N.O. will welcome its largest cruise ship

April 26 2010 | Latest News
BIG announcements from Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Saturday, April 24, 2010
From staff and wire reports

Royal Caribbean Cruise line will return to New Orleans in the fall of 2011 with the largest cruise ship ever to call New Orleans its home port.

Voyager of the Seas, a 1,020-foot-long, 3,114-guest ship, will offer 24 seven-night western Caribbean cruises out of New Orleans during the winter cruise season from November 2011 through April 2012, Port of New Orleans and company officials announced Friday.

The ship is expected to generate 165,000 additional cruise guests per year, Port of New Orleans officials estimate.

Royal Caribbean returns to New Orleans after a three-year absence. The cruise line had a ship in New Orleans from 2002 until Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. A Royal Caribbean liner called on New Orleans during the winter cruise season from December 2006 through April 2007, but the company decided to shift its resources elsewhere.

The company not only will return to the city, but it also will commit one of its biggest ships, the 138,000-ton, 14-deck luxury liner with a double-occupancy capacity of 3,114 and a crew of 1,176.

"Royal Caribbean International looks forward to returning to New Orleans in winter 2011," said Adam Goldstein, company president and CEO. "New Orleans is a vibrant city that will offer vacationers another convenient Gulf Coast port to embark on a memorable Royal Caribbean cruise. We are pleased to be back."

"It's like being reunited with an old friend and trusted business partner," said Gary LaGrange, president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans. "We never gave up hope that we could lure Royal Caribbean back to New Orleans, and we continued to keep company officials up to date on the opportunities available here."

Among those opportunities is the renovation of the Julia Street Cruise Terminal. Royal Caribbean will base its New Orleans operations at Julia Street, where a $12 million project to combine two smaller terminals into one is under design. The work, about $8.5 million of which is being financed by Louisiana's Port Priority Program with the remainder paid by the port, is expected to be completed by summer 2011.

Royal Caribbean also has committed to berth a ship in New Orleans during the 2012-2013 winter season and has three, one-year options to continue operating out of the city afterward.

Friday's announcement follows a commitment by Norwegian Cruise Line to shift from seasonal cruises to year-round operations beginning in November. Also, Carnival Cruise Lines replaces its Carnival Fantasy sailing out of New Orleans with the much larger Carnival Triumph.

Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas is larger than either the Norwegian Spirit, with a capacity of 2,018 passengers, or the Carnival Triumph, which accommodates 2,758, both of which now sail out of the city.

The largest cruise ship in the world when launched in 1999, the Voyager of the Seas features an ice-skating rink, rock-climbing wall, jogging track and miniature golf course. More than 930 of its 1,557 staterooms have ocean views, including 707 with balconies.

New Orleans Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu, who heads the state's tourism agency as lieutenant governor, called the Royal Caribbean announcement "another milestone in our recovery."

"The cruise industry is an integral part of Louisiana's tourism sector," he said. "The Voyager of the Seas gives visitors another opportunity to experience Louisiana's vibrant culture before or after setting off on their cruise."