Hurricane Katrina was one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history and one of the seventh worst natural disasters the United States has ever seen. The hurricane killed more than 1,800 people and with an estimated cost of $100 billion, Katrina is on record as the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. Although this tragedy took place nearly three years ago, New Orleans and many coastal communities are still struggling to get back on their feet. During this historic and tragic event, thousands of New Orleans residents were lost their homes. The victims were scattered throughout the city in stadiums, makeshift emergency centers, and in surrounding areas that were not as greatly affected by the hurricane. Thousands of residents were even shipped to other states. There were so many people with no place to go that the Feds had no other choice than to ask Carnival Cruise Lines – the largest cruise operator in the world, for help.
So what exactly did the Feds ask Carnival Cruise Lines? In August 2005, the Feds asked Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines if its ships could be used as emergency shelters or if the cruise giant could help in “some other way.” Initially, Carnival Cruise Lines responded with this: “to undertake such an endeavor would involve many complicated issues, we are actively taking a look at it” and “it is our intention to work with federal officials to determine the feasibility of moving a ship into the area if that is their desire.”
Carnival operates 21 ships. Each ship can hold anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 passengers. After much discussion, a $236 million deal was made between Carnival Cruise Lines and the United States Federal Government to use Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Sensation for six months as a temporary shelter for displaced New Orleans residents. Because the ships were not fully utilized, meaning that the ships did not have the same entertainment, fuel, staffing, and other expenses associated with a cruise at sea, the “deal” was widely criticized by senators and the public. Carnival Cruise Lines argued that the line would not be receiving any of its usual revenue from alcohol sales, gambling, and merchandise sales. During the disaster, Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Sensation remained docked at The Port of New Orleans. Democratic Presidential Nominee and then Senator Barack Obama D-Ill along with Tom Coburn R-Okl, and may other senators and lawmakers stated that Greece had offered two ships for free and on top of this, the ships sat mostly empty at the Port of New Orleans. So federal officials were asked to explain their decision to sign the $236 million deal.
For more information about the Katrina Cruise Contract, click here.