New Orleans Menu DailyArchived Article
By Tom Fitzmorris

Originally published February 21, 2007

Cruise To Nowhere

A few days ago Debbie Himbert, who handles all the arrangements for our Eat Club cruises, sent me some distressing news. Neither of the two cruises we planned out of New Orleans--one for next August, the other for Mardi Gras 2008--will happen.

The reason: Carnival Cruise Lines abruptly decided not to return the Triumph--the big ship on which both cruises were to sail--to New Orleans after all.

Debbie sent me the letter she received from the cruise line, which said something about misapprehensions on the part of the traveling public about the tourism infrastructure in New Orleans. Their point, apparently, is that they wanted to come back, but some stupid people out there were queering the deal. Not their fault, they say.

Between the lines, the message was that they're not selling enough cruises here, and they think they can sell more elsewhere. Of course, you can't sell many cruises if you don't have a ship to match the market. They do have another one, the Fantasy, but it doesn't offer the same experience as the Triumph (the ship that won't come), much less the Conquest (the one they took away after the storm).

Even deeper between the lines was a dark shadow of a single word: crime.

I'm not easily depressed. My wife says I ought to be, given what's happening here. But it seems to me that the rebuilding of the city has, for the most part, gone better than we had any right to expect it would. (Which was far less well that what a lot of other people were hoping for.)

I have tremendous optimism about the future of New Orleans. There are just too many opportunities here for us not to recover in the long run.

Unless we blow it. And it looks like we blew it in this case.

The Triumph cancellation hit me like a punch to the midriff. Really upset me. Not because we have to cancel two cruises. (We'll just do some other cruises.) But because it was an unexpected crack in the structure of our future. The cruise business has been a first-class growth area for our city in recent years--profitable and utterly appropriate.

We all know what caused the crack. The shocking lack of imagination and leadership in the recovery efforts of all levels of government has made New Orleans a scary, incomprehensible prospect for many of the very people who want most to help us.

Even Rex put this point across he toasted the mayor at Gallier Hall. I could hardly believe what I was hearing when he said (I'm paraphrasing, because I don't have the exact text), "Mr. Mayor, on this day I and all our subjects demand that you take responsibility. . . " The King of Carnival paused and let the anticipation of what he might say next rise. Then he smiled broadly, as if to suggest that we fill in the rest, and continued, ". . . for this great day and all the pleasure we will have." Then Rex went on to add a few more veiled suggestions that things in the real world have to be addressed with greater aplomb.

It's not the purview of this newsletter to analyze such things. But the failure on the part of the public side of our leadership to use this opportunity to revolutionize our city has been most frustrating.

It kills me to watch restaurateurs and other parts of the hospitality industry accomplishing amazing things, and then have their efforts sabotaged by failures at the top.

Still, we soldier on, take heart on the good things that happen, and do our best. And hope this cruise ship departure is just a Lenten penance that will make us better.

© 2007 Tom Fitzmorris. All rights reserved.