Mobile Is Proof Of What Cruise Lines Can Do For Tourism

MaryAnn and Ronnie Robertson have cruised before, but this is the first time they could board a ship without leaving their home state.

They drove just over thee hours from Tuscaloosa, Ala., for this spring break vacation.

"My husband heard Carnival was leaving from Mobile, and we though this would be good easy spot to get to," MaryAnn said.

The Robertsons are just the kind of passengers the cruise ship business is looking for, people who can drive to their ships instead of fly.

"We are good solid drive-in market," tourism official Brenda Scott said. "That's one of the reasons the cruise lines, and Carnival especially, took notice of Mobile, and that's what we have really been marketing."

Over the last month, Carnival has tested the Mobile market with eight different cruises. Every cruise sold out, and the city estimates that brought in almost $7 million in business.

Scott works for the city's Convention Center, and she says if the Mobile market can make it, then that will open the doors for other coast ports.

"If we can grow this industry, and if we can grow these markets, and grow the cruise industry, hey let's all try to do our best, because there are lot of ships coming on board, and there is enough to go around."

The Robertsons have visited Mississippi's coast before, and say a cruise ship out of Biloxi or Gulfport, would be just as appealing as Mobile.

"It would have the same appeal as the Mobile dock," Ronnie Robertson said.

After Mobile's test run ends next week, the city will look at exactly where each passenger drove from, and how to market those areas.