"Although we have consistently filled the ship, it has been at lower relative pricing to the rest of our fleet," noted Carnival president and CEO Gerry Cahill in a press release. "Additionally, the itineraries from Mobile require much higher relative fuel costs to operate and those fuel costs will become even more unfavorable with the implementation of the new ECA requirements starting in 2012." Therefore, the cruise line made the "very difficult decision to discontinue our cruise operations from Mobile effective October 22, 2011."
With Mobile out of the picture, how will Carnival shuffle its ships? As of November 5, Carnival Elation will sail year-round from New Orleans, offering four-night cruises to Cozumel and five-night sailings to Cozumel and Progreso. It will join Carnival Conquest at the port, making Carnival the only line with two ships based year-round in New Orleans.
If Elation's itineraries look familiar, that's because it's taking over the routes intended for Carnival Ecstasy. In turn, Ecstasy -- which is bidding farewell to its longtime Galveston homeport in September -- will only sail from New Orleans from September 22 through November 5, 2011. It will then reposition to Port Canaveral (Orlando), where it will begin a series of two different four-night sailings to Nassau and either Half Moon Cay or Key West and two different five-night sailings to Nassau, Freeport and either Half Moon Cay or Key West.
The ship will join Carnival Sensation and Carnival Dream in offering year-round cruises from Port Canaveral, making Carnival the port's largest cruise operator.
Kudos to you if you've been able to keep all those swaps straight up 'til now. Just to make things more confusing, there's also the matter of passengers currently with reservations on the ships involved in the switcheroo. If you're booked on a now-canceled cruise or are interested in the revamped itineraries, here's what you need to know:
If you're scheduled to sail from Mobile: You have the option of rebooking on another cruise and receiving a $25 per person onboard credit. Or you can opt for a full refund.
If you're scheduled to sail from New Orleans on Carnival Ecstasy: Your reservation will be automatically switched to Carnival Elation as the itinerary and ship are nearly identical to Carnival Ecstasy. However, if you were booked in a standard balcony stateroom (not found on Elation), you will be contacted to find a suitable alternative. All bookings will be moved over by March 11.
If you're not booked but would like to sail on Ecstasy or Elation's new itineraries: Carnival will begin taking reservations for these cruises beginning tomorrow, March 11.
--by Erica Silverstein, Features Editor