MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Passenger ships are once again set to depart from the Alabama Cruise Terminal at Mobile following a nearly two-year break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the city’s future as a cruise port is hazy.
The Carnival Ecstasy is scheduled to leave from Mobile Saturday afternoon for a five-day trip to Cozumel, and the Miami-based Carnival Corp. has said the roughly 2,000-passenger ship would continue vacation trips from the port through mid-October.
But the company has said it plans to take a break in trips from Mobile after that, and it’s unclear what will happen once the window reopens for Mobile-based cruises in September 2023, news outlets reported.
Officials, including Mayor Sandy Stimpson, have said they are hopeful for a long-term return.
“I’m really excited about having the opportunity just to talk about that and what is the pathway forward,” Stimpson told a news briefing following the arrival of the Ecstasy in Mobile on Thursday. The city has a ”very bright future” with the cruise industry, he said.
Operators spent as much as $50,000 on upgrades to the cruise terminal in advance of the ship’s arrival, and David Clark, the head of the city’s tourism agency, Visit Mobile, said visitors rent about 35,000 hotel rooms annually related to cruising.
“It’s a big impact to our region because there will be people coming down through Alabama staying in other cities before sometimes they embark to go out on their cruise, or when they go home,” said Clark.
The port has never attracted a cruise line other than Carnival, a fact that industry officials say is linked to the relatively low prices that have to be charged for a trip originating in Alabama versus one from another location such as Miami or New Orleans.