I had the opportunity to sail last week on Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Carnival Mardi Gras. It was the last week as the newest ship because Carnival Celebration set sail for the first time this past Sunday November 6. The original TSS Mardi Gras was Carnival’s first ship and it first sailed in 1972 and served Carnival for many years before being scrapped in 2003. The new Carnival Mardi Gras first sailed in 2021.
Carnival Mardi Gras is a mega ship and can carry up to 6,500 passengers. There are 17 decks that passengers can access and over 2,500 cabins. There are 22 restaurants and 12 bars and lounges.
Our ship was over 2/3 full with more than 5,000 passengers. However, hardly ever felt busy or overcrowded. The ship offers so much to do and so many places to be that guests are spread out throughout the ship. Even on sea days, my family had no issues finding space in the hot tubs or pools. There was always seating at the shows we attended and we found seating easily every time we ate at the Lido Marketplace (buffet). Even the sun loungers, bali beds, and other outside seating arrangements typically had some availability for relaxing. This was likely due to Carnival’s recently re-prioritized policy that they reserved the right to move items that were sitting on those for longer than 40 minutes without guests returning to their seats. I even found a bali bed in partial shade available at 2:00pm on a sea day!
Carnival Mardi Gras is large enough that there is something for everyone. Guests who were looking for quiet could escape to the pools (except the main pool), some of the lounges, the Serenity (though it did get a bit loud at times) and outdoor seating on deck 8. Guests who want a lot of action always had something to do with a continual party at the main pool, organized activities, music or other entertainment, and activities such as Bolt the first ever roller coaster at sea.
As a new ship, the Carnival Mardi Gras is equipped with a lot of the most modern technology and built in mind for accessibility. Wide doorways, doors that open with a wave of the hand (at waist height) and plenty of larger handicapped accessible bathroom stalls make the Carnival Mardi Gras a great option for guests that need accessibility features. Even the dining rooms featured tables that allowed scooters to come right up to the tables or very nearby.
The one area that Carnival did not plan very well was the elevators. With 17 floors being accessed by guests and only 3 elevator banks, guests routinely had long waits for the elevators. The elevators took a long time to go up and down the large number of floors and often when they arrived they were already full. Scooters and wheelchairs also took up a large amount of space in the elevators (since the ship is overall so accessible friendly there were a lot of them) and people in scooters and wheelchairs need to use the elevator to even go up or down one flight. While 20 elevators may seem like enough, due to the large passenger capacity of the ship, the large number of floors and the large number of guests in scooters or wheelchairs, the number of elevators on the Carnival Mardi Gras was not sufficient.
There was great programming and entertainment for kids. There were water slides for both little kids and big kids. Also available were mini golf, a ropes course and of course Bolt, the first roller coaster at sea. Camp Ocean was also a big hit with kids 2-12 with a daily course of activities. And Carnival just reinstated the Dr. Seuss activities including the show and Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast.
I was nervous about my first trip on a mega ship but I found that guest were spread out on the ship and I never felt crowded. Embarkation, debarkation, and getting off and on the ship at ports were just as easy as (or better) than other moderate size ships. I honestly never felt like the ship was busy (except at elevators) and if fact would have guessed that the ship was at less than half capacity. Based on my experience on the Carnival Mardi Gras, I would not hesitate to go on another mega ship.