Carnival Cruise Line celebrated the “grand reopening” of its Long Beach, Calif., homeport terminal with plenty of confetti, a streamlined and smartly designed embarkation and debarkation space, and some champagne-worthy announcements to get the glasses clinking.
The terminal has been occupied by Carnival since 2003. However, as the line only occupied half the space in the large geodesic dome for those years, passengers checking in for cruises had to wait outside while passengers returning from cruises cleared the disembarkation process. Now Carnival’s operation fills the entire 13-story, 146,000-square-foot space, which will work toward ensuring a smooth experience for passengers on both ends of the cruises.
But the bigger news revolved around what cruisers will see in late 2019. That’s when the new 133,500-ton, 3,960-passenger Carnival Panoramajoins the West Coast fleet in Long Beach, straight from Fincantieri’s shipyard in Marghera, Italy. It is the third vessel in Carnival’s Vista-class. A new Carnival ship has not been based in Long Beach for 20 years.
Bookings are open for Carnival Panorama’s year-round, seven-day Mexican Riviera voyages, which begin on Dec. 14, 2019. The cruises will depart every Saturday and call at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta.
Carnival CEO Christine Duffy noted that the terminal enhancement and entry of Carnival Panorama will also give agents the chance to sell a top Carnival cruise product to the ample southern California drive market. “The West Coast is an important market with vast growth potential,” she said. “There is a significant population within a half-day or less of this terminal location—and we are giving agents the support they need to sell it. It’s nice to be able to drive to your cruise vacation.”
Carnival Panorama will mirror the style and design of its Vista-class sisters, Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon, which debuted in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The ship will be equipped with an eclectic collection of restaurants, including Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Library Bar, and Bonsai Sushi; SkyRide, a bike-ride-in-the sky; a massive WaterWorks aqua park; and the SportSquare recreation area.
A vibrant Havana section will be equipped with staterooms; its own Cuban-themed bar and pool; Family Harbor, featuring extra-roomy accommodations; the Family Harbor Lounge; and Ocean Plaza, a spacious dining, and entertainment venue with indoor and outdoor seating.
Carnival Panorama will replace the 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor, which will reposition to its new homeport in Sydney, Australia, next year.
The first ship in this class, Carnival Vista, launched in 2016 to be followed by sister ship, Carnival Horizon, which made its debut last year
Carnival carries some 600,000 passengers on 250 sailings a year from Long Beach, mostly to points on the Pacific coast of Mexico.
Currently, Carnival’s Inspiration, Imagination, and Splendor sail on three- to 14-day cruises down the California coast to the Mexican Riviera. Carnival Splendor operates on seven-day sailings to Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Inspiration and Imagination sail on three- and four-night itineraries to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico.
IN AND AROUND THE TERMINAL
Passengers who arrive early or have time after their cruise can tour the Queen Mary, the original Cunard luxury liner that is permanently moored next to the terminal—perhaps an appropriate attraction as Carnival Corporation owns both brands.
The Long Beach Terminal has been spruced up with nature murals and a park-like layout of benches and green space. Its geodesic dome was built in 1983 to house Howard Hughes’ wooden Spruce Goose seaplane. The outsized plane, built and flown by Hughes in 1947, became a tourist attraction in the dome until 1992, when it was moved to an aviation museum in Oregon.
At that time the dome was, and still is, the world’s largest freestanding structure. A miniature Spruce Goose, used as a set model in the 2004 film “The Aviator,” is suspended over the passenger registration area. The terminal has also served as a soundstage for such films as “Batman Forever,” “Last Action Hero,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
The newly expanded terminal is one of 13 year-round homeports that Carnival operates. Carnival’s seasonal port of Ensenada is scheduled to undergo an upgrade as well. That project is scheduled for completion in 2020.