Carnival: The Biggest Ship They Never Built


Back in 2004, the very secret Carnival ‘Pinnacle Project’ was in development. The exact details are shrouded in secrecy, but it is believed that project was to build a giant cruise ship of at least 200,000 gross tonnes. (See video directly below). However the project was ultimately cancelled.

Around about the same time Royal Caribbean International were developing their ‘Project Genesis’. This would  successfully culminate in 2008, with the launch of the words biggest cruise ship ‘Oasis of the Seas’ . At the time of writing (2020) nothing has come close to eclipsing the size of the ‘Oasis’ class. Nothing bigger is currently in the shipyard order books, for at least a decade.

Oasis currently has three almost identical sister in service, with two more joining her by 2023 (making six in total). The Oasis class is around 230,000 gross tonnes, carrying in excess of 6,700 passengers.


Why did Carnival abandon project Pinnacle?

At the time the Dollar to the Euro exchange rate was not very favourable and most cruise ship are constructed in European shipyards. Carnival did not think the economic climate was right for investing in such a a big ship. Carnival were also focussed on purchasing other existing cruise brands and expanding them, rather than innovation.

To be honest, after many years after the abandonment of ‘Pinnacle’, Carnival’s ship design appeared to be rather safe and sometimes lacked a little innovation, in my opinion. RCI were and still are still the most innovative cruise line, followed by NCL and MSC (but not necessarily in that order).

However Carnival did construct, ‘Queen Mary 2’ in 2004, the words biggest and only modern Ocean Liner. That’s a very innovative thing to do!

It seemed that RCI was focused on innovation around 2004, borrowing significant amounts to do so, while Carnival was more cautious about taking financial risk at the time. carnival concentrated on adding existing global brands to their portfolio and updating and expanding the various  brands fleets. (Cunard, P&O, P&O Australia, Princess, HAL, Seabourn,  Costa, Aida etc.)

Pinnacle Development

Joe Farcus, Carnival’s famous interior designer, responsible for many mind-blowing/almost psychedelic interiors, was involved in the ‘Pinnacle Project’s’ development. I also believe Stephen Payne, the QM2 designer was also.

Many of ‘Pinnacle’ design features have been incorporated, some years later, on cruise ships and not necessarily Carnival ones.

Probably the most noticeable aspect of Pinnacle’s design, is the split/open superstructure at the stern of the ship, extending along a fair proportion of the ships length. This concept is said to originated from  an idea Farcus had back in the 1980s.  This is very similar to the design adopted on-board Royal Caribbean’s ‘Oasis class’ ships.

The Oasis Class (Courtesy RCI)

In 2022 ‘Europa’, the first of six Mediterranean Shipping Company’s new ‘Global Class ships, will enter service. They have an almost identical split superstructure design. MSC  call it a ‘Y’ shaped superstructure.

Without doubt the ‘coolest’ feature of  Pinnacle’s design was a monorail system that was proposed to carry over  5,000 passengers around the upper and lower decks, as well as in between with a vertically ascending and descending midship track section. However nobody has been brave enough to take this idea forward – yet.

The expanded promenade deck, feature in Pinnacles design, was first adopted by the Norwegian Cruise Line’s ‘Breakaway’ class ships. They call it  ‘The Waterfront’. Carnival’s newest ships also now have a similar feature as do MSC’s ‘Seaside’ class vessels.

The Waterfront (NCL)

In terms of  deck attractions, the Pinnacle Project featured a ‘lazy river’ that crisscrossed over itself on the promenade deck and a ‘mountain’ between the main pools. The latter structure supported two waterslides, a rock climbing wall and a shaded grotto for one of the pools. Other cruise lines have since used elements of these designs.

The concept of Pinnacle’s dual waterslides are not dissimilar to the Royal Caribbean’s ‘Ultimate Abyss’ slides on ‘Harmony of the Seas’ (Oasis class).


Pinnacle (Carnival)

In Conclusion

Pinnacle’s cancelation  is rather sad, as many of the design innovations were unique at the time. Although the timeline is not clear, due to the confidential nature of new ship design, ‘Pinnacle’ may have been ahead of RCI’s ‘Project Genesis’.

Carnival might have stolen RCI’s crown and beat them in the race to launch the  biggest cruise ship afloat.



Read my comprehensive ‘Oasis’ review – HERE