Cruises lead strong revival of New Orleans tourism

Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:14pm EST
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By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Mark and Glenda Dodd of Panama City Beach, Florida, could have booked a Mexico-bound cruise out of Miami, but on Monday they stood among hundreds of other passengers lining up to board the Carnival Cruise Line ship Elation in New Orleans.

"We wanted to come to New Orleans and spend a night in the French Quarter," Mark Dodd said. "This way we get the cruise and we get New Orleans."

His words are music to the ears of local tourism marketers, who have spent the past six years trying to persuade the traveling public that New Orleans has retained its appeal as a visitor destination despite the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

That storm and the massive flooding that followed all but destroyed large sections of New Orleans, striking a huge blow to tourism and shutting down the passenger cruise business, which before the storm was growing faster than that of any other cruise port in the country.

On Monday, cruise industry and local port officials gathered aboard the 2,000-passenger Elation to announce that local cruise passenger capacity has reached pre-Katrina levels.

"New Orleans has been revitalized and it's one of the most popular cities in the country," Robert Huffman Jr., a regional vice president of sales for Carnival, told Reuters. "The city sells itself."

Carnival, which initially returned to New Orleans with a smaller ship, this week began a year-round cruising schedule by the Elation and a 3,000-passenger vessel, Conquest. New Orleans is now the home port for both.

On Sunday, Royal Caribbean International also launched regular service from New Orleans to the Caribbean aboard the 3,100-passenger Voyager of the Seas, the largest passenger vessel ever based in New Orleans.   Continued...

<p>Tourists walk on Bourbon street in the French Quarter neighborhood of New Orleans August 26, 2006. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>