M/V The World, a 644-foot floating residential community, makes her maiden voyage to the Crescent City today.

The 43,000-ton vessel is scheduled to arrive at the Julia Street Cruise Terminal today at 6 p.m. and depart at 1 p.m. Sunday.

We are very excited about finally making it to New Orleans, a port city we consider to be one of the world's premier destinations, said Emilio Freeman, senior vice president of operations for Miramar, Fla.-based ResidenSea, which manages the vessel.

Residents from 18 different countries live onboard the vessel as it slowly circumnavigates the globe visiting about 100 ports each year and staying from two to five days at each. The vessel features 165 units all owned by individuals ranging in price from $850,000 to $8 million for units varying in size from 325 square-foot studios to 3,300 square-foot apartments. All are fully equipped with living rooms, dining rooms, digital television, internet access, washers and dryers and the apartments feature full kitchens. Four restaurants serve residents and guests and they have the availability of an onboard chef to cook in their homes.

The vessel spends on average 285 days in ports around the world annually, allowing residents and guests easy access to onshore restaurants, shopping and sightseeing.

We have residents who are from Louisiana and Texas, so calling on Gulf Coast ports along the way is important to us, Freeman said. We like to take the ship to the backyards of our residents and enjoy spending a lot of time in port to never rush our residents and guests.

Originally scheduled to visit New Orleans in 2002, The World diverted from U.S. ports due to scheduling delays. Again, The World scheduled a port call in New Orleans in January of 2006, but was diverted due to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

We are pleased to finally welcome the passengers and crew of The World to New Orleans to enjoy our rich culture, cuisine and a taste of Mardi Gras, said Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange. And we hope this will be the first of many visits this unique vessel makes to the Crescent City.

In addition to unique vessel calls by passenger vessels, the Port of New Orleans features the 855-foot Carnival Fantasy sailing year-round four- and five-day Western Caribbean itineraries and the 881-foot Norwegian Spirit sailing seasonal seven-day Western Caribbean itineraries. In November, Carnival plans to increase its capacity in New Orleans by 34 percent when the 2,758-passenger Carnival Triumph replaces the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy, which will compliment the company's four- and five-day Western Caribbean cruises with new seven-day western and eastern Caribbean itineraries visiting ports in Key West, Fla., Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas.

The cruise industry is vital to Louisiana's economy, supporting 3,617 jobs, which result in $108.8 million in wages. Industry spending totals about $149 million annually, which results in $23.7 million in state and local taxes and cruise passengers account for more than 180,000 room nights in area hotels.

For more information on cruising from New Orleans, visit the Port of New Orleans Web site at www.portno.com and click on cruises.

The ship is not open for tours; however, it can viewed from the balcony near the food court of the Riverwalk Marketplace.

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