November 27, 2002
Is Carnival's new Conquest just too big for New Orleans and the Mississippi River? Last week's debut of the ship, the fleet's new biggest-ever at 110,000 tons and a 2,974 passenger capacity, was overshadowed by a controversy over power lines. Seems that Carnival was promised that a low-hanging power line that spans the Mississippi about two hours down-river from the "Big Easy," would be raised by Entergy Corp., which owns it. Even during the river's low season -- which it's currently experiencing -- the ship, which towers 207 feet high, must hug to one side of the Mississippi (rather than sailing down the middle -- and deepest part) to avoid the low line. When seasonal rains begin, expected in two months or so, and the river rises, passing under the power cable safely might be all but impossible. Furious cruise line executives last week announced plans to abandon New Orleans as the Conquest homeport for Gulfport if the issue wasn't addressed immediately. And so it has been. At this point it looks like the folks from Entergy have gotten the message and have, according to Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz, pledged to provide "a short and long-term resolution to present to Carnival and other relevant parties on or before Dec. 3. This is the first specific, formal written commitment we've received and we are very encouraged by it. The various parties are communicating and it appears that some positive progress is being made." That's good. A Cruise Critic correspondent who sailed on Conquest last week -- at the height of the brouhaha -- described crossing under the power cable as "creepy." Not to mention sailing on a 110,000-ton behemoth as it got incredibly close to the more shallow riverbank. "You could toss a can onto the riverbank," she said. "You're that close."