The cruise industry accounted for $280 million in direct spending in Louisiana in 2011, according to a recent study commissioned by Cruise Lines International Association. The figure is up 35 percent compared to 2010.

The study also found cruise industry spending generated 5,512 jobs and $211 million in income to the State of Louisiana – up 24 percent compared to one year ago. Increases are attributable to a 41 percent jump in passenger embarkations, as the Port handled 736,908 passengers in 2011. The passenger total put New Orleans in the top 10 of all cruise ports in the United States and rising.

According to a study commissioned by the Port in 2011, passengers also contributed to the local economy by spending an average of 1.8 nights in New Orleans, either before or after their cruise, and spent $27.9 million on lodging, food, beverage and incidental spending.  An often overlooked segment of the cruise industry is direct spending by ships’ crew. The study found cruise ship crew members spent $8 million on electronics, clothing, food and beverages in 2011 – roughly 26 percent higher than the national average.  

“These studies validate the impact of the cruise industry to New Orleans and the State of Louisiana,” said Gary LaGrange, President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans. “Our popularity as a cruise port is growing by leaps and bounds and cruise lines are investing in newer and larger ships each year. With increases in capacity, the Port is on target to reach the 1-million-passenger-mark in 2012.”

Today, Carnival Cruise Lines returned the Carnival Conquest to New Orleans following a multi-million-dollar makeover, which saw dramatic upgrades to dining, bar and entertainment venues. Both the Carnival Conquest and Carnival Elation operate from New Orleans year round. In November, both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line will bring in newer and larger vessels. On Nov. 4, the Norwegian Star will sail her maiden voyage from New Orleans. The 2,348-passenger cruise ship replaces the 2,018-passenger Norwegian Spirit, which previously sailed from New Orleans. On Nov. 17, the Port will welcome Royal Caribbean’s 3,114-passenger Navigator of the Seas. The 1,020-foot cruise ship is the largest cruise ship to call on New Orleans.

In addition to western and eastern Caribbean cruise offerings, New Orleans also features a wide array of inland and River cruises, as well. American Cruise Line unveiled a new sternwheeler built for navigating the Mississippi River named the Queen of the Mississippi in August and Travel Dynamics International will begin sailing its 257-foot Yorktown coastal ship from New Orleans in November 2012. In April, the Great American Steamboat Company returned the newly refurbished American Queen to New Orleans and Blount Small Ship Adventures began sailing inland itineraries aboard the Grande Caribe in March.