‘Without a doubt’ – Carnival to suspend mobile service in October; the mayor confident in the future

A new Carnival Cruise Line ship will sail from Mobile from March to October, after which the future of the company’s presence in the port city is less certain.

After previously announcing that the Carnival Sensation would be homeporting in Mobile, the company is now announcing that a sister ship called the Ecstasy will be there to take passengers on cruises starting March 5, according to a statement. The change is part of a redeployment plan, which includes suspending operations in Mobile from October this year until September 2023. Carnival’s contract with the city ends in November.

Mayor Sandy Stimpson said Friday morning that Carnival President Christine Duffy wrote to him in a letter that Mobile would receive a replacement ship in October next year, once a brand new ship is introduced to port. of Galveston, Texas.

“While this is very disappointing news, particularly for our downtown suppliers, we are hopeful in the strength of our relationship with Carnival. So while that’s disappointing; we are supportive and understanding.

Regarding contract negotiations, Stimpson said his office and Carnival will be in touch soon. The city is still paying debt service on the Mobile Alabama cruise terminal at about $1.9 million a year. Stimpson said while it would be nice to pay for this with revenue from parking at the facility, the city can manage to pull the funds from other areas if needed.

“We are very lucky to be in good financial shape,” he said. “We’ll take care of it.”

Under this deployment plan, Carnival Sensation will not restart guest operations and Carnival Ecstasy’s last cruise in guest operations will be October 10, 2022, departing from Mobile and both ships will leave the Carnival fleet.

“Our guests have remained passionate and supportive throughout the reboot and 2022 gives us plenty to be excited and excited about as we reach full operations in the United States, prepare for our 50th anniversary celebration and look forward to the Carnival Celebration is coming this fall,” Duffy said in a statement. “Our highly loyal customers, our dynamic homeport strategy and our fleet of popular vessels are assets to our advantage as we adapt to changing opportunities and circumstances.”

Carnival’s future plans for Mobile will be announced at a later date, according to the statement.

David Clark, CEO of Visit Mobile, said there were a lot of positives to take from the announcement. He called the service suspension a “point on the radar”. One bright spot, Clark said, is that Duffy will be in Mobile on March 5 as part of Carnival’s 50th anniversary celebration.

“Christine Duffy will be here herself on March 5,” Clark said. “She doesn’t have to do this. She also didn’t have to put in the letter that Mobile would get another ship, but she did. There is no doubt that they will be back in fall 23.”

It’s no surprise that after what turned out to be virtually a two-year shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Carnival is looking to make changes to its business model, Clark said.

“We always knew that when cruises came back, they would start with the bigger ports first and then move on to the smaller ports, like us, after that,” he said. “Carnival sees their business model working well here.”

As proof, Clark points out that cruises leaving Mobile at full capacity due to the region’s “strong drive-in market”, means Mobile is a prime destination for those looking to drive, instead of fly, to to a cruise ship.

“Ultimately it’s a question of demand,” he said. “We have shown time and time again that every cruise that sells is over 100% occupancy.”

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