MOBILE, Ala. — The Carnival Fantasy will begin voyages from the Alabama coast, marking the return of cruise ships to Mobile after a four-year absence, city officials announced Wednesday.
The Mobile City Council approved the deal between Miami-based Carnival Cruise Line and the city-owned cruise ship terminal on Wednesday.
The 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy will offer four- and five-day cruises to ports in Mexico, officials said. The agreement approved by the council is for about 13 months, meaning the cruises will run from early November 2016 to late November 2017.
The return of cruise ships to Alabama’s coast will have a large impact on the economy, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement.
“We are proud that Carnival has decided to bring a cruise ship back to the Port City,” said Bentley, who praised Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson for his role in the agreement.
“We look forward to welcoming the thousands of additional visitors beginning in fall of 2016, and the great impact this decision will have on our economy,” Bentley said.
Stimpson praised the terminal’s general manager, Sheila Gurganus, for her continuous talks with Carnival.
“Had it not been for Shelia Gurganus, this may not have happened,” Stimpson told AL.com. “Sheila never let the relationship die.”
Carnival executive Terry Thornton said he took note of Mobile’s willingness to help the company in 2013 when the Carnival Triumph went adrift in the Gulf of Mexico following an engine fire, leaving more than 4,200 passengers with no air conditioning or running water.
“The city rolled out its help for us … even when they didn’t have a ship,” Thornton said. “That didn’t get lost on us. It was important to have partners stand by you.”
Mobile hasn’t had regular cruise ships since 2011, when Carnival ended its seven-year tenure with the city. Carnival’s departure then left Mobile with an empty passenger terminal, which has been used for dances, weddings and other events.