Carnival Cruise Lines extends N.O. port contract to 2019 _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- The 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream, the largest-capacity, year-round cruise ship to homeport at the Port of New Orleans, is docked in April at the Erato Street Cruise Terminal.

Carnival Cruise Lines has agreed to keep at least two ships sailing out of the The Port of New Orleans year-round through 2019.

The new agreement supersedes a 2013 three-year extension and offers three one-year options that could guarantee Carnival homeports in the city through 2022. The company would keep sailing at least two ships of equal or greater size than the Dream Class and Fantasy Class ships that are operating from the port.

The Port’s Erato Street Cruise Terminal was recently renovated to accommodate the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream, which arrived in April and sails seven-day eastern and western Caribbean cruises. The Carnival Elation sails four- and five-day cruises to Mexico.

Together, the two ships carry more than 400,000 passengers annually from New Orleans — the most of any cruise line.

A study by Cruise Lines International Association found that spending by Carnival and other cruise operators in Louisiana tops $399 million, generating 7,548 jobs and $294 million in personal income. CLIA also ranked New Orleans the sixth-largest cruise port in the U.S.

The Port of New Orleans is slated to lose its second-largest cruise ship next year, when Royal Caribbean pulls its 2,476-passenger Serenade of the Seas ship out of the city in April 2015. The move leaves the port with three cruise ships: the two Carnival ships and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Dawn, a 2,340-passenger ship that offers seasonal, weeklong trips to the Caribbean.

The new agreement with Carnival went into effect July 1.

“This is a clear demonstration of Carnival’s belief in New Orleans as one of its top home ports,” said port President and CEO Gary LaGrange. “We look forward to helping Carnival grow its business in the Crescent City for the long term.”

“Our guests — particularly those from Louisiana — love cruising from the Crescent City, and we look forward to continuing our New Orleans program for many years to come,” said Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines.

“Taking a cruise from New Orleans means a vacation both here and abroad,” said Mark Romig, president and CEO of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp., the city’s official leisure travel promotion agency.