Even though she wasn’t particularly unique, groundbreaking, or exceedingly beautiful, there were nonetheless pangs of shock and sadness when the Carnival Inspiration made her final, gut-wrenching maneuver onto the shores of the increasingly busy scrapyard at Aliaga, Turkey in mid-2020.
Video footage shot by her officers and crew show the ship literally wedging between her oldest sister, the 1990-built Carnival Fantasy, and her one-time nemesis, the Sovereign, which was formerly Royal Caribbean’s trendsetting Sovereign of the Seas.
As steel groaned, lifeboats splintered, and railings and decking buckled, the once lively ship came to her final resting place and will soon be reduced to piles of scrap metal.
Carnival Inspiration Specifications
- Year built: 1995
- Length: 855 feet
- Beam: 104 feet
- Gross tonnage: 70,367
- Double occupancy: 2,040
- Maximum capacity: 2,594
The sixth of eight Fantasy-class ships commissioned for Carnival Cruise Line, the Inspiration made her debut in 1995. With identical machinery and layouts, these ships, designated at the time by Carnival as “SuperLiners”, were distinguished from each other only by architect Joseph Farcus’ wildly conceptual interior designs.
They were arguably the most successful cruise ship platform to date, paving the way for Carnival’s wildly successful and adaptive Triumph and Vista-class ships.
The blueprint for the Fantasy-class ships was basically an expanded Holiday-class design with public areas connected via a wide starboard promenade at the top of the ship.
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The Holiday-class had an open sports deck above the bridge, a midships lido and pool, Carnival’s winged funnel, and wide, terraced afterdecks. With the much larger Fantasy-class, the midships lido was expanded to accommodate a larger pool and a bandstand.
It should thus be mentioned that the Holiday-class was an evolution of the Tropicale of 1982 — Carnival’s first newbuild. That ship had both port and starboard promenades inspired by those of Carnival’s first three ships, the refitted former ocean liners Mardi Gras, Carnivale, and Festivale.
The Tropicale was also the first ship with Carnival’s signature winged funnel, from a design architect Joe Farcus scribbled on a napkin inspired by airplane tails.
Finally, in exploring the roots of Carnival design concepts, it would not be fair to omit that the French Line was the first to feature the winged funnel idea of pushing the engine room exhaust out to the side of the ship when it debuted the spectacular liner France of 1961, which, of course, became Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norway in 1980.
What the Fantasy-class introduced to Carnival were true atriums. These massive multi-deck, glass skylight-topped spaces were the first thing embarking guests would see and were meant to create excitement with their reflective marble, glass and brass surfacing, tiers of balconies, panoramic glass elevators, Tivoli lighting, and neon fringe.
By the time the Inspiration made her debut, soaring atriums (or, if you prefer, atria) on new ships had become almost commonplace.
Even so, with its dramatic lighting and imposing, 50-foot centerpiece sculpture entitled Bird of Paradise by Norwegian artist Leon Bronstein, the Inspiration’s Art Nouveau-inspired Grand Atrium Plaza achieved its impressive goal (although the sculpture was removed and replaced with the more practical but less visually engaging Atrium Bar later in the ship’s career).
The Inspiration was built alongside her slightly older sister, Imagination, at the Kvaerner Masa shipyard at Turku, Finland.
Carnival Inspiration Photo Tour
Let’s tour the ship in her latter-day Carnival Inspiration configuration, this time from bottom to top.
The Carnival Inspiration had three full decks of cabin and suite accommodations beginning with Riviera, Main, and Upper Decks.
The most economical interiors were comfortable and basic, as were the ocean views. Gracing the cabins were prints from a series of five paintings by talented British artist Andrea Tana, daughter of famed restaurateur Dan Tana.
On Upper Deck, there were 28 suites, which had “in hull” balconies that were not unlike the “hull hole” balconies on the Queen Mary 2. They weren’t particularly spacious by today’s standards but they were the largest staterooms on the ship.
Empress Deck was also largely dedicated to staterooms, save for the bottom level of the Grand Atrium Plaza and the Photo Gallery (later art gallery) that followed. Until recent years, every Carnival ship had an Empress Deck in tribute to the first two ships that launched the line, the former Empress of Canada (Mardi Gras) and Empress of Britain (Carnivale) which were both built for Canadian Pacific Line’s transatlantic service from Liverpool to Montreal.
Atlantic Deck began with the lower level of the 1,300 seat Paris Lounge showroom, which, like most early Carnival ships, had somewhat compromised sightlines, thanks to an abundance of support pillars.
The Art Nouveau decorative theme of this space was achieved via a black lacquered ceiling, iridescent pink domes above the windows, and custom-designed carpeting.
Shops directly aft led to the second level of the Atrium and two smaller spaces, the Rhapsody in Blue piano bar and the Shakespeare Library, with its coffered ceilings featuring Shakespearean quotes and faux English oak veneers.
Named for Carnival’s first ship, the Mardi Gras Dining Room followed. Its middle section was raised, providing sea views for all via rows of picture windows on either side.
Cherry wood veneers, fluted columns, rosa cardinale marble tiles, and copper tinted mirrors enhanced with Mr. Farcus’ ubiquitous Tivoli lighting set the decorative mood, although, quite frankly, none of it had anything to do with the SS Mardi Gras in style. The ‘in ship name only’ tribute was actually celebrating those wild celebrations in New Orleans.
