The Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) is riding a wave of popularity and will once again welcome Royal Caribbean International to its cruise terminal, which will join Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line to homeport ships in the US city.
Royal Caribbean will return to New Orleans with a seasonal homeported cruise ship from December 2018. The 915-foot-long Vision of the Seas will sail seven-night itineraries to culture-rich destinations across the Bahamas in the Caribbean and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula from the port’s Julia Street Cruise Terminal. The ship will sail on Saturdays.
“The Port of New Orleans is thrilled to welcome back Royal Caribbean and we look forward to working productively together for many years to come,” says Brandy Christian, port president and CEO. “Our city’s energy and music, culinary and cultural attractions perfectly compliment the Caribbean cruise experience. Our cruise business continues to grow, as does the variety of itineraries offered, as most cruise passengers spend an average of two nights in the region, either before or after their cruise.”
The Port of New Orleans’ cruise industry grew by 4.5% in 2016, continuing its record pace for the sixth consecutive year. In 2016, Port NOLA managed 1,070,695 cruise passenger movements, topping the one million mark for the third year in a row.
“New Orleans is becoming a more accessible city for international visitors now that we have direct air service to Panama, Frankfurt and London on Copa, Condor and British Airways, respectively,” says Christian, who also serves as chair of the Cruise Committee for the American Association of Port Authorities. “We have always enjoyed a sizeable drive-in market from Louisiana and nearby states as well.”
Mark Romig, president and CEO of the city’s official leisure travel promotion agency New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, adds: “We welcome Royal Caribbean back to New Orleans and look forward to a successful partnership. We know the company is a trusted brand name in the cruise industry and we look forward to its guests spending time exploring all that our city has to offer before and after their cruise.”
Cruise ships homeporting in New Orleans year-round include Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Dream, which offers seven-day cruises, and Carnival Triumph, which sails four- and five-day voyages.
Beginning 22 October 2017, Norwegian Cruise Line will replace the 2,340-guest Norwegian Dawn with the newer and larger 2,394-passenger Norwegian Pearl, which will sail seasonal seven-day cruises from New Orleans to the Caribbean.
Heading upriver, the three Port NOLA homeported riverboats that cruise the inland waters of the Mississippi handled 21,391 passengers in 2016, up 40% compared to the previous year. They include American Cruise Lines’ America and Queen of the Mississippi, and American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Queen.
In August 2017, the American Queen Steamboat Company will add the 166-passenger American Duchess to offer nine-night cruises to and from Memphis, Tennessee. American Duchess will be the first all-suite paddlewheeler on the Mississippi River.
“The American Queen Steamboat Company has led the way in a rebirth of US river cruising as thousands discover our heartland and the Pacific Northwest, served by an award-winning, all-American crew,” says Ted Sykes, president and CEO of the company. “Demand for more capacity on the Mississippi River has been overwhelming the past two seasons and we look forward to delivering a new boutique all-suite experience and the flexibility of two riverboats sailing between New Orleans and St. Paul, Minnesota.”
According to Christian, inland river cruising is a growing segment of Port NOLA’s cruise portfolio. “The history and charm of our beautiful city combines with the unique offerings of the Great River Road attractions to make cruising from New Orleans ideal for riverboat passengers.”
Currently, the Port of New Orleans ranks as the sixth-largest cruise port in the US, according to a Cruise Line International Association report. The study also found that Louisiana’s cruise industry generates a total of US$406 million in direct industry expenditures, and supports 8,102 jobs that provide US$324 million in personal income. Meanwhile, port studies found 80% of cruise passengers come from outside the state of Louisiana and 60% spend an average of two nights in New Orleans either before or after their cruise.