Carnival Cruise Line's next ship, the 5,282-passenger Mardi Gras, will break the mold of the traditional cruise ship atrium design with Grand Central, a three-deck-high space built into the starboard side of the ship.
While cruise ship atriums have traditionally been built into a ship's center, Grand Central will span Decks 6, 7 and 8 and feature 3,000-square-foot glass panels on the ship's starboard side offering massive views of the ocean and ports of call from seating and tables throughout the three decks.
The space will change from dawn to dusk, by day being a place to have coffee and light fare, with live music and activities like trivia, while at night there will be performances and soon-to-be-revealed experiences on 16 individually controlled 6-by-14-foot LED screens displaying video and special effects like aerial feats and lasers.
Rendering of the Mardi Gras atrium, Grand Central, by day.
Like any atrium, Grand Central will have plenty to eat and drink. The multilevel Grand View Bar will offer custom-cocktails and have a virtual waterfall on translucent panels. Java Blue will serve espresso drinks and bakery items, wraps and salads, while the Cherry on Top will be a sweets shop. The space will be rounded out by retail stores and the casino, all connected by a series of promenades and bridges that serve as thoroughfares to other areas of the ship.
Photos and videos show the finishing touches being put on many of the ship's public spaces at the Meyer Turku shipyard.
Although it is one of the ship's six themed zones, there is no discernible theme to the atrium except that it is grand and the "main hub and heartbeat of the ship," said Glenn Aprile, Carnival's director of new build product development and part of the design team that developed the venue.
He said the idea behind its design was to create a space that was as functional as it was "eye-catching" and one that would give passengers a "take your breath away" moment.
"Building an atrium into the side of a cruise ship is no easy task," he said.
The idea came about, he said, in part to help disperse the guests better throughout the ship by creating an alternative to the theater with large-scale entertainment.
"But at the same time, this is not a theater," Aprile said. "It's our atrium, and it needs to be multifunctional throughout the day. We wanted to position it for a major entertainment event without obstructing the traffic flow of the ship."
The Mardi Gras's Grand Central atrium under construction at Finland's Meyer Turku shipyard.
By putting it on the starboard side of the vessel, he explained, the main promenade walkway could be on the port side, enabling passengers to stroll through the ship on one side and have an event on the other and not interfere with each other.
The unique design also allows Carnival to "bring the outside in, which was certainly an important thing that we wanted to do, and we're delivering that in a really special way with the atrium," Aprile said. "Whenever we can make the seas or the views outside the ship available, we really try to maximize that."
By design, he said, every time someone walks through the atrium the experience will be different, "by nature of the lighting, the programming throughout the day, the LED screens and also the fact that we have that view. The atrium will feel different depending on where the ship is -- whether you're at sea, in a port of call, whether the sun is rising or full daylight or evening."
Aprile said the atrium Is a "game-changer" for the brand. "We always look for new and exciting ways to deliver the guest experience."
The Mardi Gras will be Carnival's largest ship and the first North American cruise vessel powered by liquefied natural gas. It is set to debut from Port Canaveral, Fla., on Feb. 6, operating weeklong Caribbean itineraries.
Its six themed zones will include dining, beverage and entertainment options, including restaurants from Emeril Lagasse, Guy Fieri and Shaquille O'Neal.