Thursday, September 3, 2015

Carnival returning to Mobile

The Mayor of Mobile, Alabama announced an agreement for Carnival to return to the southern port. Specifics of the deal (when the sailings begin, what type of ship, etc.) will be announced later this month. But any news is good news as the Mobile Cruise Terminal has been mostly empty since Carnival left the city in 2011.

Mobile's roller-coaster history with the cruise industry is very similar to the travails of other non-traditional cruise ports. Cities all want year-round traffic, invest in facilities and tax breaks for cruise companies, do everything they can to get a ship and then worry about it leaving at the first sign of trouble. Regardless of little victories, the cities will always be at the whim of the cruise lines. Markets get bored or saturated. (How many times can cruise fans in the Gulf area sail the western Caribbean itinerary?) Very few secondary ports have the airports to support flights from around the country to feed the ships. And the drive markets tend to overlap. Mobile will probably get a multi-year run out of Carnival, but it won't last forever.

Mobile is a great city, so this boost is welcome. It will bring in more people to the downtown and will introduce the city to others. Let's hope this works and other cities have success with cruise too. It would be a win-win for civic and cruise leaders.

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