The arrival of the Norwegian Breakaway at the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA), signaled the start of a big comeback for cruise ship operations. The Breakaway joins the Carnival Glory and Valor who successfully restarted ocean-going cruises in September and early November.
This is a major milestone after cruises were completely shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. River cruises resumed successfully from the Port in March 2021, and in September 2021 Carnival was the first to restart ocean-going cruises that have continued to consistently drive business back to the New Orleans market. With the return of the Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line slated for February, Port NOLA is forecasting 285 sailings during the 2022 calendar year and expecting nearly 1 million passenger movements.
All cruise lines operating from the Port currently have the vaccination, testing, and mask-wearing requirements in place as well as strict COVID-19 protocols beyond federal recommendations.
“We are pleased ocean-going cruises are resuming and joining the successful restart of river cruises nine months ago,” said Brandy D. Christian, President, and CEO of Port NOLA. “Cruises from the Port of New Orleans are critical to the state and regional economy. Our cruise passengers make up more than 300,000 hotel room nights alone in our city and they spend more than $125 million locally.”
New Orleans is the sixth-largest cruise port in the United States, and demand for cruising from the Big Easy continues to grow for both Caribbean and Mississippi River itineraries. At Port NOLA, 90% of cruise guests travel from out-of-state, with 73% spending a day or two days in New Orleans either before or after their cruise.
Vacationers can choose itineraries from New Orleans from three unique ocean-going cruise brands, anchored by two Carnival Cruise Line vessels. Port NOLA is currently offering sailings to a variety of Caribbean destinations weekly on the 2,980-passenger Carnival Glory and four & five-night sailings on the 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor.
The 3,963-passenger Norwegian Breakaway is sailing seven-day seasonal cruises to the Caribbean from November to April. The Disney Wonder returns offering four-, five- and six-night sailings during her season scheduled from February to March 2022.
Visitors and locals also have the option for world-class river cruises on American Queen Steamboat Company and American Cruise Lines. American Cruise Lines continues to introduce modern riverboats to the market every year. In 2021, they introduced American Jazz and American Melody on the Mississippi River despite the pandemic. More are being constructed and will debut in 2022 and beyond.
Port NOLA also looks forward to welcoming Viking Cruise Lines to New Orleans in 2022. Viking’s arrival on the Mississippi River underscores New Orleans’ draw as a convenient cruise port and enduring tourism destination. With stops along the Mississippi River, Viking cruises also represent the future commitment to tourism and economic development for many communities in Louisiana.
Prior to the pandemic, Port NOLA had been on trend to hit 1.4 million passenger movements in 2020. In 2019, Port NOLA saw a record-breaking year in cruise passenger numbers and vessel calls, as demand for cruising from Port NOLA continued with 1.2 million cruise passenger movements.
River cruises were one of the fastest-growing segments of Port NOLA’s business and guests traveling along the Mississippi River on the six riverboats homeported in New Orleans set a modern-day record at 31,306 passenger movements in 2019.