New Orleans’ still-recovering tourism industry got an economic shot in the arm today when Carnival Cruise Lines announced it is moving a newer, larger ship – the 2,758 passenger Carnival Triumph – to the Big Easy next fall.
The Triumph replaces the 2,056-passenger Fantasy, which Carnival announced yesterday is shifting from New Orleans to Mobile permanently next fall after being based there since a tanker-barge collision temporarily closed the Mississippi River in July. During a drydock this September, Fantasy will get an Evolutions of Fun upgrade, including a new WaterWorks aqua park with a 300-foot-long corkscrew slide, an adults-only sun deck and expanded family and spa facilities.
The substitution of the larger Triumph for the Fantasy could mean 50,000 more cruise tourists for New Orleans each year, notes the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Starting in November, 2009, four-day Triumph cruises will depart New Orleans on Thursdays to Cozumel, five-day cruises will leave Mondays and Saturdays to Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico, and seven-day cruises will depart Saturdays for either Belize City, Roatan, and Cozumel or Key West, Freeport and Nassau.
Carnival’s announcement is a sign spending is up among cruise ship passengers in New Orleans, which was home port to four cruise ships from three lines when Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005, notes the Associated Press. In addition to the 2,974-passenger Carnival Conquest and the 2,052-passenger Sensation, Norwegian Cruise Lines had the 1,754-passenger Norwegian Dream and Royal Caribbean had the 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the Seas in port as well.
About 734,000 passengers boarded and departed cruise ships at New Orleans in 2004, the year before Katrina. “Right now we’re hitting in the high 400s – close to 500,000,” port spokesman Chris Bonura told the AP.
Norwegian returned with a slightly larger ship, the 1,999-passenger Norwegian Spirit. Although Royal Caribbean announced in 2006 it would resume sailing from New Orleans, that never happened.