Revisiting Carnival’s Forgotten Pinnacle Project
PHOTO: The translucent red skylight glass of Carnival’s Spirit-class ships emerged from the Pinnacle Project. (photo by Jason Leppert)
Did you know that the current biggest cruise ship in the world might very well have been a Carnival Cruise Line vessel instead of a Royal Caribbean International one?
Back in 2004, the Pinnacle Project was in development for a 200,000-gross-ton ship that was ultimately shelved, but its concept lives on.
As a fan of abandoned things and a fellow YouTuber, I discovered the Bright Sun Films channel awhile back and have become an avid follower. The channel’s talented creator Jake Williams has even delved into cruise topics on occasion, and his “Cancelled” series last featured Carnival’s Pinnacle Project, embedded below.
In it, he actually interviews designer Joe Farcus, who was involved in Pinnacle Project’s development.
Farcus’ interior design choices for Carnival over the years have been questionable at best, but the exteriors rendered in the video are actually quite impressive.
Architecturally interesting was a never realized navigation bridge that was perched offset from the forecastle along with superstructure features that have been implemented by other lines.
Widely expanded promenade decks have since been adopted to some degree by Carnival’s newest ships. However, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway-class took the concept furthest with The Waterfront, and next, MSC Cruises’ MSC Seaside will make it even larger.
Adding kinetic energy to the Pinnacle Project was a monorail system that proposed carrying the ship’s over 5,000 passengers around the upper and lower decks, as well as in between with a vertically ascending and descending midship track section.
Again, this is an idea that has not been deemed feasible by any line, but Carnival’s own SkyRide suspended cycling on the Carnival Vista is a paired down facsimile.
Speaking of such deck attractions, the Pinnacle Project also called for a lazy river that crisscrossed over itself on the promenade deck and a faux mountain between the main pools. The latter structure would have support two waterslides, a rock climbing wall and a shaded grotto for one of the pools.
As the video points out, Disney Cruise Line also had considered a lazy river that eventually evolved into the AquaDuck water coaster aboard the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. The rock formation has not made it onboard yet, but it is reminiscent of the focal point of Universal’s new Volcano Bay Water Theme Park in Orlando, Florida.
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Perhaps most fascinating about the Pinnacle Project, though, is just how similar it is to what Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis-class has turned out to be, particularly the new Harmony of the Seas.
Pinnacle featured a split superstructure over the stern, but the concept for such a divide down the bulk of the ship’s length, according to the video, originated with an idea Farcus had back in the 1980s.
Pinnacle’s stern again looks a whole lot like that which will be aboard the MSC Seaside as well, but its dual waterslides are very close to the Ultimate Abyss on Harmony of the Seas. In contrast, Harmony’s are dry varieties with many more corkscrews.
What’s sad is that by February 2005, the Pinnacle Project had been canceled by Carnival due to a rising euro and an increasingly unfavorable dollar to euro ratio. Even a scaled-back Project Next Generation without the monorail didn’t make it past the drawing board.
As Farcus said in the video interview, it was, ”probably [his] biggest professional disappointment that that project wasn’t built.”
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Instead, Carnival stuck with tried-and-true designs, churning out sister-ships to known profit-makers. This isn’t to say the line hasn’t innovated with features like the aforementioned SkyRide or IMAX at sea, but quite literally the biggest chances in the industry have been taken by Royal Caribbean.
Carnival’s competitor has now taken the crown with its 226,963-ton Harmony that supersedes the former Pinnacle Project concept. Carnival could, of course, always try again, but with eight other brands in the corporation to also consider, it tends to play it a bit safer.
I, for one, would still like to see the company attempt it one day.
This post first appeared on TravelPulse.