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Carnival Cruise Line just ordered another giant new cruise ship

Carnival Jubilee Shipyard

Carnival Cruise Line announced today that the company has finalized an agreement with German shipbuilder Meyer Werft to build another giant cruise ship. The new ship is scheduled to debut in spring 2027, according to the cruise line. This fourth Excel-class cruise ship is the first new-build order placed by Carnival Corporation in five years.

This will be the fourth vessel in Carnival Cruise Line’s popular Excel Class, which is home to the company’s biggest cruise ships. Although yet to be named, Carnival’s newest ship will be a sister vessel to three other giant cruise ships in the cruise line’s Excel Class: Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration and Carnival Jubilee.

Carnival Mardi Gras

"Building on our strong performance and growing momentum around the world, we are excited to resume our newbuild program and further enhance our global fleet with yet another state-of-the-art ship that will wow Carnival Cruise Line's guests," said Josh Weinstein, CEO of Carnival Corporation.

According to the cruise line, the new mega-ship will measure 180,000 gross tons. The ship’s capacity will be similar to other Excel-class ships, holding over 6,400 guests. The cruise line also confirmed that the new vessel will also feature cutting-edge innovation, as it will be powered by LNG, or liquified natural gas.

The exciting announcement of Carnival’s expansion comes on the heels of the debut of the latest Excel Class ship, Carnival Jubilee. The highly anticipated cruise ship officially entered service for Carnival Cruise Line in December 2023 and offers sailings from Galveston, Texas.

“Our Excel-class ships have been a tremendous addition to the Carnival fleet and proven very popular with our guests,” stated Carnival Cruise Line’s president, Christine Duffy, in today’s announcement.

Carnival Celebration in Port

The debut of the Excel Class marked a maritime milestone for Carnival Cruise Line, as the company had never built a ship as big or advanced in its history. The flagship vessel, Mardi Gras, was nearly 40% bigger than anything the cruise line had built before. Following the success of Mardi Gras, Carnival Cruise Line built Carnival Celebration in 2022 and Carnival Jubilee in 2023.

"As the world's most popular cruise line, this new ship enables us to continue the growth of our incredible fleet as we welcome our loyal guests back to cruise more frequently and attract new-to-cruise guests to experience all that a Carnival cruise has to offer,” Duffy continued.

The company’s announcement also includes plans for Carnival Cruise Line to strategically grow its fleet over the next three years.

Carnival Mardi Gras

Carnival Cruise Line released three brand-new cruise ships for its Excel Class between 2021 and 2023. Following the success of this class, Carnival Cruise Line has only released plans for building one additional new cruise ship in 2025 and none in 2026.

In the announcement, Carnival Corporation’s CEO clarified that its new cruise ship would be its only newbuild order for 2027. Weinstein stated, ”Our responsible capital approach will support utilizing our substantial free cash flow over the next several years to strategically improve our balance sheet, significantly reduce our leverage levels and continue to transfer value from debt holders to shareholders,” stated Weinstein.

Starting in 2027, Carnival Corporation plans to expand its fleet capacity with one to two ships per year. According to Weinstein, the new ships will be allocated to the cruise lines that most need the additional capacity to "satisfy outsized demand." With this approach, Carnival Corporation will be able to deliver an attractive payback period on its investment. Considering the financial distress caused by the global pandemic in 2020, Carnival’s strategy is hardly surprising.

"We also remain focused on driving revenue growth throughout our portfolio of world-class cruise lines by continuing to improve execution across all aspects of our operation, yielding higher return on invested capital," said Weinstein.

The announcement of a fourth Excel Class ship implies that Carnival Cruise Line is highly in demand for cruisers.

Sailaway Party Carnival Mardi Gras

In 2023, Carnival Cruise Line’s president had announced bookings for their cruises had reached an all-time high. Like most of the cruise industry, demand for cruising has been unprecedented within the last year. Most cruise ships are sailing near full capacity with cruisers paying higher cruise fares than pre-pandemic. Capacity for 2024 is projected to be even higher than 2023 for Carnival Cruise Line.

Duffy shared in an interview with BNN Bloomberg, “I think people are really excited to be back traveling again. Our booking volume is 17% higher than it was 2019, across nine brands for Carnival Corporation. We definitely are back!”

In particular, Duffy says Carnival Cruise Line has had the highest demand in over 51 years since the cruise line’s inception. To help meet demand, Carnival Cruise Line transferred newer vessels from European sister brand Costa Cruises. With an Italian-flair Carnival Venezia joined Carnival’s fleet in 2023 and Carnival Firenze will debut in the spring of 2024 for Carnival Cruise Line.

Carnival Celebration in Port

When asked about the cruise line’s main demographic, Duffy responds, “Carnival Cruise Line specifically, we lean into being America’s cruise line. We have 14 U.S homeports. Actually, 50% of the U.S. population can drive to a Carnival cruise ship in less than five hours. That’s a huge advantage from a price standpoint.”

Carnival Cruise Line’s Excel Class is home to the biggest ships in the cruise line’s fleet.

Carnival Mardi Gras Pool DEck

While megaships are standard for the cruising industry today, Carnival Cruise Line only built its first giant cruise ships starting with Mardi Gras in 2021. In fact, the cruise line had years of stagnant ship design and innovation. While the industry shifted towards building cruise ships that bigger than ever, Carnival Cruise Line resisted the trend to build megaships for many years.

Instead, Carnival Cruise Line focused on building medium-sized vessels with very little differentiation between ship classes. The result was a fleet that lacked overall innovation and technological advancement, especially in comparison to leading competitors of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line.

This all changed with the debut of Mardi Gras, which was the flagship vessel of the Excel Class. The brand-new class would be home to Carnival Cruise Line’s most advanced cruise ships in the company’s history. Mardi Gras was built to be around 36% bigger than anything Carnival Cruise Line had built before.

Carnival Mardi Gras

The giant cruise ship had more entertainment options, eateries, staterooms and onboard thrills than anything in Carnival Cruise Line’s fleet. New dining and entertainment options debuted on Mardi Gras, much to the excitement of Carnival’s loyal guests.

Carnival Cruise Line also expanded its stateroom offerings with more suites than ever and uniquely-themed staterooms for families, Havana Club goers and spa lovers. One of the most exciting features of the Excel Class of ships was the unveiling of Bolt - the first rollercoaster at sea.

Carnival Cruise Line’s Excel Class of cruise ships are aimed to offer an incredible, yet affordable cruise vacation for families. With state-of-the-art entertainment, dining, youth programming and activities, these ships are the ultimate family vacation.

Mardi Gras was a huge hit for Carnival Cruise Line in 2021, leading the cruise line to build sister ships Carnival Celebration in 2022 and Carnival Jubilee in 2023. Now, the newest vessel is set to join the Excel Class in 2027.

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