Carnival: Introducing Celebration Key

Carnival Celebration in Grand Turk

The big news for Carnival Cruise Line for 2025 will be the July opening of Celebration Key. Eighteen ships sailing from 10 different homeports will be calling at Carnival’s new destination in the Bahamas, Fred Stein, vice president of planning and deployment, told Cruise Industry News.

“Our regular itinerary cycles are published through April 2026 and from the end of July (2025) through April (2026) we have over 500 calls planned for Celebration Key, meaning more than 2 million guests.

“The Mardi Gras and the Celebration, our two Excel vessels that sail from Florida, will be calling at Celebration Key on every one of their cruises.”

He added that a four-port, seven-day itinerary was created, essentially adding the new destination as a bonus port.

As a function of its proximity of the port to South Florida, the new destination will also have favorable impact on fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

Carnival ships also call at other corporate-managed destinations, including Amber Cove, Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay. The latter has been a tendering call, but a pier project is underway, which will allow ships to come alongside.

“I expect that in our next inventory cycle, which will run from May 2026 to May 2027, you’ll start seeing some calls at the new pier development at Half Moon Cay,” Stein said.

While Carnival theoretically could create itineraries calling only at its own ports, Stein said there are good reasons to go elsewhere.

“Because our guests, particularly past guests who have sailed with us before, look to explore new destinations, so we have the Carnival Celebration also going to San Juan and St. Thomas. And we call at St. Maarten and other destinations across the Caribbean. So, we offer a variety of itineraries that explore beyond the corporate managed ports.”

What can the ports do to attract ships? “They need to make sure that their destination is driving awareness,” Stein answered, “so that people want to go there. Once ports develop awareness and interest, they have to make sure they deliver experiences that resonate with guests, so they’ll want to come back.

“They should also think about our crew as they can be the best ambassadors for a destination.

“And they need to continue to evolve their infrastructure as the ships get larger.

“The easier they can make the transit in and out of the port also helps and the business dealings between us and the port in terms of booking berth space. They should just be straight-forward in how they deal with us,” he added.

For planning itineraries, Stein said the cruise line has a very high prioritization on reducing its carbon footprint, which can be achieved by sailing shorter distances or at lower speeds.

The planning window is several years out.

“Right now, we have published through April 2026, so we are focused on the next cycle, which will take us to May 2027,” Stein said. “That is what I would call our near-term planning. We also have a long-term horizon.”

Excerpt from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine Spring 2024

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