Carnival Cruise Line‘s Panorama, a new ship designed expressly for the L.A. market, set sail on its maiden voyage Wednesday, heading into the sunset from the Port of Long Beach on its way to Mexico.
The three-night inaugural cruise was the second phase of festivities celebrating the 1,055-foot Panorama, the first new vessel in two decades shaped with Los Angeles in mind.
On Tuesday, it was the staging ground for a giant christening and naming party attended by celebrities, cruise executives, travel agents, local government officials and other VIPS.
Carnival, which calls itself the “fun” cruise line, knows how to throw a party. Its welcoming festivities included the USC Marching Band, a blimp circling overhead emblazoned with the words “Choose Fun,” and Vanna White of “Wheel of Fortune” turning over letters that spelled “Panorama.”
White, the godmother of the ship, also pushed the button that sent a bottle of Moët Champagne crashing against the hull.
Christening/naming ceremonies are a maritime tradition said to bring good luck to the ship and all who sail on it. More than 1,500 watched the event Tuesday from the upper decks of the Panorama as a golden sunset colored the horizon.
The function was an unusual one for Southern California; cruise lines usually hold naming ceremonies in South Florida, where many corporate headquarters are based and where the nation’s largest contingent of cruise ships sails regularly to the Caribbean.
In the past two years, more lines have recognized the large Southern California market and have increased sailings out of Los Angeles. But Panorama is distinctive because it is new and will sail year-round from Southern California.
After its inaugural three-day cruise, the Panorama, on Dec. 14, is to launch year-round Mexican Riviera service from Long Beach. It will depart Saturdays on week-long voyages to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán and Cabo San Lucas. Rates start at $509 per person, double occupancy, for an inside cabin.
The ship holds 4,000 passengers and has a crew of 1,450.
The festivities Tuesday also included ribbon-cutting ceremonies for two new shipboard activities: Carnival Kitchen, a first-in-fleet culinary center that offers more than 15 interactive cooking demonstrations, and the first Sky Zone trampoline park at sea, a high-flying, two-level 3,000-square-foot facility.
Carnival Cruise Line, part of Carnival Corp., has a fleet of 27 ships operating two- to 16-day voyages throughout the world.