In a remarkable comeback, the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) celebrates the return to pre-pandemic cruise passenger levels, with nearly 1.2 million movements in 2023, signaling a robust recovery and continued confidence from leading cruise lines.

In the wake of the challenges posed by the global pandemic, Port NOLA recorded nearly 1.2 million cruise passenger movements in 2023. Port NOLA has not only rebounded but also secured renewed commitments from ocean-going and river cruise lines.

The record-setting passenger numbers in March 2023, surpassing pre-pandemic levels with 155,225 passenger movements and 39 cruise vessel calls at the port, topped the previous high in February 2020 of 154,409 passenger movements and 31 vessel calls.

The 2023 numbers highlight the port’s crucial role in generating over 300,000 hotel room nights and more than $125 million in local spending annually.

Cruise Ships Docked in New Orleans (Photo Credit: Allard One)

Port NOLA President and CEO Brandy D. Christian said, “The cruise business has rebounded in New Orleans and cruise line partners are confident in our Port NOLA cruise market. This is really encouraging as our cruise business drives tourism and contributes significantly to the hospitality industry.”

Port NOLA serves as a vibrant hub for both ocean-going and river cruises, bolstering the local economy and tourism sector.

Said Walter J. Leger III, president and CEO of New Orleans & Company, “New Orleans is one of the most popular pre- and post-cruise destinations in the [United States], which is a tribute to our excellent partners at the Port of New Orleans as well as the work of our team at New Orleans & Company.”

Read Also: Top 10 Busiest US Cruise Homeports

In a significant development, Norwegian Cruise Line has committed to a five-year renewal, enhancing its offerings with additional sailings and introducing Norwegian Getaway to replace Norwegian Breakaway in October 2024.

Disney Cruise Line has also made its return to the Big Easy with the 2,700-passenger Disney Magic in January, and Royal Caribbean is set to reintroduce Brilliance of the Seas in October 2024 for its 4- to 9-night cruises to Mexico, Belize, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands for 2,466 passengers.

Photo Courtesy: CBP

Carnival Cruise Line, a stalwart of the New Orleans cruise scene, continues to operate two vessels year-round from Port NOLA. In 2024, it will celebrate 30 years of sailing from the city. Carnival’s Glory and Valor offer year-round cruises to 2,980 and 2,974 passengers, respectively.

Carnival Glory sets sail every Sunday for 7-night journeys to Montego Bay, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize, and Cozumel; or Key West, Florida and Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas. 

Carnival Valor sails every other Monday, Saturday, and Thursday with either a 4-night trip to Cozumel or a 5-night voyage to Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico.

Furthermore, the growth of river cruising from Port NOLA is exemplified by the homeporting of nine vessels, including America’s first Viking CruiseMississippi. That vessel was built in Edison Chouest Offshore’s LaShip shipyard in Louisiana in 2022 and provides 8-night roundtrip and one-way cruises to Memphis for 386 passengers.

Additional river cruise lines include American Cruises, with four ships sailing roundtrip and a fifth ship offering April through December voyages, and American Queen Steamboat Company sailing three seasonal routes.

In a similar vein of resurgence, the nearby Port of Galveston, also situated along the Gulf of Mexico, is celebrating its own remarkable achievements. The port recently posted the highest profits in its history, mirroring the trend of recovery and growth seen across major cruise ports.

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