2011 marked a record year for cruising from the Port of New Orleans, as the Port handled 736,908 passengers – besting the previous record in 2004 by 2,265 passengers. The 2011 numbers also beat the 2010 passenger count by more than 39 percent.
“We are experiencing tremendous growth in our cruise industry,” said Gary LaGrange, Port President and CEO. “New Orleans is a hugely popular cruise port and cruise lines are taking notice and investing larger and newer ships in their New Orleans itineraries. This year we will be knocking on the door of the 1-million-passenger mark.”
In addition to the four home-ported cruise ships sailing from New Orleans each week, the Port is hosting two unique cruise ship calls this week, which means vessels simply calling on New Orleans as a cruise destination. The 1,778-passenger Balmoral berthed today at the Julia Street Cruise Terminal to allow passengers to explore New Orleans. Owned by United Kingdom-based Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, the ship is the largest and newest of the company’s fleet. Port Director of Cruise and Tourism Robert Jumonville presented Capt. Olav Sovdsnes with a plaque today to mark the vessel’s maiden voyage to New Orleans.
On Thursday, P&O Cruises Oceana will call on the Julia Street Cruise Terminal to allow passengers to visit the Crescent City before departing Friday night for Cozumel. The 857-foot, 2,272-passenger cruise ship is in the midst of a Caribbean cruise for the United Kingdom-based cruise line and visited Grand Cayman prior to New Orleans.
The cruise industry is big business for the Port and the New Orleans tourism industry. In 2011, the total direct local economic impact of the industry is estimated at $132.1 million – or $937,000 per ship call. Economic impact studies determined the industry contributes more than $226 million overall to the state, supporting more than 3,000 jobs. And those impacts will surely rise in the coming year with further increased activity.
In the fall of 2011, three new ships began calling on the Port. In November, the 2,052-passenger Carnival Elation arrived to sail year-round four- and five-day cruises to Cozumel and Progresso, Mexico. The 2,974-passenger Carnival Conquest returned to New Orleans replacing the Carnival Triumph to sail year-round seven-day western and eastern Caribbean cruises. And Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas – a 3,114-passenger cruise ship, the largest ever to home-port in New Orleans – began sailing seasonal seven-day western Caribbean itineraries Nov. 12. The three new ships joined Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,018-passenger Norwegian Spirit, which sails seven-day western Caribbean itineraries, as well. NCL plans to replace the Norwegian Spirit with the larger 2,348-passenger Norwegian Star this fall.