Carnival Launches Italian Sub-Brand Redeploying Two Ships from China 

Carnival Venezia
New livery during the refit to bring her into the Carnival Cruise Line fleet (Carnival)

Published Jun 15, 2023 11:42 AM by The Maritime Executive

Carnival Cruise Line celebrated the launch of its new offering, Carnival Fun Italian Style, a new sub-brand that seeks to merge the popularity of the U.S.-based cruise line with the corporation’s Italian brand Costa Crociere. Plans for the new offering were announced a year ago as the corporation worked to realign its operations as it rebounded from the pandemic.

Costa commissioned two cruises to be built on the Vista platform shared with Carnival Cruise Line planning to deploy the ships in its Chinese cruise operations. Costa was one of the leaders in the Chinese cruise market having been the first international cruise line to enter China in 2006. They sought to enhance their position with two newly built ships from Fincantieri that would emphasize the Italian heritage of the brand. The first of the ships, the Costa Venezia (135,500 gross tons), entered service in March 2019 with plans for her to be followed in 2020 by a sister ship the Costa Firenze

The suspension of operations due to the pandemic intervened before the second ship was delivered and while cruising resumed by 2021, the Chinese market remained closed. Working to rationalize capacity and realign operations, the decision was made to transfer the two ships to Carnival Cruise Line with Costa Venezia, renamed Carnival Venezia, starting in May 2023 followed by Carnival Firenze in May 2024. Each of the ships accommodates more than 5,000 passengers.


Arriving into New York on June 13 (Carnival)


“Following an extensive enhancement, Carnival Venezia really looks and feels like part of the Carnival family – with Italian theming and unique flair that I know our guests will appreciate,” says Christine Duffy, President of Carnival Cruise Line. She says it adds Carnival’s signature fun to the beautiful Italian decor of the vessel.

The decision was made to launch the sub-brand highlighting the strong Italian theming that had been incorporated into the ship when it was built for the Chinese market. Aboard the now Carnival Venezia, the décor was designed to provide a sense of Italy and Venice’s heritage for the Chinese passengers. This included a main atrium stylized to be reminiscent of St. Mark’s Square complete with a pillar holding a Venetian lion, facades in the pool area and elsewhere that look like the streets of Venice, and a restored gondola in one of the main dining rooms.


Interior spaces were heavily themed to inspire Venice for the Chinese cruise market (Carnival)


According to a Carnival spokesperson, the decision was to “lean in” on the Italian style to offer a new variation on Carnival’s casual style of cruising. New experiences such as a Venice street party and champagne toast, are being combined with Carnival favorites such as the steakhouse restaurant, the Guy Fieri’s burger joint, sushi and teppanyaki, and the piano bar to provide a unique offering that the company hopes will open new markets and be popular with its repeat passengers.

Before the ship’s re-launch, it was refurbished and assumed a new livery that celebrates the unique branding. The Costa yellow and blue funnel with the large “C” was maintained while the hull received a new stylized blue “swoop” with a yellow stripe. Aboard, venues were renamed and signage was restyled for the American market.

The New York City launch party on June 14 followed a 15-day transatlantic crossing that began in Barcelona, Spain. Guests saw famed comedian Jay Leno become the “godfather” of the ship marking its official entry into the Carnival Cruise Line fleet. The evening also included a special invite-only comedy show from Leno.


Comedian Jay Leno and Carnival President Christine Duffy welcoming the ship to the fleet (Allan Jordan)


The new brand launches from the U.S. on June 15 with the Carnival Venezia sailing year-round from New York until the winter of 2024-2025 when she will reposition to Port Canaveral, Florida before returning to New York in the spring. The Costa Firenze after having operated in Europe for Costa enters service as the Carnival Firenze sailing from Long Beach, California offering 5, 6, and 7-night cruises to Mexico in 2024.

Carnival President Christine Duffy highlights that the two ships being transferred from Costa are part of an overall growth planned for Carnival Cruise Line. The company she notes is introducing five new ships in 18 months, giving it double-digit capacity expansion in both 2023 and 2024. It is the largest capacity expansion in a short time span in the 51-year history of the brand.