For the fifth year in a row, the Port of New Orleans topped 1 million cruise passenger movements in 2018, according to end-of-the-year statistics the port released last week. With close to 1.2 million cruise passenger movements, Port NOLA set a new record last year. What’s more, the port saw 23 percent more river cruise passengers in 2018 compared to the year before.
In 2018, the port also saw growth in the number of passenger ships calling on New Orleans. Last year, 235 passenger vessels called on the port, up from 229 in 2017.
Port NOLA President and CEO Brandy Christian attributes the port’s passenger cruise success, in part, to the region’s people and the fact that, for cruisers, New Orleans is a vacation within a vacation. And Christian pointed out that every cruise ship or riverboat docked in New Orleans has an economic benefit for the region.
“Port NOLA’s success is due in large part to the hard work of the stevedores; labor, cruise terminal staff; and the support of local businesses and tourism partners,” Christian said. “The popularity of New Orleans as a cruise port and our commitment to customer service proves again why Port NOLA is a catalyst for local businesses.
“With an increase in passengers, we see those increased benefits—from florists and food wholesalers to hotel and restaurant staff,” she added. “Our homeport status is important for the local economy and helps us fulfill our role as an economic engine for Louisiana.”
The port cited a recent economic impact study by Louisiana State University’s E.J. Ourso College of Business that found that cruise passengers and ship crews pump an estimated $129.1 million into the local economy.
“Ninety percent of cruise passengers travel from out of state and 73 percent spend a day or two in New Orleans either before or after their cruise,” Christian said. “Of those, 75 percent report making a purchase in the Crescent City and these passengers generate over 306,000 room nights per year in New Orleans-area hotels.”
Looking ahead, 2019 and 2020 should be bigger still for Port NOLA, with new and larger ships scheduled to homeport in New Orleans. In early 2020, Disney Cruise Line will homeport the 2,700-passenger Disney Wonder in New Orleans for a season. Just next month, Carnival Cruise Line will boost four- and five-day cruise capacity from New Orleans when the 2,980-passenger Carnival Glory arrives. In May, the Carnival Glory will begin seven-day itineraries from New Orleans, and the 2,980-passenger Carnival Valor will arrive to continue four- and five-day tours.
“Port NOLA is one of Carnival’s most popular homeports and the Carnival Valor and Carnival Glory are wonderful ships that provide a wide array of exciting dining, beverage, entertainment and activity choices,” Christian said. “As demand for cruises continues to grow, our cruise line partners are responding by deploying newer ships with more capacity and amenities.”
Now through April, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway, a 4,000-passenger ship and the largest to call on New Orleans to date, is offering seven-day cruises from Port NOLA. Then in November, the Norwegian Getaway, the sister to the Breakaway, will arrive to begin cruises from the Crescent City. Royal Caribbean International is also offering seven-day itineraries from New Orleans through March.
Another bright spot in New Orleans’ cruise industry has been river cruises, which saw 30,298 passenger movements in 2018, which is a modern-day record. The American Queen Steamboat Company homeports both the 436-passenger American Queen and the 166-passenger American Duchess in New Orleans. Likewise, American Cruise Lines offers river cruises from New Orleans aboard the 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi and the 185-passenger America. American Cruise Lines debuted the 184-passenger American Song in New Orleans last year, and that vessel’s sister ship, the American Harmony, will begin cruising from New Orleans later this year.
Caption for photo: The Carnival Dream departs Port NOLA’s Erato Street Cruise Terminal, while the Norwegian Breakaway is berthed at the Julia Street Cruise Terminal. (Photo courtesy of Port NOLA)