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Three Carnival Cruise Ships to House Katrina Refugees

The U.S. government has chartered three luxury cruise liners — Ecstasy, Sensation and Holiday — for the next six months to provide temporary housing for victims of Hurricane Katrina (search), Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) said Saturday.

Two of the ships, the Ecstasy and Sensation, have a maximum capacity of 2,606 each and will be based in Galveston, Texas, while the third boat, the Holiday, has a maximum capacity of 1,800 and will likely be docked in Mobile, Ala., the Miami-based company said.

Thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were left homeless after Katrina ripped across the Gulf Coast with powerful winds and widespread flooding, ruining homes, buildings and critical infrastructure.

Carnival, which is the namesake brand of the world's largest cruise company, Carnival Corp., declined to say how much the Federal Emergency Management Agency (search) was paying to charter the ships.

The company said people who had their trips canceled on the three ships could receive a full refund or book a trip on another cruise ship. Some future travelers are being switched to another boat.

It was not immediately clear what would be the total impact on the company by removing three ships from service. Carnival crews will operate the ships which will be at the disposal of the U.S. Military Sealift Command (search), according to the company.

"This inconvenience to our guests will provide desperately needed housing for thousands of individuals affected by this tragedy," said Bob Dickinson, Carnival president and chief executive officer.

Carnival shares closed down 28 cents Friday to $48.24 on the New York Stock Exchange.