The Carnival Fantasy is home ported year-round in the Port of New Orleans.*
New Orleans: A Cultural Gumbo
By Lizz Dinnigan
The senses come alive in New Orleans. Overlooking the lower Mississippi River in southeastern Louisiana, the Big Easy’s unique heritage and way of life are surreal, eccentric and outlandish, but that only adds to its appeal.
The whole intoxicating experience is authentic, not an act played up for tourists. The people are Cajun, Creole and Caribbean. The music is Zydeco, jazz, blues and gospel; a jazz parade is shown at right.*
Cruisers will find a thriving French Quarter historic neighborhood (such as the Cathedral in Jackson Square shown at right*; it was undamaged by Katrina).
Major visitor attractions throughout the city have rebounded, reopened and are as lively as ever.
With so much to do here, tack on two days before or after your cruise to enjoy it all.
Cruising from the Big Easy
The Port of New Orleans welcomes about 750,000 cruise passengers annually. Such big ship lines as Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International (see photo at right*) home port vessels here as do two river cruise companies.
The Julia Street Cruise Complex has two terminals. The spaces have a combined 35,000-square-foot check-in/waiting lounge and 46,000-square-foot baggage area.
Located in the same area as the Riverwalk Marketplace (www.riverwalkmarketplace.com) shopping mall, the port is a 20- to 30-minute walk from the French Quarter.
The cruise terminals received $9 million in upgrades over the past four years.
New enhancements include air-conditioned elevated passenger gangways, expanded customs and baggage areas, covered and lighted walkways, a drive in-drop off area, and refreshment and souvenir stands.
The $37 million Erato Street Cruise Terminal (the exterior is shown at left, the interior below*) opened in September 2006.
The building contains a 22,000-square-foot waiting area.
This fall, the Port of New Orleans will begin construction on an additional cruise terminal on the Poland Avenue Wharf in the Bywater Area below the French Quarter.
Cruising from New Orleans
Cruise lines embarking at New Orleans in 2007 and early 2008 are:
- Carnival Cruise Lines: Fantasy
- Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Spirit
- Majestic America Line: Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen, American Queen (Mississippi river cruises)
- River Barge Excursions: River Explorer (berthing is adjacent to the cruise terminals)
Among the cruise lines with ports of call at New Orleans in 2007 and early 2008 are:
- P&O Cruises: Arcadia
- Hapag Lloyd: C. Columbus
Visitor parking for cruise terminals on Julia and Erato streets is at the 1,000-car, four-level Erato Street Parking Garage or 75-spot secondary Poydras Street Lot for oversize vehicles. If you have an oversize vehicle, call ahead at 504-525-5476.
Parking costs $14 per day at the garage or $28 at Poydras. Cash or credit cards are accepted. Free shuttles operate between the Poydras Street Lot and Erato Street Cruise Terminal. Reservations are not needed.
Parking at the Poland Avenue Wharf is in a secured lot adjacent to the terminal. Daily rates are $14 for regular vehicles, $28 for oversize vehicles. Cash and credit cards are accepted. Reservations are not required.
For a port map and directions, click www.portno.com/pno_pages/cruises_passenger_info.htm#parking.
Air arrivals can make a shuttle reservation (www.airportshuttleneworleans.com) to the pier from Louis Armstrong International Airport (www.flymsy.com). The cost is $13 each way. Taxi transfers to the pier, 17 miles away, cost $28 for up to two passengers and take 45 minutes.
Driving your car into town is not recommended. Parking is expensive and difficult to come by.
If you want to meander around the French Quarter, taxis from the cruise pier deliver you to the intersection of Canal and Bourbon streets in approximately 10 minutes. Or, you might take a trolley.
The cruise terminals and French Quarter are connected by the Riverfront streetcar trolley (www.norta.com).
The fare for the 15-minute trolley ride is $1.25.
Surprises Around Every Corner
No cruise visit would be complete without spending at least a few hours in the French Quarter.
The quarter's centerpiece is Jackson Square (www.jackson-square.com) with its landmark St. Louis Cathedral (see photo at left*). The square is also a popular spot for artists and street performers.
Ambling through the French Quarter (www.frenchquarter.com) without an agenda allows you to soak in the sights. You'll discover historic architecture including Creole townhouses and Entresol residences; they illustrate European traditions with Caribbean influences.
The second floors of these tall, brick abodes drip with flowering plants and are enclosed with scrolled ironwork balconies. One good example is shown at right.*
VooDoo temples, ghost tours and eerie, above-ground tombs are popular tourist attractions. The streets are perfumed with homecooking, sweet olive, jasmine and, in the wee hours, stale beer.
During your visit, dine at any of 1,500 restaurants. Among the savory local cuisine? You might dine on spicy crawfish, thick brown gumbo, dirty rice or oyster po’ boys.
Wash your food down down with a frothy amber microbrew. Alternatively, sip on a mint julep or the city's signature drink -- a "Huricane."
A big tradition for New Orleans visitors is to head for Café du Monde (www.cafedumonde.com) for chickory coffee and sugar-dusted beignets (see photo at left*).
Many visitors purchase a can of the coffee or beignet mix. You don't need to buy it at Cafe du Monde, however. It's available just about everywhere around town or at the airport.
If you love jazz, a must-do-experience on a pre- or post-cruise stay is Preservation Hall (www.preservationhall.com). People line up outside before the doors open. Only the first couple of dozen in line get a seat in this spartan, no frills venue. Other audience members must stand. But, the quality of the jazz is worth it.
For More Information
Port of New Orleans (At left, the Norwegian Sun is docked at the Port of New Orleans surrounded by the glimmering city lights.*
Cruise Port Telephone: 504-528-3219 or 3230
Cruise Port Web: www.portno.com
Local Tourist Information: www.neworleanscvb.com
Lizz Dinnigan is a professional freelance writer and copy editor for SouthernCruising.com™. She formerly worked as associate editor – cruise for Travel Agent magazine, a major national weekly travel trade magazine.
**Photos are owned, copyrighted and used courtesy of the Port of New Orleans or the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy. Thank you.