Mobile Shocked by Carnival
Written by: Paul Motter
Mobile, Alabama, was completely taken by surprise by the yesterday’s announcement by Carnival Cruise Line that it is pulling its only cruise ship in Mobile from the city and relocating it in Port Canaveral, Florida. City officials said they had no warning of the change, which will take place on October 22, 2011.
Mobile is a small southern town right on the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama. There was not much there at all until the local city council legalized casino gambling in the 1990s. This brought a fledgling hotel industry that has maintained a decent business although it has never gone much beyond the small town stage.
But Mobile rallied when Carnival agreed to place it oldest and smallest ship, the Holiday, there back in 2001 for two trial weeks. The city pulled out the stops and managed to get Carnival to extend the initial trial to seven weeks. Months of planning and spending on new dock facilities followed to convince Carnival to come back. Carnival finally agreed to move the Holiday there permanently in October 2004.
Several years of happy cruising from Mobile follow – only interrupted by Hurricane Katrina when Carnival leased the ship to the government to house aid workers. In 2007 received the “Port of the Year” designation from Carnival. The line soon announced it was replacing the Holiday with a bigger ship.
In August 2008, Carnival announces that Fantasy will leave New Orleans and replace the Holiday in Mobile. The Holiday was traded to a British company and has since been renamed. To accommodate the larger ship (600 additional passengers per week) the city council decides to build 450 new parking spots, a crew center and a Carnival warehouse.
Before Fantasy arrives Mobile learns it will get the newer, already refurbished, Carnival Elation, although the two ships are the same size. In Sept. 2009 the city orders a new gangway, built in Spain, at the cost of 2.6 million dollars to accommodate the new ship.
As late as last month, February 15, Carnival says bookings are up at record levels. Mobile has no idea that the company is planning any changes.
March 10, 2011, Carnival announces in a press release, with no notice to Mobile officials, that the Elation is leaving Mobile in October, and that there will be no replacement. Mobile officials say they are stunned, and shocked that they did not receive any prior notice that the change was set to take place.
Carnival says the decision is purely monetary – that while the ship was sailing full they could not raise the prices there without losing demand. The company cites a new energy emission standards set to take effect between 2011 and 2020 where all ships will have to burn cleaner but more expensive fuel up to 200 miles from the coast in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The itineraries from Mobile require much higher relative fuel costs to operate and those fuel costs will become even more unfavorable with the implementation of the new (emission) requirements starting in 2012,” Carnival Chief Executive Officer Gerry Cahill said in a written statement.
Cahill also said that while Mobile’s cruises were always full, Carnival had to offer below-average prices to book them.
“We have made every effort to drive higher demand and pricing through our sales and marketing initiatives and the deployment of a newer class of ship in 2009,” he said. “However, we have not been successful in achieving a sustainable level of acceptable pricing.”
All of this comes as a surprise to the City of Mobile, which up until yesterday thought everything was just peachy.
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