At a space-themed ceremony, the Canaveral Port Authority and longtime cruise partner Carnival Cruise Line officially broke ground for construction of Port Canaveral’s new Cruise Terminal 3 complex. The new terminal, dubbed the Launch Pad, will be the home of Mardi Gras, the cruise line’s newest and most innovative ship, beginning in 2020. Port Authority Commissioners and the Port’s leadership team joined Carnival Cruise Line executives for the ceremonial groundbreaking at the project site as NASA’s “Spaceman” planted a Carnival Cruise Line flag on a simulated lunar landscape.
The event theme, “Go for Launch,” was a nod to the Port’s key role with the U.S. space program and the terminal’s futuristic design, which was inspired by nearby Kennedy Space Center. The $163 million terminal project – the largest in the Port’s 65-year history – is scheduled for completion in May 2020 and will be ready for the arrival of Mardi Gras to her year-round Port Canaveral homeport in October 2020.
“Today’s groundbreaking is a historic milestone for our Port and underscores the long-standing partnership we have with Carnival,” Port CEO Capt. John Murray said. “The trust and confidence we’ve earned with our great cruise partner has been the foundation of success and we are excited for what the future holds. We’re building a great new terminal, for an innovative new ship, and looking forward to welcoming home Mardi Gras.”
Added Carnival President Christine Duffy, “We began our operations from Port Canaveral nearly 30 years go – coincidentally with our original ship of the same name. We’ve had a great relationship with Port Canaveral during that time and we’re proud, honored and excited that our newest and most innovative ship, Mardi Gras, will sail from the new Terminal 3. We are pleased to be the port’s number one cruise line and Mardi Gras promises to be a spectacular addition to the Space Coast.”
Port Canaveral and Carnival Cruise Line executives held a “pre-launch mission” news conference complete with a mock countdown, then grabbed shovels on the terminal construction site for the ceremonial first dig to officially kick off construction. Participants included Wayne Justice, Canaveral Port Authority Commissioner; Christine Duffy, President, Carnival Cruise Line; Capt. John Murray, Port Canaveral CEO; Micah Loyd, Canaveral Port Authority Commission Chairman; Jerry Allender, Canaveral Port Authority Commissioner; Rocky Johnson, Vice President, Ivey’s Construction Inc.; and Scott Bakos, Partner with Bermello Ajamil & Partners Inc., a Miami firm providing architecture and engineering design work for the project.
“We are proud to be building this state-of-the-art facility and looking forward to providing Carnival’s cruise guests with a first-class guest experience,” Port Commissioner Wayne Justice said. “Building the new cruise terminal, like each of our construction projects at Port Canaveral, is an investment in building our community.”
The contract to build the two-story, 187,000 sq. ft. terminal facility and adjacent six-story parking garage was awarded to Merritt Island, Florida-based Ivey’s Construction. The terminal will feature a high-tech baggage processing facility and a state-of-the-art check-in and security area on its second floor, with kiosks and seating for 1,700 guests. The six-story 692,000 sq. ft. parking garage will accommodate 1,800 vehicles.
Construction of the cruise terminal’s marine facility got underway last year with a contract awarded to Titusville, Florida-based contractor RUSH Marine to remove the existing pier structures at the site and build a new 1,309-foot-long berth for Mardi Gras. Substantial completion of the project is scheduled for December 2019.
Port Canaveral’s Launch Pad will be homeport to Carnival’s largest and most innovative cruise ship, Mardi Gras, which will be powered by liquified natural gas (LNG) – part of Carnival Corporation’s “green cruising” platform. Mardi Gras will be the first cruise ship in North America to be powered by this clean fuel technology. Port Canaveral has worked with federal, state and local public safety and regulatory officials to ensure the Port’s safety readiness for the ship’s arrival. Fuel providers will employ widely used and proven safe best practices of a ship-to-ship “bunkering” refueling, which is regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Currently under construction in Meyer Turku, Finland, Mardi Gras will arrive at Port Canaveral mid-October 2020 and will feature BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea, 20 passenger decks and six distinctive theme zones of fun, dining and entertainment: Grand Central; the French Quarter with Emeril’s Bistro 1396, the first restaurant at sea created by famed New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse; La Piazza; Summer Landing; Lido; and the Ultimate Playground.
After a special eight-day cruise to the Caribbean on Oct. 16, 2020, Mardi Gras will commence year-round seven-day cruises on Oct. 24, 2020, alternating weekly to the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Eastern voyages will take Mardi Gras to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Amber Cove, Dominican Republic, and Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos, while Western sailings will travel to Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico, and Mahogany Bay (Isla Roatan), Honduras.
First-day bookings for Mardi Gras in January 2019 broke opening-day sales records for a new Carnival ship, according to the cruise line.
Carnival named its newest cruise ship after its first cruise ship. The original 27,000-ton Mardi Gras, a converted trans-Atlantic liner, entered service in 1972 and popularized cruise vacations in the United States, helping Carnival become the largest cruise company in the world today. In March 1991, the 1,241-guest Mardi Gras became one of the first Carnival ships to homeport at Port Canaveral, where she offered three- and four-day cruises to the Bahamas until she and sister ship Carnivale were replaced by the Carnival Fantasy in October 1993.
Mardi Gras’ arrival in Port Canaveral in 2020 will mark 30 years that Carnival Cruise Line has been sailing from Port Canaveral, the longest of any of the Port’s cruise partners. The Port Authority Board of Commissioners approved a long-term operating agreement with Carnival in August 2018.