Maybe it's only coincidence that the state flag of Texas and the fleet flag of Carnival Cruise Line are red, white and blue.
But with the move of the Carnival Radiance into Galveston in 2021, where it will join three other Carnival ships sailing out of the island city full-time, the affinity between Carnival and Texas is getting to be formidable.
Carnival has gone from no ships in Texas 20 years ago to four year-round vessels starting in 2021. The only port that will host more Carnival ships is Miami, where the cruise line was founded.
"It shows Carnival is very committed to the Texas market," said Fred Stein, senior director of revenue planning and fleet development at Carnival. "We started with one of our smallest ships back in September 2000, and we've been adding capacity all along."
Galveston is an ideal fit for Carnival's business model because a high percentage of its passenger base drives to the port. Combined with generally low price points, Carnival's vacation is affordable for a wide swath of the market.
About 37 million people reside within a 500-mile radius of Galveston.
After running a trial of the Carnival Celebration in Galveston, the line added the Carnival Jubilee in 2002.
"In 2015, we finally got to a third ship there. And we're happy to put a fourth," Stein said.
The addition of the Radiance will boost the number of passengers carried by Carnival from Galveston to an estimated 900,000 annually. The line also has a heavy presence along the rest of the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida, deploying the Carnival Glory and Carnival Valor out of New Orleans and the Carnival Fantasy from Mobile, Ala.
Carnival signed a three-year extension with Mobile recently that will keep a Carnival ship there through November 2022.
In addition to growing its numbers, the Carnival fleet in Galveston has been increasing in size. The 3,690-passenger Carnival Breeze will move from Port Canaveral to Galveston in 2021 to do short cruises, making it the largest ship in Galveston doing a short-cruise program.
Another late-model Carnival ship, the 3,934-passenger Carnival Vista, will continue with weeklong Caribbean cruises, while the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream will alternate between six- and eight-day cruises.
At 2,764 passengers, the Radiance — currently the Carnival Victory — will be the smallest of the four Carnival ships in Galveston, but it will have a slew of new improvements.
In a 38-day drydock, the Radiance will get a Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse, the Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant, a Bonsai Sushi, a RedFrog Pub and the first Big Chicken restaurant created by Carnival's "chief fun officer," Shaquille O'Neal.
"Radiance, after going through a $200 million refurbishment, is really going to be one of the top categories of our offerings," Stein said.
Starting May 14, 2021, the Radiance will alternate five-day Galveston cruises to Mexico with three different nine-day itineraries as well as a pair of eight-port, 14-day Carnival Journeys cruises.
Stein said the variety of itineraries offered on the Radiance is important to give repeat passengers new experiences.
"We think the nine-day is going to be a real hit, because it's roughly a week out of work, if you will, because it is Friday to Sunday, but you get that extra two days relative to a seven-day cruise."
Also, the some of the added features on the Radiance, such as Big Chicken, won't be showing up on any other ship.
Clustering four ships in one port also makes Carnival's regional marketing more efficient and gives advisors a lot to work with. It also allows for a variety of departure dates throughout the week, Stein said.