MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Nearly two years after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Carnival Cruise Lines is restarting operations in Mobile.
Carnival said Thursday that all 22 of its U.S.-based ships will be back in operation by March 2022, with the Carnival Sensation sailing out of Mobile on March 5, the first Saturday of the month, AL.com reported.
“It’s great news,” said David Clark, president & CEO of Visit Mobile.
“We are thrilled,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a statement.
“Alabamians are ready to cruise again and they want to do it from their home state,” Stimpson added. “That is why we have been working closely with our partners at Carnival to help clear the way for their return.”
Stimpson said that cruising brings in $6 million in annual gross revenues to the city from wharfage fees and parking fees alone, and some of that money is used to offset the existing debt on the Alabama Cruise Terminal. During 2019 fiscal year, $3.1 million of the revenue was used to pay off terminal-related expenses, according to city figures provided to AL.com. The debt on the cruise terminal is not expected to be paid off until 2030.
The cruise ship’s return to Mobile had been pushed back twice by Carnival. Initially the sailings were to begin on Oct. 21. They were then postponed to January.
The Carnival Sensation, which previously served Miami, entered service in 1993. It will replace the Carnival Fantasy, which provided excursions from the Alabama Cruise Terminal from 2016-2020, before cruising was halted due to the pandemic. The final voyage of the Carnival Fantasy, which has since been sold for scrap, occurred in mid-March 2020 with around 1,800 passengers on board.
The Sensation has a capacity of over 2,052 passengers, and was last in Mobile in May so that its crew could get vaccinated. The ship was previously used as one of three ships chartered by FEMA to house victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.