Carnival Cruise Line has already slapped its brand on a motorcoach that has toured the country for agent events.

Now it will take to the skies, with a 30-day, seven-state tour headlined by a 128-foot blimp that will fly at a cruising speed of 35 miles an hour. The blimp will cruise at an altitude of about 1,000 feet over land and 500 feet above water.

A giant rendering of a Carnival ship will stretch across the side, which will also bear the line's current "Choose Fun" motto in red and blue block letters.

The tour will kick off in Memphis on Aug. 29, where the blimp will hover over St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, one of Carnival's longtime charitable partners. 

From there it will head south through Texas, east along the Gulf Coast, and south again in Florida, where it will rendezvous with another sizeable Carnival asset, chief fun officer and former basketball star Shaquille O'Neal, for the Sept. 20 arrival of the Carnival Horizon in Miami. 

From there it heads north past Orlando, Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville to end in Atlanta on Sept. 30.

The 15-city blimp-a-looza will draw attention to a new "Homeport Advantage" marketing campaign, designed to raise awareness of ship deployments in several key U.S. markets, and drive home Carnival's leading position as the line with the most domestic homeports.

"The fact that 50% of the U.S. population can drive to a Carnival vacation in five hours or less makes us very accessible to people from all over the country," Carnival president Christine Duffy said.

Carnival is shuffling several ships in September, with the Vista moving from Miami to Galveston, the Breeze from Galveston to Port Canaveral and the Magic from Port Canaveral to Miami.

After cruising in New York this summer, the Horizon moves to Miami for the winter. Its arrival will be accompanied by events hosted by O'Neal, current players from the Miami Heat basketball franchise owned by Carnival Corp. chairman Micky Arison, and local youth organizations.

With the recent addition of San Diego on a seasonal basis, Carnival now has 18 domestic homeports, including 10 in the southeastern states, six on the U.S. West Coast and two in the Mid-Atlantic. Carnival also has turnarounds in Puerto Rico and Barbados.

In addition to the convenience, driving to a port lowers the vacation price for guests.

The helium-filled Carnival AirShip plans stops in Houston and Dallas as well as Memphis, Miami and Atlanta. The general public will not be offered rides, Duffy said. 

Carnival said photos of the blimp posted on social media will trigger a Carnival donation to St. Jude but she wasn't specific about the amount. Social media posters also qualify for possible free cruises, VIP event passes and gift cards. 

In using a blimp for its marketing, Carnival joins a long line of brands, including Southwest Airlines, Fuji Film, MetLife, DirecTV, and many others.

The iconic brand advertised by blimp is Goodyear, which owns its own fleet of three airships that are twice as long as the type being used by Carnival. Goodyear Tire & Rubber has used blimps commercially since 1925. Goodyear and others often deploy blimps to sporting events. 

Duffy said the exact itineraries for the Carnival AirShip and the events it will maneuver to are still being finalized, so there is no firm estimate yet of how many viewers Carnival expects to reach with the campaign.

"The timing works out really well given that people are back to school and the fall, and football season, has started," Duffy said. "So you can imagine given the geography we're going to cover there's a lot of big events we think we can reach."


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