May 30, 2003
Carnival Conquest, which was forced to abruptly swap its New Orleans home port for Gulfport, Mississippi as a result of rising river levels (and a disagreement over power line placement with an energy company) plans to resume Big Easy sailings beginning July 13.
The switch occurs some six weeks later than Carnival’s best-case-scenarios had anticipated because the Mississippi is cresting later than usual – and, indeed, is not intended to reach maximum levels until mid-June. The July 13 date gives Carnival some breathing room. “We’re giving ourselves a couple of weeks as a safety zone, just to be sure,” says spokesman Tim Gallagher. “We only want to make the switch once. It’s a big logistical nightmare for us. And it’s an inconvenience to our guests.”
Despite all initial intentions for Conquest to sail out of New Orleans year-round, a dispute between Carnival and Entergy, the power company, over power lines that hung too low during rainy season for the ship to pass safely under, resulted in a move to Gulfport beginning with the March 9th cruise.
Passengers sailing on Conquest’s July 6th voyage should prepare for a split home port situation, as the ship will leave from Gulfport and return to New Orleans. Gallagher says passengers on that one sailing – who plan to drive to the port – should park in New Orleans and take a free shuttle to Gulfport for embarkation.
At this point no special “welcome back” festivities are planned for Conquest but Gallagher, with evident relief, says that the energy line issue is now moot (Entergy is raising the power lines as a temporary measure and is also working on burying them in the river altogether as a permanent one) and there are no plans to switch Conquest in the future. However, he also makes a point to applaud the effort of Gulfport to accommodate Conquest, reiterating a point he’s consistently made since Conquest had made the relatively sudden switch: “Gulfport was great to work with. There is no doubt that there’s a cruise ship in Gulfport’s future.”