The ginormous 1055-foot Carnival Panorama now calls Long Beach home.

Her naming ceremony was Tuesday, Dec. 10, complete with "Wheel of Fortune’s" Vanna White as godmother. There were fireworks, fancy canapés, and bands playing in celebration as Carnival Cruise Lines officially welcomed its 27th ship and the third vessel in the popular Vista class.

The 133,500-ton ship is swell in every sense of the word.

Following Wednesday’s inaugural three-day voyage to Ensenada, Carnival Panorama will launch year-round seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach, loading first on Saturday, Dec. 14. Carnival Panorama is the 15th ship built in Venice, a Long Beach Friendship City, by Fincantieri.

The ship will be here year-round every Saturday, becoming the line's first new ship home-ported on the West Coast in more than 20 years. She will stop at three ports: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Each week as many as 5,146 travelers will sail on board.

To quote "Leave it to Beaver" Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver, “Gee, that’s swell.”

Swell can also mean an increase in sound, amount, or intensity. Long Beach-based cruise ships sizes have swollen from the 855-foot Carnival Imagination and Carnival-Inspiration vessels to bigger Vista Class vessels, which are designed so eighty-five percent of the staterooms have ocean views.

Sailors know about swells and rough seas. Swells are basically waves formed by wind that blows over a large stretch of sea.

“Carnival Panorama is a wonderful addition to the fleet and she passed all of its maneuvers and tests with flying colors,” said Carnival Panorama Captain Carlo Queirolo.

So that means she should fare well in heavy swells despite her super structure 15-deck height.

According to Vocabulary.com, “In the 1930s, swell became a popular slang term meaning great or excellent. But it also can describe a wealthy, elegant person.” Traditionally, a group of swells are the types you would find in an F Scott Fitzgerald book dining in a fancy restaurant wearing monogrammed shirts.

A maiden voyage Facebook passenger group was formed last March by Rancho Cucamonga realtor Scott Phares, who said “I’ve been waiting 627 days since I booked this cruise — excited to finally see her.” The single 42-year-old man formed the interest group so that passengers could bond prior to the cruise.

Phares has been sailing on cruise ships since 2000, and enjoys serving as a catalyst for fun on board. He said, “I view our group as a forum for the exchange of positive ideas to enhance the cruising experience.”

Clearly these folks are the swells of Carnival Panorama.

Now at 732 members, the group has planned toga parties, a Christmas Ornament exchange and an ugly sweater contest in addition to the cruise line’s activities. They have even booked an Ensenada cantina for the day on shore. These party-cruisers have spent months preparing; no wonder the ship was voted as the most anticipated new cruise ship for 2019 in the fifth annual Cruise Hive Cruise Ship Awards.

Group members post questions and experienced cruisers help with answers. One member asked if he should bring fishing gear on board to fish from his cabin, another asked if they brought a screw cap bottle of wine on board would corkage fees still apply. Absurd queries are answered respectfully.

More than 300 Panorandos (their self-proclaimed nickname) paid to attend a meet and greet on the Queen Mary last Tuesday to help jumpstart the party. They have designed commemorative medallions, maiden voyage T-shirts and door decorations.

But what makes them really swell is the fundraiser that Phares initialed for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®. So far, the passengers on the original roll call group have raised $11,000 and plan to collect more with silent auctions and other events on board. Their efforts support Carnival Cruise Line’s goal to raise $33 million in the next five years for St. Jude.

Welcome home Carnival Panorama. So glad your passengers will do more than “Choose Fun.”

My heart swells with pride.

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