The previous monthly high was set in February 2020 with 154,409 passenger movements and 31 calls just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down cruising the following month. At that time, Port NOLA had been on track to meet a record 1.4m passenger movements in 2020. Now, the port is on pace for a record number of annual passengers in fiscal 2023.
'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,' Port NOLA President and CEO Brandy D. Christian said. '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.'
Some 90% of cruisers travel from out of state with 73% spending one or two days in New Orleans before or after their cruise. That generates more than 300,000 hotel room nights in New Orleans and more than $125m in local spending each year.
Carnival Cruise Line was the first to resume oceangoing sailings from New Orleans in September 2021. In 2022, the line reached an average 110% occupancy from the port. Norwegian Cruise Line returned Port NOLA’s largest homeported vessel, Norwegian Breakaway. Royal Caribbean was back for the 2022/23 season in November, and Disney Cruise Line doubled sailings in 2023 to 12.
River cruises resumed in March 2021 and are now at record levels with nine vessels sailing from New Orleans. Last year, Viking joined the roster with its first river cruises in the US on Viking Mississippi, built in Louisiana.