Port Canaveral will be getting a chicken dinner, courtesy of Shaquille O’Neal and Carnival Cruise Line.
When Carnival Victory emerges with the new name Carnival Radiance after a $200 million refurbishment in 2020, it will make its way to the Central Florida port for the winter Caribbean season.
Along with it will be the first sea-based version of Big Chicken, a restaurant concept developed by Shaq that currently has a Las Vegas location that opened last month.
O’Neal is a celebrity spokesperson for Carnival, acting as its “CFO,” or Chief Fun Officer. He was present when the line’s latest ship Carnival Horizon made its Miami debut and said his favorite dining spot on the ship was Guy Fieri’s burger joint.
Shaq’s eatery will be similar to Fieri’s, but not located in direct competition with it. It will still be quick service, with a limited menu of fried chicken sandwiches and side items. Like Guy’s Burger Joint, it will be free.
One other plus, Big Chicken will offer breakfast fare such as chicken and egg biscuits.
It will be installed on the Lido Deck of Radiance, which is at the aft of the ship, and share space with popular venue Pizzeria del Capitano, while taking the space Seafood Shack occupies on ships like Carnival Horizon and Vista.
“This is a new restaurant concept Shaq has been thinking about for years and opened the first Big Chicken in Las Vegas last month, so when we began talking with him about becoming our Chief Fun Officer and brainstorming different things we might do together, Big Chicken came up,” said Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy. “We’ve never had a fried chicken concept on our ships. We think it’s something that will be really popular with our guests.”
With the addition, Carnival Radiance will have nailed down its own version of a mall food court with pizza, burgers, burritos and now fried chicken among its free offerings, and all adjacent to the pool areas on the ship’s upper decks.
“We think variety matters,” Duffy said. “Most of our guests like the more casual, hanging out during the day. We think it will enhance the experience.”
Expect a selection of fried chicken sandwiches with names that pay deference to the former NBA star. His Las Vegas menu features sandwiched with names like the “M.D.E,” as in “Most Dominant Ever,” with pickle slaw and Shaq sauce; the “Shaq Attack” with pepper jack cheese, jalapeno slaw, avocado and spicy chipotle barbecue sauce; “Superman” with Swiss cheese, smashed avocado and bbq buttermilk ranch; “Shaq Fu BBQ” with house kimchi, pork belly and Korean barbecue sauce; “Shaq Daddy” with Swiss cheese, country ham, Carolina tangy honey mustard barbecue sauce; and “Big Aristotle” with muenster cheese, crispy fried onions, bacon, sweet & smokey Memphis barbecue sauce.
“As Chief Fun Officer, I want to bring even more fun to every aspect of a Carnival cruise, including what guests eat,” said O’Neal in the press release. “Big Chicken has been a dream of mine and now that our land-based restaurant is open, it’s only natural to bring it to sea, as well. I’m really excited that Carnival Radiance guests will be able to enjoy my own delicious creations alongside all the other great food offerings on board.”
Also on board will be a large WaterWorks aqua park with a new slide called the AquaTunnel, ropes course and basketball court.
Carnival Victory currently sails short cruises from Miami. The vessel will be the last of what was originally the Destiny class of ships. The original Carnival Destiny became Carnival Sunshine in 2013. Its sister ship Carnival Triumph is already slated to get a $200 million overhaul in 2019 and become Carnival Sunrise.
Carnival Victory had its inaugural sailing in 2000, and has already received some of the upgrades during a dry dock this past January including Cherry On Top and popular pool deck quartet of the RedFrog Rum Bar, BlueIguana Tequila Bar, Guy’s Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina. An earlier dry dock in 2015 saw the addition of the Alchemy Bar and SkyBox sports bar.
After its 38-day dry dock in Cadiz, Spain, Radiance will sail summer 2020 in Europe, and then migrate to New York and Norfolk for Canada & New England, Bermuda as well as Caribbean & Cuba cruises. The ship will then make its way to Port Canaveral for service beginning Nov. 8, 2020.
Its Canaveral itineraries include six- to eight-night Caribbean and Cuba voyages. Cuba visits include day-long trips to Havana with overnight stays.
When it arrives in 2020, Port Canaveral will already be home to Carnival’s newest ship, the yet-to-be-named 180,000 gross ton LNG-powered ship as part of the line’s new “XL” class.
“We’re very positive on the demand that we’ll be able to generate,” Duffy said. “And these ships are quite different. The 180,000 ‘XL’ ship with many unique features than what we have on current ships and Carnival Radiance will certainly have a lot of great features and be redone as part of the dry dock.”