On Sunday, the Carnival Conquest is expected to return to Gulfport from a seven-day cruise. The majestic vessel has been docking in South Mississippi instead of New Orleans because of problems with low-lying power lines along the river there. A lot of preparations have been made on the Mississippi Gulf Coast the past seven days to welcome the cruise ship's return to Gulfport, and local business owners can't wait for the ship to dock.
Raymond Lizana, one of the owners of White Cap Restaurant said, "We know they're only here for a few weeks. We're just doing our part to welcome them here."
He said the ship's captain and some crew member dined in the seafood restaurant last Sunday night. Signs are posted along the bus route, in hopes of luring cruise ship passengers to enjoy all the Mississippi Gulf Coast has to offer. Passengers haven't wasted any time checking out the sights and sounds of the downtown area, and business leaders only expect things to get better with all the work that's being poured into accomodating passengers.
Moby Solangi, President of Marine Life Oceanarium said, "We've been talking with the tourism commission, Carnival Cruise, the city of Gulfport, the mayor's office. Everyone's been very helpful. It's just taken some time to get all these things worked out."
Beaches near the port are brimming with people, and preparations have been made to better handle the increased traffic tomorrow's sold-out cruise promises to bring.
Sgt. Alfred Sexton of the Gulfport Police Department said, "We're very fortunate we've got some senior staff personnel that are good planning. They were able to visit with some other agencies in New Orleans, the Port Authority and Port Police. We put together a plan last weekend that we felt had worked. We tweaked it a little bit."
An additional holding area has been set up at the Dole Container Site for passengers leaving the cruise ship...so traffic won't be backing up as much on highway 49 and 90. The top floors of the Grand Casino provide plenty of room for parking, and it's a sure bet that Conquest passengers will be met with plenty of South Mississippi hospitality.