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Port of Mobile: An Overview

Mobile, Alabama claims sister cities all over the world: Ichihara, Japan; Kolsice, Slovakia; Worms, Germany. But more than anything else it seems like Mobile and New Orleans were twin sisters separated at birth. Each existed for years as a French colony; each is a booming seaport situated on a broad river a short distance upstream from its mouth on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico; each retains more ...

Mobile, Alabama claims sister cities all over the world: Ichihara, Japan; Kolsice, Slovakia; Worms, Germany. But more than anything else it seems like Mobile and New Orleans were twin sisters separated at birth. Each existed for years as a French colony; each is a booming seaport situated on a broad river a short distance upstream from its mouth on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico; each retains a genteel blend of southern charm and Creole/French culture, embodied in food, architecture and traditions, most notably Mardi Gras. (Mobile's first carnival celebration actually preceded New Orleans's by 62 years.)

In actuality, Mobile was actually the capital of the original French colony of Louisiana, from 1704 through 1722, when it was moved to New Orleans. Both cities developed bustling naval and industrial ports, though the port of New Orleans functioned on a larger scale as far as river-borne commerce went. That's because the navigable waters of its river, the Mississippi, extended much further north, touching far more states than did the Mobile River or its parent stream, the Alabama.

Though Mobile's antebellum ambience of colonnaded manses and grand sprawling plantations is still there to be found, don't expect to be awash in southern belles strolling in crinolines with parasols; that aspect of old Mobile takes a bit of effort to find, especially since the corridor from the airport to the cruise docks is largely industrial.

However, Mobile has recently made a major push for downtown revitalization, gentrifying the waterfront and funding museums, parks and a free trolley system.

Golf has become a major tourist draw, with a dozen top-flight courses in Mobile and its environs, and fishing charters from the downtown docks are also popular. Recently eco-tourism has gained a foothold, featuring exploration of the estuary of the Mobile River and airboat rides through the swamps, with great appeal for bird and gator watchers.

Weather is on the bottom edge of sub-tropical, with average midwinter highs in the high 50's/low 60's, rising to high 80's/low 90's in the summer.

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Hanging Around

For now there is little to explore at or near the cruise terminal, though there are plans in place to develop the area into a full-service tourist destination (shops, restaurants, museums, etc.). At the moment the nearest tourist asset is the Cooper Riverside Park. The Ft. Conde Museum & Welcome Center is less than a quarter mile from the port and offers a historic look at old Mobile, and helpful tourist info.

Don't Miss

Satisfy your sweet tooth. The South is synonymous with decadent sweets and you can indulge yourself on them to your heart's content in Mobile. Try the truly decadent coconut cream pie at Tiny Diny (2159 Halls Mill Rd., 251-476-3880). Huge: looks like the Superdome on a pie tin. If chocolate is your weakness, don't fight it -- pay a visit to Three Georges (226 Dauphin St., 251-433-6725), a favorite of Mobile since 1917, featuring chocolates hand dipped while you wait, pralines, divinity, fudge and more. If you've got the time you can enroll in one of their candy-making classes.

For the history buff, especially the student of military history, visit the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park (2703 Battleship Pkwy.) featuring aircraft and vessels from World War II through Desert Storm, centered around the USS Alabama, a battleship that saw major action in the South Pacific during the Second World War. Or, if Revolutionary War era history has appeal, visit Ft. Conde Museum (150 S. Royal St.).

Take a stroll along the Historic District on Lower Dauphin Street; enjoy local cuisine, art and antique shopping, sightseeing, and taking in the taste of the Old South.

Don't miss the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center & IMAX Theater (65 Government St.). This hands-on family museum is dedicated to the sciences and is also home to prestigious traveling exhibits.

Visit Bellingrath Gardens and Museum Home (12401 Bellingrath Gardens Rd., Theodore, AL 36582). Located about 25 miles south of the cruise port, this spot is a beautiful 65 acres of lush landscaping within a 905-acre subtropical forest. Stroll the gardens or tour the palatial manor, filled with 18th-century antiques. For nature lovers there are eco-walks, featuring a boardwalk through the bayou, and a 45-minute scenic and wildlife spotting cruise aboard the "Southern Belle," docked at the estate.

Golfing. Mobile is often rated in the top 10 cities for golf by golfing magazines. Golf tee times can be arranged prior to your arrival.

Watch them "reign" on their parade. Mardi Gras is as much a tradition in Mobile as it is in New Orleans, but perhaps a bit less rough-and-tumble. Mardi Gras usually runs from one month before till one day before Ash Wednesday. Though nightlife is the big deal for partiers, parades usually run around the clock, especially the closer you get to Fat Tuesday.

Go eco-touring. As mentioned earlier, you can go wildlife spotting, or experience other options in the New South's burgeoning ecotourism industry.

