Carnival cruise ships will continue operating from Mobile for at least another year, Mayor Sandy Stimpson announced Monday as he returned from a meeting with company officials in Miami.
The cruise line has agreed to exercise a one-year extension option which will keep Carnival in Mobile through December 2018, Stimpson announced at a press conference held at Mobile Regional Airport. The extension option was part of the original agreement negotiated between Stimpson and company officials when Carnival announced its return to Mobile in 2015.
“This agreement is evidence of the positive working relationship between the City of Mobile and Carnival,” Stimpson said in a statement. “We continue to build the momentum of the growing cruise industry in Mobile and are committed to expanding the cruising options and destinations both in and out of our port.”
The agreement will be placed on the City Council agenda for approval as soon as possible, Stimpson’s office said.
Officials said Monday that the city’s cruise terminal has seen more than $4.7 million in gross revenue since the Carnival Fantasy began cruises from Mobile last year. By the end of the year, the terminal’s gross revenue is expected to exceed $6.4 million, and over 190,000 cruisers will have spent more than $18 million in Mobile. The overall direct economic impact of Carnival’s presence in Mobile is expected to exceed $35 million.
“If we all work together, Mobile will become one of America’s top destinations for global travelers,” said Mayor Stimpson. “It’s time to invite the world to enjoy our great city.”
The announcement is welcome news for Stimpson ahead of the August 22 mayoral election in which he’s seeking a second term. Stimpson faces three opponents, including Sam Jones, the two-term mayor he ousted in 2013.
Since arriving back in Mobile last year, the 2,056-passenger Fantasy has operated four and five day cruises from Mobile to Mexican ports including Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Progreso. The ship is ranked number one in friendliness and hospitality within the Carnival fleet, Stimpson said, noting that on a normal cruise day, some 150 employees assist 5,200 passengers disembarking and embarking the ship, handling luggage, parking vehicles, and receiving trailer loads of food and supplies.
Carnival previously operated cruises from Mobile from 2004 through 2011. Stimpson began lobbying the company to return to Mobile shortly after taking office in 2013, and announced a new deal with the cruise line in September 2015. The cruise line initially committed to operate cruises from Mobile for one year, beginning in November 2016, with two one-year extension options.
Under the original agreement, city and state officials spent around $4.1 million to upgrade the cruise terminal and bring it in line with new port security requirements. Stimpson said Monday that Mobile would need to perform some maintenance on the cruise terminal’s gangway as part of the extension.