November 12 2009 | Latest NewsCarnival brings Triumph cruise ship to New Orleans
By Jaquetta N. White, The Times-Picayune
November 11, 2009, 7:00P
The Carnival Triumph, which had been scheduled to take its maiden voyage from New Orleans after a half-day long celebration on Tuesday, instead made a quiet arrival to and exit from the Port of New Orleans on Wednesday, after being delayed by hurricane turned Tropical Storm Ida.
Even though its arrival was not marked with pomp and circumstance, the 2,758-passenger cruise ship, which replaces the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy, ushered in the return of seven-day cruising to the Crescent City and is a sign that the cruise industry is on surer footing since Katrina.
Carnival had planned to introduce the Triumph in August of 2007 but postponed the move because of slow bookings. Company officials now, however, say they have seen demand for sailings out of New Orleans far exceed what the smaller Fantasy could accommodate.
"Over the years, the business has grown from New Orleans," said Vance Gulliksen, a spokesman for Carnival. "With the Fantasy there, the demand it warranted was bigger than the ship."
Bookings for the Triumph have been brisk, said Terry Thornton, a senior vice president of marketing for the company. The ship is "a little better booked" than those in Tampa and Galveston. Thornton said.
"The sales for the Triumph have been going very strongly since they announced the deployment," said Bob Wall, president of Vacations at Sea, a travel company that books cruises. "They've been strongest by far for the new itinerary that takes it to Key West and the Bahamas simply because its different."
Key West, Fla., and the Bahamas were added to the mix of the more usual Caribbean destinations such as Mexico, Belize and Honduras. The Triumph will operate 65 trips from New Orleans, half of them four-day and five-day cruises and the other half seven-day packages. The seven day cruises will depart on Saturdays and travel to Belize City and Isla Roatan, Honduras, Cozumel, Key West and Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas. The four-day cruises leave on Thursdays with a stop in Cozumel, while the five-day trips depart on Mondays and Saturdays and visit Progreso and Cozumel.
The reintroduction of seven-day cruising, absent since Carnival returned to New Orleans after Katrina, represents the company's testing of the water here, before deciding whether to dispatch a second ship to New Orleans, Thornton said.
"This has given us a good opportunity to build the seven-day business," Thornton said. "The game plan on the Triumph is to build this four, five and seven-day pattern and then come back to a dedicated seven day ship in New Orleans."
If the demand is there that second ship could arrive in late 2011 or early 2012.
Carnival had planned to introduce the Triumph with a celebration on board the ship Tuesday morning, but the closure of the Mississippi River because of Hurricane Ida cancelled those plans. The storm also forced Carnival to shorten its maiden voyage from four days to three.
Instead of stopping in Cozumel, the ship will sail into the Gulf of Mexico and turn around without stopping at a port of call. Guests who decided to take the cruise to nowhere were refunded half of the cruise's cost, while those who chose to cancel were given a full refund.
Despite the change, none of the guests who booked cruises through Vacations at Sea decided to cancel, said Wall said. Gulliksen said there were "no significant cancellations" overall. He also does not believe it will have a lasting impact on Carnival's ability to book cruises from New Orleans.
"It's unusual to have a hurricane in November but it doesn't give us pause at all," Gulliksen said. "We're looking forward to sailing from New Orleans."
Jaquetta White can be reached at email@example.com or 504.826.3494.
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