Update: Carnival Conquest and Ecstasy Passengers Face Unknown Fate

September 15, 2008

Update, 6:37 p.m.: We've spoken with Carnival representatives and the cruise line has nothing new to report. Carnival Conquest is now docked in New Orleans, and passengers who made independent travel arrangements are on their own should they wish to drive, fly or bus home from New Orleans. Carnival is still inviting passengers to stay onboard and return with the ship to Galveston, but reports from the island indicate the channel and cruise terminal won't be open for at least another few days, if not longer.

(11:59 a.m.) -- This morning, the fate of passengers onboard Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy -- at least those who'd booked their own flights home from Galveston -- is still uncertain.

Because the port is closed indefinitely due to Hurricane Ike, both ships will be arriving in New Orleans -- Conquest today and Ecstasy tomorrow -- giving cruise passengers the opportunity to disembark there or carry onward to Galveston. However, for those choosing to disembark in New Orleans, Carnival has said it will only assist those passengers who booked air through the cruise line with flight changes. Also, there will be no bus transfers between New Orleans and the port of Galveston.

That means those who booked air independently, but wanted to get off the ship in New Orleans, would need to find their own way home from there. And while passengers were told they could stay onboard en route to Galveston, it's still unclear -- to us and to cruise travelers who have expressed their concern to us via e-mail -- why passengers would choose to do so when it's not certain the ship will even be able to get into Galveston this week. Cruise Critic member Tishy says via e-mail, "I am on Carnival Ecstasy now. We'll port in New Orleans Tuesday at 2 p.m. They will attempt to port us back in Galveston Wednesday morning."

However, according to the New York Times, authorities have said that "it might be a month before water and power were restored to some parts of the island and that the wastewater treatment plant was in bad shape." The article paints a picture of stray dogs roaming sewage-strewn streets, floods and mosquitoes -- not exactly an island ready to process returning cruise passengers.

Carnival spokespersons have not yet responded to our queries for an update on its return to Galveston with these two ships, or any additional assistance that might be offered to those passengers who might be stranded in New Orleans or onboard.

We'll keep you posted. If you are currently sailing onboard one of these ships, do let us know how you've chosen to get back home by posting on our message board thread.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor

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