Carnival Inaugurates Carnival Freedom!

In a traditional maritime ceremony that took place at Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard, Carnival Freedom was delivered to Carnival Cruise Lines today. The ship -- the fleet's 22nd -- will officially be inaugurated in Venice on Sunday (stay tuned for Cruise Critic's report on the festivities). Model and entrepreneur Kathy Ireland is godmother of the 110,000-ton, 2,974-passenger vessel.

Carnival Freedom will depart on its maiden voyage on Monday, March 5; the ship will be sailing a series of 12-night Mediterranean and Greek Isles itineraries through early fall before heading over to the New World for its winter schedule of seven-night, Miami-based Caribbean trips.

Just as with Carnival Liberty, Carnival's next newest ship, Carnival Freedom, will feature a decor that has little to do with its name. That's no big deal, as long as people don't expect a red-white-and-blue motif -- because they won't find it here. (Well, there is one exception: The Freedom restaurant, the ship's lido eatery, will be decorated with a replication of the Statue of Liberty.)

Instead, the interior theme of its public rooms, overseen by Joe Farcus, Carnival's longtime designer, will focus on "a journey through the centuries by decade." Rooms will reflect everything from ancient Babylonia to Louis XIV's opulence and from the 19th-century Victorian era to the heyday of disco.

Highlights include:

The Victoriana Show Lounge. Honoring Britain's Queen Victoria, the ambience evokes the 19th-century theaters of London's West End and features ornate moldings, crystal chandeliers, marble and gold leaf.

The Chic and Post Dining Rooms. Fast-forward to the over-the-top affluence of the 1990's, reflected in "a special wood veneer laminated in a fashionable python skin pattern."

The Babylon Casino focuses on the era's most famous king (Hammurabi, 18th century, B.C.) and its decor is themed around the Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon.

The Monticello Library, an homage to Thomas Jefferson, will evoke the 1770's.

And paying tribute to the jazz age is Scott's Piano Bar, named for Scott Joplin.

Stay tuned for our exclusive "sneak preview," launching next week.

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor