Shaq, Carnival reveal roller coaster details Former NBA star climbs aboard model coming to Mardi Gras ship
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’s new ship Mardi Gras will feature the first roller coaster at sea — Bolt: Ultimate Sea Coaster — built by Maurer Rides Germany.