(5:50 p.m.) -- In an ironic twist of fate, the first cruise ship to depart from Mobile, which has been closed since Katrina tragically came ashore, will be the last ... at least for a while. This morning, Carnival announced that it will charter three of its ships -- Ecstasy, Sensation and the Mobile-based Holiday -- to the U.S. government to serve Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
Still, a ray of hope shone on the Gulf coast today as Holiday set sail at 4 p.m. for a five-day Western Caribbean cruise, making Mobile the first hurricane-affected port to be back up and running.
When Holiday returns to Mobile on Thursday, September 8, the ship will be pulled from service and will remain docked there for the next six months. A spokesperson for the port says they are still ironing out details with the cruise line.
In a press release yesterday, the folks of the city of Mobile also pledged that they are "ready to help" and that "Mobile's first priority will be to assist evacuees, FEMA and rescue workers. Our flood waters have receded, leaving us deeply concerned for our friends and neighbors to the west."
The seaport suffered relatively little damage, and the 85 percent of hotel and motel rooms that are up and running will also be used for recovery efforts.
Our thoughts go out to everyone in the region who is coping with the devastating aftermath. Interested in donating cash or time to victims of Hurricane Katrina? Here's how you can help.