Red Tape Could Slow Down Cruise Ship Scheduled At Port

Carnival Cruise Lines sent its operations executives to the Port of Gulfport so they could fine tune their plans. They met at the Seaman's Center with Gulfport police officers, federal agents, and port executives. The law enforcement agencies discussed safety and security issues that will be required for the Conquest to take Gulfport passengers to Jamaica and Mexico.

A second meeting was held with the agencies that will help Conquest passengers board the vessel, or get to and from New Orleans.

If Carnival's largest vessel is at the Port of Gulfport this Sunday, its passengers will either take a bus from New Orleans to Gulfport, or they'll drive directly to the ship and park in the Grand Casino Gulfport garage. Grand is setting aside 600 spaces for Conquest passengers.

Dr. Gerald Segraves may use one of those parking spaces. The dentist will celebrate his 34th wedding anniversary hundreds of miles away from his dental patients.

"We're going on the Carnival Conquest," Segraves said with a smile on his face.

Instead of driving on I-10 to New Orleans to board the vessel, Dr. Segraves may get to drive a few miles down Highway 49 to a makeshift terminal at the Port of Gulfport.

"If they want to come over here and pick us up in our backyard, that's just great for me," he said.

If Carnival comes to the port this weekend, the dentist may run into Darlene Schweinsberg. Schweinsberg is a Gulfport travel agent who's also booked on the March 9 voyage.

"How exciting," the travel agent said. "It's right in our backyard, and I don't have to pay that parking fee" in New Orleans.

The buzz about Carnival's temporary move from New Orleans to Gulfport kept Travel Affiliates' agents quite busy.

"We're so excited," said travel agent president Rae Anne Ryan. "We know our passengers are going to be thrilled about this. And it's going to mean more business for us."

The Conquest is supposed to spend at least six weeks sailing in and out of Gulfport. Carnival says it's coming here because rising water on the Mississippi River has made it impossible for the gigantic ship to safely navigate around some Louisiana power lines.

Dr. Segraves doesn't care why it's coming. He's just glad it's supposed to be here on Sunday.

"I think it's an opportunity for the state of Mississippi to show that we really want this industry here," he said. "I would love to see it come here."

There are estimates in New Orleans that losing the Conquest even for just six weeks will cost the Crescent City $18 million.

So now the question is, what will the coast get in return? The expectation is more hotel guests, more car rentals, and more tourists. While Conquest is in town, up to 3,000 passengers a week will visit Gulfport. Plus, the ship's 1,100 employees will get to spend a few hours shopping or eating at coast businesses. That adds up to more sales tax revenue for South Mississippi.