New Orleans: Ocean and River Cruise Boost

The 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway will homeport seasonally in New Orleans starting in November, replacing the 2,400-passenger Norwegian Pearl. At 145,000 tons, the Breakaway will be the biggest ship ever to homeport in New Orleans, sailing seven-, 10- and 11-day cruises to the Caribbean, said Steve Gauthier, cruise director for the port. In addition, Royal Caribbean is returning to New Orleans seasonally with the Vision of the Seas launching service in December.

Carnival Cruise Line continues sailing year-round. “We have the Dream sailing seven-day cruises every Sunday, and the Triumph sailing five-, five- and four-day itineraries every other Monday, Thursday and Saturday,” Gauthier added.

River Vessels

“We are also the homeport for four river cruise vessels, and for 2018 we have the potential to have four vessels for dinner cruises as well,” Gauthier said.

The American Steamboat Company sails the American Duchess on nine-night cruises all the way up to Memphis, according to Gauthier, and the 436-passenger American Queen, the largest paddle wheeler. American Cruise Line sails the Queen of the Mississippi as well as the America. The port is also still in talks with Viking River Cruises, which previously announced intentions to enter the river market in North America.

Up to 1.4 Million Passengers

For 2017, Gauthier said before year’s end that the forecast was for approximately 1.1 million cruise passengers, up a bit compared to 2016. But for 2018, the passenger number should jump to somewhere between 1.3 to 1.4 million.

The port can accommodate more traffic but that would have to be during the summer months or weekday departures (during the winter season), Gauthier said.

“Right now we have Carnival using the Erato Street Terminal year-round, and with the Julia Street Terminal we have seasonal calls Saturdays and Sundays, so for six months out of the year we could facilitate ships at the Julia. In addition we also have some port calls here and there, but for the most part it is open.”

Another terminal at Poland Avenue, as well as possible other locations, is also under consideration.

Working with cruise lines for port calls, Gauthier said that Celebrity has ramped up its visits with the Equinox, Summit and Reflection. Other callers include AIDA, P&O and The World.

Convenience Factor

At press time, Gauthier said the port was in the process of conducting a feasibility study assessing the capacity and the operational efficiency of its cruise terminals. “We are always looking for more effective ways to accommodate the passengers,” he said. “We are in talks with some surrounding facilities about additional parking spaces.

“We are a 60 to 65 percent drive-in market and about 30 percent fly in. More than 80 percent are from out of state, and some 60 percent spend an average of two nights in New Orleans before or after their cruise.”

He continued: “One of our main challenges is our surrounding infrastructure and roadways. Our terminal is situated basically between a railroad and the river so there is not much area in between to facilitate a 4,000-passenger ship. We combat that by throwing as much manpower at it as we can.

“On the other hand, the lack of surrounding infrastructure is one of our strengths. Since we do not have that much around us, with the terminals being so centrally located at the doorstep of the city, everything here is so walkable, the convenience is huge.

“For example, at Erato Street, the parking garage is above the terminal and Seacaps are there to take passengers’ luggage from their cars to the ship (and their cabins).”

Gauthier’s key to running a successful cruise port? “One thing we try to do is have passengers feel like their cruise starts once they get on port property. We want their experience on our property to be just as memorable as their cruise. We try to be hospitable, offer a good product and treat passengers like they are family.”

Get an in-depth, behind the scenes look at the North America cruise market and the ports that make it happen in the 2017-2018 Winter edition Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine. Subscribe today.

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