A 32 percent increase in cruise passengers at the Port of New Orleans in 2012 resulted in huge gains in employment and cruise spending in Louisiana, according to a report released this week by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
Port of New Orleans cruise terminals handled a record 977,703 passengers in 2012, up 32 percent compared to 2011’s former record of 736,908. CLIA’s report by Business Research and Economic Advisors (BREA) found cruise industry spending last year in Louisiana grew 42.5 percent to $399 million, generating 7,548 jobs, compared to 5,512 jobs in 2011. Those jobs resulted in $294 million in income, up 39 percent, compared to the same period one year ago.
CLIA’s figures also rank New Orleans as the sixth-largest cruise port in the United States, up from the ninth position in 2011.
“These figures underscore how important the cruise industry is to the Louisiana economy,” said Gary LaGrange, President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans. “Our goal is to create economic activity. And our cruise partners – Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines – are investing in the New Orleans market with more modern and larger vessels sailing a wide variety of itineraries to all destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, Bahamas and Key West, Fla.”
Overall, the cruise industry was a substantial contributor to the U.S. economy in 2012, generating $42.3 billion in gross output and 356,311 jobs, paying $17.4 billion in wages and salaries. CLIA’s North American cruise line members carried a record-high 16.95 million passengers in 2012, representing a 3.8 percent increase from 2011.
In conjunction with the CLIA report, Port officials retained the same firm to determine passenger and crew spending in the New Orleans region. The BREA study found more than 80 percent of cruise passengers are from out of state and 60 percent of them spend an average of two nights in New Orleans either before or after their cruise. That figure is up from 50 percent in 2010, the last year the Port measured passenger and crew spending. In addition, those passengers and shipboard crew spent $78.4 million in 2012, with lodging ($27.5 million) and food and beverage ($8.3 million) encompassing more than half of the overall spending.”
“We market cruising from New Orleans as two vacations in one,” LaGrange said. “New Orleans is a true destination city and cruise passengers see us as an additional port-of-call.”
And cruise passengers will have a slew of new ships to sail from New Orleans this fall and spring. On Nov. 18 the 3,006-passenger Carnival Sunshine will replace the 2,984-passenger Carnival Conquest. The Sunshine recently underwent a massive $155 million transformation and will sail regular seven-day eastern and western Caribbean itineraries from New Orleans through April 2014 – when Carnival will reposition the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream from Port Canaveral, Fla., to New Orleans to sail year-round seven day cruises, replacing the Carnival Sunshine.
The 2,052-passenger Carnival Elation will continue to sail year-round four- and five-day itineraries from New Orleans.
In October, the 2,376-passenger Norwegian Jewel will replace the 2,348-passenger Norwegian Star sailing seasonal seven-day itineraries from the Julia Street Cruise Terminal through April. In November, Royal Caribbean will replace the Navigator of the Seas with the newly renovated Serenade of the Seas, sailing weekly through April.
In addition, New Orleans also features a wide array of inland and River cruises. American Cruise Lines sails its sternwheeler Queen of the Mississippi and Great American Steamboat Company sails the American Queen from New Orleans. Blount Small Ship Adventures sails inland itineraries aboard the Grand Caribe and Travel Dynamics International sails its Yorktown coastal ship from New Orleans.