Carnival is one of the largest and most popular cruise lines in the world. More than 20 ships in its fleet sail 365 days a year all over the world, with new ships always being developed and new itineraries being explored.
Yet even while Carnival Cruise Line adds newer, larger, and more advanced ships to its fleet, older ships are quietly transferred, sold, or scrapped when they can no longer be sufficiently upgraded or updated for today’s Fun Ship experience. So which vessels are the former Carnival Cruise ships, and where are they now?
In This Article…
Carnival’s very first ship was originally built in 1961 as RMS Empress of Canada for Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd. In 1972, she was purchased by Carnival Cruise Line and renamed Mardi Gras, serving loyally until 1993. At that time, the ship was sold to Eprotiki Line and renamed Olympic.
Over the years, she was renovated and renamed repeatedly, being called Star of Texas, Lucky Star, and Apollon at different times in her career. In 2000 she was laid up in Greece, and in 2001 reentered service for 3-4 night sailings throughout the Greek Isles. In 2003, the ship was finally sold for scrap.
The name of the ship does live on with Carnival’s first Excel-class LNG-powered Mardi Gras cruise ship, which was delivered to the cruise line at the end of 2020.
Built in 1956, this ship was originally RMS Empress of Britain for Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd. In 1964, she became SS Queen Anna Maria of the Greek Line, and in 1976 she was sold to Carnival and rebranded as the second Fun Ship.
In 1993, as newer ships were being built exclusively for Carnival Cruise Line, Carnivale was transferred to Fiesta Marina Cruises, then a subsidiary line of Carnival Cruise Line intended to service a Spanish-speaking market.
She served as the line’s only ship under the name SS Fiesta Marina, but was sold in 1994 to Epirotiki Line when Fiesta Marina Cruises was discontinued. When she joined Epirotiki Line, she was renamed Olympic, and in 1996, she was transferred to Royal Olympic Cruises.
In 1997, the ship was sold to Thomson Holidays and renamed The Topaz, then in 2008 it became the Peace Boat of Topaz International. In 2008 the ship was laid up, and while it was at anchor it suffered significant damage and was eventually scrapped in India.
Originally built as RMS Transvaal Castle in 1961, this ship had several names with sales and transfers to different lines until it was eventually sold to Carnival Cruise Line in 1977. She was rebranded, updated, and entered service as Festivale in 1978, after being converted from serving primarily as a cargo vessel with only very limited passenger capacity.
In 1998, Festivale was purchased by Premier Cruise Line and became Big Red Boat III. The line, however, went bankrupt in 2000, and the ship had become dilapidated and was not considered worth additional upgrades or renovations. She was sold for scrap in 2003.
The first ship ordered specifically for Carnival Cruise Line, Tropicale was under construction in 1981 and entered service with the fleet in 1982, the first vessel to bear the line’s distinctive “whale tale” funnel.
In 2001, the ship was transferred to Costa Cruises and renamed Costa Tropicale until 2005, when she was transferred again, this time to P&O Cruises and renamed yet again to become Pacific Star.
In 2008 the ship was sold to Pullmantur Cruises to become Ocean Dream, and in 2012 she was chartered by Peace Boat for their mission of raising awareness internationally for human rights, sustainability, environmental protection, and other global causes.
In late 2020, it was announced that the ship, along with another vessel in the Peace Boat fleet, was to be replaced with a larger ship, and Ocean Dream was sold for scrap in early 2021.
Built in 1985, Holiday underwent several major renovations during her service in the Carnival fleet. One of the largest was in 2003 and again in 2005, after she was used as temporary housing for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In November 2009 the ship was officially retired from Carnival Cruise Line and transferred to Ibero Cruises as MS Grand Holiday, receiving a new paint job and entering service with her new parent line in 2010.
In 2014 the ship was sold to Cruise & Maritime Voyages and renamed Magellan, entering her new family in spring 2015 as the line’s flagship.
Though she was replaced as flagship in 2017, she served the line proudly until the global shutdown of operations in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In early 2021, the ship was auctioned off and scrapped at the Alang Ship Breaking Yard in India.
This ship debuted for Carnival Cruise Line in 1986 and served well until 2004, when she was transferred to P&O Cruises Australia and renamed Pacific Sun. At that time, the wings were removed from her iconic funnel and she was repainted.
