We’re finally getting a sneak peek at the atrium of Carnival Cruise Line’s upcoming Mardi Gras, a space designed to amp up the “wow” factor from the moment guests step aboard.
What You’ll Find in Grand Central
“The atrium is the heartbeat of the ship,” said Glenn Aprile, Carnival’s director of new build product development, during an exclusive chat with Cruise Radio. “It’s something you experience every day, even if you’re just passing through.”
Appropriately enough, given how many people will be passing through each day, the area will be known as Grand Central.
Perhaps more importantly, the space is tasked with making sure a passenger’s cruise starts off on the right note. “It’s the first thing the guests are going to see when they’re boarding,” Aprile says. “It’ll make a tremendous first impression!”
Based on the renderings of the currently-being-constructed space, that’s something of an understatement. Spanning three decks, Grand Central is built into the starboard side of the ship and features a 3,000 square foot wall of glass panels. During the day, this will be the perfect spot to grab a quick breakfast or lunch, especially since several venues — including the JavaBlue Cafe — are located in the vicinity.
“This will probably be one of my go-to coffee spots onboard,” Aprile admitted.
An atrium isn’t an atrium without a bar, and Grand Central will feature two. The multi-level Grand View Bar is perfectly situated so that guests can look out that massive wall of glass at the passing views or, on port days, the locations on which the ship is calling.
Then on the main level, the Center Stage bar will provide another option for cocktails, with both venues featuring specialty drinks inspired by that night’s entertainment.
How the Space Will Transform After Dark
After dark, the atrium will become a theater-like space that will host several newly-developed shows, details about which are still being kept tightly under wraps.
What we do know is that it will feature live entertainers (on the stage and in the air) and advanced technology coming together to create an experience that will completely immerse the audience. “It’s not just something that’s happening right in front of them,” previewed Aprile. “It’s also happening all around them.”
Of course, putting on shows in the atrium creates a problem — or at least would if this were a typical atrium. “We didn’t want to just drop the main theater in the middle of the ship,” said Aprile, given that doing so would create a situation in which guests would either have to avoid Grand Central during showtimes or walkthrough, disrupting the immersive nature of the nighttime experiences.
Moving the atrium to the starboard side solved both problems, in that it created a space in which shows could unfold, but left the port side of the ship free for passengers to move freely about.
Ultimately, moving the atrium to one side was, as Aprile l explains it, “a good example of necessity being the mother of invention!”
Grand Central’s Unique Challenge
Of course, as any creative type knows, when you solve one problem, others usually crop up in its wake, and that was certainly the case here. Because there are good reasons — most having to do with weight and balance — for atriums typically being in the center of a ship.
Once the decision was made that Grand Central would be on the starboard side, Aprile says that the entire team had to look at “alternative ways to engineer the structure.” It also meant moving things around a bit.
As a result, Guest Services — usually found on the ground floor of the lobby aboard Carnival ships — has been moved to Deck 8. Aprile says the new design “pushed us to think very differently about the general arrangements, and how we wanted to put all the puzzle pieces together!”
Mardi Gras will be unique in many other aspects, several of which have not yet been revealed. Already grabbing the lion’s share of the attention is BOLT, the roller coaster which will circle the top deck.
Then there are the specialty restaurants, including Carnival’s first collaboration with Emeril Lagasse. Unlike other previous Carnival ships, Mardi Gras will feature various “zones,” each of which offers unique theming and venues.
The ship is set to debut in her homeport of Port Canaveral on February 6, 2021.
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