Cruise Ship Visits Boost Bus And Taxi Business

Back to back visits by two large cruise ships brought some obvious economic benefit to the State Port of Gulfport.

The Carnival Conquest and Rhapsody of the Seas both paid fees to drop anchor at the port. Then there's the cost of supplying the ship with groceries or fuel and paying the longshoremen for the work they contribute.

But there's a significant monetary benefit outside the port as well. Other segments of the transportation industry are getting an unexpected boost from the cruise ship visits.

"As they call for a cab, we take that call wherever they want to go," said cab driver Jack Glass, as he waited for passengers at the informal taxi stand outside the East Gate at the Port of Gulfport.

He's awaiting another fare from the three thousand passenger Rhapsody of the Seas. Rather than staying aboard the ship, many are making side trips into South Mississippi.

"They're going up to Wal Mart. Edgewater. They're going to the Prime Outlet stores. They're going to some of the casinos. But primarily to the outlet stores and the Wal Marts and Edgewater," said Glass.

Along with the taxi cabs, charter bus companies also enjoyed an unexpected business bonanza with the cruise ships. The Carnival Conquest in particular meant lots of people moving. Hotard put a dozen buses in service on short notice.

"It is good news. It was during a busy time, so it was very hard logistically to make happen. But we were glad to be able to be a part of hosting the cruise ships again," said Erroll Hotard, with Hotard Motor Coaches.

It's not just the transportation companies benefiting from the cruise ship visits. Passengers aboard those ships have been busy visiting coast casinos, restaurants and other tourist attractions.

We found Barbara Rollins walking back to the ship after visiting nearby Marine Life to buy postcards.

"I went to the Grand Casino twice. And I've been to the public library to use the Internet access and walked back from there and had a good time," Rollins said.

Cruise ship passengers wanting to explore South Mississippi have taxi cabs, casino buses and limousines standing by at their service.

Port Director Don Allee says the visit by the two cruise ships was further evidence of the port's ability to handle the needs of visiting cruise ships.

By the way, the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River was re-opened to ship traffic Wednesday. That will allow cruise ship access to New Orleans once again.