The much-awaited Carnival Mardi Gras cruise ship, the lead ship in Carnival’s Excel class, is currently the largest cruise ship in Carnival’s fleet and, as such, is filled with all the bells and whistles, amenities, and activities that you expect from a mega-ship geared toward family fun in the sun.
If you’re planning to book a Mardi Gras cruise in the near future — or are just interested in what Mardi Gras could offer you and your traveling family — keep reading. We’re breaking down everything you need to know about this mammoth cruise ship.
In This Article…
Mardi Gras Ship Stats
Mardi Gras’s size is nothing to scoff at. As mentioned, this is the largest ship in Carnival’s fleet, but it also ranks pretty well compared to other mega-ships around the world. At publishing date, Mardi Gras is the ninth-largest cruise ship in the world, outranked by seventh-place ship AIDAnova from AIDA Cruises by a mere 2,000 or so GT.
So just how big is Mardi Gras?
- Gross Tonnage: 180,800
- Length: 1,130 feet (340 meters)
- Passenger Decks: 15
- Guest Capacity: 5,282
- Maximum Guest Capacity: 6,500
- Crew Capacity: 1,735
Construction and Delays
The Carnival Mardi Gras cruise ship has been a long time coming. For avid cruisers, they may feel like this ship has been in the works for years and years — and, well, it technically has.
Carnival first signed with a Finnish shipbuilder for the vessel in 2016, with a projected delivery date of 2020. And while the ship was indeed delivered in 2020, many delays occurred along the process, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shipyard fires, which pushed the ship’s debut date from summer 2020 to summer 2021.
The ship’s design incorporates all of the latest and greatest in cruising. The ship features, as mentioned, 19 decks, with the ship separated into several themed “zones.” The upper decks are filled with fun activities and amenities, including the first ship-board roller coaster, a part of Carnival’s Ultimate Playground (but more on that in a minute).
The ship was also built to be powered via LNG, marking another first for the vessel, as it’s the first LNG-powered ship that will call North America home.
But, once the ship was constructed, it needed a home and this required additional construction. Carnival’s Mardi Gras cruise ship will be situated at Port Canaveral, in Florida, but in order to accommodate the ship, the port needed to build a new terminal.
The new terminal, at 188,000 square feet, two stories, and $163 million to build, was the largest project ever undertaken by the port. The port was completed in summer 2020, ready to welcome Mardi Gras, but the ship just recently arrived at the port for the first time, sailing from Barcelona to Florida, arriving in early June 2021. Starting July 31, 2021, Mardi Gras will offer, at first, once-weekly Caribbean sailings.
Staterooms and Suites
With more than 2,500 total guest staterooms, cruisers certainly won’t be left wanting for options when booking their cruises aboard Mardi Gras. These staterooms include…
- 82 handicap-accessible staterooms
- 181 suites, ranging from two Excel presidential suites to the more familiar Havana Cabana suites and family harbor suites, for options from 11 different suite styles
- More than 1,400 balcony staterooms
Some of these staterooms and suites will feel familiar to long-time Carnival cruisers, but others, like the Carnival Excel suites, are entirely new. Excel suites are available across four different Excel categories, for 32 Excel suites in total. These new, luxury suites are some of the largest available on the ship and include…
- Two Carnival Excel presidential suites (with separate living, dining and sleeping areas; huge balconies; a private outdoor hot tub and shower; and access to the spa and Havana pool)
- 12 Carnival Excel aft suites (with separate living and sleeping areas; wrap-around balconies; private outdoor hot tubs; and outdoor dining areas)
- 12 Carnival Excel corner suites (also with separate living and sleeping areas, as well as ample outdoor space)
- 6 Carnival Excel basic suites (likewise with separate sleeping, dining and living spaces)
Those who stay in any suite aboard Mardi Gras, though, will enjoy extra amenities that you may not have enjoyed on past Carnival cruises. They include:
- Access to the new Loft 19 space
- 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
- Upgraded bath amenities
So what is the new Loft 19, you ask? This new special space for suite guests only is similar to many VIP spaces that we frequently see across new ships these days. Loft 19 will feature a full bar, private pool and cabanas (with cabana rentals offered to Excel suite guests first), and provides cruisers a quieter, more relaxed space to enjoy the pool and sunbathing, without visiting the ship’s main pool areas.
But whatever stateroom you book for a Mardi Gras cruise, whether a suite or otherwise, you can expect modern furnishings, a calming gray and blue color palette, more ample storage space and a luxury resort-style feel.
When it comes to dining aboard Mardi Gras, expect Carnival classics and favorites, but also a few new options.
Mardi Gras dining venues include…
- Rudi’s Seagrill
- Street Eats
- Emeril’s Bistro 1396
- Big Chicken
- Bonsai Teppanyaki
- Bonsai Sushi
- Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse
- The Seafood Shack
- Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse
- Cucina Del Capitano
- Guy’s Burger Joint
- BlueIguana Cantina
- JiJi Asian Kitchen
- Lido Marketplace
- JavaBlue Cafe
- Pizzeria del Capitano
- Cherry on Top
- And, of course, the ship’s main dining room
The newcomers on this list, you may have noticed, include Rudi’s Seagrill, which is a chef-led restaurant that focuses on all things seafood.
Street Eats is an ever-changing, open-air eatery option that’s intended to have a food truck vibe. There are separate counters offering up options like bao buns, pot stickers, kebabs, satays and french fries.
Emeril’s Bistro 1396 is celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s first restaurant at sea, serving up the Creole cuisine that Emeril is known for.
