Norwegian Cruise Line will sail seven-day cruises all year long from New Orleans starting November 2010. The decision will effectively double the number of passengers NCL can move through the Crescent City.

The 2,018 passenger Norwegian Spirit, which normally sails from New Orleans in the winter cruise season from November to April and then is repositioned to another U.S. cruise port, will now maintain a weekly presence at the Port of New Orleans’ Erato Street Cruise Terminal throughout the year.

“What better way to congratulate the city that hosts the 2010 Super Bowl Champions than to bring Norwegian Spirit to New Orleans year-round,” said Kevin Sheehan, chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line.  “We’ve seen a strong interest in Freestyle Cruising from the Gulf Coast and have therefore decided to double our capacity here.”

“This is a huge vote of confidence for the Port of New Orleans and our city from a company that has been our strategic partner since 2003. New Orleans is a great destination in its own right. When you add a Freestyle cruise on top of all New Orleans has to offer, you make it a truly unique travel experience,” said Gary LaGrange, President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans.

About 61% of passengers who cruise from New Orleans elect to spend time in the city before or after their cruise.

"The cruise industry is a key driver of Louisiana's economy, accounting for an average of $163 million in direct spending each year. This increase in cruise line passengers will enhance our ability to create jobs while attracting more visitors," said Mitch Landrieu, who oversees culture, recreation and tourism as Louisiana’s Lieutenant Governor and is Mayor-Elect of the City of New Orleans.

The Norwegian Spirit currently sails seven-day cruises that depart from New Orleans every Sunday. The ship’s itinerary includes Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; Santo Tomas De Castillo,Guatemala; and Belize City, Belize.  In 2011, Norwegian will replace Santo Tomas De Castillo, Guatemala with Roatán, Honduras.

The Port and Norwegian currently have an agreement that the cruise line will sail 22 times from New Orleans. By the time Norwegian Spirit’s 2009-2010 winter cruise season ends in April, it will have completed 23 sailings from New Orleans. It will have one more hiatus, before resuming in New Orleans year-round in November.

With a ship positioned year round, Norwegian will have the capacity to move an additional 58,500 passengers through New Orleans or roughly 117,000 passenger embarkations and disembarkations. In 2009, Norwegian logged 103,392 passenger embarkations and disembarkations through the Port of New Orleans.

Cruise industry spending generates more than 3,100 jobs and $121 million in income for Louisiana workers, according to stats from the Cruise Lines International Association.