Smooth Seas Ahead

Louisiana’s cruise industry is a $400 million/year business that’s only getting bigger.

s 2014 comes to a close, the Port of New Orleans is expecting to exceed the 1 million mark for embarkation and disembarkation for the first time – mainly because the Carnival Dream, the largest cruise ship ever to call on the Port of New Orleans, has been using the city as its homeport year-round since April.  

Earlier this year, the Port of New Orleans signed an agreement with Carnival Cruise Lines that would keep the world’s largest cruise line sailing at least two ships year-round from New Orleans through 2019. Currently, the two home ported cruise ships, the Carnival Dream and Carnival Elation carry more than 400,000 passengers annually from Erato Street Cruise Terminal to the Caribbean and Mexico.
As one of the prominent gateways to the Caribbean, Central America and inland river systems, New Orleans has been a popular port of call for cruise lines that favor the world-class facilities at Erato Street and Julia Street terminals.

“Taking a cruise from New Orleans means a vacation both here and abroad,” says Mark Romig, president and CEO of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. (NOTMC).

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The Port of New Orleans, in line with NOTMC, advertises New Orleans as two vacations in one, enticing passengers to extend their stay at the historic port.

“We have a great driving market of a 500-mile radius to the city,” says Matthew Gresham, director of external affairs for the Port of New Orleans. “Plus, with the expanded direct flights from the Midwest and Northwest, we are seeing a lot more passengers coming in.”

Passengers often spend an average of two nights before or after their cruises in the Crescent City, which creates a ripple effect that extends far beyond the port. A study by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) found that annual spending by Carnival and other cruise operators in Louisiana tops $399 million, generating 7,548 jobs and $294 million in personal income.
With plans to start building a third cruise terminal on Poland Avenue in the first quarter of 2015, numbers are set to rise.

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“The third cruise terminal will allow us to market for another home port of ship and additional unique cruiseship calls; those are the ships that come in and stay a day or two,” Gresham explains. “It would make New Orleans a port of call, if you will, for some of those luxury cruise liners. We get a handful of them a year now, but really a lot of cruise ships and cruise lines want those weekend slots and multi-day slots that we could offer there now.”

Currently, Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International sail weekly to destinations in the Western Caribbean and Bahamas. The Great American Steamboat Co. American Cruise Lines, Travel Dynamics International and Blount Small Ship Adventures cruise along the coast and Mississippi River.

As cruise ships continue to follow the trend of becoming more family-friendly, New Orleans can in turn promote all the city has to offer to family vacationers.

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“The city can market nearby attractions such as the Audubon Zoo, Aquarium of the Americas and Audubon Insectarium, the New Orleans Children’s Museum, National World War II Museum, swamp tours, plantation tours – all of which complement the traditional tourism offerings of New Orleans,” Gresham says.

With 2015 on the horizon, the course is set for another record-breaking year as the popularity of cruising from the Crescent City continues – both with expanded cruise routes and New Orleans serving as a destination in itself.
 


Fast Facts

New Orleans is the 6th-largest cruise port in the United States.

In 2013 the city saw its third record year in a row – 987,869 embarkations and disembarkations – and expects to top the 1 million mark for the first time by the end of 2014.

Annual spending by Carnival and other cruise operators in Louisiana tops $399 million, generating 7,548 jobs and $294 million in personal income.

 



Margaret Quilter is an Australian expat whose tales of adventures abroad have been published in international magazines. Check out her weekly blog, “Tourism Biz” at BizNewOrleans.com


 

 

 

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