Momma always said donâ€™t mess around with a Carnie. Theyâ€™ll knock you up behind The Tilt-A-Whirl and leave you the next morning to head off to some other city, without even saying goodbye. And Carnival Cruise Lines certainly did exactly that to Mobile. They filled our head with a bunch of the same stuff they collected in little red bags on their darling Triumph, whispering promises and sweet nothings in our ear, and then impregnating us with the idea of a $29 million cruise terminal, which we carried to term and delivered. Carnival stuck around for a little while in the terminalâ€™s infancy, but then went to the store to get a pack of smokes (apparently in New Orleans) and never came back. Now we have this bastard of a terminal that costs us $3 million a year, with absolutely no child support from our terminal baby daddy.
We were so excited to get our first magnificent cruise ship, which wasnâ€™t even that magnificent by magnificent cruise ship standards, but it was ours, and we were proud of our little "Holidayâ€ť and later her prettier sister, the "Elation,â€ť just as proud as we are of claiming Jimmy Buffett as ours and reminding everyone we had the first Mardi Gras.
"Did you hear we got a cruise ship?â€ť we would say to our ex-pats in Atlanta and Birmingham and to our visitors from other faraway lands, like New Jersey. I would be willing to bet those words have never been uttered by the residents of Miami, Tampa or New Orleans. It was just a much bigger deal to us.
And things seemed to be going well. By all accounts, the ships were always full and passengers were happy.
But then without even the courtesy of a formal news conference explaining why or a note on a nice piece of stationery that said "Go F yourself, Mobile. We are outta here! Love, Carnivalâ€ť or even just a middle finger, Carnival took their "Elationâ€ť to New Orleans and just left us.
We were later told passengers out of Mobile just wouldnâ€™t pay enough for their voyages or spend enough additional money while out at sea on booze or at the casinos to make it profitable for them. Not really sure what we are supposed to do about that. And, um, Carnival, what are we supposed to do with this giant cruise terminal now? Oh, thatâ€™s our problem. I see. OK, well thanks. Good luck in New Orleans. Grrrrr.
But we took it with grace and maintained hope one day we would find another ship to nestle back up to our gangway and love us the way we deserved to be loved.
In the meantime, we have gotten booty-called from Carnival a couple of times. The first time to provide safe harbor to the Elation during Hurricane Isaac and then, of course, last week to help those poor people get off the poop-tacular "hell shipâ€ť Triumph.
And even though Carnival has screwed us over repeatedly, we looked past our hurt feelings and thought about those people on that filthy ship and how we could help them. Because that is what we do. Volunteers organized and came down and worked all night long with smiles on their faces to help them get out of that misery. Mobilians showed up at the terminal with Krispy Kremes and cake balls, burgers and barbecue, soup and soap and said, "What can we do to help?â€ť and "Welcome Home.â€ť
And we continued to do this even after we learned Carnival would not be filling up our hotels with these passengers because of some sort of "communication breakdown,â€ť but rather bussing them to Galveston or New Orleans. Seriously, Carnival? We love you too. Good luck in New Orleans. Grrrr.
Who knows if our help and Southern hospitality will translate into us getting another ship, but even if it doesnâ€™t any time soon... or ever, the whole world got a glimpse of the Port City at its best last week, and I think the secret is out: Mobile really is freaking awesome.
Yes, we can host our biggest party of the year on Fat Tuesday, clean up our streets on Ash Wednesday and welcome a massive broken down ship, while becoming the epicenter of a worldwide media story on Thursday. What else you got?
Oh you need us to fix that ship for you too? No problem. Howâ€™s your Friday look? Great. Weâ€™ll have this thing fixed up for you in a jiff.
Watching the national media and listening to some of their comments on how beautiful they found the city to be, I think they were genuinely and pleasantly surprised. CNNâ€™s Erin Burnett, who came here with her team to cover the story, dedicated an entire segment on her show describing how "beautifulâ€ť and "really prettyâ€ť Mobile truly is. She referenced our beautiful oak trees with Spanish moss romantically draped across their limbs, the elegant Southern mansions and buildings and told the world we were a major port, shipbuilder and what a huge a deal it was going to be for us to have Airbus building planes here in a couple of years. And she even told the world we had the first Mardi Gras. Somebody give this lady a key to the city and make her an honorary Azalea Trail Maid!
In seriousness, weâ€™ve known the greatness of our city and our people all along, but it is nice for the world to finally take notice. And I really feel like in the spirit of an Alicia Keys song, "This city is on fire!â€ť and great things are about to happen in Mobile, Alabama.
And that truly is our triumph.