Editor's Note: Mobile is not currently an active cruise port.
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.
Like the rest of the Gulf Coast, Mobile did not escape the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. However, winds in Mobile's environs were barely hurricane strength; Katrina, for them, was mostly a water, rather than a wind, event. Most of the damage came from the storm surge pushed ahead of the advancing hurricane, affecting mostly the immediate coastline. Inland areas were largely spared, and the city's tourism industry was fully up and running long before tourist sentiment brought visitors back to the Gulf Coast.