For those hoping to set sail from Mobile soon, the wait just got a little longer.
Carnival Cruise Lines had initially announced Oct. 21 as the day cruisers could leave Mobile aboard the Sensation, but the company has again pushed that back, now to Jan. 2022.
The decision by the cruise line is another setback for the tourism industry still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has lasted for more than 18 months.
Locally, the decision to again delay cruising will have a major negative impact on hotels, which typically see 3,000 room nights per month from cruisers, Visit Mobile CEO David Clark said.
“We were hopeful we could see it back in October,” he said. “It hurts our economy.”
Clark said he understands the delay, given the regulatory and safety hurdles the company has had to jump in 18 months.
“When you shut down an industry for a year and a half there are a plethora of things you have to do when you start again,” Clark said. “You go from zero to 50 percent or 70 percent and there will be issues with the supply chain, staffing issues as well as health and safety protocols. Carnival is working through all that.”
The tourism industry isn’t the only entity suffering because of Carnival’s decision, the delay will continue to negatively impact city coffers as well. Although Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office has not budgeted any revenue from the ship or the Mobile, Alabama Cruise terminal for the 2021 or 2022 fiscal years.
Executive Director of Administrative Services Joe Snowden confirmed that the city loses the equivalent of $6 million per year in parking and wharfage fees when the ship doesn’t generate passengers. A wharfage fee, Snowden said, is a price paid for every person who enters and exits the ship for cruises.
In addition to losing $6 million per year, the city still owes $14.3 million related to the construction of the cruise terminal. As recently as three years ago, the debt service on that was $2 million a year, costs paid by parking and wharfage fees. The city still pays the debt service through the capital fund budget, but currently can’t use cruise revenue to do it.
In addition to the revenue from the cruise itself, Snowden said, sales tax revenue is also impacted as businesses that would normally supply things like produce, alcohol and fuel for the cruise aren’t needed.
“We’re excited to get them back,” Snowden said of Carnival.
Both Snowden and Clark mentioned impacts outside of the city as well. Mobile is known as a drive market, luring folks to the Port City for cruises. The loss of the cruises means gas stations and eateries around the state suffer.
This page is available to our local subscribers. Click here to join us today and get the latest local news from local reporters written for local readers. The best deal is found by clicking here. Check it out now.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here