In March 2023, the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) achieved a new passenger record for oceangoing and river cruises, surpassing pre-COVID levels with handled 155,225 passengers via 39 vessel calls for the month.
The Port's previous monthly record was in February 2020 (154,409 passengers / 31 ship calls), just before the global tourism industry's shutdown in March that year.. Before the health crisis, Port NOLA had been expecting to reach a record 1.4 million passenger movements in 2020, but now, the Port is on track to receive a record number of annual passengers in the Fiscal Year 2023.
Brandy D. Christian (Port NOLA's President and CEO) said the record numbers highlighted how demand for cruising from New Orleans had never gone away, as people from all over the world returned to their vibrant city to launch their cruise vacations as soon as they had been able.
“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.”
Around 90% of cruise passengers at Port NOLA come from outside of Louisiana, with 73% spending one or two days in New Orleans before or after their voyage. This generates over 300,000 hotel room nights and over $125 million in local spending annually.
Carnival Cruise Line was the first to restart ocean voyages from New Orleans in September 2021 after the COVID crisis, and in 2022, they celebrated their 50th anniversary with an average occupancy of 110% on their sailings from New Orleans.
NCL-Norwegian Cruise Line also resumed their operations from Port NOLA with their largest homeported vessel, the Norwegian Breakaway, while Royal Caribbean and Disney both returned for the 2022-2023 season with 12 sailings.
River cruises resumed successfully from the Port in March 2021 and have reached record levels with 9 river cruise vessels now operating from New Orleans. In 2022, Viking Cruises USA's first North American homeported voyage was launched from New Orleans, and the boat (Viking Mississippi) was constructed in Houma Louisiana - at Edison Chouest Offshore-ECO Shipyards/LaShip Shipyard.