New Cruiser, New Ship

My Time Onboard Carnival Cruise Line's Mardi Gras

As a first-time cruiser, I wasn’t sure what to expect on the inaugural sailing of Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras. After not traveling for over a year, the thought of a vacation was exciting. Little did I know I’d have the chance to celebrate the cruising industry’s return with a seven-day sailing on a brand new ship.

 The Mardi Gras

Paying homage to their original ship, the TSS Mardi Gras, Carnival Cruise Line recreated a fun and interactive cruise ship to celebrate its long-standing presence on the high seas and delight its loyal cruisers.

And loyal they are! I spoke with guests that cruised on the TSS Mardi Gras back in the 1970s and never stopped. Some sail so frequently the crew members know them by name, and they are beneficial to guests new to cruising. If you want to find out the best restaurants, bars and activities, find a long-time Carnival guest and strike up a conversation!

So what makes the ship itself so special? Carnival designed The Mardi Gras with safety, efficiency and fun in mind. From the six distinct fun zones to the touchless menus and doorways, every detail aboard has a purpose and caters to the guest’s experience.

Exploring the Ship

The Mardi Gras has more than enough space to keep guests busy exploring with 19 decks and six different easy-to-navigate, fun to investigate zones: Grand Central, The Lido, The French Quarter, La Piazza, Summer Landing and The Ultimate Playground.

Guests looking for entertainment need not look further than Grand Central and The Lido. In Grand Central, enjoy a laugh at the Punchliner Comedy Club (where I spent most of my evenings) or Piano Bar 88. On the flip side, The Lido is perfect for family time with pool parties and late-night movies. Its also home to Street Eats and Blue Iguana, which has the best breakfast burritos.

The two destination-themed zones, The French Quarter and La Piazza are best known for food and drink. Exclusive to Mardi Gras, The French Quarter has two new bars and a restaurant. La Piazza is an Italian-themed zone most visited for La Cucina Del Capitano ($), one of the most popular dinnertime restaurants, and Piazza Panini offering paninis 24/7.

Summer Landing and The Ultimate Playground are best for on-deck amusement. A little less crowded than The Lido, Summer Landing is a relaxed pool area with Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse ($) offering BBQ-style food. The Ultimate Playground is excellent for the young and the young at heart with three waterslides, mini-golf, basketball court and Bolt ($), the world’s first roller coaster at sea.

[Travel Tip: During days at sea, get to one of the pools earlier in the day and claim a seat before everyone gets the same idea.]

 The Staterooms

My first impression of my balcony stateroom was it has a thoughtful use of space. The balcony allows for a beautiful view and increases room area, so guests feel less cramped. The stateroom also includes a pull-out couch, mirror vanity, queen-size bed, mini-fridge, ample closet space, and had plenty of outlets and charging ports for electronics.

[Travel Tip: Get organized – use the storage! When I travel, the contents of my suitcase end up all over the hotel room. Cruise staterooms are almost always smaller than the standard hotel room, so a messy room takes up valuable space.]

 Safety Regulations On Board

Carnival wasted no time during the cruising pause to adapt to world conditions. Some onboard precautions, like exclusively making transactions through guest ID cards rather than cash and upping their sanitation procedures, already helped keep a clean ship, but greater efforts like all doorways using a touchless device to eliminate contact surfaces really wowed me.


Using QR menus also cut down on high contact surfaces in a resource-efficient manner. Plus, it was convenient to pull up menus on my phone rather than wait for servers or bartenders to hand one out. Handwashing stations are also available in the Lido Marketplace.

Recommended vs. required mask-wearing areas also helped keep guests safe. All dining areas, elevators, security lines and ports of call (based on the destinations’ restrictions) required masks. Hallways and outdoor locations on the ship recommended masks, and most guests wore there’s in crowded places.  

Embarkation and Disembarkation 

Arriving and leaving Mardi Gras were relatively quick processes. Upon arrival, I parted ways with my checked bags and began processing through port security which was very efficient and well-staffed. Carnival personnel was at multiple checkpoints to remind guests to have their ID, boarding pass and COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card.

[Travel Tip: Be sure to wear a comfortable mask! You’ll be wearing it throughout all of your travels. Masks must be disposable or fabric face coverings that cover the mouth and nose. Masks with holes, vents, or face shields without a mask/face covering are not permitted.]

I opted to use Carnival’s transfer package for round trip transportation to and from the airport, which I highly recommend. Round trip transfers are nearly half the price of Uber, Lyft or a cab.

Leaving the ship was simple. Carnival crew called all 26 groups to disembark to stagger guests and prevent crowding or lines.

[Travel Tip: Get a midday flight and a mid-tier group (12-16) the night before departure. That gives plenty of time to get to the airport and the crew handles your luggage, allowing guests to focus on a smooth trip back home]

The Mardi Gras was an incredible first-time cruising experience. The food, entertainment, and hospitality found onboard left me wanting to stay just a little longer but until next, sea you later Mardi Gras! I hope to be back on board very soon.

($) – Price not included in the base cruise fare

All information for The Carnival Mardi Gras through my perspective as a passenger onboard. All health & safety regulations are up to date at the time of sailing.

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