Carnival Fantasy in Mobile

After its first month of service out of Mobile, port officials are optimistic that Carnival Cruise Line will extend its one-year contract, based on what they called exceptional demand for the first cruises.

They are so optimistic that they are already aiming for a second ship and said that Carnival has the first right of refusal.

The current agreement with Carnival, runs through November 2017, but the cruise line is already taking bookings out to April 2019, according to George Talbot, a spokesperson for the port.

Carnival Cruise Line launched four- and five-day service from Mobile, Alabama, aboard the Fantasy, starting Nov. 5, returning after a five year absence. Carnival took the city by surprise when it left in 2011 citing rising fuel costs and inability to raise ticket prices. Mobile was left with no direct revenue source to pay for its seven-year old terminal.

To accommodate Carnival, which started sailing the Holiday from Mobile in 2004, the port built a $24 million, 66,000- square-foot terminal, which then sat unused, except for special events and private functions, before recently being upgraded to current security standards to the tune of $4 million, said Talbot.

As an encouragement to Carnival, Mobile is now contributing $200,000 on a quarterly basis, or $800,000 a year, to help market the cruises.

Mobile’s attraction, he said, is its easy access, with the terminal being adjacent to Interstate 10. “People like the easy access and the small-town feel of Mobile,” he added.

The facility has a 450-space parking lot, charging $18 a day.

Talbot said the port is pushing to have people stay before or after their cruise and has created a “tourism trail,” a marked pedestrian path into town with its restaurants, hotels, museum and nightlife. “When people are there, we want to see the town.”