For at least the next four weeks you can expect to see a flurry of cruise ship passengers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. While the Carnival Conquest was out at sea last week, the City of Gulfport has been hard at work to better accomodate the luxury liner and her passengers. The second group of passengers to arrive in Gulfport Sunday was met with a pleasant surprise...a warm Mississippi welcome from the state's top legislator, Governor Ronnie Musgrove.
"It's a pleasure to have you here. We enjoy being here. I hope everyone was hospitable to you. Everyone was outstanding," the Governor said to one family leaving the ship.
Chuck and Cindy Lindsey of Morgan City, Louisiana were among the passengers who returned to the port of Gulfport Sunday. It was their first cruise. They were quite impressed.
"I think they've done wonderful job," Cindy Lindsey said. "This whole week they've been planning to get us off faster than they got us on, and they've come through with flying colors."
"Traffic control...they had a lot of problems at first, but they got it worked out, and everything went real smooth. I was happy with it," Chuck Lindsey added.
The Conquest will only be here for a few weeks, but local and state leaders are pushing to get a majestic ship like this one to dock here permanently.
"We're just working very hard to let Carnival and other cruise lines know we'd love to have homeport activity," said Steve Richer, Coast Tourism Director. "We've got a lot of activities for the visitors to do."
Governor Ronnie Musgrove is one of the major players trying to steer a Carnival Cruise Line to the Coast. Sunday he met with Conquest crew members, local and state officials. The governor also announced that the tourism division of the Mississippi Development Authority is giving a $15,000 dollar grant to the port to enhance the to better accomodate the ship and her passengers.
Bob Rohrlack, Director of the Mississippi Economic Development Authority, says the entire state would benefit from a permanent cruise ship.
He said, "In these tough economic times, if we can have a boost of tourism to have dollars coming into the state, it's significant. Again, having the ship here in the state is a mark for the entire state."
The Conquest may be here for just a few more weeks, but Mississippi is hoping it will lead to a long term victory...landing a ship here for the long haul.