The Grand Casino events center was quiet. The chairs set up for arriving Carnival Conquest passengers were empty. Austin Miller sat in one of those chairs, and finally relaxed. "I think this week everybody is going to get a chance to catch their breath a little bit and take a break," he said.
And then with a smile, Grand Casino's vice president of marketing added, "And we'll get our Sundays back."
Miller spent the last 18 Sundays in the events center, making sure cruise ship passengers and their luggage made it onto Conquest. "For the Grand, really to us it was an opportunity to do something good we hope long term for the gulf coast," he said.
At a Thursday breakfast meeting, a Harrison County tourism executive said a permanent cruise ship at this Port of Gulfport dock is going to happen. The coast just has to keep working at it. The 85 salaried employees over at Grand Casino are hopeful that their work with Conquest brings another ship and a lot more passengers to Gulfport.
"Our impact and our interest in the project from day one was to really open the eyes of the cruise industry and really showcase the Port of Gulfport and the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a possible cruise destination," said Miller.
Port, airport and tourism leaders are about to find out how many eyes they opened. They're flying to Miami two weeks from now. They'll meet with cruise industry executives and see if anybody else wants to welcome passengers onto a cruise ship docked in Gulfport.