Disney Cruise Line is headed to — and from — New Orleans. 

The Disney Wonder, a 2,700-passenger cruise ship, will set sail from the Port of New Orleans for six cruises in early 2020, Disney and port officials announced Thursday. It is the first time a Disney cruise will leave from a Louisiana port.

Disney's decision to sail from New Orleans represents a victory for tourism officials who have worked for years to lure Disney in an effort to bolster the city's reputation as a family-friendly tourist destination. 

“From a tourism perspective, this demonstrates that people recognize the diversity of our brand and the fact it is a growing destination for families,” said Brandy Christian, president and chief executive officer of the Port of New Orleans. She hopes this can lead to more family-friendly attractions coming to New Orleans.

While Disney is starting off with a handful of cruises, Christian said that should lead to more visits in the future. “It’s very typical to start with a limited number of cruises in a test market, to see if it fits,” she said.

New Orleans cruises sell “very well” and the ships usually sail full of passengers, she said, so she is “very confident” that more cruises will depart from the city in the future.

Cruise ships are a prize for tourism officials because they draw in out-of-state tourists that often spend some time in New Orleans before or after their trips. According to the port, 90 percent of the passengers on ships that sail from New Orleans are coming from out-of-state and 73 percent of passengers spend one or two nights in the region either before or after their cruise.

A recent report from Business Research & Economic Advisors found that the average passenger who boarded a cruise in New Orleans spent $208 in the city.

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Bringing in Disney is the latest accomplishment for New Orleans, which is the sixth-largest cruise port in the United States. For four years in a row, the port has surpassed the million passenger mark. Officials have said the port will set a new cruise passenger record this year, topping the 1.15 million total it reached in 2017.

The port is set to see a switch-out of other ships in the upcoming months.

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. The Breakaway will then be replaced in November 2019 with the similarly sized Norwegian Getaway.

In May, Carnival plans to deploy its 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor to New Orleans, replacing the 2,754-passenger Triumph. And in March, the 2,980-passenger Carnival Glory will replace the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream.

Christian said bringing in Disney Cruise Line was an accomplishment for a number of organizations, including New Orleans & Co., the city’s destination marketing group, and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.

The Disney Wonder will also have a bit of Crescent City flavor. One of the eateries on board the ship is Tiana’s Place, a reference to "The Princess and the Frog," a 2009 animated film set in New Orleans about a young woman who wanted to open a restaurant.  

The Disney ships will head to a variety of Caribbean and Bahamian destinations. Booking for the trips will be available as early as Oct. 4. The six cruises will be around the time of Mardi Gras, from Feb. 7 to March 6, 2020.

The trips will include four-, six- and seven-night Western Caribbean sailings; a seven-night Bahamian cruise; and a 14-night Panama Canal voyage.


Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.