The Port of New Orleans and Carnival Cruise Lines hosted a reception for the refurbished Conquest ship now on its first voyage since a major renovation. Port officials are also celebrating substantial jumps in the overall number of cruise passengers.
Port President Gary LaGrange says the cruise industry in New Orleans is on target to reach the one million-passenger mark this year. And the port is making plans to expand.
“We have enough faith and confidence in it enough to grow to build another third cruise ship terminal beginning early next year — in a few short months — at Poland Avenue and to try to bring in one or two more additional home-ported ships here as well.”
He says the industry had been growing steadily, and then Hurricane Katrina in 2005 knocked it back for several more years.
“That’s a milestone that we were shooting for back in 2004, 2005," LaGrange said. "So, to finally achieve it, I think we can finally put Katrina in our rear-view mirror and move on with our lives as it pertains to the cruise ship industry.”
He says 737,000 cruise passengers came through New Orleans last year, up 41 percent from 2010. In addition to the four cruise ships that use the port for trips through the Gulf of Mexico, other vessels are starting Mississippi River cruises.
Before the Carnival ship headed to the Caribbean, company officials gave $15,000 to the United Way of Southeast Louisiana for Hurricane Isaac relief. Funds are being given to the St. Bernard Project, the Committee for Plaquemines Recovery and other community groups.