Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike Aftermath: Port of Galveston Faces Uncertain Future

In 1900 there was little warning and no defense in advance of the legendary unnamed Galveston hurricane that killed 8,000 and which remains one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit the United States. We can only imagine the horror residents faced back then. Thankfully, with modern technology and storm tracking capabilities, Hurricane Ike left mainly devastation in the form of flooding, destroyed buildings, and loss of utilities. Fox News reports the plea of Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas to the residents who evacuated, "Do not come back to Galveston. You cannot live here at this time." Much the same warning applies to cruise ships operating from the Port of Galveston.

Operations at the Port of Galveston will remain shut down while underwater debris assessment teams investigate hazards in the ship channel and cruise operations are unlikely to resume for an indeterminate time, according to a report from the Galveston County Daily News. It is also reported that 2 to 3 feet of water flooded the cruise terminal and the wall facing the water has collapsed. Carnival Cruise Lines ships scheduled to return to Galveston on Sunday and Monday were unable to do so and have been diverted to New Orleans. Vehicles parked by cruise ship passengers at the port are most likely a total loss, according to city spokesperson Alicia Cahill.

Carnival Cruise Lines has issued the following statement as of 6pm, Sept 14:

We are closely monitoring the situation in Galveston and the impact from Hurricane Ike. We do not currently have a lot of information about the status of the shipping channel, cruise terminal or the port access infrastructure. Local communication has been very challenging and there are restrictions against incoming traffic into the Galveston area.We do not expect the Port of Galveston to be open on Monday and there is tremendous uncertainty about when the port will be available to us next week. Due to this situation, we will now cancel the following cruises:
  • Carnival Conquest Sept 14 departure that was re-scheduled to a 6 day cruise departing on Monday, Sept 15
  • Carnival Ecstasy Sept 15 departure
Guests will receive a full refund of cruise fare and we will process these refunds within three weeks.
  • Carnival Conquest Sept 7 Departure: The Carnival Conquest cruise that departed on Sept 7 will return to New Orleans on Monday, Sept 15. Guests will be able to debark on Monday or Tuesday. Guests will also be able to remain onboard and sail back to Galveston with the ship. However, we are uncertain about when the Port of Galveston will re-open.
  • Carnival Ecstasy Sept 11 Departure: The Carnival Ecstasy cruise that departed on Sept 11 will return to New Orleans on Tuesday, Sept 16 (2:00 PM arrival). Guests will be able to debark on Tuesday or Wednesday. Guests will also be able to remain onboard and sail back to Galveston with the ship. However, we are uncertain about when the Port of Galveston will re-open.
We sincerely apologize to our guests that are impacted by these cancelled or modified cruises. Most importantly, we hope that all of those that reside in the areas impacted by Hurricane Ike were able to remain safe. We also wish a speedy recovery to those that may have sustained damage homes or businesses.


BTC said...

I just saw the following post on Carnival Connections: Letter given to the cruisers on both ships.

September 15, 2008

Dear Carnival Guest:

We want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through all of the logistics for our return to the Galveston area. We sincerely apologize again for your inconvenience. Rest assured, we will do our very best to provide you with a high level of service while you are with us aboard the Carnival Conquest.

We have now decided to sail for Houston tomorrow at 11:30 AM. All guests that plan to debark must depart the ship by 9:00 AM. If you would like to have your luggage taken off the ship, we request that you leave it outside your stateroom tonight by 11:00 PM.

The shipping channel leading into Galveston and Houston remains closed to all traffic at this time. However, we anticipate that it will re-open by Thursday. This is subject to change, but it is based on all the information we have available to us now.

In addition, it appears that it may be a longer period of time before we will be able to utilize the cruise terminal and pier in the Port of Galveston. As a result, we have made arrangements to dock at the new cruise terminal in downtown Houston (the Bayport Cruise Terminal).

We are anticipating docking in Houston on Thursday at approximately 12:00 noon. We will then proceed with debarkation for all guests.

We still do not have confirmation on the status of the cars that are parked in Galveston. Access to Galveston remains restricted and we are very doubtful that guests will be able to go to Galveston to check on their cars. Our best suggestion at this time for guests with cars in Galveston is to try to make arrangements to be picked up in Houston by family or friends. If we are able to get any better information on this situation, we will provide it as soon as it becomes available.

In the meantime, please enjoy your evening aboard the ship or the nightlife in New Orleans.



Anonymous said...

Carnival did little to hepl the passengers on the Conquest, that left Galveston on Sept 7th. My husband and I were among the some 2900 passengers that were dumped off in New Orleans. There wre limited rental cars and you were left to find your on way home . we were some of the lucky ones that could get a rental car but some could not afford to rent a car or get a flight out of New Orleans. I think Carnival should have done more to try and help everyone that was stuck, with their cars in Galveston under water.

Anonymous said...

Do you expect the cruise line to find and rent cars for you or put you on an airplane? They didn't plan this any more than you did. We all take risks and are responsible for ourselves in this world. You cannot expect others to fix things for you.

I thought it was very nice that you got a free trip to N'Awlins and then a nice sail to Houston. Sorry about your car.

We have a cruise scheduled for November with Carnival and if my car is lost, it's lost and I will survive. My house has twice been flooded and each time we managed to carry on. Stuff happens.

I would never schedule a cruise during the very height of hurricane season and feel iffy enough about mid-November since we normally go during the non-hurricane months.

I'm sorry you were inconvenienced but think of those poor souls who lost everything they own.

If I were you, I would consider myself very lucky if that is the worst that ever happens to you.

Now put your big girl/boy panties on and act like one.