Ready for the ride?

Despite historic challenges, Meyer Turku Shipyard delivered Mardi Gras on schedule

article picture: Ready for the ride?

On December 18th, 2020, Meyer Turku delivered cruise ship Mardi Gras to the world’s largest cruise ship operator Carnival Cruise Line. The timely “Christmas delivery” of the 180,000 gross tonnage, LNG powered cruise ship marked a very important step for the yard – especially under the extremely trying circumstances of the COVID-19 crisis. Mardi Gras is planned to enter service from Port Canaveral, Florida in April 2021.

Project Manager Jaakko Leinonen acknowledges that every ship project comes with its share of challenges, but, this time around, those challenged reached almost Biblical proportions.

“Covid-19 hit in March 2020 and we took all possible precautions, with masks and safety distancing and the works. At the same time, we kept hearing about shipyards in France and Italy shutting down due to the pandemic and had to wonder, can we keep this going?” Leinonen looks back at the harrowing experience.


With 5,000 workers coming through the yard gates on peak days during the summer, that left room for a whole lot of worry: what if Covid makes its way here, too? Add to that, lay-offs at the yard, problems in getting foreign workers on site, new CEO coming in and the first whitecollar strike in this century and you can see that the project manager had his hands full. Still, the shipyard labored on to get the “end product” ready for December launch – and, finally, succeeded.


“In my mind, this is clear success story in this industry. The pandemic was our biggest hurdle to cross and we were able to handle it,” he says.

“When the ship was inspected, there was a minimal number of notes given. It was as close to perfect as you can get in this business,” says Leinonen, a 20-year industry veteran.


As Mardi Gras sailed off for Rotterdam, it was time for celebration – while Celebration is, coincidentally, also the name of the follow-up sister ship, already in production at the shipyard.

Looking at Mardi Gras, the biggest thing from a tech perspective is the use of LNG propulsion and the sophisticated systems which support it; with this greenand- lean package, she will be perhaps the most environmentally friendly ship to sail the North American waters.

Leinonen explains that Mardi Gras is the fourth LNG powered vessel from Turku: Viking Grace and Megastar got the ball running, and the Excellence Class vessels – Costa Smeralda and Mardi Gras – represent the new generation of LNG cruise ships.

“Even as Smeralda and Mardi Gras are both Excellence Class and utilize the same platform, so to speak, they are both also prototypes of their own right,” he adds.



Mardi Gras has classical ship lines and predominately blue hull. The ship’s centerpiece is a three-stories-high atrium in the middle of the ship, opening up to a floor-to-ceiling window and movable LED screens. From the atrium, passengers are able to enjoy a close connection to the sea and enjoy the scenery.

and enjoy the scenery. Still, atrium is not what everybody’s talking about at the time of delivery. The real “showstopper” is Bolt, an industryfirst in-ship rollercoaster – and clearly something quite unheard of until now. Bolt lets the cruise patron do the driving and control the speed of the ride with a top speed of 64km/h.

However, if designing and building a rollercoaster on solid ground is demanding enough – how on earth do you pull this off on a cruise ship? – Leinonen says that the initial idea of introducing a “rollercoaster on the waves” came from Carnival.

“The planning phase had already started, when we were approached with this idea. We modified our designs to accommodate for the rollercoaster – which, however, posed some challenges.”


Initially, vibrations were the main concern – how do you make sure that the rollercoaster and the ship are able to “co-exist” safely and effectively at all times? – But, having solved that problem, an even bigger problem surfaced: since the ship will be making the rounds in the Caribbean it has to be able to withstand fierce storms, and to be, in essence, hurricane-proof.

“We had to make it structurally so strong that it can cope with a hurricane, even. This proved to be surprisingly difficult, but thanks to our great team, we got it done.”

And, finally, seeing the Carnival representatives go on test runs on the rollercoaster – and come back with a big smile on their face – has been memorable for the project manager as well. “It was great to see that the customer really enjoys and appreciates what we’ve done here.”




For Leinonen, the building of Mardi Gras was special for a personal reason too: after being the project manager on 10 smaller vessels, this was the biggest ship under his watch so far.

“After all, the biggest ship classes out there are Oasis and Excellence – and it was great to be involved in making this one.”

The focus now turns to the building of the sister ship, Carnival Celebration, which will be delivered in 2022 – just in time for Carnival’s 50th birthday.

“The production of Celebration is under way and we’re looking forward to making something special there, too.”

Text by Sami J. Anteroinen

MARDI GRAS FAST FACTS Gross tonnage: 180,000
Passengers: App. 5,200
Length: 340 m
Beam: 42 m
Decks: 19
Crew: 2,000
Staterooms: 2,600
Suites: 180





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Seatec 1/2023


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