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On Wednesday morning, the Carnival Fantasy sailed into Mobile Bay and docked at the Alabama Cruise Terminal, capping a years-long effort to bring a cruise line back to the Port City.

The 2,056-passenger ship departed Mobile Wednesday afternoon to embark on a sold-out five-day cruise to Cozumel and Progreso, the first in a year-round schedule of four- and five-day cruises to the Mexican ports.

Carnival previously operated cruises out of Mobile from 2002 through 2011. Shortly after taking office in 2013, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson began talks with Carnival and other cruise lines about returning to Mobile. Those talks led to a new 13-month deal with Carnival, which Stimpson announced at a triumphant event last September.

As of right now, Carnival has committed to operating cruises from Mobile through November 27, 2017, with two one-year options to extend.

The Carnival Fantasy docked at Mobile's Alabama Cruise Terminal on Nov. 9, 2016. (Carnival Cruise Lines/Special to The Pulse)

The Carnival Fantasy docked at Mobile’s Alabama Cruise Terminal on Nov. 9, 2016. (Carnival Cruise Lines/Special to The Pulse)

At a welcome ceremony Wednesday morning, Stimpson and city council president Gina Gregory presented Fantasy Captain Bruno Palomba with a key to the city, and Carnival officials made $20,000 donations to the both the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Alabama and Feeding the Gulf Coast.

“With its Southern charm, excellent terminal facilities and easy-to-reach location, Mobile is a terrific new addition to Carnival’s homeport lineup and we’re delighted to offer these convenient and affordable cruises to Mexico’s most popular ports of call,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Lines. “From Mayor Sandy Stimpson and everyone at the City of Mobile to the Alabama Cruise Terminal team and the entire Mobile community, we are greatly appreciative for their partnership and the very warm welcome.”

“We are pleased and excited to welcome Carnival Cruise Lines back to the City of Mobile,” said Stimpson. “This is a moment we’ve been working toward 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 people who can once again enjoy a great cruise out of one of America’s greatest cities.”

Carnival officials presented two Mobile-area organizations with $20,000 checks. (Carnival Cruise Lines/Special to The Pulse)

Carnival officials presented two Mobile-area organizations with $20,000 checks. (Carnival Cruise Lines/Special to The Pulse)

The Fantasy’s four-day “long weekend” cruises will depart Thursdays, calling at Cozumel. Five-day cruises will depart Monday and Saturdays, visiting Cozumel and Costa Maya or Progreso. The Mexican ports are renowned for their white-sand beaches, historical sites and attractions, and excellent snorkeling, scuba diving, and watersports, officials said.

Before heading to Mobile, the Fantasy underwent an extensive renovation and received upgrades to its restaurant offerings and other amenities. The ship features a 12,000-square-foot spa, a WaterWorks aqua park featuring a 300-foot-long Twister slide and a kiddie splash zone, and a Serenity adults-only retreat, as well as fun, supervised programs for kids ages 2-17, full casino gambling and a wide array of additional dining options.

The cruise terminal, built in 2004, also underwent a renovation of its own in advance of the Fantasy‘s arrival. City and state officials spent around $4.1 million to upgrade the facility and bring it in line with new port security requirements.

Travelers interested in cruise reservations can call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit www.carnival.com.

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