During a news conference after a special called meeting of the Mobile City Council this morning, the city released details about its latest contract with Carnival Cruise Lines — a 13-month deal to bring its 855-foot Fantasy ship to Mobile. The Fantasy, which is currently subject to a multimillion-dollar refurbishment, will be setting sail from the Alabama Cruise Terminal for four-and-five-day cruises to ports in Mexico starting in November 2016.
Destinations include Cozumel, Costa Maya and Progreso. Carnival has two one-year options on the deal, which is initially set to expire in December 2017. The city is set to receive $1.8 million over the life of the contract, which would pay for a year’s worth of debt service on $19 million still owed on the cruise terminal.
The city is also obligated to take a portion of the proceeds from parking fees at the terminal to use toward marketing the ship, city Director of Communications George Talbot said.
“We are pleased and excited to welcome Carnival Cruise Lines back to Mobile,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a statement. “This agreement has been a priority since the day we took office. It represents a win for our city, a win for Carnival and most of all a win for the thousands of consumers who can once again enjoy a great cruise out of one of America’s greatest cities.”
Talbot said the deal was the best the city could get and Mobile is the only port with a single ship that has a deal where the company is obligated to remain for a specified period of time.
In addition the city is looking at making possible upgrades to the terminal, as it has been year’s since it has hosted a cruise ship, Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper said.
“We’re assessing the capital improvements that need to be made,” Cooper said, following the press event. “We have one year to do it.”
A coat of paint probably needs to be added and structural issues with the bulkhead might need to be addressed, he said. Also, the gangway hasn’t been used in a long time, Cooper added.
The Fantasy’s refurbishment includes amenities like a tequila bar, a rum bar, a burger restaurant named for Food Network celebrity Guy Fieri, a Mexican cantina, an aqua park with a 300-foot slide and a 12,000-square-foot spa, Carnival’s Vice President of Commercial Port Operations Carlos Torres De Navarra said. He also acknowledged the Fantasy would be making a return visit to the Port City.
“The Fantasy was here before, but you won’t recognize her,” De Navarra said.
Before the official announcement, councilors unanimously approved a resolution to allow Stimpson to sign the contract. Councilman Fred Richardson welcomed Carnival to Mobile and told the crowd he’d be on the first cruise out of the port. Councilman Joel Daves also welcomed Carnival back into the market and thanked the administration for their work to get the deal done.
“This is an absolutely great day in what has been a superior week,” Daves said.
Councilman C.J. Small echoed those comments, adding that with the opening of McGowin Park, the Airbus facility at the Brookley Aeroplex and Saturday’s opening of GulfQuest National Maritime Museum, it “hasn’t just been a great day, it’s been a great year.”
This story was updated at 12:31 p.m. to include more details about the contract and comments from City Council members.