Originally floated out in 1993, the Carnival Sensation cruise ship was the third Fantasy-class cruise ship from Carnival Cruise Line, and, for a while, one of the oldest ships in the fleet. However, as the ship approached its 30th birthday, the cruising industry was turned on its head by the COVID-19 pandemic — ultimately giving Carnival the perfect excuse to retire this ship and send it off for scrapping.

If you never had a chance to cruise on this long-standing member of the Carnival family, it was a classic 90s cruise ship, though it did receive several updates throughout its life to keep it fairly consistent with modern standards. However, Carnival could only continue the updates for so long and, by the time Carnival sold the ship off, it was, admittedly, time. 

Want to see what you missed? Here’s everything you need to know about this former Fantasy-class vessel.

While several of Carnival Sensation’s sister ships were sold off in 2020, Carnival Sensation held out a little bit longer, taking over some of the other Fantasy-class ships’ itineraries, until 2022, when Carnival announced that the ship would be retired. The ship was sold for a reported $11 million and was beached for scrapping in Aliaga, Turkey, in April, 2022.  

Like all of the Fantasy-class cruise ships, Carnival Sensation was seemingly on the small side, at least compared to the mega cruise ships that cruisers are accustomed to today. Here’s how Carnival Sensation measured up. 

Gross Tonnage: 70,367 GT
Length: 855 feet
Passenger capacity at double occupancy: 2,056 people
Maximum passenger capacity: 2,634 people
Crew: 920 members
Decks open to passengers: 10

The ship cost about $250 million to build and is identical in size to Carnival Fascination

The other Fantasy-class ships included Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Elation, Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Imagination and Carnival Paradise. The lead ship, Carnival Fantasy, launched the new class in 1990, but, as of today, most of the class has met its end. The only Fantasy-class ships still operational are Carnival Elation and Carnival Paradise

Carnival Sensation was built by Kvaerner-Masa in Helsinki, Finland. The ship embarked on its maiden voyage on Nov. 1, 1993.  

The ship has four godmothers, Vicki L. Freed, Roberta Jacoby, Cherie Weinstein and Geri Donnelly. All four were Carnival vice presidents at the time of the christening.

Photo Credit: Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock.com

Immediately after launch, the ship began offering cruises from Miami. However, it also, over its lifetime, served itineraries that departed from Tampa and New Orleans. 

Carnival Sensation has sailed to a variety of destinations over its life, including the Bahamas and other Caribbean destinations, as well as Cuba in 2019. The ship was chartered by the U.S. government briefly following Hurricane Katrina, to provide housing for displaced residents and relief workers with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  

Carnival Sensation underwent several refits over its lifetime, to bring the ship up to more modern standards. Beyond mandatory dry docks that took care of basic cosmetic upgrades and maintenance, like the ship’s first dry dock, which occurred in 1998, more extensive refits also took place, including, most notably, in 2006, 2009 and 2017.

The 2006 upgrades were part of a class-wide refurbishment initiative. At this time, like its sister ships, Carnival Sensation received new features such as a 9-hole miniature golf course and upgraded children’s spaces.

Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

In 2009, Carnival gave Carnival Sensation the Evolutions of Fun treatment. The $250-million fleet-wide initiative revamped all of Carnival’s ships. Over more than a month, Carnival Sensation was refurbished to include fun features like the Carnival WaterWorks water park. The ship also received about 100 new balcony cabins, something that was sorely needed, as all of the Fantasy-class ships were very low on balcony staterooms. 

Finally, in its very last dry dock, in 2017, Carnival Sensation was brought up to the Fun Ship 2.0 Carnival standard, which meant that the ship, for the last few years, boasted some of Carnival’s newest entertainment venues and restaurants, including Guy’s Burger Joint by Food Network star Guy Fieri, BlueIguana Cantina and the Alchemy Bar.  

Carnival Sensation offered a range of stateroom options, from smaller, budget-friendly interior staterooms to larger, grandiose suites with plenty of space, both inside and outside.

The staterooms’ designs were, admittedly, a little on the dull side. The staterooms had a color palette primarily made up of shades of red, beige and brown.

Carnival Sensation Cabin (Photo Credit: dancingnomad3)

Cruisers could choose from an interior stateroom, interior upper/lower stateroom, porthole stateroom, ocean view stateroom, balcony stateroom, aft-view extended balcony stateroom, junior suite with obstructed views, junior suite, grand suite or extended grand suite. The extended grand suite was the largest option and could fit up to five travelers.

As mentioned, oddly, there were very few balcony staterooms on this ship, both when it first premiered and even after its refits. Whereas today’s modern cruise ships put balcony staterooms first, and often have more balcony staterooms than any other type of stateroom, balcony cabins were few and far between on Fantasy-class ships.  

Carnival Sensation’s venues included the basic offerings that you can still find on Carnival cruise ships today. 

There were two main dining rooms, one for early and late-seat dining and one for sit-down breakfasts and flexible dining times. There was the ship’s buffet, with a 24/7 pizzeria and deli. The newest dining options included Guy’s Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina. A free room service menu was also available.

Guy’s Burger Joint, Carnival Cruise Line

Otherwise, premier dining options were really mostly limited to dining experiences rather than a wealth of luxury restaurants, like steakhouses or sushi bars. Carnival Sensation offered the cruise line’s Chef’s Table experience, where cruisers enjoyed a small, intimate meal hosted by the ship’s master executive chef.

