Who could have known, you ask? Probably not those aboard the maiden voyage, because shortly after it sailed away, Mardi Gras ran aground.
Despite that immediate tumble out of the gates, Mardi Gras truly did send the cruise industry on a trajectory no one could have imagined, all the more poetic as Carnival’s newest ship, also named Mardi Gras, is facing unforeseen hurdles of its own as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to delay its inaugural cruise. But just as the industry boomed once Mardi Gras escaped that sandbar in the ’70s, the sky is the limit on the new Mardi Gras and the industry waiting with bated breath to welcome it.
Before it became a Fun Ship, Mardi Gras was known as Empress of Canada, a 27,000-ton transatlantic liner for Canadian Pacific Line. In early 1972, Ted Arison, founder of the fledgling Carnival Cruise Lines, purchased the ship fully aware of the substandard tourist-class accommodations and various infestations within, but he was determined to make wake as soon as possible and deal with those inadequacies along the way. Larger than any other ship sailing out of Miami and with cabins priced much cheaper than the competition, Mardi Gras was drawing plenty of attention before it literally hit the ground running that fateful March day.
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