Carnival named the 23rd ship in its fleet the Carnival Magic in Venice yesterday.

"This ship is the best in our fleet yet," said CEO Gerry Cahill. "And this is a good city for the venue, because Venice is the city of magic."

The 3,600-passenger Magic also is the 100th ship in the Carnival Corp. family of cruise brands, Cahill noted, so its naming ceremony is "momentous" for the company.

Hundreds of guests were entertained by a dance spectacular and a magician at the start of the indoor naming ceremony in the ships Showtime Theatre. Senior cruise director, John Heald, was the master of ceremonies for the event.

The ship was named by its godmother, Lindsey Wilkerson, who beat childhood cancer following treatment she received at St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, when she was 10 years old.

Carnival has had strong links with the hospital since the launch of it's programme called 'Care to Play: Carnival For St. Jude Kids'. It involves a variety of shipboard fundraising events across the fleet. Carnival's goal is to raise $3 million over a three-year period, said Cahill.

At the naming ceremony, Wilkerson, now 29 and a volunteer specialist for St. Jude, accepted a $50,000 check on behalf of the facility from Carnival. She named the Magic while guests watched a live video of a champagne bottle being broken on the ships bow.

"On behalf of all of the children of St. Jude, I'm honoured to serve as godmother to the beautiful Carnival Magic," said Wilkerson, who wished the ship "smooth sailing and calm seas."

Wilkerson and her family were guests on the ship's inaugural nine-night Western Mediterranean cruise that departed Venice a few hours after the ceremony.

Cahill noted that the positioning of the Magic is Carnival's return to Europe, where the cruise line sailed its last full season in 2008.

"It's great to have a ship here, and I hope we will continue to in the future," Cahill said.

Following its maiden voyage, the Magic will sail a series of seven-, nine- and 12-day cruises out of Barcelona until mid-October.

In November, the Magic will reposition to Galveston, Texas, for seven-day Caribbean cruises.