MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — For the second time, Carnival cruise line turned to Mobile when it had trouble, and that has sparked new talk about whether the port city will ever become the permanent home for a cruise ship again.
Carnival diverted its Conquest cruise ship from New Orleans to Mobile on Sunday because the Mississippi River was closed to ship traffic due to a tugboat sinking.
The Conquest had been scheduled to unload Sunday in New Orleans and depart the same day with a new load of passengers. Instead, Carnival said it shortened this week's cruise to six days and was busing passengers from New Orleans to Mobile for departure late Monday afternoon.
The 953-foot Conquest is the largest cruise ship to ever dock in Mobile. Carnival last used the port of Mobile in February to dock the smaller Triumph after it became disabled and had to be towed into port.
In February, passengers arrived wearing bath robes and complaining of foul conditions. The passengers' attitudes Sunday afternoon were much different. Passenger Alisa Jordan of Hurley, Miss., said the cruise ship crew announced the change of plans Saturday night, everything on board functioned normally, and buses were waiting Sunday afternoon to take passengers to New Orleans, where many had left their cars.
"I was very pleased," she told al.com.
Mobile used to be a regular port for carnival, but the cruise line moved its Elation ship to New Orleans in October 2011. The cruise ship was drawing plenty of customers in Mobile, but many were at discounted rates, officials said at the time. Mobile's cruise terminal hasn't been a regular port for any ship since then.
Mayoral candidate Sandy Stimpson said Carnival pulled out of Mobile during Mayor Sam Jones' administration, and local officials should be doing more to make Mobile a regular port for cruises again.
"What we have there is a $25 million cruise terminal that's being used for $2,500 wedding receptions," he told WPMI-TV.
Jones said city officials have been working hard to recruit another cruise ship, and two companies have expressed interest. He said part of the process in attracting a cruise ship is showing a line that it can make more money by moving the ship from its existing port. Jones and other city officials recently traveled to Miami to meet with officials in the cruise industry.
"We'll get a ship. I'm confident we'll get a ship," the mayor said.
He said handling a ship the size of the Conquest will help the city's efforts because cruise ships keep getting bigger.