The dinner took place in the ship library and was only open to 14 guests at a time. There was also the family-friendly, Dr. Seuss-inspired green eggs and ham breakfast. Upgraded room service selections were available for a fee, and coffee and pastries were available for a fee at the ship’s cafe. 

In contrast, Carnival Sensation had quite a few watering holes, for its size. The Atrium Bar was a standard atrium-situated venue with a pretty standard menu of beer, wine and cocktails, with lots of live music, both night and day.

Carnival Sensation Atrium Bar (Photo Credit: Rob Bixby)

The sing-along piano bar called Touch of Class was a popular spot for music-lovers. Mirage Bar sat outside the ship’s casino and was — uniquely — the only spot on the ship where smoking was permitted. Michelangelo Lounge and Kaleidoscope Nightclub offered nightlife experiences. 

A few bars and lounges were added during the most recent refit, including Alchemy Bar, BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar. When it came to outdoor fun, there were options for both families and adults only.

For the kids, there was the WaterWorks aqua park, with a waterslide that circled around the ship’s port side and plenty of loungers. The final ship upgrades added the Serenity Retreat, an adults-only space that’s now commonplace across Carnival’s fleet. The space offered two hot tubs, lounge chairs and lots of spots to sun or sit in the shade with a drink.

Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz

The large main pool was on Deck 10, alongside four hot tubs. Sun decks with lots of loungers were also situated on Deck 10, as well as on Decks 12 and 14, which overlooked Deck 10.

For entertainment indoors, the ship’s two-level theater hosted classic cruise theater shows, such as tribute music concerts and, as alluded, there was also a casino. Camp Carnival catered to kids, and spaces for teens were also added. The small Spa Carnival provided your typical treatments and relaxation perks, like massages and saunas. 

All of the retired Fantasy-class cruise ships were fairly outdated, décor-wise, by the time they met their fates. While these ships, including Carnival Sensation, had been updated to a degree, and received new venues, like new restaurants and bars, the cabins and public spaces weren’t exactly overhauled and given brand-new life. As such, the cabins and most public spaces still retained most of their 1990s-esque décor.

Carnival Sensation Atrium (Photo Credit: Jeff K)

Think lots of red, orange, beige and tan, plus light wood tones, in the cabins, and bold patterned carpet in the restaurants, or “fun” fonts on the signs hanging over lounge and bar entrances. 

That said, the décor could certainly be dingier and more depressing (we’ve seen it on other ships from this era); for those who are more accustomed to sailing on cruise ships built in the 2010s or later, though, they probably wouldn’t have found this ship’s aesthetic to their liking. 

In 2020, Carnival began clearing out the Fantasy class, retiring multiple ships during the months following the cruise industry’s shutdown. As such, Carnival Sensation was moved around a bit, as the cruise line intended Carnival Sensation to fill in for some of its retired sister ships. Carnival Sensation was slated to cover both Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Fascination that summer after the latter was sold.

Photo By: Selçuk Ateş

However, Carnival Sensation didn’t get to stick around very long. In early 2022, Carnival announced it would retire Carnival Sensation and yet another Fantasy-class cruise ship, Carnival Ecstasy, with Sensation going first. The ship sold for $11 million in February 2022, and was sent off to Aliga, Turkey, in March. The ship was beached in April.  

Across the board, all of the Fantasy-class cruise ships were considered quite good for their time, when they first premiered in the 1990s. In fact, they could even be considered top of the line, contemporary and borderline luxurious. The Fantasy class helped cement the Carnival brand during this decade as a fun vacation option.

Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

However, these ships were so fully entrenched in the 1990s aesthetic that they quickly became outdated. While multiple refits did ensure that the ships had a handful of the venues and amenities that the newer Carnival ships came with, automatically, like water parks, the Serenity adults-only space, and newer dining venues, there was still little that could be feasibly done to make the ships competitive with those that joined the Carnival fleet in the 2010s and later. 

As such, when it was finally time for Carnival Sensation to retire, it was truly time, no matter that the ship was perfectly suitable in its heyday. It will be no surprise whatsoever when the remaining Fantasy-class ships, Carnival Elation and Carnival Paradise, meet a similar fate.

How many pools were on the Carnival Sensation?

There was only one main pool on the Carnival Sensation cruise ship. The pool was located on Deck 10 (Lido Deck). There were multiple hot tubs throughout the ship, though, both on Deck 10 and in the adults-only Serenity section of the ship.

What class is the Carnival Sensation?

Carnival Sensation was a Fantasy-class cruise ship, which means it shared many similarities with other Fantasy-class cruise ships, including Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Fascination, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Elation and Carnival Paradise.

How large was the Carnival Sensation cruise ship?

Carnival Sensation weighed in at 70,367 GT, with a length of 855 feet. It featured 10 decks and a capacity for 2,056 passengers at normal capacity, though it could fit 2,634 passengers. Passengers were served by a crew of 920 individuals.

Did the Carnival Sensation have a water slide?

Yes, Carnival Sensation had one water slide at its WaterWorks water park.

How fast could the Carnival Sensation go?

Carnival Sensation reported a speed of 21 knots, which comes out to 24 miles per hour, or 39 kilometers per hour.

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