As the gateway to the Mississippi River, New Orleans has long been a city celebrated for its vibrant culture. But beyond the festivities lies a bustling cruise port, Port NOLA.

Already the sixth largest cruise port in the US, President and CEO of the port, Brandy Christian, offered an insight into the growing number of cruise ships sailing from the port, with 1.2 million passengers going through the port in the 2023 fiscal year and an even busier 2024.

Port NOLA’s leadership, embodied by Brandy D. Christian, delivered an upbeat State of the Port address this year, showcasing the many successes the Port of New Orleans has been able to celebrate. Among the key highlights was the port’s performance as a cruise hub, with a strong resurgence in post-pandemic cruise activities.

The port’s cruise segment recorded an impressive 1.2 million guest movements in fiscal 2023, culminating in a new monthly record this past March that eclipsed any pre-pandemic figures. During that record-breaking month, the port recorded welcomed 155,225 cruise guests and 39 cruise ships. 

This uptick isn’t merely a rebound; the port leadership expects to see a new yearly passenger record by the end of December.

“These record numbers highlight how demand for cruising from New Orleans never went away, as people from all over the world returned to our vibrant city to launch their cruise vacations as soon as they were able,” said Port NOLA President and CEO Brandy D. Christian in March. 

“As a result, our cruise line partners continue to commit to the New Orleans market, and that’s good news for Louisiana tourism and hospitality.”

The Port of New Orleans has always relied on strong relationships with its cruise partners, which include the three largest operators worldwide, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, and the largest operator in New Orleans, Carnival Cruise Line.

Cruise Ships in New Orleans (Photo Credit: Aleksandr Dyskin / Shutterstock)

Royal Caribbean will return to New Orleans with Brilliance of the Seas next year, with the first cruise sailing October 12, 2024. Carnival Cruise Line operates from the port with two year-round cruise ships, and Norwegian Cruise Line has the 146,600 gross tons Norwegian Breakaway, the largest cruise ship homeported in New Orleans.

Additionally, Disney Cruise Line is set to begin cruising from New Orleans in January with Disney Magic, another significant vote of confidence in the possibilities at the port.

The growth that New Orleans is seeing isn’t limited to ocean cruises. River cruises have seen a significant increase, with nine vessels now calling Port NOLA home, including the first Viking cruise ship, Viking Mississippi.

New Orleans should be able to easily achieve a record number of cruise passengers this year. Through the end of 2023, the port has another 26 scheduled calls. Carnival Valor leads the pack with 12 departures, followed by the Carnival Glory with 8. The Norwegian Breakaway, Marella Discovery, and ms Nieuw Amsterdam complete the list.

Cruise Ships Docked in New Orleans (Photo Credit: Page Light Studios / Shutterstock)

Cruises from New Orleans sail mainly on short 4- to 8-day cruises to the Western Caribbean, calling on ports such as Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, and for Norwegian Breakaway, Harvest Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island in Belize

However, longer cruises are also available. On December 3, Carnival Glory will sail on a 14-day cruise to Montego Bay, Jamaica; Aruba; Bonaire; Cartagena, Colombia; the Panama Canal; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; and Cozumel, Mexico. 

In 2024, New Orleans is all set to set even more records with 104 confirmed departures between January and December, onboard Carnival Valor, Carnival Glory, Carnival Liberty, Norwegian Breakaway, Disney Magic, Brilliance Of The Seas, and Norwegian Getaway. More sailings are expected to be added to the list.

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