Big Chicken is a celebrity-branded restaurant made possible via a partnership with Shaq that serves southern-style fried chicken dinners.
Chibang! is also a new two-in-one dining concept for Carnival Cruise Line. This venue will offer Chinese and Mexican cuisines along with decor inspired by the two cultures. The venue will usually carry a dinner-time reservations fee or a la carte pricing.
Otherwise, you’ll spot long-time favorites serving up a variety of cuisines, from the Lido Marketplace buffet to the American-style, formal Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse.
Bars and Lounges
While there are many, many different spots to grab a bite to eat and a drink aboard Mardi Gras, there are still some other spots to exclusively wet your whistle.
Mardi Gras’s bars and lounges include…
- The Brass Magnolia (for an upscale New Orleans-inspired atmosphere)
- Fortune Teller (for eccentric cocktail creations)
- Havana Bar (for a Cuban-style experience)
- RedFrog Tiki Bar (serving South Pacific-style cocktails)
- Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse’s Brewhouse (so you can grab an exclusive craft beer alongside your barbecue)
- Alchemy Bar (for mixologist-made cocktails)
- The Piano Bar (which is exactly what it sounds like, for live piano music and singing along)
- The Casino Bar (for drinks while you enjoy a spot of gambling)
- Heroes Tribute Bar & Lounge (a patriotic bar and lounge dedicated to U.S. veterans)
- Limelight Lounge (for karaoke and dancing late into the night)
- Bar Della Rossa (for Italian-inspired cocktails and coffee)
First Roller Coaster at Sea
One of the most talked-about features aboard Mardi Gras is the first roller coaster at sea, dubbed BOLT and part of the ship’s open-air recreation area, called the Ultimate Playground.
BOLT, with its all-electric, motorcycle-style vehicles, features an electric bolt theme (of course). It traverses an 800-foot track that climbs and crawls, dips and swings over the deck at up to 40 miles per hour, sometimes reaching as much as 187 feet above the ocean. A unique feature allows guests to choose their own ride speed, allowing for greater personalization of the experience.
But below BOLT, cruisers will find the Ultimate Playground, which is one of the six themed “zones” on the ship (more on that in a minute).
The Ultimate Playground will include the largest WaterWorks water park in the entire Carnival fleet, with three water slides, including the 312-foot Blue Lightning, the 229-foot Orange Thunder, and the well-known Carnival Twister water slide.
The Ultimate Playground also includes a SportSquare sports complex, a 600-foot ropes course (which is also the longest ropes course for Carnival’s fleet), a mini-golf course, basketball court, and outdoor fitness areas.
But Mardi Gras’s new features and fun ways to play go beyond the Ultimate Playground. There are five other ship zones to explore, after all! All six Mardi Gras zones include…
- Grand Central, the mid-ship atrium with expansive views and plenty of action, regardless of the hour
- French Quarter, a New Orleans-inspired zone with live music (jazz, of course!) and plenty of restaurants
- 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 and hot tubs
- Lido, the place to go for all of your classic Carnival favorite restaurants
- The Ultimate Playground, spanning decks 18-20 this is the zone for for Carnival WaterWorks, SportsSquare and the BOLT Roller Coaster.
Other spaces offering a bevy of onboard activities include…
- The Family Harbor Lounge, an exclusive space for Family Harbor Stateroom guests, with family-friendly offerings, such as video game consoles and movie showings
- Camp Ocean, the marine-themed children’s program, with daily activities for kids ages 2 to 11
- Circle C and Club O2, Carnival’s spaces exclusive for preteens and teens, respectively
- Cloud 9 Spa, with its adjacent fitness center, cycling studio and salon; the spa encompasses multiple saunas, treatment rooms, hot tubs, a thalassotherapy pool, experience showers, dry heat chambers and more
- The Mardi Gras Theater, offering regular, Broadway-style shows, but also seminars and games on sea days
- Punchliner Comedy Club, for standup comedy, including both family-friendly and adult-oriented sets
- The Fun Shops, your one stop for shopping aboard the ship, with retailers offering a range of luxury goods, from jewelry to perfume to spirits
- Carnival Kitchen, which offers cooking classes and tastings hosted by chefs
- Mardi Gras Casino and Bar, for the full gaming and casino experience
- The Havana Pool Area, an exclusive space for Havana Stateroom guests, featuring a bar and small pool
- The Summer Landings Pool Area, with an infinity pool, two hot tubs and expansive seating
- The Beach Pool, with a salt water pool and hot tub
- The Tides Pool and Bar, with a salt water pool, two hot tubs, bar and loungers
Ready to Book Your Carnival Mardi Gras Cruise?
This ship is packed with all of the latest and greatest amenities and activities from the Carnival brand. If you want the best of the best in Carnival cruising this season, you’ll want to book your vacation on this ship.
Mardi Gras is the ninth-largest cruise ship in the world, with a 180,800 GT; length of 1,130 feet (340 meters); 15 passenger decks; capacity for 5,282 passengers at double occupancy; capacity for 6,500 passengers at maximum capacity; a crew of 2,000 individuals; and 2,641 total guest staterooms, including more than 175 suites.
Starting July 31, 2021, Mardi Gras will offer, at first, once-weekly Caribbean sailings.
The original Mardi Gras ship was launched under a different name in 1960, before becoming a Carnival ship and gaining the Mardi Gras name in 1972. Carnival sold the ship in 1993, after which the ship was scrapped in 2003.