A record number of cruise ship passengers traveled through the Port of New Orleans in 2018.
The official tally — 1,182,111 — marked a 2.3 percent increase from 2017 and the fifth consecutive year of hitting the coveted 1 million passenger mark at the port's cruise terminal facilities on Julia and Erato streets.
“With an increase in passengers, we see those increased benefits — from florists and food wholesalers to hotel and restaurant staff,” port President and CEO Brandy Christian said in a statement. "Our homeport status is important for the local economy and helps us fulfill our role as an economic engine for Louisiana.”
A recent economic impact study conducted by LSU’s E.J. Ourso College of Business found cruise passengers and ship crews spend an estimated $129.1 million each year locally.
Ninety percent of local cruise ship guests are from out of state, and 73 percent spend either a day or two in the city before or after their cruise, which accounts for more than 306,000 room nights in area hotels, according to the port.
The port also saw a modern record for passengers sailing out on Mississippi River cruises, with 30,298. That was a 23 percent increase over 2017’s figures.
Port officials expect a record number of cruise passengers in 2019 because of new, larger ships scheduled to start calling on New Orleans.
The Carnival Glory, a 2,980-passenger ship, will replace the 2,754-passenger Carnival Triumph on March 1. It will be joined by its sister ship, the Carnival Valor, on May 19.
The 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway, the largest occupancy cruise ship to sail from New Orleans, is set to make seven-day cruises through April. In November, the sister ship, Norwegian Getaway, will come to make regular visits to New Orleans.
December also marked the return of Royal Caribbean International when the 2,050-passenger Vision of the Seas arrived sailing seven-day itineraries through March 2019.
In early 2020, for the first time, Disney Cruise Line will have a homeport in New Orleans, when the 2,700 Disney Wonder embarks on six cruises to the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
“As demand for cruises continues to grow, our cruise line partners are responding by deploying newer ships with more capacity and amenities,” Christian said.