In spring 2019, Carnival Cruise Line will position the 3,002-passenger Carnival Sunshine in Charleston, SC, for year-round home porting -- sailing four- and five-day cruises. That's a larger, more amenity-laden vessel than the 2,052-passenger Carnival Ecstasy, the existing year-round Carnival ship sailing from Charleston.
The 102,853-grt Carnival Sunshine will kick off its four- and five-day cruise program from Charleston May 18, 2019, and is expected to carry approximately 220,000 passengers annually. Four-day cruises will visit Nassau, the Bahamas, while five-day voyages will feature Nassau plus Half Moon Cay, Carnival Corp.'s private Bahamian island.
In addition to its short cruise offerings, Carnival Sunshine will operate an 11-day Carnival Journeys cruise round-trip from Charleston December 3-14, 2019, calling at St. Thomas, Aruba, Bonaire, Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay.
"With its convenient location and strong tourism appeal, Charleston is one of our most popular homeports and we’re delighted to build upon this success with the deployment of Carnival Sunshine,” said Christine Duffy, president, Carnival Cruise Line. “Carnival Sunshine not only provides guests sailing from Charleston with a newer, larger ship with so much to see and do but also underscores our commitment to our year-round operations from this port,” she added.
Moves for Ecstasy and Elation
When the Carnival Sunshine sails into Charleston for year-round cruising, then in turn, the 70,367-grt Carnival Ecstasy will reposition to Jacksonville, FL, where it will operate year-round, four- and five-day cruises, beginning in May 2019.
It will replace the 2,052-passenger Carnival Elation, currently home ported in Jacksonville.
Carnival Elation will then shift to Port Canaveral, FL, to operate a new schedule of four- and five-day voyages, providing a new option from the Space Coast, also starting in May 2019.
In total during 2019, Carnival's Port Canaveral options will include seven-day cruises on Carnival Breeze, three- and four-night cruises on Carnival Liberty and the new four- and five-day cruises on Carnival Elation.
Larger Ship in Charleston
Since Carnival Sunshine is a much larger vessel than Carnival Ecstasy, Terry Thornton, senior vice president - port operations, guest care and Carnival International, tells Travel Agent that the line worked for several years to ensure that it could smoothly organize the guest logistics and turnaround for the ship in Charleston.
That's important, as some in the community have publicly lobbied to avoid any bigger ships arriving at the Port of Charleston, citing too much traffic, among other issues.
Thornton noted that Carnival has actually operated 11 voyages of Carnival Sunshine in and out of Charleston over the past two years: "We've done our homework to see how we can make the turnaround a great guest experience, and avoid any major obstruction to the local community. We are very confident we can do this."
He said, "Charleston is a great destination for people who wish to spend a couple of days touring the destination before or after their cruise." Thornton also emphasized that Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) research shows that more than $130 million annually in economic benefits come to South Carolina from the cruise industry.
That includes employment of local workers, purchasing of supplies/goods, spending by crew and passengers in destinations for shopping and restaurants, and overnight hotel stays by guests doing pre- and post-cruise activities. "It provides a strong economic engine for the state of South Carolina," Thornton said.
Jim Newsome, president and CEO, South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) president and CEO, said, “The decision by Carnival Cruise Line to homeport the Carnival Sunshine in Charleston is an important affirmation of their success and commitment to operations in Charleston."
Onboard Spaces & Activities
Carnival Sunshine, the former Carnival Destiny, received an unprecedented $155-million reconfiguration and update during a 75-day drydock in 2013. It now offers more than 550 staterooms with private balconies, plus one of the widest arrays of food, beverage and entertainment options in the Carnival fleet.
Guests sailing aboard Carnival Sunshine can dine at such specialty food and beverage venues as Ji Ji Asian Kitchen with an extensive menu of Far East favorites; Havana Bar offering Cuban cocktails and live Latin music; the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar; the Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub; the Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant; and Guy’s Burger Joint developed in tandem with Food Network star Guy Fieri.
Top-deck attractions include WaterWorks highlighted by Speedway Splash with its dual-racing slides; SportsSquare with a suspended ropes course offering breathtaking views to the sea 150 feet below; a miniature golf course, and a three-deck-high Serenity adults-only retreat with oversized umbrellas, chaise lounges, chairs, a waterfall and its own pool.
The ship’s family-friendly options include Seuss at Sea operated exclusively with Dr. Seuss Enterprises; Hasbro, The Game Show with adaptations of the company’s iconic games; and complimentary children’s programs for kids in three age groups.
Entertainment and activity choices include the high-tech Playlist Productions revues, Punchliner Comedy Club offering adults-only and family-friendly performances, deck parties and live musical performances.
Mixing It Up
As the ship moves to Charleston, and the other vessels rotate, respectively, out of their existing ports and into new ones, Thornton says travel agents have new options for their clients as the line "refreshes and renews" its operations at home ports around the county.
Thornton noted that the Port of Charleston is primarily a drive market port and that a 500-mile belt around the port is prime turf for potential cruise passengers. Many of the Charleston cruisers are from South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee.
He notes that by switching ships in U.S. home ports the line hopes to tweak the interest of first-time cruisers, who see the change-up and say, "maybe we should try this."