(1 p.m. EDT) -- Carnival Cruise Lines has welcomed its most hotly-anticipated new ship to its first U.S. homeport since being delayed by the ongoing global health pandemic.
The 180,000-gross ton Mardi Gras sailed into Port Canaveral early this morning, accompanied by fleetmates Carnival Freedom and Carnival Liberty.
Over 1,500 people lined Jetty Park near the cruise terminal to welcome Mardi Gras into port, while Carnival President Christine Duffy, Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison, Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald, Carnival Corporation COO Josh Weinstein, and Canaveral Port Authority CEO Captain John Murray, along with 300 travel advisors, partners, dignitaries and guests, participated in a welcome reception for the vessel
Anticipation of Carnival's new Mardi Gras -- the line's first Excellence Class ship and the first in the fleet to be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas -- was so high that Port Canaveral authorities released detailed plans for the vessel's arrival, outlining viewing areas for the public to congregate in.
"We have been waiting for the Mardi Gras to come home for some time, and we know that there is a tremendous public interest to watch her arrival at the Port," said Port CEO Capt. John Murray.
Mardi Gras docked alongside at the new Cruise Terminal 3 at Port Canaveral after passing Jetty Park and entering the Middle Turning Basin for final alignment with Terminal 3.
Home to a brand-new design of atrium and the first roller coaster at sea, Mardi Gras was set to debut in 2020 before being delayed by the ongoing COVID-19 health pandemic. The 5,282-passenger ship will operate cruises from Port Canaveral to the Caribbean and the Bahamas once it officially enters service later this year.
Mardi Gras wasn't the only new arrival in Port Canaveral this morning. Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas also made its maiden debut stateside after crossing the Atlantic Ocean following the cancellation of its season of sailings from Israel.