|It looks pretty definite: Carnival Conquest, now in its sixth week of using
Gulfport as a temporary homeport, likely has six more to go. "We had said at
the time [of the switch from New Orleans] it will be a minimum of six and
maybe as many as 12 weeks," says Carnival spokesman Tim Gallagher. "The
biggest issue is that we have to be sure, based on river forecasts -- the
height of the river -- that we don't return to New Orleans prematurely."
In fact, nature's unpredictability could potentially result in Conquest
keeping its Gulfport hub a few voyages beyond. "There is a chance for that,"
Gallagher says, "if the forecast for a rising river extends beyond the
original 12 week period." At this point, the last planned Gulfport-based
departure/arrival concerns the Conquest's May 25th sailing.
Gulfport, despite the inconvenience for passengers who are flying in to New
Orleans and then have to be transported, has been, by and large, a
successful experiment, Gallagher says. "The only issues we've really had in
Gulfport are weather issues -- fog, high winds, storms -- and some of those
we may have had in New Orleans anyway. The people of Gulfport -- and the
whole tourism infrastructure have knocked themselves out to make it work and
it's worked well."
Tourism honchos in Gulfport, which until Conquest's arrival had no regular
cruise ship callers, have been actively courting cruise lines. Gallagher's
assessment that "Gulfport getting a cruise ship -- dedicated on a seasonal
basis -- is just a matter of time" has nothing, however, to do with keeping
Conquest there permanently.