A Voyage Aboard Carnival’s Most Influential Class of Ship

The Carnival Inspiration makes her home in Long Beach, California. The 2,052-passenger cruise ship operates year-round cruises to Baja Mexico. Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line

They were called the SuperLiners. Carnival Cruise Line’s largest ships two decades ago are now considered midsize, but at the time of their debut, the Fantasy Class ships were revolutionary. In all, eight ships of this class were built between 1990 and 1998: Fantasy, Ecstasy, Sensation, Fascination, Imagination, Inspiration, Elation and Paradise. Beginning in 2006, all ships had the word “Carnival” appended as a prefix to their names to better align them with the rest of the Carnival fleet.
So maybe it’s nostalgia, or perhaps it’s just the need for a quick getaway to Mexico. Either way, of all the trips I have planned this year, I cannot wait for my first-ever experience aboard a Fantasy Class ship. It seems inconceivable to me that, with over 100 cruises underneath my belt, I’ve never sailed aboard one of these great ships. That will all change, however, when I step aboard Carnival Inspiration on February 6 in Long Beach for four days aboard this newly-refitted beauty.

The SuperLiners

Carnival Elation, which made her debut in 1998, is photographed in Freeport, Bahamas. Fun fact: she was the first cruise ship fitted with azipod propellers! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

In many ways, Carnival’s Fantasy Class changed the landscape of cruising forever. In 1987, the company unveiled the first plans for the ship that would become known as Fantasy. She was the largest ship the line had ever constructed, with a price tag of US$225 million. When she debuted in 1990, she was an immediate hit. Her whimsical styling (attended to by the ever-creative design work of Carnival’s then-in-house genius, Joe Farcus) progressed Carnival’s “Fun Ship” style to new heights, and the ship cemented in features that cruisers would take for granted for decades to come.
One of the cool things that the Fantasy Class did was to group the ship’s public rooms primarily along two decks. Running the full length of the ship from bow to stern, Atlantic Deck was home to the ship’s two dining rooms and the lowest level of the two-story show lounge. The upper level of the show lounge, on Promenade Deck, gave way to the ship’s soaring Grand Atrium and an interior promenade that ran down the starboard side of the ship. Off to the port side, the ship’s Casino could be found, along with a wide array of bars and lounges further aft.

At the heart of the Fantasy Class ships is a soaring atrium splashed in neon colours. Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival would go on to use this basic design concept on nearly every vessel for the next twenty years. Even today, Carnival’s ships are designed so that public areas flow into and out of one another. Take, for example, the gorgeous promenades aboard its Spirit Class ships that debuted a decade ago; or the swooping, curving lines of Carnival Breeze, where public rooms cascade into one another, connected by a series of central corridors that are designed to encourage guests to experience all the ship has to offer.
Even in deployment, the Fantasy Class was unique. Nowadays, most new ships come out on the most prestigious runs: weeklong voyages through Europe and the Caribbean. Homeporting in Miami or New York is practically expected. But when Fantasy debuted in 1990, her first run was doing three-and-four-day voyages to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral.

Sensation, as launched in 1993. Photo courtesy of Meyer Turku.

These ships were designed to be as versatile as possible, which could explain why Carnival has kept them around for so long. Carnival Inspiration is no exception, having been given a multi-million dollar makeover in 2016 that has added some of the line’s newest FunShip 2.0 features to keep her sparkling and relevant. These include Guy’s Burger Joint, the BlueIguana Cantina; the RedFrog Rum Bar; and the spectacular Alchemy Bar, which in my humble opinion ranks among the best cocktail bars at sea thanks to its fo

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