Carnival Cruise Lines and the Port of New Orleans announced a new two-year contract today retroactive to Oct. 2006, with the option to renew the deal for an additional two-year-period, which could keep the world’s largest cruise line sailing regularly from the Crescent City through 2010.

“This shows Carnival’s commitment to the rebuilding of New Orleans and their confidence in the return of the City’s tourism industry,” said Gary LaGrange, president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans. “Carnival is a trusted partner with the Port in our combined efforts to continue to revive New Orleans’ tourism industry.”

“We are thrilled to be continuing our valued partnership with New Orleans and to report that we are seeing some improvement in demand for our New Orleans cruises and a steady expansion of the geographic source markets for passengers, said Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Carnival Cruise Lines. “It indicates that interest is definitely building among consumers from well beyond the local area for cruises from New Orleans.”

Under the terms of the contract, the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy, which replaced the Carnival Sensation in October of 2006, will make a minimum of 70 calls per year to the Port of New Orleans’ new $37 million Erato Street Cruise Terminal and Parking Garage. The ship sails four- and five-day cruises to the Western Caribbean year-round, with port calls in Cozumel and Costa Maya.

Carnival also plans to hold its quarterly meeting of national sales managers on Sept. 24 and 25 in New Orleans to highlight the city’s rebounding tourism industry to its leading sales personnel. More than 100 of Carnival’s sales managers will attend the event, which will be held at Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter.

An economic impact study found the cruise industry contributes $226 million annually to the regional economy and supports more than 2,800 jobs in Louisiana.