Power lines causing problem for Carnival

Published Feb. 9, 2003|Updated Aug. 31, 2005

The perfect match between Carnival Cruise Line's biggest "Fun Ship" and the city where the party never stops got off to a rocky start.

New Orleans was a natural choice as home port for the dazzling new Carnival Conquest. Cruises were scheduled to depart on Sundays to give passengers the option of spending time in town.

But on a recent two-day preview cruise, Carnival president Bob Dickinson was grumbling about the possibility of moving the ship to nearby Gulfport, Miss. The problem: Power lines that hang over the Mississippi River south of New Orleans block passage of the Carnival Conquest during times of high water.

"If they can't get that fixed, and soon, we have no choice but to move," Dickinson said.

The power company agreed in December to bury the lines under the river, but that long-term solution could take up to 18 months to complete. Meanwhile, the Carnival Conquest must maneuver toward one of the river's banks to limbo under the high side of the lines _ while the power is turned off.

The spat made for an inharmonious beginning but is unlikely to ruin the marriage. Carnival wants to stay in New Orleans because of the city's drawing power and central location at a time when many people still avoid flying. New Orleans welcomes the cruise ships because arriving and departing passengers spend time, and money, in the city.

Carnival has its eye on the 47-million Americans who live within a five-hour drive of New Orleans. The line also would like to tap into the upper Midwest market, where travelers might prefer the shorter, cheaper flights to New Orleans to reaching cruise ships based in southern Florida.

Carnival has two ships based at the port, Royal Caribbean has one and Norwegian Cruise Lines plans to add a ship late next year. Carnival expects to carry about 288,000 passengers out of New Orleans this year, which would make it the line's third-busiest port, behind Miami and Port Canaveral.

Louisiana tourism official Phillip Jones said that cruise passengers using New Orleans as a port are in no hurry.

"In excess of 60 percent are spending a night in advance or following their cruises," Jones said. "What we're excited about is that those taking a cruise from the port of New Orleans also are touring plantation homes, taking a swamp tour, visiting the French Quarter."

And the power-line problem?

"Absolutely, that will be resolved," Jones said. "The city and state are in agreement that it can be addressed. Carnival would like it to be within 60 days, but I don't know if that's physically possible."

Carnival is the largest cruise line in the world, with 18 "Fun Ships" sailing to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, New England, Canada, Bermuda and Europe. Carnival has four new ships, with an estimated value of $1.8-billion, scheduled for delivery in the next three years.

Three of those ships will be "Conquest-class" vessels, the largest Carnival ships ever. Like the Conquest, all three will be about three football fields long, with a capacity of nearly 4,000 people and a price tag of somewhere around half-a-billion dollars. Of the 1,487 suites and cabins on Carnival Conquest, nearly two-thirds have ocean views or balconies.

The Conquest, which offers seven-day cruises with stops in Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, has 22 lounges and bars, a pair of two-level main dining rooms and some of the largest areas offered by a cruise ship specifically for children and teens.

It also has jogging tracks, half-court basketball and four pools.

Carnival expects to carry about 3-million passengers this year, including 400,000 children, on full ships.

For additional information and reservations, contact a travel agent, call toll-free 1-800-327-9501, or go to