A record 1.2 million cruise ship passengers traveled through the Port of New Orleans in 2017, officials said Tuesday.
The official tally — 1,150,172 — marked the fourth straight year of hitting the coveted 1 million passenger mark at the port's cruise terminal facilities on Julia and Erato streets.
“These year-end results validate the continued appeal of cruising from the Crescent City and reflect our commitment to excellence,” port President and CEO Brandy Christian said in a statement. “We expect additional growth in 2018 and will continue to provide high-level service that complements New Orleans’ natural hospitality and vibrant energy."
For local hospitality leaders, rising passenger numbers mean big business: 80 percent of local cruise ship guests are from out-of-state, and 60 percent spend an average of two days in the city either before or after their cruise, which accounts for more than 112,000 room nights in area hotels, according to the port.
As demand for cruises out of New Orleans grows, the local port is preparing to welcome several different ships in the year ahead.
In November, Norwegian Cruise Line will replace its Norwegian Pearl by deploying the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway, the largest occupancy cruise ship to sail from New Orleans. It can accommodate almost twice as many guests. Additionally, Norwegian is poised to offer a new cruise experience in 2019, when it replaces the Breakaway with the similarly-sized Norwegian Getaway.
Royal Caribbean International will return to New Orleans and homeport its 2,500-passenger Vision of the Seas, which will sail seasonal seven-night itineraries beginning in December.
Next year, Carnival Cruise Line will swap out its two New Orleans-based passenger ships. Carnival plans to deploy its 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor to New Orleans, replacing the 2,754-passenger Carnival Triumph on year-round four- and five-day cruises out of the Crescent City.
Additionally, the 2,980-passenger Carnival Glory will replace the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream, sailing year-round seven-day cruises out of New Orleans.
“Homeporting newer and larger cruise ships in 2018 adds to our city’s excitement as we celebrate our 300th birthday,” Christian said. “This is great news for tourists, residents and the region’s hospitality industry.”
The Port of New Orleans is the sixth-largest cruise port in the nation, according to research by Cruise Lines International Association, an industry trade group.