Greener ship to sail in as Carnival replaces Fantasy

The 70,000-ton Ecstasy, owned by Carnival Cruise Lines, will steam toward Charleston next year.

Carnival Cruise Lines is replacing its Fantasy cruise ship in Charleston with a slightly newer and more environmentally friendly vessel that will start cruising to the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic next year.

The Ecstasy, part of Carnival’s Fantasy class of ships, will arrive in Charleston for sailings beginning in February, the company announced Tuesday. The Fantasy, which has called Charleston its home port since May 2010, will reposition to Miami for shorter cruises out of that city’s port.

“We like to freshen the product every few years,” said Terry Thornton, Carnival’s senior vice president of fleet deployment and port operations. “The decor is different on the Ecstasy, the production shows are different — this gives our guests something new to see.”

The Ecstasy also has more than 150 staterooms with balconies — nearly three times the number on the Fantasy.

In addition, the Ecstasy already has pollution-reducing scrubbers that clean exhaust gas and reduce sulfur dioxide emissions, which should result in cleaner air while the ship is in port. The Fantasy is scheduled to have scrubbers installed this fall.

Air quality has been among several concerns expressed by cruise-ship opponents, who say they also worry about waste from the ship, noise and the impact of cruise passengers on the city’s Historic District. Environmental and neighborhood groups also are opposed to the State Ports Authority’s plan to build a $35 million cruise-ship terminal at Union Pier — a proposal that has been tied up in legal wrangling.

SPA spokeswoman Erin Dhand said the agency intends to keep its limit of no more than 104 cruise-ship visits per year with no ships larger than 3,500-passenger capacity.

The Ecstasy, which started sailing in 1991, is Carnival’s second-oldest ship behind the Fantasy, which started sailing the previous year. The Ecstasy — which currently calls Miami its home port — is roughly the same size as the Fantasy, with capacity for 2,056 passengers and 920 crew members.

The Ecstasy has been involved in several high-profile incidents over the years.

During a 1998 cruise from Miami to Key West, Fla., a laundry-room fire spread through the ventilation system to the aft mooring deck, causing the ship to lose power. The Coast Guard deployed six tugboats to help fight the fire and bring the Ecstasy back to Miami, where damage to the ship was estimated at $17 million.

In 2010, the ship listed 12 degrees to the port side when its crew tried to maneuver around a mostly submerged buoy while on a cruise from Galveston, Texas. The maneuver caused 60 injuries and half of the water to be dumped out of the ship’s pool.

The Ecstasy also spent six months in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to provide living quarters for evacuees and relief workers.

The ship underwent extensive renovations in 2006 and 2009, adding updated food and beverage service and increasing the number of balcony rooms. The Ecstasy also offers a water park featuring a 300-foot-long water slide, a 12,000-square-foot spa, casino and a tropical-themed, resort-style pool.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_