The recently renovated Carnival Radiance. Photo courtesy of Carnival.

Lucille O’Neal, mother of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, has been named the godmother of the Carnival Radiance and, keeping with tradition, will be on hand for the naming ceremony of the latest addition to Carnival’s Long Beach fleet Sunday.

A longstanding naval tradition, all cruise ships have a godmother to bring “good luck and protection to the vessel,” according to Cruise Critic. O’Neal will have the honor of breaking a bottle of Champagne against the hull during the ceremony.

The Radiance previously sailed as the Victory and first took to the sea in 1998. In 2018, Carnival announced it would give the vessel a complete makeover to the tune of $200 million.

The average cost of building new cruise ships has skyrocketed since the 1990s, according to data from cruise vacation booking site Gangwaze. Today, the average cost of a new cruise liner is upward of $800 million, with the largest and most expensive ships costing as much as $1.5 billion, according to Cruise Deals Expert.

“Carnival Victory was the perfect candidate to add to the Sunshine-class ships as she was the sister ship to Carnival Triumph which was converted to Carnival Sunrise in 2019,” spokeswoman Chelsea Stromfeld said in an email. “Taking a vessel in her mid-life years and adding many popular Carnival-branded venues has proven to be successful [and it] increases the lifespan of the vessel.”

Chart courtesy of Gangwaze.

The freshly renovated Radiance has a guest capacity of just under 3,000 and features many attractions, including a comedy club, musical performances, a spa, a casino, waterslides, a ropes course and Seuss at Sea, a Dr. Seuss-themed attraction for kids that includes breakfast with characters, a character parade, an interactive story time and arts and crafts.

For foodies, Radiance features numerous restaurants and bars. The ship is home to Carnival Chief Fun Officer Shaq’s first-ever chicken joint, Big Chicken, which offers chicken biscuits for breakfast as well as chicken strips and sandwiches. Guy Fieri also has a restaurant aboard: Guy’s Burger Joint, which sells, well, burgers.

The Radiance will sail three-day Ensenada and four-day Catalina Island and Ensenada cruises. The ship joins the Panorama, which sails a seven-day Mexican Riviera route, and Miracle, which sails four-day Catalina Island and Ensenada, five-day Baja Mexico and 14-day Hawaii cruises.

Carnival moved from San Pedro to Long Beach in 2003 after constructing a $40 million cruise terminal and has been a major economic driver for the city ever since.

“Long Beach allows us to offer unique itineraries attracting guests from all over the country and is easily accessible to guests coming from California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Utah, and New Mexico,” Stromfeld said.

Through the years, Carnival’s presence in the city has fluctuated based on demand. Prior to the pandemic, Carnival had four ships operating out of Long Beach, including the Panorama and Miracle. The Inspiration and Imagination were sold for scrap in 2020.

Carnival took a massive financial hit during the pandemic, reporting billions of dollars in losses. After being anchored for 17 months, Carnival resumed cruises out of Long Beach in late August.

Long Beach is one of the largest of Carnival’s 14 U.S. hubs. Comparable operations include Galveston also with three ships, Port Canaveral with four ships on a seasonal basis and Miami with five ships, according to Stromfeld.

While the city has been home to more ships at once in the past, Stromfeld said this is the first time the city has hosted three ships as large as the Panorama, Miracle and Radiance at the same time.

“We monitor how all of our markets respond to our deployment plans and are constantly looking for changes to optimize and expand our programs when possible,” Stromfeld said. “We do not expect any change to our Long Beach offerings in the immediate future.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the year Carnival began sailing out of Long Beach.