(8:30 a.m. EST) -- In one of the most dramatic refurbishments in contemporary cruising, Carnival announced today that Carnival Destiny will undergo a $155 million transformation culminating with a name change. After its release from a jaw-dropping 49-day dry-dock (from February to April 2013), Destiny will become Carnival Sunshine.
The 101,353-ton, 2,642-passenger Carnival Destiny entered service in 1996 as the largest passenger ship ever built.
The changes, many of which reflect the line's $500 million “Fun Ship 2.0” initiative, encompass nearly every nook and cranny of the vessel. There's going to be a reconfigured layout, the addition of a partial deck and the expansion of two other decks within the ship's forward section. These will make room for venues that either have been popular on the line's newer vessels or are new to Carnival altogether. The upgrades include:
Food. Restaurant additions range from ultra-casual to more upscale. Guy's Burger Joint, a surcharge-free poolside venue developed in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, will serve burgers and fresh-cut fries. BlueIguana Cantina is a complimentary poolside Mexican eatery serving burritos and tacos on ship-made tortillas that can be personalized with a variety of salsas and toppings. The fee-extra Fahrenheit 555 will be a classic American steakhouse in the same vein as the signature 'carnivoriums' found on many other Carnival ships.
Other new-to-Destiny eateries include the Italian Cucina del Capitano, which debuted on Carnival Magic (during the day, the venue will serve as a free casual lunchtime pasta bar with a nominal charge for dinner); a full-service Asian restaurant (no charge for lunch with a fee for dinner) in the style of Carnival's Mongolian Wok, a more casual venue found in many of its buffets; and a new approach to the Lido Marketplace, with the addition of the fee-free Comfort Kitchen station for American comfort food. Also new: a newly designed, and vastly expanded, coffee bar.
The main dining rooms will also get an extensive overhaul from menu to décor, but don't worry: The decadent floating chocolate soufflé, Carnival's signature dessert, will stay on the menu.
Cabins. All cabins will be redecorated with a tropical décor that will reflect Carnival Sunshine's Caribbean itineraries. The aforementioned 182 new staterooms will span a range of styles, from spa cabins to interiors to balconies.
Sun deck. On the pool deck, the marquee revamp is the addition of Carnival's first three-deck Serenity space, an adults-only retreat. The space, pictured left, will feature a cascading waterfall.
Other highlights include SportSquare, a top-deck recreation complex that debuted on Magic; it'll offer a ropes course, mini-golf, a lighted half court for basketball and volleyball, jogging track, ping pong and pool and foosball tables.
WaterWorks -- dubbed a "splash-tastic" attraction by Carnival -- will feature the line's iconic "Twister" water slide, a Splash Zone kids' water play area and a new thrill slide.
Bars. A huge hit when it debuted on Carnival Magic, the RedFrog Pub (which serves Carnival's own ThirstyFrog Red private label draught brew) will make an appearance on Carnival Sunshine, as will the RedFrog Rum Bar, located poolside. The BlueIguana Tequila Bar, which debuted on Carnival Liberty, the first ship to earn a Fun Ship 2.0 overhaul, will be found here as well; expect tequila-based cocktails and beers. Then there's also the EA SPORTS Bar for video games and live sports events (including a real-time 24/7 sports ticker and a 16-screen video wall); the Alchemy Bar, a vintage-themed cocktail lounge; and the Cuban-inspired Havana Bar.
Kids stuff. Camp Carnival will feature newly-designed play areas catering to kids in three age groups, part of the line's top-rated children's programs – Camp Carnival (ages 2-11), Circle “C” (12-14) and Club O2 (15-17).
Itineraries. When Carnival Destiny -- whoops Carnival Sunshine -- emerges from its dry-dock in April 2013 at Italy's Fincantieri shipyard, it will sail a series of nine- and 12-day Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona and Venice until the following October. After an Atlantic crossing, the ship, now Miami-based, will head to its new homeport in New Orleans. This means that Carnival Conquest, which currently is based in the Big Easy, will get a new assignment (to be determined). Sunshine's ex-Nola cruises begin in November 2013.
Interestingly, the ship will offer three different seven-nighters from its New Orleans homeport. Offerings are an exotic western Caribbean route to Belize City, Belize; Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, and Cozumel, Mexico; a Bahamas/Florida schedule to Key West, Fla., and Freeport and Nassau, the Bahamas; and western Caribbean departures to Montego Bay, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel.
Guide to Cruise Ship Makeovers, 2011 - 2013
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor-in-Chief