New Orleans has high expectations for this year with Carnival Cruise Line replacing the Elation with the larger Triumph in April, bumping up the passenger capacity by more than 30 percent in addition to the Carnival Dream, according to Don Allee, director of cruise and tourism for the Port of New Orleans. He spoke to Cruise Industry News together with Johnny Cefalu, deputy director of cruise and tourism, and Steven Gauthier, operations manager.
Carnival sails two ships year-round from the port and Norwegian Cruise Line seasonally with the Dawn, but is increasing its sailings to 28 for its 2015-2016 season from November to mid-May.
The port is also a homeport for substantial riverboat traffic on the Mississippi and serves as a port of call for AIDA, P&O, NYK and Hapag-Lloyd, carrying foreign passengers.
Meanwhile, at press time, New Orleans was on its way to another million passengers for 2015. Even though Royal Caribbean had pulled out, the Carnival Dream sailed for the full year last year and compensated for the potential loss in passengers.
Last October the port’s board passed a resolution to begin the process of a bond issue of up to $45 million, part of which will go to build the new Poland Avenue Cruise Terminal, providing New Orleans with three cruise terminals for ocean going ships when it is completed.
“We are moving forward,” Allee said. “There is some paving going on and some relocation of utilities in preparation for the future terminal. This had to be done whether we build the terminal or not. We are still in the planning phases and have just started a community outreach program, because it is in a part of the city that has not seen cruise activity before.”
With the existing terminals, Carnival has exclusive use of the Erato Street Terminal, while Norwegian uses the Julia Street Terminal. Allee said the port is talking to other potential users, including brands that as of now do not have a presence in the western part of the Gulf of Mexico.
In terms of disembarking and embarking passengers, with two ships in port, New Orleans turns around up to 16,000 passengers on the same day.
Historically, this has been a drive-to market and 60 to 65 percent of the passengers arrive by car from a 700- to 800-mile radius.
The Erato terminal has parking. In addition the port has arrangements with nearby lots and provides a shuttle service. At the Erato parking lot, SeaCaps (baggage handlers) take the luggage from the garage to the ship.
At Julia, parking is next door. Passengers drop their luggage at the terminal before parking.
“We are planning for growth in the cruise industry. We have our eyes on the Caribbean, and I am confident Cuba will open up. It is the old scout’s motto, ‘You have to be prepared.’ We fully expect New Orleans to benefit,” Allee said.
Meanwhile, the city is gearing up to celebrate its 300-year anniversary in 2018.