It was 50 years ago that the Carnival Mardi Gras ran aground on its maiden voyage.
There was a birthday party Friday on the Carnival Conquest as company bigwigs celebrated the line's 50th birthday. Chairman of the Board Mickey Arison was there and reminisced of the first cruise for the company. A large birthday cake was part of the event, although one would think, "Baked Alaska On Parade" one more time would be appropriate.
Arison talked about the first cruise on the Mardi Gras, which ran aground, leaving the port of Miami.
It was March 11, 1972, and Arison, who was on the bridge wing, remembers the sand flying. "I knew that was not a good sign,' he said wryly. 'We had no other choice but to open the bars and have a party." Arison added, "At the time, I thought there was no way in hell we're going to survive. We've got this old ship. We've got no money to put her in any condition, and we're competing with the smaller but relatively new ships of NCL and Royal. It was nip and tuck for a couple of years whether we would survive. By the third year, we started to create enough business to get positive cash flow and started to look for a second ship."
In attendance for this celebration were Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy, Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison, and Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald; U.S. Representatives Frederica Wilson and Vern Buchanan; Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava; Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez; Miami industry and community leaders; as well as Carnival leadership.
In addition to the cake, Carnival President brought a couple of checks.
One was for a $50,000 donation to World Central Kitchen to support Ukrainian relief efforts and another a $50,000 donation to Carnival's long-standing partner Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami.
Mayor Levine Cava presented Duffy with a commemorative gift marking the occasion, and Mayor Bermudez read a proclamation declaring March 11, 2022, as Carnival Cruise Line Day in Doral.