In the summer of 2012 the ship was sold to the Asian line HNA Cruises and renamed Henna. That line shut down in November 2015, and the former Jubilee was laid up as a buyer was sought. None was found, however, and the ship was scrapped in the spring of 2017.
Built in 2015, this ship was part of the Carnival fleet until 2008 when she was retired to Ibero Cruises and renamed Grand Celebration. In 2014 she was transferred again, this time moving to Costa Cruises to become Costa Celebration.
Before her inaugural voyage with that line, however, she was purchased by Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line and instead retained her name of Grand Celebration. She kept her iconic funnel, but was repainted.
She debuted with that line in early 2015 and sailed two-night cruises to the Bahamas year-round, until the cruise line suspended operations in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the cruise line struggled with debt during the shutdown, Grand Celebration was sold for scrap, and she was officially broken up in March 2021.
Carnival Destiny is relatively unique among Carnival’s former fleet. The ship was launched as Carnival Destiny in 1996. In 2013, she underwent the line’s largest ever refit that renewed nearly every guest area onboard, for a cost of $155 million.
Decks were expanded, more than 150 additional cabins were added and much of the ship’s layout was altered to incorporate new lounges, bars, and dining venues. Because of the scope of the redesign and renovations, the decision was made to completely rename the ship to Carnival Sunshine. Today, the ship still sails with the Carnival fleet, but as Carnival Sunshine rather than Carnival Destiny.
Similar to Carnival Destiny, Carnival Triumph has ceased to exist as an original ship after being refit to join the Sunshine class of vessels. Carnival Triumph was originally in the Destiny class, and first set sail in October 1999.
Her most notorious moment in the spotlight was in February 2013, when an engine room fire resulted in power and propulsion losses, and the ship was adrift for several days before being towed to Mobile, Alabama. Despite that incident, the ship served the cruise line well until her renovation and rebirth in 2019.
That $200 refurbishment included the addition of new dining, bars, and entertainment options, the adults-only Serenity area, the WaterWorks aqua park, and the energetic SportSquare facilities. Because the renovation was so extensive, the ship was renamed Carnival Sunrise, and continues to sail today under that new name and identity.
The third and final vessel to undergo the Sunshine-class upgrade, Carnival Victory first entered the fleet in October 2000. Like Carnival Destiny and Carnival Triumph before her, Carnival Victory was treated to an extensive upgrade and refurbishment.
The renovations had initially been scheduled for April 2020, but work was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic that not only ceased worldwide cruise operations, but also paused shipyard work. The $200 million upgrade was finally completed in Cadiz, Spain, in December 2021.
While the ship was out of service, there were unfounded rumors that she was to be scrapped, but instead the renovated ship – now Carnival Radiance – was the first of her class to receive the updated red, white, and blue livery that debuted with Mardi Gras in June 2021. Today, Carnival Radiance continues to delight guests as part of the Fun Ship fleet, though Carnival Victory has passed into history.
The first of the new class built exclusively for Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Fantasy debuted in 1990 and would spend 30 years happily sailing for the Fun Ship fleet. During her three decades of sailing, the ship was updated and renovated several times, bringing new features to eager passengers, and always offering amazing voyages for passengers who grew to love all the Fantasy-class vessels.
In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced a pause on global cruise operations, Carnival Fantasy was removed from service, and in July 2020 it was announced that the ship would be sold as part of fleet modernization plans.
Worth Reading: Looking Back at the Carnival Fantasy Cruise Ship
Those plans had already been in place before the pandemic, but the operational shutdown accelerated the timeline for retiring older, less efficient ships. At that time, Carnival Fantasy was the oldest ship in the Carnival fleet. She was sold for scrap in August 2020, and eventually taken to the Aliaga Ship Breaking Facility in Turkey for dismantling.
The fourth of the Fantasy-class vessels, Carnival Fascination – originally named simply Fascination before all ships had the Carnival prefix added to their names in 2007 – joined the fleet in July 1994. She underwent multiple upgrades and refurbishments during her time with Carnival.
Her most notable achievement was in 2017, when Carnival Fantasy housed relief workers offering aid in the U.S. Virgin Islands after the region was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. After that service, Carnival Fantasy received what would be her final upgrade with Carnival in early 2018.
During the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, it was announced that the ship would be retired and would not return to service. Unlike other Fantasy-class vessels, however, Carnival Fascination was sold to another cruise line when Century Cruises acquired the ship in November 2020.
