Fresh off a return flight from Miami, home of Carnival Cruise Lines’ corporate headquarters, Mobile mayor Sandy Stimpson announced this afternoon that he was in “final stages” of negotiating an agreement to bring the cruise line back to Mobile’s Alabama Cruise Terminal.
Though he declined to go into detail about the terms of such a deal, Stimpson said he expected to bring an agreement to the City Council for a vote before the end of this month. The mayor said that once a deal was finalized — emphasizing that it was “very close” — he expected Carnival officials would travel to Mobile to make a formal announcement.
Stimpson teased the news earlier in the day, posting a photo of himself in front of Carnival headquarters to social media. On Tuesday, Stimpson unveiled an ambitious tourism initiative, with the recruitment of cruise ship service back to Mobile one of the campaign’s primary goals. “I would like to see our number [of visitors] double from three million to six million visitors by 2020,” said Stimpson.
Today’s announcement comes four years after Carnival exited the Port City, leaving the city with no revenue with which to pay the more than $1 million in annual debt payments on the city-owned cruise terminal. Stimpson said he had been in discussions with Carnival as well as four other cruise lines since shortly after he took office in August 2013.
The Carnival Holiday first called at Mobile in 2002, with initial voyages selling so well that Carnival announced the following year that Mobile would become the Holiday’s home port. The $20 million, 66,000 square foot Alabama Cruise Terminal — construction of which was funded by Retirement Systems of Alabama — was completed in time for the inaugural sailing on October 16, 2004.
“It’s a great day in the City of Mobile,” said Stimpson, as he brought the press conference to a close.