|Carnival, in a move widely rumored, has finally confirmed that it will charter three of its ships to the U.S. government to serve Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.|
At this point, FEMA is planning to use the two Galveston-based ships to house evacuees (primarily the elderly and then families); plans to begin transferring folks from the Astrodome in Houston to Galveston this morning have been delayed, however.
The designated ships are Ecstasy, Sensation and Holiday. All three will serve for six months.
Ecstasy, based in Galveston, will halt cruises beginning Monday, September 5. The ship will be docked in Galveston. Sensation, which normally homeports in New Orleans, will also sail its last cruise this weekend –- and will dock in Galveston as well. Holiday, which homeports in Mobile (which, ironically, is the first hurricane-impacted port to be up and running as of today), will depart on its last cruise today and will be pulled from service as of Thursday, September 8. It will stay in Mobile.
According to Carnival's statement, issued this morning, the cruise line's representatives will immediately begin to contact travel agents and passengers booked on any of the impacted vessels. As well, "all guests whose bookings have been canceled will be offered full refunds and will have the opportunity to rebook their cruise on any Carnival ship. Guests who rebook on any Carnival ship will receive a $100 per-person shipboard credit."
As a result of the charters, Carnival is making an effort to offer a handful of alternatives in addition to regularly scheduled itineraries on the rest of the fleet. "The Elation, which currently operates seven-day cruises from Galveston, will offer a one-time six-day voyage departing September 4, then take over the Ecstasy's four- and five-day Galveston program effective Saturday, September 10. Guests on the Elation's six-day voyage will receive a 15 percent refund and a $50 per-person shipboard credit."
"All guests originally scheduled to sail on the Ecstasy during the affected six-month period will be automatically moved to the Elation. The Ecstasy and Elation are sister ships with identical layouts. Guests will be assigned to the same cabins on Elation that they had booked on the Ecstasy."
As the ships are being chartered to the Military Sealift Command on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Carnival was not able to provide details on the specific functions these ships will provide.
Carnival's crew on Holiday, Sensation and Ecstasy will continue to staff the ships.