48 Years of Fun: A History of Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line is the most successful cruise line in the world, carrying more passengers than any other.
But the Carnival of today is a vastly different company than the one started from humble beginnings more than four decades ago. Carnival was launched with a converted transatlantic ocean liner and a dream of entrepreneur Ted Arison, a pioneer in the modern-day cruise industry who set out to realize his vision of making a vacation experience once reserved for the very rich accessible to the average person.
The rest, as they say, is history.
1972 – Maiden voyage of Carnival’s first ship, the TSS Mardi Gras, which runs aground on sandbar outside the Port of Miami
1975 – Carnival purchases Empress of Britain, enters service as the TSS Carnivale
1978 – The Festivale, formerly the S.A. Vaal, undergoes $30 million refurbishment, begins service for Carnival as the largest and fastest vessel sailing from Miami to the Caribbean
1982 – Debut of the Tropicale, the first new cruise ship the cruise industry has seen in many years; ship marks the beginning of an industry-wide multi-billion-dollar shipbuilding boom
1984 – Carnival becomes first cruise line to advertise on network T.V. with the premiere of new advertising campaign starring company spokesperson Kathie Lee Gifford (then Johnson)
1985 – Debut of 46,052-ton Holiday
1986 – Launch of 47,262-ton Jubilee
1987 – The 47,262-ton Celebration enters service
Carnival earns distinction as “Most Popular Cruise Line in the World,” carrying more passengers than any other
Carnival Cruise Lines undertakes its initial public offering on Wall Street, raising approximately $400 million to fuel future expansion; entity later becomes Carnival Corporation & plc, a multi-line worldwide cruise conglomerate.
1990 – The 70,367-ton Carnival Fantasy – the first and namesake vessel in the highly successful “Fantasy-class” — enters service as first new ship ever placed on three- and four-day Bahamas cruise program from Miami. Eventually, Carnival would construct eight “Fantasy-class” vessels, the most cruise ships in a single class.
1991 – Launch of 70,367-ton Carnival Ecstasy
1993 – Carnival introduces its third 70,367-ton SuperLiner, Carnival Sensation
1994 – Debut of 70,367-ton Carnival Fascination
Carnival’s parent company renamed Carnival Corporation to distinguish between it and its flagship brand, Carnival Cruise Lines. Company is later renamed Carnival Corp. & plc following the combination with P&O Princess Cruises, creating the world’s largest cruise operator by far.
1995 – 70,367-ton Carnival Imagination enters service
1996 – Carnival’s launches sixth “Fantasy-class” vessel, Carnival Inspiration
Carnival debuts the first passenger vessel to exceed 100,000 tons, the 101,353-ton Carnival Destiny, at the time the world’s largest cruise ship. The ship is later transformed with a $155 million makeover and renamed Carnival Sunshine, entering service in 2013.
1998 – Introduction of seventh “Fantasy-class” vessel, Carnival Elation, the first new Carnival Cruise Line ship ever deployed on the West Coast.
The eighth and last in the “Fantasy-class” series, Carnival Paradise, enters service
1999 – Debut of the 102,000-ton Carnival Triumph, Carnival’s second “Destiny-class” vessel. The ship is scheduled to undergo a massive refurbishment next year and renamed Carnival Sunrise, the second in the line’s Sunshine-class.
2000 – A third “Destiny-class” vessel, the 102,000-ton Carnival Victory, is launched.
2001 – Carnival introduces a new class of vessel with the launch of the 88,500-ton Carnival Spirit, the first new “Fun Ship” ever positioned in the Alaska and Hawaii markets
2002 – A second “Spirit-class” vessel, the Carnival Pride, is launched
Carnival’s third “Spirit-class” ship, Carnival Legend, enters service
Debut of the 110,000-ton Carnival Conquest, beginning a new class of vessel for the line.
2003 – Second 110,000-ton “Conquest-class” ship, the Carnival Glory, enter service
2004 – Carnival Miracle, the fourth in Carnival’s “Spirit-class,” debuts
A third 110,000-ton “Conquest-class” ship, Carnival Valor, sets sail
2005 – A fourth 110,000-ton “Conquest-class” vessel, Carnival Liberty, enters service operating Carnival’s first-ever Mediterranean cruise program.
2007 – Debut of Carnival’s fifth “Conquest-class” vessel, Carnival Freedom
2008 – The new 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor enters service, representing a new class of ship for the line
2009 – The 130,000-ton Carnival Dream – at the time, largest “Fun Ship” ever constructed – is introduced in Europe.
2011 – A second 130,000-ton ship, Carnival Magic, enters service.
2012 – A third 130,000-ton ship, Carnival Breeze, debuts.
2013 – The totally renovated Carnival Sunshine (the former Carnival Destiny) debuts following a massive 75-day, $155 million makeover that is the largest refurbishment project in the company’s history.
2016 – The largest “Fun Ship” ever constructed – the 133,500-ton, 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista – is introduced offering a number of unique innovations including an onboard brewery, the SkyRide aerial attraction and the first IMAX Theatre at sea.
2018 – A second Vista-class ship, Carnival Horizon, enters service.
2019 – The totally renovated Carnival Sunrise (the former Carnival Triumph) is introduced in May 2019 following a massive makeover. In December of 2019 Carnival Panorama, the third Vista-class ship, debuted from Long Beach, the first new Carnival Cruise Line ship on the West Coast in more than 20 years.
2021 – Mardi Gras, a new class of 180,000-ton ship and the first Carnival ship ever powered by Liquefied Natural Gas is slated to enter service in February 2021.  Carnival Radiance, formerly the Carnival Victory, is slated to enter service in April following a $200 million renovation.
2022 –Carnival Cruise Line will celebrate its 50th anniversary and a second 180,000-ton LNG ship is set to debut in 2022.