February 11 2010 | Latest NewsNorwegian Cruise Line will homeport a ship in New Orleans for at least 18 straight months beginning in November, the Port of New Orleans announced Wednesday....
Norwegian Cruise Line will keep vessel in New Orleans beginning later this year
By Jaquetta White, The Times-Picayune
February 11, 2010, 7:30AM
Norwegian Cruise Line will homeport a ship in New Orleans for at least 18 straight months beginning in November, the Port of New Orleans announced Wednesday.
The Norwegian Spirit normally sails from New Orleans during the six-month winter season of November through April before moving to Boston, where it sails to Bermuda, for the other half of the year.
But the 2,018-passenger vessel will instead call New Orleans home year round starting at the end of this year and at least through the remainder of its contract, which expires in April 2012.
The vessel will return to Boston as scheduled from May to September of this year.
Demand for more opportunities to cruise from the Gulf Coast was behind the decision to expand the local cruise offering, a spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Line said.
"I think the popularity has a lot do with where the ship goes and the proximity (of New Orleans) to other drive-in regions," Norwegian spokeswoman Courtney Recht said.
Port President Gary LaGrange called the announcement a "huge vote of confidence" in the port and the city.
Before Hurricane Katrina, four ships traveled from New Orleans, including two year round Carnival Cruise Line vessels and one ship each from Norwegian and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. The latter were both seasonal.
Norwegian currently operates a seven-day cruise that departs New Orleans on Sundays and stops in Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; Santo Tomas De Castillo, Guatemala; and Belize City, Belize. The schedule will remain the same when the ship's stay is extended, except that Guatemala will be replaced by Roatan, Honduras in 2011.
The change means New Orleans will have two cruise lines offering year round cruising. Carnival Cruise Lines' Triumph now operates four-, five-, and seven-day cruises throughout the year.
"I think the fact that we will now have a second ship here year-round with different ports is a real boon," said Bob Wall, president of Vacations at Sea, a local travel agency. "We're delighted. I think it's another good thing for the city.".
According to the port, the extension of the Norwegian schedule could increase passenger traffic by about 58,500.
Bob Bourg, whose company Destination Management Inc. greets cruise passengers at the cruise terminal and offers shuttle service from the terminal to hotels and the airport said the change will bring more work for his firm, which employs about 75 people when the vessel is in town.
"We're very excited," Bourg said. "Instead of doing it for five months, we're going to be doing it for 18 months straight." .
Jaquetta White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3494.