Aft of the galley, the similarly laid out Carnivale Dining Room featured half-round figured faux walnut columns. Handmade Italian fan seashells of marigold and garnet glass with yet more Tivoli lighting were eye-popping features that, once again, had little or nothing to do with the British ocean liner look of the SS Carnivale.
The upper level of the Paris Lounge began another full deck of public areas on Promenade Deck. Beyond the third tier of the Grand Atrium were the rainbow-inspired Monte Carlo Casino on the port side and Inspiration Boulevard, the enclosed promenade that connected the remaining public spaces on the starboard side.
Decorative elements of the boulevard included fiber optic ceiling lights and faux cherry wood scrolls made to look like the necks of violins.
The Avant-Garde Lounge that followed the casino was inspired by the Cubist movement and, of course, the neighboring Rock and Roll Disco had elements that included a guitar-shaped dance floor and carpeting imprinted with guitars and CDs.
With a staircase leading down to the Carnivale Dining Room, the Rococo style Chopin Lounge had a large bar and ten columns, each boasting three female figurines. Some of its original decorative fixtures remained after it was converted into the Alchemy Bar, a fleetwide Carnival staple.
The farthest aft public space on Promenade Deck was the cabaret-style Candlestick Lounge with its aluminum candlestick fixtures and flamelike gold and red color scheme.
In recent years, the children’s play deck on aft Promenade Deck was reconfigured as the adults-only Serenity Retreat.
Aft of the Atrium on Lido Deck, the sheltered, teak-lined Patio area had two al fresco bars that were later reconfigured as the RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar.
The bars serviced the pool area, while the far aft end of this level was dedicated to the Brasserie Bar and Grill with its Art Nouveau-inspired purple tubular ceiling.
This was definitely one of the more outlandishly Farcusian spaces on the ship and one that I will actually miss for its boldness and individuality.
Verandah Deck featured 26 balconied demi-suites with lofty views and on the Atrium terrace, the children’s playroom.
Outdoor teak-lined promenades (the Fantasy-class has abundant beautiful teak decks) led aft to the stern with its wading pool and, later, water slides.
The forward portion of Sports Deck housed the gym and salon.
Sports Deck resumed aft of the pool area at the base of the funnel with what was once a topless sunbathing area.
At the very top of the ship, Sun Deck had a jogging track and a glass-screened games deck that was later converted to the City Sports Park with putting greens.
Saying Farewell to an Old Friend
In her later years, the Carnival Inspiration was more popular for her great food, entertainment, and service versus trendy, edgy features. With her limited balconies and lack of specialty restaurants and newfangled bells and whistles, her days were numbered.
Nonetheless, when the COVID-19 pandemic slammed the cruise industry, it trimmed a few good years off her life, along with two or three of her fleet-mates.
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Wandering her decks a couple of years back with a colleague, I have to confess that the Carnival Inspiration was beginning to look a little tired. Her wonderful teak decks were still clean and well-scrubbed, but the paintwork and grouting were looking sun-bleached and faded.
Perhaps I am the exception but the addition of new, generic Carnival fixtures seemed out of place with the ship’s more daring, if at times aesthetically overpowering but always amusing, original features.
The lesson here is that one should never take any ship for granted. For so many years, I was so used to watching her frequent departures from the decks of the Queen Mary.
Now it will be strange to know that both she and the nearly identical Carnival Imagination, also en route to Aliaga for scrapping, will be no more.
History: How Carnival Inspiration Changed the Game
The fact is that she didn’t change the game, although she was a very successful and popular ship during her 24 year career with Carnival.
Fun Fact About the Carnival Inspiration
Christened by Mary Anne Shula, wife of ex Miami Dolphin coach.
None of note.
Various refits over the years saw the addition of WaterWorks, the Alchemy Bar, RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar, Circle C, and other fleetwide fixtures.
Sister Ships (Note: all were given the “Carnival” prefix in 2007)
- MV Fantasy (built 1990)
- MV Ecstasy (built 1991)
- MV Sensation (built 1993)
- MV Fascination (built 1994)
- MV Imagination (built 1995)
- MV Elation (built 1998)
- MV Paradise (built 1998)
The Final Days
With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on all cruise lines, big and small, even the perceived invincible Carnival was forced to downsize its fleet.
The Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Imagination, and Carnival Inspiration were the first to be disposed of since they are the only Fantasy-class ships to have not been refitted with additional decks and/or ungainly looking “tack-on” balconies.
The hammer came down in summer 2020 when Carnival sent the Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Inspiration to Willemstad, Curaçao for the removal of equipment.
When their AIS systems showed their next port of call to be Izmir, their fate was sealed despite the official announcement not forthcoming for several weeks.
PHOTOS: Carnival Inspiration’s Final Day
Sadly, although some equipment was apparently removed, no one at Carnival sought to rescue the ship models from the Carnival Inspiration’s dining rooms, along with other reasonably small and potentially valuable fittings and works of art that could have been preserved for future generations of cruisers to enjoy.
In late August 2020, the Carnival Imagination followed suit and is due at Aliaga in mid-September. The Carnival Fascination, recently put into “cold layup” with no plans for future cruising, appears to be the next of the Fantasy-class consigned to a similar fate.
Peter Knego is a journalist and maritime historian found at MidShipCentury.com. All copyrights and photos by Peter Knego unless otherwise noted.
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