Gulfport port officials had to scramble to accommodate an emergency request from Carnival Cruise Lines. They had just nine hours notice before the ship's arrival.
As you might imagine, it was a logistics nightmare. But port director Don Allee says the port managed to pull off what he calls a "major miracle".
Mondays are typically a busy day at the Port of Gulfport. An unexpected cruise ship visit made this one even more hectic.
"You can see we're pretty busy. That's five ships I'm looking at today. And five ships by any port standards of our size is considered a full day," said Port director Don Allee, as he looked at the port from his 14th floor window downtown.
Allee credits teamwork and cooperation for the port's handling of it's surprise visitor. Balancing the needs of the Carnival Conquest with the regular commercial cargo traffic was a special challenge.
"The Port of Gulfport, in a time of crisis, there was no hesitation in Carnival calling and saying, we know this isn't much notice. You've handled the ship before. Can you handle it again? Our answer was yes, yes," Allee explained.
Many outgoing passengers spent the night aboard the giant floating hotel. Near the cruise ship, port cargo work carried on as usual.
"Historically, cargo and people don't mix very well. But we've proved here at the Port of Gulfport that that can happen. And we do it very well," Allee said.
"I wish I could have left yesterday when the sun was shining," said Long Beach resident, Joe Feil.
Instead, he found himself facing a 24 hour delay in his planned Caribbean cruise. Ready to go, he kept a check on the Carnival Cruise Lines web site for passenger updates. He calls the delay an inconvenience.
"There's no one to blame. There's really no one to blame. It's no one's fault. It's unfortunate. You know, the people we need to think about are those five missing at the mouth of the Mississippi River," Feil said.
Carnival offered its passengers a pro-rated rebate for time lost, along with a discount on a future cruise.
Port director Don Allee says the port is also prepared to handle increased commercial cargo traffic. Several shipping companies are already asking about available space at the port of Gulfport.