(3 a.m. EDT) -- New York City received another choice for cruisers this week when Carnival's Italian-themed ship, Carnival Venezia, pulled into the Manhattan Cruise Terminal.
The 4,090-passenger ship, christened by comedian and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno Wednesday night, doesn't look or feel like your typical Carnival Cruise Line vessel. Formerly part of the Costa Cruises fleet, Carnival Venezia carries over many touches from that line under the rallying tagline "Carnival Fun, Italian Style."
Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy said she felt that the ship's theme would resonate with people in the New York area, both those who are of Italian descent and those who simply love Italy.
"The bar is set high in New York," Duffy said during the indoor christening ceremony. "Tonight we celebrate all things Italian and all things New York."
True to the theme, Carnival appointed Leno its first ship godfather. During the christening, Leno talked about his Italian roots and about his ancestors, who passed through Ellis Island, not far downriver from where the cruise ship docked.
He also talked briefly about the discrimination that those ancestors faced from the status quo. "They would say, 'In 50 years, people will be eating pizza for dinner,' " he said with Carnival Brand Ambassador John Heald, positioning it as a cautionary tale. "Now it's mission accomplished!"
During the ceremony, the audience never saw a traditional Champagne bottle break. Instead, Duffy and Leno pulled the ends of a bow on a symbolic bottle of Aperol, and sparklers went off. A person-sized decorative bottle of Leno-cello was also brought out on stage.
Later in the evening, Leno did a 40-minute comedy routine that mostly focused on the foibles of modern-day life. While he wasn't sticking around the ship to sail, Leno had previously been a guest performer on the defunct Carnival Live! Series that brought in famous comedians and musicians for shows that guests could buy for an extra fee.
Pictures of Venice are everywhere onboard, including in the cabins. Faux marble and plaster evoke Italy in a non-subtle way; there's even a full-sized gondola in the main dining room. It all reminds you of the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas -- a little bit campy, a little bit elegant, a lot of fun. You can't help but smile (or take a selfie near the gondola, as many people were doing).
On Carnival Venezia, the ship takes the popular Havana Cabana concept -- premium cabins that have their own outdoor pool area and sundeck, as well as other various perks -- from the other Vista-class ships and turns it into the Italian-themed Terrazza. There's a fun bar attached that's themed to the Venetian Carnivale, just one of many onboard where you're sure to find an Aperol Spritz (we're sad we couldn’t stay longer at the prosecco bar).
Having such an overt theme almost makes it seem like you'd be taking two vacations at once -- one to your cruise destination and one back on the ship. We are concerned that the theme would wear thin on a weeklong cruise. We also join our colleague in wondering how the ship's Italian focus will hold up once it moves from New York to Port Canaveral in winter 2025 (although hey, people in Florida love Epcot).
The entire operation shows how versatile the cruise industry can be, especially compared to other areas of tourism. The original Costa Venezia was built for the Chinese cruise market in 2019 and only sailed until the March 2020 pandemic lockdown. Now it's been reborn into a different ship, in a different part of the world.
As the famous New York song says -- and yes, they played it at the christening: if Carnival Venezia can make it here, they'll probably make it anywhere.