Weary passengers head out to sea as final cruise ship leaves port


by khou.com staff


Posted on February 21, 2011 at 9:45 AM

Updated Monday, Feb 21 at 7:30 PM

HOUSTON – Thousands of cruise ship passengers were frustrated after being stuck at the Port of Galveston for days waiting to board three cruise ships, but their toiling ended as the final ship left the port Monday around noon. 

One Royal Caribbean and two Carnival cruise ships, the Ecstasy and the Conquest, came into the port Saturday, but had to remain in a holding pattern until the fog cleared. Customers said even when the ships docked, they were still unable to board and were forced to wait in limbo. 

Angry customers called their experience a nightmare and said the cruise lines did not offer much sympathy, provisions or information about their trips. 

"Leaping on floors, sleeping on chairs, I think it’s inhuman really," said customer Connie Vasquez.

Another customer questioned the cruise line's efficiency.

"They can not manage to get out three ships in eleven hours, how are they going to become a big cruise terminal in Galveston if they can’t even manage three ships in one day?" asked Tammy Winebrenner.

Some passengers stayed at hotels in the area, while others slept on air mattresses at the Galveston Convention Center.

Passengers were allowed to board the ships early Monday morning and the Conquest finally departed shortly before 9 a.m. The Ecstasy left around noon.

Carnival said the weather was beyond their control and issued the following statement:

The ship has been delayed due to severe fog and near zero visibility at the Port of Galveston.  The ship was not able to enter the Port of Galveston from its previous cruise until yesterday afternoon, approximately one day later than scheduled because of the severe fog. It has been waiting for the fog to clear to depart on its next voyage.

Because of its delayed arrival and subsequent delayed departure, Carnival Ecstasy will now sail on a modified three-day cruise that will return on Thursday, Feb. 24 (originally, the ship was scheduled to sail on a five-day cruise to Cozumel and Progreso operating Saturday to Thursday).

Guests have the option of canceling and receiving a full refund, a 25 percent discount off a future two- to five-day voyage and a $45 per person meal allowance.  Guests who opt to sail on the modified three-day cruise will receive a 50 percent refund of their cruise fare, a 50 percent discount on a future two- to five-day cruise, and $45 per person meal allowance in the form of a shipboard credit.

Carnival sincerely apologizes to its guests for this disruption in their vacation plans.

Carnival Ecstasy operates four- and five-day western Caribbean cruises from the Port of Galveston.