It’s official: Carnival Cruise Lines is returning to Mobile. Following a unanimous vote by Mobile’s city council, Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Carnival officials announced that the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy will operate 84 cruises from the Port City beginning in November 2016.
The thirteen-month agreement calls for the Carnival Fantasy to operate four and five-day cruises to destinations including Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Progreso. The year-long schedule is slated to begin November 9, 2016 and continue through November 27, 2017, with two one-year options to extend. Cruises can be booked beginning today at Carnival.com, with prices as low as $239 per passenger.
Currently homeported in Charleston, South Carolina, the Fantasy previously operated out of Mobile in 2009 and 2010.
“We are pleased and excited to welcome Carnival Cruise Lines back to Mobile,” said Mayor Stimpson. “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. We are building something special in Mobile, and this renewed partnership is evidence of that momentum.”
Prior to deploying in Mobile, the 2,056-passenger Fantasy, built in 1990, will undergo a multimillion-dollar refurbishment, adding a number of restaurants and attractions. These include Guy’s Burger Joint, a complimentary poolside dining venue serving handcrafted burgers and fries created by popular chef Guy Fieri, as well as the BlueIguana Cantina, RedFrog Rum Bar, and BlueIguana Tequila Bar. The Fantasy also features a 12,000-square-foot spa, a WaterWorks aqua park featuring a 300-foot-long slide and a kiddie splash area, 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 dining options, including a 24-hour pizzeria.
“We’ve been working very closely with the port and city officials to make these cruises a reality and wish to thank Mayor Stimpson and his team for not only all their hard work but also for creating a welcoming and positive environment that makes these cruises an attractive option for today’s consumers,” said Carnival president Christine Duffy.
Four-day “long weekend” cruises will depart Mobile on Thursday bound for Cozumel, where guests can enjoy beautiful white sand beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, and a wide range of shopping and dining experiences. Five-day voyages to Costa Maya and Progreso will depart on Mondays and Saturdays. During the day-long call in Progreso, guests have the opportunity to visit Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. At Costa Maya, guests can explore the centuries-old Chacchoben ruins or visit the Lost Mayan Kingdom, a multi-million-dollar water-themed attraction currently under development.
The City of Mobile, which owns the cruise ship terminal, has been left with no dedicated revenue source with which to pay the $1.8 million in annual debt service on the terminal since Carnival last sailed from Mobile in 2011. Under the new agreement, Mobile will receive $16 per passenger per cruise as well as an estimated $3.4 million in annual parking revenue. While the didn’t require Mobile to pay Carnival any cash incentives, the city has agreed to set aside $800,000 a year for marketing purposes. Nonetheless, city officials said they expect the agreement to net the city nearly $1.9 million after debt service and other expenses are paid.