MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Mobile Mayor Sam Jones said Friday morning he is pleased the way the city handled the disembarkation of the passengers from the stricken Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph.
He said the city's job was to handle taking the passengers off the ship and getting them processed and through the area quickly. Jones said a team of volunteers, city workers, the cruise terminal staff and public safety officials made everything flow perfectly in the late night hours.
"I think all of the people who came [off the ship] were very appreciative of all the hospitality they received and all of the welcomes they received. They have made a lot of very positive comments about our area," he said.
The mayor said it proved that in two days, the city could be ready to take 4,000 people off of a cruise ship and still show them hospitality to their families as they waited.
Many in the area questioned why Carnival chose to immediately shuttle passengers either to New Orleans or Texas. Jones said the city let Carnival know it had all of the resources needed as far as accommodating passengers and being able to fly them back to Texas.
"One of the things we found had happened is that some of the people requested to go to Galveston. They wanted to go back to where their cars were. so they accommodated them by busing them out," he said.
The mayor said others wanted charter flights back to Texas. He said the city could have handled that request. Prior to being able to meet with Carnival and explain that to officials, the company had already made arrangements somewhere else.
"Our airport said they could have handled all of the charter flights. That actually became a communication breakdown in the crisis... Before they even got settled with us on the cruise terminal, they had already handled the transportation side," Jones explained.
The mayor said Carnival admitted the transportation issue could have been handled much better at the beginning.
Jones said the city worked with Carnival to fulfill the company's commitment to the passengers. He said the city also wanted to make sure the passengers had a good experience in Mobile.
"Our goal was for this to be the best experience they have had in days," he said.
The mayor said the city provided hospitality for the families of the passengers and shuttles to get them around town. He said they were very pleased with Mobile's hospitality.
Mayor Jones said the ship will be repaired by BAE Systems in Mobile. He said it shows the capability of the city's ship-building industry.
He said the crew of the ship will be staying in Mobile. Jones said all of the downtown hotel rooms are filled. He said some are the ship's crew, others are family members and some are Carnival officials from Miami.
He said the city did see economic impact from the ship docking in Mobile. He said the city also saw an economic impact from Carnival concerning usage of the cruise terminal, and BAE Systems will also see economic impact due to the ship repairs.
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