Alabama port gets another chance to woo cruisers

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Carnival Cruise in Alabama,

You might think that a city with its own Carnival Museum, like Mobile, Alabama, would be a good bet for Carnival Cruise Line.

However, Carnival pulled out of Mobile five years ago, citing poor financial results. This year, the line decided to give the city another try, returning this week for at least a year with one of its oldest ships, the 2,056-passenger Fantasy, to offer 4- and 5-day cruises to Mexico.

The move will bring at least 100,000 visitors over the next year to Mobile, which has many of the same charms as New Orleans, and a lot to offer anyone who wants to tack on a pre- or post-cruise stay.

Take that Carnival Museum, for example. While New Orleans has the most famous and well-attended Mardi Gras in the United States, the Carnival celebration in Mobile pre-dates it and claims to be the oldest in the country. Like New Orleans, Mobile was in French and Spanish colonial territory until being annexed by the U.S. in 1813. There are many antebellum homes and seven historic districts within Mobile recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

The No. 1 tourist attraction in Mobile, according to TripAdvisor, is the USS Alabama, a World War II battleship that became a museum after it was retired in 1962. It is about three miles from the cruise terminal.

New since Carnival last sailed from Mobile is the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum. Opened in 2015, the five-story attraction has more than 90 exhibits based on the Gulf of Mexico, and is walking distance from the dock.

Also new since 2011 are a Duck amphibious vehicle tour; an historic trolley tour; and a Mobile River/Port of Mobile boat tour from WildNative Delta Safaris that will run only on cruise departure days.

And baseball fans know Mobile’s minor league ballpark is named after native son Hank Aaron, but may not know that it hosts a Christmas light pageant in the off season.

Stacey Hamilton, vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Mobile, said the agency’s Very Important Cruiser program provides discounts to almost twenty attractions to anyone that shows a boarding pass.

Mobile is also trying to liven things up on Sunday for cruisers staying overnight before Monday departures.

Hamilton said Visit Mobile is working with the Mobile Arts Council and the Downtown Mobile Alliance to host an arts and crafts market in the historic Cathedral Square and has asked downtown area shops, museums and art galleries normally closed on Sundays to open on those days.

“We’ve branded this ‘Sunday Funday’ and will promote this heavily as a reason to come to town on Sundays and have some fun,” Hamilton said.

All of these additions helped make Carnival’s decision to return to the city.

“Since we were in Mobile in 2011, the Mobile officials have done a tremendous job of creating thousands of new jobs and business investments in the region,” said Terry Thornton, senior vice president of itinerary planning at Carnival.

Carnival Fantasy to sail Mexico cruises from Alabama

Carnival Fantasy to sail Mexico cruises from Alabama

Carnival Cruise Line will move the Carnival Fantasy to Mobile, Ala., for a year-long series of four- and five-night cruises to Mexico, starting November 2016.

The move cements Carnival’s return to Mobile, a drive-market port that it pioneered and then abandoned in 2011.

The Fantasy will depart Thursdays for Cozumel on four-night itineraries, and depart Mondays or Saturdays on five-night itineraries that will visit either Progreso or Costa Maya.

“Carnival Fantasy’s four- and five-day cruises from Mobile provide consumers with an affordable way to visit stunning Mexican ports from a convenient homeport while offering our valued travel agent partners an exciting new short vacation option to market to their clients,” said Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president.

If current itineraries hold, Carnival will have ships based in Galveston, New Orleans, Mobile and Tampa for the 2016-17 winter season.

Before it starts service from Mobile, the Fantasy will be renovated, getting new venues such as Guy’s Burger Joint, Blue Iguana Cantina, Red Frog Rum Bar and Blue Iguana Tequila Bar.

Carnival Live makes debut with sellout Styx concerts

By Tom Stieghorst

Carnival Cruise Lines said the first in a series of big-name concerts attracted a sellout audience.

Show lounges on Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Fascination were filled for the 1980s rock band Styx, which performed while the ships were docked in Nassau.

Carnival live video

Carnival Cruise Lines CEO Gerry Cahill told a group of travel agents Monday that the audience was a lot of “40s and 50s” who brought their children to the shows.

“We wanted to put energy in the product, and we’re trying to give you something to sell,” Cahill told the group, which was part of the company’s ongoing Carnival Conversations initiative.

Carnival has 49 Carnival Live performance dates scheduled, with 15 artists ranging from Jennifer Hudson to Olivia Newton-John. Tickets are priced between $20 and $40, with a limited number of VIP seats going for $100 to $150.

The shows occur in port at Nassau, Cozumel and Catalina Island, Calif.