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Cozy Places Scale Down the 'Destiny

By ROBERT N. JENKINS

© St. Petersburg Times


Yes, it's big. Enormous. But Hull No. 5941 from Italy's Monfalcone Shipyard -- christened the Carnival Destiny -- offers large helpings of smallness, too.

Even before its inaugural cruise last November, the Destiny was widely publicized as the largest cruise ship ever built. Using all the berths, it can carry 3,400 passengers -- though it cannot take them on the popular Panama Canal transit because Destiny is too wide. At 893 feet long and 12 passenger decks tall, it is a hike, indeed, from stem to stern and from top to bottom.

Yet this vessel has been designed with numerous features that disguise or compensate for the large amounts of space necessary in corridors, restaurants, lounges:

There are 10 bars and lounges -- seven of them placed along the promenade deck's entertainment boulevard -- but half of them seat 120 or less.

Sunbathers on the large deck around the main pool fill nine terraced levels of chaise lounges. Smaller tanning areas are on two decks around the ship's stern pool (which has a swim-up bar and two of the Destiny's seven hot tubs) and in the topless-tanning deck wrapping the ship's signature red, white and blue funnel.

The ship is sliced vertically by four sets of elevator banks and stairwells.

Ship's architect Joe Farcus included a charming set of open-deck lounging areas tucked beneath the lifeboat deck. It's a wonderfully quiet place to hold a book while you doze and face toward the sea.

The Destiny really is as big as promised. However, Farcus has cleverly used the space that makes this vessel roughly one-third larger than Carnival's six predecessors, called the Fantasy-class ships after the first of their nearly identical design.

Standard cabins aboard the Destiny are noticeably larger, at 220 to 260 square feet, than is typical in the cruise industry. Even three people can survive the typically awkward clothes-changing ballet performed in most ships' cabins.

The two formal dining rooms are each two levels high and feature clusters of tables and some raised areas, thus eliminating potential vistas of a thousand or so other diners' heads.

The main show lounge, the Palladium, is three decks high. Careful placement of its 1,500 seats provides marvelous sight lines to all but those sitting at the very sides of the stage -- and those passengers could get an unobstructed view of the action by glancing at the elevated banks of TV screens.

The fitness area, at 15,000 square feet, is said to be the largest spa afloat. Sprawling across the front of the 10th and 11th decks, aerobics and exercise rooms face floor-to-ceiling windows, which lets passengers using the 43 exercise bikes, treadmills and weight machines watch the sea go by. The two saunas also face out to sea, and there are nine massage rooms. Dimming the flash

What has become a glittering staple on many new ships, the multideck atrium with glass-walled elevators, is a handsome public space on the Destiny. The nine-deck-tall Rotunda features a classy bar, topped by a suspended ceiling with twinkling tivoli lights. Behind the bar is a small bandstand for a string quartet or a pianist.

For six decks, the Rotunda shaft is faced with marble and onyx walls of black and shades of gray. The effect on the passenger looking up or down: Big is not bad, not even overwhelming.

Which is surely the message that Carnival is trying to send.

The Destiny provides some other subdued changes from Farcus' typically brash "entertainment architecture." Carpeting and wall colors are muted. Passenger corridors feature indirect lighting, behind silk-screened panels of Farcus' ship sketches.

In the pool deck's 1,252-seat indoor-outdoor restaurant, Venetian-glass squares, milky white on the top half and blue-green below, diffuse the wall-mounted lights; the walls are covered by white tiles painted with delicate geometric designs.

Stairway bannisters, which have a veneer of wood, end at each landing in a metal lion's head, also designed by Farcus. The brocade on chairs in the formal dining rooms have colors such as chocolate and gold, with complementing hues in the carpeting and walls and butter-yellow table cloths. Ice cubes, ice cubes everywhere

But there's no change from another Farcus/Carnival trademark, cleverly themed lounges:

The Down Beat, a jazz club, seats 60 on barstools atop mock clarinets and at cocktail tables whose pedestals resemble horns. Giant musical notes on the ceiling are the main lighting fixtures, and enormous versions of trombones and trumpets adorn wall and ceiling.

The All-Star Bar seats just 55 patrons, who can pass the cigar-cutter while watching live sporting events on several televisions. The tops of its cocktail tables are enlarged versions of autographed photos featuring Mantle, DiMaggio, Marino, Gretzky and Ali.

The special features of the Point After disco are its 530 TV monitors that show everything from music videos to live shots of the dancers to silent movie clips.

The Onyx Room is as subdued as the disco is raucous. Located down just one flight of stairs from the Point After, the 190-seat Onyx lounge strives for elegance, decorated with forest-green, fluted columns bearing illuminated slices of onyx.

Less than half the size of the Onyx is the Apollo Bar, where the walls are tile mosaics of scenes from ancient Greek vases. But it's the tables, not the walls, that lure customers to this piano bar: Each table has a microphone, allowing the 90 patrons to sing along with the pianist. In turn, the musician can select any table's singers and flick a switch to put them in the spotlight.

Smallest of all the bars is Cheers, seating just 20 -- and serving just champagne (six varieties) and wines (21) by the glass.

These bars, lounges, restaurants, casino and shops are clustered on three decks that are sandwiched between the passenger-cabin levels. This also helps negate the ship's size because no passenger has to travel more than five decks to reach the public areas.

Caring for the passengers and vessel are about 1,086 crew and staff, 513 of whom work for Ian Smith, the senior food and beverage manager. In his 15th year with Carnival, Smith is among those experienced officers scrutinizing the new ship while breaking in the staff. The only adjustment required so far: His waiters had to learn to ride high-speed, three-deck escalators while carrying trays from galley to dining rooms.

That's not a concern for another of Smith's staff, Risa Barnes. The sole counter person at the Cafe on the Way patisserie, she invests it with a neighborhood baker's warmth.

The baked sweets and specialty coffees she serves are one of the enjoyable nuances among the food offerings. The Destiny also features a 24-hour pizzeria, Asian and Italian buffets, and a salad bar, all in the casual pool-deck restaurant.

With this sort of variety, passengers are likely to find a favorite cuisine, a favorite sunbathing deck, a favorite late-night lounge -- reducing the very big ship to a series of relatively cozy preferences. If you go The Carnival Destiny sails seven-day trips from Miami each Sunday, alternating eastern Caribbean itineraries (San Juan, St. Croix and St. Thomas) with western Caribbean (Playa del Carmen/Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios). The vessel is fully accessible; I saw several people in wheelchairs using every public area, and there are specially designed cabins. The ship offers 12 cabin categories and three price seasons. The current high season runs through March 30; per-person rates are $1,399 to $2,709, plus $109 in port taxes. But a recent ad in the Travel section had fares as low as $599, and you should expect to pay considerably less than the brochure prices. For more information or to book reservations, contact a travel agent.

Originally published February 2, 1997



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