At first it was rumored that she might be converted to a floating hotel, but it was later announced that she would be renamed Century Harmony to set sail in the Asian market.
The ship entered dry dock for refurbishment, but that renovation was incomplete as the local cruise industry restart continued to be delayed in 2021. Eventually, the ship was sold for scrap, and was beached in February 2022 to be dismantled.
Another Fantasy-class vessel, Carnival Imagination first sparked the imagination of guests when she debuted in 1995. She was the fifth of the sister ships in the class, and served the crise line well throughout the years.
In July 2011, Carnival Imagination had a minor incident with her sister ship, Carnival Fantasy, when the two ships collided in Key West while Carnival Imagination was berthed, resulting in stern damage but no injuries.
During her service life, the ship typically sailed short itineraries to Mexico, Catalina, Ensenada, and The Bahamas, depending on where she was homeported at the time, and she was upgraded several times with new and popular features. In August 2020, the ship was sold as part of the fleet’s modernization plans, and she was scrapped in Aliaga, Turkey.
Carnival Inspiration inspired many cruisers to love the Fun Ship fleet when she first set sail in 1996. She served the fleet well, offering a wide range of itineraries through the years, but ultimately the Fantasy-class vessel was part of the cruise line’s modernization plans during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.
She was listed for sale and became the second of the line’s vessels to be sold for scrap in July 2020, after Carnival Fantasy. Like her sister ships undergoing the same sudden retirement, Carnival Inspiration was first stripped of valuable materials while in Curacao in early July 2020, then sent along to be sustainably recycled and scrapped in Aliaga, Turkey.
When each of the ships is scrapped, materials may be reused in new ships – such as the new designs in Carnival Celebration – used for repairs to other vessels, or refined to be used in other projects.
The third of the Fantasy-class vessels, Carnival Sensation debuted in 1993, serving well over the years from a variety of homeports, sailing to the Caribbean, The Bahamas, and Cuba.
In late August 2005, the ship was chartered to house residents impacted by Hurricane Katrina, as well as relief workers in the region devastated by the Category 5 hurricane.
During the global pandemic pause and even after some Carnival ships began to sail again, Carnival Sensation remained out of passenger service and instead served as housing for crew members transitioning in and out of isolation periods and quarantine.
It was planned that she would return to service in Mobile, Alabama, but in February 2022 it was decided that the ship would be retired instead, and she was likely quickly sold for scrap.
From her debut in her 1991, Carnival Ecstasy, another of the Fantasy-class vessels, delighted millions of passengers, and will continue to do so until she is retired in October 2022, an announcement that was made in February as different Carnival ships were redeployed to cover different itineraries as other ships were scrapped
At the time of her retirement she will be the oldest in the Carnival fleet, and enjoyed various refits and updates throughout her lifespan, the most recent of which was in October 2019.
She is the only Fantasy-class vessel to have the honor of a final sailing season, offering guests the opportunity to revisit the ship if they have fond memories of her, or to sail on her for the first time and make memories before she leaves the fleet.
Carnival Ecstasy’s final voyage is planned to be a 5-day sailing departing from Mobile, Alabama on October 10, visiting Cozumel and Progreso in Mexico, with one day at sea to begin the voyage and another to end the trip. While Carnival Ecstasy is not yet a “former” ship, her end is confirmed and she will undoubtedly be given good treatment in her final days before her retirement.
What Ships May Become Former Ships Next?
Today, the oldest ships still happily sailing in the Carnival fleet with no retirement plans are the remaining Fantasy-class vessels, two of the original eight sister ships that were built for the line from 1990-1998.
Both Carnival Paradise and Carnival Elation have been updated and feature the line’s new Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades, and they sail a variety of itineraries in different seasons.
With the extensive renovations these ships have undergone in recent years, plus their unique position capitalizing on shorter itineraries, it is unlikely that they may will be retired or transferred in the near future, though any changes or redeployments are always possible.
The cruise market continues to evolve into a post-pandemic structure, and Carnival Cruise Line is at the forefront of that evolution as it debuts new itineraries, new features, and new ships for passengers to enjoy.
Undoubtedly more ships will be retired in the years to come, but they will always sail merrily on in the memories of the millions of passengers who have enjoyed their long service.