Top port and political leaders gathered at Waterfront Park this afternoon to announce Charleston's first year-round cruise contract.

Carnival Cruise Lines will begin its first of as many as 70 voyages to the Bahamas and Key West in May on board the ship Fantasy. The news comes as the State Ports Authority and the city move forward on their master plan to redevelop the passenger terminal and its surrounding waterfront acreage.

Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, said the Carnival deal could have a direct local impact of as much as $70 million in a year.

Given the news, Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, said, "I'm going to declare the recession over in Charleston, South Carolina."

Read more in tomorrow's editions of The Post and Courier.