This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
Royal Caribbean International has announced year-round cruises from the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) in Louisiana are set to begin when the 2,700-passenger Majesty of the Seas arrives to homeport in January 2020. Royal Caribbean, which previously offered seasonal cruises from New Orleans, will offer weekly itineraries from January 2020 to April 2021.
“We value our longstanding partnership with Royal Caribbean and our cruise line partner’s strengthened commitment to the Port NOLA market is a testament to the growing demand for cruises from our unique American City,” says Brandy Christian, Port NOLA’s president and CEO.
Port NOLA remains the sixth-largest cruise port in the US and its cruise business – both oceangoing and riverine – continues to grow. In 2018, Port NOLA recorded almost 1.2 million cruise passenger movements, a new annual high. While overall numbers were up 2.3%, guests travelling on cruises on the Mississippi River grew by 23% compared to the previous year.
This growth in cruises from Port NOLA is driven in part by the allure of New Orleans as a destination in itself for visitors of all ages – it has world-class restaurants, museums, music and, of course, its famous Southern hospitality. Nearly 10.5 million tourists visited ‘The Big Easy’ last year and local tourism is a US$7 billion industry. Port NOLA’s cruise business fuels those numbers. In fact, 90% of cruise passengers who sail from New Orleans are from out of state and 73% spend one or two days in Louisiana either before or after their cruise.
Commitments from other cruise line partners further highlight the allure of cruising from New Orleans.
Disney Cruise Line will homeport in New Orleans for the first time in January 2020, with the 2,700-guest Disney Wonder making six homeport calls during Mardi Gras season. Disney’s excitement and choice to sail from Port NOLA emphasises the region’s appeal to not only offer two vacations in one, but also a family-friendly environment.
Disney Wonder will feature a New Orleans-inspired lounge modelled on the city’s French Quarter, as well as live music and themed activities for all ages. This adds an extra New Orleans element to bring the setting of Disney film ‘The Princess and the Frog’ to the ship, complementing the existing Tiana’s Place restaurant, which is named after the main character.
Port NOLA is seeing a strengthened commitment from its partners not only in new deployments, but also in its ship size and capacity.
Carnival Cruise Line has increased capacity this year, with the 2,980-passenger Carnival Glory switching from her four- and five-day itineraries to seven-day voyages on 19 May 2019. The ship will sail the new itineraries year round. Meanwhile, the 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor arrived in May 2019 to offer five-day sailings, becoming the largest ship to offer year-round short cruises from Port NOLA.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s 3,963-passenger Norwegian Getaway will sail seasonally from Port NOLA every Sunday between November and April 2020. Norwegian Getaway is the newer sister ship of Norwegian Breakaway that sailed from Port NOLA last year.
Guests travelling along the Mississippi River on the five riverboats based in New Orleans in 2018 also set a modern-day record at 30,298 passenger movements, marking a 23% surge in river cruise passengers. In 2019, Port NOLA will welcome six homeported river cruise ships.
The American Queen Steamboat Company homeports the 436-guest American Queen, the 166-passenger American Duchess and the 247-passenger American Countess from New Orleans. Meanwhile, American Cruise Lines offers inland cruises on the 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi and the 185-guest America.
American Cruise Line also sails the 190-guest American Harmony, which recently became the second modern riverboat in the US on the Mississippi River after she made her debut on 17 August 2019. She is the newest ship in American Cruise Lines’ ground-breaking series of five modern riverboats.
As more and more guests seek to set sail from Port NOLA, it has never been easier to get to New Orleans for a cruise. The city is upgrading its airport, which will benefit the 32% of cruise passengers who fly into the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) for their cruises. Visitors flying to New Orleans will experience a new 35-gate airport terminal from autumn 2019.
The airport will have a consolidated checkpoint offering greater ease and efficiency for cruise passengers as they go through security, as well as an in-line baggage system to enable them to drop off their checked baggage at the ticket counters. Other amenities will include concessions located down the centre of the concourse to allow passengers to see their gate while enjoying a taste of New Orleans or listening to live music in the jazz garden.
“Here at MSY, we are focused on building on the momentum created by the success of this market,” says Kevin Dolliole, director of aviation at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. “Delivering new world-class airport facilities that the people of the New Orleans region can be proud of is a major priority. This is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in this region’s history.”
Travellers can also reach New Orleans via Amtrak on daily trains that arrive from destinations around the US and by car on the six major interstates that connect to the ‘Crescent City’ from across the nation.
Both Port NOLA cruise terminals are situated conveniently near downtown New Orleans and they feature easily accessible parking, as well as first-class service. The terminal complexes make it easy to enjoy New Orleans before or after cruise guests set sail.
The Erato Street Cruise Terminal and Parking Garage features more than 1,000 covered and secured parking spaces conveniently located on top of the terminal with seacap luggage assistance. The Julia Street Cruise Terminal Complex has designated port parking adjacent to the terminal with seacap luggage assistance.
“With Port NOLA’s commitment to high-level service and the Crescent City’s many attractions, we are confident cruise passengers will continue to enjoy the excitement and convenience of launching their vacation from our unique city,” says Christian.
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