End of an era: Carnival Cruise Line's oldest and smallest ship begins final voyage
The oldest and smallest ship in the Carnival Cruise Line fleet is about to sail its final voyage for the line.
The 2,052-passenger Carnival Ecstasy, which most recently has been based in Mobile, Alabama, will depart the city late Monday on a five-night trip to Mexico that will be its last in Carnival livery after 31 years of service.
The future of the ship, which has delivered vacations to more than 5 million Carnival fans over its long career, remains uncertain. Carnival hasn't said if it has been sold to another cruise operator or will be sent to the scrappers — the fate of several of Carnival Ecstasy's sister vessels in recent years.
Built in 1991, Carnival Ecstasy is one of the last remaining vessels in Carnival's hugely successful, eight-ship Fantasy-class series that debuted in 1990 and was instrumental in the growth of the cruise industry.
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At the time Carnival Ecstasy debuted, Carnival had just a handful of ships. The arrival of the vessel and its seven sisters between 1990 and 1998 catapulted the line into the big leagues of North American tourism.
For many years, the Fantasy-class ships formed the core of the Carnival fleet. But the line has rapidly phased out the class to cut costs since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020.
Carnival removed four of the eight Fantasy-class ships from its fleet soon after the COVID-19 pandemic began, and earlier this year it retired a fifth vessel in the series — Carnival Sensation.
After this week's sailing ends Saturday, Carnival Ecstasy will become the sixth of the original eight Fantasy-class ships to leave the Carnival fleet.
While still much beloved by Carnival fans, in part for their intimate size, the Fantasy-class ships notably lack a large number of balcony cabins — the cabin type that everyone wants these days. Most of the cabins on these ships are “ocean-view” cabins that only offer a window or a porthole, or windowless “inside” cabins.
Related: The ultimate guide to Carnival ships and itineraries
The ships also have relatively fewer amenities and venues than the newer and bigger Carnival ships. You won’t find giant water parks on these vessels as you would on newer Carnival ships. You will find multiple slides and a spray park for the kids, though. The dining options are also limited.
The Fantasy-class ships in recent years have mostly been used in secondary ports such as Mobile and Jacksonville, Florida, that might not be able to support bigger vessels.
At 70,367 tons, Carnival Ecstasy was one of the biggest cruise ships in the world when it debuted in 1991. Its passenger capacity of 2,052 people, based on double occupancy, was a lot at the time.
However, it now doesn't even come close to cracking the list of the 50 biggest cruise vessels, some of which can hold more than 5,000 people. Cruise ships have gotten bigger and bigger over time.
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Carnival Fantasy is now less than half the size of the world's biggest cruise ships, including Carnival's recently unveiled Mardi Gras. The new Carnival flagship measures 181,808 tons and can carry 5,282 passengers at double occupancy (6,465 with every pulldown bunk and pullout sofa filled).
Related: The 8 classes of Carnival ships, explained
Carnival Ecstasy sailed from eight of home ports over the years, including Miami, Port Canaveral and Jacksonville, Florida; Galveston, Texas; Long Beach, California; New Orleans; Charleston, South Carolina; and Mobile.
Carnival said on Monday that the ship had sailed more than 2,300 voyages for the brand over its 31-year career, carrying nearly 5.5 million passengers.
With Carnival Ecstasy's departure after this week, Mobile will be left without a cruise ship that calls the city home.
The city built a 66,000-square-foot cruise terminal in 2004 to lure cruise companies to the city, and it has been a home base to Carnival ships for most of the years since then. City officials have said cruisers arriving for sailings account for about 35,000 room nights at local hotels each year and also pump money into local restaurant businesses.
Still, Mobile won't be without a cruise ship for long. Carnival already has said it would redeploy a new ship to Mobile for part of each year starting in late 2023.
With the departure of Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival will be left with just 23 vessels in its fleet. However, the line will soon take delivery of a 24th vessel, the 5,282-passenger Carnival Celebration. The ship is currently under construction at a shipyard in Italy.
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