Port Prepares In Case Carnival Cruises Into Town

A navy ship sat along the Port of Gulfport's east pier. Port director Don Allee pointed to that berth, and said it was where the Carnival Conquest may dock.

Allee has spent the last few weeks preparing the port for the possibility that Carnival's largest cruise ship may leave New Orleans and sail out of the Port of Gulfport. Allee said the port was doing everything it could to accommodate Carnival's request because, "That's the business we're in. If they call, I'm prepared."

It was Carnival's president who told WLOX News last week that if the Conquest had to move, the cruise line considered Gulfport "plan B". In New Orleans this week, radio listeners joked that Mississippi should change its state bird to the vulture, because the state was trying to devour Big Easy tourism. "That's humorous that they would think that we are somehow trying to cannibalize them," said Allee. "But that's not what we're doing."

If Carnival ever moved its massive ship out of New Orleans, up to 3,000 passengers a week would need a ride to Gulfport. That's where Erroll Hotard and his fleet of buses enter the picture.

Hotard was told his buses may only get 48 hours notice from the cruise line. "This is definitely not the way we had planned on doing it, without being able to set up systems," Hotard said. "But moving people is what we do. And I think we can take care of that."

Whether the passenger ship leaves New Orleans depends on how fast crews can raise the low hanging power line over the Mississippi River.

The Carnival Conquest's first seven day cruise out of New Orleans is December 1, 2002. Right now, the ship can sail around the low hanging power line. But when the Mississippi River rises this winter, that becomes impossible. That's why Carnival executives said they're taking a long look at the Port of Gulfport.