bringing a larger vessel to that port once Carnival Ecstasy is retired from the fleet. This indicates that the ship will not likely return to Australia in 2022 or early 2023, though further deployment changes are always possible as travel restrictions ease.
In the meantime, Carnival Spirit brings a larger, updated vessel to both Jacksonville and Mobile. The 88,500-gross ton vessel has a passenger capacity of 2,124 guests at double occupancy and a maximum capacity of 2,610 guests, larger than the Fantasy-class vessels that have previously sailed from both ports. This will create more cruise opportunities for travelers, as well as a greater economic impact for both homeports.
Carnival Spirit is the twenty-first Carnival cruise ship to restart, leaving just Carnival Paradise and Carnival Splendor to resume operations and bring the entire Fun Ship fleet sailing again. Carnival Paradise is set to resume operations from Tampa, Florida, on March 12, while Carnival Splendor will start sailing again from Seattle, Washington, on May 2.