New Carnival ship sets sail on maiden voyage, first to cruise from Port Canaveral


PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. (WESH/AP) — The first cruise ship to set sail from Port Canaveral with paying customers since the start of the pandemic in the U.S. in March 2020 was leaving on a seven-day journey.

Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras ship had about 70% of its normal 5,282-passenger capacity on its maiden voyage through the Caribbean. It left the Florida Space Coast port on Saturday night.

There wasn’t a “test sailing” for this or other Carnival cruises that returned to the seas July 3, because this is considered a “vaccine cruise” under CDC recommendations.

Everyone must show proof of vaccination, or get COVID testing at a cost of $150 per person.

The goal is to have 95% of passengers and 98% of crew vaccinated.

Christine Duffy, the company’s president, promises the Mardi Gras will set the industry standard for health and safety.

“We believe that this will eventually be worked out in a way that allows us to continue sailing which is what we are doing,” she said.

Travel agents tell our NBC affiliate WESH, from what they see, their customers will trust the cruise companies with their health.

“Yes, I think they should feel very safe. I have seen a lot of safety protocols since I got on the ship,” June Black, agent for Dream Vacations Travel, said.

“It seems like it’s more than it is but it’s really easy. It’s a quick form to fill out, check boxes, sign it, and bring it with you,” Marie Chiaino, with Salty Cruises & Travels Merritt Island, said.

The Port Canaveral CEO is confident in the coronavirus measures being taken, for the sake of the industry, and local port workers.

“You have to remember none of the cruise lines want to have a ship go out and have a COVID-19 outbreak on board,” CEO John Murray said.

If someone does get COVID-19, the Mardi Gras and other ships have cabins and medical teams prepared for quarantine.

Mardi Gras is the first cruise ship to have a roller coaster and it also is powered by liquid natural gas, a first for a cruise ship in the Americas.

Mardi Gras was the fifth Carnival Cruise Line ship to resume service.

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