Getting Around

Taxis: Rate controlled. The fare from airport to cruise terminal is about $25. However, on disembarkation day the numbers of available cabs are very quickly depleted. Taxis within the central downtown area are easy to come by.

Shuttles: Mobile Regional Airport operates a shuttle service between the airport and hotels and the cruise terminal. Reservations are essential, and you should mention that you are booking on Carnival's Holiday, as that will get you a 50 percent discount ($15 versus $30 per person) round trip. Children under 12 ride free. For reservations call 251-633-0313 or 800-357-5373. (Transfers are currently not included in Carnival air/sea packages for Mobile.)

Trolley: To get around downtown Mobile, including the Historic District on Dauphin Street, consider moda!, the new free-of-charge electric trolley system which runs every 10 minutes along a 3.1-mile course. The nearest moda! stop to the Port is about 1/4 mile away on Royal Street between Government and Church Streets.

Rental Cars: National, Avis and Thrifty Car Rental have operations in Mobile. All are located at or near the airport.

Lunching

Best Breakfast: Mentioned earlier for its desserts, Tiny Diny (2159 Halls Mill Rd., 251-476-3880) has been consistently voted Best Breakfast by Mobilians, and National Flight Magazine rates Tiny Diny's hotcakes best in the country. Also rated tops for home cooking. Hours vary by season and day; call for info.

Best Local Cuisine: For fresh oysters and other local seafood with a Cajun influence, go to Wintzells (605 Dauphin St., 251-432-4605, Sunday - Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m., Friday - Saturday 11:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.). It's located in the heart of the Historic District.

Best Barbecue: For a real taste of the deep South, shugah, y'all gonna wanna get some true barbecue. That's why you want to venture to Dreamland BBQ (3314 Old Shell Rd., 800-752-0544, Monday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.). Don't miss out on the sinful ribs.

Best Gourmet: Quatorze (54 S. Conception St., 251-690-7770, dinner only, closed Sundays and Mondays) offers classic French with fusion influences, plus a great wine list.

Where You're Docked

Mobile Cruise Port Address:
201 S. Water Street, Mobile, Alabama, 36602

Cruise ships call at the Mobile, Alabama Cruise Terminal (800-SHIPMOBILE), just south of the Alabama State Docks, on the banks of the Mobile River a half-mile west of the Mobile Civic Center.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency is the U.S. dollar; international visitors will find it easy to access cash at numerous ATM machines. Banks also provide exchange services.

Language

English

Best Souvenir

Chocolates from Three Georges.

For More Information

On the Web: Contact the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-5-MOBILE

Cruise Critic Message Boards: Gulf Coast Homeports

The Independent Traveler Message Boards: The South

--By Steve Faber, Cruise Critic contributor

71% Loved It
Popular Itinerary:
Mobile -> Cruising -> Cozumel -> Progreso -> Cruising -> Mobile
71% Loved It
Popular Itinerary:
Mobile -> Cruising -> Cozumel -> Cruising -> Mobile
71% Loved It
Popular Itinerary:
Mobile -> Cruising -> Progreso -> Cozumel -> Cruising -> Mobile
71% Loved It
Popular Itinerary:
Mobile -> Cruising -> Costa Maya -> Cozumel -> Cruising -> Mobile
1st Cruise dsdsaf
12/15
This was our first cruise, and I think it was good. Not sure I will do it again since I am bit restless but I have never been this relaxed after a vacation. Food: Every meal we had was warm, except the breakfast and frosted flakes in cold milk. ... Read more
Having recently returned from the Eastern Caribbean aboard Norwegian Getaway, I can only say that, once again, we had another fine cruise aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line Vessel. Having sailed now on 17 cruises, 12 of them with Norwegian, one can only ... Read more
We booked our cruise on the Carnival Elation at the last minute for Spring break 2011. We drove to the port of Mobile and prepared to board the ship. We booked a "funsaver" rate that they assign your room, NEVER do that!!!!! The lines were ... Read more
Sailed on the Victory on Nov 21st to the Western Caribbean with stops in Key West and Conzumel, Mexico. Prior to booking this trip I was a bit skeptic as Victory is almost 13 years old. So I read many reviews until finally deciding to give it a try. ... Read more
First time fun lovelyaley
01/11
I was 21 and my husband was 26 at the time of our cruise. We left out of Mobile, AL in January 2011 on the Carnival Elation. The port in Mobile was TERRIBLE. I will never sail out of Mobile again. The personell at the port were some of the ... Read more
Pre-embarkation was a bit rough, Plain signs in Mobile - tips not required, although we do tip I was a bit taken back by the porter that looked at the money I gave him and the number of bags like it wasn't enough. Food was nothing to write home ... Read more
Our 3 kids (ages 12-14) absolutely loved Circle C on our recent cruise on Carnival Elation. They made new friends and counted down the minutes until Circle C events began. Although the events were structured, there were short intervals of ... Read more
Read 130 Mobile Cruise Reviews
 
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