Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest and biggest ship, a floating palace
dedicated to the great Impressionist painters, was christened in
New Orleans where it will sail year-round.
The 110,000-ton, 2,974-passenger Carnival Conquest departs every
Sunday for Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.
The Conquest boasts the fleet’s biggest children’s area and spa
facilities, along with an expanded teen facility with a soda bar
and a separate dance floor flowing into a huge video games
A sushi bar and a new concept a fish and chips shop are free of
charge. The Conquest’s supper club, The Point, is not located in
the funnel as on the Spirit-class vessels, but it has a larger
galley to accommodate high demand for the reservations-only
The overall decor is lighter and more colorful than perhaps any
other Carnival ship, and the Impressionist theme highlights some of
the world’s most popular and easily recognized artworks such as
Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies.” While the New Orleans deployment
targets the large drive-in market from nearby states, Carnival
officials also expect Conquest to draw from the West.
“We put the Conquest in New Orleans because we want our cruises
out of New Orleans to be more of a national product,” said Terry
Thornton, Carnival’s vice president of marketing planning.
“The great thing about New Orleans for the West Coast region is
that it’s a same-day flight. You can fly from gateways such as Los
Angeles or San Francisco and be in New Orleans by mid-afternoon and
depart on a voyage that day. Also, several low-cost air carriers
that offer some great pricing, such as Southwest, are serving New
In the past Carnival has not pushed its New Orleans product on a
“Even with the Inspiration, some of the major West Coast markets
such as Los Angeles and San Francisco were already among the top 12
markets from which we were drawing passengers for the seven-day
cruises,” Thornton said.
Carnival officials say they are excited about New Orleans as
their third biggest U.S. homeport, but a problem looms in the form
of a power line that stretches across the Mississippi River. It’s
too low for the towering Conquest to safely pass under while in the
main lanes of river traffic. Instead, the ship must steer toward
shore, where the line is higher, and the power utility must cut
electricity to prevent a dangerous arcing effect.
The situation will worsen in January, when Mississippi waters
run higher. Carnival President Bob Dickinson expressed frustration
that the issue had not been resolved prior to Conquest’s
“If they don’t solve the problem in 60 days, we’re taking the
ship to Gulfport,” he told reporters on Conquest’s two-day
introductory cruise to nowhere.
During a travel agent Q&A, he reiterated his concern and
stressed, “We want to operate the ship out of New Orleans.”
The growth of Carnival’s fleet means the Fun Ships will carry 3
million passengers in 2003, up from 2.5 million this year,
Dickinson said. “Almost four out of every 10 North Americans will
cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines.”
Addressing the pending acquisition of P&O Princess Cruises,
Carnival Corp. Chairman and CEO Micky Arison cautioned that the
deal is not done yet. Due to a costly change of control provision
built into P&O Princess’ merger agreement with Royal Caribbean
Cruises Ltd., the P&O Princess board cannot recommend the
Carnival offer to its shareholders before Jan. 1. Then Carnival
must win shareholder approval at the Feb. 14 vote.
Asked about synergies related to the deal, particularly in
Alaska where Holland America Line and Princess Cruises run huge
land operations, Arison said the 49th state is clearly one area
where there are opportunities.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a Holland America Line
passenger staying at a Princess lodge,” he said.
He brushed off a suggestion that the Princess and Holland
America brands could “cannibalize” each other.
“If you look at Carnival Triumph, its biggest competition is
Carnival Victory,” Arison said. “Do I care if both ships are
filled? It doesn’t matter.” He also noted, “There couldn’t be two
more different philosophies in ship design and experience” than the
traditional Zuiderdam and the contemporary Coral Princess, each
debuting this month.
During the agent Q&A, Vicki Freed, senior vice president of
sales and marketing, said Carnival was considering making shore
excursions bookable on line (but not commissionable).
Dickinson responded positively to a suggestion that agents be
allowed to pay the $25 Supper Club charge as a gift for clients. He
said the next issue of the Carnival Capers newsletter would include
an evaluation card for agents, including the question: “What’s your