When Carnival Cruise Lines inaugurates year-round service from Charleston, S.C., May 18, 2010, the charming historic city will become Charlotte residents' closest port of departure for a drive-to cruise vacation.
The 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy will operate five-, six- and seven-day voyages to the Bahamas, Key West, Fla., and Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands from historic downtown Charleston's passenger terminal.
According to Marie Mosley, director of leisure travel operations for Charlotte-based Mann Travels, local residents are fond of cruise vacations. So fond, she said, her clients already were willing to drive to the closest ports of departure — Jacksonville, six hours away, or Port Canaveral, eight to nine hours away.
At just 3.5 to four hours distant, Charleston is "considerably closer for our local clients," said Mosely.
While she notes that for the past decade Carnival has sailed a couple of departures from Charleston every year, both the proximity and the expanded range of cruise offerings make it a doubly attractive vacation departure point.
"We're real excited about it, there's a lot of buzz about it here in Charlotte," said Mosely.
Starting May 18, Carnival Fantasy will operate five-, six- and seven-day voyages on a variety of departure days from Charleston.
Five-day voyages calling at Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas will depart Monday, Wednesday or Friday. Six-day voyages will depart Saturday and visit Freeport, Nassau and Key West. Seven-day voyages also depart Saturday and will feature Grand Turk, the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay and Nassau.
Mosely said that Carnival recently released pricing and availability of cruises from Charleston into 2011 and 2012, and has begun taking reservations for those cruises.
"That means Charleston cruises are really selling," she said. "In addition to the itineraries to the Bahamas and Key West, Carnival also has just announced that next year they are going to Bermuda on six-night cruises from Charleston."
Carnival Fantasy will sail six cruises to Bermuda from Charleston between April and October 2011. The trips will have two days at sea followed by two days docked at King's Wharf followed by two days at sea traveling back to the U.S. mainland.
"Such a wide variety of choices makes Charleston an even more exciting departure point for Charlotte residents," said Mosley.
"Another positive thing about Charleston is it's such a nice city," she said. "It's a destination itself, and we are partnering with several hotels to offer pre- and post-cruise tour opportunities to our clients."
She noted that Mann Travels also is doing its part to enhance the level of excitement and buzz in the Queen City about Charleston cruise departures.