(10:30 a.m. EST) -- Charleston is about to get a little brighter. Carnival Cruise Line has revealed it will send Carnival Sunshine to the South Carolina cruise port May 2019, where it will operate on a schedule of year-round short cruises.
The 3,002-passenger ship -- which features some of the fleet's most diverse options in terms of dining venues, bars and entertainment -- will sail four-night cruises to Nassau, Bahamas, and five-night cruises to Nassau and the private island of Half Moon Cay. Its maiden cruise from Charleston will kick off May 18, 2019.
In addition to its short cruise program, Carnival Sunshine will offer one 11-night Carnival Journeys itinerary roundtrip from Charleston, departing December 3. Ports of call include St. Thomas, Aruba, Bonaire, Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay.
"With its convenient location and strong tourism appeal, Charleston is one of our most popular homeports and we're delighted to build upon this success with the deployment of Carnival Sunshine," said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. "Carnival Sunshine not only provides guests sailing from Charleston with a newer, larger ship with so much to see and do but also underscores our commitment to our year-round operations from this port."
As Carnival Sunshine arrives in Charleston, Carnival Ecstasy -- currently based in Charleston -- will reposition to Jacksonville, Florida; Carnival Elation will shift from Jacksonville to Port Canaveral.
Citing passenger feedback as the largest basis for deployment changes, Carnival's SVP of Itinerary Planning Terry Thornton told Cruise Critic, "We'd like to, over a period of time for homeports, continue to refresh the experience by offering ... new choices of itineraries and new choices of ships." He added, "If you continue to operate the same ships on the same itineraries, then what's new for people to be thinking about?"
When we asked what the changes mean for New York (Carnival Sunshine previously had sailed a series of cruises from New York), Thornton hinted, "We're going to be in New York in 2019 and beyond, we just haven't made that announcement yet. It's a very important homeport with very important customers." Carnival Horizon, which launches April 2018, will offer a series of cruises from New York summer 2018.
--By Gina Kramer, Editor