Last year, the Port of New Orleans reached a milestone with 1,150,172 passengers heading through the doors of the Erato Street and Julia Street Cruise Terminals. But the port has seen more than a million cruise passengers for the past four years. Cruising has become so popular out of New Orleans that Carnival Cruise Line will bring new ships to the Crescent City in 2019 and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway starts sailing from New Orleans in November, the largest cruise ship to sail from Louisiana’s port.
That’s just the local news. Many cruise lines have announced new ships and expanded sailings in a tourism industry that keeps growing from year to year.
Are you ready to hit the high seas? There’s plenty from which to choose.
Take advantage of hotel packages that allow you to park your car, enjoy a night or two in New Orleans and include shuttling you to dockside to bypass the sometimes horrendous traffic at port. The Crowne Plaza New Orleans Airport, for instance, offers a Stay-Park-Cruise overnight package that includes complimentary parking for up to 15 days and transportation to the cruise terminal, plus other amenities.
Get off the ship when in port, bypass the port attractions and explore destinations. There are numerous excursions to choose from on cruises and many offer ways to experience the country and their residents, ranging from active trips such as snorkeling and zip lining to learning the country’s foodways. Be sure to tip your hosts when the shore excursion is over.
Consider your options. Inexpensive cruises may mean you’re stuck in a tiny, sunless interior cabin and an upgrade might make all the difference in comfort. Prices often don’t include daily tipping, shore excursions and alcohol so budget accordingly. Some cruise lines allow a bottle of wine aboard but most are sticklers about what you can bring.
Get a passport, which is required for all travelers who enter or re-enter the United States by sea, although alternative identification is allowed on closed-loop cruises to Mexico, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas and Canada. Regardless, passports are inexpensive to acquire and highly recommended for travel outside the country.
The National World War II Museum will host a special cruise to Malta, Sicily and Italy aboard the Sea Cloud II Oct. 19-28. The cruise will be led by historian Alex Kershaw who has written a book titled “The Liberator” about U.S. Army Office Felix Sparks battling his way through the Allied Liberation of Europe.
The cruise will follow in the footsteps of Sparks and the Allied Forces and include Italian World War II battlefields. Other historians include Gordon Mueller, the founding president and CEO of the museum, and Robert Citino, award-winning scholar and author.
ParchedPig is on the menu at Carnival Cruise Line’s new Horizon, which debuted in Europe this spring but will reposition to the United States for sailings to the Caribbean. The ParchedPig craft beers are the creations of Carnival’s brewmaster Colin Presby and include a smoked porter, farmhouse ale, amber ale and IPA, and will be served at the ship’s Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse/Brewhouse, a dining option developed by Food Network star Guy Fieri.
Learn about the foodways of different cultures with Holland America Line’s culinary-themed EXC Tours shore excursions. The cruise line has teamed with Food & Wine magazine once again for 23 new excursions in 2018 on cruises to the Mediterranean and northern Europe. Visitors will be able to cook with local chefs and experience authentic cuisine in places such as Venice, Barcelona and St. Petersburg.
Royal Caribbean has launched the world’s largest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, with inaugural sailings to Europe, then Miami beginning in November. There will be new dining opportunities and robot bartenders in the Bionic Bar and over-the-top entertainment such as the Broadway musical “Hairspray,” high-diving performances and an aqua show. Families may enjoy the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest cruise ship water slide, and the Ultimate Family Suite, which include two levels with a slide from the kids’ bedroom on the second floor to the living room below, a LEGO wall, air hockey and more.
Norwegian Cruise Line debuts its 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway to the Port of New Orleans beginning November 8 and claims to be the largest cruise ship in both length and passenger occupancy to ever sail from the city. Breakaway will offer seven-, nine- and 12-day cruises to the Western Caribbean.