Carnival, which abruptly transferred the New Orleans-based Conquest to
Gulfport as a result of rising river levels, experienced more than the usual
first-time jitters. The ship, whose arrival was delayed five hours by fog
(as were ships aiming for New Orleans that night), also experienced a severe
and sudden broadside tilt that broke glasses and bottles and had some
passengers reportedly reaching for life jackets.
According to Carnival's Tim Gallagher, "at about 12:10 a.m. last Sunday as
the Captain was navigating towards the Gulfport sea buoy where we would meet
the pilot we experienced approximately a 3 degree list to starboard. The
Captain had just begun a turn to put the vessel on a course for the sea buoy
which was approximately 18 miles away. We had just reduced speed from 20
to 17.7 knots prior to the turn. Wind was steady at 11 knots and there was
patchy to heavy fog. After we initiated the turn, we were hit by a squall
with 28 knot winds hitting the vessel broadside. That combined with the
already slight list from the turn resulted in the 3 degree list. It lasted
about 10 seconds."
While the cause of the sudden maneuver is largely unknown at this point,
rumors that the ship veered suddenly to avoid another vessel in the Gulf of
Mexico are, according to Gallagher, unfounded. The spokesman says there was
a full compliment of officers -- "including the captain" -- on the bridge at
that time and "none of them saw any lights nor was any other vessel detected
on the radar. As I understand it neither the Gulfport nor Pascagoula (that
channel was about 1.5 miles away) pilots have reports of any other vessel
maneuvering in the area at that time. We are confident that there was no
other vessel in the area."
The U.S. Coast Guard did engage in a brief inspection, boarding the ship and
meeting with the captain to go over logs and Gallagher describes the
get-together as "cordial."