It looks like Carnival Cruise Line‘s oldest ship, Carnival Elation, will be sticking around for at least another couple of years.
The 25-year-old vessel has just gotten the sort of upgrade that doesn’t normally happen for a ship that is about to head to a scrapyard for dismantling — the fate that has met six of its seven sister vessels in just the last three years.
Carnival has been phasing out the eight ships in the series, which collectively are known as the Fantasy class and have long been the oldest ships in the Carnival fleet. But Carnival Elation appears to have gotten a reprieve.
Earlier this week, Carnival revealed that Carnival Elation had returned to service after a makeover in a dry dock that brought it a new red, white and blue “livery” on its hull and such interior improvements as a revamped spa area.
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The 2,130-passenger vessel sails four- and five-night voyages to the Bahamas out of Jacksonville, Florida.
Other than Carnival Paradise, a Fantasy-class vessel that debuted seven months after Carnival Elation, the ship is the only one in the Carnival fleet that dates to the 1990s — at least in its current form.
Carnival also operates one other vessel that technically dates to the 1990s: Carnival Sunshine. However, that ship was completely gutted, rebuilt and expanded in 2013, after which it was renamed and rechristened. That makes its age something of an asterisk-worthy number in the cruise world.
Carnival Sunshine originally was built in 1996 as the Carnival Destiny.
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The Fantasy-class series to which Carnival Elation belongs was a hugely successful class of ships that began debuting in 1990. The vessels were instrumental in the growth of the cruise industry.
At the time the first Fantasy-class ship arrived in 1990, Carnival had just a small number of vessels. The arrival of the ship and its seven sisters between 1990 and 1998 catapulted the line into the big leagues of North American tourism.
For many years, the Fantasy-class ships formed the core of the Carnival fleet. But that began to change more than a decade ago with the arrival of several new series of bigger ships. Carnival began phasing out the Fantasy-class ships quickly after the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020 as it cut costs.
Carnival retired four of the eight Fantasy-class ships within months of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in early 2022, it removed a fifth vessel in the series from its fleet — Carnival Sensation.
It was just three-and-a-half months ago, in late October, that the line sent a sixth vessel in the series, Carnival Ecstasy, to a scraper in Turkey to be dismantled.
While still beloved by Carnival fans, in part for their intimate size, the Fantasy-class ships notably lack a large number of balcony cabins — the cabin type that everyone wants these days. Most of the cabins on these ships are ocean-view cabins that only offer a window or a porthole, or windowless inside cabins.
Related: The ultimate guide to Carnival Cruise Line ships and itineraries
The Fantasy-class ships also have relatively fewer amenities and venues than the newer and bigger Carnival ships.
At more than 70,000 tons, Carnival Elation was one of the biggest cruise ships in the world when it first began sailing. Its then-passenger capacity of 2,052 people, based on double occupancy, was a lot at the time. Now, it doesn’t even come close to cracking the list of the 50 biggest cruise vessels, some of which can hold more than 7,000 people. Cruise ships have gotten bigger and bigger over time.
Carnival’s newest ship, the recently unveiled Carnival Celebration, is more than twice as big as Carnival Elation at 183,521 tons. It can carry 5,282 passengers at double occupancy (6,465 with every pull-down bunk and pullout sofa filled).
Related: The 8 classes of Carnival Cruise Line ships, explained
With the departure of Carnival Elation’s six Fantasy-class sisters in recent years and the arrival of several newer vessels, Carnival now has 24 ships in its fleet. It’s a number that will grow this summer when the line takes control of a 4-year-old vessel from its sister brand Costa Cruises.
Now called Costa Venezia, the 4,208-passenger ship will be renamed Carnival Venezia.
Carnival Elation sailed its maiden voyage on April 1, 1998, after being christened by Shari Arison Dorsman, a member of the brand’s founding family. It originally was the same size as its Fantasy-class sisters, but it became slightly larger in 2017 with the addition of a new deck and 30 more cabins.
The vessel was, notably, the first cruise ship from any line to be equipped with an Azipod propulsion system — a type of propulsion system that gives ships more maneuverability as compared to older vessels built with shaft propellers.
The new livery that was added to Carnival Elation was first introduced in 2021 on Carnival’s newest ship at the time, the 5,282-passenger Mardi Gras. It’s being rolled out to more ships in the Carnival fleet as each one goes into a dry dock for repairs or upgrades.
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