(February 14, 4:30 p.m. EST) -- Carnival Cruise Lines has announced its biggest-ever European season for 2013, including a series of cruises from the United Kingdom -- its first since 2008 -- and the line's inaugural foray into the Norwegian fjords.
The 88,500-ton, 2,124-passenger Carnival Legend, currently based year-round in Tampa, will spend summer 2013 in Europe, offering 17 cruises between April and the end of October out of Dover, Barcelona and Venice.
Eight of the Dover departures will head north, with one taking in Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France and another circling the U.K. with calls in Norway and France. The remaining six are classic 12-night Baltic cruises to Copenhagen, Warnemunde, Helsinki, St Petersburg (overnight), Tallinn and Amsterdam. The food and entertainment may also be tweaked to British tastes for the series of U.K. cruises, a spokeswoman told Cruise Critic, although details have not been decided yet.
In addition, there are two Western Mediterranean voyages from Dover to Barcelona and Barcelona to Dover. The remainder of the Med programme comprises 12-day voyages between Barcelona and Venice, taking in popular ports like Dubrovnik, Naples, Civitavecchia, Rome and Athens, sailing as far east as Izmir in Turkey. Three "Grand Mediterranean" voyages overnight in Venice, as does the penultimate cruise of the season, roundtrip from Barcelona.
Of late, Carnival has been regularly debuting its newest, splashiest ships in Europe. In 2011, the new Carnival Magic was based in the Mediterranean, while this summer will showcase the next in the line's newest class of ships, Carnival Breeze, which launches in June, complete with water park, its own theme pub and a wide choice of dining options. (Carnival Magic has since shifted to Galveston, while Carnival Breeze is heading to Miami after its Med run.)
For its part, Carnival Legend is 10 years old, and lacks the bells and whistles -- water park, themed pubs and dining options -- of the line's newest ships. (It does feature an alternative steakhouse and the line's highest proportion of balcony cabins at more than 60 percent. Read 795+ reviews here.) The ship is, however, due for a expansive refurbishment in 2013 as part of Carnival's $500 million Fun Ship 2.0 initiative. A Carnival spokesperson was unable to confirm whether the dry-dock would occur before or after the new deployment.
At this time, no redeployments are planned to fill Legend's void in Tampa, though the line will continue to offer four- and five-day cruises from the port on Carnival Paradise.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor