March 5, 2003
Carnival's ongoing debate over too-low-hanging power lines on the Mississippi River with Louisiana energy company Entergy Corporation took a turn as the cruise line has announced that it will temporarily shift Conquest to Gulfport. The ship will use Gulfport as its home port beginning with the March 9 cruise. Carnival Conquest, which originally was intended to sail from New Orleans on a year-round basis, has been, since its launch, facing safety issues over the power lines, which hang down river on the Mississippi from New Orleans. So far, the 110,000-ton ship, which is 207 feet tall from the water line to the top of the mast, has been able to navigate the low power lines by hugging the side of the river. But, as Carnival has warned from the beginning, seasonal rising of the river in spring will create a potential safety hazard. Entergy has agreed to bury the power lines -- but that project won't be completed until June 2004. Which means that next spring's Conquest cruises out of New Orleans may also have to be shifted to Gulfport. In the meantime, skirmishing between Carnival and Entergy over an interim plan to raise the power towers continues, obviously, to no avail. Carnival Conquest will operate out of Gulfport for "at least" six weeks. At that point, the company hopes the Mississippi will have receded enough to return to an operable level. There will be no changes in itinerary while the ship sails from Gulfport. During this time, Carnival will operate complimentary motorcoach service between New Orleans and Gulfport (both from the cruise terminal and the airport) on day-of-embarkation and day-of-disembarkation. Gulfport is an hour and 15 minute commute -- so the port shift should not make it necessary for travelers planning to add a pre- or post-trip hotel stay in New Orleans to cancel reservations. For those intending to drive to the cruise terminal in Gulfport, Carnival has negotiated parking at the Grand Casino nearby (and will operate shuttles to the pier); the rate is $10 per day.