Shaq, Car­ni­val re­veal roller coaster de­tails For­mer NBA star climbs aboard model com­ing to Mardi Gras ship

Orlando Sentinel - - BUSINESS - By Richard Tri­bou

Shaquille O’Neal doesn’t fit into many roller coast­ers. He’s 7-foot-1 and weighs, well, more than most. But that didn’t stop the for­mer NBA star from lend­ing a big hand as Car­ni­val Cruise Line on Tues­day in­tro­duced the cars that pas­sen­gers will be rid­ing in when new ship Mardi Gras de­buts with the first roller coaster at sea in 2020.

Part­ner­ing with Mau­rer Rides, Car­ni­val Cruise Line Pres­i­dent Chris­tine Duffy and O’Neal re­vealed the red, blue and yel­low, two-per­son car that will be used on Bolt: Ul­ti­mate Sea Coaster, the nearly 800-foot-long at­trac­tion com­ing to the new class of ship that will call Port Canaveral home.

“I don’t think I can fit in there,” O’Neal said dur­ing the news con­fer­ence at the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Amuse­ment Parks and At­trac­tions Expo at the Orange County Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Or­lando. But the shape of the ve­hi­cle, which is like a tan­dem wave runner, was sur­pris­ingly ac­com­mo­dat­ing for the ex-Or­lando Magic cen­ter.

“Woah. Ho ho ho. I fit,” he said as he and Duffy climbed aboard the model, strad­dling it like a motorcycle.

Duffy is a roller coaster fan and hopes to recre­ate the photo op with O’Neal when it’s ac­tu­ally on the ship.

“I’m just so ex­cited that Shaq fit in the back seat,” she said. “So my goal: that it will be Shaq and me, first rid­ers on Mardi Gras.”

The car re­veal also came with more de­tails about how the roller coaster will work on the ship. Called a Spike Coaster, the Ger­man de­signer uses elec­tric-pow­ered cars that give rid­ers a de­gree of con­trol, mean­ing they can have an ac­cel­er­ated launch, and ad­just the speed up to nearly 40 mph while they tackle the course.

The com­pany has al­ready as­sem­bled the track com­ing to Mardi Gras on land in Ger­many. Once it’s tested, it will be dis­as­sem­bled and brought to the Meyer Turku ship­yard in Turku, Fin­land, where the 180,000-gross-ton ship is un­der con­struc­tion.

Mardi Gras is the largest ship ever built for Car­ni­val. The 1,130-foot-long ves­sel is set to de­but in Europe in Au­gust 2020, then make its way to North Amer­ica with a short stint in New York be­fore ar­riv­ing at its new home at Port Canaveral’s re­designed Ter­mi­nal 3.

The ship, which will be the first in North Amer­ica to use liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas as a fuel, will sail into the Cen­tral Florida port on Oct. 15, 2020.

Mau­rer Rides has two ex­ist­ing Spike Coast­ers at other lo­ca­tions al­ready open, but the big chal­lenge for the Mardi Gras ver­sion is deal­ing with the cor­ro­sive con­di­tions of con­stantly be­ing at sea. That’s some­thing Car­ni­val has had to deal with a dif­fer­ent at­trac­tion fea­tured on its three Vista-class ships, the sus­pended bi­cy­cle at­trac­tion SkyRide.

“To make sure that the en­vi­ron­ment is work­ing with our track and our ve­hi­cle, we’ve put all the ve­hi­cles in salt­wa­ter baths and cor­ro­sion pro­tec­tion,” said Steve Money, an ex­ec­u­tive with Mau­rer Rides. “For the track it­self, we’ve fol­lowed Car­ni­val’s guide­lines for what kind of steel works well on a ship. As far as try­ing to main­tain it, we’re try­ing to be as proac­tive as pos­si­ble and pre­dic­tive. We looked at ev­ery­thing as far as salt­wa­ter and sun and buildup.”

