Carnival’s newest ship, Mardi Gras, arrives at Port Canaveral. But when can it sail? – USA TODAY

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PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — This morning's arrival of the Carnival Mardi Gras to Port Canaveral was a symbolic event, signaling to many that cruising will soon be back, after the U.S. cruise industry has been idled since March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.The new Carnival ship — still awaiting its first paying passenger — sailed into Port Canaveral shortly after sunrise, joined later by two other Carnival ships, the Freedom and the Liberty.Crowds of spectators lined the shore at Jetty Park and the port's Cove area to welcome the ships. Some onlookers arrived at Jetty Park as early as 4 a.m., waiting in a line of vehicles for the admission gate to open.► Carnival Mardi Gras: What you need to know about the ship's arrival at Port Canaveral► Pandemic cruising milestone:  Celebrity Cruises is first cruise line to receive CDC approval to sail with paying passengers in JuneCarnival has not yet announced when it will be sailing again with passengers from Port Canaveral, but hopes to sail soon after it gets Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clearance to do so.In commenting on the three Carnival ships — plus a Disney ship and a Royal Caribbean ship that would be in port Friday — Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis said: "To see all these cruise ships back in port fills my heart with joy. It marks the end of a very long absence of cruising, and means we will soon be getting back to business."Cranis said the return to cruising "means jobs and economic impact that benefits all of us who live on the Space Coast."►Cruise contention: CDC approves plan for Carnival Port Canaveral sailings, as dispute with DeSantis continues►Carnival crews get vaccinated:  Crew vaccination are part of return to sailingTempering the excitement of the Mardi Gras' arrival, however, if the escalating dispute between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the CDC over how much control the CDC should have in regulating the return to sailing.The DeSantis administration sued the CDC in federal court. A mediator appointed by the U.S. District Court seeking to resolve the matter on Thursday declared an impasse. In a statement issued Thursday, DeSantis lashed out at the CDC, saying the agency "has opted to continue its ridiculous and unlawful regulations that target a single industry by imposing vaccine requirements — something no other business or industry must do."The CDC has said cruise lines can bypass a requirement for "test cruises" with volunteer passengers if it agrees to sail with 98% of its crew and 95% of its passengers having received a COVID-19 vaccine.But some cruise lines plan to have test cruises, which will extend the time before cruises with paying passengers can begin. When it begins cruises, the Mardi Gras, which is Carnival's largest ship, will be sailing from Port Canaveral's new Cruise Terminal 3 on weeklong excursions to the Caribbean. The $155 million cruise terminal was completed last year, but has not been used for boarding of cruise passengers because of the pandemic.The Mardi Gras is the largest ship in the Carnival fleet. It is 1,130 feet long, weights 180,800 tons and has 17 passenger decks.It has a passenger capacity of 5,282, based on double-occupancy of its cabins, and a full capacity of 6,465 passengers, plus a crew of 1,745.The Mardi Gras is the first Carnival ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas, and will be the first LNG-powered cruise ship of any brand to be based in the America.It also is the first cruise ship to have a roller coaster, which goes by the name Bolt: Ultimate Sea Coaster.The ship features six themed zones with a range of dining, bar and entertainment options, including restaurants from Guy Fieri, Emeril Lagasse, Shaquille O’Neal and Rudi Sodamin. This story will be updated.Dave Berman is business editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Berman at [email protected] Twitter: @bydaveberman.If stories like this are important to you, please consider subscribing to FLORIDA TODAY. To subscribe: https://cm.floridatoday.com/specialoffer/
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