In a traditional maritime handover ceremony at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, earlier today, Carnival Cruise Lines officially took delivery of its newest and largest ship, the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream.

Following the ceremony, Carnival Dream departed for Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy, for its inaugural cruise, a 12-day Grand Mediterranean voyage departing Sept. 21 – the first of three voyages within the region.

The ship will then sail a trans-Atlantic crossing from Rome to New York followed by a special two-day cruise and two eight-day Caribbean voyages from the Big Apple. Carnival Dream will then reposition to Port Canaveral, Fla., for a special one-time nine-day voyage Dec. 3 before launching year-round seven-day Caribbean service Dec. 12.

"With some truly unique spaces and amazing entertainment options, Carnival Dream is dramatically different from any other ship we’ve introduced and ushers in an exciting new era in "Fun Ship" cruising," said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO. "Value is more important than ever and the Carnival Dream – with its unique public spaces and exciting on-board innovations - provides the type of quality, affordable vacation experiences that today’s consumers are seeking," he added.

Representing a new class of vessel for the line, the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream offers a host of innovations, including Ocean Plaza, a stunning indoor/outdoor café and live music venue; The Lanai, an outdoor area featuring a wrap-around promenade and cantilevered whirlpools that are suspended over the ship’s side; a host of new accommodation categories, including two-bath, five-berth staterooms that appeal to families and cove balcony cabins located closer to the water line; a sprawling Carnival WaterWorks aqua park featuring the longest water slide at sea; and a 23,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa, the largest in the fleet.

Exciting new entertainment choices, including a comedy club offering 24 performances per voyage and outdoor laser shows on Lido Deck, are also featured. Also new is the "Fun Hub," a comprehensive intranet portal and the first shipboard social network that provides a variety of helpful information on the vessel and allows guests to interact and connect with their fellow passengers on board.

Dining options include two formal restaurants with extensive menus and wine lists nightly, an expansive Lido-area eatery featuring a 24-hour pizzeria, Indian tandoori and new Italian pasta bar, an elegant steakhouse serving USDA prime dry-aged beef, a sushi bar, a patisserie and complimentary 24-hour stateroom service.

A host of bars, lounges, nightspots and live music venues – all bearing the unmistakable design stamp of Carnival’s renowned interior architect Joe Farcus – are also featured.

Carnival Dream is the 23rd vessel in Carnival Cruise Lines’ fleet, which operates three- to 16-day voyages to The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England, Bermuda and Europe.

A sister ship to the Carnival Dream, the 130,000-ton Carnival Magic, is scheduled for delivery in June 2011. It is also being built in Italy by Fincantieri.