Tourism & Cruises

How Carnival took to the skies to promote cruise ships on the water

Was that a cruise ship hovering over Miami last week?

No, it just looked like one. It was the Carnival AirShip, the cruise line’s experiment with using a blimp to promote its ships and ports. The blimp — formerly used by MetLife and named Snoopy I — had been wrapped in an illustration of a cruise ship including Carnival’s signature red, white and blue funnel.

The blimp was nearing the end of a monthlong tour of the southeastern United States on Carnival’s behalf when it reached North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines last week. Its stop in Miami was to celebrate the “homecoming” of Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Horizon, which had sailed cruises in Europe and out of New York over the summer, but now will sail the Caribbean year-round out of Miami. It also marked the departure of Carnival Vista from PortMiami to Galveston, Texas.

The blimp is on a monthlong “Homeport Advantage” tour of the southeastern United States that began Aug. 29 in Memphis and will end Sunday in Atlanta. The focus of its promotion is the redeployment of Carnival’s ships to various ports, including Carnival Breeze from Galveston to Port Canaveral and Carnival Magic from Port Canaveral to Miami, as well as Carnival Vista from Miami to Galveston.

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At North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines, crews prepare the Carnival AirShip for its next flight. Marjie Lambert

Cruise lines regularly reshuffle their lineup of ships and ports in an effort to match the size and amenities of each ship with the demand for cruises in each market.

The campaign marked the first time Carnival has used a blimp in an advertising campaign. The blimp, operated by the Airsign advertising company, is 128 feet long, moves about 30 miles an hour, and flies about 1,000 feet above land.

Carnival took a Herald reporter for a ride on the blimp, from North Perry Airport to Hollywood’s beach, down the coast to Sunny Isles Beach, then a wide turn over the water before heading back west. The nose of the blimp bobbed gently up and down when it was caught in light turbulence, but it moved slowly and felt as safe as a theme park ride designed for young children.

Carnival’s president, Christine Duffy, said the blimp has drawn a much bigger response on social media than the company expected, but a decision hasn’t been made on whether to use the blimp in a longer-term campaign that could include having the airship hover over football games, golf tournaments and other big public events.