Ahoy! Carnival’s return to Mobile dredges up memories

The Carnival Fantasy begins cruises to Mexico on Nov. 9 from the Alabama Cruise Terminal in downtown Mobile.
The Carnival Fantasy begins cruises to Mexico on Nov. 9 from the Alabama Cruise Terminal in downtown Mobile. Andy Newman/CCL

Carnival Cruise Line is returning to Mobile, dredging up memories of another ship’s service as an emergency shelter after Hurricane Katrina and the voyage from hell when passengers were stranded on the “poop cruise” before being towed into Mobile.

Carnival has committed to service for 13 months from Mobile to Mexico beginning Nov. 9. The company says it will offer a four-day cruise to Cozumel and five-day cruises to Cozumel and Progreso.

The Carnival Fantasy can carry 2,056 passengers. The maiden cruise is sold out, Carnival says. A number of restaurants and bars are housed on the ship, including Guy’s Burger Joint, developed with the Food Network’s Guy Fieri.

It also offers a spa, water park and Egyptian-themed piano bar, the Carnival website says.

Mississippi Coast residents will remember that Carnival’s Holiday cruise ship temporarily served as a Federal Emergency Management Agency shelter, housing more than 6,000 Katrina refugees in Mobile.

And then there was the infamous “poop cruise” in 2013, when the Carnival Triumph drifted in the Gulf of Mexico for four days after an engine fire. The cruise got its ignominious moniker because toilets on the ship overflowed. The ship, which had sailed out of Galveston, Texas, was eventually towed into Mobile.

The Associated Press reported that Carnival is returning to Mobile after a five-year absence and $4 million in improvements to the Alabama Cruise Terminal located downtown.

Carnival service also runs to the Caribbean out of New Orleans, which doesn’t see the Mobile service as competition.

“We see our market as a different market,” said Don Allee, director of cruise and tourism and the Port of New Orleans. “We’re selling two different features, so to to speak. When we sell and market New Orleans, we’re selling two vacations in one. New Orleans is one of the most popular destinations in the world.”

“ . . . When you put a cruise on top of that, it enhances the New Orleans experience.”

Allee was previously director at the state port in Gulfport, which over the years has flirted on and off with cruise services.

Allee was in Gulfport when the Carnival Conquest docked temporarily in Gulfport for 18 weeks because of navigation problems in the Mississippi River. Back then, Allee had hoped to steer cruise lines to Gulfport.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99