Bolt will take up es­sen­tially the same space as SkyRide, uti­liz­ing the area above the top deck for an open-air fea­ture. Ex­cept now, in­stead of the self-pow­ered at­trac­tion, cruis­ers can zip around at high speeds 187 feet above sea level.

The Spike Coaster doesn’t rely on ki­netic en­ergy and grav­ity, but in­stead has trac­tion on 100 per­cent of the track. That means ac­cel­er­a­tion can hap­pen on ev­ery point of the track, even parts go­ing up­hill. Money said that the track will run two cars at a time, and that the rider con­trols al­low for speed­ing up and slow­ing down within lim­its.

“They can’t get too close, can’t go too slow,” he said. “It al­ways makes it back around for ca­pac­ity’s sake.”

The ride should main­tain about 1-minute waits for pas­sen­gers, which is a dra­matic im­prove­ment to the SkyRide that could be at least three min­utes, and only han­dle two peo­ple at a time.

“We think there’s go­ing to be a lot of de­mand for this,” Duffy said, and it’s likely the cruise line will run the ride in both day­light and night­time.

“I think we prob­a­bly will as long we can do it safely, then we’re go­ing to want to make it avail­able,” Duffy said. “Rid­ing in the day is al­ways dif­fer­ent than rid­ing a coaster at night. I love roller coast­ers so I’m pretty psyched.”

The de­sign in­cludes the in­ter­ac­tive el­e­ments of a throt­tle grip and boost but­ton as well as the op­tion for piped-in revving sounds to sim­u­late a mo­tor en­gine.

“It’s cool be­cause when you turn the sound on, it ac­tu­ally feels like it vi­brates a lit­tle,” Duffy said. “It’s elec­tric, so you know how you ride in Prius and it’s weird be­cause it’s silent. But for peo­ple who don’t want the sound I think they’ll be able to con­trol that be­cause on our SkyRide, some peo­ple like to go fast, some like to go slow and take in the sights and it will be pretty serene up at 187 feet.”

The track will take rid­ers on a twisty path that cir­cles the iconic red ship fun­nel of Mardi Gras. Speeds will be posted af­ter com­plet­ing the ride, and just like at the theme parks, cruis­ers will get the op­por­tu­nity to pur­chase a photo taken dur­ing the ride.

As the largest ship yet for Car­ni­val, the line is break­ing it into six neigh­bor­hoods: Grand Cen­tral, French Quar­ter, La Pi­azza, Sum­mer Land­ing, Lido and The Ul­ti­mate Play­ground. One unique din­ing op­tion com­ing will be Emeril’s Bistro 1396 from Celebrity Chef Emeril La­gasse, who is tak­ing his first stab at a cruise ship venue.

Other fea­tures in­clude an ex­panded Guy’s Pig & An­chor Smoke­house Brew­house from Food Net­work star Guy Fieri as well as Guy’s Burger Joint. Also on board will be Car­ni­val main­stays like Alchemy Bar, Fahren­heit 555 Steak­house, Seafood Shack, BlueIguana Cantina Mex­i­can eatery and Pizze­ria del Cap­i­tano.

The 6,500-pas­sen­ger ship will fea­ture more than 20 state­room cat­e­gories in­clud­ing the fam­i­lyfriendly Fam­ily Har­bor and adults-only Ha­vana Ca­bana op­tions.

Once in Port Canaveral, it will sail a one-time, eight-night cruise from Oct. 16-24 and then be­gin its nor­mal seven-night sched­ule sail­ing al­ter­nat­ing East­ern and Western Caribbean itin­er­ar­ies. East­ern voy­ages will visit San Juan, Am­ber Cove and Grand Turk with Western voy­ages hit­ting Cozumel, Costa Maya and Ma­hogany Bay.

For more de­tails, go to Car­ni­val.com.

CAR­NI­VAL CRUISE LINE

Car­ni­val’s new ship Mardi Gras will fea­ture the first roller coaster at sea — Bolt: Ul­ti­mate Sea Coaster — built by Mau­rer Rides Ger­many.

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